Dryads (/ˈdraɪ.æd/;) are a humanoid race of people who currently reside on the Warped Isles and on Omis. They are descended from the island of Lesbis, and now are believed to have nearly gone extinct in the Warped Isles, as for a time, that was their sole place of residence. The term Dryad originates from the old Fae name for the Spirits of the Forest, although it has come to describe the Dryads by outsiders. They are often characterized by their taller statures and leafy clothing decorated in beads and jewelry. Dryads also have rough, woody skin with the texture of of a sapling's bark. They live in communal societies around and within Great Trees, forming orders. Dryads have become very talented at camouflaging with the forest around them, and can often be mistaken for a tree in the woods they reside.
The term Dryad originates from an old legend and mythology. It was initially a term used by the Fae to describe Spirits of the Forest. Since then it has come to describe another people. In Fae culture, Dryad still refers to both the Spirits of the Forest and the Dryad people.
Once the Fae came into contact with other peoples, namely Astravia, the term came to instead describe the People of the Forest. Over the next centuries, the term was used to describe a specific group of people who lived deep within the jungles on the isle of Lesbis. Despite its use by outside groups to describe the Dryad people, the Dryads themselves never use the term. An order instead refers to themselves with the same name as the tree in which the order resides. see also Coraie Order of Dryads
Dryads are often mislabeled as "Tree People", with many believing they are solely made from wood. Dryads are wooden, however they have been animated by the Forest Goddess. As a result, they have all the necessary organs to function as humanoids. They have four limbs, two arms and two legs, and are taller in stature, averaging a height of 5'11" between both males and females. Dryads also have a full digestive tract, circulatory system, endocrine system, and respiratory system.
Dryads can be characterized by their rough and woody skin. In Dryads under approximately 40 years of age, the skin has a much more sapling-like texture. As they age, the skin begins to harden and more closely resemble tree bark. One major difference between Dryads and humans is that they do not sweat, as they have no pores or hair on the skin. The result is less sensitive skin, as well as poor thermo-stasis in the body. Over thousands of years this has improved, however heat and cold are still an issue. Dryads prefer to live in warm and humid environments, or temperate climates with mild winters.
Dryads have horns on their head, which extend from the top of the forehead. They are formed with a bone at the core fused to the skull. This is surrounded by a thin layer of almost spongy tissue that is extremely sensitive to the touch. This is then covered by an outer layer of keratin, that contains as many nerve endings as the Dryad's skin. As such the horns are similar in taxonomy to almost any horned animal. The horns of Dryads are quite large. Modern Dryad horns resemble smaller rams' or goats' horns. Dryads use these horns for a variety of purposes. However their main use is for defense and courtship. They serve to block strikes to the head, hence their curled back appearance. While it is not as effective as a metal helmet, it is effective against blows and claws of wolves and wild cats that live in the forests of Lesbis. They are also used as an effective blocker against wooden weapons often used by other Dryad groups.
Unlike many animal species, both male and female Dryads have horns. No recorded difference exists in size, color, or shape between sexes. Culturally, female Dryad horns are often more green than males. This is due to ritual practices in which the horns are covered in leaves, and left to soak in water. This causes the chlorophyll of the leaves to stain the horns, and stays until the outer layer sheds, or excessive bathing cleans them. This is not a natural process, and has no noted origin. Like rams and goats, Dryads shed their horns outer layer somewhat frequently. This is caused by the keratin curing from the sunlight, drying the surface layer. Adult Dryads shed their horns approximately every 12-15 years, and every 3-5 years during childhood and adolescence. The shedding is not painful, and is often described as relieving. In most dryad societies, the event is seen as passing into the next phase of life; it means that the Dryad will experience a major event soon. Over the next several years, the outer layer rebuilds. After 6 months they already have regained half the necessary layering of keratin. During this process, Dryads often consume much larger amounts of food. Dryads shed their horns and average of 22 times during their lives.
Like almost all humanoid species, Dryads were originally omnivores. However, historically Dryads have culturally consumed an herbivorous diet. Because of this, modern Dryads lack the digestive capabilities to consume meat and animal products such as dairy and eggs. The only exception being honey, as it contains very little other than sugar. Their primary diet consists of roots, leafy plants, grain, tree fruit, berries, and cocoa beans. Due to the long history of a plant based diet, Dryads lack the enzymes necessary to even digest and break down meat. Consuming it often leads to extreme bowel discomfort, vomiting, and fever. It is rare that this is fatal, however it is extremely unpleasant. To account for the lack of energy dense foods, Dryad stomachs are larger than most humanoid species, and the digestive tract is significantly longer. The pancreas, liver, and gallbladder are smaller, due to them being used over longer digestive periods. As well as less toxins being present in their diets.
Dryads have much smaller respiratory systems than most humanoid species. They have lower stamina than most humanoids. While many Dryads will train their lung capacity, this is not done by all. As such, they tend to climb trees or hide to escape predation, or humans. Dryads do however also posses the ability to absorb oxygen and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and water, through the skin and into their circulatory system. However this is not a sole source these compounds, and has been found to have little to no effect on their ability to breath in oxygen and carbon dioxide starved environments. The limited ability to breath underwater has led to somewhat of a fear of large rivers and oceans. Even a strong, or trained Dryad can only spend 15 seconds underwater before needing to surface.
Dryads posses a circulatory system that is very different from humans, and much closer to that of a tree. While they do have what could be considered a heart, it act much more slowly than a human heart. The system will pump a fluid similar to sap through a Dryad's body. This fluid moves oxygen and carbon dioxide through the body, as well as distributing sugar and needed protein. It is produced by cells in the Dryad's digestive system, and has a high water content. Due to the slow speed of movement, a break to the skin or "vein" is not as fatal of a wound as it can be for humans. However because the fluid is not replaced as quickly as red blood cells, an injured Dryad will take much longer to recover. The fluid also will harden when exposed to nitrogen for a prolonged period. Often resulting in injuries becoming paralytic until the hardened fluid is washed away. During this time a chronic condition of hypoxia and hypoglycemia will occur; leading to pain, hallucinations, and exhaustion.
Like the mythos of outsiders that Dryads are trees, so too is there a falsehood that dryads are immortal. This originated from the forest spirits of Fae mythos being immortal. Dryads have an average lifespan of 250 years, about three and a half times that of the average human. This life was gifted to them by the forest goddess, they are not immortal. And they also grow much slower than humans. Dryads spend much longer than most humanoid species in infancy and adolescence. Dryad children are considered infants until about the age of 7, at which point they become capable of accomplishing most tasks on their own, and shed the first horns of their lives. Like most humanoid species, children learn to walk and climb between the ages of 2 and 3. Between the ages of 3-6, Dryad children learn to speak. The end of infancy can be characterized by the first shed of the child's horns. These are often kept for use in ceremony. Adolescence often begins at the age of 16, and lasts for 10-12 years. During this time, secondary sex characteristics emerge, as well as the body growing to its adult size. Dryad horns also grow to near their final length during this phase of life. There is no clear and defined end for adolescence; most Dryad's consider the sixth shedding of their horns to be the end. Adult Dryads do not show signs of age until approximately 170 years of age, at which point they aging process is accelerates quicker than humans. At 230 years, they often have the appearance of a 40 year old human. By 240 years of age, they often have the appearance of a 60 year old human. Most dryad elders do not live past 240 years.
Dryads have hair like most humanoid mammals, however it is not made of keratin. Dryad hair is more akin to vines, or long grass. It primarily grows from the scalp, avoiding the base of the horns. The hair is also flexible, like that of most animals, though it does not retain the incredible stregth that long human hair does. Dryad hair can also sprout leaves. These are often trimmed off in most dryad cultures. Dryads have little to no body hair due to the time spent living in more temperate environments, as well as their very rough skin. Dryads can also be characterized by a light brown, pale green, or red color to their hair. Culturally, Dryads will stain their hair with various pigments to help better blend with the world around them. As well as decorate their hair with beads, flowers, mushrooms, and other plants.
Dryads have classified sexual dimorphism like any other humanoid mammal. Males of the species can be categorized by slightly broader shoulders, as well as a lack of breasts. Typically males also have slightly longer jaws. Dryad males are often described by humans as more feminine or beautiful in comparison to human and infernal males. Females of the species have breast tissue, as well as slightly wider hips than males. These traits are present in most humanoid females, but are less pronounced in Dryad females. Female Dryad horns also have a green tint to them. This has been discovered to be the result of a cultural practice in which they are dyed with pigments or chlorophyll from the leaves of the Great Tree they reside in.
Dryads require a very specific habitat to survive. They do not survive well in cold temperatures. A frost or heatwave can kill entire orders in only 2 days. Like most societies, they live near water sources. Most often this is in the form of small streams or brooks.
Dryads have very poor thermo-regulatory systems, as the circulatory system present moves very slowly. They are deemed warm blooded, as all mammals are. They do not posses the native ability to manage cold or heat well. Their lack of body hair and pores compounds this problem. In cooler environments, dropping below 14 degrees celcius (57 degrees fahrenheit), they will seek sources of heat or insulation by using caverns or hollows. They hold a much more consistent temperature than the surface.
Dryad orders often make their homes in Great Trees. These are very old trees, often over 1000 years of age and over 100 meters tall. Most great trees in the world are Great Azalea, though many others can be found through the world. These trees often create cavernous hollows beneath their roots over the tree's long lifespan. Dryads will live in these hollows, as well as in the branches and tuft. This often depends on the region's climate
Dryads often group together into orders. These orders will often inhabit a single great tree, and will often die when the great tree does.
Dryads primarily speak common. Although they have a native language, it has been slowly merged with common. Because of this many words are replaced with their old Drydaeic counterpart. Commonly these are nouns related to materials, objects, or plants.
Clothing is often constructed of cloth and fibers, either gathered from trade with other people, or woven from vines and grass fibers. Traded materials can cotton, wool, silk, or other foreign threads. These clothes often have leaves and plants sewn into them. Dryads take great pride in the collection of leaves they wear. Often being covered in hundreds of leaves. Outfits are often light, covering only the chest, stomach, hips, and upper legs. For Dryad women, the chest is covered with a bra-like piece, with large leaves adorning the front. Often small metal or clay beads are incorporated into the seams. Dryad men will also cover their chest with a cloth wrap, also adorned with larger leaves in the front. The seams are also adorned with small beads, though often much less are used. The hips and thighs are often covered with a weave of dyed cloth and leafs. This cover is asymmetrical in many cultures, and is highly decorated with colored embroidery that the wearer has sewn themselves. However commonly the back of the thighs is covered to just above the knee. Both men and women will wear this, however men will also forgo the thigh covering and asymmetric design in favor of shorter coverings, often ending less than halfway down the thigh.
Dryad societies also have a love for jewelry and other such adornments. This is shared across both men and women, with no difference between the two. Necklaces and braces are often seen as the most important pieces. Most Dryads will adorn themselves with multiple of these, often received as gifts from other Dryads or outsiders whom they trust. Rings are the least common type of jewelry used, as they are believed to get in the way of more important tasks. Flowers and beads are often woven into the hair, as well as intricately carved pins made of wood from fallen branches. The are held in the hair using either pressed metal traded from others, or natural bends in the item itself. Many Dryads will carry their most recently shed horns on them, most often attached with a vine or fiber at the hip. All horns have a unique sound, and can be heard from several kilometers away. While mostly serving as adornments, they can be blown into to signal to other nearby Dryads.
Dryad clothing is often covered in leaves. This serves multiple purposes; Its primary use is for decoration. The secondary purpose is for camouflage. By using the leaves of the Great Tree in which they reside. As such they blend into their environment extremely well. Dryads will also dye their hair with the natural pigments of the leaves. While this is more of a cultural act, it has the side effect of helping blend them into the woods. These leaves are replaced often.
Dryad society is very communal. The main focus is often on making sure the needs of all are met. Often there is head to the order, who's role is to communicate with the outside world. They are the primary diplomat for the order, as well as the spiritual leader.
Dryad society is highly spiritual. Rituals and ceremonies hold a large importance in their society. Most of these practices are done in devotion to the Forest Goddess that blessed the Dryads thousands of years earlier. Altars to the Forest Goddess can be found in every inhabited Great Tree. In Dryad culture, bees are considered the most important animal. They are can sometimes be cared for more closely than the Great Tree in which the order lives. Due to this, apiaries are very common in orchards and amongst the branches of the Great Tree. Honey is the only animal product consumed by Dryads, often only being consumed on special occasions. Most often during spiritual holidays and celebrations. Fire is seen as a deadly and malevolent idea in Dryad religion. This extends to a natural fear of fire and reinforces the belief by outsiders that Dryads are wooden. Candles are the only exception. By using a wick, lighting and maintaining a burning candle is seen as an act of bravery against destruction. As such, beeswax candles can be found in small numbers around Dryad orders, especially near spiritual and religious sites.
When a Dryad comes of age, they bind themselves to the Great Tree in which they reside. While not a lot is know about this process, it is an extremely spiritual and personal experience. Part of this ritual is taking an oath to protect the tree with their life. When a Dryad binds to a Great Tree, they essentially become and extension of it. While they do not become the Tree, they grow a psychic link to it. As a result, they feel much of what the Great Tree does. This can include emotions, pain, biological needs, and for some Dryads memories. Harming the bound Great Tree could cause a Dryad to become cursed, and sick.
Dryads are entirely vegan or herbivorous in their diets. Because of Dryad's fear of fire, food is mostly fermented, salted, and raw fruits and vegetables. Dryads do trade specifically for pastries and bread when they can, as it is considered a foreign delicacy. While being served meat is not seen as an insult, it is seen as ignorant. This is more true if the parties have already met and worked together. The only animal product consumed by dryads is honey. Honey is only consumed on rare occasions, as it is seen as a spiritual food, rather than needed for sustenance. The most common dish served is cut fruits and sugar made from cane and fruit. This often topped with ground cinnamon bark, and a seeds of the cocoa pod. Common drinks include fruit wine, tea made from various herbs and leaves, and distilled spirits made from sugar, spices, and berries; similar to gin.
Music is a very important part of Dryad society. It forms the basis of many rituals and ceremonies. The most common instruments are the shed horns of Dryads, as well as string instruments made with hair, wood, and thread. Most ritual music is described as soft and melodic. Singing is a vital part of songs as well, with singing being a practiced skill for many. Young Dryads are often more involved in music than adults. Though this does not stop adults from participating in the practice.