Dryads

The Woodsie Lords and Ladies
Self-Name: Drychus (singular), drychi (plural), drycheris (attributive)
Emotional Affiliation: Rage, Hostility, Xenophobia

Dryads come in the form of large nuclear families, the seedlings of a Patriarch or Matriarch tree. When a dryad survives to a venerable age (about one in several thousand) they take root and begin a dynasty. A single settlement could be composed of just two families, all siblings. Generally unfriendly towards other races in their own lands, fearful and angry about their tendency to tear up forests for plantations and burn wood in their campfires. Some practice sacrifice of flesh and blood creatures, turning their bodies into gory 'scarecrows' impaled on thorny branches or using them as fertiliser.

Potency


Visage

Dryads are the most alien of the five races of Zenth. Instead of flesh and blood they are made of wood and sap - hard redwood 'bones' surrounded by 'muscles' of springy greenwood, all clad in crackling bark in grey-green-brown hues. They fear fire, and it burns their barky skins badly, though the moist tissues below are not significantly more vulnerable than meat is. They appear roughly humanoid, with thick, gnarled limbs in the form of arms and legs, with knotted feet of roots and tapering branches for hands. Their ''fingers' and 'toes' are somewhat flexible, able to be extended or retracted slightly depending on the surface underfoot and what the dryad needs to do with its hands. When manual deftness is called for its fingers can be dexterous wands; when engaging in battle, they are as jagged and vicious as goblin daggers. Glowing green or amber eyes glint in faces that can appear like exquisitely carved masks, or monstrous mockeries depending on the individual. The physical features of dryads are as or even more variable as any other race; some have vines twined along their bodies; others are largely covered in moss, giving them a furry look; some have jagged 'antlers' like deadwood branches growing from their shoulders, backs, elbows of heads; others sport manes of leafy 'hair' that shift colour with the seasons. Male dryads tend to be slightly larger and more craggy in physique, with rougher bark and more thorny protuberances, while the limbs of females are slightly smoother and more slender, like a sapling tree. What often surprises those who meet them for the first time is that their voices are as fair as their bodies are strange: dryad conversation puts people in mind of birdsong, rustling leaves, chattering streams and the creak of timber. Males have profound bass tones, while the voices of females are fair and melodious. When their music fills the forest, all but the hardest hearts stop in wonder.

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Aetherial

Being more plant than animal, dryads have different needs than other races. They need no food, as long as they can feel the sun on their skin and drink enough fresh water, though at least once a month they must plunge their feet into rich soil to gather nutrients. Nor do they sleep, but enter a waking dream in which one of their most remarkable traits is revealed: they literally change into trees. Their legs meld together and feet spread out, casting roots into the ground; arms stretch skywards, growing a multitude of twigs which fan out and bloom into leaves. The mobile form is called hamadryad, and the rooted is known as arbadryad. Dryads can assume this form at will, though it takes about a minute to shift either way, and when transformed they are effectively disguised as a small tree. They retain their senses, lose the ability to speak, but can communicate with other dryads in a small vicinity using a pheromone language called the perfumed speech.. A creature that can become one with the forest is a dangerous foe in its native terrain, which is why goblins have a habit of pricking trees with knives as they pass and the orcish military has decided that scorched earth is the best policy.

Dryads are long lived, often reaching a thousand years of age and growing slowly taller and heavier as they go. However, the older they get the more they feel drawn to their arbadryad form, and they spent longer resting as trees, feeling the slow pulse of the world. Eventually, should it live past a millennium, the call of the earth becomes too great, and the dryad moves away from others of its kind, seeking a new part of the forest to make its home. The hamadryad shifts a final time, plunging its roots deep and raising its branches high, becoming a great tree forevermore - an Archon - and scattering the ground with its seeds to start a new family.

Craft


Cunning

Dryads are regarded as unfriendly towards the other races. Their long memories remember the fumbling attempts of humans to master fire and axe, and even the younger members can look around and see elves tricking and begging for wood for their Da'Janahs, goblins and dwarves cutting down trees when it suits them, and most hateful of all the slash-and-burn agriculture of the orcs. Dryads have a deep reverence for the forest, and recall that it once spread in a see of green from one coast of Zenth to the other. While vast parts of the continent are still wild and wooded, they feel hemmed in on many sides, and their love of nature can easily become a wrath towards those who defile it. That is not to say they are adverse to utilising the resources of the woods; like any shepherd, they shear their flock, cull when necessary, and butcher when useful.

While their longevity gives them a patience that rivals any dwarven grandmaster, they seldom employ it when they are young, and can seem as short-sighted as orcs. Most sapling dryads are relatively content to stay in the grove, tending to its business, but there is always a minority that is more open-minded and curious about the world beyond the grove. These discontented dryads reject the blatant xenophobia of their brothers and sisters, and are more willing to trade with, learn from and venture amongst the other races. Their kin regard them as reckless and foolish, a danger to themselves and possibly the grove, but most wise Archons tacitly encourage this behaviour, knowing that their family needs some extroverts and risk-takers to keep links with the outside world alive. At other times they can dispatch trusted and loyal children on specific quests of diplomacy, research, recover - or elimination. Some dryads are forced from their communities as outlaws, for treason, kinslaying or because they sport deformities (according to the race's idiosyncratic aesthetics).

Social

Dryad-ruled woods are eerie and intimidating places for outsiders, full of unseen watchers, closing-in branches and shifting paths. Most dryads want as little to do with the other races as possible, and travellers can expect a grim lack of welcome at best - a horrible death at worst. They need little that the outside world can provide, and see only the dangers of sawblade and spark. Still, dryads own no mines, so metal ingots must be imported through negotiation with the dwarves, elven merchants or forest-edge markets that cautiously trade with neighbouring communities. The greatest part of them are content to stay in the grove, tending to the forests, raising their Archon's seedlings, worshipping their three-faced god and singing in honour of nature. That is not to say all is peaceful: unseen wars are fought under the eaves, as different communities struggle over river courses, the richest soils, control of valued copses and stands.

In principle, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are gathered together in a Court, an assembly that communicate through the mystical powers of some of its members, and messengers when that is not possible. Each Court claims dominion over an entire contiguous forest, with primacy and respect accorded on the basis of age, but in truth not all Archons heed its rulings. Some groves look out for their own interests over those of the forest as a whole, or form smaller alliances against outsider depredations. Others have even gone feral, hunting and luring other races into their clutches, to ensure strong seedlings by providing a soil rich in blood, bone and the compost of sentient beings. Some of these carnifexes ('flesh-makers') decorate the woods around their homes with gruesome carcasses hung up like mannequins, clatterng hollowed-out bone wind-chimes and impaling spikes, while others take pains to conceal their predatory nature and bedeck their groves in sweet-smelling flowers, covering themselves in comely illusions to tempt travellers into their terrible clutches.

Cities

Dryad cities, or groves, are concentric in design. They are always centred around the Patriarch or Matriarch, the vast, ancient, firmly-rooted dryad who is the progenitor of the majority of the inhabitants of the grove. Surrounding that are structures like stone circles; rings of trilithons and monoliths, huge stones carved with ironwood chisels and lifted into place by the power of magically-compelled roots. Streams are diverted through the circles for both irrigation and aesthetics, giving the groves the sense, to other races, of being verdant but well-tended ruins rather than settlements. Dryads have little need of shelter, and most are content to live under the forest canopy, so they only create buildings for specific purposes, such as ceremony, storage and craft halls. The most specialised craftsmen are the blacksmiths - called fireworkers. They work in stone halls set far outside the rest of the grove, forging metal weapons and tools with great care and reverence. Despite their imported leather aprons and gauntlets, most experienced fireworkers bear the scars and singes of sparks from the forge, and other dryads look upon them with a mixture of pity, respect and fear, as if they might burst into flames at any moment.

Linguistic Traits

  • Latin basis with a Celtic flavour.

Glossary

Word/Name List

Places
Anghored, Brangwyne, Caerulens, Geraintus, Hyssmedae, Lyroneth, Maucolyn, Malmedoc, Mercea, Venthelen, Vestoriath

Male
Adranus, Amias, Arvenis, Atricus, Autus, Balian, Briceus, Brosius, Clarac, Cernelius, Dacrus, Drystan, Duranthus, Fero, Fyrmian, Gilon, Gylvane, Jollan, Larance, Machius, Martelius, Morric, Niall, Oenus, Paen, Pergreen, Phythian, Savarian, Sevestrius, Valen, Valore, Vindic, Vyell, Yllarius

Female
Aloria, Ambia, Amycia, Annor, Arabel, Bennet, Briancia, Cecylinia, Cyatha, Chrysea, Eglen, Eluned, Emerlee, Phaela, Gilia, Grecia, Hyolanthe, Joia, Juye, Laecina, Laureol, Lore, Laetitia, Mirabel, Nerra, Olia, Oriana, Perrete, Rhenia, Sancia, Sericel, Siela, Trystra, Ylaire, Ysmae