River Himsiril, a cool stream draining the northwestern corner of the Twilight Hills and flowing into the River Lhun. Midway between the ends of the long and narrow wood, at a ford crossing the river, stood Faemar village. The vale downstream of Faemar was steep and rocky— farming was impossible. The villagers instead gathered a yearly harvest of wild game, berries, herbs, nuts, and dry wood for charcoaling. They called the forest Fairborne Wood, and the portion nearest Faemar served as a playground for young children and a courting grove for those slightly older. In hundreds of years, no one had ever come to harm in the wood; indeed, it was considered a lucky place.
Taur Faemar in T.A. 1640
Of late, tragedy has struck, not once, but three times. A village lad, Veryamir, fell into a pool in the wood and drowned. While hunting him, a Rhyvelur of Himsiril Keep (on a hill to the southwest, overlooking the river valley) died in a fall, his body so torn by thorn bushes that only his equipment confirmed his identity. When a second Rhyvelur perished after being raked and battered by a wind-splintered tree limb, the captain of the keep's guard, Falastir, banned all entry to the wood until he determines whether unnatural forces, perhaps evil from Angmar, are at work.
The Feahini of Taur Faemar
In truth, there are supernatural forces in the forest; they are quite local and have no evil intent. Yet, if a shrewd mind does not intervene, Fairborne Wood may be permanendy lost to the villagers of Faemar. The Tittamorka or Hoiten have dwelt in Taur Faemar for untold centuries, unseen by most ofthe local folk,. They are true Feahini, the fairy folk of ancient legend. Hoiten are small, none more than two feet tall; in appearance they combine the delicate features ofthe Elf kindreds with the sharp, brisding hair, ears, and tails of badgers. At the present time, an even dozen live in secret lairs among the roots of the trees of Taur Faemar. Sharing the poor eyesight of many woodland predators, they rely on their senses of hearing and smell to hunt small animals for food and to avoid larger, clumsier, creatures, including Men. Hoiten would go completely unremarked by the Free Peoples, except for a strange loneliness they experience. Naturally empathic, they are drawn to humans and other creatures of strong emotion, seeking out those who are innocent, happy, and unafraid. In Fairborne Wood, this leads them to follow, observe, and protect the children who play among the trees. The Hoiten are, in fact, the "luck" of Fairborne Wood. The only adults who are approached by the fairies are the most innocent of lovers and the most peaceful of drunks, both of whom enter the wood regularly, seeking solitude and a place to rest. If anyone thought to ask, he would learn that a small, but significant fraction (at least 5%) of Faemar's villagers have actually seen a Hoiten at one time or another; most suppressed the memory as a delusion, while a few believed and kept the memory to themselves as a special secret. The facts ofthe tragedy were simple enough. A guardsman (identified clearly in the senses ofthe Hoiten by only the distinctive scent of his polished armor) followed Veryamir and his promised wife, Lisswen, into Fairborne Wood out of jealousy. When Veryamir went to fetch Lisswen a birch bark cup of water, the guardsman confronted him; the two men quarreled, and Veryamir was struck unconscious and pushed into the nearby spring to drown. Witnessing a crime of passion seems to have driven the peaceful Hoiten to madness. In all the search parties entering Fairborne Wood since the murder, those searchers who were well-dressed or cleaner than the others suffered strange accidents; some of the more sensitive felt unfocused sensations of staring, murderous anger. The two Rhivilyr who wandered the woods absolutely alone experienced horrible deaths. The guardsman who killed Veryamir was Falastir himself. As leader of the search, the captain was always surrounded by his guards, and the Hoiten could not touch him. He is, however, neither foolish nor lacking in lore. He is plagued by feelings of guilt, not just for his original crime, but by the suspicion that two of his loyal soldiers may have already borne his punishment for him. In addition to the Hoiten, two other Faerie creatures dwell in Taur Faemar. Feaneldor is a wood spirit who wears an Elvish fana when away from his tree—an enormous, gnarled beech that grows from a rocky outcrop deep in the forest. His fana is handsome, although the greyish cast of his skin, the subtle knottyness of his muscles, and an indifference to weather and insects subtly indicate his fairy nature. Feaneldor's beech will open at his command to reveal (rarely to guests) an interior larger than its exterior. Three small rooms and a selection of books, food, and other comforts pilfered over the centuries fit neady within the tree's bole. Broken by dreamy interludes within the beech, Feaneldor wanders the forest, singing, visiting other trees of which he is fond, and occasionally harassing magically woodcutters or trappers, if they are being wasteful or destructive ofthe woodland's bounty. Aside from whimsical encounters with troubled village maidens, these are his only routine interactions with Men. He is, however, the first being to whom the Hoiten turn when they are troubled or distressed. The wood spirit has been trying, with little success, to advise them on the matter of Veryamir's murder. When Feaneldor discovers a problem he cannot solve, he visits the third dweller in Taur Faemar. Morfana is a powerful elemental spirit, a living storm of darkness, thunder, and anger, bound to Middle-earth for reasons even Feaneldor is not old enough to understand. She dwells in a soil-covered hillock near the heart of the wood, emerging only on the darkest of storm-wracked nights to dance among the lightning strokes on the hills. Anyone unfortunate enough to gain entrance to her dwelling discovers himself in a bizarre labyrinth, sculpted from twisted black tree roots. Aside from Feaneldor and the Hoiten, only a few mannish sorcerers ever learned the location of Morfana's Maze. The wizardress who tried to control her, to drink of her power and knowledge, was driven to madness. The handsome wizard who bound her as a mate suffered a hideous demise.