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Dark Wood and the Janizary Lands

by Christian Constantin

In the old times, the Dark Wood was the central part of the great forest that covered most of Central Brun from the Yalu Sea to the Gulf of Hule. Niwhelm, as it was known back to these ancient times, was a dense temperate forest inhabited by strange woodland beings and avoided by most humans.

For the first human settlers of the Great Valley and of the Yazak Plain, Niwhelm provided most of the game and timber that these primitive societies needed. But, as the human populations surrounding the great forest grew in number and evolved technologically the constant axe blows made it slowly recede to its actual dimensions. Constant wars on one side or the other of the forest drove people deeper and deeper in the forest and closer to its original inhabitants: the woodland folks. After some small conflicts between the two groups of being a more or less peaceful cohabitation was established, and cooperation even developed.

For centuries, the fragile balance was kept until the rise of the Master in Hule. When the Master decided to move his capital to the heart of the Dark Wood in 603AC was accompanied by a much grander change. This decision was justified by the will to better protect the heart of the Empire from external aggression, but also for the Master own secrets and experiments to be kept secret. Greatrealm, his temple and capital, was constructed in a way that it radiates evil on the entire forest. Hence, most of the woodland creatures uncomfortable with the new presence moved to the colder Zdredanyan Forest or to the smaller woods south or west of Niwhelm. Since then, only few creatures still resides in the Dark Wood, they are mostly animals or evil creatures allied to the Master. Even the animals are part of the Master's magic control over the forest since he can see and hear what most of them see or hear.

For administrative purposes, the Dark Wood was separated in two different units. The first one called the Sanctified Lands is the Master's own dominion. This is a restricted place where strangers are spied and captured at the first occasion, it also serves as a test ground for government candidates. The second part, is made up by the southwestern portion of the Dark Wood and by Rockwater, the flooded part of the forest, it is called the Janizary Lands and is considered as a big humanoid reserve.

The Dark Wood: The local people fear this large forest for it is rumoured to be haunted. Humans do not live in it and most of the non-humans beings (even the evil ones) avoid it. The most common trees of the forest are oak and aspen. The underbrush in this forest is very thick. Thorn bushes abound. Animals found in the wood include bear, boars, deer, small game, owls, crow, ravens, toads, and bats. People going into the wood always have the sense that these creatures watch them as they travel. Running waters in the forest are enchanted. There is a cumulative that one drinking this water will be transformed into a boar or a deer (the transformation occurs after four saving throws vs. Spells consecutive or not). Groups of skeletons patrol the skies of the forest aboard flying barges.

At the centre of the Dark Wood is Lake Tros, a large (4,500 sq. mi.) and seemingly bottomless freshwater lake. Greatrealm, the Master's capital city, lies on the shore of this lake. Greatrealm consists mainly of a vast temple complex built inside a walled compound. Fields tended by the temples' novices surround the land around the temple. A large path lined by the statues of the different deities revered by the Huleans links the Temple to the shore of Lake Tros. All the buildings are heavily decorated with statues, friezes, elaborate eaves, towers, banners, and paintings.

The Janizary Lands: the Master created the administrative region of the Janizary lands in 651AC. The Greatrealm Declaration creating the new region was a move to control the western part of the Darkwood and thus putting more pressure on the western kingdoms to abide to the Master's rule. The first concrete result of this declaration was that scores of humanoids invited by the Master settled the region and forced the local human population (Huleans and Bulzanians) into exile. It also further encouraged the woodland folk to move out of the area.

Two major castles were build to increase Hule's military control of the region: Castle Üskedoz is responsible of the Northern Janizary Lands and is the Key to the Central Military Route which links directly Greatrealm to the Western part of the Hulean Empire, it is one of the biggest military work west of Darokin; Castle Karçil, is build over an older Hulean military construction, it controls the Southern Military Route, which skirts the Dark Wood by the south. It is also a key position at the source of Rio Tuntos; in short it is overlooking all of the Savage Baronies river system.

Another important inhabitant of the Janizary Lands is the great Voysava, a huge green dragon that is one of the only living being in the Dark Wood beside the Master and his close minions. Voysava is known to like gratuitous destruction and terror, however it hasn't been seen for years, rumours want it dead, killed by a group of Torreónese adventurers or asleep.

The northernmost part of the Janizary Lands consists of a large bog called Rockwater. This marsh was formed 25 centuries ago when the mighty river Gree changed its course toward lake Tros instead of the Gulf of Hule following major telluric activity. Rockwater is the home of a big Troll community. Their ancestors were magically brought there by the Master about 400 years ago to serve in his armies. Since then they have grown up in number and are a constant threat for the surrounding human communities.

The only human communities that can still be seen in the Janizary Lands are concentrated in the central plain near Rockwater and at the border with Olgar. These Hulean and Bulzanian communities have accepted to live under the threat of the humanoids in exchange of the personal protection guaranteed by the Master himself. They are involved in agriculture and herding and are responsible for the supply of the region's garrisons and reserves.