"The forest protects its children against all foes."
Athel Loren, also known as the Everwood in the Empire,[4a] is a large forest between the Empire and Bretonnia, on the western slopes of the Grey Mountains. It is here that the Wood Elves established their home millennia ago when the majority of the Elves in the Old World returned to Ulthuan, following the Sundering and the War of the Ancients. Athel Loren is ruled by two powerful Elves called Ariel and Orion who are possessed by deities representative of aspects of nature. They are said to be the aethyric conscience of the forest itself. Ariel being the peaceful regenerative representation of nature, and Orion is the warlike unpredictable side.[1a]
The forest is steeped in magic, and it is unlike any other forest in the world. It is said that time flows differently in the forest than elsewhere. You could be in there for hours and come out and see only a few minutes have gone by. Or you could be in there for several minutes and come out and see a century has gone by.[1a]
Forest spirits - Treemen, Dryads, and so on - are common in Athel Loren, and when the Wood Elves go to war to defend the borders of their woodland realm, the living trees of the forest fight alongside them. Strangers who venture into Athel Loren are rarely seen again, and the local Bretonnian peasants who live in the vicinity of the forest border know to keep well clear of the trees.[1a]
Within the Forest of Loren the wooded landscape varies greatly. The forest runs from the plains of Bretonnia up into the foothills of the Grey Mountains. It extends along the banks of two of the great rivers of the Old World for many hundreds of miles. Over this vast expanse, the nature of the vegetation changes from one part of the forest to another. In some places the ground is high and rocky with crags and pinnacles of rock and boulders strewn among the trees. In other places the ground is boggy, with lakes within the forest itself. There are even huge clearings which are like meadowlands where the long grass predominates over the trees. Some areas are characterised by an abundance of a particular species of tree.[3a]
Most of the forest is a strange almost twilight world bathed only in the muted sunlight or moonlight able to penetrate the canopy of leaves. Dotted around the forest there are natural clearings where one can look up and actually glimpse the blue sky or the stars at night. The Wood Elves call these clearings 'glades'. As well as being areas open to the sun, they are often places where magical currents flow close to the surface.[3a]
Each of the kindreds of Elves that first wandered into the forest settled in a different part. Some kindreds felt an attraction for one area rather than another. Once a kindred had chosen a glade as the focus of its settlement, the Elves belonging to it began to adapt their way of life to their immediate surroundings. Each glade had a subtle influence on the kindred who settled there. Some kindreds did not settle for long in one place but roamed in a nomadic way of life through the vastness of the forest. Wherever they settled for a short while they chose the same kind of glade among the same kind of trees.[3a]
The lore of the Wood Elves tells of several glades within the Forest of Loren, each with its own distinctive character and settled by a particular kindred. Some glades are shared by all the kindreds, some others are shunned. The glades can be quite large areas, and each one is better described as a group of interconnected glades scattered over a wide area. Over time, the focus of settlement of a kindred may shift from one to another, but usually remains within the same area of the forest, except in the case of the nomadic kindreds. But these always search for the same glades wherever they go within the wood.[3a]