- Hrith, retired forester of Bluehill.
"Trespassers Will Be Loosed Upon. Survivors Will Be Burned Alongside The Dead."
- Tentative translation of the old script carved into all monolithic boundary stones found along the edge of the Axebite.
The Axebitten Woods are the outskirts of a temperate broadleaf and mixed forest which spans a large part of the Reossos basin and swaths of the hill country beyond. Outposts and frontier towns exist almost equidistantly around the edges of the woods, yet there are no roads or other thoroughfares cutting through the forest, nor are any of the rivers which run through it utilized beyond certain points. The impracticality of this is a well-known fact of the area, and a source of constant frustration for traders and other travelers who must circumnavigate large tracts of forest in order to reach a different market. Attempts have been made in the past to trailblaze through the woods and into the forest beyond. All have ended poorly.
The woods themselves are an area of sparse woodland roughly a mile deep which forms a band around the forest proper. Beyond the woods is the eponymous Axebite, a huge area of flat land which has been stripped, all vegetation completely cut down to the earth save for occasional stumps and heaps of dead plant matter, all of them having a withered or even burned appearance. Occasional hints of animal matter, as well as more humanoid parts, are reported to be visible from the absolute extreme edge of the wood's safety. This borderline is marked by a vast series of deep-set stone markers, each approximately eight feet tall and three feet wide, facing outward with what appears to be a warning not to step beyond this point. Only, the language carved into each stone is so old that many who happen upon it, especially the frontier folk whose tongue is heavily provincialized, cannot read it. Generally however, the mistake is only made once by any given group.
This is because any trespasser, whether they walk on two legs, four, or fly on wings, invariably attract the attention of a very sharp and very large arrow. No one has ever determined what the size threshold is to being noticed, but even large beetles or cicadas have been reported as nailed to a tree at times. Because of the sudden and exponential rise in the denseness of the forest beyond the Axebite, no sight of the archers is ever had. The long-shafted arrows tend to remain for a day, only to vanish alongside their targets sometime in the following night. More rarely, hints of light like bonfires may be seen through the trees at night, or smoke in the air during the day. Thus, very few chances have been afforded to any researchers daring and unhinged enough to desire a closer and safer look at one of these arrows.
The common folk of the area, forced by necessity to eke out a living and too proud to leave their homes, have simply made due. No one walks past a certain point in the woods according to local tradition, and steps to conserve and efficiently utilize what timber is available from the woods have been taken with varying but often remarkable degrees of success. This does not mean that the enigma of the woods does not evoke a strong response from the locals, however. Quite the opposite, as the rich series of legends and myths surrounding it would suggest.
Chief among these myths is that of the Longfolk. Despite there being no credible sources for who or what does the killing past the Axebite, a vivid picture of them has been painted regardless. These beings are approximately humanoid in shape, though with much exaggerated limbs and features. They vary from seven to ten feet tall, with long arms and long fingers which swing far past their knobby knees. Each is nearly emaciated-looking, with irregular bone and sinew visible beneath a tight hide of grey-blue skin. They feast upon everything which they kill by bow, and often they are so gluttonous that when they do not eat something raw, they often take bites out of the meat as it is still roasting upon one of their fires. Thus their stomach is a pit of embers which can be seen glowing through their torsos on dark nights, and their breath is acrid smoke. They have no language and no culture beyond their means of hunting. They have always been there and forever will be.
These fireside tales told by haggard old grandpappies have given generations of children terrible nightmares out on the frontier, and in good form they have grown up to pass that trauma on down to their children, and their children's children at every opportunity, both to make them behave at home, and more seriously to keep them safe if ever they needed to enter the woods.
The truth of the matter is distressingly worse.
That gave me shivers!ReplyDelete
Loving the originality and detail so far, keep it up! :)ReplyDelete
I will try! I doubt I'll keep a one-per-day schedule going, but rest assured I'll return to this eventually.Delete