Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #10 - City State Entertainment
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Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

Hello, everyone! May has been a month of hard work and lots of progress on Camelot Unchained™, with many cool things to make us smile along the way. Overall, quite a good month, and we’ll be showing off some of our hard work in the near future! 

It’s been a bit warm here in sunny downtown Fairfax, VA, and we’ve been keeping the shades down and the fans on in the office of City State Entertainment™. Ben keeps his jacket on most of the time anyway, though. In the glow of computer screens, the game gets made surely and steadily! 

Folks seem to enjoy reading our “user stories” most of the time, and it’s been great fun for us to update those cards with all kinds of interesting information about our progress. We’ve also seen some updates to our official wiki, and it seems to be working out as a great resource for folks old and new!

In between getting all kinds of things like the first pass of sounds and skies into the game, we did some fun things like livestreams, discussions on the forum, and several big Tech Alpha tests. Since those went quite well and we got good information out of them, we’re excited for more! 

On a more serious note, the thoughts, prayers, good wishes, and positive thoughts of the entire studio go out to Mark’s wife, Janet, also known as Lady J, who was diagnosed with (very treatable) breast cancer. It’s scary and all, but caught very very early and the pre-surgical prognosis is very positive! Nevertheless, we are all thinking of her and hoping for the best, fastest convalescence possible. Lady J will be having her surgery next week, so get well soon, Lady J!

For more on the community, design, programming notes, lore, and all the other good stuff in our newsletters, read on and enjoy this, the tenth issue of Unveiled! 

Dragon Accident Report

We have confirmed reports that local citizenry are now completely recovered after the series of extremely unlikely collisions with a grey-scaled beast that left the surrounding terrain completely grey. Heroic efforts went underway to fix it, and there was quite a challenge, due to the rarity and enigmatic nature of the beast. However, the wreckage has been cleared, the grey swept away, and all the damage undone, to the point where citizens say you’d never know one of these strange and powerful creatures was ever there. However, it is certain that these beings will be back, and all citizens are well advised to be cautious when they are about. 


We are closing in on the successful conclusion of our special Stretch Goal, Spirit in the Sky! We are extremely excited to think about the possibilities for our unique pet classes in the game. We’ve got behind-the-scenes progress on the hiring front that we can tell you about very soon, and we’re looking at the next Stretch Goals, especially the Stretch Goal after next, with all eyes, and especially ears, open. We hope you are eager too!


-by Jenesee Grey

For this CMSphere, we’d like to try something different. Here’s an article on the wonderful Community we have, and what’s been going on lately!

Hello, lovely backers! You might be surprised to see the format change to CMSphere this month. A long time ago, in a Pre-Alpha far, far away…the idea was to focus on Community-related questions for the newsletter. Since that time, this section has morphed away from its original purpose to talk more about design. Now, it’s more than understandable that you curious folks want to know all about the latest and greatest things happening behind closed doors, but that would be telling! Some things we are just not ready to reveal (and frankly, catching Ben by his beard to ask questions is becoming troublesome)! So in order to keep Dose of Design as the cool place to find, you know, design-related information, I am revamping CMSphere to be truer to its original purpose. So without further ado, I am here to tell you all the newest and most exciting Community events and things you should know about this month. 

We had an important milestone! On 5/2/15, we had our two-year anniversary. Yay Camelot Unchained! The traditional gift for a two-year anniversary is cotton! That seems a bit ironic, as we have narrowed down the companies for t-shirt printing, and should have some announcements about that in the next few weeks. So Happy Anniversary to you with T-shirts! “The touch, the feel of cotton…” I can’t wait to see The Depths™ everywhere! 

A few weeks ago, Andrew Meggs, co-owner and technical director, hosted a stream! It was great to see so many people there to support us and hang out, even though quite a few did not know anything about coding! There were also those who came to watch the master at work and to learn as well, so there was a great mix in the chat. Andrew was working on the editor of the game. Before this magic, if a team member wanted to select an object and move it around, they had to find it in a list and move it that way. It made things difficult and time consuming, as they had to rotate other things out of the way to get to the specific object they wanted. So now, after some coding juju, they can click right on that object (such as a tree) and pick it up! It seems a simple thing (clearly it is not, if you watched the stream), but it will really help save time, and it made Tyler give Andrew a hug. He shook him off like water off a...nevermind. Such are the joys and challenges of making your own tools, engine, and so on, from scratch. They can be tuned just the way you want them, but you have to make them first!  It was awesome to see Andrew do so live.

Our Alpha Backer’s social sites have been getting some real love lately, with the new Twitter and Facebook feature our Programmer Cory has added to C.U.B.E. I’ve begun to see a few pictures of buildings out there, and some really creative stuff being shared. The new droplight feature even enables you to set just the right look, and highlight sections of your magnificent creation. If you are an Alpha tester, try it out and share your epic buildings. You can get a peek at one of the options for the new C.U.B.E. logo that will appear automagically on your image when you share it, as well. 

We have seen some nice participation from our German translators, as more of you join the ranks to translate the Camelot Unchained website into German. There has also been a move from our dear vocal Italian minority to help start translating on the Italian site! If you want to join up, help us reach new communities, and participate with these projects, we could use some assistance on the forums on our website.

Although the format here is changing, it would still be great to answer some Community-related questions. If you are or are becoming a Backer and have something you want to know, please visit the forums on our website and check out the Community section to post your question. Thanks for your patience as this section settles in over the next few months!

Backer question of the week: coming soon!

Hot Topics

The hottest topics on the forums right now are the presentations in the Something to Think about section. Join us on the forums on our website to bring your thoughts and ideas to the discussion table! 

Look What You Did

Wow, there were so many incredible entries! We had to lift our jaws off the floor in order to try and pick a winner… and still, we were forced to pick two. Behold the first winning piece, from Nekromaniak!
And now for your viewing pleasure, we present the second winning piece, from Hellminster!
Amazing, amazing stuff! Thank you to all who submitted, it was much appreciated. 

For our next contest, tell us about your character’s favorite weapon. What will you go through together, your hero and you hero’s greatest tool? What victories will you achieve, what great sorrows, and what great magics will you witness together? Write us up a paragraph on your mighty weapon, and post it in the thread you’ll see pop up in the Fan Fiction section of the forums on our website!

Thank You

Wow, Failboat sent us a ton of gifts this month! Almost all of the wearable sort, with hilarious jokes, awesome team symbols, support for Lady J and her own personal PvC battle, and it was just incredibly generous. Many, many thanks for all of the clothing and all of the good-humored laughter, Failboat! With such bountiful gifts, we only show a selection of them here. Check out the Community section of the forums on our website for the full images with Failboat’s clever captions! 
And this one got Mark (and all of us) right in the feels: 
Special thanks to Clan Sverker, who got together and sent Mark and Andrew a pair of nice mugs, along with some coffee! Your “tribute” is much appreciated. :) 

Dose of Design

-by Ben Pielstick


Archery was the very first stretch goal put out for Camelot Unchained during the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, and for good reason. While the game would have been fine with just the extended trinity of Mages, Healers, and Tanks (along with hybrid support classes between them), Archers have been a part of fantasy RPGs as long as they've been around. If there was one bonus feature we wanted to get in to make the game that much better, Archers as their own unique archetype was it.

So what makes Archers in CU such a big deal that they had to be their own stretch goal? As you've already seen, Archers are getting the same special treatment as our other archetypes from our talented art department:

The same kind of special treatment will be given to their gameplay mechanics. Unlike many games which simply treat Archers and Mages the same, we're making sure that these two playstyles are distinctly different with their own capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages, which will make choosing between them an apples to oranges comparison. Whereas Mages wield the awesome power of indiscriminate destruction, Archers utilize timing, accuracy, and superior targeting to take advantage of specific windows of opportunity and weaknesses in their target's armor and physical state. 
This is not to say that Archers will require exceedingly high twitch skills to play, however, as their style is more focused around careful planning, using their mobility and camouflage to find the right engagement and limit their exposure. They won’t be running around at full speed, bunny hopping and spraying arrows from their bow like a medieval machine gunner. 

In terms of our component-based ability system, where Mages combine a set of components together into a single spell, Archers may choose to select and knock their arrows, draw, and aim and fire them separately. This allows for intermediate stances after readying and drawing arrows, while still allowing some limited mobility with a significantly reduced time-to-fire, and the capacity to change between arrows without firing, if the need arises. This is intended to provide better on-the-fly preparation and adjustments, which will allow Archers to make that perfect shot when and where it counts. 

Also, while Mages rely heavily on optionally added Infusions to modify the basic effects of their runes, the effects of an Archer's attacks are determined largely by the types of arrows they use (and arrows are required, while Infusions are optional). Because of this, arrow selection is very important for an Archer, and even more so because the number of arrows an Archer can carry into battle is limited, and slows them down via the encumbrance of both their quiver and the arrows themselves. Basic arrows are easily replenished, though the Archer may need to do some basic fletching as a form of "popcorn crafting" the same way a Tank could bang out some of the dents in their plate armor between fights, before eventually visiting a crafter to get it repaired properly. Very special arrows, however, may be expensive and hard to make, meaning that they should be reserved for use when they will make the most difference, likely in a situation that calls for their exact benefits. 

The rest of the Archer's components matter quite a bit too, but largely have to do with power and timing, as opposed to the nature of the effect of an arrow that finds its mark. For example: A quick draw and release without careful aim may get the arrow in the air sooner and catch a target ducking for cover or running out of range. However, a power draw targeted at a vulnerable spot where the target is already wounded or has the weakest armor may take longer to release, but will deliver a much stronger attack. This would be somewhat like choosing between Point Blank Shot and Power Shot as a Scout in Dark Age of Camelot. 

Finally, I can't close out a discussion on archery without mentioning the mechanics of the projectiles themselves. Magic attacks come in many forms, only some of which are projectiles, but these are typically fairly large and slow, and mostly allow some degree of tracking to find their targets. Arrows on the other hand are small and fast moving, and, other than special, soul-inhabited (NOTE: Need a better word for this) arrows, provide no inherent tracking to assist in striking their targets (beyond what we may need systemically in all projectiles for basic latency compensation). 

We are currently testing an optional viewing mode labeled "camera offset positioning" on our Archer user story checklist, which we hope will provide, in addition to standard tab-targeting, an optional alternative method of more precise aim control and leading moving targets. This is far from set in stone, and will doubtless undergo extensive iteration and testing in the coming months. However, if we can create a good feel that supports the pacing and predominantly tab-targeting based style of combat, using a bow or other similar weapons will be a skill all its own, which is a huge bonus as we work to create Archers that are unique and interesting. 

As always, we would love to hear more of your thoughts and ideas, so feel free to join in the discussions on our Archers forum on our website, as we continue working toward our first implementation of Archers in CU. 

Developer Quote

“That's why Camelot Unchained will be more of a sandbox game than most MMORPGs that call themselves sandbox games. It's up to the players to build the world.” --Mark Jacobs


-by Scott Trolan

This month has been dedicated to the migration of our archetype characters over to our new Master Avatar System. We have successfully transitioned the male Luchorpán over (with pants!) and we will be adding a female Luchorpán counterpart into the game shortly. Also, Alpha Testers should expect to see both male and female humans available for each Realm shortly.

Sandra and Michelle have been redesigning our older archetype models to fit within the requirements of the Master Avatar System. So far, we have new designs for; all male and female giant races (Frost Giants, Fir Bogs, and Golems) and male and female Hamadryads. Those designs will go into the queue to be modeled, rigged, and imported into the game as soon as possible.

Lastly, I thought you all would like to see some options James K. developed while designing logo treatments for C.U.B.E.

Tech Central

 -by Charles “Bull” Durham

Once upon a time, back before the Eternal September, there was a golden time. This was a time when phreakers went phreaking and hackers went hacking. This was a time when nerds left electronic messages for each other on Bulletin Boards. Having a dedicated phone line for your PC set you apart from filthy casuals. We are talking way back. Now let’s visit the end of this time and go to the panhandle of Florida in 1994.

Legit Pre-Y2K Hackers. Hacking the Gibson, Probably

I was an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force, and I had just re-discovered personal computers. I’d dabbled with an Atari 800 before, but my family didn’t have much money to spend on stuff like technology so it had to wait until I got my own paychecks. Imagine that you are a mechanically-inclined geek with industrial-grade social anxiety. Now imagine you are also trying to be friends with good-old boys that hail from places like Lickskillet, Alabama or Bumpus Mills, Tennessee. You’re trying to be friends with them because they are fun to be around, and coincidentally women also find them fun to be around. If you can imagine this, then you’ve got a pretty clear picture of me back then.

Anyway, when one spends idle time with guys from wicked tiny farm towns that no one has ever heard of, one tends to hear about stock car racing. Luckily for me, a game company called Papyrus released a game called NASCAR Racing. As anyone that has played it can testify, this game is not just about driving your car around the track! Nope, not even close. This game is about being a race car geek. Playing the game taught me that slight changes to a race car have a visible impact on the car’s performance. It also taught me that there were countless adjustments I could do to a car in order to tease out a few more hundredths of a second from an average lap time. I spent countless days tweaking obscure settings, getting the car to perform as optimally as possible for my driving style.

Such pixel. Many left. Very turn

Meanwhile, in the real world, this interest in the game enabled me to actually tolerate watching NASCAR. Beer also was helpful, but mostly it was the game. I also found I could actually talk about racing with my coworkers without feeling awkward. I even decided to like Jeff Gordon for no other reason than he reminded me of my cousin Karl. This new level of socialization led to other stuff, like actually going off base with these guys to meet women. However, in order to do anything once I’d met said women, I needed a real car. My real car had few requirements:
  • The vehicle’s engine should start and stop when I decided it should happen.
  • The vehicle should accelerate when I press the little pedal.
  • The vehicle should accelerate in the other direction when I press the big pedal.
  •  It should turn left AND right.
  •  Under no circumstances should the car spontaneously explode.
This was pretty much all I needed from the car. Meeting this short list was the extent of the work I spent on maintaining the car I purchased. The car was happy. I was happy with the car. I was still unbelievably awkward around women. But hey, my car got me places and it was good. It even survived being hit by a tornado *and* having all the windows blown out by a hurricane (because Florida).

My Spirit Animal

“What does this story have to do with technology or Camelot Unchained?”, you may be asking. Nothing! Everything! Both! You see…this story is also about programming languages. A question commonly asked of me when people find out I make computer games is “What language do you use?” The answer is, “Whichever one is needed.”

Speaking of 1994, back then C and/or C++ was pretty much it for game programming. C++ is great. You can ask it to do practically anything. It will let you do any ill-conceived idea you throw at it and ask for seconds! If you need to be able to make your computer game perform like a race car, then C++ is likely to be a good choice. Want to spend hours and hours in a basement doing science to your program to shave off a cycle or two from a heavily used loop? Go for it, but be careful! It will also bite you in the backside when you cut the wrong corner and leave you splattered all over turn three. It’s a challenge. It’s fun. It’s also super time consuming and has a steep learning curve. Using C++ is fine tuning that race car and loving every minute of it.

Natural habitat of the typical C++ programmer

On the other hand, sometimes you don’t care about racing. Perhaps you just want to get there so you can try to learn how to stop being insanely awkward. Sometimes you just want to spend time with the cute person you just met, instead of having your car explode all over Highway 98 like burrito night at the chow hall. The destination is much more important than the journey. So if you just want to meet this game (or other application) for a drink as soon as possible, then you might want to consider a language like C#. Imagine C++ and Java had a baby, and the baby does chores for you. Unfortunately, the baby also puts an end to many of the exciting things you used to do (much like real babies). Can you spend hours adjusting tire pressure on your grocery-getter to get a better lap time? Yes. Is doing that going to have any effect on your chances of getting a date and making babies? No, not really.

Natural habitat of the typical C# programmer.

The reason I tell you this story is that I want you to know that anyone that tries to tell you that one language is flatly inferior to another regardless of context might not be the best person to give advice about language choice. Unless it is PHP because …damn. Languages are tools that we use to accomplish goals. There is no best language, there are only better languages for a given task. If there was a best language, then there’d be only one because programmers are very lazy. As my favorite engineer once said, “The right tool for the right job.” If you are interested in learning a language, I would suggest just picking one that looks cool and rolling with it. Unless you want to spend more time being awkward around cute people, then use C#.

State Of The Build

 -by Brian Green

Another month of work added to the source code repository as our codebase grows! We're still working on the foundation of the game, but we're continuing to build more elements of gameplay on top of it. A lot of these changes will appear invisible to the players, but are absolutely vital for building the game.

On tools, Andrew has been working hard on a terrain editor. One big improvement is that people can click to select objects in the world; before, they had to select items in a list. He also made terrain shapeable in the editor, allowing the designers and artists to create the world easier. He ran into a problem where the zone he was testing on was so large he had to add level of detail to the terrain a little earlier than anticipated. This isn't something that most people will see, except in the final version of new lands to fight over.

In physics, Rob has been working hard on building stability. We've talked about wanting to have buildings collapse when struck by siege machinery or spells, and Rob's changes will help us reach this goal. To test his work, Rob took some of the C.U.B.E. creations posted on our forums and applied the game's physics to them. Turns out some of those creations turn into nice looking ruins. Then Ben and Mark started talking about designs for how players will be able to build structures that won't fall apart so easily while just sitting there.

On the graphical front, Dave put in the first pass of new features for the sky. First he worked with Michelle and Mike Crossmire to pick a good color palette; Andrew pointed out that the colors were similar to the ones used by famous illustrator Maxfield Parrish. Dave then worked with Mike to add the sun and the moon, as well as stars across the nighttime sky. The stars are currently randomly spread across the sky, but there has been talk about ways to allow the stars to be set in the sky so people can pick out constellations.

For infrastructure, Tim has been working hard on setting up a VPN for people outside the office. Sometimes people need to work from home and we expect to have some people working remotely. It's important to set up the VPN right to keep our work secure. Bull has been working on editor interfaces for game systems and upgrading our codebase to a new version of Visual Studio. "It's been a learning experience," he's said. Cory also added ways to add screenshots from C.U.B.E. to Facebook and Twitter, so maybe you'll see some things your friends have created on those networks in the future.

In gameplay news, JB added some global variables that are persisted to the database. This allows us to set a variable for things like how much maximum health players should have. Then we can change the value while the server is live and that change will persist in the database even after the server is shut down. I added a bunch of these variables for values like the way moving uphill or downhill affects movement and to how high players will jump. I've also been hard at work implementing stats and making them work. Soon Agility will affect your run speed! Finally, Tim has been working on stances, which will become part of the ability system.

And now, a selection of patch notes from this month:
  •  Added modifier components! These are the components that are connected to the primary and secondary components players already have to build new abilities. Right now, we can create over 100K combinations. Not all of them are functional or useful at the moment, but that will change over time. 
  • Allow modifier components to change the functionality of an ability. For example, the "Explosive" component allows projectiles to affect targets in an AoE at the point of impact.
  • Added some administrator commands to the game. This allows CSE employees to become invincible, move fast, teleport, or even fly. This will be useful for observing fights and taking videos in the future.
  • Added the sun, moon, and stars to the sky. They look really good so far, and are getting better by the day!
  • Added the ability to drop colored lights. This will be useful for creating the proper mood lighting in C.U.B.E.
  • Added global values to set the speed players can move up and down hills. As we create new terrain, it will be important to be able to tweak these values.
  • Added global values to adjust the maximum amount of hit points and stamina points everyone has. We've set hit points to 5x their normal values since modifier components allow you to do some crazy damage with abilities.
  • Added global values for impact (falling) damage. This allows us to increase or decrease the damage you take from being slammed into a wall as well.
  •  Added first pass of the momentum transfer system based on character's mass. Translation: Hahaha! Jötnar push around tiny little Luchorpán now!

See you next month!

Developer Spotlight


This month’s spotlight is on the process that our very own Daniel Beck, or dB for short, goes through to create the sounds and musical effects that you’ll be hearing in Camelot Unchained!

How did you get into making sounds and effects for games?
As most people doing anything audio related, I started out playing an instrument. I played drums in middle school and through a couple cover bands in college and all through that time, I had a standalone digital recorder that I used to record practices or shows. The home-recording revolution took off while I was working in a music gear store so I learned about more of it through that. Eventually I had amassed enough gear on my own that I decided to think about it more seriously. I had a neighbor that went to school for it and even though I'd already been through college, I decided to go back for a short stint and go to an audio engineering school. I got my first job about 6 months after graduating and have been loving game audio ever since.
What tools do you use, and why?
There are so many to list. I have a Mac and a PC so I hop back and forth between those. Macs are really good at handling recording software but since we're making a PC game, I still need a PC. I actually enjoy the separation since it kinda neatly divides into a left-brain/right-brain sorta workflow. In terms of software, I use Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and as of a few days ago, I started using Reaper as well. Pro Tools is for audio editing and sfx creation. Live and Reaper are for music. Wwise is an audio middleware program that runs on PC and I absolutely love Wwise and I'm very thankful that I work at a company that understands the need to support your sound person with proper middleware. At this point, if you didn't do that, it's kinda like hiring a programmer for C++ but then saying, "oh well, we're not going to use C++, we're going to use our own language!" Other physical tools I use include a portable recorder and a collection of nice microphones and those get used for all the weird things sound people like to record. Just last week, my wife got a shipment of some frozen food items from her mom, and it came in a styrofoam cooler full of dry ice! So naturally, I had to grab a bunch of metal objects I had lying around, and start putting them against the dry ice in various ways to get weird noises to come out.
What process do you go through in order to make cool sounds?
A good sound effect, usually starts with good source material. Source material refers to the collection of pre-recorded sounds you have at your disposal to layer, edit and manipulate in order to come up with the composite sound that you are making. Audio is a bit like cooking in that sense. You have all these various processes that you can do to the original ingredients, but the end result is so much better when you have high quality ingredients to start with. And sometimes, it's ok to have "fresh," unaltered ingredients. I'm in the process of upgrading my Mac and after that is through, I will host some live-streams where I create some magic sounds live for those who are interested.
Do you have a favorite sound effect or noise in another game?
Probably the Diablo 2 gem drop sound. I've been classically conditioned to love that sound! I have no choice!
What sound effect are you most excited to create for Camelot Unchained?
The magic. That covers a ton of territory but I'm really interested in all the variations that our magic system is going to allow for. It's going to be a challenge to try and meaningfully represent those differences with sound, but I am looking forward to that. Since we're a PvP game, sound helps communicate what is happening on the battlefield, so I'm also going to have a lot of fun making sure magic can be heard from far away. It's common for shooters to have gun sounds that are heard from far distances, but not so much in the rpg side of things. Already, in our alpha tests, you can see fireballs and water darts shooting across the sky from pretty far away and I think it's great that the team has emphasized those long draw distances because from a sound perspective, it's going to really interesting to create the battle ambience when all those projectiles are ripping and bolting through the air.

What do you think? Join us on the forums on our website to talk more!

Lore Corner

-by Max Porter

Behold the rewrite of a Becoming™ story. Originally, it came from Mark’s own deft hands. Now that our Loremaster Max has gone to work on it, we’d like to present it to you anew!  

The Becoming - Hamadryads

The first breeze. The first whisper of power from the Veilstorms. It was quiet, a zephyr lost in the mountains and drifting through the plains. With the first trickles of anger leaking from the broken Veil, a hush fell over the world. The winds shifted, and hints of magic filled the electric air. The world changed as a new and unpredictable power arose.

Some interpreted the changes as signs and omens of dark days to come, watching for the disaster that loomed on the horizon. Others ignored them, going about their lives as though nothing was any different, and simply accepting their fate. A few new religions appeared, trying to explain the unexplainable, or holding onto faith as a shield against the trembling beginnings of apocalypse. Some folk panicked and hid deep under mountains, while the desperate ones held parties, trying to laugh at their doom.

One man long past his prime gathered his family, the Alsea, to him. He sat on the root of a tree and spoke seriously, eyeing one squirming little granddaughter holding herself in front of the gathering. “A great calamity has come. It will wreak havoc on the world; some folk will hide, others will take care of their own and a few will deny that anything is happening. But who will protect nature? Who will ensure that surviving generations can live beneath a tree, or catch a fish in a stream? In our own little corner of the world, we must do what we can to protect this forest. It is older than we are, and deserves our help.”

The little girl, youngest of the Alsea family that could speak, took a step toward him. She leaned forward, a challenge in her eyes. “But why, grandfather Emon? We should hide in the ground, or build big, strong houses.”

The old man stared at her for a long moment with hard blue eyes. Then he smiled. “Let the others do that, child. They worry about themselves. We must care for Mother Nature, for no one else will.”

Slowly, the girl nodded, as if the proceedings needed her approval to continue.

Under the direction of the aged Emon, the Alsea family gathered together their possessions, called in their extended relations and close friends, and left their homeland to find a place they believed must be kept safe: the deep, dark heart of the forest. There, they built a new life.

The Alsea family chose a spot near an old, majestic oak tree for their central home, and swore to live in complete harmony with the forest. They promised to only use the wood of trees that had already fallen, to help the forest grow, and to keep out rot and disease. They would defend the wild woods with their lives. Instead of straining the forest to support them, they swore to bring it vivid life. The little granddaughter was among the first to take the vow. The ways of the woods came easily to her, and she ended up teaching much older members of the family how to fulfill their vow.

As the world around the forest began its upheaval, and vast mountains were sucked beneath the sea, the little enclave among the dark trees remained almost unchanged. The terrible destruction of the world spread all around, but it seemed to spare the forest’s heart, even as earthquakes and storms bit at the edges of their home. Though the great changes crept ever closer, the family began to believe that the great oak tree was protecting them. In return, they cared for the forest as one of their own children, helping the saplings grow tall and straight.

Hearing tales of their safety, a few folk outside the family traveled to join the little settlement. Their branch-woven huts grew, slowly spreading from the central oak tree. There were a few newcomers to the forest who found they couldn’t live with such a strict code of natural reverence, and left to start their own settlements.

However, these other settlements were the first to flee when the storms shifted.

In truth, no place could stay safe from the Veilstorms forever. Some of the Alsea family muttered that not enough care was taken for the forest, but their littlest daughter believed the storms’ movement was simply chaotic. The forest’s apparent protection ended when a terrible storm swept into the verdant valley where they lived, and began to wreak terrible destruction.

With his granddaughter at his side, Emon watched the skies. His breath was labored as he felt the earth shake. The air grew heavy with magic, and titanic winds whipped across the land. The storm had almost reached their enclave. Trees, some of them ancient as stones, were torn from their roots and tumbled end over end in the terrible force of the storms, shivered to pieces as they crashed into one another.

One after another, some inhabitants of outlying settlements in the forest gathered toward the center, to the great heart-tree of the woods. The Alsea family stood at the borders of the forest and howled into the storm as they tried to tie down the trees or tamp down the earth around their roots. But though Emon urged his children and grandchildren on, they could do little. The edges of the forest shrank down as it was ripped apart, and the inhabitants huddled together, praying that the Veilstorms would pass. Shredded and pulled into pieces, the forest was reduced to just one grove, and then to just one great oak tree.

There were few folk left who hadn’t fled the forest or been tossed up into the sky and killed by the winds. Even fewer remained who hadn’t been transformed by the devastating magic. The survivors only lived by clutching at the sturdy roots of the great oak, ensconced within the earth. The nine of them barely fit around the trunk. It was hard to breathe as the tremendous storm grew in force, constricting the air with enormous pressure.

The old man who had led them here held on with a trembling grip as the winds pulled at the branches of the oak tree. With his free hand, he clutched the arm of his little granddaughter. In turn, she held on to him with all her might.

“Hold tight, everyone! Hold the heart-tree to the ground!”

Emon tried to answer, but the words were ripped from his mouth. As if enraged at their defiance, the storm roared furiously, becoming a true Malevolence.

Refusing to give in, the bodies of the Alsea were infused with the power and magic swirling around them even as they held on, trying to keep the last oak tied to the earth. They took the full brunt of the storm’s fury, chanting an old rhyme and offering their own lives for the tree. The little girl begged the powers above and below for the strength to protect the heart-tree of the forest as it creaked and groaned above her. She offered her life to the storm in the heart- tree’s place. She heard her grandfather weeping as he clutched her hand harder. The storm’s shadow descended and hid the graveyard of the forest from view. For a time, all was darkness and howling rage.

When the Veilstorm finally sighed and dissipated into silence, there was no sign of the Alsea family or the other settlers. They had vanished, skin, blood, and bone. All that remained was the trunk of an oak tree, grey and scored as if long dead and desiccated.

A year passed. Some of the survivors of the outlying settlements of the forest who had fled at the approach of the storm returned to find what had happened to their home. Little trace remained of the great forest, with its dark nooks and crannies in between the tall trees, the thick carpet of leaves and the deep green canopy that changed the color of the sunlight below.

Now, splinters of trees and their broken roots lay tangled in a vast plain, bone-white wood rotting. They could see the waves of shattered trunks where the winds had blasted the landscape. The only thing that stood tall on the flattened plain of destruction was a lone treetrunk. It was grey, aged, and weather-worn, a dead tree standing sentinel over the crushed graveyard.

The ragged, stick-thin people shivered in their patched clothes as they viewed the scene. It was one year to the day since they had fled the forest’s environs, and all seemed lifeless and quiet. Slowly, however, the air grew heavy and oppressive. A new Veilstorm was forming in the heavens above this place. It grew dark, and the clouds swirled overhead with malignant purpose. The storm was alive; once again, it was quickly becoming a Malevolence.

The band of refugees huddled against the only thing still standing in that forsaken place. The chaotic magic began to press down upon them, and the tall trunk creaked and groaned as if in agony and anger. A tremendous crack of thunder thudded through the heavens, and was followed by silence. Into that silence there came a voice. Wonderingly, the small group looked up at the trunk of the tree, for from within the wood there came a clear feminine voice speaking an old tongue. “Enow!”

As the shivering folk looked on in wonder, glowing bark spread over the dead wood, shimmering with life. The trunk groaned again; old wood splintered as the tree stretched and grew. Glowing branches sprouted as the whole oak twisted and shook.

The storm’s rage increased, yet the oak seemed unharmed. The purple leaves of light that burst from its branches drank in the power of the storm like so much sunlight. The more the Malevolence howled, the taller and broader the tree became. The survivors felt the two powerful beings battling for supremacy, as each took a world-shattering blow from the other and then came on again, hungry for more.

With each thunderous blast of magic, the once-lifeless sap inside the trunk hummed with power, and the great roots trembled and stood out from the ground. As the storm lashed the tree mercilessly, power flowed through the great oak reborn, and pulsed into the earth. The shards of wood nearby lifted, twitching as purple sparks jumped among the shattered grove.

As the storm exhausted itself, the rain hissed down more gently. The survivors’ eyes opened wide with wonder. The grove was restored. Tall trunks lifted their branches to the grey sky and their roots writhed in the magic-steeped earth. Above, the glowing oak rose high above its children, the first Great Protector.

Nine vast trees surrounded it, equal in number to the defenders that had given their lives to hold the old oak to the ground a year ago. They stood like silent sentinels over the new life that bloomed all around.

The survivors that had fled the forest set up camp there, in the exact spot where the Alsea family had given their lives. They strove to build homes in harmony with the forest in the way they had been taught.

As time passed, the survivors of the second Malevolence spread the story of the Alsea. The little enclave of trees flourished, and became a sacred place, where folk would come and whisper their secrets to the serene sentinels. The purple roots spread throughout the forest, and eventually other Great Protectors grew, creating their own pockets of serenity and tranquility in the thick woods.

One day, a strange youth came to the settlement. His deep brown eyes roved among the homes woven of fallen branches and overgrown with moss, the people who wore leaves sewn with the vines that had so quickly returned to life. A few children paused in their daily chores and turned to watch him as he silently approached the ring of massive trees.

The leaves rustled in waves of sound above, as though a great wind were just touching the top of the green canopy. A few other settlers of the woods slowed, then stopped in their duties. The elders smelled a thick, rich scent like bark dust on the air, that reminded them of the old days before the storms had come to the forest, when the Alsea family had thrived.

As the mysterious youth reached toward one massive treetrunk, the fallen twigs that lay nearby stood on end and sprouted. The tree itself shuddered as his fingers made contact with the bark, and leaves shook loose, drifting and tumbling on the wind. The stranger whispered something, too low even for the children nearby to hear. The Great Protector in the center of the village seemed to whisper also, though perhaps that was only the wind.

Shimmering energy pulsed through the tree like purple sap, and with a noise like laughter, a face appeared in the trunk. It slowly pulled forward as if drawn out by the mottled sunlight, and the stranger stepped back. More and more of the new creature pulled free of the wood, stretching the bark like a new skin.

When it had fully emerged, the folk gathered round in amazement. It was a new being: neither flora nor fauna, neither fully Human nor tree. A pair of antennae sprouted from her head, and a long tail grew behind her. She smelled intensely of life, of growing things and the verdant heartbeat of the forest. She smiled with the same knowing glint that the little girl of the Alsea had so many years ago.

Before disappearing into the forest once more, the dark-eyed youth bowed. “Welcome, Hamadryas of the first family,” he said.

With a wink, she bowed gracefully in return, her tail curling to follow suit. It seemed to have teeth, barely hidden in folds of leaf-like skin, and the tip of her tail appeared to be smiling. The new settlers of the forest looked at one another in amazement, marveling at how familiar this strange new creature seemed. She walked to all of the protectors, and touched every tree in the grove. Her family emerged, all greatly changed as she was after their long sleep.

Her grandfather did not emerge. Emon’s spirit thanked her, but remained within the central heart-tree of the forest, his heartbeat in rhythm with the land itself as he raised its shimmering, purple boughs above the rest. Later, as other Great Protectors grew throughout the forest, more of these beings would emerge, part human but infused with plant life and the spirit of the woods.

These beings became known as Hamadryads, and they have never forgotten their vow to protect the forest. It grew thick and tall under their care, covering the land with protected groves and raising defiant branches to the sky.

Hamadryas became a famous name among the Tuatha Dé Danann, synonymous with leadership, bravery, and devotion to family. With the verdant forest always in her heart, she walks the Stormlands looking for survivors, and doing battle with the Stormwrought, as they call Abominations in her land. She is quick to destroy any creature that would harm her family.

Thus ends the first tale of the Hamadryads.

As for the mysterious brown-eyed youth…well, one day he would pick up one of the three swords. But his tale is for another time.

Bonus C.U.B.E. Art!

We can’t let you go without showing off this amazing village, built in C.U.B.E. by Norik. We are in awe of your skills and dedication, Norik! Please never stop building. :) 
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