Saturday, January 21, 2012

Expeditions of Amazing Adventure: The silent spirits of Solemoore Woods

North, skirting the borders of the icy tundra plains, are vast tracks of woods. The eastern region of the many forests is known as Solemoore. A handful of villages are nestled about the edges of this grand wood, many filled with adept ice fishermen and trappers. Lumber is another major source as a trade good for these communities, where stout men carefully remove aged timbers from the forest and send cut logs down the lone frigid river that snakes through Solemoore.

Well over a century and a half ago, the dark cleric, Nergahar, had been a scourge to the land. Driven by a frenzied, forgotten god of old, he committed all manners of atrocities as dark rituals. His sole purpose was to open a rift into the Nether and draw out an aspect of his foul god, a nameless creature of ancient evil from the Astral wastes. His mad intention was to bring such an aberrant force of destruction into the world in order to lay waste to mankind.

Some claim that he succeeded in his dark task, but it was himself that become fodder to the evil creature that spilled forth and receded back into the Nether. Others claim that the Nether opened for an instant, utterly destroying the mind of Nergahar, and he wandered the woods as a gibbering hermit until his death. Some even claim that the very ritual that destroyed Nergahar, was altered and refined by the necromancer, Al'Khameed, and this wielder of the black arts inflicted this foul magic onto the lands of Kymoria.

None really know what was the cause of the curse within Solemoore Woods, save that the bleak forest is now pocked with spirits of the dead. Silent apparitions can sometimes been seen drifting among the thick trees. No birds fly through the woods and the pines do not whisper with gentle swaying of branches when cold winds blow. There is an unearthly stillness in the forest. A continual gloom of thick clouds carpet the still landscape, with a reprieve of clear skies only coming once or twice a month.

Few woodland creatures can be found in Solemoore now and most seem stricken with the toll of constant fear. Most deer and other game have patches of grey fur and the very young are an infrequent sight. Moving through the woods at times can be maddening, as if everything in the wood had become muted and ever silent. Sound seems to dampen off into nothingness. A fine mist covers the forest, making navigation through the woods a treacherous task, with even the most seasoned trackers known to lose their bearings.

It is these unusual characteristics that have also made Solemoore woods a haven for bandits. Those with enough bravado and iron nerve have been known to keep camps deep within the woods. They are able to strike at passing caravans and raid villages with some impunity, as they know efforts to track them will be hampered by the silent woods. Such groups of bandits do occasionally vanish though, swallowed up by the tomb-like quiet of the woods. Only a lone member might be seen, stumbling from the woods with hair white as snow and eyes wide with a look of utter terror. They incoherently mumble of lost spirits calling their companions into the black maw.

Despite this occasional dark fate of bandit gangs, their continual presence can be difficult for some communities in Solemoore. Many a village mayor has offered substantial rewards to an adventuring company willing to track down bandit camps within the woods. Even odder recruitment efforts have come from wizards seeking to know more of the woods and the secrets within.

It is not uncommon that some young wizard, emboldened with a scrap of information taken from an ancient tome, to seek employment of adventurers to join in an exploration of some rumored lost ruin within the silent woods. Typically such expeditions become exercises in frustration as navigation through Solemoore woods is difficult. Many of an adventuring party have stumbled out of the bleak forest after a week, recounting days of traveling in circles and bewildering attempts at orienteering (with many rangers too embarrassed to talk further of the matter).

However, some never return, seemingly swallowed up by the woods. Villagers when pressed will whisper that a scant few parties of brave warriors have entered the woods only to have a lone member drift aimlessly out months later stricken with a form of madness, muttering about the hunger of the forest, the consumption of life, and a dark maw within the woods. The rest of their companions never to be seen again.