Race - The Sylvans

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The Sylvans are in one sense an ancient race and in another a race born of the Age of Beasts. Tens of thousands of years ago, during the Age of Legend sometime after Gaia created the Treekin, the greatest of the trees developed spirits, for lack of a better word. These Dryads did not take physical form but could be perceived within a tree by those who knew to look.

With the Age of Beasts beginning and the return of the Beasts from the Groves – an act known as the Reclamation – the Treekin began to wake from their Age-long slumber in the deep forests of the world. However, they were slow to wake and shake off the torpid slumber of thousands of years, and as all know, many fell to the predations of the Ogre Mages, of the People of the Skull.

The Mages of the People of the Skull are typically known for battle magic but had somehow developed magic subtle enough to twist and corrupt the noble Treekin into the sick and foul reflections of the Treekin we know as the Rotted. It’s not known if the People of the Skull had even then made a connection with the forces of Hell, or if some other agent of evil had provided them with magical knowledge completely different from that which the People had traditionally had. It’s deemed, by those who know them best (the Foxen, for instance, as well as the Grumkin Beasts whose ancestors were part of the People of the Skull), unlikely that the People would have evolved the rather intricate nature magic needed to turn Treekin into the Rotted on their own.

Regardless, the transformation of the waking Treekin into Rotted was a tragedy for the Treekin, who had never been great in number. Watching their awakening kin turn into alien, crazed beings was incredibly painful for these leaf-clad beings. With a strong connection to each other and the Earth, the already fully awakened Treekin were in no danger from the Ogre Mages. Only a small percentage had yet escaped their self-imposed dreaming. The new Rotted were used to attack the Beasts and weaken them for an eventual invasion by the People of the Skull.

The Treekin were in desperate straits, for the Rotteds' numbers grew with every corruption and the Treekin seemed more and more vulnerable. They were in possession of the Trillium Shard – the ancient artifact that the Bandicoons of the Age of Legend had used to sustain themselves against the myriad assaults against their homelands. They had survived decades longer than most of the Beasts during the beginning of the great Bleakness, during which the Vampires and the Undead rampaged through Europe, eventually treating the Beasts as little more than cattle.

The Treekin discovered that the Trillium Shard’s power lay in the ability to manipulate the natural world around it. The Bandicoons of the Age of Legend were able to use it to cause the very vines and trees that were around them to violently defend their land. Trees might club or rend apart passing enemies and grasses could strangle intruders as they slept, and so on.

The Bandicoons soon discovered a price was paid for using the Trillium Shard – whatever natural life it was used on could never be affected by it again. Since the Bandicoons were not able to expand their borders during the early years of the terrible Vampire and Undead-plagued Bleakness, every time they used the Trillium Shard to defend their borders they were forced to pull back so that they could use it on a ring of land they hadn’t previously. Eventually, the Bandicoons too were simply overwhelmed, as were all Beasts during the dark times of the Bleakness.

The Treekin used the Trillium Shard, but not as the Bandicoons had. Instead, they used it to coax the Dryads out of the great trees they inhabited, giving them physical form. Those Dryads who left the trees became known as the Sylvans whom we count as our own today, and they immediately joined the effort to fight the new threat that the Rotted posed. They and the Clockwork proved invaluable in defending the newly-returned and unaffected Beasts from becoming victims of the ambition of the great Khan of the People of the Skull.

It was some time after the Sylvans left the trees that the Amanita Virosa – the Black Shroomies – made contact with the Rotted. They convinced the corrupted Treekin that the Ogre Mages who were their masters were simply using them, and that they should ally with the Black Shroomies in order to take back their lands from the Treekin whom they now hated.

Make no mistake – the Rotted are completely mad. They were driven to take revenge upon the Treekin whom they now envied, loathed, and perhaps even feared. They made a rational decision, however, in slaying the Ogre Mages who had served as their masters and joining the Black Shroomies as equals. The People of the Skull were not interested in the Rotted as anything but tools of war.

Soon, the eaves of the forests inhabited by the Treekin were frequently raided by the Rotted and Black Shroomies. Kidnapped Treekin were debased into the Rotted and the balance of power slowly approached equality. The Rotted and their Amanita Virosa allies soon made quiet war upon the Great Forest itself, and the Heartwood within, where mankind’s Eiffel Tower still resided.

The Sylvan went out and attempted to wake up as many Treekin as possible. Without their efforts it is almost certain that the Treekin would have been overwhelmed by the Rotted, but the Sylvans were tireless in their efforts and hundreds upon hundreds of the mighty Treekin were awakened.

One might also ask, “What of the Beasts?” When the Forestal War erupted soon after, the Beasts proved to be too consumed with their own struggles, which were legion. Vampires, Ferals, Dvergar, People of the Skull, Dragons, Undead and more plagued the Beasts, who returned to Earth with a determination to carve out space for themselves once again.

The Forestal War was the series of battles between the Treekin, Shroomies, and Sylvans on one hand, and the Rotted and Black Shroomies on the other. The Treekin camp was led, as much as the Treekin are led by anyone, by the gigantic and ancient Thingir Mossheart. He is the oldest Treekin in Europe, and though he was sprouted well after Gaia created his ancestors, he has seen more than nearly any being on Earth and his roots have delved deep to drink of the waters of the Earth for millennia. The Rotted had not yet developed a leader, but the Black Shroomies are and have always been led by the Lost One – the first of the Amanita Virosa. It was he who first turned from the path of Gaia during the Age of Man, for he could not tolerate watching Man despoil the Earth and multiply his way towards complete dominance. His soul grew dark and twisted, and the Lost One slew the last mortal who knew his name hundreds of years ago.

These powers clashed for decades and eventually the conflict became centered on the southeastern part of the Great Forest – the region we now know as the Deadwood. The Rotted and Black Shroomies were determined to have it for themselves and while the Treekin and their allies wished to prevent any infestation of this massive forest by the corrupted taint of the Rotted, it was a fight they would ultimately concede had been lost.

Finally, an accord was reached. The corrupted forestals would have the Deadwood for themselves and would, in theory, cease their hostilities against the Treekin and their allies. Such was the state of things until mere decades ago with the rise Foulroot the Rotted King and the attempt by both him and the Lost One to take the Heartwood – the tree city within the Great Forest – for the Rotted and Black Shroomies.

With the end of the Forestal War, most of the Sylvan returned to their beloved trees, glad to give up the freedom to move across the land for the close connection with the trees they were so fond of. Some, however, had come to enjoy the ability to move and did not wish to reclaim their former homes. The power of the Trillium Shard was waning and there was nothing they could do – once the Trillium Shard had been used on them they became immune to its future effects. On a daily basis the fundamental nature of the Sylvans overwhelmed the weakening magic of the Trillium Shard and Sylvans who did not otherwise wish to were forced to leave and rejoin the trees as Dryads.

Gaia is a compassionate, caring Goddess but she and her Beasts had not survived so long against the forces of Djall and others by remaining complacent. She had seen what a boon the Clockwork had proven to be in helping to augment the power of her beloved Beasts upon their return to the Earth from the Groves. She had even granted the Clockwork true life in return for their service first in cleaning up the aftermath of Mankind’s Cataclysm and in defending the Beasts from the predations of the Rotted, the People of the Skull and the other enemies that sought to impede the return of the Beasts to Earth.

Now, the Earthmother would do the same for the Sylvans who were, in any case, far closer to her in terms of their origins and natures than were the Clockwork before she had bestowed life upon them. The Sylvans had proven themselves to be doughty, powerful defenders of both her beloved Beasts and of the sustaining, nurturing forests. Already, some Sylvans and Beasts had formed friendships born out of shared struggle, and it was clear that the Sylvans would be welcome additions to the swelling ranks of the Beasts.

Thus did the Sylvans become forever separated from the trees they had called their home, by the power of Gaia, becoming truly and finally different from the Dryads they had once been. First among the Sylvans to be granted Beasthood was a powerful wielder of nature magic named Sereen. She had been the first Dryad to leave the trees by the power of the Trillium Shard, so eager had she been to free herself from the confines of her tree.

Beasts after the Age of Man began to take both a family and personal name, and Sereen beseeched Gaia to bestow a family name upon her. Gaia thought for a moment and dubbed her Sereen Leaflost, choosing that family name so that Sereen would never forget from where she came. Other Sylvans followed, male and female and soon all the Sylvans had adopted the custom of the Beasts.

For their part, the Beasts eagerly welcomed the Sylvans as one of them. A new power had joined the Beasts bringing new allies. In the past the Treekin and the Beasts had not been as strongly allied as now. The Treekin had, in the Age of Legend, assisted the Beasts (and vice-versa) at times while at other times stonewalling them and simply retreating deep into the forests leaving the Beasts to their own problems. The Sylvans cemented the bridge between the Beasts and Treekin leading to the intermingling of Treekin and Beasts we see today in places such as the Heartwood.

The Sylvans were born of the great trees deep within the forests of Earth but left them to defend their Treekin allies. Some chose not to return to the trees and have joined the Beasts as one of their own. Sylvans have a natural love of Druidic magic, unsurprisingly.

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