The Becoming: The Tale of the Hamadryads

Originally posted to Kickstarter on July 15, 2013.

It has been said that “great storms announce themselves with a single breeze” and so it was with the piercing of the Veil. At first, the Veilstorms did not savage the world of Camelot Unchained but rather, the earliest whispers of power from them brought about slight alterations and changes to a very limited range of the world’s flora and fauna. Some people interpreted these changes as evil signs and portents of destruction while others simply ignored them. However, eventually these changes became so widespread and conspicuous that even the most skeptical and/or oblivious of human beings recognized that indeed, something they were indeed a harbinger of a coming apocalypse. In response, humanity reacted, as it always tends to do, in widely divergent ways. Some people panicked, new religions popped up, some people went to hide in mountains, others held parties, etc. One group, the subjects of this tale, left their homeland and set out to find the deepest, darkest and, they thought, safest part of a great forest and build a new life therein.

While this family had always been close and respectful of nature before the Veilstorms, they now took that to an entirely different level. They chose a spot near an old and majestic oak tree for their new home, carefully using only the wood from dead trees to build it. Their food came from what they could grow, gather and scavenge and they took a vow never to harm another living entity unless in self-defense or for survival (such as growing plants for food). As the world changed around them, their enclave remained virtually unchanged. Attributing their safety to their piety, devotion to nature and gratitude that they also believed that the great oak tree was also protecting them. Other people, hearing stories of this enclave, made the difficult journey to visit this family, seeking their advice, support and blessing. Of those that reached them, many stayed on to help build a settlement while others, who found their devotion to preserving life to be a bit too restrictive and harsh, went out into the forest to form their own enclaves. While the forest did offer some protection from the storms, unfortunately, the safety was only transitory.

As the intensity of the Veilstorms increased, even the family’s enclave began to suffer from their effects. Whether it was from the energy of the accompanying winds or the mutative powers of the storms, the great forest was eventually reduced to a mere grove of trees and then to the one great oak tree. With their forest being laid bare around them, the family and many of their followers held strong to their beliefs. And when the first of the “Malevolences” (a mutative, destructive storm that is accompanied by a “light show” of dark energies) hit, they didn’t hide within their buildings, instead they used their own bodies to shield the base of that one remaining oak tree. As the storm reached its zenith, they took the full brunt of its fury. As the storm surged around them, they sang, chanted and begged to be given the strength to protect this one last tree. Sadly though, their devotion was no match for the power of the Veilstorm. When the storm finally abated, all that was left was the trunk of a dead oak tree and no trace of the tree’s valiant defenders. That is at least, until one year later.

As terrible as the Veilstorms are one thing is true about them, they can be quite predictable. Whether due to an alignment of the stars, the earth’s rotation or some other unknown reason, one year after the first Malevolence, another one hit the same spot but this time, the effects were quite different. As the storm pounded the seemingly dead trunk, it is said that the trunk itself screamed, not in agony but in anger, one simple word, “enow.” Magical veins then began to appear on the trunk and the tree began to be regrown not of wood but of raw power. This new tree wasn’t harmed by the power of the storm; it was absorbed the storm’s fury. It was as if two powerful beings were battling for supremacy with one of them taking every blow that was delivered by its opponent and then coming back for more. Moreover, the tree channeled the storm’s power into new roots that emerged from the trunk even as the storm continued to lash the tree mercilessly. Fed by this monumental source of power, these roots began to spread through the former grove and beyond. When the storm finally exhausted itself, the scene in the enclave was quite different from what it had been hours before. Instead of a dead trunk, an even more magnificent tree stood in its stead. Not oak, not ash, nor any tree that had ever been seen on this planet before but rather the first of the “Great Protectors”, a tree that could absorb the power of the storms and redirect it elsewhere. Other trees, equal in number to those of the defenders that had tried to protect the oak tree one year earlier, surrounded it. With the grove restored, life began its slow return to the area.

Decades passed and this enclave became a place of worship as the story of the oak and of the heroic family spread across the land’s survivors. Additionally, the root system brought forth other Great Protectors throughout the forest and for a while, this enclave was quite serene and tranquil. That is, until one day when a youth went up to largest of the ring of surrounding trees, placed his left hand upon the tree and whispered something to the tree. When he did, power flowed through him into the tree and moments later, a being emerged. Neither human nor tree, neither insect nor animal, this being was one of those brave defenders, forever changed by the magic of the Veilstorms, the power of sacrifice and faith and the touch of the youth. In a former life the being was known as Hamadryas and she was the mother and leader of the first family. Bowing gratefully to the boy and with a knowing wink, she then touched every other tree in the grove and her family and the other defenders emerged, all greatly changed as well, from their long sleep. These beings became known as Hamadryads and they have never forgotten their vow to protect the forest and especially their own “birth tree” from harm. They also helped to build the bulwark that protected and nurtured the Tuatha Dé Danann. Hamadryas is respected by all the Tuatha Dé Danann for her leadership, bravery and devotion to her family both in her past life and current. It is said that she still walks the Stormlands looking for survivors and doing battle with the Stormwrought and any that would harm her family.

Thus ends the first tale of the Hamadryads.

As to the boy, well, one day he would pick up one of the three swords but his tale is for another day.