The Black Forest
The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald in German, lies in and around the
province of Wurtemburg in the Holy Roman Empire, in what today is
southwest Germany. The term applies not just to the trees, but also to
the rugged, sandstone mountains on which the forest stands. The
highest peak, Feldberg, stands 4,900 feet above sea level.
Covering a vast area, the Black Forest is a dark and brooding mass of
tightly packed coniferous trees, broken only by clearings, villages,
castles, the surrounding farmland, and the trails which run between
these many outposts of civilization. Of these settlements, the two
largest are Freiburg and Baden-Baden.
Outside of these oases of civilization the area is far wilder. The
landscape is dotted by numerous castles and towers, each owned by a
petty noble or robber-knight, who holds whatever territory he can
defend. Some of these lords are noble, in the traditional sense of the
word, others, like Baron Von Staler, are depraved through circumstance
or moral choice.
The trails are plagued by bandits, who drift in and out of the shadowy
forest like ghosts. Along the trails are numerous inns, spread roughly
a day’s travel apart. As Kane discovered in Rattle of Bones, however,
the quiet inns are by no means guaranteed safe havens.
Travelers who do find a decent inn are cautioned only to stick to
well-worn trails and avoid travel at night if at all possible. Those
who must travel are advised to make haste, and to wear a crucifix
about their neck. Though most speak only of the bloodthirsty bandits
who will happily gut a man for a few coins, locals know that darker
fiends prowl the woods after sundown.
Witches and necromancers work their fell magicks by the light of the
moon, using the many sheltered glades to perform their Black Masses.
Though vile in their own right, at least these fiends are men.
Many wanderers have reported hearing deep, bestial breathing near the
edge of the woods, seeing yellow, inhuman eyes peer- ing at them from
the darkness beyond their lantern’s reach, or having the feeling that
something not wholly human is stalking them. Such wanderers are lucky,
for many who walk the darkened trails after dark are never seen again,
victims of the numerous and extremely vicious werewolves that prowl
the Black Forest.