Long ago, before language breathed and sentience sung, a new species sprung forth from the fertile earth of the High Forest. After centuries of bathing in the Forest’s enchanting ebbs, the species born from this soil was like none ever seen before nor ever seen since. They are known as the Rockbark Treemen, an ancient race of humanoid trees whose purpose it is to protect the High Forest. As still as frozen giants in their watchful yet unmoving guardianship, Rockbark Treemen are a generally peaceful race when unprovoked; weary travellers could seek refuge beneath the arch of their moss-covered arms without even realising that they were in the company of an ancient guardian.
But not all members uphold their sacred duty. Some choose to abandon their ancestral home in pursuit of adventure and power. Tales of magical items that litter the depths of Erendorn have drawn many Rockbark Treemen to the famed dungeons, where objects of untold wonder lie in wait – but malicious creatures also lurk in these shadows, and some of them are even their own brethren.
A Race of Ancient Guardians
The High Forest of Erendorn is one of the most mesmerising feats of these varied lands – but it is also one of the most integral. With the Nine Deeproot Trees of the Old Times kept safely beneath its canopies, and the constant flow of enchanting energy replenishing the air, the High Forest plays an important part in Erendorn’s ecosystem and as such, it must be protected.
Before the Old Times had even stitched a thread in Erendorn’s tapestry, and before any modern race had even opened its eyes, a species is said to have risen from the ground as though the universe had commanded it. Some even say that this was the first sentient species to be born in these lands. Bred from the High Forest’s very own soil, Rockbark Treemen are the fearless guardians of this viridescent sanctum. But while this species is characteristically enormous in size, it is rare that they are ever seen at all.
With their bodies festooned with moss and lichen, and the bark of their bodies sitting unnoticed within the shadowy groves of trees, Rockbark Treemen are as inconspicuous as the smallest caterpillar. Even their colossal stature is easily hidden by the towering trees and abundant flora. Indeed, Rockbark Treemen can grow to unfathomable heights. While saplings are often much bigger than adult Humans, aged Rockbark Treemen have been known to dwarf Giants themselves. Even so, it is not until they move – until they decide that they want to be seen – that their presence becomes noticed. And when they do this, it is hard to ignore the sheer grandeur of their appearance.
Their limbs are encased by heavy plates of bark which behave like impenetrable armour. No blood runs through their proverbial veins and instead of bones, entwining branches bind them together. While their size is intimidating, Rockbark Treemen of the High Forest are not malicious creatures. They serve only to defend the High Forest in moments of crisis or invasion. When the air is quiet and the leaves whisper of no danger, these Rockbark Treemen are physically dormant, communicating only with each other through the creaks and moans of their colossal bodies.
Rockbark Treemen of the High Forest
Since the dawn of their birth, each Rockbark Treeman has always been assigned specific areas of the Forest to protect. As their numbers grew, this now means that every corner, nook and recess is guarded and watched. While their minds stay vigilant, listening to the Forest’s rhythms as well as each other’s unspoken language, their bodies can remain dormant for months on end as they guard their designated area.
During this time, small fauna play at their feet and spiral up their bodies. Between their plates of bark sprouts small, delicate flowers and through their mesh of twigs dart playful birds and graceful butterflies. All types of fauna have even been known to seek refuge in the wooden rib cages of these ancient creatures as a way of escaping the mischievous Sprites and their cruel games.
The seamless way in which a Rockbark Treeman’s enormous body can hide in plain sight has made many traveller’s wonder whether the animals themselves can even tell that they are cavorting in the shadow of one of Erendorn’s most ancient life forms. But no matter how dormant or harmless they may appear to be, heed warning that Rockbark Treemen are indeed a force to be reckoned with, for there are many formidable reasons why these creatures were chosen as the guardians of the High Forest.
Skills and Powers of Rockbark Treemen
While their enormous size and heavy plates of impenetrable bark certainly give Rockbark Treemen the advantage in battle, it is not their only asset. One stomp from their colossal feet can shatter great monuments of stone, and the sheer length of their weighted arms makes them fearsome opponents in combat.
Like all other plant life in the High Forest, Rockbark Treeman are infused with the enchantment that flows through the Forest. While this benevolent magic bears no power itself, it grants Rockbark Treemen with Nature Resistance, protecting them when faced with opponents who can harness such magic. This, combined with their extremely high health, makes it incredibly difficult to defeat these ancient creatures. It requires a long, arduous battle to wear down a Rockbark Treemen, and even then a victory is not guaranteed.
But as strong as these Rockbark Treemen are, they possess nothing like the untethered power that a rogue Rockbark Treeman can utilise. Tongues of exhausted adventurers have described with horror the maniacal rage of these Rockbark Treemen that lurk in the dungeon depths. Corrupted members of the race, these individuals are known as Rotwood Treemen. They abandoned their role as guardians many centuries ago, instead choosing to turn their backs on the High Forest as they pursued a life of isolation and greed.
The Call of the Dungeons
As ancient creatures, Rockbark Treemen have a deep knowledge of all types of horrors that have plagued and continue to plague Erendorn. Through their ancient wisdom, they have learned how the insidious whispers of the Void can turn honourable warriors into avaricious monsters; how the greed for power and magical items has turned mighty spellcasters into maniacal sorcerers and lifelong comrades into sworn enemies. This knowledge serves as a caution against ever leaving the High Forest, which is why this species has remained there since their creation.
But there are those who become enticed by the stories their knowledge speaks of. While the majority of Rockbark Treemen stay loyal to their ancestral duty, many choose to dictate their own path. In recent years, several Rockbark Treemen have jettisoned their predestined fate and left the High Forest. The desperate pleas of their brethren were nothing compared to the cry of adventure that swelled in their core.
When these individuals left the Forest, they were not yet malicious. In fact, benevolent Rockbark Treemen have been known to enter the dungeons and leave without ever becoming compromised. They choose to explore the depths in search of helpful resources; some go because they are simply curious. But not every Rockbark Treeman that enters the depths comes out unscathed.
While it is not known exactly how Rotwood Treemen became corrupted, it is said that their desire for power plays a vital role. The more these individuals discovered, the more they desired. They lusted for the power that they had seen other creatures possess, and for the magical items that lay in wait in the treacherous depths.
Possessed by greed, Rotwood Treemen now wander through the dungeon depths in search of all the promises of power they had heard of during their isolated travels. Corrupted and crazed, these rogue individuals bear no resemblance to their brethren in the High Forest. No gentle flowers grow between their twisted cages and no animals flock to the cold pillar of their forbidding shadow. Instead of iridescent lichen and dustings of moss, the bark of these creatures is covered in nothing but the darkness of the caves that they lurk in. With wild eyes and untethered fury, Rotwood Treemen will attack anything and everything that crosses their path.
While Rotwood Treemen are greedy, avaricious and obsessed with power, these are mere symptoms of their corruption, not the cause of it. Now more than ever, Rockbark Treemen must tread carefully in the depths of Erendorn – but as more of them venture towards the notorious dungeons, the more vulnerable the High Forest becomes.