The Seed and the Wyrm
There are countless myths about the origin of Terminus. Orcs claim the planet was once a ring of titanic mountains strung together by bridges of water, ice and magma. Ancient deities fought from each mountain, pushing them together into one mass that has been made smooth by the waters of time. Hieroglyphs of the Giganaa suggest there was one progenitor for all magic, language and life, who knit the planet together from the fabrics of other worlds. The Tholen recount a lineage of dragon masters that stretches all the way back to the dawn of the planet. They name four flying beasts that each heralded a new season on their wings, yielding autumn, winter, spring and summer in the wake of their flight across the planet.
When compared to the scale of these tales the story of the Seed and the Wyrm may be a book left on the shelf. Its narrative is not so loud or terrific, not at least upon glance of the cover and is recounted only by the treefolk known as Spriggan. While there is evidence in support of the other legends the Seed and the Wyrm lingers on with a peculiar credibility and enduring interest. It is a story with ancient roots that bears fruit to this very day, shortening the travel back into time like a new bloom on the tip of an old tree’s branch.
Now, to the telling.
In the days before time, hands reached through darkness and birthed a new light. This light was called the Seed of Life, and the hands buried the Seed in a sphere of soil that hung among the heavens. A womb of ore, mineral and dust, it was by any other name a planet, one the Spriggan would call Noa, but is more commonly referred to as Terminus. (No other race is known to use the namesake Noa, and it does not appear to have been altered through the ages as with Aevozul or Nhystyrrok.)
Out from the Seed of Life grew limbs of gigantic roots, which coursed through the layers of the planet and burst forth on the surface, spreading creation throughout the world. From the roots of the Seed came all of nature: seas teeming with life and rivers in kind; mountains and glaciers given their place and form; orders of beasts and plants birthed and set free to roam; and finally the first treefolk, a lineage of immense creatures meant to guide the flood of creation that whelmed over the planet. These were trusted with the power to sculpt life within the palm of their very own hands.
These creatures were known as the Entaa’niri, though adventurers of today know them commonly as Ent. There are well known legends of their heart-stopping height, with some reaching as tall as a small mountain and towering above every tree on the globe. Few of these titans still remain on Terminus, with the youngest generations counted among the oldest living creatures on the planet. They are largely passive in nature, save for the outlier, and live as stewards of the most ancient and deep forests, those nurtured on the arcane as much as Siros the sun. Legend claims that the roots of Ent may be able to reach through the crust of the earth and grasp a tendril of the mothering root that created them, though the connection may never grow so strong as to invite the attention of the enemy of the Seed.
Beneath the layers there churned a foe of the Seed of Life, known as the Great Wyrm of the Abyss. This monster may perhaps be a draconic kin to the Dragons of Sea and Air, and its devious offspring are sometimes referred to as the Dragons of Earth, or basilisks. These creatures are often limbless, flightless and in great fury which may stem from their lot as the bastard branch of Dragonkind. While their origins are not clear apart from their patriarch Wyrm, their lineage carries a consistent theme of rage against the Rhy’Vulrene and Sol’Kromane, if not always a capability to match their power. For basilisks the crust of the earth is their sky, the hollows of caves their sea, therefore excursions onto the face of the planet are rare. Below the surface is their dwelling place, a realm that holds few challengers and even fewer threats. However, the longer basilisks remain in the depths of darkness the more blind they become, losing the ability to discern light with their own eyes. (It should be noted that his exchange does not limit the threat they pose if one is encountered at the bottom of some abyssal well.)
Hungry for the power the Seed of Life bestowed upon the world, the Great Wyrm hunted out the roots that crossed the pockets of darkness that existed between the layers of the rock, soil and ore. Greedily he ate at the defenseless limbs of the Seed, growing in size and strength as a result. Yet of such magnitude were the roots that even the mammoth Wyrm required years to sever and consume them. He gave no pause for centuries and as life spread across the surface of Noa hundreds of root limbs were being severed beneath it. In time only dozens remained connected to the surface, then fewer than ten. Then only one.
At the forest of this final great root the Seed of Life birthed a new kind of creature. These were smaller and more numerous than the Entaa’niri, but far more nimble and full of youth. If the Entaa’niri were the ancient eyes overseeing creation, these younger kin would be the hands and feet that dwelt among it. Their contribution would be in training the tender stalk to break through dry ground, not unlike the matriarch Seed herself had done ages before.
These new offspring of the Seed of Life were known as her Spriggan, and it is said they bore the markings of the Seed of Life, who they call “Face in the Deep”. To them she gave the Verdant Shards, sacred crystals that hold a portion of the Seed’s power. Yet no more had the Face in the Deep instructed the Spriggan on what the Verdant Shards were than the Great Wyrm devoured the final root, and her presence vanished from their sight.
The First Wanderers
At this time the Spriggan were severed from the Face in the Deep and their existence was put under constant threat by the children of the Wyrm. Thus they sought out their brethren the Entaa’niri, who counseled and instructed them on the path that lie ahead. For the Face in the Deep had not born them in futility. Though the Seed had withdrawn, her children were not abandoned.
The Entaa’niri told the Spriggan they must not believe all was lost, or even that this was a day of defeat. Instead, they were to reach out across all of Noa in triumph, ensuring that life would spread throughout the planet, enduring on its own now that the Seed of Life was no longer giving direct aid. They warned the Spriggan against despair, knowing that the Face in the Deep had made them of tender heart in a way the Entaa’niri did not possess. They would carry the Face in the Deep to every corner and cavern, as soldiers and signal bearers. For the Great Wyrm was not the only evil in their world, as the foe of Life will ever be Death, no matter the form each takes.
Yet the Spriggan still bore great concern, doubting they could journey to each of the broken fountains of creation the Seed had made. How would they find these hollows that lie scattered across Noa’s face? To this the Entaa’niri spoke of the first purpose of the Verdant Shards.
Though the Seed was no longer working through the great roots, many lesser roots remained throughout the body of Noa. Of great aid to the Spriggan would be those that pathed just below the surface of the planet, known collectively as the World Root. (The roots of this weaving growth were thin in body, without great power when compared to the roots which ran out from the Seed of Life itself. Thus it avoided interest from the Great Wyrm or his basilisks.) The Verdant Shards would open the pathways of the World Root, transporting the Spriggan great distances in a moment’s time. These points of passage became known as the Wandering Stones, a namesake which endures to this day, as does their usage, which has fallen largely to Druids and those of their ilk.
Near to some of the Wandering Stones the Spriggan began their custodianship of the land, developing domains known as Groves. In time they would resist foes too extraordinary to list here and would restore what was lost while guiding mortalkind on how to lean on nature without destroying it. Their role would diminish over time, as creation found its footing apart from even their aid. But they must always be ready to war on behalf of the Face in the Deep, a charge they would take up with deadly fervor over countless centuries of existence.
Thus the Spriggan spread across the globe. Not as orphans, but wanderers.
Of Kings and Queens
Spriggan obey a familial hierarchy. Each Grove is overseen by a king, called an Oa, who pledges to carry out the mandate of the Face in the Deep. Every Grove must have a queen as well, known as an Ua, who oversees the cultivation of new Spriggan. Without her role the Grove will perish as the delicate threading of the Spriggan spirit only her magic can perform. An Ua’s voice is said to be that of nature itself, at once a bird and a wind, a brook and a storm. Her beauty as well is seen in the raiment of her hair-gown, a living tapestry of ivy, flowers and birds of every sort. Her headdress may hold active nests or a living bouquet of flowers the likes of which few on Terminus have ever glimpsed. Spriggan Oa may live for a thousand years and reign for half of that time or more, and their role is rarely subservient to or dominant of the Ua, unless the difference in age is of extreme significance. Most often their positions exist as one unit, working in tandem to preserve the Grove above all else. Spriggan hierarchy are responsible for stewarding and cultivating generations of Spriggan, a process that begins by harvesting a splinter of the Verdant Shard which is wrapped in a soft flame known as the Verdant Fire. This crystal will become the Spriggan heart, growing with the creature itself and blooming into the living flame that shines from within their eyes until the time of their passing. The Spriggan body is formed from a piece of the king and queen themselves, woven around the crystal fragment and planted in the folds of the Ua’s living garment for a time. There are rare occasions in which a Spriggan turns from the path of stewardship and chooses to forsake the Grove in favor of subversive strength, some choosing to challenge the Oa himself. Here it is the Oa’s choice as to whether the violating Spriggan is banished from the Grove or may attempt to rejoin their people over time.
The Glorious Procession
Spriggan are notoriously slow to die of natural cause. They are more resilient than common trees to blight or beetle (though not invulnerable) and age at a pace closer to glaciers than Humans (a mild exaggeration). Thus in the evening of life Spriggan will find a final home to “root” into the earth, growing their feet deep into the ground and turning their arms to sprawling branches. Over years their body will twist and change into something more tree than Spriggan, though their face and the light of the Verdant Fire will last ‘til final death.
A chief desire is a rooting location that has been used by ancestors of their Grove family line. The ground itself must be of good soil, untainted by poison, drought or climates which they are not accustomed to. (While much more hardy than common flora, Spriggan are created with ranges of adaptation but may not live or die in an environment wholly unsuited to their makeup). Spriggan prize this “well suited ground” so dearly they may wander the face of Terminus for decades in pursuit of it, mournfully breaking down in body and eventually spirit if they cannot attain it. Often these pitious creatures will fall prey to cowardly warriors, treasure hunters or simply the wind itself, breaking them apart under the hammer of storms and seasons. These Spriggan find no good rest in the world, fading into the earth like a common log rotting into the ground upon which it fell. Some may even enter the ocean itself and walk until the tide carries them away, or simply stand in the surf until their Verdant Fire is extinguished.
Yet for those who do root well the end of life is a season of tranquility and honor. Spriggan bear great respect for rooted progenitors, protecting their state and preserving their heritage. (This is perhaps why some who wander may never root even if good ground is found, as the lack of earnest protection by succeeding generations means their rooted state is nothing more than a target to the outside world.) To age into that of a fixed tree, becoming a fruitful feature of nature itself and providing a home for wildlife, is seen as an end worthy of the Face in the Deep’s gift of life.
As rooters advance in years they will become fruitful in one of two ways, which can be affected by their environment and overall health. The most common is the Seed of the Fruit, a cyclical state in which edible organics grow from the branches of the Spriggan, once it turns into a stable version of what most mortals regard as a “tree”. With arms now formed into full branches, Spriggan may bear a significant harvest throughout the entire year, as even in dying the Verdant Fire sustains life.
The second and less common path is the Seed of the Spawn. The seeds the rooted Spriggan can produce are living creatures that roam purely on their own, though they do not have the Verdant Fire and are not true Spriggan. Their first stage is that of an ordinary-looking seed, yet unlike an acorn or oak nut the Spawn are able to burrow themselves into the soil itself. Once burrowed they will develop under their parent Spriggan and become Seedlings, which are curious and wild creatures with a childlike personality. Smaller than a Gnome, Seedlings may in time grow to that of a Droling, rising to more or less than half the height of a Human male and growing in physical complexity -- as well as destructive or bountiful capabilities. (The phrase, “Catch a Seedling, raise a Droling” was born of this dynamic, and describes an opportunity that may hold unforeseen difficulty or unplanned benefit.)
In either case the role of a rooted Spriggan is that of a closing chapter in the Seed and the Wyrm, and a final victory for the Seed of Life. The war between the Seed and the Great Wyrm has outlasted countless ages and even some names of Terminus. While it appears to have ebbed for longer than Dwarves have dwelt hereupon, who is to say it cannot resume anew. Both sides may once more grapple for their fate on this ancient planet, no matter which of its mythic origins bears the most fruit.