OUT OF CHARACTER NOTICE: Only characters with Lore: Vecatra may enter play with the knowledge on this page.
The Circle of Vecatra
The story of this place does not begin with humanity. We are not the inheritors of this land, with its ancient stones and soaring trunks. It begins with Vecatra, as all things do. We are merely a moment, an animal as any other in Her service. Before the people of the lion God came to this place, the only name it bore was one we could not speak. Our tongues, heavy and clumsy, are not made for the language of the Spirits. The only nobility was the Court of Trees, the Standing People who still offer us their guidance today.
The people of the lion God, with their haughty scholars and surety that all things are exactly as they claim them will tell you that this place was founded when the vile Witchking Chiropoler came to defile this place. They are, of course, wrong. At one time, we could see as far back as our founding. We know from the whispers of elders in the depths of our beings, from the tales we are told by the hearth and in our cradles, that we have been here since well before that horrid cancer of a Witchking descended upon our home and corrupted it from the inside.
Our stories are few now. What once was put to paper made of leaf and grass pulp is now murmured around fires, recited from elders to children and children to elders. And though we have lost much, we know that not everything rests in the hands of humans. The spirits know our stories better than any book. The details are what matter most. The difference between a pinch of alder bark and a handful of thistle is monumentous when we consider the bounties of both as laid before us by Vecatra.
It is folly to think that we could ever be the masters of this place. Our people, the people of Vecatra, know this before all other things.
In The Beginning
Vecatra found Herself to be life. She loved life so dearly and found Herself so wonderful that She wanted to thrive. To grow life so that others might also love life.
She began with creatures. Creatures with leaves and stipes. Creatures with wings and legs and fins. Creatures of stone and wood. Vecatra enjoyed Her creatures, but they quickly began to suffer in Her hands.
Worried for their safety, She began to swallow them, hoping to contain them within Her life. Here they were safe, however they ran into each other and floated aimlessly about. To give them something sturdy to live upon and thus to thrive, Vecatra made Her bones into land and gifted this to Her creatures. Many of Her creatures began to thrive and live safely within Her. She then realized land didn’t suit all creatures as the ones with fins and gills still suffered. To save them this suffering, Vecatra made Her blood into water. She gifted them this water to swim in.
But that did not suit them all for the creatures with wings were still suffering, and so She breathed deep, gifting them with sky.
Vecatra looked inside Herself, seeking to find anything else She had missed for She did not want Her creatures to suffer. She saw that though Her skin stretched as tight as it could, the land, the water, and the sky could not hold all the life She desired to create. And so She gifted them time as well. In this way, the land, the water, and the sky could go on forever and all of Her creatures could live there, if only for a small while. Neighbors to their past and their future.
The Vecatrans of Luisant believe that death is merely one having explored their time to its completion. After this is finished, they pass through the Thicket, leaving behind all that separates you from Vecatra. In doing this, you join Vecatra in Her thriving. If the Thicket must take too much of you, those parts return as Malefic.
Somewhere in all of this, was an acorn. In the belly of Vecatra fueled by Her love of life, the acorn began to thrive. The acorn settled in rich, wet soil and sprouted, growing and growing until its roots slipped past the Thicket and reached the Heart of Vecatra. When Oak first rose, he beheld the growing forest around him and loved it. With careful hands, he gathered seeds from the other trees, one each. These he planted at his base and guided their roots through the Thicket to the Heart. One by one, they rose and beheld the forest around them and loved it. Ash, Apple, Aspen, Gorse, and Willow. Later, Ash would use this same method to sprout Cypress, but that would not be for some far away time.
Creatures found their way to the forest, and loved it as well. Among them were the first human creatures to settle under the Court of Trees.
For many passages of time, the Vecatrans of Luisant lived in harmony. But as all human creatures do, we held violence in our hearts. There is little remembered of the exact spark that struck the wildfire of war, but it is well agreed that the ensuing violence was great and terrifying. What was once a harmonious Circle cracked in half, jagged edges clashing together until the swamp’s waters shimmered red in the sunlight.
From this suffering, the Red-Handed Crone of the Divide was born. Empowered by the spilling of blood, she swept through both sides killing at random and without distinction. Vecatrans from both sides lost their lives to her wrath, their blood staining her hands red for the rest of time. The Divide cracked open, boundaries held by the presence of the Red-Handed Crone, and so it is still to this day.
We had tenuous peace, but what came next we could not anticipate.
The Age of Hunger
As soon as the cancer came, we knew. How could we not? The forest is carefully attuned to itself, each being an indicator of the health of the others. When the mushrooms came in dripping blood and the deer shrivelled to skin stretched over bones on lush meadow, we knew. And then the Beasts of the Forest, the ones most sensitive to disruption, had their secrets ripped from their bodies causing them to warp into horrific shapes. So when the men of the lion God came to our doorstep, we were already preparing our own solution.
Beasts of the Forest
The woods were once full of more than just squirrels and deer. Unicorns, trolls, and all manner of other sacred creatures previously roamed the land as any other animal. During the Age of Heros, many of the creatures were hunted to the brink of existence by those seeking to make a name for themselves. The ones who were left disappeared into the depths of forests, oceans, and deserts, desperately trying to survive. Many old rites and potions required whispers of the secrets contained within these creatures given freely by the creatures themselves. Due to the scarcity or complete extinction of such creatures, substitutions must now be made.
They offered us aid.
In exchange for our knowledge of the forest and the help of our spirits, they would help us defeat the infection of Chiropoler. And though they could not promise us complete safety from their church, they could offer us some respite here among the trees. Though the exact words are lost to time, up in smoke with the rest of our writings, we know that we accepted their offer.
When the mission was complete, we were still here. The forest began to recover, but the damage had been done in many ways.
It was not long before more of the people of the lion God came to settle in the Court’s forest. With them, they brought their trade. Their coin and innovations. Whatever promises were made, they seemed to keep the worst of things out of the forest. The town swelled slightly but it was nothing compared to the cities of stone streets and crushing buildings, of mages and powder that exploded when struck. They were invasive, like the thorned brambles they brought with them, seeing only the sweet berries they produced while their roots strangled the native plants of the forest. But we could handle invasive.
And so we have. For generations now we have handled their invasion, slow and sure. Some of us have been strangled out. Joined to their cause due to weak roots or lack of Vecatra’s bright sun. These we mourn, and yet still we look behind us and see what the future could be. A day when the trees again belong to no one and we can once again venerate Vecatra as She was meant.
All living creatures of Vecatra are endowed with instinct. Some breathe the water, some to visit the sky, but human creatures receive maidenhood. Along with all the luxuries of seeing, sucking at teats and screaming, maidenhood also means the instinct to name. To observe the instincts gifted to the many other creatures of Vecatra and how they use those gifts to form complex relationships with the many creatures around them. Then, turn these insights into song upon our agile tongues.
It is essential to survival that instinct instructs living creatures in how to conduct themselves in their time, from first breath to final sigh in service of Vecatra. Vecatra’s goal, however, is not only to survive, but also thrive. To thrive we must remain capable of relation to other creatures and amongst ourselves, even sometimes to our own sacrifice. Anything less and She would be nothing like our great giving Mother who formed us to sacrifice for and know Her love, but a lingering malefic deprived of Her thriving nature rooted in reciprocity.
Our mightiest tool in the thriving art of relation is language. The words of our Maidens weave our Circles together. Just as they bind us in loving relationships, so too can the Maiden’s words forge unbreakable bonds with the great spirits that recognize the sound of Vecatra’s thriving heart beat in their songs. With clear, open, kind, and boundaried communication Oaths form, defined and strong between the great spirits and our people.
Maidens carry the responsibility of remembering and honoring these Oaths formed with the spirit creatures since Vecatra gifted us time. On rare occasions, however, Maidens feel the call to pull together and join their voices in forming a new oath of great importance to our Circles. These Oaths convey much strong attachment with the deep rooted spirits. Bonds that can move or become mountains. Bonds that can heal and kill. Bonds that convey a heavy burden upon both the spirit creatures and human creatures forever. These are never taken lightly.
As important as the Maiden’s Oaths have been to human creatures, we still remember that the most important aspect of the Maidens’ words is to teach us of Vecatra. The words our Maidens weave carry the proof of Vecatra’s thriving spirit within each note. They remind us to be thankful for all Vecatra has given us. Her flowing waters, Her vivid blue sky, and the life giving soils upon which we stand. With a Maiden’s tongue we can sing not just the life of Vecatra, but Her meaning as well.
And so it is that they never seem to stop talking.
Motherhood is an entirely different relationship with Vecatra. Mothers witness the gifts of other creatures, as we all do, but then understand many of theirs to be far greater than our own. From this understanding comes another seed of reciprocity between ourselves and the great spirits – those who touch the heart of Vecatra.
Mothers have stood aside from their simple duty to sing, and asked instead what they could give to strengthen the gifts of the great spirits. Many gifts have been received from the great spirits as well. These gifts have become the ways of human creatures, the laws and knowledge we honor with all of our time. And sometimes these gifts even threaten our way of life. There is no certain nobility in motherhood.
In order to offer this aid to others motherhood strips away a selfish and pure truth of ourselves. We cannot be maiden and mother, though nothing cannot be restored with the will of Vecatra. Some have managed to regain their songs, despite long lives of tying themselves into the gifts of the great spirits.
And so Mothers partake in the gifts of the spirits, use the knowledge to build and teach our traditions. Mothers work between ourselves and all others to find peace and foster growth. They protect us, from others when they would harm, and ourselves when we would. But, they must do so in the constant knowledge that they are failing the simple directive of their instinct – quite likely the direct will of Vecatra – to live maidenhood fully beautifully and singularly.
Many Mothers feel they did not have a choice in what they became. One’s “voice” can be forfeit, yes, but it is more often lost, and most often taken. All of us witness, and name, as a matter of instinct. When we name a creature of Vecatra rightfully, and see then that Her glory is not there. That the name is now sin and bile in the Maiden’s throat – how can one continue to sing of Vecatra’s thriving then? When there is no longer an answer for that question in our hearts we know it is time to rise up in service to the great spirits, to speak that Vecatra suffers, and become siblings in that suffering.
Not everything within Vecatra is of Vecatra. Actions can be outside the will of Vecatra, and through those actions we can stray from Vecatra. From outside Vecatra also comes the influence of enigmatic creatures who did not originate from Her. And even stranger things have been found not to be Vecatra’s children. These are all known as “Others.”
A noteworthy distinction, however, is that though all that harms Vecatra is Other, not all Other harms Vecatra. In Vecatra’s permissive and loving nature She gifts any Other that respects the sacred way of reciprocity a home within Her.
We see this most often in the Malefic that wander out of the Thicket in the moons after we travel back to Her. They are allowed to walk beyond the time given to us because they have returned what belongs to Vecatra to Her. Left is our own sin to heal in as much time as we need. Be that one generation or a hundred. A merciful allowance so that we can find medicines for the hurts we’ve brought upon ourselves in our own foolishness and thirst for wonder. There is a place in all times for healing.
Those that lose faith in the wisdom of this healing gift stray off the paths of tradition and into an unknowable wilderness as Rangers. Rangers, for reasons unique to each, decide that the harm from some ancient unhealed hurts such as Malefic have become a disease, incurable and only serving to perpetuate their own harms again and again. As such they take up their bows, and swords, and forsake the teachings of the plants and their many medicines to heal.
Malefic are preserved wounds, however, protected from further harm. Bows and swords do little against many of the most dangerous Night creatures. The only tools Vecatra offers in such affairs are tools of healing. And so, the Ranger turns to that which they must eradicate, similar to how our Mothers turn toward the great spirits. And they learn.
From the Night Malefic the Rangers learn many gifts. The gifts to protect themselves in conflict. The gift to harm even those protected by timelessness. Perhaps even how to become timeless themselves. But, the wise among us see that what they learn is no strength – but suffering. With each step into their fruitless battle against the existence of pain they inflict deeper wounds upon themselves. Their bodies and minds warp, growing cold and distant from the glory of Vecatra.
The simple act of becoming a Ranger is said to begin “The Final Year,” a slow unraveling of the natural rhythms and seasons of Vecatra within themselves. Nobody understands what marks the progression of their seasons once they’ve left Vecatra’s path, besides perhaps the Rangers themselves. But, something Other governs their progression from an alien sense of Spring to Winter, each cycle twisting them into something more tragic, until finally Vecatra’s gifts are lost entirely to the Ranger and they cry out for the other Rangers throughout Vecatra to slay them. Time and space does not govern the response. The other rangers come, and lay their lost sibling in arms to rest. It remains unclear if they are still fit to enter The Thicket, however, and rest is far from a guarantee.
The Rangers have not entirely forsaken their bonds to us creatures, however. They gifted us The Call, to use whenever we have need. And on occasion there is, regrettably, need. Malefic who cannot find peace, because the medicine they require is long since dead and gone. Or, a Malefic that can only find salvation through the damning of another – in such cases those already walking away from Vecatra may as well make the sacrifice. And even stranger entities, Others we are not equipped to understand or resist. All this ritual requires is a portion of flesh from the entity we require hunted, and to call out in Indolence.
When those that maintain a relationship with our great Mother die the Thicket cleanses, quite violently, all not of Vecatra from themselves so that they may touch Her beating heart. Most can barely feel the pain of their sins before the thorns of the Thicket rips them into view upon death. Even stranger are those with the desire to build a true relationship with the Others they manage to perceive.
This shadow, the Other, whispers at first, often of sin, usually of despair. Hatred is a favorite too. Carefully one driven through desire or necessity toward their shadow can begin to unravel the sin – that which offends Vecatra – from the welcomed Other.
The relationship between a Vecatran and their shadow will grow intimate, quickly, if one can manage to name it rightfully. Which, is to say, find the part of one’s shadow which helps Vecatra thrive – not something every shadow even has.
If the Vecatran is then willing to sacrifice their own time left to offer the Other an often timeless place within Vecatra they can undergo a breathtakingly selfless and often doomed ritual. This ritual unites the named shadow and the Vecatran as oathsworn warriors against the sin within them both, cleansing the sin entirely. Once this rite is finished the Vecatran is brought through the Thicket to our great Mother’s heart. If there is any part of the shadow that Vecatra looks upon with love it remains with the Vecatran’s body. A gift.
Others that have been gifted Vecatran bodies are known to us as our Crones. Sworn to serve Vecatra, bound by our sins but untethered from our humanity. They possess powerful rituals that the wise look upon with suspicion as there is rarely a way to be certain if these gifts were learned from the great spirits or Others.
The Crone’s ability to cleanse sin from themselves, and reunite themselves with the will of Vecatra is extremely important, as there is only one way for human creatures to judge if a Crone stands within Vecatra’s will or without. This way is a closely held secret of the rangers, and the Crones have ample reason to fear the call of the ranger considering they originate outside of Vecatra.
For a price, a Crone is often willing to perform a rite known colloquially as ‘Spirit Riding.’ Though little is known about the rite and how it is performed, we do know a precious few details. The Crone allows a Spirit to slide into the body of the Vecatran seeking atonement. The Spirit is allowed to run itself wild beneath the light of the moon, healing itself or perhaps just having its fun. The Vecatran themself transforms into an approximation of a Beast of the Forest, part spirit and part human. The Vecatrans of the Lorrassiant refer to such a creature as a Loupgarou, though the Lion People have their own name: Werewolf. The recipient rarely if ever remembers what occurs that night, but wakes the next morning with their sin erased from their soul, new in the eyes of Vecatra for their service to the spirits.
The Standing People
The old truths say that every tree in the Lorassaint is connected, their roots intertwined intimately, holding Vecatra’s bones steadfast together, just as they hold our society together. If you followed the roots back to the thickest oldest among them you’d find the mother tree, a reclusive being, and flanking her on all sides are the standing people, who comprise the Court of Trees. Despite their distance they reach us through these root systems, hold our Circle safe and guide us when we have need.
The first tree of our home we know to have touched the heart of Vecatra. Through enduring growth, his roots reached deep like lightning cut down through Vecatra’s ribs and rest at the beating exterior of Her heart. As a leader he shared this gift among those who could reach through the soil, and his wisdom in the form of laws for the other creatures of the Lorassaint.
It is for Grandfather Oak that we continue to persevere and grow stronger, season in and season out, so when we witness him throw white lightning into the skies we can take courage from the sight instead of pale in fear.
We know her as Mother Greyhood, who once touching the heart of Vecatra she grew her bow and branches to intertwine with Grandfather Oak in exemplary appreciation.
Her wide arching branches shield those that approach Grandfather Oak for guidance, softening his hands and heart with her gentle wisdom. She is reprieve, kindness, and sanctuary to all those who have damaged their relationship with Vecatra, for she still remembers the feeling of drowning before she touched Vecatra’s heart herself. Now she breathes underwater readily, holding her head high, and arms wide. She remembers to pity those who cannot yet feel Her pulse under their fingers, and have to live in guessing. To these, the Vecatran who have sinned, she teaches to hold their heads high over the water, and breathe in Vecatra’s breath. Sinners, oath breakers, and those with grief too great to bear cry to Mother Greyhood and it is said that she hears them, offering the solace of true rest and respite beneath her draping branches.
Perhaps not the first child of the forest, but the first among the children of the forest, Avalon Apple carries the ever regenerating spirit of the sacred ones (children) within themself. He lives closely to us whenever we remember to bring new life into their time, so that she may teach them joy and wonder.
Mercurial and rich with the bounties of blessing they are a common patron to the sacred ones and parents alike.
The greatest of warmths is that fostered between embraced bodies. Brother Gorse reminds us that all thriving comes from this principle. Togetherness. We experience ecstaticism with them. He elevates our lives by blessings of union, holding us in the elation of love in life and gifting our deaths meaning with the sweet sting of longing in those who still honour oaths to us.
There is value in Truth, but none in Truth as a weapon. Aspen upholds thoughtful Truth, wise Truth, and Truth as a way to keep a community whole and together. They have adorned themself in the jaws and tongues of animals that live their most authentic truth. Those that cannot protect their Circle without lying do not interest her, and those who use the Truth vindictively earn his ire.
Only the most astute and intuitive of us can claim to understand the existence of Ashkelde. All of which agree on one thing, Ashkelde understands us. Not only that which Vecatra made us to be, but also the sin and stranger that we possess within ourselves. They are a witch of the Standing People, older than all human creatures, and possessing knowledge that would likely rattle our minds apart. And, perhaps, it has rattled theirs apart as well. But, we trust, for they touch Vecatra’s heart, as much as any of the Court.
Unlike the others, however, human’s susceptibility to sin has poisoned us in Ashkelde’s eyes. Ashkelde knows true hatred for all the evils we invite into Vecatra, often fostering and claiming to define us. We are foolish, and Ashkelde knows so. Ashkelde knows not forgiveness, and does not love us as Vecatra does.
The only among us who frequent Ashkelde as a patron are the foresters, that understand if they misstep it will be Ashkelde who punishes them. A fearful but perhaps wise relationship.
Known as the Orphan Tree by storytellers, Cypress was brought into Vecatra through the oath of a bereaved mother with Ashkelde. Her reward was death, and so are all of the gifts Cypress now offers. He stands with the Court of Trees and yet apart in subtle ways, and so Scum, Orphans, Converts, and Outcasts, even those still lost in the tragedy of the Lion god, find a likeness in him.
If every tree in the Lorassaint is connected, then so too are we to the trees themselves. It is therefore not unusual that one might grow to be particularly fond of or dedicated to a particular member of the Standing People. When this occurs, the Vecatran may petition the tree for patronage. In rare cases, a tree may extend patronage to a Vecatran they have taken a particularly strong liking to. This comes with many bounties, as well as many challenges. The tree may offer gifts such as branches from their own trunks or specialized oaths meant only for those who have sworn themselves to that tree. In turn, the tree may ask the sworn to attend to tasks for them specifically in addition to the service the Vecatran already provides to the Court as a whole.
To be given a branch from one of the Standing People is a great honor. Many take these branches and carve them into pendants, bracelets, or rings. Splitting and weaving them into stiff cordage is also common. Even burning the branch and mixing the ashes into makeups is a symbol of respect to the gift, and many Vecatrans maintain that using the gift to create is in and of itself honoring the gift. So it is that any way of displaying the branch you have been given is deemed honorable.
The Grove stands as the seed of all creatures’ harmony. In our groves all creatures find common ground, the will of Vecatra is near, and the great spirits stand in direct defense of these sacred “places.” The placement of these groves can shift and change, as can any part of the Lorassaint, and really all of Vecatra, should she and hers will it.
Within these groves we find guidance from the great spirits. At least twice a year we convene under the law of the Court of Trees. One in joyous revelry, celebrating the thriving nature of Vecatra. The other, a sometimes stern review of our oaths shared, both honored, and failed. During these times all outsiders are welcomed to us, in peace as long as the great spirits desire so. Other circles, foreign spirits and fey, as well as stranger things sometimes come to seek relation to us in these times. Recourse for broken oaths, and swearing of new ones are common during these gatherings.
The rest of the year our circle frequents the grove, particularly in times of celebration, leaving offerings for the other creatures, and enjoying the bounty offered in return. The health of our relationships is evident in the bounty of the grove.
Circles are families, found and born. We uphold the duty to strengthen each other member of our circle, as well as ourselves. We share a common vow to never inhibit others unless their actions directly threaten our ways, Vecatra. To grow strong, is to be allowed to become dangerous. Fear has no place in love. Comfort, no role in survival.
Intimately we learn the strengths, weaknesses, and roles of our circle. Loyalty to this is sacred. As such we recognize other circles as outcasts, as much as we consider the Benalians to be. We cannot know the ways and the beliefs of others, and even if we did, we cannot know their hearts as they show them to their own circles. Just as they cannot see the truth of what we show our own. Circles are territory, shelter, and obligation all given a shared song.
As the rings of a tree’s trunk encase endless unbroken circles, so do we create bonds within our own Circle. Our widest circle encompasses each of the faithful we remain loyal to. Vecatra, the great spirits, and of course our families. But under these we have our practicing circle, those we gather in times of reverie. And, even more intimately are the circles of romance, and some circles of meaning between only a few among us share. All bonds are circles, strong and bountiful, as long as they all are encompassed by the same circle within Vecatra, and as long as one circle never breaks another larger than itself.
Vecatra is always the largest ring of the tree, the first growth of every circle. Oldest and wisest.
The great spirits are always the second ring, touching and knowing the widest better than any other.
Third ring is singularly composed by the leader of our circle. Of all the human creatures, to them alone do we ever submit. We elevate them so they may know Vecatra’s will, and for this we offer respect. They are not always right in their choices, but they sometimes can see when we are blind.
The rings within we can only hope grow more intimate and plentiful with each passing year. Welcomed, as long as the wider circles are never betrayed.
Most unknowable are the knots which cut through many rings, the base of a branch and yet part of the main trunk. These knots represent the Crones, who are part of all Circles and yet are not a part of any Circle, as well as the future and unknown bonds yet to grow.
To submit only to our greater circles is not to deprive us from our ability to honor and respect outsiders, however. Long in the past we’ve known alliances with other circles, and even now we recognize kinship to our Benalian cousins. They are spiritually sick, wolves misled by their own sheep’s clothing. They’re our sick wolves, though. Just, don’t get too close to the fangs.
In their own fear they don’t always know their strength. So, we do not hide our strengths from them, but we do protect our circle through lies and omission as situations demand. We speak in veiled words, carefully consider our audiences at any time. We learn the tongue of the sheep, and speak of our legends in saints in ways palatable to them. There is no more shame in deception as there is in a hunter camouflaging themself until ready to strike, or a grove tender planting flowers that deter harmful creatures.
The invasive Lions do pose a threat, however, one we must be careful not to weaken us. When dealing with them we must constantly remember not to compromise our own growth.
When others struggle we do not confuse our own carefully cultivated strength for obligation to assist. We assist Vecatra, and those that serve her as we do. Our circle. To allow ourselves to stray from this path to help the diseased puts our energies and love to waste. This has always, and always will, lead to weakness.
Advocating for either side in a dispute that does not directly affect your circle.
Taking actions to support either side in a dispute that does not directly affect your circle.
Swearing allegiance to any entity or cause not in explicit service to Vecatra.
In witnessing their fear turned to hatred for Vecatra’s gifts we must not mirror their misunderstanding. We do not fear the gift of the Night Malefic. We heal them. We do not let our selfishness lead us to breaking Oaths as they do, for we are not one but a circle of many, with an obligation greater than human creatures. We respect our power to promise. And, we remember that their God, and every other than our generous Vecatra is a path away from thriving.
Failing to defend against a Night Malefics’ “Fear” call.
Failing to uphold an Oath, knowing or unknown.
Directly aiding the holy people of other gods.
We hold pride in ourselves, and know to keep pride in our discipline. We do not pull metal from Vecatra’s bones, and force her to pay our debts. We pay our own, with our own Gifts. We do not reach beyond the land Vecatra’s has borne to us, because we understand how this poisons other lands, leaving Vecatra’s bone to weather away in the wake of stripped resources. We do not allow ourselves the foolishness of pride in exploiting Vecatra’s bounty.
Utilizing imported goods.
Buying or selling with currency.
Displaying and flaunting signs of wealth and non-vecatran status; allowing gross disruption of the natural world.
We understand our path to be no wider or longer than our ancestors. We speak their words, step in their footsteps, and accept the same gifts from Vecatra that they did. We do not choose the easy path, because our lives were not grown to be easy. We are not small gods, we are creatures as any other, who command not ignoble means of destruction, even in the name of creation. Only Vecatra and her great spirits possess the wisdom of how and when to change our ways. Only through Oaths with the wise should we seek to step wide of our ancestors, so that we do not trample our goddess in the process.
More horrifying than even the innovation of the Throne is the so-called magic wielded by mages. The forces through which magic is done by human hand does not come by honestly. This power, the power of the spirits and Vecatra which She has so very carefully placed in its exact location to serve its exact purpose, is not meant to be touched by human hands let alone wielded for human gain. To engage in the arcane is to rip away carefully accounted for and balanced power from the spirits and Vecatra, depleting Her energy and ripping massive holes into Her body and heart.
In this way, there is no possible manipulation of magic that does not cause heinous and painful suffering to Vecatra. To accept the use of magic onto one’s self is to turn one’s back to Vecatra and all that She has gifted us.”
Failing to participate in a traditional celebration of your community.
Utilizing new technology or sorcery (e.g. Mechanics, Firearms, or Mage Services).
Refusing a Rite of Vecatra or an Oath to a spirit.
To be Vecatran is to fight, and run. To survive. The natural link of consumption has taught us that thriving means submission only to Vecatra’s chosen. Only the wider rings of our circle stand close enough to Vecatra’s side not to need to prove themselves.
Through our exemplified leaders, and great spirits grace in guiding us we learn respect for those weaker than ourselves. We only hunt prey that can fight for survival. For those that submit we lay aside our anger, hunger and fear – for those who submit to us are worthy only of pity. To surrender one’s right to survival is to lose sight of Vecatra, and become corrupt. To kill prey who has submitted, is to follow them off the path of Vecatra in the process.
Submitting to anyone other than the leader of your Circle and the great spirits.
Failing to answer an insult in kind.
Refusing the submission or surrender of another.
A tree cannot stand without each ring within supporting the others. Human creatures have many urges and emotions, some might drive us in selfishness and anger to harm or betray our circle. We mustn’t, however, betray any member for any reasons, or our Circle will break and we will have harmed Vecatra.
Refusing requests for help from a member of your Circle.
Betraying a member of your Circle, or abandoning them in a time of need.
Failing to stop a member of your Circle when their actions harm Vecatra.
Our loyalty helps us thrive, but to survive we must find strength within ourselves, and understand that Vecatra has gifted us everything we need to survive the time we’re created to. To burden any other with your indolence weakens the Circle, and disrespects Vecatra’s gift of time. The gift that we share time with other human creatures to come, and to have passed before us. In time we all must die, and any pain left will be resolved by the next humans or the ones after, as the right time comes. To survive on the time of another is theft of Vecatra’s gifts. Their life was never meant to be spent extending your own. Remain respectful of others’ time, and save yourself.
Suffering a major personal failure, being Downed or helpless amongst enemies or outsiders.
Begging assistance from anyone outside your Circle other than Crones and Spirits.
Allowing Vecatrans to suffer as a result of your own weakness.
Education of our sacred ones is woven into our daily culture, exemplifying our way of life when at home, and once they are old enough to safely travel to the Feasting Grounds they are educated there as well. Intentional education of more challenging topics happens in groups, when there are enough children to form a group. Cooperative learning over different ages helps teach community, perceiving the world from your circles’ varying points of view, and the recognition that every person has talent and finds ease in different areas.
The primary focus of dedicated education is in the stories that hold our traditions and history. Connected but with more or less focus depending upon the groups aptitudes are the properties of our medicines, the temperaments of spirits, the proper handling of local malefic, forest management and folkwise.
Matters of academic knowledge with relevance outside of the forest are neglected, on principle. To waste aptitude is a tragic thing, and to dedicate study to other lands wastes potential always. Not every person is a specialist, but when talent is found it is important to foster.
At a young age we ask the medicines of the forest to share their knowledge with our sacred ones. With disciplined consumption and application the plants share many truths of Vecatra with the youth by introducing them to wiser, more connected states of consciousness.
The Love of Vecatra is not a world without conflict. Conflict is in the natural order of things, and our warriors are part of this. We hunt for the food that nurtures our growth, and we give thanks to the parts of Vecatra that we consume. We guard our territory against those Others which would harm it. We defend ourselves from those parts of Vecatra that would consume us in turn – always knowing that one day, when our strength fails, they will eat us, and we thank them for their part in the cycle.
The warriors of Vecatra are part of the community, no more separate than a thorn can be separate from the flower. All are meant to be strong; and some find that this strength is their purpose in the circle and devote themselves more fully to it. Untested muscle withers, so our warriors train themselves and each other.
These are the marks of a great warrior – keen of sense, to find the prey; cunning of wit, to stalk the prey; swift of foot, to catch the prey; strong of limb, to overcome the prey. The ancestors of our ancestors were given Gifts from the Standing People, who saw that we have neither claw nor fang. Of their limbs we draw the staff and the bow; from the teeth of the earth we make arrowhead and knife.
The honor of the warrior comes from understanding of the target of their hunt. When the hunt is against a human who would harm your circle, or the greater body of Vecatra, remember that it is a diseased animal that you are hunting. It must be removed for the sake of the land. We do not take trophies from such a hunt, but we use what we can from the fallen – waste is injury to Vecatra. But be wary of the flesh of such a kill; as it was diseased, so you may become diseased by consuming it, and your connection to Vecatra shall be poisoned. It is in the power of Vecatra’s flesh itself to devour and purge poison; thus, it is best of all – and proof of strength – to capture human prey alive, and to bury them in the soil beneath the mushroom-beds, where their disease will be transformed into new life. This is a show of great respect to the prey, who will be returned to Vecatra’s cycle fully cleansed.
Those who come from outside and have forgotten the Ways fight differently from us. They come with armies, flame and steel. The dangers of these things cannot be denied, but they too can fall to our hunters. Where they march in unflexing lines, we strike from shadows; from above, in the canopy; from below, in the soil. They have forgotten how to fight in accordance with Vecatra’s ways, so her body rejects them and aids us.
In town we work as neighbors. We want to help our community and the Lions here don’t cause us many issues. It is still wise to maintain a facade of faithfulness, to allow our neighbors and those we hold dear deniability should the worst happen. We have carefully woven ourselves through the fabric of this place, even as our friends and neighbors have buckled to the ease of life among a pride of Lions. Part of the deal we made was that we won’t expose our faith and in return the Benalians keep the bulk of the church out and allow us to continue our way of life relatively unmolested.
Luisant is not the edge of our world. Beyond the buildings of town there sits the Lorassaint, a vast forest covering miles and miles of variable terrain as ever changing as the creatures who reside within. Few paths exist to the outside world, and the ones that do are small and while well-maintained in areas close to town those further out are often rough, overgrown, and frequented by all manner of dangers both human and non-human.
As one travels closer to Luisant, they begin to encounter areas of water grown thick with trees and teeming with aquatic and semi-aquatic life. The deep knees of cypress trees hide the flicker of snakes, gators, and things much more deadly from sight. Those who are most intune to the rich black soil and slow flowing waters speak of the life to be found in the most unexpected places, the blending of Vecatra’s blood and bones in a way that gives you a peek at the wholeness of Her body, the breadth of Her love and thriving. It is said that the human mother of Cypress came from the swamps, and because of this Ash chose to root her son here enmasse.
The ground can often be difficult to ascertain covered in murky water that ranges from ankle depth to perhaps miles deep. Stories speak of patches of thick, sinking mud, hidden underwater shafts that suck travellers down into cavern systems, and creatures that sit unseen until it is too late to run. Many of our favorite feasting foods and rarer ores come from here such as lily pad tubers and bog iron.
At one time, great lizards known as alligators or simply ‘gators’ crawled over every inch of the Lorassaint swamps. These massive creatures reached sizes that rivaled even the aurox of the Lion people, yet were often impossible to see in the dark waters. Our people utilized these creatures as a primary source of food, as one could feed an entire Circle for weeks.
Now, there are few alligators in the swamps of the Lorassaint, most killed by the Lion people. Their reasons stated the danger of passage the gators presented, but we know the truth of their deception. The gators were our primary source of food and one of our more obvious indicators of the health of the swamps. With their removal, we were forced to accept the aid of the Lions as we struggled to feed ourselves on the decimated bounty.
Firmly on Vecatra’s bones, we can hear Her heartbeat clearly through the words of the Standing People who tower all around us. Those who are most connected to the forest find the leaves whisper to us of quiet clearings and the songs of birds tell us of the joy of Her breath. When sunlight filters through the leaves and we are met with the songs of thriving all around us, we cannot help but dance and sing along, to find our own thriving. The Luisant Grove is found in the forest, shaped with fallen limbs, trailing flowering vines, and the fern fronds.
The forest now provides us with the majority of our bounty. With the decimation of the gators by the Lions, this is primarily where we find our larger game such as deer and boar as well as smaller game. Forageables such as berries, mushrooms, and greens fill the gaps between. Ore is pulled for tools, though kept simple and within our bounds as human creatures so as not to cause harm to our Goddess.
Found between the deep forest and deep swamp sits the Divide. Here the ground is unsteady, frequently reaching to catch any unwary traveler and force them to turn back or else keep them there forever. It is here that the Red-Handed Crone hides, surrounded by the last of the Lorassaint’s gators which she keeps safe from the Lions. On the opposite side of the Divide, another Circle thrives in their own ways. We remember little of them beside their hostility to any who attempt to cross onto the lands they protect and what the legends tell us of how they came to be there. From all accounts, it is best kept that way lest the Crone be moved to stain her hands further.
Leaving the Lorassaint
Though some are called by their human curiosity to leave the forest, this is folly at best. We were placed here to be here. This is our home, our place on Vecatra’s bones. It is here we have been called to protect. To leave the Lorassaint is to abandon our sacred duty to this place, and those who have managed to make it through the dangers presented, both physical and spiritual, are left in the open as a drone bee kicked from its hive. Alone and without its community to aid him, he will find only death. For us, this means never returning to our community whether by simply being denied reentry to the forest or by being named Outcast. Many find the former preferable to returning having known the pain and withering of the world ruled by Lions.
Vecatra’s creatures are not the only things wandering the great forest of the Standing People. Others, wild of heart and unknowable to many, can be found hiding even in plain sight. People who are part human and part animal, trolls, things that appear to be creatures until they approach and are found to be many times too big to be a standard wolf. Things that appear to be deer, yet are decidedly Not Deer with joints at odd angles and mouths that open much too far to reveal the teeth of a predator. Even plantlife that consumes meat and insects rather than plants, trapping them in deep wells of liquid that melt anything that has the misfortune of falling in.
These Others all seem to recognize Vecatra, and many are even friendly to humans who recognize Her as well. Some can speak and carry on conversation, while many react purely on instinct as animals do, and anything in between appears possible. They are particularly drawn to those in romantic love and children. It is considered best to handle these Others with caution, as their abilities are strange and often powerful and their motives are frequently beyond human understanding.
When Vecatra first brought us into being alongside the rest of Her creatures, She gave us no names. We were creatures all the same, though different in appearance and function. As we worked our stewardship, it became necessary to give names to each other to more clearly identify the needs of the world and share in the work needed to thrive.
In this way, one’s name is merely a placeholder, a way to tell you apart from another. To use your name to elevate yourself above the other creatures of the world is a show of one’s egotistical nature and could be a sign that someone is falling away from Vecatra’s teachings. It is the job of the Maidens to then humble that person, calling them by other names, innocuous, inflammatory, and just downright silly, to humble them and remind them of their place among Vecatra’s creatures.
For those who were raised as Benalian and have since found their way home, to use the angel name granted to you by the Church is the best way to draw the ire of the Maidens. If a Maiden finds one to have been using a name given by the Church of the Lion God, they will frequently go to extremes to teach you otherwise.
If that does not work, the Maiden will pass your angel name onto the Crone, allowing her to deal with it as she will. Most find death preferable to this.
Our concerns have historically dealt with the people of the Lion God and their attempt to grasp the region. The Beauchene line gives us little trouble, which is all that can be asked of a Lion cub ruling the wild lands. Historically, the family has found that allowing us to manage the gathering of wood and other resources is in their best interest. Only we understand the careful balance of protection for ourselves and protection for Vecatra’s bones and blood, and thus we have had little need to offer the Standing People recompense.
Our true concern is now what happens should those who lean into the embrace of the Lion God deplete the region. It has happened rarely as the horror of what must be done tends to leave a lasting impression upon the next several generations. Should the bones of Vecatra be over-gathered, it is our duty as Her people to return thriving to the area in the way demanded by the Court of Trees. To them, a human life must be brought forth and spilled upon the ground of their grove. The body is then parted into primary cuts, left hung from the trees to provide shelter and food to creatures who live in the forest. Their organs are ground into paste and buried at the base of each of the Court, who in turn distribute the nutrient-rich food through the forest with their roots. In doing this, we restore the bounty and unhold our Oath.
Rite of Corpus
The Standing People each have their own association with a particular organ of the body.
Oak to the brain, seat of thought.
Willow to the skin, skein of dreams and sins.
Ashkelde to the eyes, foolish and traitorous to the last.
Aspen to the tongue, sweet with truth or sour with lies.
Gorse to the heart, thick and hearty with lust and sorrow.
Apple to the teeth, to carve out their lost childish smile.
Cypress to the stomach, that which is devouring and devoured.
The forest is full of Others who might do harm to the unwitting wanderer. Entering the forest is something that should be done with wonder but also caution. In recent times, the malefic and spirits have begun to act erratically. The cause is still yet unknown and not well understood, but it would be wise to take extra caution when dealing with these entities.
Finally, the recent plague has touched everyone in the region and we are no less affected than any others. Our natural remedies offered us some protections as many of the diseases that rolled through were known to us already. As time wore on and each new disease required a different remedy, a different approach, a new and creative way of utilizing the things we had, it became harder and harder to keep up. As we all continue to reel from the effects of the plague, we as always continue our work.
Food has long been our best-loved of our traditions, even before the Witchking stole this joy from us and turned it to tedium. As the years have passed and the forest has recovered, we have found our joy in food once again. There is such a beautiful pleasure in caring and tending to the forest, planting together plants which need little attention and care for each other as we do in our community. Such careful forest farming allows us that much more time to enjoy the gifts of Vecatra, the simple joy in the ripe fruit of the huckleberry bush, the savory bitter crunch of roasted dandelion root, the tender, lean flesh of a rabbit fat with the greens of stinging nettles.
Though delicious, there are many plants the Benalians brought which pose concerns to our traditional fair. Massive bushes of blackberries grow out of control, needing tending each year in order to keep them from taking over the entire forest and draining the soil of all nutrients. Other plant creatures not native to the area include mint and lemon balm, both of which quickly grow out of control and choke out tender local greens. Other species have not taken over and instead enriched our diets, such as squashes, potatoes, and tomatoes.
Plants and fungi:
Mushrooms such as chanterelle, oyster, and morel, lily pad (lotus) root, wild garlic and onions, ramps, blackberries, salmon berries. Wild nuts such as pine nuts and acorns. Edible flowers such as dandelion, blackberry flower, and wild violet. Dandelion greens and roots. Pine tips. Wood sorrel. Maple and birch sap.
Rabbit, squirrel, wild hogs, deer, freshwater fish (catfish, trout, etc), snails, and frogs, crayfish. Freshwater shellfish, duck, grouse. Alligator is a traditional delicacy that is extremely hard to come by. The largest known population of Alligators is protected by the Red-handed Crone.
Clothing is functional above form and often simple. Patching the same garment multiple times is expected and when a garment has reached the end of its wearability it is often pieced out and used for patches or rags.
There is no standard coloring for clothing. The forest offers many options for dyes with an abundance of flowers and minerals to work with. Using flowers and a rolling pin to stamp fabrics with the images of petals and stamens is not uncommon, nor is using plant-based ink to paint images and patterns on tunics and skirts.
The wearing of flowers to express one’s moods and desires is a well-beloved tradition of the town, made popular by our own traditions. (link to Floriography)
Our traditions are rich with the creativity of humanity. Though we do not improve upon what Vecatra has given us, there is much space for enjoyment and the honoring of Her gifts by converting them into tools both for utility and for joy.
Among our artistic traditions are the working of clay into pots, plates, and figurines then baked in an oven and painted with inks and paints made of plants. These same paints and inks are used to adorn leather and fabrics.
Gator leather was once popular and is often passed from generation to generation as a family heirloom.
Dance and music are considered to be one of the best ways one can venerate Vecatra through our own human movement. Dance connects one’s body to the bones of Vecatra, revelling in Her glory. Music is often created using one’s heartbeat as a baseline and used as an expression of Vecatra’s heartbeat. Instruments are often made from skins and wood. Using your token branch from a patron Tree to create sticks for drums or flutes is a popular practice among the Jovienne family.
The creation of small bowls or boxes which contain a thriving environment all its own are a more recent addition, born from a desire to offer those sick with the plague some small comfort. These ‘terrariums’ bring Vecatra into your home, offering you a small connection to the forest or swamps from your bedside. The children of the Veneaux have taken a particular interest in these, watching as the secrets of life and growth unfold before them in miniature.
Much older is the art of flower arrangement to express moods and messages in subtle ways. (link to Floriography)
Finally, our most sacred of arts is the shaping of the Grove. It is not enough to simply dedicate a clearing to Vecatra, drawing the power of Her heartbeat close to the surface where we may touch it and perform the most powerful of our rites. We are taught by the spirits that a Grove should be shaped with connection to Vecatra in mind. It’s shape should draw you in and invite those who recognize Vecatra to rest for a time.
The Grove is shaped with the comfort of the spirits primarily, the comfort of the animals secondarily. We create spaces for spirits and animals alike to find shelter and rest, structures of various sizes woven from fallen branches and roofed with leaves.
Flowers and herbs are often planted and grown here both to please the eye and to keep a supply of herbs on hand. Malefica are left as offerings for any spirit who might wander through in search of respite. Using a needle and thread, garlands of flowers are often strung together and hung about the trees and shrubs to offer brightness and add to the enjoyment of the space. Little of the decoration should be completely changed from its original shape by human hands, though offering dishes are considered an acceptable addition.
Beyond the usual concepts of resources, there are some things with which only we deal with fully.
Herbalism and Apothecary
Herbs have long been used by our Mothers to create poultices, tinctures, powders, and serums for healing, harm, and pleasure. Though no longer a practice that only we utilize, we are still the best prepared to work with plant creatures.
Even more powerful is the use of malefica. Crystalized essence of the Other, utilized in potions to produce powerful effects and as trade goods with the spirits. It takes years of training with a knowledgeable practitioner to learn how to properly work with these materials and attempting to do so without such training often proves fatal.
Though risky at best, making an Oath with a spirit can prove to be very effective. The spirits of Vecatra are able to grant us many abilities both great and small, though caution must be taken as spirits often do not have much regard for what may be useful or harmful to humans. Words must be chosen carefully as a promise to give up one’s eyes for an evening could be misinterpreted as an invitation to take those eyes every evening.
It is considered extremely rude to start negotiation for an Oath with a spirit and then decline to follow through when the spirit will not accept the price you put forth. It is typical that before any Oaths are made, one would consult the Maidens for their insight. Making an Oath with a spirit one on one is a rare event, often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. More often are the larger Oaths which are discussed and formed by the Maidens of the Circle.
The Crone of the Divide may also be accessed at the discretion of those who are willing to visit her. It is said she has mastery of a myriad of strange and powerful rites known only to those who offer themselves to the Other inside of them and have rejoined Vecatra. This, like oaths with spirits, is never done lightly as there is no way to tell if she will be willing to help or would rather simply use an unwitting visitor as a component in one of her many rituals.
As you may have gathered by now, traditions are held close to our hearts and maintained and practiced for generations with little change or adjustment. These come from many places, but those held closest are the ones passed onto us from the spirits themselves.
The First Night
A long held tradition which has bled into the landscape of Luisant such that even the LeBlanc take part in it. On the final night of summer, as the light fades and the scent of autumn climbs along the wind, the young people of Luisant take to the forest for an evening of camaraderie and bonding with their peers and the forest around them in a rite of passage observed by generations upon generations before them.
It is only our children who know how to weave together a ring of sticks and vines, shaping a small temporary grove of their own. The rite is completed with each person who will be staying in the ring that evening commingling their blood upon their palms with ash from a burnt oak limb and smearing the combined blood along the edges of the circle. Until the sun rises no creature that intends the group harm may enter the circle so long as none of the group leaves its boundaries.
When a member of the Circle passes through the thicket, it is a wonderful affair. To rejoin Vecatra in Her thriving is truly the most wonderful of the gifts She gives us and so it is of the utmost importance that we celebrate the passing of a loved one from this world.
Our most sacred of death traditions is the planting of the heart. As the body is prepared for burial, the heart is removed and placed inside a cloth. The heart is then taken to the Grove and a request to the deceased’s patron tree is made for a seed. Once the seed is granted, it is pressed deep into the center of the heart, which is then buried on the edge of the Grove.
In situations where the heart cannot be found or is not accessible, it is hoped that the deceased will return as a malefic to allow another chance at obtaining their heart for burial.
After the heart has been buried, the Circle returns to the home of the deceased. All of the doors and windows are opened to allow Vecatra and any spirits who may want to pay respects into your home to join in the celebration of the deceased’s passing onto the heart of Vecatra and their joining in Her thriving.
It is not uncommon for the deceased’s lineage to sit up with them through the night to offer support as they pass through the Thicket.
Celebration is held as one of the most important traditions in Luisant. It is celebrations that bring us together and knit our community into a stronger weave. Through holidays and folk wisdom, we bring each other back to a place from before the touch of Chirpoler poisoned this land. Then we remember our triumphs and struggles, we bind ourselves together, and make both the town and the forest around us better, stronger places. Though not all remember the true meaning behind many of these traditions, we are here to gently remind them that their roots reach not to Lethia but downward towards Vecatra’s heart.
There is a second type of party to which few attend. In the Grove, secreted in the woods, only those who recognize Vecatra meet. It is here that we see the Court of Trees in the forms they have presented to us for time immemorial. It is here that we make ourselves known to the Other inhabitants of the Lorassaint and where they make themselves known to us should they so wish. These gatherings happen twice a year, in early spring and late summer.
These are a few of the other traditions practiced by the Vecatrans of the Luisant.
The Telling of the Bees: Bees are considered to be the messengers of the spirits, communicating the doings of the forest and the town to the Court of Trees. As such, it is considered good manners to inform the bees of any important happenings such as births, deaths, and bonds made between people. The bees also enjoy being kept up to date on the latest gossip, though it is unsure whether they communicate this to the Court or merely share it among themselves.
Reading Free: Words have power and can be used to shackle your fate to curse and misfortune. It is thought that reading a passage in reverse is thought to reverse the effects of a curse and free you from the hold words may have over one’s fate. Though we used to use our own texts for this practice, since their destruction the use of the Benalian testamonium is more common as it is the most readily available book in town.
“Saint Lenore”: Lenore of Viridian is commonly referred to a priest of the Benalian faith, well known for her ability to traverse the forest and offer aid to far flung communities within it. In truth, her name was Luciole and she was a faithful of Vecatra, a Mother of notable ability and wisdom. Today the faithful of Vecatra in Luisant keep statues of her in their homes as a sign to others of their faith.
Courtship and Marriage
For the Vecatrans of the the Lorassaint, love is considered to be free-flowing and without ties, one of the few things to which there is no spirit oversight and little spirit involvement. One of the few places where we are afforded complete freedom of movement, all love is considered to be equally important whether it be familial, romantic, or platonic. Elevating one above the other is viewed as strange and the lines between them can frequently blur and shift as the relationships between individuals grow and change.
Sex is not considered to be an act purely for procreation. In fact, use of purgatives and herbs to limit the possibility of conception are frequently offered and suggested before and after sexual acts. Sex for recreation is often a favorite past time among the Circles, and an orgy is considered to be a great way for a newly formed Circle to bond with one another.
Opting out of sex is never frowned upon and attempting to push the issue is viewed as extremely rude. Instead, it is encouraged to find another way to bond with each other.
Monogamous marriage is rather uncommon among the faithful of Vecatra. Dedicating yourself to a single person, while certainly not unheard of, is often considered strange and limiting by many who have been a part of the Circle since childhood. Non-monogamous marriage is often viewed as unnecessary except those who are patroned by Gorse as the tree finds oaths between humans who love each other to be utterly delightful. It is considered poor form to throw a wedding or binding and not invite the tree of love.