I ask that I be your guardian watcher of the wood. By my own essence, I give myself to you as your protector. - Part of the Bond of the Dryad
For many of our records, at my academy of research, only scant accounts of Dryads can be found. Most of these documents are folk tales about the women of the forest. While sometimes referred to as tree witches, in less informed stories, there is a trend of predominately female Dryads. In more modern times we understand a lot more about these creatures of nature and where they come from. The communities of Forest Elves living among their kind have been a great insight and resource to gathering this research as it is a known practice.
This document is to better inform on the true nature, pun intended, of the Dryads. I also aim to help separate the ideas of Dryad's and Nymphs being the same creatures as they are not.
According to Elven records, which is mostly oral for Wood Elves, the first Drayd was Lady Evelegania and the Tree of Wishes. Since then the practice of becoming a Dryad is not a common one but significant enough to be counted with reverence in Wood Elf culture.
This very first union was one of great renown not only for being the first true union of Elf and Tree, but also the union that saved a forest from the destruction of a whole kingdom of elves. As the tale goes the tree could grant wishes to those who understood it. As much as the elves had tried over the years none of the best and most devout druids could understand the tree. The best guess is that the tree was proud and saw no reason to aid the Elves. When true danger came to the forest the tree spoke to one elf, Lady Evelegania. She was not the wisest, oldest, or youngest of the druids but the kindest. When danger came to the wood the Tree of Wishes finally spoke and granted her wish. Her wish was to protect the forest and the tree of wishes. With this wish, she became the first Dryad bonded with the Tree of Wishes.
Dryads are a humanoid creature, usually female, that slightly resembles the mortal they used to be, but now as the tree that they call home. Standing roughly the same size as the Dryad did in their past life, these now Fae are covered in bark with leafy hair matching their tree's leaves and color. Even seasonal changes are present with deciduous trees making for beautiful autumn reds, golds, and oranges. In the winter, instead of the leaves falling off, they will turn white or brown. Their feet and hands are more elongated roots and branches, respectively. Their eyes also now slightly glow with an inner light and in the color of the tree's sap.
To the keen eye, those who knew the Dryad in their past life may recognize them, but a Dryad's features may have changed significantly. The transformation smooths out their look to resemble a young and at nature's prime. Even a Dryad once considered ugly before their change becomes an epitome of beauty.
The Process of Bonding
Becoming a Dryad is a sacred ritual to some Elven cultures. This process is, however, not exclusive to Elven kind. Records show that Humans, Halflings, Gnomes, and even Orcs have become Dryads. In all of these cases, there was a deep connection to the forest and its inhabitants.
Both a single tree and a humanoid must enter the bond of being a Dryad. While the tree doesn't take on any changes itself, it now becomes directly responsible for sheltering and sustaining the Dryad. In return, the Dryad protects, acts as a voice for, and cares for their environment. These bonds aren't always a result of a dire need. Most Dryads manifest simply for their love of the forest and respect for a particular tree.
When bonding occurs, the tree communicates, usually empathically, to a humanoid that it shares some connection with for a time. For this very reason, Elves consider this request a high honor. If the humanoid agrees to the binding, the tree allows the being to enter. The humanoid then steps into the bonded tree. Over a time of 2 days, the tree and humanoid bond into linked but still separate souls. After this time, the Dryad emerges with new power and responsibility.
Dryads who become bonded with a fruit-bearing tree such as an Apple Tree will produce fruit themselves. This fruit is seedless and sterile and thus can not make more trees. However, some accounts mark that these fruits are the epitome of deliciousness. Despite claims of ultimate taste, it is considered considerably rude to eat these fruits. So much so that offenders have been slain on such accounts.
A Dryad is a creature connected to the Feywild. As a result, they have access to abilities innately tapping into the flow of Nature itself to help aid their cause.
With these new powers, once a day, they can make their skin like hard bark, produce berries to feed allies and enchant wood with magical strength. At anytime, the Dryad can step into a tree large enough to travel the connected roots and out of another large enough tree. The speed of this seems instantaneous, but it is only incredibly fast.
A Dryad's most known and powerful ability is to be able to charm any beast or humanoid. While this is no mind control or coercion like that of a nefarious Vampire, it is still a powerful effect. The charmed individual often describes the Dryad as a trusted friend. However, the Dryad can only enchant a few creatures at a time, and it can be dispelled if the Dryad does anything harmful to the charmed individuals. While charmed, a creature will do anything it can, within reason, to aid the Dryad.
Habitat and Home
Anywhere a forest and or a tree can be a Dryad can be. Dryads are in every habitat imaginable. Their home is their bonded tree, which is usually larger and older. Younger trees don't have the resources to take on another entity, most of the time, and thus rarely do so.
Dryad home trees are indistinguishable from most other trees. While they are frequently some of the older and larger trees in a forest, there are no outward signs. Aside from directly watching a Dryad enter or leave a tree, there is no way to tell outside of magic. Of course, if you ignore the possibility of talking to the tree.
Becoming a Dryad can significantly prolong a creature's life. While not immortal, the Dryad will live for as long as their tree can give them energy. Trees, as we know, can live for many thousands of years, and thus, so can a Dryad. When the tree eventually withers and dies, the Dryad will only survive a few weeks.
If a Dryad's home is burned, cut down, or otherwise destroyed, the Dryad will often perish. This sudden severance, of their connection, is rarely survived initially. Forest fires can be devastating. If the Dryad does survive, they can go insane. Dryad's undergoing this process are a "lost child of the wood.".
Interactions with Other Creatures
Relationship with Nymphs
A key goal of this research was to discover the relationship between Nymphs and Dryads. Our theory to start with was a close working relationship as both seem to be female fey forest guardians. However, their relationship is quite distant. While a Dryad may protect large forests, that may include a Nymph's home, the Nymph is more interested in a single location, of natural beauty. In a large crisis, they can and will work together, but the Nymph is entirely more narrow-minded in what they care for.
Nymphs may not even know a Dryad exists in the same area. A Dryad will usually know the instant as the manifestation of a Nymph in a place in a forest is usually very alarming to the animals. From what I can gather is that Dryads aren't particularly fond of a Nymph, but Nymphs love Dryads.
Inhabitants of the forest
Dryads have the duty of making sure to speak for and protect their forest home. Despite how important that task is a Dryad has a lot of time to get to know the forest. Dryads talk to, listen to, and make friends with almost all the animals and trees. While disagreements can occur, many times with squirrels, the Dryads that I have conversed with love their home. Any death, birth, or union is celebrated when a Dryad is around. Dryads take many steps to organize these events but without a Dryad these events would be largely unknown in a forest. Dryads bring the whole forest together.
Dryads and other humanoids have the most complicated relationship. Inhabitants, peaceful ones, of the forest are usually also close friends. However, some Elven communities know of the Dryad as they make themselves known, but the Drayd stays away if there is a large amount of outside of the community contact and travel.
In general, Dryads don't trust humanoids. They are the biggest threat to a forest, and its ecosystem, aside from large apex invasive predators. When unknown humanoids enter a forest, a Dryad keeps an eye on them from a distance. If they are causing trouble, she will enlist the help of the larger animals of the forest to aid her. These are usually the largest predators of the forest, such as OwlBears, Bears, and even in tropical regions Tigers. Even a resident Hydra or Dragon, can be enlisted, if they are on good terms.
Although rare, a Dryad may be curious to a helpful humanoid entering, such a Druid, Ranger, or Hunter. If a humanoid truly respects the forest and it's inhabitants and frequents the wood, the Dryad may try and contact and even establish a friendship. One account tells of a whole family of farmers who had the friendship and protection of a Dryad.
This friendship can turn into more if the Dryad is attracted to the individual. Dryads do not need to reproduce. However, they still have holdovers, such as physical attraction, from their past forms and can be driven to more physical urges. The act of playing out these urges can result in a child, known as a half Dryad.
Dryad can live in any forest or jungle as long as there are Trees in which they protect. Unfortunately, this is the most favorable environment to hide a dragon's lair for some varieties. Black and Green Dragons, in particular, can be found in a forested area. Druids are not inclined by evil, such as these dragons typically are. Their care is for the forest, not the greater good. Thus, as long as a dragon keeps peace in the forest, they may even become allies. Green Dragons, in particular, are quick to make friends with, a resident Dryad.
When a disagreement does come, a Dryad isn't defenceless. In most cases where reasoning and diplomacy fail, A Dryad's first defense, then the violent action will be taken.
Dryad's lead with their charming effect on foes to eliminate as many combatants as possible. Charmed individuals lose the will to fight. Thus they can be gently removed from the fight. In some cases, those charmed individuals can be tricked, to inadvertently harm or cause trouble, for their fellow attackers. Those who are not charmed are then attacked.
When it comes to blows, Dryads harden their skin and create a magical wooden club to blast foes. They step into and out of large trees to keep foes guessing and smashing them from unexpected directions. Sometimes the trees will drop their fruits and seeds onto attackers as distractions. This assault can continue for a long time as they do not tire easily.
Fighting a Dryad in her home pits you against the whole forest. A Dryad's physical combat ability can be formidable but nothing compared to the hordes of animals that may come your way. If you attack a Dryad, beware, you've made thousands of enemies.
Dryads are all unique individuals, but there are still ways to group them for our better understanding.
These dryads are mostly found in the moderate climates of the world where deciduous trees can be found. Their leaves change with the seasons. These seem to be the most common of the Dryad kind.
With spiny green hair, like the pine needles, these Dryads can look much different. Pine sap is notoriously sticky, these Dryads can produce of a glob of it used to root a creature to the ground. Evergreen Dryads are mostly found in colder regions.
Willow trees found in high moisture areas and even swamps are excellent old trees for a Dryad's home. With long ropy hair like that of the limbs and leaves of willow trees, they are unique in looks. This hair can stretch and entangle foes. Thus they often bind as many creatures as they can till their animal help can arrive in a conflict.
Tropical coast region jungle Dryads often take the form of a Palm Tree. Their tuft of Palm hair on top can look like shorter hair in comparison to the flowing mains of leaves in other varieties. They usually produce coconuts, that while they are not different from other coconuts, can be thrown with great and harmful force.
Many great and magical trees exist in our world. Old Trees that tower over a forest, for eons, will gladly accept a guardian for their home. These Dryads are considerably stronger in their abilities. They can even grow trees and plants at will to entrap foes or repair damage. They are also physically superior. As with the tree of whishes, any powers the tree possesses are also present in the attached Dryad.
As most Dryads are female, they will most likely be the ones raising their child. While in the womb, the Dryad may spend more time resting in their tree. Once the child is born, they are raised by their Dryad parent and the whole forest. These children often have the hair color of their mother, which can change with seasons, but more so resemble the humanoid parent. Male Dryads often offer to take the child or at least aid in raising them. As the duties of a Dryad are demanding very rarely are the parents of a Half Dryad in an active relationship, but it can happen.
Dryads care for their children as much as anyone in the forest. This may seem odd to humanoids who favor their children above others. From a Dryad's perspective, everything in the forest is equal.
Dryads are a force of nature that warns others from harming the forest. Often they are great for non-combat encounters as they are mysterious beings full of knowledge. The role-playing possibilities of Dryads are much further reaching than many give them credit for. You could even have them be attracted to PCs to throw off the party if you so choose. Keep in mind they are a neutral being though and not easily swayed to one side or the other. Their priorities are the woods they protect.
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