There are many paths in the Forest.
Some tread them with care, seeking food and sustenance and leaving as quickly as may be once their task is done.
Some rush to the eaves of the woods as if they were entering the embrace of a lover, inhaling scent and sound with delight, throwing caution to the winds until they are well and truly trapped.
A child of Veneaux walks with curiosity.
The world is full of lies. As a child we begin believing everything we are told, and only as we grow do we learn that those we trust have misled us from the beginning; only for our safety, only for our growth, but still we have been misled. Entering adolescence and adulthood, we learn that the lies are greater than we ever suspected, and their purpose is to obscure the great truths of the world. We are told not to seek, to leave the rocks dry side up and to shun the dark mouth of the cave in favor of the candlelight of home.
I hunger for truth. As I look around me, I see already how thin and meaningless the artificial world of Man is- this hut, this village, these people, fighting for bare survival and thinking of nothing but mud and dirt and death.
Truth waits for me in the Forest. Truth sits on the rocks of the grotto, singing a song that has not left my head since first I heard it. It sings of earth and water and stars, of great worms gorging themselves till they grow large enough to swallow whole towns, until they wind their colossal way to the tops of the mountains and reach their grotesque heads aloft to feed on the light of the stars.Truth will answer all my questions.
Truth sharpens its claws as it waits. Perhaps it, too, will find its own kind of revelation as my haruspex. I will be spread on the great flat rock before it, my bones and blood and my dearest flesh scattered in infinite patterns for the Beast to read.
Perhaps my fragments will be as complex and uncountable as the stars.
Farewell, my friends. I go to find Truth.
-Final note left by Frances Veneaux. No trace was found of her
The great tragedy of the family Veneaux is how little of the past we have. The malady that afflicts us strikes our members young, leading them down a dark path of obsession that ends only in glory or death. Or at least so we, those left behind, can assume- for we never find the bodies. Battle or plague take some of us, and those deaths we can be certain of. Yet there are those who simply disappear, their loved ones awakening to find empty beds and footprints leading to the edges of cliffs with no bodies at their base, or traveling too far beyond the known paths of the Forest to follow.
Our family has no ancient books of lore and history or wisdom handed down through generations. We are like a forest cut down before its time, leaving the new saplings to push their way to sunlight with the corpses of their elders decaying at their feet. What knowledge we do have we cling to and pass on as soon as we can.
The Veneaux are often misunderstood as greedy, or power-seeking, but in most cases this could not be further from the truth. Our line does not hunger to dominate others or hoard mountains of wealth; we are not dragons or tyrants. Beyond all other drives, we seek answers; we yearn to know why the world is the way it is, and what great powers lie beneath the mysteries of the cosmos. There is no one answer to this question, at least not one that the Veneaux as a whole have ever come to agree upon; some seek answers in arcane studies or holy books, and still others turn to the worship of the Earth herself in search of wisdom. Some, like the unfortunate Frances, find themselves vulnerable to the whims of the creatures that lurk in the Night and the Forest, and give themselves willingly to deadly fates in hopes of finding truth. All things mystical and strange are fascinating to us, and even those who delve deeply into one obsession find themselves drawn to any element of the wyrd or supernatural that presents itself.
As seekers of mysteries, we cultivate a healthy respect for spirits and mystical power from a young age. Even those of the Veneaux who do not follow the Old Ways of Vecatra often take bargains or pacts with spirits of the woods very seriously, and encourage others not to make them lightly. On the other hand, capricious as we Veneaux are, there is a certain admiration for those who willingly break a spirit bargain; such chaos and willfulness is a uniquely human trait, and to hold true to one’s nature so brazenly has a certain charm.
SEEKING THE SHRINE OF SAINT ELIPHAZ
Blessed by Cyaniel and beloved by those he served, Eliphaz was the keenest and most skilled strategist to enter the body of Chiropoler and slay him. He died separated from his fellows, slain by the internal defenses of the Witchking.
After his death, a shrine was erected near the Mouth through which he had gone to his fate, carved out of living stone in a cave that the Ordo Croix had made camp in.
Long ago, before the plagues scourged our lands with such severity, it was tradition for Veneaux to make pilgrimage to this shrine, and legend has it that praying to Eliphaz at his shrine would clear a person’s mind.
The location of the shrine has been lost to time and the upheaval of plague and bandits, but there are those of us who seek it still. Some believe that if it could be found, the deadly obsessions of our line could be mitigated by its power.
We often carve or paint spirals over safe spots or hiding places, both to mark them for other Veneaux and in hopes of confusing malicious or curious spirits. Those who have fallen to obsession are often marked with spirals by their concerned family members, in hopes that they will be shielded from whatever creature or power has turned its attention on them.
In the happy event of a marriage or adoption into the Veneaux lineage, the family throws a banquet for the new member after sunset. Then as the meal wraps up, the family announces to the surprised new member that they must play hide and seek in the woods. They say that the new member must not be found before midnight or… something terrible will happen. It’s very important that this game remain a secret to the new member until it’s announced at the banquet and family members are encouraged to make everything as spooky and dramatic as possible- sometimes even bearing weapons and shouting eerie things into the woods as they search! Of course, it’s all in good fun and our new member is welcomed regardless of the outcome, but the fun is in them not knowing that!
While the Veneaux can sometimes be manipulative or even deceptive, it is a particular taboo for us to claim an untrue thing three times. Doing so binds us to any promises made in such a statement (in the eyes of our family at least) and reneging on such promises is not looked upon kindly.