“I had never seen trees such as this – mighty and majestic, of a deep, rich green, slightly tinged with gold. They towered, they soared. They were enormous pines, oaks, maples and many others which I could not distinguish. Through them crept a breeze of fantastic and lovely fragrance…”
The ancient forest of Arden covers the entire north-west approach to Amber, with portions of it reaching all the way to the coast. Arden is vast — as the archetype for all forests, it crosses through shadow, and echoes of it can be found in almost every shadow. It has only one border, running north-south to follow the coastline. South of Kolvir, the great mountain range called the Spine of the World runs south-west through the forest. Arden spills down from the main mountain range onto the lush Vale of Garnath, then collects itself in a more sparsely wooded form across the Vale side of the coastal Saba mountains. The seaward slopes of the Saba mountains bear the brunt of Amber’s ocean winds and so only small hardy trees and scrub grow there. North of Kolvir, the forest meets the ocean at Kolvir’s foothills, then curves away to border the rolling plains surrounding Baylesport.
There are safe ways through the forest, and travellers are advised to never stray from the marked paths. Those who do are likely to fall prey to the numerous dangerous animals that hunt in Arden’s depths.
Arden is defended by Rangers, who are trained with bows and shortswords, and are expert at tracking, trapping, and sniping. They very rarely engage in frontal assaults, preferring to use the forest against their enemies. When frontal assaults are called for, mandrills are sent in. Imagine a horde of fast-moving apes, each the size of a gorilla, with canines capable of biting through armour and enough intelligence to orchestrate ambushes and feints. Their battle-cries are often enough to send hardened troops into panic. When not being actively deployed, the mandrills wander freely through the forest, keeping away from the popularly-used paths.
The forest road is one of the main entry points into Amber. It enters the Vale of Garnath to the south of Kolvir’s foothills and leads up to Amber City.
The Grove of the Unicorn, Amber’s oldest shrine, can be found on the edge of the forest just off the main forest road. A small spring of pure sweet water wells from a split rock here, said to have been created by a horn-strike from the Unicorn herself. The Grove is the second stop on the religious pilgrimage taken by followers of the Church of the Unicorn.
Jones Falls marks the high pass into Amber and the source of the River Shure, one of the main sources of water for Amber City. It lies several miles inland from Mt Kolvir. Jones Falls is the location of Benedict’s famous stand against the Moonriders from Ghenesh.