Dryads are ancient tree spirits that can assume humanoid forms. Their origins are unknown, even to the dryads themselves. Dryads are often stoic and peaceful, but can hold a grudge for a very long time if they are slighted.
Stories of how the Dryads came to be are told by every tribe, grove, orchard, and clan. Whether these stories are true or not is impossible to say, but there are a few theories that have surfaced. All agree that dryads have been around for a very long time, but there is no definitive proof as to whether they are as old as trees or much younger.
Common theories are that tree spirits are as old as trees, were created by a deity in the distant past, arose in response to humans destroying trees as a defense mechanism, were created by human shamans or sorcerers, or came from another dimension or plane. Since dryads can be found all over the world and in all kinds of trees, many scholars agree that the theory that they are as old as the trees themselves is the most likely hypothesis.
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 that can move away from the tree for a certain distance. The exact distance depends greatly on the age and strength of the dryad, but usually ranges from one to several kilometers. Dryads cannot voluntarily move their bodies beyond their limit. A dryad whose humanoid body is dragged away by force will quickly wither and eventually die. The tree may survive, but it will not grow much and will be weakened for a few years.
The appearance of the humanoid body can vary greatly among dryads, and all dryads have some control over their appearance. Dryads can completely mimic human appearance, but most choose to retain at least some tree elements, such as twigs and leaves for their hair, buds growing from their joints, skin with a barklike texture, and green and brown colors. These features are inspired by the dryads' arboreal ancestry.
Dryads use their ability to change their appearance to mimic the ethnic appearance of the humans they interact with. This helps them blend in and gain more trust. Before the Veil
fell, it supported their ability to hide their true nature.
The true nature of a dryad is revealed when they are cut or similarly injured. They have a wooden skeleton with a gelatinous green, brown, or grayish mass around it, which they can then harden and mold into the various features of their human appearance. Dryads can quickly recover from damage to their flesh, but damage to their wooden skeleton does not heal as easily. They must usually return to their tree and rebuild their body.
The humanoid body does not need to eat, drink, or even breathe. However, the body will eventually run out of energy and will need to return to the tree to be replenished. A dryad can be separated from her tree for about seventy-two hours before it becomes truly problematic. After four days of separation, most dryads will die and return to the ground.
Strengths & Weaknesses
A dryad's greatest weakness is that they are a tree spirit. If the tree is completely destroyed, they die. At the same time, trees are very difficult to kill permanently. As long as part of the tree is still alive, it has a chance to grow back. This is why, for example, a forest fire does not usually kill all the dryads. However, a dryad from a severely damaged tree might go into hibernation and not be able to form a humanoid form for a while.
In humanoid form, the dryad is somewhere between a human and a therian in terms of physical strength. They never run out of stamina and can work at full power for up to forty-eight hours.
Life, Death & Rebirth
The dryad lives and dies with the tree. This means that dryads can live for thousands of years as long as their tree is not killed. As long as a sufficient part of the tree is still alive, the dryad can endure. When the tree grows back, the dryad can flourish again. The seed of a tree with a dryad can grow into a tree with a dryad, but this does not always happen. Dryads from the seed of a dead dryad can be reborn with some memories of their former lives.
Dryads have no gender at birth. They usually choose either a female or male appearance for their humanoid form. This helps them blend in. Some dryads have a preference that they always stick with, while others go with whatever they feel like. Although many dryads are portrayed as female in Greek mythology and popular fiction, they are not actually more likely to present themselves as female.
As spirits of nature, dryads possess some supernatural abilities that allow them to perform certain magical skills. These abilities are innate, meaning that they do not need to be learned. Not all dryads can perform all of them. Dryads can increase the strength and range of their abilities through training.