About twenty kilometers north of Marsilion, past the rich farmlands surrounding the town and just past the most immediate villages, a forest stretches onwards across the paths leading north and to the beginning of the hills that make up the Badlands. While small patches have been cleared away to make room for the poorer farming villages, such as Bannockbuq, the forest is vast, undaunted, and for the most part, unexploited.
The forest covers roughly 65% of the southwestern part of the isle and crosses several of the roads that lead north and south. Moderate sections are cut for wood supplies and others have charcoal set up, these areas being set aside specifically for use of civilizations on the isle. A complex series of treaties, struck with the multitude of inhabitants that live inside the forest, governs which sections can be utilized and which remain untouched in order to grow. Caution is advised when walking deep inside the forest.
The forest is the result of highly fertile volcanic soil deposited during eruptions in the island's pre-settlement history. The volcanic plains quickly became lush grasslands and then forest with migranted in plant flora granting intense levels of competition and variety. With a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, the forest floor is covered in decaying plant matter and humus. The canopy is nearly completely enclosing in the deeper sections of the wood, rendering the core parts of the forest dark and foreboding.
The forest is inhabited by a number of disparate groups of people, most of which choose some form of life away from civilization. While they often have social contact with each other, and form themselves into a number of loosely affiliated groups which have a common interest, for the most part the inhabitants of the forest have infrequent social contact. Charcoal burners, nature priests, druids and other magic-users who draw on their powers from natural sources, supernatural creatures such as the myriad strains of non-infectious, non-bloodthirsty werewolves and more can all be found at various points in the wood.
The forest inhabitants hold loose treaties and agreements with the city of Marsilion and the neighboring villages, particularly the farther out, poorer ones such as Bannockbuq. These usually define agreements on how much of the wood can be utilized for burning and cutting purposes anually. Violators are usually escorted from the woods after having their attempts forcibly interrupted. The poorer villages often have good relations with the people in the wood, and often can count upon mutual assistance in some matters.
It is rare to see a druid or other such inhabitant near the roads - such areas are infrequently visited and patrolled, and usually travelers are merely watched with idle curiosity, not followed. The deeper parts of the wood hold more of their number, and rumors speak of tightly guarded ceremonies being performed deep inside them.
There is a small bandit presence in the woods, usually small bands that are based out of the Badlands, armed with an assortment of small arms and personal melee weapons meant to intimidate. For the most part, bandits do not linger for long in the forest, as the druids and other naturists chase them out or turn them in wherever they are encountered. They usually slip into the forest to separate a few travelers or carts from their valuables and then disappear. For this reason, travelers moving north are advised to travel together for protection and carry at least one firearm.
The occasional bandit group can be found deeper in the forest, but for the most part banditry is not the sole occupation and pursuit of those that can be found there.
The wildlife of the forest is incredibly diverse and constantly competing. New species are brought in constantly via migrant activity, and often flourish in their limited lifespans even if others of their species are not available for reproduction. However, those that are capable of reproducing with existing creatures thanks to genetic similarity, or happen to find another of the opposite sex migranted in out of chance often cause sudden population booms, causing sudden ecological change. The result of this is a constantly changing ecology with a food web that sprawls outwards, often changing by the day. The naturists generally attempt to regulate this and keep invasive species from becoming too much of a problem.
Large mammals and avians of many types occupy the forest, including oversized creatures in the deepest reaches that died out in most mainline earth universes, such as the dire wolf and cave bear. Supporting these large apex predators are a variety of plentiful, highly efficient herd animal grazers from a variety of species. Thanks to complete isolation from human contact for the most part, many of these creatures are rather dangerous to encounter. Wandering deep in the forest unarmed is heavily dissuaded against.
The Deepwoods is a series of locations within the forest that approaches tropical jungle levels of growth and is patrolled by all manner of large creatures who eke out an existance on the abundant fauna within it. Stories of "wandering in the Deepwoods" are common in the villages, and often attributed to famous people. Elders often claim that they walked in it and survived! The exact locations of places known as the "Deepwoods" is not reliably mapped, and even were people able to reliably go there, the forest folk routinely chase people away for their own safety.
The Deepwoods are not hospitable to humanoid life. Even the nature folk do not linger there long. The creatures are one danger, as is the constant risk of infection by some exotic species of insect carrying a strange offworld disease. Yet the physical dangers of the place do not make it inhospitable, but rather the massive amount of spiritual influence in the area. Areas known as Deepwoods are natural mana collection points, and the barrier between the flesh and spirit is weak in almost all cases. Those that wander in it for long periods risk coming back altered, or possessed. Nonetheless, the woodfolk brave it for short periods, often to make a deal with a spirit or gather energy for some pursuit.
Woodfolk are often known to assist those that end up on the bad end of spiritual influence, but sometimes travellers who slip into the Deepwoods evade their grip and escape back into society as a whole, a spirit riding them...