The VyrdenThe vyrden are a tribe of sentient, humanoid plants. They are a curious, child-like people with strong ties to nature.
For the most part, the vyrden appear to be terith children. However, they do possess a few distinguishing features. First, their hair is leaf-, vine-, or moss-like. It usually starts out a shade of green, but shows signs of aging as the vyrden grow older. In the case of leaf-like hair, it takes on autumn colors and may begin to fall out. With vine-like hair it becomes brown and brittle. Moss-like hair turns a light shade of gray. Another distinguishing feature is their ears, which are long and tapered, giving them an exceptional sense of hearing. Also, their eyes are nearly completely black orbs with only a tiny bit of white showing in the corners. Their skin can range in color from a pale gray to a dark brown. Some vyrden also have bark-like skin or thorns, but these often appear only when the vyrden feels threatened.
The vyrden have a very unusual life cycle. Deep in sacred forest groves grow the rare vyrdani trees. The trunks of these trees have the appearance of two separate trunks twisted and entangling each other. In the spring these trees bear fruit resembling very large melons which hang from thick vines. After several weeks, these melons crack open revealing a new vyrden.
Vyrden are born with the physical and mental maturity of a five-year-old terith, or human. Within a few weeks, a newborn vyrden is walking, talking and playing just fine on their own. They generally live to be about a hundred years old, but for every decade they age at about the rate that a human would in one year. So, by age ten a vyrden resembles a six-year-old human, by age twenty, they resemble a seven-year-old, and so forth.
Because vyrden never reach the full physical or mental maturity of an adult of any other tribe, they are often not taken seriously by others. This is a mistake, however. While the vyrden may prefer a simple life full of playtime and laughter, they recognize it as their sacred duty to shepherd and defend the forests in which they live, and they possess the strength to do so. The vyrden can communicate with beasts, birds and plants, directing them to fight against foes of the forest.
Due to their lack of maturity, vyrden may never experience true romantic love, but they do experience infatuation, and by the age of sixty or so they begin to form a bond with a vyrden of the opposite gender they call their everfriend. While vyrden never experience age old or the infirmities that come with it, after about a hundred years or so, a vyrden begins to lose interest in everything in the world except for their everfriend and the forest in which they live. Their connection to nature grows deeper, and begins to overshadow everything else. This eventually culminates in a vyrden rite called the Last Walk.
In the Last Walk, two vyrden everfriends walk hand-in-hand through the forest until their path eventually leads them to a sacred grove where the vyrdani trees grow. Here, they lie down in the tall grass, close their eyes, and fall into a deep sleep. In a matter of days, their bodies are absorbed into the earth. A few months later, a new vyrdani tree will sprout in the spot where they went to rest, and the following year it will bear its first fruit – a new generation of vyrden.
The vyrden honor the Four Shining Deities, especially the Deity of earth and love. They also revere nature in a way that is almost religious. Although, the vyrden would compare their relationship to nature to the way that members of other tribes feel towards their parents and siblings. Vyrden live in complete harmony with the natural world. They live in simple homes resembling the burrows or nests of various animals. They gather food from their environment. They may plant small gardens, but they do not clear land to raise crops. Vyrden have the trust of animals in their home, and will not abuse that trust by killing an animal for food. For this reason, vyrden are vegetarian. Some vyrden who travel among other tribes have taken to eating the meat that others provide, but even this practice is looked down on by most vyrden.
The vyrden view family very differently than other tribes do. They view the forest as their parents, since it provides for and protects them. They view each other, along with the birds and the beasts, as siblings. The youngest vyrden in a community are cared for by the oldest ones. However, this care rarely involves more than looking out for the younger vyrden when they are hurt or ill, or when danger threatens. Young vyrden learn most of what they need to survive by simply watching other vyrden in action, and by mimicking what they do. Within a few months of being born, young vyrden are already finding their own food and building their first simple shelters.
Within their communities, the vyrden have no strict laws or order. The oldest vyrden carry the authority, but they do not often impose their will on others. On occasion, a vyrden is born with the mark of the druid – a distinct birthmark on their forehead. This mark is an outward sign that the young vyrden has been chosen by the forest for the role of a druid. Druids possess an exceptionally strong connection to the forest and act as its emissaries. They carry out special missions, often received through dreams and visions in which past generation vyrden speak for the forest. Among their people, even very young druids are given the utmost respect, though their special position sometimes makes it difficult for them to relate to their peers.
The vyrden are friendly towards members of other tribes, so long as those people do not threaten their forest homes. While most vyrden are content to remain in the forest where they were born, some are spurred by their childlike curiosity to travel beyond the woods and experience more of the wider world. These vyrden are quick to adapt to their new environments and to learn from the people they encounter.
Vyrden find the concepts of old age and death among other tribes strange and frightening. They may be surprised to find that an adolescent of another tribe is only thirteen or fourteen years old instead of eighty or ninety. While they will not age physically any faster than they would at home, they may come to adopt more mature attitudes if they stay among other tribes for a long period of time.
Many vyrden become thieves among other people, since they do not readily understand the concepts of personal property and of law. The fact that law enforcement authorities will try to catch them and hold them accountable for taking produce from a market stand without paying for it seems like an overly complex game to them, with no harm so long as they keep winning. Vyrden can just as easily adopt other professions and ways of life, but still, they tend to view each of these as a game more so than a job, and if the game becomes boring they are quick to move on to something else.