The Boundless Weald
The Boundless Weald is the collective name for the vast expanse of forests, thickets, and stretches of unrestricted plant growth that extend in every direction inland from Rastvel. Believed by many to be endless, the Weald is the only piece of geography that most Rastvellans are familiar with beyond their home city. Indeed, no end to the dark forest has ever been found, and expeditions that travel more than a few days distance in any direction away from Rastvel never return as a rule.
The Boundless Weald holds important cultural significance in the Rastvel public consciousness, as well as in traditional Rast worship. It is seen as the seat of the darkness, the domain of the Rast itself, a place both holy and dangerous, filled with horrors and powers beyond human imagining. Monsters certainly do prowl the trails under its endless canopy, particularly at night. After the sun sets, the pervasive darkness within the Weald takes on a deep, permeable air; a presence in itself beyond the simple lack of light, and all manner of beasts and horrors emerge to carry out their unspeakable works.
As dangerous as it is, The Boundless Weald is also a source of sustenance and protection for Rastvel. Natural resources such as wood and edible vegetation are in ample supply around the city, and the creatures within are largely dormant during the day, offering woodcutters, gatherers, and others to venture out with only a basic modicum of protection, bringing back the bounty that sustains the city’s industries and economies.
At the same time, the value of the Weald as a natural barrier is not to be underestimated. The Orc tribes far to the South have made their overt aggression toward other races clear, and would not hesitate to launch a full assault on Rastvel were it not for the forests between them. Even Orcs are not foolish enough to attempt to march a force of any size through the Weald. Instead, the tribes are forced to resort to smaller raiding parties, the mobility and adaptability of which grant them a much greater chance of avoiding the dangers that emerge at night.
Rastvel is not the only known settlement within the Boundless Weald. In addition to the aforementioned Orcs, there are many villages of humans, elves, and other sentient races within one or two days travel from Rastvel. While these hamlets do not suffer the same nighttime attacks as the city, their very existence is a gamble on the part of their residents. It is not uncommon for, after a particularly dark night, a village to be found entirely abandoned or utterly destroyed. The few survivors of any such event are inevitably broken in mind and spirit, driven insane by whatever horror they witnessed descend on their village.
Despite these risks, the satellite settlements are an attractive option for those who do not wish to live under the rule of the Lord Overseer or the Rastvel Court, who officially hold no dominion over anything beyond their own city’s walls.