Sylvan legends tell of Arbais the Stonethorn, a beautiful yet terrible Fae who stalks the darkest groves and dangerous frontiers of the Mistwood. Before she was a part-petrified and embittered shadow of her former self, she began her existence as an altogether more peaceful and harmonious entity.
Arbais’ seedling chrysalis grew up alongside the ancient Heart Tree near the centre of the Mistwood, sharing soil and sunlight with the mighty sentinel. When she was old enough, she dragged up her roots and walked for the first time. She went abroad through the forest, learning its ways and her place within it, communing with birds and beasts, boughs and bark. While she made all of the great woodland her home, she returned often to the Heart Tree’s side, settling her
roots back where she had first grown, intertwining them with the others. The Heart Tree was as a mother, a wise and protective spirit whose Rhythm sang Arbais to sleep.
When she slumbered, Arbais did so for many years, and during one such period, things changed. A darkness, spread by the servants of Siroth, erupted from the Heart Tree. Slowly it twisted and subverted the ancient core of the forest and distorted the Rhythm. Arbais’ sleep became more fitful and disturbed. As her dreams turned to nightmares, she started awake and discovered, to her horror, that they were not merely her imagination.
The Heart Tree had been corrupted. Evil wormed through its bark and rotted its leaves. Worse, the taint had spread into Arbais’ own body, her timber now lousy with the Darkness of Siroth. Sickened and repulsed, she tried first to commune with the Heart Tree, to warn it, to make it all stop, but it showed no recognition. Growing desperate, she called to the surrounding trees, but they were tainted too. Panicking, she physically tried to scour away the corruption from the Heart
Tree, but found herself breaking and snapping parts of it to no avail — the taint had delved too deeply. As her own agony built and she felt the contagion burrowing into her, Arbais realized that there was only one way she could preserve herself from the foulness — physically separate herself from the tree she had once adored above all else.
With great difficulty, Arbais tore her roots away from the Heart Tree’s, weeping with pain and sorrow, her whole frame shuddering. They had grown even more entwined during the years she had spent in slumber, and in freeing herself she ripped away part of the older tree, while at the same time leaving behind part of herself.
Arbais stumbled away, in a haze of anguish and agony, her lament sending shivers through swathes of the forest. Her survival remained uncertain, as the act of separation had almost come too late. Cut off from the nourishment of the Heart Tree, her bark began to petrify. Only through her connection to the wider forest was she able to cling to life — she planted herself for a while in the Whispering Glade and embraced the sunlight there, and her roots drank of the cool,
renewing waters of the Greenrun Stream. Slowly her life force became constant and steady again.
– As she recovered, Arbais discovered the fragment of the Heart Tree that had been torn away with her roots. Rather than destroy it, she kept it, her attuned nature telling her that though it would be forever damaged, the evil it had once borne had been left behind when she ripped it free. The Rhythm still emanated from it, albeit disjointed, and was a reminder of a happier past and a horrifying present.
All of the Mistwood was threatened by the corruption of the Heart Tree, and when the forces of the Sylvan and their allies, the Skyiron Dwarves and Shadowkin rebels of Yakai, finally mustered for the final time to halt it once and for all, they were joined by a beautiful, masked woman with flesh as emerald as the forest canopy who was wrapped in gossamer cloth, and who spoke with a voice like the rushing of the wind in the leaves. Arbais could change her form, and when she
joined the Sylvan Elves who comprised part of the army’s vanguard, she assumed one that they might empathize with more.
During the fighting that followed, Arbais struggled unlike anyone else. The sight of the Heart Tree, warped almost beyond recognition after decades of further corruption, filled her with a fury she had never known before. She led the assault on the corrupt Fae, Demonspawn, and the Mikage Autocracy forces that were using the tree as a locus, plunging her roots into their bodies and draining the life from them, her whip-vines severing heads and limbs. She set about slaughtering the maddened, tainted Fae that assailed her, ripping out their wings and staving in their shrieking features. She wept bitter tears of amber sap, and transformed back into her original, tree-like form as she fought. Her stony bark was impervious to the blows of beings she had once counted as family, whom she uprooted to clear a path toward the Heart Tree itself. The struggle to purge the Darkness from it was even more painful than tearing herself away from it for Arbais, but by the end, Siroth’s evil was cast out.
While the Heart Tree’s remains were no longer being defiled by the Shadow God, the taint could not be reversed. Arbais could never again peacefully settle among its roots, which were now gouged and charred, or drink from soil upon which now lay the rotting remains of countless fallen warriors. Her soul felt as hollow as the dead husks of the trees of the battle site. For a time after she wandered the forest, tracking down lingering remnants of the evil forces. Now, known as Arbais the Stonethorn, she spends years at a time planted at single sites along the border, ever watchful for intruders.