Jardan likes to be prapared - he keeps potions and herbal concoctions hidden in secret pockets, amongst them sleeping powder, smoke dust and various poisons; several enchanted acorns that can make trees grow in seconds and enchanted bone charms are but a taste of the tricks up his sleeves. On strings around his neck, he keeps dozens of flutes and whistles that can call the various beasts of the wild.
Jardan appears ancient, yet vital, a tall man with a mane of snow-white hair and a beard that falls amost to the ground. His face is wrinkled from frequent smiles, and his eyes sparkle with a keen spirit.
Usually dressing in dull brown robes, leather and fur, his attire is complemented by vines and mosses growing out of it, as if he was and old tree.
As a mark of his office as the Keeper of the Alui Woods, he carries a gnarld stave tipped with a stag's skull, and a bearskin cloak.
A man of swift wit and no little drive, Jardan soon set out to increase the inheritance left by his father - with wagon and caravan, on boat and horseback, he crossed the Seven Seas, the Great Desert, and the Bloodsky Vast, always a step ahead.
He was an opportunist, not all too honest, but enought to be trusted from time to time. Still, more than once he vanished with a shipment due, or used his little-trained magical talent to improve the looks of his wares. A few times, he even backstabbed his companions - but only when he was sure they were going to do the same to him.
Making a decent living thus, he enjoyed life as much as he could, a sybarite, nowhere at home, without a creed, unbound.
But his past caught up with him, when the henchmen of Gradu Bocca, a crime lord he once cheated and stole his shipment of lotus pollen, and 'accidentally' sold his daughter who was meant to watch over it into slavery, caught up with him.
All his fortune the apology cost him, and still, that eve, he overheard that despite all, he was going to swim with the fishes next morning, chained and tossed into the harbor.
Grabbing what he could, he stole the next horse, and stormed off into the wilds.
With the thugs at his heels like bloodhounds smelling prey, he hid in the deepest woods, in Alui, where every tree is haunted and the animals speak tongues.
There, he stumbled upon a man old and wizened, and badly hurt - a crossbow bolt protruding from his side.
Gazing up with fading eyes, the elder spoke: 'Do not let the spirit of Alui die... I am the last... take it from me, and the forest will keep you safe!' Jardan shrugged, and though but a moment - safety was all he wished for now. 'Right, pops, hand it over. I will surely keep it.' And a spark rose from the old man's chest, and flew, throbbing like a heart, until it settled on Jardan and faded. The elder breathed one last time and collapsed.
The old man spoke true, for Jardan suddenly left no trace, and rocks and trees moved to block pursuit, streams swelled to raging torrents as soon as the thugs entered them and vermin ate their supplies.
A white stag led the merchant to a home inside the trunk of a great tree, and there he rested, smiling. He had made it again! No justice or vengenance could catch him!
A few days later, rested and well, he set out to leave. But as soon as he left the shadow of the forest, he noticed a tingling on his skin, that grew stronger and more pronounced with every step. As soon as the last tree vanished behind a turn of the road, he noticed himself becoming translucent, and lost consciousness soon after that.
When he woke up, he found himself lying on the floor of the tree dwelling.
'Strange!' he thought, and set out once more, only to experience the same, regardless into which direction he went. After two days of this, he was absolutely furious, kicked at furniture in the tiny hut and yelled in his rage.
That was when he heard a childlike voice behind him: 'Wise one, Wise One, I've got an arrow in my hand!' A vein throbbing on his forehead, he turned around, shouting: 'What do you want, brat?' only to find himself staring down at a figure perhaps three feet tall, resembling a raccoon, it was just that it walked upright, was dressed in wool, and had a shortbow and quiver on its back.
'I have not time for your stupid arrow. Tell me how to get out of this damned wood, and quickly!'
Wonder in its eyes, the raccoon replied: 'But wise one, you are the new druid - you cannot leave!'
Jardan's jaw fell open as he looked at the midget in true horror.
'Buzz off! If this stupid forest wants to keep me as a prisoner, it can. But I won't lift a finger to help it!' With that, he booted the midget out of the hut and slammed the door.
The next days went slow - he strolled through the hut and the surrounding woods, but everywhere he was followed around by curious glances, or greetings and affection - in his confusion he fled, and hid in his hut.
Still, the fae and wyldlings brought him berries and wild game, and dryads came to lure him out of his hiding with their song.
Ennui and curiosity lured him out finally and broke his stubborn defiance. 'So' he spoke 'I'm supposed to be some gardener here or what?'
'No, Wise One, you are the Caretaker and Warden, Bearer of the Essence of Alui, the hundred-and-seventh in a row. Yours is the task to keep the forest well and safe' came the reply.
'Sooo...' grinning slightly he asked 'I'm your manager, right?'
In the next years, he settled the disputes between the shapeshifters, led by Arnath Blackmane, and the wyldlings,
putting an end to their furry quarrels. Applying his skills, he taught the fae to manage their supplies, set up watches guarding the borders of the woods, and woke the treants to teach the youth.
Organized groups of fae tended to the flora and fauna of the woods, curing the ill and enchanting the healthy, weaving glamors and erecting menhirs to tap ley lines.
Like he changed the way of things, so his surroundings changed him in turn - he learnt to appreciate the fresh scent of wind, the tingling of rain against his skin, or the natural and healthy beauty of a dryad.
Day after day, he considered the wood more and more his home, and he felt it accepting him - even his sorcery, once barely able to cover the rottenness of an apple, could shape trees into dwelings.
It was in the year of Sparkling Tides when gems were discovered in the Falloe River, whose springs were located in the very heart of Alui.
Droves of fortune seekers ventured upstream, throwing the woods into chaos as their axes cut deep to build abodes, their waste sullied the stream and their cattle grazed down all that was green.
After several bloody clashes, Jardan realized the truth - regardless of how fierce the resistance of the woodland dwellers would be, the humans would prevail, their anger and greed just fanned by the conflict.
Still, he felt desire for human company burn in his heart, and that was when the greatest of his ideas crossed his mind.
Calling the leaders of the neighbouring human lands, some of whom he knew in person, me made an offerthey could not refuse: he'd allow them access to the gems, and even ease the traffic of caravans through the woods, under one condition - all dwellings would be made of living trees, the inhabitants would eat but what grew on them, and no tree would fall, no arrow fly towards a wild beast.
They agreed, and Tenna-Liu came into being, a trade center at one with the wild.
Still, Jardan was not content - he felt like his forest did not recieve the fair share, his merchant instincts led him to seek more.
One by one, with subterfuge, subtlety, or direct violence, he forced the outsiders out of business, one by one, until the city was firmly in his grasp, with the fairy mafia in charge, and surly treemen keeping watch over the streets and paths, pretending to be yet another trunk.
Caravans from the wood travel to all corners of the world, supplying rare herbs, wines and juices, exotic fur and precious stones.
Over all this prezides Jardan, the druid of the most successful wood in history, having lost little of his vigor or drive. While he enjoys himself, pretending to be just an old man, the wealth he amassed and the power he weilds are a force to be reckoned with - a shapeshifter or squirrel-wildling can come after you anywhere, and a bag of fairy-dust is sometimes more powerful than brainwashing.
Jardan is a cunning old man - behind his venerable and friendly countenance, a spirit as keen as a razor dwells. He is also quite ruthless, and rarely given to procrastination.
There are several forest dwellers he cares about - like Lyria, his favourite dryad, or Elle and Roy, two fox artists. But most of the outsiders should tread lightly lest they will be considered ... unnecessary, or even a nuisiance. Should that happen, they will be cornered by trees with eyes burning red, in some dark alley.
Most people know about the status quo - obey him, and the forest will protect you. Cross him, and no-one can protect you.
While he may be wise in the ways of the forest, he still enjoys some benefits of the civilization - from time to time, he'll play a game of poker; he enjoys the company of young ladies; sometmes, he'll show up at an arena fight.
*Encroaching forest: while Jardan's power is linked to the wood, that does not mean he does not want to visit or control distant places. To that end, his followers expand the forest, plant parks of forest trees and thus spread his influence.
On a darker not,e he might try to engulf the whole land with his forest, and preside over all.
*Madness in the forest: while Jardan is quite benevolent towards his minions, he does not have to. What if he went mad, selling nymphs to slavery, exploiting his forest, or simply become paranoid, fearing and mistrusting all?
Help a few rebels thwart him!
*Dealings of the families: the PCs may be the employees of a mafia group, defending their clan's interests against the 'forest scum' or they may work for Jardan and break a few bones in his name when the competition becomes obnoxious.
*A watchful eye: the druidic council is wary of his doings. Keep an eye on him!
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? Responses (10)-10
Whoe - a reluctant druid - now that IS an original idea and I already gets my Wish I'd thought of that award.
I think I'll hold off voting until the rest of the story is posted, but I will say that if it's even half as good as this you're on to a winner here.
This could be a 5/5 post soon. :)
So - Derek "Del-Boy" Trotter meets Merlin the Druid - this is every bit as good as promised - the Wish I'd thought of that award as well deserved indeed - 5/5
A case of 'The DruidFather'.No doubt the non human races have their own organized crime gangs.
I do not remember this one. Bonus points for the originality. Well executed and good flow. Nice addition of plot hooks. This one is worthy of some additional attention.
Could be a little polished, but there is one interesting NPC!
You have also forgotten the most expected plot hook: that the druid would start to feel the autumn coming, and that soon (months? years? a decade?) he should find himself a successor. And he wants to preserve all that he has created... it will be a tough job to pick the right one.
Wow, unvoted is bringing up gems. I love this one! Top marks!
This is fun story, reminds me of Moses, the Green lantern, the Blackhood, the Phantom, and others. What I really like about this is how the story justifies the pay off. If you were to write up the fairy mafia with Trent enforcers, people would not buy it, but you story of Jardan takes us there and makes us believe it accept it and see at as a natural extension of the story.
I agree could use some polish, but the goal, execution and style are fantastic.