The Family DuBois
Look closely at these branches. See how the tips are colored lighter? This is the growth for this year. Look back along the branch and you will see a history of each cycle of seasons. The newest segment is shorter than the others – this is because of the late frosts, and the shorter growing season.
Now come, follow down this path. This maple has a growth, see the unusual bulge? It is a burl, and the wood within has a rare grain; the carpenters can make exceptional things out of this. We have known of this tree for years, and are letting the burl grow further before harvesting it. It must be checked once a season, for signs that the growth is harming the tree or stunting its growth.
Sh! Pass through this grove quietly. There is a den below the roots, and we do not want to disturb it.
…what kind of den? Don’t worry about such things yet. Just be silent and continue, we have much to see today.
We are the tenders of the great Forest, our home. Yes, child, it’s true that Luisant is our home – and what is Luisant’s home? The Forest. This is the pride of our family: we know our home better than any others. The paths and pitfalls, swamps and fens, groves and hills.
No, child, we don’t own the Forest! Get those ideas out of your head. We are the keepers only. Whatever the nobles might think, the Forest cannot be owned. It can be searched, learned about, even wounded – but never owned, and never contained.
We need the Forest more than it needs us. Always remember this – without the bounty of the Forest, our village would wither and die; but if our village were gone, the Forest would scarcely notice.
The first rule of our family – the forest is both home and danger. It must be respected, or it will strike you down.
The second rule – our traditions are written in blood. All too often, we have learned them through pain and loss. Never take them lightly.
The third rule – never forget you are part of a whole. It is our duty to plan for the life of the whole community. Think of how your actions will affect everyone.
The Two Paths
There are two callings held most important in our family – the Woodcutters and the Woodcounters. The names come from the very first days of our traditions, when we were concerned with the trees only; the meaning has grown over time to encompass all that is taken from the Forest.
The Woodcutters do the work of harvesting, planting, and interacting with the Forest itself. They also guide others who do not understand the ways as we do, and patrol for dangers. It is their role to ensure that we take from the Forest enough to satisfy the needs of the people.
The Woodcounters plan and protect the future. They monitor the seasons, the growth of the forest, and the movement of beasts. They coordinate with the Woodcutters, tracking the resources that are taken. It is their role to ensure that we do not take from the Forest so much that we injure the land.
Not all of us fit neatly into one of these roles, but most do. These are not professions in the way that smithing is a profession; these are the actions you take. The young people of the family tend to be Woodcutters. Some remain that way for their whole life; quite a few become Woodcounters as they grow older and more experienced.
Authority and Faith
House Beauchene are the leaders of men, child, and don’t forget that. But they don’t know nearly as much about the forest as we do. We are less subjects and more… allies, you could say. Keep that to yourself, though – it’s not wise to say around others, particularly LeBlancs. We certainly obey the noble house’s requirements to deliver harvests and resources. But they also have to listen to our elders when we tell them what is reasonable. It’s been this way since the start of the village – we DuBois are older than the Beauchenes, you know!
Among ourselves, we greatly respect the elders of our lineage, for their experience and wisdom. The eldest of us today is Chevreuil, and he’s wise indeed. But don’t expect him to tell you how to do everything. The youths need to make their own decisions. What if you do it wrong? Then you’ll learn, won’t you? You either learn or you die; that’s the way of it.
Oh? You want to know about the Old Ways? Well… it’s barely a secret that most of us follow traditions older than the Lion God. We know better than to wear it on our sleeves, as those Mervailles do. There are a few of the Benalians among us too, you know! We don’t turn away those with the drive to tend the Forest, and so long as they don’t insult our ways, we can live with them. Don’t waste your effort trying to convert them; the Forest cares not.
Our lineage is strong because we are willing to take the best of any generation. When those with promise come to join the DuBois, we do not turn them away. We only need them to show that they are willing to follow our traditions and work earnestly. Maintaining the balance with the Forest is hard work. More good hands are always welcome.
Arbor, the Woodsman
At the dawn of Luisant, the people knew so little about the Forest. We DuBois were few and scattered, and most humans had been treated as cattle – the forest pushed back by brute force by the Witch-King’s monsters – so they’d never had a chance to learn the ways of things.
Arbor was foremost among those healing the divide. He was so in tune with the Forest that he walked its darkest paths without fear, and slept on moss beneath the shade of trees. He traveled from homestead to homestead, teaching of the Forest’s dangers and showing the safer paths. He would show up from between the trees when people ran into beasts or Malefic, and would pull them out of the danger. He must have saved hundreds of lives in that way alone.
The followers of the Old Ways say that was one of their own; that he had forged a great pact with the Standing People, had offered something immense to them in order to be empowered as a guardian for the human settlements. The followers of Benalus say instead that he was blessed by Melandiel, who protected him on his incessant travels, and call him a saint for protecting humanity in those dark and bloody times.
The family agreed over a century ago not to argue too much about this matter; whatever his origins, he was certainly a hero that we now revere. There is a shrine dedicated to him, out in the forest somewhere – though it seems the Mists move it more than most other places, and it has been lost and rediscovered many times over the years. Or perhaps the shrine disappears and a new one is made. I do not know where it is today – but if you go deep into the woods and return safely, perhaps you’ll be the one to find it. If you do, offer your respects, and pick a flower from its grounds.