Benthazel - The First Root
Guardian of the Glade
There beings more ancient than Benthazel, the First Root, but few of them are around to talk. Her song persisted for a millennium or more, a gentle harmony to the mourning dirge of the Night Twist. Her tale, though, starts earlier.
Having renounced her name when she became the Guardian of the Glade, Benthazel never recounted it to John Carmichael. But a thousand years ago she was a half-elf born of Perianth. Of wood elf and human heritage, she stood little chance in the intricate politics of the court, and shunned the decadent elven civilization for an adventurer’s life instead. In her wild travels she found an ally and lover in Corylus. Like her, he was of two bloodlines, but raised on Quelya, he was quick to laugh and eager for excitement.
They traveled together with other companions, facing danger and uncovering secrets in the way of all adventurers. But a quest to Verdura proved their last. Like so many before them they went in search of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent—an enormous crumbling ziggurat on an island in the middle of a swampy lake. Rumored to hold a mountain of silver and gold, or an ancient dragon, or a capricious demon who grants wishes than devours your soul, or a slumbering god, the Temple had eluded seekers long before they set forth. Accompanied by a scholar who thought the temple held the secrets of the downfall of the Yuan-Ti, they set out to do what no seeker had accomplished before. But Corylus and the woman who became Benthazel never found the temple. Instead, they found the Night Twist.
Accursed, haunted, and bane to all who hear its song, the Night Twist lies at the heart of a vast territory. Every evening, its lament carries for miles, drawing all who hear it into mournful despair and luring them closer to its roots. Those who heed its call die and fall to the earth, where it feeds on them as they rot into the soil.
None of their companions survived. Beset by dark creatures, driven out of their minds with supernatural grief, they died one by one. Only she and Corylus made it to the heart of the marsh. There, in tearful rage, Corylus set an axe to the dark tree’s roots, felling it before it could crush him with its limbs or flay him with dark magic. But the death of the tree planted a seed in his heart, and when they stumbled back to their Spelljammer and fled Verdura, that seed followed them.
In the groves where she spent her childhood days, she tried to nurse him back to health. But every night Corylus screamed with pain and fear. The nightmares grew worse and worse, and she could do nothing but watch the man she loved die. She buried him in a grove and fled into the woods.
Soon, a new night twist sprouted from his grave. Its song spread farther and farther as it grew. Unwilling to let the same fate befall anyone ever again, she forsook her name and made a pact with the forest itself, becoming Benthazel, the First Root. Her skin became smooth bark and her hair a stream of leaves and roots. With a tree-harp, she sang peace and healing grief against the howling sorrow of the tree that was her lover.
Ages passed. A mighty green dragon, seeking to expand its territory, made a deal with the powerful Guardian of the Glade—she would teach him the melody of her song, protecting him from the night twist. In exchange, Irthocasein helped her hedge in its influence with his territory, preventing anyone from approaching it in the hope it would not feed and grow larger. Benthazel passed into legend, for she was master of her domain on penalty of death. The woods and fey of the realm obeyed her, fearful of the dark power of the Night Twist.
Her vigil went on uninterrupted each night until John Carmichael came to Perianth. Tasked by King Indogalad with cutting a branch from the Night Twist, he sought her wisdom. She scoffed at the young mortal, but he promised to do a thing she thought impossible—cut down the tree. End her vigil. Free whatever remained of Corylus. In exchange, she had to protect something new—equally dark, but not as sorrowful to her. She agreed.
The song of Benthazel has changed. It no longer sings against empty endless misery. Now it holds back the iron thrum of a war drum, a burning hatred for mortals. Nobody must know what now lies on the other side of her harp’s power.