Aras Tay

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The Clockwork Jungle

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Aras Tay are the Forest's equivalent of fey, but they are wholly different from what "fey" is often taken to mean. We may be familiar with the "usual" character of fey and nature spirits in fantasy – secretive, but beautiful and sublime, and often good (if slow to trust). The Aras Tay represent an entirely different facet of nature. They are spirits of the wilderness, "red of tooth and claw," embodying the savage ferocity and pitiless amorality of the natural world. Nature is often unkind and always fickle, and they are no exception.

Aras Tay all have some basic level of intelligence, but communication with them is difficult. They do not possess speech, and even if telepathy is used, their minds are quite alien to the average sentient creature – they are quite single-minded, do not understand the emotions of most sentients, and do not understand the concepts of right, wrong, good, or evil. One is born, eats, sleeps, and dies – despite their intelligence, Aras Tay do not ascribe any higher moral purpose to life or existence. Some say they are not really individual creatures at all, just pseudo-independent manifestations of the will of the Forest itself.

It is unclear what the "purpose" of the Aras Tay is, but even asking the question may be folly - to the Forest, there is no purpose beyond life, death, and the eternal struggle between them. Some who care to guess at their origins say that they are facets of the Forest's will, living weapons against the Peril, spirits that arose from the soil at the dawn of time, or the caretakers of the Forest and its eternal cycles.

Aras Tay are divided into two broad categories, lesser and greater. Greater Aras Tay are distinct individual entities; they have no types or races, as each one has its own unique form and abilities. Lesser Aras Tay are more common. They belong to one of several archetypes, much like a species of animal or plant.

Lesser

The "common" Aras Tay occupy a niche much like any other Forest creature. Typically, however, they exhibit a bizarre physiology and strange habits that differentiate them from common animals. The nightmarish Kuen, for instance, lives entirely for the hunt and does not even seem to require sustenance, while the Mirau is a confusing blend of animal and plant into one creature. Universally, lesser Aras Tay do not reproduce like other animals. Most create new Aras Tay on their own, while other types seem to be spontaneously generated by the Forest.

Lesser Aras Tay are clearly more intelligent than common beasts (though as noted, their particular intelligence is not easily accessible to the civilized races). They have some innate knowledge of the emotions and intentions of other creatures; somehow, an Aras Tay always knows whether a creature means it harm or not.

Selected Lesser Aras Tay

Greater

Greater Aras Tay are the near-immortal servants of the Forest that dwarf nearly every other kind of life. Unlike their lesser cousins, they are each unique in form, unduplicated by any creature upon the face of the world. The lesser Aras Tay may be the ferocity and pitilessness of the Forest, but the greater ones are its incredible majesty and power, sublime and magnificent in their every move and heedless of the mere mortals that scurry about beneath them. Many worship them as gods, but few have ever gained their notice, for they are the travelers of the verdant ages for whom a season is a mere heartbeat.

The number of greater Aras Tay appears to be around two dozen, but there are likely some that live in deep reaches of the Forest where none have seen them. Some travel widely and are known to many, while others remain obscure in their private domains of Forest. Nobody can say what drives them to wander, or what compels them to stay. Only once in history's long and misty memory have they moved together towards a clear goal, when the existence of life itself was threatened by the Saffron Moss, and the light of civilization was nearly extinguished.

Selected Greater Aras Tay

The "Keepers of the Trees" (as they are sometimes called) have many names, but are often known by brief appellations which have no recorded meaning. Perhaps they were named in forgotten generations past, or perhaps their names are primal utterances whispered on the pollen-laden wind when the Forest first bloomed.