Long ago, the elves say, before even they walked this land, all of Faydwer was a single great forest that stretched from shore to shore, covering all the land. The trees were great and fair, their trunks smooth as silk and leaves golden.
This was the Suntouched Forest, so named because the sun’s light suffused every inch, turning the bark to gold and the leaves to fire, and covering the spaces between the trees with a thick carpet of golden-green grass. Animals lived here peacefully, and trees and bushes provided fruit and nuts enough for all.
Though the elves had not yet arrived in the Suntouched, the forest was not devoid of intelligent life, for here dwelt the Woodkine, an ancient race. Tall as giants, they were not cast in flesh — instead the Woodkine were great plants, their skin like that of the trees and their hair and beards like leaves and vines. The Suntouched was their home and their charge, and the Woodkine wandered it freely, tending to plants and animals alike and ensuring that the forest prospered. These gentle creatures were one with the land, and could move swiftly through even the densest thicket — some say they swung from tree branches rather than setting foot on the ground, and others that they leapt from bough to bough.
Certainly the Woodkine possessed powerful magic, yet it was magic of the land, a power focused on healing, growth, and assistance. These creatures, to hear the elves speak of them, were akin to gods, but without any arrogance — their lives belonged to the Suntouched, and all their actions were intended to aid the forest and its inhabitants. Then the Dark came to Faydwer.
No one knows how or why the darkness arrived, but suddenly the sun vanished from the sky, hidden behind heavy clouds for weeks on end. With the shadows came creatures the Suntouched had never known, ogres and orcs and trolls, dark creatures full of hate and malice and greed.
To them the Suntouched was a rich land waiting to be plundered, and they tore into it, chopping down trees to build forts and slaughtering animals for both food and amusement. They landed first in the south, and soon much of the southern portion of the forest had been cut down, leaving only stumps and grass where once had stood ancient groves.
The Woodkine were initially horrified, then angered. The land was under their protection, and for the first time these gentle creatures deliberately sought to do harm. First they struck against the intruders, knocking them aside with powerful limbs and crushing them under splayed feet. To their enemies, it seemed as if the trees themselves were attacking, and they fled to the areas they had already cut down, seeking safety amid the stumps and the darkened sky. But the Woodkine’s terrible anger, slow to build, was equally slow to abate. Yes, they had driven the intruders out, but their precious forest had been violated, and large portions of it destroyed. This could not be allowed to happen again.
Gathering together, the Woodkine turned their thoughts to the land itself, and implored it to rise up in anger and defense. A great shuddering was heard, and the ground began to shift and tilt, boulders bursting up from beneath the soil. These rocks rose higher and higher until the emptied plain in the center of southern Faydwer was cut off from the remaining forest on its eastern side. The rocks formed the base of what became known later as the Steamfont Mountains.
Now the Woodkine concentrated on the trees themselves. This land is no longer safe, they cried out silently, so you must learn to protect yourselves. Grow thicker skins, so their axes cannot harm you. Reach out to one another for strength. These creatures seek shelter from the sun — give it to them a thousandfold. We shall keep the sun from the soil and make our home so dark and terrible that even our dark-loving enemies shall fear to enter it again.
Such was the authority of the Woodkine that the trees heard and obeyed. Smooth trunks sprouted thick bark, the fair wood hidden behind dark, gnarled skin. Leaves turned darker and heavier, and branches reached out so that the trees were almost linked into one giant mass. The sun’s light no longer pierced the foliage, and the grass withered and died. Shadows had come to the land, and even when the sun burst from behind its clouds, darkness still ruled the forest. The Suntouched had become Faydark.
Sadly, the Woodkine exhausted themselves in the process of protecting the trees they loved, giving much of their own life energy to enable these changes in land and wood. Many of the great guardians perished, allowing their bodies to feed the forest. The remaining few became more furtive, hiding in the shadows and loping along the borders, keeping watch in case the orcs and their brethren tried to return.
In time, the orcs did return. They cowered in the southern plains for many years, making no further attacks. Yet they built villages and forts of wood from the forest’s edge, and the trees had not struck them down. The forest was frightening, but the orcs began to cut into it again, widening their plain and driving up toward the northern edge of the continent. Finally, with a great push of many orcs atonce, they broke through and reached the northern shore — the Faydark had been cut in two.
All of the remaining Woodkine found themselves in the eastern portion, by far the larger of the two remaining areas, and they attacked the orcs again, halting the humanoids’ advance into the eastern forest. The mountains kept the orcs from approaching from the south and the east, and the Woodkine had frightened them sufficiently along the narrow western edge, so the forest was left alone on that side again. This part of the forest became Greater Faydark, and the western portion, smaller and without the Woodbine’s protection, became Lesser Faydark. Years passed again, and most of those creatures that had attacked the forest either died off or departed for less hostile regions, leaving the forest alone once more. And then the elves arrived.
The forest quickly realized that these new, gracious folk were not like the orcs. They did not cut down trees, but instead admired their size and strength. They built homes not from the woods but within it, graceful yet sturdy structures woven high among the branches, and they hunted only to survive, not for pleasure. The Woodkine, watching from the shadows, saw in the wood elves kindred spirits, and sagely nodded approval. These new creatures could defend the forest for them, and now at last they could finally rest. Stories tell of encounters between elves and the Woodkine, but these are all vague old tales, and no one truly believes them any more. Certainly no living elf has ever seen a Woodkine, and most think them merely stories designed to frighten children and to enhance the wonder and mystery of the great old forest.