The oldest of all the forests of the Old World, its most ancient trees having grown from saplings seeded by the Old Ones’ servants, Athel Loren is a mystical place whose shadow lies far across the land. Whether it was the Old Ones that granted strange life to these woods, or perhaps the coming of Chaos that awoke the trees, it is impossible to say. All that can be said is that in the dawn of time, the trees began to think in a way that trees are not meant to, and that they learned of feelings such as anger and hate. The forest became aware of itself, and of the other races crawling like insects upon the world, and it was not pleased with their intentions.
Standing stones carved with worn Elven runes mark the borders of this primeval realm, beyond which giant trees loom, their branches moving slowly, straining to escape the magical harrier of the watchstones. Roots twist and claw across the fern-covered rocks and loam, and low mists coil and spread throughout its hollows and glades. This verdant labyrinth unsettles even the most courageous soul; filled with movement glimpsed from the corner of the eye, strange noises and the feeling that one is being watched at all times. There is a slumbering awareness and a sense of watchfulness that permeates each leafy glade and winding track.
Dark forms move through the twisting branches and dense undergrowth; tiny darting shapes flit between the trees on the very edge of vision. Athel Loren sees and feels everything within its boundaries and is watchful and secretive, perfectly willing to destroy those that seek to enter. Only the insanely brave, mad or foolish dare to cross into Athel Loren, for the forest is a haunted place, filled with unquiet, malicious spirits.
The forest of Athel Loren defies the natural laws of the world and time flows strangely within its bounds. An individual that treks under the dark boughs for what may only seem like a couple of hours may, if he survives, return home to find
that a hundred years have passed. Equally, one might wander lost within Athel Loren for decades, only to find that scant minutes have passed in the outside world. Athel Loren is more alive than any normal forest, and landmarks and “lades shift and move. What was open clearing one night may be heavily wooded the next morning, and pathways often disappear or turn back on themselves within hours.
Most that try to enter Athel Loren find themselves constantly reluming to where they started despite their best efforts to make headway. Even if they try and walk a straight path, they invariably find themselves turned around and facing out of the forest. Most travellers that persist in entering Athel Loren are found on its outskirts as little more than gibbering wrecks, their sanity shredded by whatever horrors they witnessed in the magical forest.
That is, if they ever return.
But there are those spirits whose hearts are not darkened to the other living creatures of the world. The fortunate or the worthy might occasionally find passage between the changing paths, guided perhaps by a welcome shaft of sunlight, or coming across a forest trail at an unexpected turn. So it is that there are always those that would dare the secrets of the dark forest to learn its secrets or drawn by fanciful tales of treasures and hidden knowledge to be won.
Throughout Athel Loren are the magical halls of the Elven lords. These places are filled with ghostly music, laughter that sounds like the wind blowing through trees in autumn, and soft glowing light.