The great redwood forests of Valachan grow ever more foreboding with each passing year, perhaps some sign that the local fey are displeased, or some other darkness creeps upon the horizon. The eternal canopy of Valachan, a blessing from Yutow to allow gentle conditions to work, outside of the harsh sun, offers little comfort anymore.
The much hated bridal lottery of Valachan has continued on; nearly every six months, another young woman is taken by Baron Urik II, only to die by White Fever, disappear, or flee the country entirely to escape the abuses of her husband. In Valachani society, the woman is the head of the household, and the Valachani people look upon these abuses as a violation of their cultural norms. This, included with the harsh tax system imposed upon them, have left a bitterness in the hard working people of the country. It has been thirty four years since the last rebellion against Baron Urik II’s rule, and it ended in the Great Upheaval, which the Baron would use to claim as proof that his rule was divinely annointed. This claim would dull the fires of rebellion for some time. But the embers grow ever hotter, as the years pass, and some believe that another is on the way. The time of Urik’s current wife is coming to a close, for no other wife of his has lasted much longer.
As if to make matters worse, early in the year, a great horde of werebeasts crossed the border from Verbrek in the first time in history. Smaller packs were always common, but this time, they came in great numbers seeking one thing: blood. Driven mad by hunger, as most prey in Verbrek has been hunted to exhaustion, they crossed the Arden River and assaulted the sparse settlements spread throughout the redwoods there. The slaughter would last several hours, before the very forests turned against them. Great black panthers emerged from the undergrowth, from the trees, and all manner of places, and began to drive back the horde of wolves with a ferocity the wolfmen had not expected. Followed behind them, were Urik’s elite: The Black Leopards, powerful warriors adorning the black furs of Valachan’s local panthers. Some say they fought with the same ferocity as the panthers themselves, others claim they became panthers. What is certain, however, is that the werebeasts were driven back across the border. Anyone bitten by the creatures were taken by the Black Leopards, never to be seen again.
Uncertainty is the topic of the day, as rumors of great hunting parties mass on the border of Verbrek, lead by the Black Leopards.