The World of Adel is full of Spirits. These little gods in humanoid form often live in their own remote places, though many travel the world in search of their own sorts of adventure, and others take fully to the life of an Adelian and brush elbows with the common folk in their towns and cities. Others serve villages as Guardian Spirits, getting free worship, treasure, food and care in exchange for lending their blessing to the village land. There are many Spirits of many different kinds, some more powerful than others. All Spirits are capricious, but the most potent are incredibly fey in their drives and motivations. They stifle their own power for reasons unknown (or incomprehensible), and they create great works only to leave them.
One such work of beauty is the Grove of Amrita in Sargasso. This sacred place stands in the middle of an otherwise clear valley, a sudden strip of wood as though a ritual circle carved into the land by nature itself. The high Spirit that might have once made this blessed place is now gone, but others have come in its place, and travelers and pilgrims come to the spot to perform devotional service, and partake (humbly, and carefully) of the incredible bounty within.
The Grove of Amrita
The central and eastern regions of Sargasso are possessed of numerous jungles and are very lush, but the southern portion of the Nation, where it borders the desert lands of Vedaria, is dryer and thin of vegetation. The broad valleys of the Unashad region are known for grasses, roots and grains, not for high forest. Yet right in the middle of the Unashad is an almost perfectly circular grove a few miles across, thick and lush. A canopy of various trees, some not even native to Sargasso, some not even native to anywhere, compose the grove. The canopy rustles with a divine wind, the air sweet and fragrant. Beams of light fall in patterns through the holes in the canopy, always seeming to touch ground or plant where needed. The ground is thick with roots, and firm with healthy and rich soil. Nature’s bounty is in full display: various branches afford fresh fruit on a regular basis, and shrubs, bushes and tangles growing in their shadow are rich with berries and flowers. Throughout the grove one can find a few clearings, some of which boast crystalline springs where pilgrims may take holy water.
When Spirits unleash their full abilities, the entire world can morph at their touch. Rarely do Spirits do this, as it bends the unknowable laws that keep them in balance with nature and mortal kind. Yet that same mystical whim sometimes causes them to display their full majesty in brief, and leaves their mark on the world in unpredictable ways. The Grove was established several hundred years ago, drawn into being by the breath of a powerful Spirit who had undergone just such an experience. Beautiful, capricious and previously transient, this Spirit of nature, of beauty, of fertility, swept through the valley on its endless journey. In this edge of the land, between jungle and desert, where grasses grew quickly yellowed, the Spirit finally settled, making an evergreen nest. No one knows why it stayed, for how long it nested, or what drove it to finally abandon its abode. All the love and pride that went into its work is still palpable in the site. Those who enter can feel something brimming about them, like a small heart beating alongside their own in the full joy of life.
It is an eerie but strangely fond feeling.
Spirits of the Grove
Within the Grove of Amrita reside a few Spirits, drawn to the masterwork of one of the exemplars of their kind.
Karishma Rangarajan: The current mistress of the Amrita Grove, by virtue of both essence and timing, and a powerful and majestic spirit of colors and arts, with a sub-purview in plants that she has gained from several decades of caring for the Grove. To gaze upon her is to understand the awe-inspiring nature of the divine. Karishma is a beautiful spirit, with skin the color of healthy earth, a full female form covered in a long and colorful dressing robe, tied with a golden sash, and shoulder-length hair of several colors. In place of arms, she has wings, but with multiple joints along the wing structure and long, flexible fore-feathers that serve as though digits, allowing her to grasp and touch with as much flexibility and firmness as any humanoid hand. She has a fan-like tail, and all of her plumage is glossy and colorful, but soft as skin to touch.
Karishma’s Spirit Title is A Prism’s Light on Morning Dew. Her purviews are colors and art, and her sub-purviews are birds and plants. Though she began purely as a Spirit of Culture, she has since grown more to be a Spirit of Nature. Despite being over 200 years old, the Grove and its creator are still her senior. Nonetheless, Karishma has laid claim to it. She arrived at the Grove long after its Creator had left it, and something in the winds of fate compelled her to take it as her residence. She nurtures the Grove and lends her blessing to the land, and has done so for several decades. She is gracious and allows travelers to partake of the Grove, but has no compunction with expulsing those who disrespect her or it. No person or spirit who has tried to challenge her has succeeded – she is simply too powerful, especially within the Grove itself. As such, order is maintained within the place. Her presence is sometimes imposing, as though one were in the company of a mythical princess, who outshines all light and outblooms all flowers. However, when she wants to be, she can be much more inviting, even normal to the senses. She seems to know ahead of time whether she’ll like a traveler or not, and what distance is needed.
Karishma’s magic is quite incredible. With a flap of her wings she can send enemies flying, rebuked but unhurt. Her voice can turn from soft to dire in an instant, and invoke furious verses from the great spirit legends, singing the divine hymnody that brings crashing force and elemental might to bear upon her foes. If she wanted to, she could kill with a word, but such powers are against the unspoken, unheard laws of the Spirits to employ. In physical combat, her feathers are sword and shield, capable of turning from gentle to sharp, fierce, nearly unbreakable in a moment’s notice.
Karishma is a bit ambivalent on Jaya, not really knowing how she feels about the whole situation, but always asserting her control over the grove, and giving Jaya a trouncing where she deserves it.
Jaya: Karishma’s common spirit challenger. Jaya is a spirit of warfare and insects, a strange combination, and an admirable sight in her own right. She is a slight and athletic human-like girl with yellow skin, wearing a black soldier’s uniform and an officer’s cap, with holes for her diaphanous wings on her back, and for her antennae on her cap. She has cheek-length red hair in a tight bob, and wears a pair of glasses that never seem to fall, despite her maneuvers. She stands tall and stick-straight, sometimes on the tips of her boots, and often seems to be planning something.
Jaya’s title is the Clever Commander of the Ants. By her power, all kinds of ants can appear and attack, be they enormous swarms or single, grotesquely large individuals, and her magic and physical prowess are great. Jaya is ill tempered, but she is not evil. However, she is compelled to challenge Karishma, and wishes to take over the Grove. Karishma does not object to her presence, as long as she is respectful, and only takes her fair share of the Grove’s bounty. But unfortunately, Jaya rarely remains pleasant for long. She is driven to seek control, and she has been defeated several times, but continues to remain by Karishma’s side, either looking for an opportunity to overthrow her, or for some other reason.
Like a lot of spirits, Jaya takes pleasure in inconveniencing mortals. She rarely hurts them (too much) but travelers should be wary around her. Karishma is always quick to punish Jaya for any serious crime she commits against pilgrims, unless Karishma herself dislikes them. She is mischevious to mortals, and often brash with Karishma. Deep down, Jaya seems to feel some form of attraction to Karishma, but as Spirits neither of them really understand it.
Kashu: Kashu is an Einotbe, a spirit of grains and drink. He has a beautiful and delicate face, with long hair that is has stalks of wheat running through it, and his skin is a honey-like color, and a somewhat short and thin body dressed in a robe. He is just a bit over five feet and unimposing. He seems like a Iomadi, except for his long, floppy ears – no Iomadi has such rabbit-like ears. As an Einotbe, Kashu is simple-minded and mischievous. His spirit power is to move quickly, often vanishing from sight only to reappear elsewhere, but he has poor control over it. He seems lost at the Grove, but in no hurry to leave. The only thing he misses from the local villages is stealing rice wine or mead from them to drink.
Kashu serves no real purpose at the grove, being too weak to lend his qualities to it, but will often try to strike up pointless, childish conversation with passersby. He does not interact much with Karishma or Jaya – as a lesser Spirit, he is automatically smothered if he enters their auras, and tries not to. He sometimes likes to feed the giant bugs that tend to follow in Jaya’s wake, and keeps a few of them, when they’re ignored by Jaya, as his pets or friends.
Kashu has no Spirit Title – he is too weak a Spirit to have earned one.
Askook: The Terrifying Shadow Overhead, Askook is an enormous dragon, its body lime green and yellow with jewels embedded in its underside and wings. It has a long body, almost thirty feet across, and a very contoured and graceful profile, with small, dangerously aware golden eyes. It has both folding wing-arms and two smaller manipulating arms tucked into its chest, and a long tail ending in a blade for cutting through vegetation. Askook had taken residence within an old mausoleum, and inevitably came into conflict with the Andaliel Archeological Society. The great dragon led them to believe it would negotiate, and then sprung an ambush on the unsuspecting negotiators, harming many. A group of Seraphim were sent to defeat it, and drove it from the Mausoleum so it could be explored by the Archeological Society.
Askook fled in a fury, and found itself in the Grove of Amrita. Drawn to its power, Askook challenged Karishma for control of the Grove – it would make a fine fortress in which to start a new nest, and the vegetation appealed to Askook more than the cramped stone of the Mausoleum anyway. He might have succeeded, coming close to dealing harm to Karishma, until Jaya also intervened, and the two defeated it once again. Rebuffed a second time, Askook has grown weary of combat and now lies on the edge of the Grove, shuffling into the forest for food before going back out to sleep outside.
Like any Dragon, Askook can take a humanoid form, but its form is fairly androgynous and so nobody really knows its true identity. It is not by nature an evil creature, but it is greedy, temperamental and arrogant. The danger it represents is dormant from the blows it has received, but who knows when or what it will next attempt. For pilgrims, it is an exquisite sight, but its pleasant beauty quickly disperses when it breathes its magic breath. It thinks little of Adelians, and would eat one if the opportunity presented itself. Even other Spirits are beneath its notice.
Like any Dragon, Askook’s magic breath can destroy even indestructible artifacts, and it can end lasting magical effects upon a person, such as lifelong curses and blights – if the person survives exposure to the breath. Locals possessed of cursed objects or dangerous technology have thought of asking it to destroy them.
Imamu: Imamu is a fresh-faced, bright-eyed and lovely fruit spirit, drawn to the amazing bounty of the Grove. He is a tall and fairly plump spirit in a sleeveless summer robe. His appearance suggests a tall Cuporo, with skin the color of bark and smoothness of an apple’s peel, and fine facial features. However, the volume of berries and lush leaves which grow from his long, dark hair marks him out as something more exotic than the average Cuporo. His modest spirit title is the Bloom of the Good Tree. Cheerful and energetic, everything seems more lively in his wake.
Imamu admires the grove, and loves to just sit under the canopy and watch the plants grow. In the grove, seasons worth of growth occur in days or weeks. He practices his blessing on the Grove, hoping perhaps to become the Guardian Spirit of a local village, and wanting to strengthen his blessing to better serve. In his presence, plants fruit just a bit faster, and the fruits are bigger and juicier. As such he’d prefer a village with a lot of berry bushes.
As a peaceful, distracted spirit, Imamu is ambivalent on Jaya and Karishma. He admires Karishma, but feels the Grove could stand without a master or mistress. Jaya is belligerent and somewhat annoying, but merely follows where her spirit’s heart leads and what it yearns for. He cares not about their strange relationship.
Pilgrims of the Grove
There are a few pilgrims currently taking temporary residence at the Grove.
Johar Shantanu: A young, superstitious Iomadi man, soon to be a father. He is dressed in a short red sleeveless robe, and has dark skin and hair and bright green eyes. He is a bit skittish – he feels that there are bad omens for his new family on the horizon, and so he took his pregnant wife and led her from their village, with the blessings of their guardian spirit, to seek out the Grove of Amrita. He hopes that Anjali giving a water birth in those sacred springs may bless their child, and her – he doesn’t mind if he himself is hurt or cursed so long as she and his child are fine. Johar brought along a sword and an old flintlock rifle and he can hardly use any of them, as he was a potter in the village, not a hunter or fighter. Nonetheless he can defend himself if necessary. Karishma has told him several times she sees nothing dark on his horizon, but to assuage his fears, she has volunteered to be the midwife when the crucial time comes. He saw Askook drinking water one day and has been terrified ever since. But he must stay for the sake of his future family, or at least that is what he firmly believes.
Anjali Desha: A young Iomadi woman, quite obviously deep in pregnancy. She has tanned skin and auburn hair, and wears a long and colorful robe, greens, oranges and yellows, the colors of fertility and maternity. Johar is her husband, and she finds his superstitions quite silly, and wishes he would calm down, but is happy to play along if it allows her to stay in the Grove, and furthermore, the chance to have such a blessed birth as Johar is planning. She has never seen so much beauty on display, and will be sad to leave. From her home village, she brought a lot of thread, and needles, and she has knitted many items of clothes that she has made a hobby of putting on passing animals, and even on some of the spirits.
Hania: A handsome young Iomadi, perhaps in his 20s, with very short hair uncharacteristic of his people, very simple robes, and a wiry frame that suggests a knowledge of work and hunger. Hania is one of the Two Thunders, a pair of wanderers whose names have become a kind of legend among adventuring culture – and still a mystery to everyone else who matters. As such, Hania’s invocation of his title rarely gets him any food or shelter, and he has to work for it, often by taking on dangerous deeds. As a child, Hania met the spirit Lai Sen, and was saved by her. Ultimately, she joined him in his travels, as he left his village upon the passing of his spiritual mentor and sensei in the Art of the Windborne Blade, his fighting style. Some say he killed his master – what reason did he have to leave, otherwise? But only he and Lai Sen know the truth about that.
He and Lai Sen were traveling toward Vedaria, when they came upon the Grove. Hania secretly dreads entering the harsh desert, even if it is the next logical step on his endless pilgrimage. As such, he is happy to remain at the Grove until Lai Sen feels ready to leave. He knows her well enough to realize that even though she gave up her spirit powers and immortality, that unknowable call of the mystical world will always be there, with deeds it needs her complete. He loves her, and is willing to wait and to help her in anything that she wants to do. Especially if it keeps them fed and out of Vedaria.
He has met Johar and Anjali few times in the Grove, and finds them charming. He tries his best to assuage Johar’s fears, but not even the greatest Spirit could do that. Hania currently has no sword – he pawned it for money that has carried him this far, and he has a small pack of supplies that it bought. He has had to sell his sword, literally, several times already. Lai Sen of course always keeps hers, as it is a part of her. He’s hoping to Johar might gift him his own sword, or that he can talk the man into parting with it once his child is born, and the ecstasy of parenthood makes him more pliable.
Hania is of course not his real name, and only Lai Sen knows what to really call him.
Lai Sen: Lai Sen is actually a Muikara spirit – though she has traded her wings for the arms of a mortal, she nonetheless has the Muikara’s regal, almost dismissive facet, their very pale skin, and long wavy hair interspersed with green feathers, though she has cut hers closer to her neckline. She is a lean and athletic lady in a plain sleeveless robe, with a rope around her waist instead of a sash. Her only possession in the world seems to be an ornate sword hanging from her rope-belt. Lai Sen is one of the Two Thunders, and the partner of Haina. She met Haina as a child spirit, nary ten or twelve years, and he was the first mortal she conversed with. She saved him from predation by a drake when they were teenagers, and has given up her immortality and been his fast friend and lover ever since. The two have wandered all along Adel, often in desperate need of money and food, with only their incredible sword skills to offer in exchange for shelter and sustenance.
Lai Sen was drawn to the grove like a Spirit, even if she has taken the life of a mortal. She feels there is a purpose to her being there, and Haina is willing to wait with her until it is complete. Like Haina, she has knowledge of numerous ancient and obscure sword techniques, and is also still in control of some of her wind magic from her short time as a Muikara, a typical Wind Spirit of Andaliel. Perhaps soon her next great deed will be made clear.
Lai Sen is quiet, opening up only to Hania. But lately she has taken to wearing a scarf knitted by Anjali, though it is nowhere near cold enough for scarves. So perhaps the two became friends.
Lai Sen is not the lady’s real name, and only Hania knows what to really call her.
Somi Bodleian: One of the most powerful mages in Adel, Somi can sometimes be found in the Grove, to which she travels from a temporary hideaway in a nearby village. An older, well-kept and fetching woman, Somi has hair part blonde, part graying, tied in a lush ponytail with side-swept pinned bangs, and wears a dark shawl and dress shirt with a long pleated skirt. Her face is wrinkling slightly around the eyes and mouth, but boasts a great handsomeness she’s always cultivated over the years. Somi is known as The Archmage for a reason, and her dark eyes seem possessed of a deep intellect, as though they could scrutinize anything. She has lived for many years, and though slowing physically, she is sharp as ever.
Somi is a fairly amoral person, always looking for an experiment. She is sociable, unlike many hermit-like archmages, and enjoys company of any kind – but she can be unpleasant when it comes to her work. Her voice and manner suggests one who could be either antagonist or ally depending on the air that day, and she has performed her fair share of misdeeds in the name of learning and in the search for new and untried magical sciences. No one quite knows what she is doing at the Grove, though Karishma has her eye on her. Whether Somi could have the power to defeat her, even she does not know, and it worries her. Somi seems content to sketch new plant species in her field book, and take samples – for now.
Karishma enforces a single rule regarding foraging the Grove: you can only take as much as you need. She will know if someone disrespects this rule, and she is the sole arbiter of its enforcement. As such, potioneers will have to made do with enough ingredients for only a few potions; mages must settle for casting only a few spells using these exotic materials; cooks and connoisseurs must steady their tongues, or else face Karishma’s displeasure.
The Grove has an incredibly bounty of fruit, flower, vegetable, root and leaf, including many that simply shouldn’t exist – they are pure magic made flesh, the whim of a creator spirit that has come and gone and whose works cannot be replicated. Many have medicinal properties. The waters of the Grove seem to clean themselves no matter who bathes in them, and are always pure to drink. The honey from nearby bees is sweeter, and even more effective than normal salves when pressed upon wounds. Some animals inhabit the place, and all seem touched by its magic as well.
Nearly anything natural one might think of could perhaps be found at the Grove, from extremely rare birds to extremely common plants, rendered in new color and life by the magic of the land. It is a portrait made life in all the colors the mortal mind can parse, and a myriad of purposes and destinies could connect one to this place.