Ravenloft: The Shadow Fallen
The Forest of Beasts
The Forest of Beasts is a vast timberland filled more with animals than with people. The humans that dwell in the Forest eke out hardscrabble lives of subsistence. Civilization is a story here—only the wilderness is reality. Humans are the hunted in the Forest of Beasts, not the hunters, and many of the creatures that dwell in these lands are able to blur the line between beast and man in order to better deceive their prey.
The westernmost portion of the Cluster is the large domain of Verbrek, a coastal forest that runs north-south and is well known for its enormous trees and frequent rains. Verbrek is a rocky land full of sharp cliffs, steep gullies, and heavy undergrowth with many fast-flowing creeks, streams, and rivers.
The other three domains of the region touch on Verbrek’s eastern border; the northernmost is the somewhat civilized domain of Kartakass, a land known for its musical traditions, lumber industry, and potent liquors. South of Kartakass is Arkandale, a region of independent towns and river traders. The southernmost domain is Valachan, a land where wolves are displaced by large cats as the top predator.
While all of the region’s domains have a temperate and warm climate, the southern half of the Cluster is subtropical. All of the Forest is humid, prone to heavy rain and muggy weather; Arkandale and Valachan have almost murderous heat, with humidity so strong that it can make simply breathing feel like drowning on a hot day. Mosquitos and the diseases they carry are common throughout the Forest of Beasts, and breathing ailments are a frequent killer.
The Forest of Beasts is a wild, untamed place, full of superstition and fear. Magic is frequently reviled by the people of the region’s small villages; some even think that any magic-user is an animal spirit disguised as a human. While the people of the Forest possess animistic traditions of their own, there is little room for religious fervor in their desperate lives. Praying to the ancestors or the spirits is common, and some larger villages might even have a shaman or priest, but few are prosperous enough to be able to devote significant time to worship.
All of the domains of the Forest of Beasts speak Vaasi, though Low Mordentish is becoming common among the traders of Arkandale as they form more connections with the Civilized Crescent. Regional accents make communication among the domains occasionally difficult, but rarely disastrous. Many villages have unique accents or vocabulary due to long periods of isolation.
Kartakass has its own unique language, Old Kartakan, which is spoken only by local scholars and musicians. Most people in the domain never bother learning it, instead using Vaasi as their common tongue. Minstrels and historians keep the language alive for reasons of nostalgia and scholarship, but little else.
The rivers of Arkandale flow east into the Civilized Cluster; Arkandale’s trading clans ferry a significant amount of Kartakan hardwoods into the shops of Richemulot. The rivers can be very hard to navigate, however, since they pass through the Mists; this means that only experienced navigators attempt such passage. Quite a few of the rivers of northern Verbrek connect with the Balinok Mountains, particularly to Invidia, but these rivers are even more dangerous to navigate than those of Arkandale.
Western Verbrek has a long shore that flows into the Sea of Sorrows, but few settlements exist on its rocky, storm-wracked shores. Most ships that try to find portage in the waters off Verbrek generally wind up shattering themselves on the cliffs and shoals. Eastern Valachan gradually bleeds into the Far Steppes, and a reliable Mistway known as Horse Lord’s Pass connects the two.