Centuries ago the woods in these parts were a place of caution, law and order was held mainly within the towns and cities. The countryside could be a wilder place where the thieves and those of ill repute could find refuge. It was said that folk found guilty of a crime could be sent beyond the pale. The pale was a boundary between civilisation and the wilderness, to send someone beyond it was banish them and deprive them of civilisation.
During hard times many honest folk would be forced to do what they must to survive, doubtless many would have taken jobs of little reward, or risked activities that could mean banishment (or worse) in their attempts to make ends meet. It is also worth considering that many who lived the habitual life of crime would have the same fate.
Within the walls of a town the merchants and noblemen would sit as safely as they could manage. The manipulation of law, politics and the power of money would be their tools in the game of survival. The populous would be the pawns in the games they played.
As the centuries have passed in some respects it seems that little has changed. By sleight of hand, force of arms/a dagger in the darkness or manipulation of word, the games continue. So who would you trust; The merchant, the nobleman or the thief. It seems they are alike in many ways.
The illusion of honesty and respectability remains a mask for many in society, to be slow to trust gives time to question the motives of those who seek to gain favour. With little apparent influence and material value I find I have also time to watch and learn the game played against other more seemingly more respectable folk.