I’ve decided to start formalising the notes I have on my homebrew world of Thalen. As such, here is a brief overview of the Starspire Forest, found on the continent of Omnis, kept as setting agnostic as possible but hopefully still of interest.
The Starspire Forest has long been the site of a quiet struggle between the forest-folk who call it home, the outlaws who call it sanctuary and the primordial horrors which dwell beneath its leafy boughs, between the forces of the wild places of the world and those who would tame the ancient arboreal guardians of its secrets. For the most part, the struggle is bloodless, the forest-folk are content to remain in their glades and treetop cities, the interlopers stay hidden among the groves and caves that dot the forest floor and the creatures of the forest are kept at bay through the tireless efforts of forest-folk way-watchers and outlaw soldiers alike.
The forest-folk, a mix of native peoples and immigrants seeking a less civilised way of life, tend to the land with a skill equalled by few others and look after the forest with a reverential care. They are happy to receive guests, and to take in outsiders, provided an utmost respect for the forest is displayed. On the few occasions when their colonies and holdings have been infiltrated by people wishing them ill, their retribution has swift and left no survivors. Even the most reckless of the outlaws living in the forest quickly learn to live within the bounds the forest-folk set.
Most of the forest-folk live within Star-reach, a treetop city built in the heart of the forest. Visitors to the city are frequently awed by the wooden platforms the upper city is built upon, vast sections of wood seemingly grown from the trees around the buildings, none of which show signs of aging or decay. The lower city, cast in eternal shade under the overhanging structures above, is lit primarily by magical fire and is the main centre of trade and commerce within the forest. Several large caravanserai have been constructed around the natural springs welling up from the porous rocks beneath the city and a thriving merchant caste calls the lower city home.
Whilst many of the smaller colonies (as the disparate settlements the forest-folk have founded are known) throughout the Forest number their populations in the low hundreds, two exceptions exist. The Bright Cliffs, long home to a monastic order and named for the naturally luminescent flowers which grow upon the long ridge-line, is a conglomeration of settlements many miles apart that functions as one disparate city with trade and communication flowing constantly between its many factions. The other, the city of Deephaven, is a subterranean town built into the heart of a vast mining complex. Deephaven is well protected by natural defences but counts a large number of magic users among its standing guard.
For their part, the outlaws survive on subsistence farming and whatever they can steal from travellers on either of the main trade routes through the forest. The forest-folk, committed to their ideals of freedom, tolerate these thefts, but punish any excessive bloodshed or barbaric behaviour. Due the disparate nature of their backgrounds, the outlaws tend to band together in groups of a shared ideology, instead of along familial or racial lines, and it is not uncommon to encounter to two warring factions of outlaws fighting over the same caravan. Because of their reliance upon the trade routes for luxury goods, many outlaw camps and villages can be found within a few miles of the well-travelled areas of the forest, but all of them are protected by traps, pitfalls and (in some rare cases) powerful magic.
The largest of these settlements, Wilhelm’s Retreat, can be found 5 miles from the Ashen Way and is built in a clearing of the forest three miles across. Many of the smaller outlaw bands call this home, in return for tithing a portion of their food and spoils to the Master of the Hall. The Retreat is protected by numerous rings of traps, hidden guards, fortified walls, and mind-snaring enchantments and is virtually impenetrable without a guide.
Nearly 600 people call Wilhelm’s Retreat home, many descended from the now legendary bandit-lord who founded the settlement, and a rudimentary council has been formed in recent years to govern the peaceful day-to-day business of the town. There has been talk of creating a town watch to ensure the continued co-existence of the many groups within the walls but, due to loud public outcry, this has not yet happened.
The trees which support Star-reach have started to wither and die. Whilst the populace is being kept in the dark for now, if the problem isn’t solved soon, catastrophe is inevitable.
Something has destroyed the once thriving village of Golden Falls. The local forest-folk are worried that whatever did it will strike again.
Bandit activity along the Ashen Way has increased dramatically in recent days and survivors report their attackers having an almost inhuman strength and ferocity.
Travellers upon the Desert Way have reported strange, inhuman voices calling to them from the darkness under the eaves by the side of the trade route.
When a member of the forest-folk stumbles into Wilhelm’s Retreat demanding the fulfilment of their ancient oaths for some mysterious purpose, the council struggles to reach a consensus without sending agents to investigate.