The Varyyyk Forest
Nestled along the northern border of Jardium sits the Varyyyk Forest. Dense with trees and brush, this forest hides a great number of things. Dryads, kin, ogres, and even tree-dwelling elves and sylvanborn make this place their home. Those who love nature and shirk city living find themselves in this forest.
Long ago, elves and sylvanborn came and created Al’Vashtar. As the city was created, the dryads of the forest began to wake up and integrate themselves into the early development of the settlement. Though perhaps not as advanced as the sorts of cities you might find in Selucia, Gol’dara, or Robinsroost, Al’Vashtar is advanced in its own way. The sprawling trees of the forest have made great structures for the interconnected treehouses the elves have built. The wooden houses and buildings are not very tall but they wrap themselves along the trees, some buildings being supported by 3 or more trees at a time.
Various types of kyn find their home along the ground. Many travel in packs and small groups or families. Dryads crop up all over the place though most are clustered near the Mother Tree, which gives life to the land. There are even small collections of ogres who sometimes make their home here but many prefer the tribes of Grikthar up in the Dulgar Mountains. Even so, the races who live here occasionally cross paths but are generally harmonious.
Elves and sylvanborn of Al’Vashtar are not considered the most refined but they’ve found their little corner of the world to make them happy. They occasionally trade with the merchants of the Dulgar Mountains for supplies that are harder to come by.
Elves and sylvanborn from this area typically name their children according to their ancient tongue. Names are frequently inspired by forests and nature, though some (particularly from parents with a background in celestial magic) may be inspired by names of stars and constellations.
(OOC note: PCs may like to take inspiration from Tolkien’s Sindarin or Quenya, or might even sample names from games like Pathfinder or D&D. There’s a plethora of fantasy media to take elvish names from or feel free to make up a name of your own! If using a real-word language for name inspiration, please be respectful.)
Celeste: Daughter of the stars
Ailre: Wind and air
Fey Levitha: Fall leaves
Dryads occasionally live within Al’Vashtar but typically keep to the ground. Thorn dryads in particular love being on the forest floor with flowers and leafy plants. They live in tribes and care for the forest. Many dryads make their homes within a few miles of the Mother Tree, caring for her and protecting her. Naming traditions of the dryads are also very nature based and are sometimes meant to evoke the sounds of nature.
Wishkar, Rustle, Brightleaf
Wylderkin are not as likely to group into cities, towns, or tribes but do typically find themselves in small packs and families scattered around the Varyyyk Forest. Naming traditions vary wildly but tend to either stick to very simple one to two syllable names or names that relate to their job in the pack.
Ty, Ket, Hunter
Allies and Enemies
The merchants of The Dulgar Mountains frequently trade with Al’Vashtar and are on good terms with the inhabitants of the forest. The dryads are great protectors of the area so the travellers that are allowed to cross greatly respect the forest and only cross with good intentions. Those going through the forest that choose to harm it are met with swift action and harsh punishment. Though incredibly rare, any necromancy cast is seen as a grave misdeed and will most likely be met with death.
The plants and animals of the forest are revered but the inhabitants of the forest see killing them as part of the natural cycles of life. Any excess animal byproduct such as leathers and furs are sold off to the nearby kingdoms, namely merchants of the Dulgar Mountains. Sylvanborn crafts are also highly regarded and make for a profitable export.
Starting with the dryads' ancient traditions, the races that live in this area have a great respect for nature and the change of the seasons. They have 4 major celebrations to mark the beginning of each season.
The Awakening Festival:
The mid-March Awakening Festival celebrates the yearly awakening of the dryads. The barkskin and spore dryads welcome and wake up their thorn and reed friends that have been asleep over the past winter season. Sylvanborn, elves, and kin use this as a time to celebrate their dryad friends as well as the coming spring season.
Typically celebrated on March 20th, barkskins and spores go out to awaken their thorn and reed siblings, giving them a big feast to alleviate the winter’s hunger. The day after the feast, preparations are made to flourish and care for the new plant life of the spring.
Sylvanborn especially relish in this new year’s beauty. They’ve taken the awakening festival as one of their own, throwing a similarly extravagant feast. They throw large parties, and in the usual sylvanborn way, no taboo is too much. In the spirit of celebrating new life, the sylvanborn version of the awakening festival is very “anything goes.” Their more prudish elven cousins participate in the feasting, dancing, and certain other makes of merriment, though not all.
Festival of the Longest Day:
Celebrated on the summer solstice, all races find a way to spend their time with the most daylight of the year. In Al’Vashtar, sylvanborn and elves make most of the day a celebration. Sylvanborn hold contests for different crafts and talents. Elves typically prepare the feasts and bonfires as the sylvanborn diligently work all day to create their magnum opus. Dryads create flower crowns and other floral ornamentation to celebrate the plentiful flowers of the spring and summer. As with many other festivals of Varyyyk, kin and their packs find themselves somewhere in the mix, helping all other races with the festivities.
Perhaps the most popular aspect of this festival are the dryad flower crowns. Other races have adopted this tradition, making the crowns for their friends, family, and any other loved ones they may have. Trading of the crowns is seen as a grand gesture and is sometimes used to profess your love to another this time of year.
This festival is a grand lively celebration. In the center of Al’Vashtar is a bonfire that burns all night. Elves and Sylvanborn party and feast long into the next morning. Sylvanborn share their creations and collaborate with each other to learn new techniques. Some Sylvanborn take up entirely new trades this time of year and young Sylvanborn may learn their first trade at this festival. The most matches of apprentice to master are made at this festival compared with other times in the year.
The Harvest Festival:
Occuring in mid-september, the Harvest Festival celebrates the harvest and begins the preparations for the coming cold months. This is not a time to mourn the summer, but to celebrate it. Fine feasts are held with an emphasis on hardy, spiced desserts. During the light half of the day, the work is put into preparing the feast and winterizing homes and shelters. As soon as the sun goes down, Al’Vashtar lights up as hundreds of candles are used to light the city.
As the citizens of Al’Vashtar enjoy their candlelit meal, many invite their dryad and kin friends. While some get in on the Al’Vashtarian fun, most dryads and kin especially enjoy this festival in their own little clans and families. Dryads typically join together and enjoy traditional celebrations during this festival in which they spend their time practicing their alchemy and making perfumes, sometimes making games and contests out of it. Dryads will also play games of binding magic, in which the only one left unbound wins. These celebrations are typically held under the Mother Tree as a way to thank her for plentiful harvests and a good year.
The Great Sleep:
Because most thorn and reed dryads go to sleep by the winter solstice, this festival is one of saying goodbye. This is by no means a mournful event, quite the contrary. This is a loving goodbye. Barkskin and spore dryads take this time to make their friends cozy for their long winter nap. The Mother Tree is not completely blocked off but its defences are heightened to keep every dryad safe under her care.
The people of Al’Vashtar have used this festival as a time to say goodbye to their loved ones who have died. If these friends or relatives have died recently this is a time where the mages are called upon to help in the casting of spirit farewell rituals. Long gone loved ones are given small personal celebrations where their families will talk of memories they had of them or great feats they may have accomplished in their life times. Many families will leave an extra space for deceased family members at the table this time of year to symbolically have them join in on the festivities.
With less modern inventions, Varyyyk tends to have simple but lively entertainment which includes:
Common Sayings and Dialect
“Greatness grows like a tree” - Typically said as encouragement to ones too hard on themselves, meaning that great things take time.
“If you’re looking at the branches, you stumble on the roots.”
Varyyykan fashion draws inspiration from the world around them. Natural tones, furs, bones and foliage are common. Some may choose to mimic changing autumnal leaves as well.