Crastia in many ways is quite typical of a dryad. While not the tall and willowy creature of bard’s tales she is still a very much a woman seemingly made of wood. Rather than the forest nymph, she is a bit on the short side and most would call her fat or pleasantly plump depending on their disposition. Her face is generous and somewhat wide and her hair of appleleaf almost always has some apple blossoms in it. In the springtime, she has a wild mane of nothing but apple blossoms for hair. In the autumn she seems to gain weight and take on the appearance of a woman heavy with child.
The apple groves at the village of Applerow are quite ancient, their seeds sown in ages past. It was the good luck of the villages when they made the land near the grove their new homes. Being followers of the Old Ways, those villagers of the past honored the spirits of the wood, the TreeKings, the Loru Valsharris, and the myriads of other green folk. In exchange for this honor, the folk of the wood provided well for the villagers and gave them their blessings.
Crastia assumed a role much like a cleric among the dryads, since her tree was one of the closest to the village and her close contact with humans made her more comfortable around them. Soon, it became a local tradition to have wedding ceremonies and to ask blessings for children from Crastia. Visiting the elder apple became almost a rite of passage for young people in love. Many even spoke with Crastia in terms of matchmaking since she so frequently saw all sorts of young people and was wise in the matters of attraction and other such seemingly human foilbles.
The Trinity and Iron Nails
This lasted for several centuries until the Kingdom of Trinistine made it’s appearance in the Midlands. While the primary conversions occured in the cities, it was only a matter of time before the clerics of the Trinity started to spread out across the land to quash the remnants of the Old Ways. The Trinity indeed did just that, and given the lack of organization among the Druids and their cults it was not considered a difficult task, just a long and tedious one. While many local spirits paid little to no heed to the changing of the ‘guard’ as many saw it, Crastia very much felt it.
When the new Abbot came and raised his little abbey in Appleton, one of his first orders of business was to tidy up the local’s superstitions. The altars and wickerman burnings quickly died out, as did the more macabre feasts and the ritual fornication was brought very quickly to an end. The next order was to establish the new Abbey as the spiritual nexus of Applerow and the surrounding land. The conflict came when the locals passed over the Abbey and instead kept to the old ways and asked Crastia to perform the oaths of marriage. This was considered blatantly unacceptible.
The answer came in the form of a hammer and six foot long iron nails. The Abbot found Crastia’s tree and with stead hand pounded each nail home into the heartwood of her tree. With each swing he recited verses of the Liturgy of Obedience and Submission. Deeply wounded, the Abbot forced Crastia to withdraw from her old practices as they were now a violation of the sovereign rights of the Clergy of the Trinity. Crastia, bleeding sap from her six wounds, had no choice but to accept his terms.
Nostalgia and the Old Ways
The old Abbot eventually died, as did his replacement and his replacement’s replacement. Such is the nature of short lived humans, but Crastia remained and watched. While the dogma and ritual of the priesthood forgot the dryad of the groves, the locals still remembered the old ways in some form. The first apple of the season was offered to the spirits of the wood, and the cider-brewers still stamped her name on the casks of cider being made, though they no longer knew what the symbol meant. The Clergy even played unknowingly to this, by their uncharacteristic local vow to not consume the flesh of an apple.
Young couples still keep a tradition, to hold hands and kiss under the boughs of an apple tree when they make their vows. Apple blossoms are still found in bridal bouquets and in garlands in young girl’s hair.
A Simple Question
Some might ask why the Old Abbot, if he could harm Crastia, why did he not kill her? The spirits of the wood realm are fickle beings, much concerned with the welfare of their brethern. While a fire elemental cares not two cents about the fate of another flame spirit, a TreeKing notices the plowing of the fields, and the ghosts of grain smell the ash of burning lumber. In other areas, strong plant spirits were indeed slain in the mission of ousting the Old Ways. In each circumstance, calamity ensued. In the village of Bigsby Hollow, a traveling cleric staked out a site for a nre church and with the aid of his acolytes summoned and destroyed the WoodKing of Bigsby Hollow to end his veneration and annual festival. In responce, the following spring, none of the fruit trees flowered, the grain in the field was of very poor quality and the new chuch was overrun by plagues of crawling spiders and nests of bagworms.