The Wilds Await
The Forest of Westerkale was once a hunting chase for the Earls of Westmarch until a rebellion occurred during the winter of 1120 when food was particularly scarce after a failed harvest. Desperate men raided Baron Hawkenlye's grainaries and fled into the forest. There they lived by poaching his deer and his men at arms were powerless to stop them, as the forest was very thick and they had learned all it's hiding places.
Before long, Westerkale Forest was known instead as Thieves Forest and it became known as a haven for bandits and slavers. Attacks on the road became common and the Baron of Hawkenlye was stripped of several manors for his folly and inability to deal with the problem.
Ever since then, the forest has been a thorn in the Earldom's side. The thieves are careful who they attack, but they tithe any poorer travelers who use the road, though most are not truly evil.