Dryads are ancient tree spirits which can assume a humanoid form. Their origin is unkown even to the dryads themselves. Dryads are often stoic and peaceful but can hold a grudge for a very long time if they were slighted. This isn't to mean that they can have any personality really.
Every ancestry, grove, orchard and clan has their own stories of old how dryads came to be. Whether these stories hold any truth is impossible to tell, but there are a few theories that have popped up. What everyone does agree on is that dryads have been around for a very long time, but there is no definitiv proof if they might be as old as trees or much younger.
The common theories are that tree spirits are as old as trees, they were created by a deity in the distant past, they came into existence in response to humans destroying trees as a defence mechanism, they were created by human shamans or sorcerers or they came from another dimension or plane. The theory that they are as old as the trees themselves is the one scholars agree is the most likely hypothesis because dryads can be found anywhere in the world and in any type of tree.
Dryads can be classified by their tree ancestry. These dryads often have common cultural traditions and form clans together. This is more likely in forests that have little variations. At the same time in mixed forests they are just as likely to just form social groups with any dryads that are close by and belong to the same grove or forest. There are no tree species known that do not have dryads at all. So the number of ancestries is as large as the number of species of trees.
Most dryads have the ability to create a humanoid body for themselves that can move away from the tree to some extend. The exact distance is depends a lot on the age of the dryad and here strength but usually ranges from one to then kilometers. Dryads cannot voluntarely move their body their limit. A dryad whos humanoid body is dragged away by force will quickly wither away and eventually die. The tree can survive it but not grow much and be weakened for a few years.
The appearance of the humanoid body can differ greatly between dryads and all dryads have some control over their outward appearance. Dryads can fully mimick the appearance of a human, but most choose to retain at least some tree elements like twigs and leaves for hear, buds growing from their joins, skin with a bark like texture and green and brown colours. These features are inspired by the dryads tree ancestry.
Dryads use the ability to change their appearance to mimick the ethnic appearance of humans they interact with. This helps them to fit in better and become more trusted. Before the Veil
fell, it supported their ability to hide their true nature.
The true nature of a dryad becomes obvious when they are cut or harmed in a similar way. They have a wooden skeleton with a gelatinous green, brown or greyish mass around them that they then can harden and form into the various features of their human appearance. Dryads can quickly recover from any damage to their flesh, but damage to their wooden skeleten cannot be healed as easily. They usually have to return to their tree and remake their body.
The humanoid body does not have to eat, drink or even breath. However, the body does run out of energy eventually and then has to return to the tree to be restored to fill capacity. A dryad can be separated from their tree for around seventy-two hours before it becomes really problematic. After a separation of four days most dryads will die and return to the ground.
Strengths & Weaknesses
A dryads greatest weakness is that they are a tree spirit. When the tree is fully destroyed they die. At the same time trees can be very hard to kill permanently. As long as there is a part of the tree still alive it has a chance to eventually regrow. This is why a forest fire for example does not usually kill all the dryads. Though a dryad of a severly damaged tree might go into hybernation and not be able to create a humanoid form for a while.
In humanoid form the dryad is somewhere between humans and therians in terms of phyiscal strength. They do not run out of stamina at all and can get going at full strength for up to forty-eight hours.
Life, Death & Rebirth
The dryad lives and dies as the tree. This means that dryads can live for thousand of years for as long as their tree is not killed. As long as there is a sufficient part of the tree still alive the dryad can endure. As the tree then grows again the dryad can prosper anew. The seeds of a tree with a dryad can grow a tree with a dryad but this does not always happen. Dryads from a seed of dead dryad can be reborn with some memories of their previous life.
Dryads do not have a gender by birth. They usually do choose either a female or male appearance for their humanoid form. This helps them fit in. Some dryads have a preference that they always stick with while others go with whatever they feel like. Although a lot of dryads are depicted as female in greek mythology and popular fiction they are actually not more likely to present as female.
As nature spirits dryads have some supernatural capabilities that allows them to perform certain magical abilities. These abilities are innate which means they do not have to be learned. Not all dryads can perform all of them. Dryads can increase the strength and extend of their abilities with training.