Shady Grove, also called "Banditwoods" among the locals, is a forested area in the eastern Manthrian province of Santharia, west of the Propsper Mountain Range and north of the last part of the Mashdai River flowing into the Adanian Sea. The Shady Grove would be a quite idyllic place, if there weren't occasional raids on travellers by bandits, supposedly hailing from their hideout in the abandoned Deepgorge Mine. This earned the woods the name "Banditwoods", and many travellers shun passing through these woods therefore, except the Black Butterfly rovers, who are often seen camping in the southern woods regularly and don't seem to mind as there is not much to steal from them.
|Image description. A seemingly tranquil idyll in the central part of Shady Grove. However, traveller beware, because these "Banditwoods" bear their name for a reason... Picture drawn by Reegen.|
Description. The Shady Grove is about sixty strals wide and about hundred strals long. So for the few days of travelling there is a slight chance of getting ambushed by bandits, that is, of course, if you can find a safe route other than the main path which is overgrown and abandoned, but still followable.
The Southern Forest and Stony Well
The south of the Shady Grove is like a mild orchard with a few groups of trees here and there, it is flat so you can see houses that belong to farmers and woodcutters. The houses are scattered and mainly poor, a few people will walk slow and work not paying attention to what surrounds them, always scared of newcomers. The main path runs happily through the south part of the Banditwoods, winding here and there around small hills and rocks. There are many wild fields with gentle flowers and scarce bushes.
The only thing that looks like a settlement in Shady Grove is the Stony Well. Stony Well is a group of four houses (a stable, bed house, tavern, supply house) with a well in the middle. These structures are located in the south of the Banditwoods, although the water in the well isn't near to tasty at all, the Stony Well is still a popular place for all the visitors that do not pay attention to what they eat or where they sleep. In Stony Well we can find traders who do not eat or sleep inside but camp outside, bandits of all three known bandit groups, travellers that pass from Marcogg to the Adanian Sea by the North River Road and some of the commoners. Although the tavern isn't the best in business it still makes a nice amount of money which then goes as a "protection" for one of the bandit groups.
The Central Forest
The main part (or the "Stealwood") of the Shady Grove is a forest which slowly passes from completely flat to hilly as you progress farther north, especially in the part that is closer to the Deepgorge Mine hills. The air is fresher here than in the sunbathed south of the Banditwoods due to the more denser adjustment of trees and large bushes. On some clearings we can find small forts made by the Yellow Pillagers, one of the bandit groups, which control this area. They charge tolls for the passing through their area, but they still rob the company that has already payed the toll. The moisture in this central part results in a couple of small marshes which are hardly seen under the nice smelling grass.
The Northern Woods and
The northern part of the Shady Grove is very dense, so dense that we can somewhere even find the shadow grass. The smell of moss hovers in the air while the thick branches cover the light from the sky. Most trees in this part have a strange twisted shape and a thick hard bark which is darker than on the other representatives of their species. There are small tree houses that belong to the Blue Ripper bandits on these trees.
The most famous place in the northern part of the Shady Grove is a hill, under which the bandit captain Dragok Rodlery is probably buried. The path winds around the hill which is naked and stony, some say that in a windy night the terrible howl is heard from the hill and some believe that then the ghost of Dragok Rodlery searches for his traitor and revenge.
Location. As stated, Shady Grove is located in the eastern Manthrian province of Santharia, west of the Propsper Mountain Range and north of the last part of the Mashdai River flowing into the Adanian Sea.
People. There are three different kinds of people you are likely to meet when travelling through Shady Grove, though, be it traders, commoners, Black Butterfly rovers, greylers or bandits you will always try to avoid any of those groups. Although you can get through Shady Grove without spotting anyone - or do they just let you pass...? - People you might encounter are of the follow kinds:
Traders make rare appearance in the Shady Grove lately but they still make a nice prey for the bandits roaming around this forested area. The traders trade with all sorts of things including wool and food for the commoners, then they make trades with Marcogg for Sunth, Propsper Mine, Kneef and Parthanul bringing new and expensive items to these small places which make a slow progress with the help of traders that risk their lives passing through the Banditwoods.
The traders are usually wary and will not allow anyone to join their travelling group - there are several reports that they have been tricked a couple of times by bandits. Some claim that they camped on a quiet night when “lost” travellers approached them and asked for food and a place to stay over night. When everyone was asleep, one of the “travellers” sneaked outside the camp and called the bandits, next thing you know the camp was raided and the guards were surprised and overwhelmed. Sometimes bandits even kidnap one of the traders and make him betray the other traders for money or just for the sake of it.
Commoners are found mostly at the south border of the Shady Grove. They are primary woodcutters and failed miners who turned to farming. There are even a couple of shacks where the criminals from Marcogg and other near places lay low after a big theft or assassination. The commoners don't trust anyone but them and their families so when you come near of someone's property you will probably get a crossbow bolt in your behind or in the worst case your head or chest. Though commoners handle weapons pretty well, they don't oppose the bandits and bandits don't bother commoners unless they get their “protection”, which is given in gold, food, cattle and the rest a commoner has, even family members (especially female).
There are not so many bandits in Shady Grove as it were in the days of Dragok Rodlery, who is said to have united all the bandit groups in the Shady Grove and led a small army that terrorised the Parthanul and the Marcogg fiefs, but when Dragok died, bandits turned to their old ways and divided again, some even left the bandit business and started to live a honest life again. There are three bandit groups in the Banditwoods: The Yellow Pillagers, the Red Marauders and the Blue Rippers, each of these groups wear tattoos somewhere on the body (usually beneath clothes) in the colour of their name:
a) The Yellow Pillagers
The Pillagers made a couple of small forts in the centre of the Shady Grove, where they defend themselves from the authorities by claiming that they are just honest traders and that they do not have anything to do with the other bandit groups. They have the least members than other groups and they do not fight often. Their primary weapons are deceit and cunningness and they make their fortune by bribing a trader and then just collecting the whole trading goods from that trader's company, after founding when and where the company will pass.
b) The Red Marauders
The Marauders are a very brutal, crude and violent bunch, they use their strength and skill with weapons in their robberies and usually attack in great numbers. There are reasons to believe that they made their home in the Deepgorge Mine. Word is that the bandit captain Dragok Rodlery collected the treasure in one of the caves in Deepgorge Mine and some even say that that cave has a secret entrance, nobody knows if the Marauders did find the cave or not but the other groups and the government tried to get in the mine to find the treasure and use it for their own purposes.
These days the Graven of the Parthanul fief tries to get a clearance from the Duke to lead an assault on the Deepgorge Mine and claims that all the treasure in there belongs to him and his fief as a payment for all the evil things the bandit did to him, on the other hand the Graven of the Marcogg fief claims that the treasure belongs to him, and so while the fight continues between the two Gravens the Marauders keep gathering their loot and keep the Shady Grove more dangerous.
c) The Blue Rippers
The Rippers are specialized in assassination and spying, they are said to be even hired by the government for assassination of other bandits in the Shady Grove and for spying on them. Some even say that the assassin that killed the famous bandit captian Dragok was a Ripper. The Rippers made their home in the north-western part of the Shady Grove, making their small houses on the rare big trees. They often are seen in Nauthery buying supplies and making contracts with the Marcogg authorities. There are reasons to believe that the Rippers work with the authorities on exterminating all other bandit groups from the Banditwoods, but they still rob the travellers that pass through it.
Black Butterfly rovers are often seen passing through Shady Grove and are usually camping in it at nights. Although bandits don't kill or rob them, they still want something from these rovers. The Black Butterfly give them the services of dancing, singing, healing, fortune telling and even prostitution. Though the bandit captain Dragok Rodlery didn't want to have any association with these roamers and he even forbid all of his bandits to have any association with them, the rules after Dragok's death changed and now the bandits enjoy the company of Black Butterfly rovers in their lairs.
Greylers also make an appearance in the Shady Grove, especially in the north western part where the Deepgorge Mine's hills are located, so it is believed that the greylers there live in small hidden caves.
Bandits usually don't harass greylers and greylers try to stay out of the bandits' ways, although when bandits need work strength for rising fences or carrying wood and supplies they might pick a couple of greylers and return them exhausted and half-dead after few hours.
Climate. Due to its
comfortable position in central Manthria and the
gentle, warm and refreshing climate, Shady Grove is an excellent place
for a picnic, rest or recreation although it is one of the best place for
Flora. Most plants that like moisture and light will be found in the Banditwoods. There are a variaetiy of trees like: ashwudes, sheen, silvery silkel trees, huge oaks and other. You can also find wild candlebushes, redberries and rare wild brisulivan. In areas where trees are dense, we can find some shade grass and in the more open areas lotann flowers often with sunflowers at their sides. In the southern parts of the Shady Gorve the kell herb is seen often.
Fauna. A great lot of smaller animals made their home in the forested grounds of Shady Grove. They often develop hiding skills and are quite afraid of newcomers and humans so you will rarely see them. From the animals we do see there are: rolling hedgehogs, field mice and others.
Myth/Lore. The most famous story about the Shady Grove is a story about the Battle of Nauthery and the death of a great bandit called Dragok Rodlery (1340-1387), who united all the bandit groups by promising them riches beyond their imagination. Dragok pillaged and ransacked the Marcogg and Parthanul fiefs, serving death wherever he found a honest life. From the report of Woson Anbend, a captain of the Marcogg militia:
"The Duke finally gave a permission to eradicate those bandits forever, so my unit and six other units will strike at them when they make camp in Nauthery. One of those blue guys said that to us and it looks like the commander believes him, and if the commander believes him so do I... The commander said that this mission is top secret and we spent the last night and day before the mission in the fields next to Nauthery, hiding."
Some say that when Dragok last made camp, a seer of
Seyella approached him and stated that he
will die this night. Dragok killed the seer for arrogance of talking about his
death and the moments later attack started. When Dragok realised that the
bandits weren't only overwhelmed but also betrayed, he tried to run. Next day he
was found lying next to his horse with an
arrow pierced through his vest. It is believed that he was betrayed and killed
by a Blue Ripper.
A poem about the death of Dragok Rodlery, written by a poet of Marcogg who was impressed with the bandit, was put on Dragok Rodlery's tombstone:
A great bandit he was,
tall and crude,
Another notable event that took part in the Shady Grove after Dragok is the Great Cleaning (1445-1446), when all the bandit groups where so numerous that they started a small war inside the borders of the Banditwoods. Of course the authorities had to respond to such disturbances of peace and led an assault on Shady Grove. After they where pushed back, the bandits regrouped and united but they still couldn't win the much more organised and experienced Marcogg militia, so they retreated to Deepgorge Mine where they stood up for days until the militia got reinforcements consisting of siege weapons and broke through the Deepgorge Mine's gate and heavily defeated the bandit forces. Although the bandits' main force was defeated, another much smaller escaped through, some believe, a secret gate and dispersed around the forest. A couple of years passed until the Shady Grove became as unsafe as it was before the Great Cleaning.