Welcome to Yggdrasil

The Great Lifegiver, The World Ash

By Darcmikel — Planar Gray Elf and Sensate

Lady’s Grace! My name is Darcmikel and Voilá!’s garnished me very well indeed to give you the chant on Yggdrasil, fellow planeswalkers.

Am I qualified? Listen cutter, I’ve slept with the Seelie Court, climbed in its branches, and dug ‘twixt its roots. Even walked through a portal or few. And, as I’ve travelled the World Ash for over two centuries, I’ve found more than a few ways to traverse its expanse.

As any Guvner will tell you, “Everything, at some level, conforms to the Rule of Threes.” And the World Ash is no different. You see there’s three different parts to the tree: the rootstrunk, and the crown. Each area has different methods that can be used to get around.

The roots, more often than not, lead to the Lower Planes. Pandemonium, The Abyss, and The Gray Waste. Travelling here can sometimes be the hardest. Well, no harder than travellin’ The Dismal Delve in Earth. Though many of the more commonly used paths are not so difficult to follow, they’re also used by more ‘walkers, thus, more encounters. The climate here is perpetually winter, and Yggdrasil’s leaves are often withered, rotting, or the branches are bare. Don’t be fooled by appearances though, cutter, the World Ash is still very much alive!

Watch out for Nidhogg, too, if you’re tromping around the roots. Chant goes it’s a massive dragon that gnaws at the roots of the World Ash, and has been forever. When it finally bites all the way through, Yggdrasil will come crashing down, bringing half the planes with it. I imagine Nidhogg gets sick of the taste of wood, and the occasional traveller would spice up his menu no end…

On the other hand, the trunk can be one of the easiest to cross. I say cross; because, sometimes, you have to climb the trunk and it seems like days go by. Other times, it’s a few scarce miles and hours.

For the most part, colour pools in the trunk region lead to Ysgard, with its direct connection with the ground, and Arborea, as it grows up to stretch out its first branches. The odd (and I mean odd) connection to Limbo also can be found here, typically through cavities and caves at the base of the tree.

Branches can be easy to navigate in the Beastlands, but in parts of Elysium a fall can be treacherous. Luckily, many of Elysium’s inhabitants have made catches and placed nets under the more travelled branches. And I’ve even heard of paths in the air and on clusters of leaves that lead to Bytopia or even Mount Celestia. Branches can sometimes force you to travel down the tree in order to get on another trunk division.

As any Guvner worth his salt would also tell you, “There’s almost always a loophole.” In this case, two. Portals to the Prime seems to sprout up anywhere on the tree as do those to the Outlands.

It would be prudent to note that when travelling on Yggdrasil, it’s not always necessary to go through a portal or gate. Though there are plenty of those, most assuredly, and they can be found under and through branches, in crevices and knotholes, and under roots. Most often, though, one finds certain areas of the tree connected to areas of a plane, manifesting as a tremendous ash tree in one place or perhaps a grove of young ashes somewhere else. You can step through one of these connections and off the Great Tree without even realising it, cutter.

Lastly, though the Seelie Court moves throughout the planes of its own free will, it members often move about Yggdrasil in quite a different manner. See there are enchanted places, root-covered banks, ash groves, and pools with great trees over them, that the World Ash touches. If you sleep or even pass out in these places you could find yourself someplace else when you come to. Waking up in Pandemonium is not the best cure for a hang over.

Unless you don’t care where your going, I suggest you find a guide. The ratatosk, stags and birds can often help, but there are many others that know the routes as well. And, if you can befriend one of the faerie they can often show you an enchanted area to sleep at, if they’re not pulling a prank.

I think that will help you find your way in Yggdrasil’s shadow and through all it touches.

Source: Michael J Meyers and Jon Winter-Holt

Everything You Wanted to Know about Infinite Trees, and a Little Bit More

Recorded by Voilá! into his explorer mimir on a particularly uneventful climb up the World Ash

There’s a lot more to this Planar Pathway lark than meets the eye, cutters. These days it seems everyone’s using ’em. If it ain’t tipping down tanar’ri, I’m yelling at yugoloths or bashing baatezu. Some berks whisper the fiends have taken a liking to the Grand Old Tree and take every chance they get to tromp up and down her barmy branches. But most bloods know the real reason the fiends have suddenly got so keen on climbing to places they used to teleport to. But I digress. You want to know about the World Ash, right? I’ll take it in stages; it’s easier on the mimir that way…

What is Yggdrasil?

Yggdrasil goes by many names; almost as many as she has branches in fact. The World Ash, the Tree of Wisdom or Knowledge, the Grand Old Tree, the Infinite Ash; the list goes on. Milori once told me that “Yggdrasil” actually means “the horse of the terrible one”, and I thought she must’ve banged her head that day, because the Ash clearly ain’t a horse. Now I think I understand why; the terrible one is in fact Odin of the Norse pantheon, and he uses the Ash to get from place to place in a hurry. So I guess it’s like a horse. But I never did understand Divine Logic. Or kenning. Especially kenning.

So given that Yggdrasil’s really a great big tree, where does that leave us? Well, for starters, it’s such a large tree that it crosses a host of planar borders. Whether the branches, leaves and roots draw sustenance from any or all of these planes is a matter left to Yggdrasil herself to worry about, I think, but the fact remains you can climb up or down the tree, along the roots, trunk and branches, and find shimmering colour pools to any plane the Ash touches.

How does it Work?

To get onto Yggdrasil, look for a gate. You can rarely see them from the outside; just walk under an archway of branches, or through the thickest part of a copse, and you’re suddenly there. Gates to the World Ash are identified by the vegetation they’re near; the tallest tree in a forest may well be linked to (or even be) part of Yggdrasil, or a tree clinging stubbornly to the side of a sheer cliff, or a natural perfect circle of trees might have a gate at its centre.

Once you’re on the Ash, you have to climb. Nobody said planewalking was easy, cutter! In general, if you want to get to the Upper Planes, you have to climb up, the Lower Planes are down, and planes of a similar moral level to your starting place are around the trunk. But don’t take that as the law, berk, it’s just an observation I’ve made myself.

When (or should that be if ?) you reach your destination, you’ll find another colour pool (you can see them easily from the tree-side…they look a little like colour pools on the Astral, if that means anything to you). If you screw up your eyes and stare really hard, you might be able to catch a glimpse of what’s on the other side, but the best way it to step through. They don’t need keys to operate, and they’re (almost) always two way, so there’s not too much to worry about…

Those sound like famous last words, eh?

Where does it Lead?

More planes than I’ve ever cared to visit, that’s for sure. The following planes are definitely connected to Yggdrasil in one or more places (I’m sure about most of these because I’ve been there myself, berks):

Air – I’ve heard rumours that there are portals to Air above some of the branches of the World Ash. Flying would be essential.

Arborea – the Gnarl in Arvandor is touched by a particularly thick branch of Yggdrasil’s crown. There are plenty of other branches here, but this is the best-known, and best served by ratatosk guides.

Astral – en route to the Prime, Yggdrasil grows through the Astral. It’s a funny sight from here, cutter, with the light from the plane making the branches and leaves look like they’re made out of silver. What’s more, because time stops here, Yggdrasil doesn’t grow. Which beggars the question how it ever got here in the first place!

Beastlands – as one might expect from a plane of Wild Nature, the Beastlands has its share of large trees, and more than its share of connections to the World Ash. Since most of them are unmarked, take care when you travel. Yggdrasil has brown throughout all three layers.

Gray Waste – one of the Ash’s three main roots ends up in Nilfheim (the Abode of Darkness) on the second layer of the Waste, spitting distance from the horrible realm of Hel. Be vigilant here, cutter, because the foul dragon Nidhogg and her brood dwell here, gnawing on the root. One day they’ll kill the tree and the planes will come crashing down, or so the story goes. You need to see how think Yggdrasil’s roots are to understand we’re safe for a long time yet. Leave the old beast and her children well alone and you’ll usually be fine. Oh, and look out for Garm, the monstrous dog that guards the road to Nilfheim too. Hmmm… all things considered, maybe you should avoid this place altogether…

Limbo – there may or may not be Yggdrasil connections here, depending on the weather (as they say). Your best bet is Pinwheel, a bizarre stable island in the centre (they say) of the plane. If it doesn’t send you elsewhere, Limbo is its usual destination (!)

Outlands – one root (some say a branch) extends to the Realm of the Norns, leading to the Well of Urd. There are dozens of other connections throughout the Land, but only from the fourth ring and out.

Pandemonium – if you’re keen on visiting Loki’s Winter Hall, Yggdrasil is as good a way of getting there as any. Take climbing gear, or risk being blown off the tree from the fierce winds that gust through the gate…

Prime – legend has it that any prime world where they’ve ever worshipped Norse powers has at least one connection to Yggdrasil, and judging be the number I’ve found, it’s probably true. Easily the most numerous, but also the hardest to find, colour pools to the Prime litter the Astral regions of Yggdrasil like acorns on an oak tree. I’ve also heard tales of a living planet in a prime world called “Torilspace” called Yggdrasil’s Child. Now that I would pay to explore…

Ysgard – this pane is literally overgrown with bits of Yggdrasil. There are branches leading to Rowan’s Hall (the Fated headquarters out of Sigil), the Well of Mimir in Jotunheim (a place close to me own heart!), Smoke-Top in Vanaheim (that’s a root, leading underground)

I’ve heard stories that these planes might be connected, but haven’t checked them out yet:

Abyss – rumours of twisted portions of the tree and warped branches lead one to assume there might be the odd section of Yggdrasil that’s wormed its way into the Abyss.

Bytopia – although there aren’t Norse powers here, the chant goes you can reach the Twin Planes from the Tree if you look hard enough for a pool.

Earth and Water – they say the roots of Yggdrasil reach even this far, though a body’s assume they’d have to pass through the Astral, Prime and Ethereal first! I’ll reserve judgement on this one, I think. But the rumours are very persistent.

Where did it Come From?

Chalk that one up to another mystery of the planes, cutter, because nobody knows for sure. Magnum Opus tells me that the World Ash is mentioned all the way back through planar history, and is at least as old as the River Styx itself. It’s a good chance it was born the same time as the planes themselves.

Another theory goes that Yggdrasil is a natural product of the planes. Just like the Abyss represents corruption and evil, and Elysium is ultimate, peaceful goodness, Yggdrasil represents growth and renewal. Climbing it, then, becomes a symbolic gesture; as the planewalker traverses the obstacles of the Tree, so obstacles in her life are overcome, and she grows, physically and intellectually.

Yggdrasil also represents renewal. While it’s an evergreen, so the leaves don’t drop off with the seasons (though a canny basher will add there’s no seasons on most of the Outer Planes anyway!), the tree itself seems to go through cycles of growth and consolidation, where some colour pools wax or wane, new ones are formed, and older ones die. Some bloods reckon that the less-used portals eventually disappear, as if Yggdrasil only keeps them there as long as cutters stretch themselves to use them.

There are even some wild rumours that Yggdrasil grows seeds that can bloom into demiplanar flowers or fruits. They whisper that weird beings called the Yggdrani seek these seeds for purposes unknown.

And some cutters snort at that and say that it’s just a sodding big tree…

What’s Climbing it Like?

Like climbing any tree, only larger! You’ll find that many of the better-travelled routes are quite wide; often with roads big enough for wagons and caravans to pass down, because the World Ash is often used as a route of commerce. Less-known routes might have steps carved into the trunk, or ropes and ladders helpfully placed in difficult places by previous climbers. Of course, if you’re looking for an unknown portal, or one that other cutters don’t want you to find, expect to have to hack the undergrowth back yourself!

The tree itself often doesn’t look too much like a tree. It’s that, big, berk, that you can rarely see both sides of the branch, with vegetation growing on the nutritious bark obscuring the view. When you do catch a glimpse of the edges, it can look more like a cliff than a tree. There is a general sense of “up” and “down”, and falling off a branch is a hazardous process, as you’re bound to hit a branch sooner or later and invariably come out the encounter the worse off than the tree. Some areas of the tree have localised gravity, however, so you can walk along the trunk rather than down it. Be wary of points where two branches meet, though, because sudden shifts in gravity can be mighty disorientating. Often you can walk around a branch and not fall off, because gravity points to the centre. But with the tree this infused by the Planes of Chaos, it’s a leatherheaded cutter who trusts a rule of thumb all the time.

Travel times vary according to how fast a basher climbs, of course, and how far away portals are from one another, but they’re certainly a lot shorter than you might expect from a tree that crosses infinite distances! You can usually reach any point from another in 1-12 days of climbing, assuming you’re not waylaid by unpleasant encounters.

What are the Dangers?

The main dangers on Yggdrasil are other travellers. As I said before, fiends and celestials both use the Ash; depending on your temperament either one of those could be a threat to you. A fair number of monsters and hungry predators also make their homes in the branches, particularly ettercap, mold men, manticore, and trolls (who live in holes in the trunk and love to set traps).

Also beware of crossing a treant, for these self-important creatures see themselves as Yggdrasil’s guardians (ignoring the fact that the ratatosk also claim this honour).

Can I Get a Guide?

One of the best and safest ways of traversing the Tree is with a guide. While there are many touts and planewalking cutters who’ll gladly show you the way around for the right jink, the best guides I’ve found are the ratatosk. If you can bear their squirrely antics, you’ll find they know more about the World Ash than they let on…

If you must trust a humanoid, try the burg of Crux. It’s a well-known stopover point on Yggdrasil, and boasts a very pleasant tavern, and some friendly residents. You should also be able to find good guides there, at reasonable prices (so long as you’re not planning on going anywhere dangerous).

And now, if you’ll excuse, me, I think I can see my colour pool just ahead. Ah, don’t you just love the bland, washed-out smell of the Gray Waste? I’ve got a date with a ‘loth, and it’s bad form to be late. Mimir, cease recording…

Source: Jon Winter-Holt

From Ash to High Water

Being a tale of sensory exploration by Roark Chaospeaker

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.

“Life is like the Planes of Chaos, you never know what you’re going to get.”

– Roark Chaospeaker, diplomat extraordinaire of the Chaos Planes

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 Gates of the Moon, 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.

Source: Aaron Infante-Levy

How To Gain Power and Influence People

Overheard by Voilá! in the Pentacle

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?

And another thing. You know how when you grow plants in a pot and after a while the plant seems to die off even if you water it because it’s sucked all the goodness out of the soil? Well, Yggdrasil is a very big tree, with roots in the Gray Waste… need I join the dots here for you basher?

Source: Jon Winter-Holt

A Strange Effect of the Pathway

Chant from Tivus Aelon, male human member of the Athar

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.

Source: Matt Maybray

Back to Your Roots

Being a Realm in Ysgard

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.

Source: Monte Lin

The Broken Branch

Chant from Wendy Fischer — Planewalking Tourist

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.

Source: Rip Van Wormer

A Theory on Yggdrasil

Tironeas Banton, male human member of the Fraternity of Order

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.”

Source: Matt Maybray

Fiends versus Vikings

Drufus Greenstone, a githzerai Signer, tols me the following story…

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.

Source: Colin Wilson

The Lizard, the Squirrel and the Dryad

Being a cautionary tale about climbing the World Ash

The 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’ – AD&D 2e Statistics

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…

Source: Matthew David

Recommended Reading:

  • Planes of Chaos: Travelogue [2e] p42 (main entry), 43 (diagram)

Canonical Sources:

  • Deities & Demigods [3e] p164-165,167 (165) (description and diagram)
  • Dead Gods [2e] p21-47 (adventure set on Yggdrasil, see conditions on p22, half-worlds on 23, Crux 23-30, corrupted Yggdrasil 40)
  • Dragon Magazine #113 [2e] p12 (Yggdrasil in Hades)
  • Dragon Magazine #356 [3e] p61 (Nidhoggr and other linnorms gnawing at Yggdrasil’s roots)
  • Fiendish Codex 1 [3e] 113 (viper trees are children of Nidhogg)
  • Great Modron March [2e] p62-64 (Yggdrasil’s portal to Limbo)
  • Inner Planes [2e] p21 (portal to Elemental Air), 51 (Yggdrasil’s seeds are sterile)
  • In the Cage [2e] p10 (portal to Hall of Records, Sigil), 51
  • On Hallowed Ground [2e] p96 (Erevan Ilesere’s realm near Yggdrasil), 138,141 (Norse powers) 147 (Norns)
  • Planes of Chaos: Book of Chaos [2e] 42 (root in Arvandor), 94 (Winter’s Hall), 106 (Ysgard spell keys carved into roots), 112 (Well of Urd), 115 (Jotunheim), 120-121 (Anaheim, Skeinheim)
  • Planes of Chaos: Chaos Adventures [2e] p10 (adventure set on Yggdrasil)
  • Planes of Chaos: Monstrous Supplement [2e] p22-23 (ratatosk stats)
  • Planes of Conflict: Adventures in Conflict [2e] p27 (Yggdrasil touches all three layers of Beastlands)
  • Planes of Conflict: Liber Benevolentiae [2e] p6 (short summary), 17 (Yggdrasil on Krigala), 47-48 (Elysium)
  • Planes of Conflict: Liber Malevolentiae [2e] p44-45 (Yggdrasil on Gray Waste)
  • Planes of Conflict: Player’s Guide [2e] p4 (brief summary), 6 (Krigala), 9 (Verdant Guild), 12 (no connection to Bytopia), 20 (Elysium)
  • Planescape Campaign Setting: DM’s Guide [2e] p45 (short summary), 59 (Gray Waste), 64 (Ysgard)
  • Planescape Campaign Setting: Sigil and Beyond [2e] p16 (Norns), 40-41 (Glorium)
  • Planewalker’s Handbook [2e] 10 (link to Glorium),12 (Yggdrasil is a frequently used path), 21 (link to Gray Waste), 23 (Limbo), 38 (no portal keys needed), 42-43 (Yggdrasil as a path), 118 (dangers of using gate ward spell on Yggdrasil)
  • Player’s Primer to the Outlands [2e] p18 (link to Glorium), 30 (link to the Realm of the Norns)
  • Uncaged: Faces of Sigil [2e] p87 (Yggdrasil’s seeds are sterile)

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