Dryads, also known as eerie wives by humans and Aen Woedbeanna in Elder Speech, are the nymphs of the woods, concentrated primarily in their forest realm of Brokilon. Born through sexual contacts with other races or transformed by the Water of Brokilon, they are exclusively female and their descendants remain so for many generations even without drinking the Water.
Dryads tend to have a slender and small build. It is generally impossible to distinguish a naturally born dryad from the transformed one; only older girls who became dryads after 10 or up can be recognized due to lack of distinct dryad sweat which smells like willow's leaves.
Their skin tones can be described as similar to humans, though often take on forest-like tints of olive, chestnut, red or green. At some occasions however they may appear entirely green. The exact shade is often unclear due to Brokilonian habit of painting skin into camouflage patterns by scouts and sentinels, as well as wearing clothes patched up out of their natural surroundings, like leaves and twigs, which help them to blend into the forest. Dryads living in settlements in the heart of the forest, like Queen Eithné, tend to wear more fanciful dresses.
The relation between dryads and magic might be very strong, though the Sources are practically absent among members of this race. The Water of Brokilon often activates the magical abilities in young girls, in similar way the witcher mutagens do it in witchers.
Apart from the common sources of Power, of which the dryads utilize Air, Earth, and Water, dryads are also able to draw it from trees. No dryad however, especially a hamadryad, do it without a serious motivation, such as the enemy invasion. Even then she chooses the oldest and the largest tree in the area, to ensure that it survives without complication.
Dryads are exclusively female and use males of other humanoid races only for mating purposes, taking strong ones to pass their traits onto their children. While it might seem a pleasant occasion for some jovial men, dryads take mating very seriously. Even though some of them may form romantic relationships, they mostly perceive males as a means of procreation. Because of this they may sometimes grumble about witchers and other infertile males.
Apart from the sexual encounters, a dryad can be made by mutating a child of different race through drinking the mutagenous Water of Brokilon. While originally such fate was rather rare, wars with humans forced dryads to be less benign. Should any young girl wander into their forest, be her a peasant's child or even a princess, she is subjected to transformation. During Eithné's rule this policy went so far so the human children became abducted from areas outside Brokilon. However, the older the abducted girl, the more likely for her to have glimpses of past life and not to match skills of the pure dryads.
Some legends claim that the dryads' origin lies in the elven scheme to use enchanted human women in battles against Nordlings. While they are indeed spotted in certain elven ruins as guardians of the nature, according to the dwarves they were already present on the Continent ages before the arrival of either Nordlings or Aen Seidhe. There are even assumptions that dryads and other nymphs came here as early as the first trees, thus grouping them among the earliest colonizers of the world.
Contacts with other Elder Races
Dryads generally ignored gnomes, perceiving them as not worthy of attention as long as they tended to their own matters and did not endanger nature. Their attitude towards dwarves was more hostile – mutually. The nymphs felt hatred for an industrial race polluting the natural environment, while the dwarves perceived them as savage barbarians.
The arrival of Aen Seidhe changed dryads both physically and culturally. Elven genes allowing long life and Elder Speech spread throughout the eerie wives, beautiful elven cities harmonious with nature changed the way the dryads perceived other intelligent races, though the idea of bending nature to one's will was still disgusting for keepers of the forest. The most shocking cultural impact was however yet ahead: the First Landing of humans.
War for the Forest
At the beginning, humans perceived nymphs as monsters, demons who had to be either expelled or destroyed in order to obtain new lands. Leimoniads and oreads faced near extinction, the number of hamadriads were decreasing with each cut tree. By the 13th century humans conquered or subjugated almost the whole area of now-called Northern Kingdoms and Brokilon became the sole independent habitat of the dryad race. While after the conquest some dryad cultures survived in other forests and forged a relative peace with Nordlings, it was Brokilon which was most famed. Brokilonian dryads never surrendered and swore to protect their forest until the last dryad falls dead protecting it.
Dryads are known for their amazing archery skills and can easily kill a human from the distance of 200 feet without the person ever knowing they were there. They use this ability extensively to mark their border: if an arrow lands at one's feet or in a nearby tree, that's as far as the intruder is allowed to travel alive as the next shot, should they not heed the warning, will kill them. To prevent the decay of bodies from filling the air, the dryads tend to mark their border by the rivers so the bodies can be washed away with the current.
Dryads are also proficient in treating wounds. When Geralt was wounded in a fight with Vilgefortz, he had cracked ribs, a broken leg, and a concussion but, upon arriving in Brokilon, he was treated with expert care and was well enough to move when the bard Dandelion came to see him. They also did a similar feat with Freixenet, who was nearly dead from their attacks but, after being found by Geralt, the dryads patched him up to the point he was able to sit up and talk for a bit when the witcher rejoined him several days later.
Being dryads, they have a love for the trees, forest, and music and have learned to master abilities to shape trees to their will while not harming the tree itself. As fire is also forbidden in the forest, they instead create makeshift glowsticks by stimulating certain fungi and crafting a wreath out of the plant to make a light source.
Dryads do not eat dinner and the sentinels at the border rarely eat breakfast as well.
For the full list of every dryads, see Category:Dryads.
Season of the Dryad lore entries
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- Scroll 1: It is common knowledge that among dryads – known also as eerie wives – you will find only women. They require human men for reproduction, which begs the question... What are they really? What is their origin?
- Scroll 2: Many scholars contend that dryads do not comprise a unique race, like gnomes or vrans, but humans fundamentally altered by magic. If true, dryads would be considered cursed beings, not unlike werewolves...
- Scroll 3: Indeed, one legend tells that the first dryads were ordinary human women, enchanted by elves to support the Aen Seide in battle. Rather than fulfill their intended purpose, however, they took to the forest and have remained there ever since.
- Scroll 4: And what of the eerie wives themselves? Have they knowledge of their origin? One ambitious student from Oxenfurt ventured to Brokilon to find out. Unsurprisingly, he was never heard from again... Yet a dozen-odd years later, scholars from his department spotted several young dryads who bore a striking resemblance to their lost colleague...
- Chest 1: The number of dryads known by name can be counted on a single hand. One such dryad was Braenn, made famous by the ballads of Master Dandelion. Unlike most dryads, however, neither her eyes nor her skin were green – evidence she was once an ordinary human child, forever changed by the Waters of Brokilon. Under their influence, she forgot her past, even her true name. Despite her human past, she guarded borders of Brokilon with a ruthlessness equal to that of her dryad sisters.
- Chest 2: Contrary to common belief, dryads on rare occasion would permit humans into their forest. Among that privileged minority was Milva Barring, well-known human archer and guide. She was often contracted by enemies of Brokilon – unaware of her allegiances – to lead expeditions against the dryads... Every time leading her patrons into an ambush...
- Chest 3: Dryads can survive even the gravest of wounds. Their ability to heal via magic is unrivaled. In fact, it was they who saved Geralt of Rivia following his brush with death against Vilgefortz. His bones crushed, it seemed the witcher might never walk again. But under Eithné's care, the White Wolf recovered and soon returned to the Path.
- According to the novels the only distinction between born and transformed dryads is the sweat. However, in Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Braenn is depicted unlike the other dryads in the game franchise, being the only one with pale skin instead of green.
- In The Witcher, Geralt meets one dryad in the game, Morenn, who's in the Druids' grove in the swamp and has an opportunity to have sex with her if one explains that sex is still beneficial to her in other ways.
- In the uncensored (non-North American) versions of The Witcher, they do not cover the dryads' breasts with their hair, nor is there a loincloth. The models appear completely nude. The same model is also used for the naiad.