Of Kings and Dragons
Dark Forest of Ancient Secrets
Notable Settlements: Delmon’s Glen (740), Losthome (4,320), Nithveil (45,300), Sojourner’s Rest (144)
Notable Locations: Forestheart, Frozen Pines, Lair of Fafnheir, Moonwing’s Bough, Szigo’s Grove, Thornwall Castle
Major Races: fey, gnome, skald, sylvan
Languages: Aklo, Gnome, Skald, Sylvan
Religion: Desna, Eldest of the First World, Erastil
Resources: furs, timber
Grungir Forest is the primordial heart of the Linnorm Kingdoms’ wilderness. While fey, wild animals, monsters, and linnorms reside everywhere humans do not, in Grungir Forest, they rule. The forest is home to Fafnheir, said to be the oldest and most powerful of the linnorms, as well as to numerous enclaves of strange and powerful fey creatures. Portals to the legendary First World f licker within the woodlands’ tangled depths, and in places the very trees themselves move and speak in thunderous tones.
Grungir Forest spreads across the central southlands in a nearly unbroken mass, with only the Thundering River and a few roads providing a break in the eastern reaches. While humans engage in logging and trapping around the forest’s eastern outskirts, particularly in the vicinity of Losthome, they are careful not to harvest too deeply into the woods—even for rare and valuable hardwoods, it’s generally not considered worth the risk to travel far enough in that you can’t see the forest’s edge. This same reluctance to explore does not apply to the numerous adventurers from across the Inner Sea region who have been drawn to Grungir Forest, eager to plumb its depths in the hunt for unique creatures or secret places of power. Yet despite the number of explorers, Grungir Forest has always proved more than their equal, and to date, it has kept the majority of its secrets quite well.
They say Grungir Forest has eyes, and that it sees everything within its borders. That’s not true in a literal sense, but the fey of Grungir Forest are everywhere, and they are adept at goading and tricking both interlopers and local animals and monsters in such a way that unwanted visitors run into the most dangerous creatures of the forest with a regularity that belies the monsters’ rarity. While linnorms, unusually aggressive and large animals, trolls, and other monsters stalk the forest, it is the fey and their kind who rule here.
Parties hunting for lesser beasts usually stay near the forest edge. Usually monsters find their way to such parties, obviating the need to travel deeper into the forest in search of them. This is probably for the best, as the deeper outsiders intrude, the more forceful the forest is in defending itself. Grungir’s fey are adept at giving adventurers what they want—if they get wind that a party hunts a linnorm, the fey endeavor to lead that party into the right parts of the wood to find one—usually in a setting that puts the hunters at a disadvantage. When parties set out for more singular objectives, such as Delmon’s Glen or other legendary places, the fey try to either scare them off before they can delve deeply into the forest or speed them on their way, depending on the whims of the fey involved and the make-up of the party.
The only civilized people who make their homes within Grungir Forest itself are gnomes—and even they avoid delving too deeply into the forest depths. Gnome settlements dot the outer reaches of Grungir Forest, especially on its southern borders. Their close relationship with the woodland and its fey denizens causes many gnomes to be distrusted by their Ulfen neighbors, and as a result a healthy amount of space tends to separate gnome settlements from the nearest human towns. The gnomes of Grungir Forest are more likely than their southern counterparts to spend significant time with the fey, and creatures like dryads, grigs, nymphs, and pixies are often found living openly among gnomes in their villages. In return, Grungir gnomes help maintain the environment and mediate conf licts between the fey and nearby humans or dwarves. Grungir gnomes often wear various charms and fetishes of magical value that they claim help to attune them to the forest—these charms and fetishes are the most common types of collections these gnomes seek. Among the Grungir gnomes, the bleaching is all but unheard of—perhaps because of their close association with fey and the First World.
One other group bears mention in a discussion of Grungir Forest—the mysterious norns. These powerful entities can be encountered throughout the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and often appear before those destined for great acts of heroism or vile deeds of villainy to issue prophecies or warnings—prognostications that have an eerie tendency to be accurate, even in the modern age when prophecy is dead. The norns themselves seem little interested in conf licts between good and evil or law and chaos—what their true motivations are in meddling with the destiny of the Linnorm Kingdoms is one of the greatest mysteries of the region. While they can be encountered elsewhere, the majority of norn encounters seem to occur within the depths of Grungir Forest, particularly as one approaches the supposed location of Forestheart or Nithveil, even further supporting the possibility of a link between the norns and the First World.
Yet not all who dwell in Grungir Forest are gnomes or fey. The Guardians of Grungir are a group of Ulfen druids who seek to protect the wood from human encroachment. While that might seem as simple as joining forces with the more aggressive denizens of the wood, it isn’t that easy—for the Guardians must also contain several of the more violent and aggressive elements of the woods. After all, if Fafnheir or the other monsters of Grungir Forest grow too violent and kill too many Ulfen, the Linnorm Kings might unite to destroy the forest outright. As a result, the Guardians often find themselves mediating between the less forgiving fey and their human neighbors—friends to few, they assuage their lonely vigil with the knowledge that Grungir Forest carries on.
Creatures of Grungir Forest fall into three basic categories: wild animals, monsters, and fey. The first two categories of denizens tend to boast particularly large and healthy specimens, for the proximity of the First World does much to invigorate and bolster life. Many animals are so infused with this power that they become fey creatures themselves (see the fey animal template on page 58). In other cases, this bolstering merely results in advanced specimens.