The hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark, narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight.
The old folk have gone away, and foreigners do not like to live there… The place is not good for imagination, and does not bring restful dreams at night. – Calathes (Pathfinder Chronicler)
The Old Margreve Forest is an ancient place, already old when most of the gods were young. In time immemorial, it cradled the great spirits of nature, and its loam felt the footfalls of the old ones. As millennia passed, its roots swallowed rivers, its canopy stole the sun from vast tracts of land, and its groves crested mountains that have since weathered to hills.
In all that time, the Margreve has changed little. Time seems to transpire around it, lapping at its edges like the sea around an island. Though kingdoms rise and fall beyond its borders, the Margreve remains a world apart—a place where memories and old magic linger in the rings of trees and where new ideas never quite take root.
The Old Ways
To outsiders, a piney’s life is a mysterious one, filled with strange sayings, regimented rituals, and daily traditions that seem superstitious and backward. If a person wants to live in the Margreve or even wander it safely, he or she must learn how to feed the forest with rhyme and ritual. Only this is not how the inhabitants know it. Their rhymes and rituals are merely “the Old Ways,” passed down from generation to generation. To Margrevians, the Old Ways have spiritual connotations, habitually observed and rarely shared with outsiders.
Inhabitants uphold countless superstitions and traditions, representative of the Old Ways. Many vary wildly from place to place, but here are just a few with forestwide adherents:
• Margrevians open the eyes of their dead, lest the deceased wander lost and angry through the wood, unable to find their way to the afterlife.
• Sinners confess their transgressions by cutting themselves and dripping their blood upon the thirsty forest floor. Evil men heal themselves before a single drop falls.
• A bloodless man cannot pass to the afterlife. Consequently, the dead are never buried, lest the roots exsanguinate them before the souls can reach heaven.
• One of the greatest punishments is to be buried—dead or alive. Revenants of the buried haunt the Margreve. Every dawn, they return to their graves, and the root wicker cage that was once their circulatory system.
• Any man-made structure built without sacrificing blood to the forest shakes itself down upon its owner.
• In a year’s time, treants grow from those dead who have commended themselves to the forest with sap, seed, and ritual.
• There are places in the forest that give or take youth, but only the unborn and the dead can find them.
• Margrevians extinguish torches before midnight. This is related to a far older tradition: Margrevians do not permit white moths to gather, lest a mora (witch) hide in their number.
• If you count butterflies one less than your group’s number, one of you will die.
• An evil creature is born every time a “civilized” man enters the woods.
• Margreve beasts must never leave the forest as tamed companions of outsiders, lest the beasts become infatuated with “civilization” and become half-men, abominations that outsiders call lycanthropes.
• If you nail the skin or hair of a sick person to a tree, the tree will absorb part of the disease and lend its strength to healing the illness.
• Ancestors store wisdom in the trees, but only descendents of their bloodline can tap it by clawing into the tree ring present in the ancestor’s day.
• Every year, Margrevian kin, friends, and lovers celebrate the upcoming spring by giving each other blood-dyed pieces of thread. Each wears it until a tree signifying their relationship blossoms, whereupon the bearer drapes the thread upon the blossoming branch. It is an ill omen if the tree never flowers. Terrible feuds have blossomed from trees that do not.
• Every plant has a theme, a power, and a purpose. Flowers tend to be the beguilers, and that is perhaps why outsiders are so fond of them. True power lies in leaf, stem, and root.
• Salt is incapable of holding magic, and makes an excellent ward against magical creatures, enchantments, and curses. Margrevians who hear rumors of salt-encrusted springs are like gold-diggers hearing of a new vein.
Powers of the Margreve
Since the restoration of the Green Heart by Cael’lan, the Margreve has regained its full, ancient power. The following abilities can be used throughout the entire forest.
For the purposes of its spell-like abilities and effects, assume the Margreve is a 20th-level caster with a 30 Charisma. All related save DCs are Charisma-based (10 + spell level + Charisma modifier).
Animate Objects (Sp) At will; forestwide. As the spell, except the target must be a dead Margreve-born animal, and the effect ends if the target leaves the forest.
Animate Plants (Sp) At will; forestwide. As the spell, except the target must be a Margreve-born plant and the effect ends if the target leaves the forest. Typically used to redirect or remove paths, add forks, thicken or thin canopy, move branches, and channel or relocate water by moving roots.
Aura of Rust (Ex) Constant; forestwide. Non-magical ferrous metal objects take 1 damage/day; this ability ignores hardness. Objects gain the broken condition once losing half their hp. Mending and make whole effectively repair rusted objects. Bottles of deer tallow, linseed oil, and other special oils prevent rusting. Each bottle costs 5 sp and holds 5 applications. Each application treats an item no bigger than a weapon or shield for 1 day. Armor requires 2 applications. Ferrous creatures take 3d6 rusting damage/week.
Aura of Wildness (Ex) Constant; forestwide. Domesticated creatures must save 1/day or become untamed as the snap the leash Margreve spell. Lycanthropes receive only 1 Constitution check/day to assume humanoid form. Natural lycanthropes must roll as afflicted lycanthropes to assume humanoid form. Individuals with the wild shape class feature make a Constitution check as an afflicted lycanthrope to change to humanoid form.
Awaken (Sp) 1/day/square mile. As the spell, except the target must be a Margreve-born plant or animal, and the target serves the forest indefinitely.
Charm Monster (Sp) At will; forestwide. As the spell, except the target must be a Margreve-born plant or animal—including familiars and vermin—and the charmed target understands the forest’s desire.
Ghost Sound (Ex) At will; forestwide. As the spell, except that the sound is real and not illusory. The sound may include speech, and the sound must be a sound currently being produced somewhere else in the forest.
Reincarnate (Sp) 1/day/square mile. As the spell, except the target must be a Margreve-born animal, and the new body may either be newly formed as per the spell or a body of a whole creature that is less than 1 hour deceased. If the target is nonintelligent, the Margreve may awaken it post reincarnation.
Siphon Magic (Ex) Constant; forestwide. (See the Magic in the Margreve section for details.)
Warp Wood (Sp) At will; forestwide. As the spell, except the target wood must be dead, and the ability includes rotting wood and rejuvenating rotted wood.
The Margreve remembers individuals and catalogues their deeds. It can connect individuals to the deeds of bloodrelatives and millennia-old ancestors.
Absorb Knowledge (Sp) Constant; forestwide. The Margreve absorbs and remembers the knowledge
possessed by those who die on the forest floor. Treat the Margreve’s knowledge of a particular fact as if it had cast speak with dead on the corpse and the corpse received the normal speak with dead Will save.
Using bloodsense and tremorsense, the Margreve tracks individuals until they leave the forest. When an individual returns, the Margreve must recognize it again by its blood. Until then, the forest knows only its species.
Bloodsense (Ex) Constant; forestwide. The Margreve can identify individuals by their blood, when spilled.
Tremorsense (Ex) Constant; forestwide. In addition to the normal functions of tremorsense, the Margreve can also identify an individual’s species.
Factions of the Margreve
The Margreve Avatars
While the forest is a power all of its own, a force of nature beyond comprehension, it does have three aspects of it’s nature. Each aspect represents a part of the power of the Margreve.
Manje – The fury of nature, he slumbers eternal underneath, his rage a simmering power. Manje is a immense Zmey and is the totem of the Mortal Court as he represents passion and rage.
Veles – Veles is a great shambling god, he represents nature in it’s pure, uncaring form as well as water and death, the rot that falls on all. He is the totem of the Sanguine Court.
Gamayun – Of ancient mysteries and mastery of the old way. This three eyed giant owl is the totem of Fey Court and represents wisdom and balance of nature.
The Mortal Court – The newest of the courts, it was the re-emergence of the mortals in the forest that awoke it from it’s timeless slumber. Winning their place by defeating the wolves in the Trial of the Fang. However, it was not until the Briar King rose up and tried to steal the position before being defeated by Lady Cael’lan that the mortals finally took their throne.
The Mortal Court is represented by Cael’lan Dwin’ghymn.
The Sanguine Court – An ancient court of undead and controlled by a powerful vampire family, the Sanguine Court control The Rot, the western swamp reaches of the Margreve.
The Sanguine Court is represented by the vampire lord, Sorin.
The Fey Court – The oldest of the courts, the Fey Court is currently controlled by the Shadow Fey. They remember a time before both the mortals and undead walked their forest and they still resent having to share the Margreve’s power.
The Fey Court is represented by the Sidhe Lord, Talathel.
The Spider Crones – Three sisters who are rumoured to have once been Vila, sacred guardians of the Margreve. Each sister is a being of great power and formidable knowledge in the old ways.
Warriors of the Gloaming Woods – A group of warriors, rangers and bards that act as a intermediary between the Margreve and the Feylands. They protect the woods against the axes of greedy mortals and the townsfolk from the prowling dangers of the woods.
Locations of the Margreve
Llanweald Tower – Situated on the northern edge of the Margreve, this once ancient elven fort has been restored by the Warriors of the Gloaming Woods. It now serves as their base of operations and from where their regular patrols leave from.
Hollow – The last of the old villages that once dotted the Margreve landscape. The people of Hollow are true adherents of the Old Ways and are incredibly Xenophobic.
The Green Heart – The true heart of the Margreve, this ancient place of power has been re-invigorated. When Lady Cael’lan Dwin’ghymn restored the green heart, the Margreve threw of the last of it’s shackles and truly awoke to it’s full power.