The earth felt wrong.
She tasted it through her roots, the bitter tang of defilement. It stirred her into wakefulness.
With wakefulness came her senses, and with her senses came heat and light and stifling, thick air. They overwhelmed her, the heat most of all. It shrivelled her leafy hair and withered the creepers across her torso.
Her eyes snapped open. She wrenched a shriek of anguish and pain from the depths of her roots. The jungle blazed around her. Fire scorched her bark.
The fires consumed tree and dryad and tree-kin alike. She shook her limbs, flinging fireballs of burning moss about her, and the drowsiness of her deep slumber melted away. In a sharp motion, the Branchwych Ashtiriel tore her roots from the ground and summoned her magic.
She channelled it from leaf and glade and stream. A calling. An awakening of the woods. In her spellcasting, she heard voices, harsh and grating, a blight upon tranquillity.
Dryads began to stir, flailing their burning limbs. For many it was too late and they awoke only to be engulfed in flame. Others fought against it, shaking the fire from their limbs. At Ashtiriel’s urging, they fled into the jungle, away from the voices and the fire.
Twisting her bark-like features into a scowl, Ashtiriel added her seething, primal rage to another call. A call to rouse. A call for spite. A call for vengeance.
Theme and Dryads
As the Grudgebringers arrived in a destructive conflagration, I decided to bring this theme into my Sylvaneth. Many of the dryads awoke to fire, and so I opted for a smouldering look to their bark as though, charred and black, the fires still burned. With their blazing eyes and mouths, it’s as though the dryads brought the fires into themselves and released them in a fury of magic.
The Hero – Branchwych Ashtiriel
While keeping to the same theme as the dryads, Ashtiriel is accompanied by a bittergrub over her shoulder. Being a creature of the jungle, I wanted some bright colour, hence the underbelly which may pass for stripped bark. Its carapace is supposed to look sharp and rocky, hence the bright edge and extreme highlights while the red of its legs tie it into the rest of the force as a spot colour. With her primal scream and molten scythe, Ashtiriel awakes to wreak vengeance upon those who trespassed in her realm.
The scratching behind the walls suggests a more sinister foe in our Tale of Narrative Gamers next time.