This vast forest encompasses such a large area of the Beyond that it has at least three distinct climates within its leafy borders. The southwestern area, which hedges the Black Riage, is dry and crisp. Winds whistle between the tops of the tallest trees, swaying their branches far above the ground. Trees topple regularly here, and a call of “Crackling!” is common among those who live in the wilds. Explorers can expect to find herds of stondels and breslings here, as well as laak and winged creatures of all shapes, sizes, and colors. This area, which includes the city of Ephremon, is the most densely populated section of the forest. Most people dwell in curved huts built from stone bricks.
The middle section is a dense jungle, thick with underbrush and canopy levels that rise toward the sky and house many wild creatures. The air is so heavy with moisture that water drips from the trees, keeping the ground—and any who walk along it—damp at all times. Most small to medium creatures live high in the trees, hoping to escape the large carnivores that slink and stalk along the moist forest floor. Here travelers find the large wall known Padun, as well as the city of Druissi. The southeastern tip of the Ba-Adenu Forest, which turns to swamps and bogs, is populated with snags and borgrove trees. Here, both the air and the ground are still and wet. A false step could land someone throat-deep in a stickybog or at the mercy of a hungry caiman that had appeared to be a dead log. Camouflage is the name of the game, and most creatures are difficult to see among the mud and muck. The Untethered Legion thrives in this part of the forest, a further plague to all who wish to cross through the area.
The large city of 20,000 people occupies many levels of the forest, from cavelike dwellings among the tree roots to nest-styled homes in the highest canopies. A large circle of carefully tended ester trees creates a makeshift wall around Ephremon, and lookouts sit in well-fashioned tree rests to keep an eye on things inside and outside the city. A complicated system of risers, ladders, and swings (all made from metal, synth, and wood) allow access to every level of the city.
Most inhabitants are agile and avid climbers, having learned at an early age how to move between the levels. However, visitors are likely to struggle and fall behind as they attempt to follow a native to any level beyond the ground. Residents worship a creature called the Falgreen, which appears to the pious in the form of a floating young woman in a tattered black and green dress, with twigs for hair. The fiercely devout say that for the price of a child, Falgreen will promise long life, but most people merely consider her to be a bringer of luck and a safety net during their travels among the treetops.
Padun is an enormous oval-shaped wall, almost 15 miles (24 km) across, deep in the Ba-Adenu Forest. The original structure seems to have been built from a soft metallic substance carved or shaped into round stones. Over the years, a variety of materials, including stronglass and purple trees from the Ausren Woods, have been used to extend and repair the wall. Its surface features countless windows, doorways, holes, and other entry points. Some have been constructed and include doors that close and lock. Other entrances appear to be the remnants of wars, battles, and attacks.
A number of cities, fortresses, and strongholds have been built within the wall, but all failed and are now little more than ruins. For every potential ruler who sees the giant wall and imagines a kingdom of loyal and protected subjects, there is someone else who will take advantage of the difficulty in defending such a large structure and space.
A small town in the northern section of the Ba-Adenu Forest, Druissi is home to around 1,000 inhabitants. It is built on the visible part of ancient, unknown wreckage that generates a stable, low-level heat year-round. Residents of Druissi take full advantage of this, using the conductive heat to warm everything from food and water to their homes.
The Untethered Legion
Deep in the swampy mire of the southeastern section of the Ba-Adenu Forest is the Untethered Legion. The name is both a place and a foul curse, one not even uttered in the brightest of days. The Untethered Legion is a land of mud and oil, with pools of a murky substance that flows red for days on end, hardens to grey, and he liquefies again. And with every hardening of the land, the hounds of the Untethered Legion incubate inside its belly, waiting to emerge from the soil. When the pools turn back to black and red, the hounds are born, pushing nose-first through the liquid in a great upheaval of slavering jaws and bared fangs.
Awaiting their arrival are the legion’s riders, biomechanical humans cloaked to match their new steeds. Their teeming masses fill this region of the forest—gathering, waiting, building something that is so far unseen and unknown. Someone, somewhere, gives them orders. Only the legion knows what those orders are and where they come from.