Yggdrasil, the Mother of Trees, the World Ash

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The Lizard, the Squirrel and the Dryad
Being a cautionary tale about climbing the World Ash
(by Matthew David)

PrizewinnerThe khaasta had had just about enough of the ratatosk's gibbering. Next time he captured a guide, he thought, it won't be near this bothersome. Looking at the squirrel figure with disgust, he doubted it even tasted very good. Probably too stringy.

"Where. You want. GO?" chittered the squirrel happily. The khaasta couldn't stand it. Prisoners weren't supposed to be this cheerful!

"I told you sssquirrely! Crux! There iss portal near there I need!"

"Yesssss," mimicked the ratatosk, " Crux! I take! You. Lizard. Crux!" It chittered, excitedly.

Despite the fact that it wore a steel collar around its neck attached to a chain that the walking lizard was holding, the ratatosk seemed in high spirits (much to the khaasta's displeasure). If it weren't for the fact the the lizard needed the squirrel to guide him through the twisting World Ash, Yggdrasil, he would have cut the bothersome furball in half long ago with his long sword. He should never have strayed off the path and gotten lost. Dumb thing to do.

The gigantic branch that the two walked on strayed far to the left and right of them. Had the khaasta looked over the edge, he would have seen more such gigantic branches all around. Branches so large, that they could even be settled by small communities. Hence, Crux, the destination of the khaasta. From there he hoped to find a way back to his home. He was eager to leave. This tree didn't suit his tastes for a permanent residence.

The ratatosk continued to gibber about this and that. The khaasta decided that he had, in fact, had quite enough. He came to a stop and unshouldered his back pack.

The ratatosk, curious as always, turned to see what was going on. "What. Scaly do?" he inquired.

The khaasta pulled a flask and two stones from his pack. He had threatened the squirrel to be quite many times already, but to no avail. It was time to threaten what the ratatosk seemed most proud of, what the majority of his mutterings had been about.

"If you don't sssshut up onccce and for all," growled the khaasta, "I'm going to burn that which you hold most dear. Your precious tree."

To the khaasta's continued annoyance, his threat didn't appear to work. Instead of scaring the squirrel into submission, the squirrel was currently engaged in rolling around on the ground, laughing/chittering his fur off.

"You think I'm JOKING?!?" bellowed the lizard.

"You. You. You..." serious of chitter/chuckles "...you. Funny lizard. You burn tree. You. Burn too." The squirrel seemed to be regaining some of its composure. "'Sides. Tree not burn. Too 'live."

"That sssso? Well then, little sssquirrel, I shall have to wait until I am about to leave, and then usse some of my magic potion." He pronounced this "posshun".

Curious again, the ratatosk asked, "What that do?"

Smiling wickedly, the khaasta replied, "It isss known asss 'greek fire'. It burnsss anything very well."

"Even water?"

"No! Not...", the khaasta realised that the ratatosk was mocking him. Clearly a demonstration was in order. A small one, so he wouldn't burn up like the ratatosk said. Besides, he had seven more flasks in his back pack, enough to char a couple branches as he left and amuse the khaasta greatly.

He poured a few drops of the greek fire on the branch, the ratatosk silent now, watching. He brought his two rocks together and started clacking them together to get a spark.

The khaasta's head jerked up as he sensed another presence. Standing several paces before him was a beautiful female. Her skin was the colour of bark and her hair as green as the leaves about her. Her clothing seemed composed of nothing but sticks and leaves. Elf, thought the khaasta, grabbing his weapon. Now this one'll be tasty, if I'm not mistaken. The ratatosk hadn't made a sound for some time, and something about that bothered the lizard. Surely it should be inquiring a million things about the elf by now.

The ratatosk said only one thing as the khaasta stood up and unsheathed his sword in one swift motion. He heard it as he bent his knees to lunge, his scaly tail swinging in anticipation. The word he said, quite clearly, and with not a little bit of awe, was "Mother."

The khaasta lunged, his head slamming down on the branch as he realised that somehow, probably through the elf's magic, his feet were embedded in the tree's bark. Cursing in his guttural language, he raised his head, seeing what trick his opponent would unleash next. She was...

"Gone." Said the ratatosk, some distance away from the khaasta. He had easily pushed the overly large collar over his head and was now watching the khaasta from a nearby branch.

"Where'd the sorcerousss elf go?" He demanded, attempting to stand so he could asses the damage to his clawed feet.

"Mother returned. Tree."

What nonsense was this? "She fled?" he asked.

"Fled? No Scaly! Still here. Mother. Always here."

The reptile looked around. Obviously his quarry had fled, having done it's damage. Coward, he thought. He looked down at his feet. His reptile eyes opened wide as(frightened?) hiss escaped his mouth. "What did she...?"

His feet had transformed. No longer did scaled digits wiggle about, but roots. Roots that dug deep into the World Ash's branch.

"You try. Hurt. Mother. No like. Mother punish."

"What?" cried the khaasta, his confidence shaken.

"Don't worry. You become. Ummm...word... Not morry? Not mortal?"

"Immortal?" asked the stunned khaasta.

"YES!!! Immortal-thingy! Part of Mother. You. Her. One." The ratatosk's big overbite showed clearly as he beamed at the lizard.

"Then that, that thing that did thisss wasss..." he couldn't continue, fearing the answer.

"Mother!" yelled the squirrel happily. "Yggdrasil!"

And so, the ratatosk kept the the khaasta company for several hours, as the khaasta's bark skin slowly extended up from his feet, to his legs, to the rest of his body. And when the khaasta's screams, curses, and pleas finally stopped, when all that remained was a branch vaguely shaped like a humanoid, the ratatosk returned home, thankful for the Mother Of Them All, Yggdrasil, her protection.

And so does Yggdrasil continue to manifest herself, to this day, in the form of a dryad, lovely beyond compare, and always eager to protect the tree that is as one with her as Sigil is to the Lady.

Yggdrasil's Avatar: -- "The Dryad"

Strength: 17, Dexterity: 21, Constitution: 19
Intelligence: 18, Wisdom: 20, Charisma: 17
AC: -6
, THAC0: -3, MR: 85%
Hp: 180, Dmg: 1-4+4 (knife +4), #AT: 1

Aside from the normal dryad abilities (charm, dimension door, and speak with plants), The Dryad has the special ability flesh to wood any number of times per day. This ability is usable on anyone who is touching Yggdrasil. Once used, the target is slowly transformed over a period 1d6 hours, from the feet up, into a part of Yggdrasil. Neither a dispel magic or a remove curse can lift this. This ability is usually saved for anyone who directly attacks the tree. Perhaps if friends of a PC who suffers this fate performs some act of goodness for the tree, the Dryad might consider lifting her curse.

The Dryad also has spell casting abilities as per an 18th level druid.

Even if destroyed, the Dryad will spring forth from the World Ash 1d6 weeks later, completely regenerated.

The Dryad is an incarnation of Yggdrasil in mortal form. It is unknown as to whether or not Yggdrasil employs other avatars, but she's always ready to employ the Dryad when the World Ash comes under attack. It is also unknown as to whether or not she has the typical dryad weakness of being attracted to charismatic males, but maybe this is because none of them have ever come back to say.

Much like the Lady of Pain, the Dryad remains somewhat of a mysterious figure. Never saying a word, she appears when she is needed for the protection of the World Ash. Of course, maybe she would loosen her tongue if the right guy came along...

 

From Ash to High Water
Being a tale of sensory exploration by Roark Chaospeaker
(by Aaron Infante-Levy)
I hadn't been raising the flag, it was simply that I was the blood for the job, and the factol of the Sensates knew it. I've heard rumours about berks losing their brain-boxes over her appearance, her amazingly regal grace, but she didn't move me one bit it was the jink that got my attention. The subtle offering of a prize in gold holds more attraction for me than all the pretty cutters' faces in the multiverse. She outlined it clearly, using words like "expedition" and "trepidation" and "multitude of uncertainties." The way I scanned the chant, my ride was simple -- verify a path on Yggdrasil leading from Arborea to Ysgard.

Peery, I inquired into the complications. Nobody I've run across so far has asked me to undergo a task so easy a task; apparently only slightly harder than finding a portal in Sigil. It was trivial enough to be a slap in the face. It was trivial enough to make me ask questions. I was recalling the dark that the factol had passed onto me as I trekked through the stately evergreens of the High Elves' Kingdom in Arvandor. Arborea certainly has a penchant for the immense. It was no surprise that a small party of Sensates should vanish without a trace here. It was no surprise that little should be known about a root path crawling through a lonely stretch of pine needle shadows. It came as no surprise that I should be here. I have the reputation as the best diplomat this side of the Great Ring no one could challenge my title on the Chaos Planes. So, there I was, plodding along through soil still moist from rain a fortnight ago.

At first, I hadn't realised that I was standing on the World Ash. Soon, however, I noticed that I was not walking across a fallen tree, but an enormous root winding into the upper canopy as if an enormous serpent had been slain while still coiled around the huge pines. This serpent that I walked across now had never relinquished its hold on the forest around me, even after its death. With ease, I ducked beneath outcropping tree limbs, tangled walls of vine, and dangerous knobs of gnarled wood threatening to send me careening more than seventy feet into the earth below. Then I saw it...

Then I saw it, the inscription in the branch clearly the rune of Ysgard. Kneeling by the marker, I traced the wood carving, feeling how the wood had been shaped by mortal hands to receive a bare message. It was as if all the wild here had somehow been tamed by a simple relic of man's language the rune was out of place and yet I marvelled at it. Lifting my head, I saw the root twining higher and higher above the trees, sloping upward into infinity. I was thankful that I had brought with me climbing gear and rope.

The going had begun to get tough. All about me there was rain. At first it was a few heavy drops, then it was a torrent of pelting water, and soon it had grown into full sheets of water clapping across my back. I did not give in. I kept pushing. The rope became slick, the hemp saturated with rainwater. This made the going harder. A few more footholds and I would have respite, a moment to press myself against Yggdrasil's trunk and hide from the rain, a moment in which to drill an iron spike into the wood and lash my rope about it. That moment never came.

All sense of gravity vanished and I was floating, floating in the rain. I felt my body slipping away from Yggdrasil, my hemp rope drifting away from me, disappearing into the darkness of the waters. Whirling about, I struggled to get my bearings. Bubbles of air seeped rapidly from my mouth, rising upward toward some non-existent surface. Involuntary contractions began to occur in my chest I was drowning.

Simultaneously, I felt myself sinking. With what little strength I had, I tore at the climbing pitons, my belt, the thick hide backpack I had carried, anything that sought to pull me down. My hands felt clumsy in the leather gloves, and I nearly bit my fingers off removing them with my teeth. The pressure hit my ears like a Maelphant's trumpeting. Asgardian war drums played inside my temple. I clutched the only thing I could - Yggdrasil. Its roots held onto me, enveloping me like a human hand. Recoiling in shock, I saw the corpse staring at me, hollow eyes wide in terror, lips half parted in a drowned scream, a once in a lifetime sensation. How fitting that the Sensate party was scribed to the dead-book here. I, Roark Chaospeaker, would not fall so easily.

I had come so close to reaching the surface my mind was a blank slate save for the driving motivation of survival. Through the surface of the water, through my last vanishing air bubbles, I could see moonlight shimmering across the waves. The melting wax of the moon scintillated on the liquid swells above me. Then, there was the cool, comforting sensation of darkness.

Of course, I'm a resourceful blood, otherwise, how would I be here telling my tale over a warm ale? A lillend saved me, but I do not know her name. I only can remember her sleek serpentine form, her rainbow hue wings merging silently with the waters.

It didn't take me long to understand the dark of what'd happened, but to this day the sheer audacity of the idea leaves me staring like a wide-eyed barmy. Yggdrasil, the great planespanning World Ash, grew straight into the waters of The Moon Gates, a realm on Ysgard overseen by Selune and Soma, deities dedicated to the moon. The root I had followed led directly under the waves. Other chant I've heard indicates that the River Oceanus winds its way through Gates of the Moon, but its course is determined by the ebb and flow of the moon. Imagine a place where Yggdrasil, the River Oceanus, and the Infinite Staircase all meet, and you'd have the Moon Gates. No spot in the multiverse is the centre of it all, but I'd keep my eyes on this one all the same, berk.

"Life is like the Planes of Chaos,
you never know what you're going to get."

-- Roark Chaospeaker,
diplomat extraordinaire of the Chaos Planes

Branch divider

How To Gain Power and Influence People
Overheard by Voilá! in the Pentacle
(by Jon Winter)

When I heard this, I thought it was so barmy it simply had to be true! The chant goes that back when humans were young, Odin (the high-up of the Norse pantheon) was a fairly minor power. In order to gain wisdom and might, he hanged himself on Yggdrasil the World Ash, in effect sacrificing himself to himself! Struck me as a little extreme, but clearly it had the desired effect. I wonder how many other powers'd be brave enough to try this?

A Strange Effect of the Pathway
Chant from Tivus Aelon, male human member of the Athar
(by Matt Maybray)

Listen up, berk. I was doing a routine research mission on Bytopia, and I ran into this tiefling girl walking around all confused. She asked me where she was, and when I told her, she looked even more confused.

She told me she was travelling on Yggdrasil to reach a spot on Elysium, got on the wrong branch, and ended up here. Her story peaked my interest. If she was telling the truth (and she looked to addled to lie), then she managed to accomplish the impossible.

Seeing as how the World Ash involves those sods the Aesir, I decided to plant my ears to ground and see if I couldn't here any strange chant 'bout the Tree. I've heard at least three other tales of bloods winding up on planes they shouldn't (one more on Bytopia, while two separate cutters wound up on the Abyss).

I did some more research, and I've developed a theory. Yggdrasil's branches are expanding into other planes because the Tree's experiencing a mild (in relative terms, of course) growth spurt. And as far as I can tell, those berks, the Norse powers, ain't involved, so I'm not too worried.

 

Back to Your Roots
Being a Realm in Ysgard
(by Monte Lin)

In Ysgard's void, away from the rivers of earth, an enormous cluster of trees float near one of the roots of the Great Tree Yggdrasil. Each tree measures at least a mile, and though the cluster is finite, the size of the cluster has not been measured. Nor is the identity of the power known.

Each tree rotates at different speeds, with the leaves brushing against other branches other constantly. Thus, the natives call this realm, the Shuffling. Evidently, a civilisation of primitive elves live on the trucks of the trees, while a colony of intelligent giant spiders, not necessarily evil, spin their webs on the branches of other trees.

Gravity is localised to the trunk of each tree, so flying can be tricky. Druids who have visited this realm speculated that each tree in the Shuffling is the spirit of a holy tree in the Prime. Or perhaps each tree is a petitioner.

One more rumour to note: a few trees have turned black, as if burned, and the branches become bare. All the natives avoid each tree out of fear and superstition, though planewalkers sense a deep and powerful magic in these darkened trees.

The Broken Branch
Chant from Wendy Fischer -- Planewalking Tourist
(by Rip Van Wormer)

Deep in the Outlands is an enormous branch the size of, like, Waterdeep or something. It dams up a section of the River of Hilarity that runs from Arborea, and that's, you know, like three miles wide. Whole tribes of those ratatosk peoples scamper about in its rotting, moss-covered bigness, completely stoned out of their minds by the fumes from the River. They eat the moss, I think.

So where did it come from? I mean, obviously it was part of Yggdrasil, but how'd it end up here? I thought pieces of the World Ash just floated around in the Astral until githyanki squatters found it. How does it decide where to shift to?

I mean, it really makes you think.

Well, gotta go. I'm gonna try and trade some ash leaves or something for some of that Essence of Hilarity they brew -- my Sensate buddies'll love it.

Branch divider

A Theory on Yggdrasil
Tironeas Banton, male human member of the Fraternity of Order
(by Matt Maybray)

Excerpt of Letter written to Riki Motar, friend, colleague, and Athar scholar

"Speaking of Ysgard, do you remember that time you were telling me about your distaste of the Aesir and how you wished that that Ragnarok they're always rattling their boneboxes about would hurry about and destroy them all, thus making the multiverse a better place?

"Well, our talk prompted me to do some research into the various prophecies of Ragnarok, and I must tell you, it is all very fascinating! One of the key events of Ragnarok is that this dragon, named Nidhogg (who resides in Hel's kip on the Wastes), will supposedly uproot Yggdrasil. My friend, think of the ramifications if that should come to pass.

"Firstly, the damage to the Upper Planes caused by the falling branches would be extraordinary. Secondly, when a tree uproots, it usually flings bits of soil and earth all over the place. Now, the World Ash's roots are mainly found on the Lower Planes (the Gray Wastes and Pandemonium, mainly, though I suspect there are some roots in the other Lower Planes as well).

"The uprooting of Yggdrasil could very well change the face of the Outer Planes as we know it. Why, you could find a 'loth kip smack-dab in the middle of Arborea! It's all very disturbing, but fascinating nonetheless."

Branch divider

Fiends versus Vikings
Drufus Greenstone, a githzerai Signer, tols me the following story...
(by Colin Wilson)

I was in a tavern last week talkin' to a tiefling I had met on the street. After getting a couple of drinks down him, he was talking all night about his adventures on the Lower Planes. One of his more interesting stories was of an invasion of Ysgard that the fiends are apparently planning. Seems the baatezu and tanar'ri have both realised the usefulness of being in control of Yggdrasil and are racing each other to capture it first.

About this time a tanar'ri sitting at a nearby table came up and coldly said that our conversation was over. He then abruptly dragged off my companion, and that was the last I saw of him. Now I ain't one to believe every addle-coved sod who tells me some dark (especially when they're as drunk as this bubber was), but the fact that the tanar'ri wasn't too keen on him telling me is enough to make me suspicious. But I'll leave you to make up your own mind, cutter.

Copyright 1998 by Jon Winter and respective authors,
artwork by Jeremiah Golden and Jon Winter

Consult the Mimir Again