A dryad is a tree spirit typically associated with Greek mythology. Though the name originally applied only to the nymphs of oak trees, it has since been extended to encompass all varieties of tree spirits. Despite the association between dryads and Greece, they appear occasionally in Yuriban myth and appear to be native to the island. The nature of a Yuriban dryad is similar in theory to that of the Greek dryad, with certain fundamental differences.
As tree spirits, dryads are of course tied to trees, typically one dryad to a single tree. The term "dryad" is associated with the manifestation of a tree's spirit, typically in humanoid female form. Most Yuriban dryads are superficially identical to human females in terms of physical structure. Typical differences tend to manifest in the form of pigmentation, internal biology, and manifestation of treelike properties across the body of the dryad. It is not uncommon for dryads to display traits such as vines or leaves in the hair, and more often than not they tend to give off a smell calling to mind trees. Some dryads have been known to sprout floral vines and may even bloom depending on their mood or the weather, though this is by no means a constant.
Dryads native to Yuriba may display pigmentation calling to mind the tree to which they are attached. For example, the dryad of a Japanese maple might have brown skin and red-pink hair, while an oak might have darker brown skin and green hair. Eye color appears to have no correspondence to any pigment on the tree itself. The stereotypical green skintone appears to be very uncommon among the natives, though it appears often in Shunyanniichuan forms. Barklike skin is unheard of among pure-born dryads.
Dryads seldom need to ingest solid food. They subsist primarily on water and sunlight. While most dryads are capable of eating human foods if necessary, it is unknown if or how the food transfers back to the tree itself.
As for age, the typical lifespan of a dryad varies as wildly as their skin and hair colors, and is directly tied to their trees and tree species. Longer lived tree types translate to longer lived dryads, just like where a shorter lived tree type would mean a dryad with a shorter lifespan. Softwood trees typically live the shortest, where hardwood and evergreen will live much longer lives.
The term Hamadryad is used to refer to a dryad so deeply bound to her tree that they share a single life force. Thus, if a hamadryad's tree is killed, she also dies, and vice versa. It is unknown if any percentage of native Yuriban dryads represents a population of hamadryads.
Culture and mannerisms
Given that Yuriba is largely a primordial forest, dryads form an enormous subculture among the natives, easily the most populous among the elemental types and quite likely the most populous of all the native races.
They are a highly nature-centric subculture, owing to their existence as tree spirits. Dryads tend to reside in heavily forested areas and are often quite elusive. They do not construct towns or structures; they live as trees and have no need for housing. Most of them are uncomfortable indoors, as they tend to be accustomed to having lots of room to spread their limbs, although dryads who have a relationship with a non-dryad often train themselves to adapt to occasional time indoors. Dryads often congregate in discreet forest glades or about particularly revered trees. They hold a great reverence for old trees, as old trees have endured many hardships and joys and have thus gained great wisdom. They tend to wear summery clothing but are comfortable with nudity.
Dryads object to the construction of wooden houses and furniture unless the wood of dead trees is used. They believe that to cut down a living tree is murder, but with the soul of a dead tree already moving along its next arc of the spiral, the body is merely a vessel and may thus be used as others will. They never eat meat. Typical Dryad fare consists heavily of water, often flavoured with sugars, and various types of juices for very special occasions. During rainstorms dryads often congregate in secluded clearings and dance, reveling in the life-giving rainfall.
Very few dryads are active during the winter. The dryads of evergreens, pines, and the Yami no Matsui are active year-round, but most dryads fall into inactivity during the winter months, entering into a state of deathlike hibernation. It is rare for dryads beyond the evergreens to be awake during the winter; those who remain tend to be either curious or foolhardy. When the winter passes there is a great celebration among the newly awakened dryads, ushering in the birth of new life.
Like most Yuribans, dryads are polyamorous. While most of their intimacy takes place in humanoid form, they will most often reproduce in tree form by dropping seeds, buds, or whatever is relevant to their particular tree species. It is extremely rare for a dryad to carry a pregnancy in humanoid form. Young dryads tend to be raised communally, rendering traditional family structures moot in favour of a great unifying family in which all dryads share a semblance of kinship. A dryad will often identify the trees nearest her as sisters in a spiritual sense. Dryads born through a humanoid process, however, tend to identify with an actual mother and sisters quite strongly.
Yuriban myth closely associates dryads with Akibimi, the goddess of autumn. One of the most common myths of Akibimi speaks of a dryad named Momiji who climbed Akibimi-san and helped the goddess release autumn back into the world. It is widely believed that dryads are favoured by Akibimi and that the Shunyanniichuan is dedicated to her. She is widely honoured by dryads as their patron deity, and though no temples to her exist they often gather in sacred groves to honour her. Dryads view autumn as a sacred time of reflection and preparation for rebirth.