[This is the beginning of my first submission and rejection to F&SF magazine, earlier this year. I plan to rework it before submitting it to Realms of Fantasy, taking out a lot of this world-building.]
It must be remembered that, as late as the third rein of King Nusser, there were still many beautiful forests in Gondland. The Forest of Dolambor was wild and old and, for all its bountiful splendor, best viewed from a distance -- as many a hunter or trapper from the Earldom of Ahbrek could tell. The smaller Forest of Strood was quiet and serene and virtually undefiled, at that time, by the woodsmen of Wood Dale. There were druids in Strood in those days and good tax-paying druids too, so Valdert, the Baron of Walstren, wisely respected their reverence for the trees and avoided much grief that would later beset his successors. But for sheer diversity, there was no topping the Forest of Dindappen. Vertically, Dindappen peaked at Cherval's Hill, an almost mountainous hill virtually bursting with natural springs that fed half the waterways in the forest. The Cherval River sprang from here, quickly formed rapids, and then changed its mind and decided to meander more lazily to where the Dindappen Forest bottomed out, in the Deep Fens at the south end of the forest. Though few risked dealing with the indigenous scumwalker beetles in the fens, it would have been worth it to hear the chime willows when the wind hit them just right. Chime willows were only the most exotic of a score of specimens of coniferous and deciduous trees that could be found in the diverse Dindappen. Its wildflowers were the sweetest smelling, thanks to the indigenous honey iris that dominated huge swaths of the undergrowth, yet rankweed flourished in the vicinity of the Deep Fens.
West to east, a road cut through the Dindappen and linked the free towns of Mistdale and Whitewood. It was an old road, fashioned long ago by the Crycians before the Sergians even came to this land, and made as they fashioned roads, built on a high earthen escarpment. Yet even the Crycians could not or would not build their road straight through the forest and the Old Road, as it was now called, snaked back and forth, though not nearly as wildly as the Cherval. The forest had grown even higher and all along its route, the forest threatened to swallow the old road.
Black Cat by Steve Rude
8 hours ago