THE GROVE OF DOURIN

DESCRIPTION - LOCATION - PEOPLE - CLIMATE
FLORA - FAUNA - RESOURCES - MYTH/LORE - HISTORY

Dourinís Grove is a relatively small forest nestled against the Sentinels in the Manthrian province of the United Kingdom of Santharia. Best known for its thick underbrush, twisted trees and general impenetrability, the groveís interior has not been seen for centuries. Within this tangled mess is believed to live the ancient, powerful druid, Dourin, from whom the woods derive their name.

Description. Dourinís Grove sticks out like a sore thumb among the rippling grasslands of Hylach; an imposing fortress towering over its hinterland. The massive trees that line its perimeter reach so high that the forest can be glimpsed from over a dozen strals away. So far up do the trees climb that they seem to touch InjŤrŠ herself as she rides across the skies. The rays of her morning glow set the tree tops ablaze in an inferno of reds and oranges while amid the purples and dark blues of his descent, they seem like smoldering ashes.

When viewed up close, however, the forestís edge bears a distinct similarity to a fence. Thick trees rise at semi-regular intervals to form gigantic posts; unsurpassable solid and rooted firmly into the ground. Between them dangles a mess of vines and creepers woven among each other into a steadfast web through which very little can permeate. With stems as thick as a manís arm, these plants serve as the barrierís horizontal beams, linking together the posts and restricting movement into and out of the woods.

The walls of a fortress and a fence prove apt metaphors for describing the portions of Dourinís Grove accessible to humansí relation to the forestís interior. What exactly lies at the heart of the center of the forest is currently, and most likely for ever will, remain a mystery. Legend and oral history holds, however, that the woods were erected as a garrison to serve one of two purposes: a hiding place for the Green Druid, Dourin, or to keep greedy Avennorian and Serphelorian prospectors from exploiting the mineral wealth of the Old Kasth Mine. Thus, one can logically assume that one or both of these features could be found beyond the groveís perimeter. Return to the top


Location. Dourinís Grove is most easily distinguished as one of the few patches of dense forest growth separating Manthriaís two largest northern flatlands, the Hylach Grasslands and the Huiscen Plains. Immediately to the east lie the rock spires of Sentinels whose now-abandoned Kasth Mine is completely shielded by the woodsí impenetrably thick growth. The groveís sister-forest, the Kilma Woods, from which it was separated millennia ago when the first trails were bush-wacked by Avennorian and Serpherlorian settlers that would later grow to become the Elverground Road, lies about a dayís ride to the west.

The only settlement in the immediate vicinity of the grove is Fort Snowcap, a sizable fortification charged with the keeping order and protecting the roads in the northern portions of the Duchy of Huiscenís Grassen Steading which lie far beyond the immediate reach of the Dukeís seat of power, Chrondra. As they tend to be uneducated and superstitious, the soldiers manning the Fort have developed a fear of the forest and do their best to skirt around it. Return to the top

People. Due to the fact that it is entirely inaccessible to any of Manthriaís races, Dourinís Grove has no confirmed residents. If myth is to be believed, however, the forest does house one permanent tenant: the hibernating Dourin. Exactly who or what one considers Dourin to be varies wildly depending upon the legends to which one subscribes. However, whether or not he is perceived as a wrathful half-man, half-beast or a benevolent guardian of nature and its creatures, all accounts agree that he is a druid of legendary power and a force not be trifled with. Return to the top

Climate. Relatively frequent rainfall, most likely the result of moisture being cradled and deposited by the western face of the Sentinels, allows the woods of Dourinís Grove to flourish among the otherwise dry and windy climate of Manthriaís northern-most territories. The humidity of this region is rarely released as rain, however, but rather hangs thickly in the air, rubbing off on everything it touches as beads of condensation. As such, the Grove seems to almost radiate a hot, muggy haze into the crisp, dry grasslands that surround it.

Though the forest experiences four distinct seasons, they are marked by changes in physical appearance, not by a variation in temperature. The Groveís crisp autumns and springs and mild winters thus flow smoothly together; the falling of leaves, bare branches and green buds being the only indicators of the progression of autumn, winter and spring.

The heat of the InjŤrŠís rays combines with the oppressively heavy air of the forest to create an unbearably sweltering summer. Lacking even the faintest breeze to provide ventilation, the humid air trapped by the dense undergrowth cooks to temperatures so high it is a miracle the groveís flora does not wilt. The heat does seem to take its toll on the animal-life, however, driving it from the safety of the forest during the day to escape to a more comfortable environment. Return to the top

Flora. A wide variety of plant life, ranging from towering trees to invasive undergrowth and thick webs of hanging vines, thrives within this forest. Massive oak, urban and beech trees scrape against the very sky. Slung lazily from bough to bough, vines and creepers such as the blanket of Shar and the sweet sip lounge in slack horse shoes, providing a stark contrast to the rigid and imposing trees upon which they rest. Finally, along the ground, bushes and weeds grow so thick one is hard pressed to find a bare path of soil, making the grove seem as though it is covered in a thick, long haired carpet.

The diverse plant life of Dourinís Grove does have one unifying feature, however. Whether the tallest tree or the most pathetic weed, all of the forestís greenery grows to an unnatural size and strength. Bushes grow as high as a manís waist; normally dainty and lace-like vines as can be as thick as a manís arm, and trees become so girthy it takes two or three men to completely encircle them. According to the locals, these strange features are simply evidence of Dourinís existence. Though he slumbers, his magic radiates out and fills the plants and soil, providing them with unnatural qualities. Return to the top

Fauna. The dense growth that characterizes Dourinís Grove makes it inhospitable to most animals despite the relatively attractive climate of the northern portions of Manthria. Animals small enough to freely wiggle their way through this imposing barrier, however, tend to thrive quite well. Mice, rats, shrews, moles, and a variety of other small ground dwelling creatures are thus often found scuttling in and out of the forestís wall as they go about their daily activities.

Almost equally as thick as the forest floor, the Groveís treetops have a similar restricting effect of the birds that choose to nest. Predatory birds, with their large wingspans, are unable to navigate the crowded space and instead choose to roost in more favourable environments. As a result, small songbirds of all kinds have flourished in abundance among Dourinís canopy, feasting on berries from the forest and insects and grains from the surrounding grasslands. Their cheerful songs resonate throughout the wood, painting the otherwise eerie and foreboding trees as the guardians of a paradise hidden within.

When compared to their kin elsewhere in Sarvonia, the creatures of Dourinís Grove have a noticeably carefree demeanor. Relegated to one of the lowest rungs of the food web, rodents and small birds tend to be characterized as Ďtimidí in nature; always fearful of some threat lurking just beyond notice, they move with extreme caution and are constantly checking over their shoulders. On the other hand, those of the grove seem to be well aware of the fact that they have no predators in the immediate vicinity and brazenly saunter about in the open. Hoping to capitalize on this unusual behaviour, the soldiers of Fort Snowcap have on numerous occasions attempted to hunt these small beasts to supplement their diet, but have had no success. Arrows fired upon them almost never find their mark and traps lain have their bait stolen without being sprung, leading the more superstitious guards to whisper that the hand of Dourin protects these creatures, shielding and guiding them with his magic. Return to the top

Resources. Dourinís Grove has little in the way of resources for human consumption. Though it is a rather dense forest, the trees have proven wholly un-useful. Their unnaturally hard wood and thick bark have a tendency to leave prospective lumberjacks exhausted after a dayís work with nothing to show for it save for a dull or broken axe head. Furthermore, even if one is successful in securing a few logs, the wood proves to be hardly worth the labour. The fact that it is often found in awkward shapes and is usually warped makes it difficult at best in construction and crafting, while its wet, sappy interior makes it even worse for burning.

The forest is also completely devoid of larger animals, making it a poor hunting ground for those in search of wild game. In addition to barring the way of adventurous humans, the web of brambles and thick underbrush also seems to keep out all animals larger than a small rodent. Unable to find shelter within the forestís heart, larger animals have long since wandered off to safer habitats or have been trapped and killed. Return to the top

Myth/Lore. The majority of the Lore surrounding the grove attempts to explain its weird properties. According to commonly believed legend, the Wildman Dourin, who made his home within the forest in the late 1200s a.S., warped it using druidic magic. Furious at the slow destruction of his woods by the Kasth miners, and their blatant lack of respect for nature, he resolved to exclude them from it entirely. This myth states that by manipulating the essence of the flora within his grove, Dourin was able to weave the wall of plants that surrounds the woods.

It is also believed by some that Dourin remains alive even today within the grove. Granted unnaturally long life by his strange powers, it is said that he makes his home at the woodís center, living harmoniously with the flora and fauna sealed inside while maintaining his barrier to prevent any new entrants.

Dourinís grove is also rumored to be home to a number of pendrowe thought to have aided the druid in his expulsion of the Avennorian miners from the forest. Since pendrowe are known to be extremely protective of the forests in which they live, this theory does not seem far fetched. Some soldiers at Fort Snowcap insist that the groveís fence of trees is actually an army of these sentient plant-beings defending the forestís interior and claim that the pendrowesí Ďaura of healingí is what makes the brush indestructible. A few of these individuals even go so far as to claim that theyíve seen or been attacked by one of these beings move along the groveís exterior. Return to the top

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THE GOLDEN AGE OF KINGS
(YEARS 172 A.S. - 547 A.S.)
ca. 500
to 900
Deforestation as a Result of Expansion
Before 500 a.S., a large forest existed in what would become the northern Hylach Grasslands, creating an impressive natural barrier that blocked north-south transit between the Sentinels and the Rimmerins Ring. By 900 a.S., Dourin's grove and the Kilma Woods would be all that remained of this formidable natural barrier.

The destruction of what henceforth shall be referred to as the 'Old Kilma Woods' is a slow process, occurring over the span of four centuries. The swelling of the population of Manthria and an increase in internal trade are the root causes of the forest's demise. As the population of villages such as Courtford begins to increase as a result of their prosperity, their people begins to demand more space and wood in order to live comfortably. Slowly the Old Kilma Woods begins to be whittled away, the wood of its trees built houses and its cleared area becoming the homes growing numbers of Avennorians and their prized horses.

Whereas the clearing of the forest for housing and grazing is attacking the woods from its northern and southern borders, the increase in trade hacks away its core. In order to more efficiently transfer goods from the north to the south and vice versa, the Avennorians living around Kilma begin to create new trails through the heart of the woods. Though these initially start as footpaths, over time these trails increasing traffic cause them to widen into heavily traveled roads.

These human encroachments enrage the pendrowe of the Old Kilma Woods, the forest's guardians. Deciding to end the rapid destruction of their forests, the pendrowe attempt to mount a resistance movement to expel the invaders. Their efforts do little to impede the Avennorian settlers, however, as their small numbers prevent them from posing a significant threat.

THE AGE OF DISCOVERY
(YEARS 1.144 A.S. - 1.440 A.S.)
ca. 1.250 Establishment of Old Kasth Mine
When the ground is broken to begin the construction of the first tunnels of the Old Kasth Mine, Dourin's Grove stands as an independent forest, cut off from the Kilma Wood by strals of grasslands. Since it is the only remaining woodlands in the area, Dourin's Grove, named for the wild magic-man who had made his home within the forest, is the primary source of raw materials for the blossoming encampment. Hundreds of trees are torn down to raise make-shift homes, fortify shafts and serve as fuel for fires and many more animals are slaughtered to feed the miners.
  

ca. 1.300 Dourin Cloisters Himself Away
Furious at the slow destruction of his home, the Green Druid Dourin vows to seal the grove off from further intrusion. Manipulating the essence of the woods and underbrush at the edges of the forest, he warps them into a tangled, impenetrable wall, sealing himself, along with all other beings who live within the Grove, inside. Try as they might, the miners are incapable of re-penetrating the grove. Axes and swords dull and break against the grove's twisted wood without leaving so much as a dent and fire fails to catch among the dense underbrush. Deprived wood for their fires and mine shafts and food to eat, the Avennorians are forced to abandon the Kasth Mine.

A large portion of Dourin's success comes from his ability to successfully martial his allies, the forest's Pendrowe into a unified resistance. In addition to supplementing their strength with his own magic, he coordinates their efforts against the Avennorian invaders and aides them in erecting a defensible perimeter around the forest's edge.

THE AGE OF HAVOC
(YEARS 1.440 A.S. - 1.540 A.S.)
1.456 Founding of Fort Snowcap
Approximately one hundred and fifty years later, Fort Snowcap is founded at the foot of the Sentinels, just south of Dourin's Grove. Though three generations had passed since Dourin had ruined the Kasth Mining operation, the forest remains as inhospitable to its new neighbours as it had been to its old. Terrified of the strange woods, the soldiers stationed at the fortress avoid it, afraid to draw the old druid's wrath.

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 Date of last edit 27th Singing Bird 1672 a.S.

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