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Woodland Folk and Guardian Spirits of the Converted Lands

by Christian Constantin

The Hulean Region of the Converted Lands is a region filled with magical creatures that were driven out of the Dark Wood by the Master's evil powers. Scores of woodland creatures were forced to look for smaller hideouts throughout the region in hope to come back to their homeland once the Master would have disappeared. Since most of the region southern woods were cut down to make place for the field of the human agrarian societies, these woodland creatures do not have the choice but to interact with the humans of the region.

This constant interaction between humans and the woodland creatures and spirits has forged the rural culture into one of deep superstitious believes and the constant use of petty magic rituals. If, at first, these rituals would make laugh any serious magic user, they are not so benign and may have important effects on the everyday lives of the common peoples of the region. When travelling into the Converted Lands it is important to remember that magic is everywhere and that the simplest ritual can bear a deep magical situation or summon magical entities.

The Woodland Folk

The Woodland creatures of Niwhelm were forced out of their home forest when the Master took control of Hule four centuries ago. Since then they have been forced to merge into the surrounding human societies or to flee to the colder Zdredanyan forest. All kinds of Woodland creatures can be found in the Converted Lands some being highly integrated in the human societies as others, being more secretive, have preferred to stay hidden in the smaller woods that dot the entire region.

Centaurs: The man-horse folk are probably the Niwhelm inhabitants that most easily merged with the surrounding human communities. Although this cohabitation isn't always without problems, centaurs can be found around most of the villages that are near to a wood or a forest and even, in rarer occasions, in cities. The biggest communities of centaur in the Converted Lands can be seen near Chetniu in Bulzan, in the forested hills of the Zorab Gur in Antasyn and in Northern Monzag, where they cooperate with the rebel to fight the Huleans.

Wila (Dryads): Adventuring dryads are present in the entire region they mix with humans while keeping their secret identity hidden to their human counterparts. Hamadryads, or dryads attached to a soul-tree, can, however, only be seen in the deepest forest of northern Antasyn and Monzag.

Satyrs (Fauns): Satyrs usually don't interact too much with the human communities of the Converted Lands. Their chaotic behaviour usually doesn't help them to integrate into some more "civilised" areas. Nevertheless, the Master's control over Niwhelm has forced them to flee to more secure areas nearer to human communities. Many of them found shelter in the farther part of the Dark Wood at the edge of Olgar; others fled to La Pineda or to the Marmureg Wood, south of the Empire and a last group decided to brave the weather of the Zdredanyan Forest in northern Antasyn and Monzag. A smaller group of satyrs decided to settle in the Antasynian communities near Leqan and the Zorab Gur, there, they were able to mix into the local population and adopt some of their custom even though animosity is still palpable between the two people, most of the time in the evening after the last-call of the local taverns.

Kurin (Hsiao): the legendary Sage-Owl of the Converted Lands is a respected and revered creature throughout the region. Even though that they are few in the region (the Master has ordered his armies to shoot at sight) they are very important in the regions customs and beliefs. People usually go to see them in their hideouts to ask for advises or for knowledge. Some of them are renown to be among the most powerful magic-user in the Converted Lands.

Leshii: They often appear as peasants, either without a belt or with shoes on the wrong feet. Sometimes they are said to have wings and a tail and be covered in black hair. Many assigned them goat's hooves and horns like fauns. They are usually attributed with green eyes. They can change their size from that of a blade of grass to that of the highest tree. Usually they carry a club to show their rulership over the forest creatures. The Leshii can take the shape of a familiar person and lead you astray with the sound of their voice. Once in their domain, they might tickle their victims to death. They can also become a hare, wolf, bear, raven, pig, horse, rooster, flaming fir tree or even a mushroom. The Leshii are fond of trees and are said to be heard weeping when one is cut down. They are the protectors of the forest and all it's creatures. Their favourite animal is the wolf - the king of the beasts in the Converted Lands folklore. They are also said to be often seen in the company of bears.

The Leshii are the evil spirit of the woods. No one knows exactly their original appearance, but it is said that they look like particularly ugly and big winged fauns. Leshii are able to Polymorph Self at will into any kind of non-magical forest being (plants as well as animals) or into humanoid forms. They can also use a Mass Charm-like power once everyday (there is no penalty to the victim's saving throw, contrarily to the normal spell). They usually appear with a small pack of wolves (1-8, normal) or, on rarer occasions, with one or two bears (black or grizzly). They are opposed to treants and will challenge any if it comes on the Leshii territory. Their favourite meals are young fairies and dryads, although they don't dislike grabbing a human for dinner or just for the fun of seeing it suffer.

Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6***
Move: 150' (50')
Attacks: 2 claws or 2 branches, or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d8/1d8 or by weapon
No. Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Save as: T9
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: D
Intelligence: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
XP value: 750

Leshii are the traditional opponents of the treants for the control of Niwhelm. With the arrival of the Master in Hule, they have passed an agreement with him so that the Dark Wood will be protected from further human expansion in exchange of the alliance of the Leshii with the Master. Leshii can be found mainly in the Dark Wood and in the surrounding forests and, less frequently, in the Zdredanyan forest or in the forested valleys of the Black Mountains.

Musail (Treants): Before the Master's takeover, Niwhelm (Dark Wood) was a great forest full of Treants to protect the smaller beings of the forest. Now, it is rumoured that some of them have stayed in the Dark Wood to fight the evil forces brought in by the Master, but most of them were destroyed or force in exile to the Northern Zdredanyan forest by the growing power of the Leshii. Surviving treants of the Converted Lands tend to be quite angry about their situation and protect more jealously than everywhere else their territories. They can be seen mostly in the forests going from northern Monzag down to the Zorab Gur in Antasyn.

Poludnik (Wood Imps): Wood Imps are rare in the Converted Lands since, in opposite to the rest of the Woodland Folk, they accepted the Master's Rule and even cooperated with him. As they revere the same entropic immortals than the Huleans, they accepted to serve the Master as long as the Dark Wood is protected from excessive development. It is said that they, with the Leshii, now rule the entire forest of the Dark Wood as agents of the Master.

The Fair Folk: Pixies, sprite, pookas, and all the rest of the Fair Folk aren't usually seen near human settlements. However, as the number of undead and humanoids grew in the Dark Wood they were also forced to quit Niwhelm. Before the Master's Takeover of the forest, there were three great fairy kingdoms in Niwhelm: Bram, Ja and Minuar. The first two were force to leave in hurry toward the Zdredanyan forest in northern Antasyn, where Brami's and Jaja's courts were transferred; the third one caught off guard by the sudden arrival of skeletons and goblins on its territory was decimated and forced to merge with the dwindling kingdom of Fey in La Pineda.

The Guardian Spirits of the Converted Lands

Guardian spirits are ethereal creatures found everywhere in the Converted Lands' rural areas. People tend to respect them and give offerings to appease them or to bring their protection upon the household. The worshippers of the Bulzanian Agrarian Cult (The Patriarchs' sect) are particularly disciplined when it come to the respect due to the different kind of spirits. Guardian spirits of the Converted lands are helpful if correctly respected but can become annoying or even deadly if someone's behaviour offend them.

The way to get a guardian spirit to watch over an area is somewhat the same for all kind of spirit, though the nature of the offerings and the ritual may change a little. The oldest family member to the next generation usually tells the rituals. The daily offerings needed to get a guardian spirit in a specific area are usually made of goods worth between of 10 sp per day, for a peasant family, and 10 gp per day, for a rich family. Each day in which the correct rituals are made brings 1% of chance that a spirit will come with a maximum of 60%. Every skipped day reduce the chances of getting a spirit by the same 1%. If somebody fail to do the correct rituals during a week or more, his chances are brought back to 0%, and the entire process must be redone from the beginning.

Once a guardian spirit decide to live in a building or area, offerings of the correct nature to the spirits must still be made daily, otherwise some of the bad aspects of the spirits may materialise. As for the offerings needed to bring a guardian spirit, the standard daily offering needed to keep a spirit varies in function of the wealth of the household or person doing the ritual. Failure to do the offerings and rituals brings a daily cumulative 5% chance that the spirit will leave or be angered (the spirit will leave on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6, and be angered on a roll of 5 or 6). There is no way to keep a guardian spirit from leaving once it has decided to do so and a new one must be summoned. An angry spirit won't leave on the spot, he will try to play tricks against his former masters or even hurt them, his protection against evil will disappear and it won't give any great power. There is two ways to get rid of an angry spirit: to destroy him in combat (their combat statistics are given at the end of the description) or to appease him. To appease a guardian spirit, one must give two times more offering to him during at least a week, after this lapse of time the spirit may simply leave, he may be appeased and will grant back its powers, or he may stay angry, then the only way to get rid of it would be to destroy it.

Normally, an angered spirit won't attack on the spot, it will prefer to play malicious tricks to the entire household. However, if someone tries to destroy it, it will materialise and defend itself with the last of the energies. In combat, only magical weapons can reach the guardian spirit ethereal substance. Also, spirits are immunised from any mind-controlling spells.

All guardian spirits have two kind of magical powers. Their common power is to protect from evil (the same way as the clerical spell Protection from Evil 10' radius) the entire building or area in which they live. This common power is in effect as long as they stay in the building or area that they have to protect or as long as they aren't angered. The second, the greater power differs from one kind of guardian spirit to the other and is not automatically granted to the summoner or to the area where the spirit lives. For it to be used, the summoner of the spirit must prove his total worship by giving additional offerings and rituals. For the guardian spirit to accept to use its greater power offerings must be multiplied by three as should be the time allowed for the rituals. This must go on for at least a month, after which there is a cumulative 5% per day that the spirit will accept to use its greater power. Usually, guardian spirits can't use more than four times their greater power in a given year.

As ethereal creatures, they are invisible most of the time, however, each spirit has is own preferred material manifestation, which it will utilise to reward or to punish people. The presence of a guardian spirit in a particular place can always be discovered by a Detect Magic spell. There are currently four different type of guardian spirits, each of which inhabiting a different place and interacting with human in different ways.

(Parts of the following descriptions were taken from the Slavic Gods & Goddesses website)

Bannik: Bathhouse spirit. In the Converted Lands, bathhouses are like saunas with an inner steaming room and an outer room for changing. They are dark and frightening and like many scary places, are considered perfect for divinations. They are also the place most often used for child-bearing. No newborn is left there long, though, lest the fairies would steal him. No religious icons are allowed in the bathhouse, neither, as they may offend its true occupant - the Bannik. It is customary to offer every third firing of the sauna, or sometimes the fourth to the Bannik. One did not want to disturb him while bathing, though, or he might just throw hot water on them. Other times he would use his sharp claws to flay his victim alive. Besides a firing of the sauna, they like offerings of soap, and fir branches. The Bannik usually takes on the ethereal appearance of a member or friend of the family.

The Bannik is responsible for the protection of the bathing house and of its users; its Protection from Evil power extends to the entire building and may be enjoy by any of its occupants if they do the required offerings and rituals. It manifests himself in times of danger to warn people using the bath. The greater power the Bannik may grant to somebody is the ability to Commune, as with the clerical spell. The person must ask three question, which the Bannik will answer to by yes or no.

In combat the Bannik will take the material form of a big dog with steam coming out of its ears. A successful attack made by the bannik will result by the paralysis of its victim (for 2-8 turns) if it can't make a saving throw against paralysis.

Domovoi and kikimora: Male and female house spirits. The Domovik and kikimora are the commonest spirit to be found in the Converted Lands. They usually live in the attic, behind the stove, under the threshold or in the stables or cattle barn. They are thought to be responsible for all domestic prosperity and tranquillity and finish chores when family members forget. They will howl and moan to warn of approaching trouble, and pull hair to warn a woman in danger of abuse from a man. He can be heard laughing if good times are ahead, and if you hear him strumming a comb, there is a wedding in the future. The Domovoi should be fed nightly or he may cause trouble, much like a poltergeist. Usually, if neglected, he will simply leave. To attract a domovoi, one should put on his finest clothing, go outside and say "Dedushka Dobrokhot (grandfather well-wisher), come live with us and tend the flocks."

Special care is taken in the Converted Lands to only obtain pets and farm animals in the Domovoi's favourite colour. Each new horse is introduced formally to the Domovoi for the spirit took especially good care of the animals he liked but tormented the ones he didn't.

When a new house is built, the owner would put a piece of bread down before the stove went in, to attract the domovoi. When a person moved, the coals from the stove were taken with them and the formal invitation "Domovoi, Domovoi, don't stay here. Come with our family" is recited to ensure that the Domovoi came along to the new home. Salted bread, wrapped in a white cloth will appease the domovoi as will putting clean white linen in his favourite room - an invitation to eat with the family. You can also hang your old shoes in the yard to brighten the Domovik's mood. The domovik and kikimora usually resembles in their material form as a male or female head of household, living or dead. If he shows himself, it is usually to warn of death. He can also be heard weeping when death approaches a member of the household.

In addition to their power to protect the entire household from evil, Domovoi may also use its Cureall greater power on any member of the household four times a year. Also, any food or water brought into a building inhabited by a Domovoi will be purified as with the clerical spell Purify Food and Water.

In combat, the Domovoi will keep it's human appearance and throw anything at hand (pots, pans, utensils, chairs, etc) against its opponent. One gaze of the angered Domovoi is enough to get a mental disease (-2 to intelligence, the character will feel down and desperate, there is even a risk that he may try to commit suicide, until the disease is magically cured).

Dvorovoi: Yard spirits. Like the domovoi, his material form usually resembles the male head of household and has preferences as to the colour of pets and livestock. He is usually malicious and sometimes, but not often, deadly. Placing a shiny object appeases him, slice of bread and piece of sheep's wool in the stables while saying "Master Dvorovik, I offer you this gift in gratitude. Please look after the cattle and feed them well."

The dvorovoi protect the entire yard or field from evil. If correctly and rigorously served he can also accept to use its powers of Growth of Plant, as the magic-user spell and of Growth of Animals as the clerical spell (each of which may be ask and granted up to for times a year).

In combat, the dvorovoi keeps its human manifestation attacking with bare hands. However, its blows are so powerful that they may even affect the best-protected person. Also, a successful hit will paralyse the victim if they fail their saving throw.

Ovinnik: Barn spirit. The threshing barn of the Converted Lands is a 2 story building with a furnace entrenched in earth on the first floor and the second floor for drying the grain. It is ruled by the ovinnik. You could sometimes hear him laughing or barking like a dog from the corner of the barn in which he lived. Offerings of blini or the last sheaf were left to him. If angered, he is known to burn down the barn, usually with its owner or the owner's children in it.

The ovinnik protect the barn and the people inside it from evil, it also grant the building the power to Resist Fire as the clerical spell does. The greater power of the ovinnik is the power to Create Food as a cleric of the ninth level.

An angered ovinnik will appear as a huge dishevelled black cat with burning eyes. It will attack with its claws, but can also breath fire once every two rounds. The fire breath causes only 1d10 damage but will ignite any kind of paper, cloth, wood or straw that it touches, thus adding 1d2 damage per round to the bearer of such an item unless the fire is brought down.

Combat statistics

Bannik Domovoi Dvorovoi Ovinnik
Armour Class: 4 3 3 2
Hit Dice: 5** 4** 6** 5**
Move (Flying): 60' (20') 60' (20') 90' (30') 90' (30')
Attacks: 2 claws 2 missiles/1 gaze 2 fists 2 claws/1 breath
Damage: 1d6/1d6 + 1d8/1d8/ 1d8/1d8 + 1d4/1d4/1d10 +
Paralysis Disease Paralysis Fire
No. Appearing: 1 (0) 1 (0) 0 (1) 1 (0)
Save as: C9 C9 C9 C9
Morale: 9 10 10 9
Treasure Type: None None None None
Intelligence: 11 13 12 11
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral Chaotic Neutral
XP Value: 425 175 825 425