A small village, directly in the center of Riddlewood. Human settlers were first drawn to the ancient forest
by an accidental discovery. A traveler was camping underneath one of the ancient elms, boiling some water for soup when an acorn fell into the open pot. The traveler didn’t notice right away, and by the time he did the water had turned a brilliant shade of green. History does not tell us much about this traveler but one thing is clear – – he either had an overgrown sense of adventure, or a serious deathwish. For no apparent reason he decided to give the concoction a taste. He poured off a tiny draught of the green liquid into a dented tin tankard, and tossed it back.
He woke up several hours later, his teeth stained the color of the leaves.
This unknown traveler had just discovered the remarkable soporific effects of the Riddlewood Elm. Folk tradition contends that he spent the next several weeks finishing the emerald concoction, one sip at a time — but regardless, at some point he stumbled back to civilization and somehow convinced one of the larger merchant families to invest in his new scheme. A team of brewers, apothecaries, and loggers would make their way into the heart of Riddlewood. They would harvest the amazing acorns, determine the best way to render them safely potable and marketable, and the other, lesser trees could be cut down to make casks and barrels for the new concoction. A troop of soldiers were also included to protect against the mysterious and sly wood elves that lived in the forest.
For the first few weeks, the newly christened “Barreltown” hummed with activity. Acorns were gathered, brewed and tested. Hundreds of trees were felled to make barracks, fences, and a multitude of barrels — the saw mill ran day and night. The soldiers quickly grew bored as the wildlife of Riddlewood gave the new town a wide berth, and the wood elves were nowhere to be seen. With nothing else to do, they joined in the construction of the town, their first project a suitable saloon.
Reports vary on the events that followed, but the central theme is agreed upon by most accounts. A young soldier took to wandering the green halls of Riddlewood out of sheer boredom and restlessness. She was the youngest member of the troop, though well-trained in the ways of sword and shield.
The soldier came upon a clearing where a large red tiger lay dying, caught underneath the trunk of an oak tree that a careless logger had felled, then abandoned. Without stopping to consider the danger, she ran over to the creature and with a great cry flung herself under the tree. Arms and legs straining she pushed the felled oak up far enough that the red tiger could just barely wriggle out.
She dropped the tree in exhaustion – only then realizing that she had dropped her weapon at the clearing’s edge, and stood completely defenseless against the wounded animal.
To her surprise, the red tiger rose wearily to its feet and made no move to attack. It looked at her curiously, then padded off into the forest.
The soldier returned to Barreltown and told all who would listen about her amazing experience. A few believed her, but she was met with more than a few mocking japes. She became obsessed with proving her story, and spent much of the next few days prowling through the forest looking for tiger tracks.
Tigers, like most cats, appear when they please.
The young soldier was keeping the late watch one night, when she felt her eyes beginning to droop. She stomped her feet, and put pebbles in her shoe, but weariness stole over her. With a start, she awoke at moonfall, a bare hour before dawn, to find the red tiger sitting quite calmly on a felled tree trunk in front of her.
The red tiger stood, and walked a few paces before turning back to look at her. The intention clear, the soldier gripped the hilt of her sword closely and followed.
Through quiet clearing, and silent tree, through moon and leaf-rustle night. The guttering torchlight of Barreltown vanished behind the young soldier, and yet she continued on.
At last, the tiger stopped and turned to face her. The wind blew, and the tiger changed. A beautiful young wood elf, with hair as red as the tiger’s.
Without speaking a word, he knelt before a ragged stump of a tree and placed both hands upon it. He sang quietly, and the soldier was surprised to find tears running down her face.
Between the palms of the wood elf, and guided by his song the tree trunk began to grow. Forming and changing, shaped by his will as a potter turns the clay. A tiny barrel formed, sound and true — then with a sharp twist he broke it free and pushed it into her hands. The soldier held it up to the rising sun, and saw how well it was crafted. Sound and true, with nary a crack — better than any one in Barreltown could hope of making.
“Why would you take, what the forest would happily give?” the wood elf asked.
The soldier had no answer.
Time passed. The soldier and the wood elf spent much time in each other’s company. Love was given and returned, and the two hatched a plan.
Early one morning, the soldier and the wood elf walked into Barreltown hand in hand. They marched directly into the mess hall where all the loggers, apothecaries, brewmasters, tradesmen and soldiers ate their meals. The soldier cleared off a table and called everyone’s attention, and the wood elf plead most eloquently for the forest of Riddlewood. He finished his speech, then showed the gathered crowed how wood could be shaped and sung from the living trees, without harm.
And the people listened. They understood. And they agreed.
To the vast shock of historians throughout the world, the people of Barreltown agreed that it was a great
idea. This incident is hotly contested in many scholarly circles, as it goes counter to entire schools of socio-political thought. Some even go so far as to claim the story is completely fabricated, a convenient fiction crafted by the wildly successful Riddlewood Brewing Guild.
Regardless, two hundred years later the village still remains. Barton is a reasonably prosperous hamlet, most of the residents splitting their time between farming and the seasonal work on the factory floor, brewing and bottling the various ales and liquors distilled from the trees of the forest — great casks filled to brim, tight and sound made from living wood. Only the very oldest buildings in the town show the sign of an axe or saw, the rest are all formed carefully and beautifully by the druids of Barton.
The village is roughly split between human and elven populaces, with intermarriage common. The sigil of Barton is a red tiger with a green acorn in his jaws. The village is led by Count Pel Marlowe, his family owns controlling interest in the Riddlewood Brewing Guild.