West of Koenigsburg, beyond the farms and fields, beyond the towns and villages, there is a great forest. It is dark, and ancient, and marks the end of human-held lands. Deep into the forest a traveler crosses into Alfar territory but only by passing through Alfwyrd Grove.
Alfwyrd Grove is a wide strip of forest running from the northeast to the southwest and providing a buffer between the human kingdoms and the Alfar. It came into being a few hundred years ago as part of peace treaty after a long (to humans) and brutal war. With the swearing of Oaths and a ritual sacrifice the Grove was born, and it chose its caretaker, a young woman, from among the human king’s foresters.
The borders of the Grove are amorphous and ever-changing, but are generally between a day and two days into the forest. This gives the humans some room to hunt and forage for fruits, nuts, and wood, and the Royal Foresters carefully maintain this area. The foresters often leave gifts for the Druid of the Grove, things the druid can’t get from the forest: bread and flour, cheese, milk, and butter, and soft cloth.
Lately though, the vines and brambles that mark the edge of the Grove have moved outward, toward the forest’s edge, reclaiming that bit of the forest that had been set aside for human use. Wolves have begun raiding flocks and herds close to the forest. People report having seen misshapen animals, their bodies twisted and warped. Hunters and woodcutters have gone missing. A few have been found again, their bodies entangled in the vines and pierced by long thorns. Two of the Royal Foresters, sent separately to contact the Druid of the Grove, have also gone missing. King Hunfrid has sent messages to the Alfar, and their replies indicate they have suffered their own losses. The Alfar are inclined to blame the humans for encroaching upon areas of the forest where they do not belong. The humans have begun speculating that the Alfar, who are famed for their wood shaping, are behind these attacks.
The old war has not yet begun again. But it could, very easily.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.