Places:Erinsford:History:Sisters of the Green
'The Witches', as they are sometimes, and mistakenly, called refer to themselves as the Sisters of the Green or Daughters of the Green Lady. They are Between, like each of the other mixed companies. The Sisters, one and all, worship the Green Lady. Their power flows from her. Despite these facts, they are not an priestly order.
Like the Gardeners, the Sisters once lived both in the cities and the country. Also like some Gardeners, they have now fled to the wilds. The Sisters, where they can survive in the cities, often work as midwives and herbal healers. Gardener women also choose these same professions, but whereas Gardeners use alchemy, herbal medicines, and the faintest touch of magick to do their work, the Sisters eschew alchemy completely. They, though they are all Human or Half-Elvish, have an Elvish view of alchemy - it is to them both vulgar and inferior. The Sisters use magick at need and herbal cures most of the time.
The Sisters are perhaps the least fortunate of the mixed companies. The Yetins' wisdom, artistry, and physical prowess recommend them to the four races. The Forestkeepers are revered, or at least respected, for the work they do in defending the rural settlements. Where this work is kept secret, they still have woodland lore, exciting stories, and fighting skill to earn them a place. The Sisters, however, are an anomaly, for they possess skill in magick, though there are no Elves among them. They take no part in the gifts of men, living simply, close the earth, and having nothing to do with alchemy. They are sometimes referred to as Hags or Crones. These names are not used by anyone who respects them, though sometimes "old crone" is used as a codeword for 'Witch'.
A sister typically practices what the Omae would call Earth and Water magicks, though some practice Air magicks. Rare indeed are the Red Witches, Sisters who have taken to practicing the magicks of fire, chaos, and destruction. They are properly known as the Red Witches. To call a devoted Sister of the Green a Hag or Red Witch is to insult her egregiously, but a 'Green Witch' will not respond with violence. She might, in a fit of pique, give one something to upset one's stomach, but little more. To call a Red Witch a Hag or Crone is to risk one's life.
The Sisters are a persecuted group. In the face of witch hunts, they have resorted to an unwanted secrecy. They have histories, but they keep them hidden, just as they keep their spell-books hidden. In those histories is a list of the many families and covens which have been decimated by bands of witch hunters, and also the few which remain.
The Sisters' society, where it persists, is organized into both families and covens. Family organization happens naturally as the Sisters and their consorts breed and bear children. Significant magickal ability passes from mother to daughter. If a Sister marries the son of a sister, the magick will pass to the children through both parents, giving both sons and daughter magickal ability.
Covens form when sisters of similar, or complimentary, magickal interest, join together for mutual teaching and support. Covens do not take names beyond the names of their leading members. Each coven keeps a spellbook containing lore and spells in keeping with the interests of the group. For covens which are just getting started, this covenbook is more or less the spellbook of its leader. For older covens, the covenbook is a compilation of the coven histories, geneologies, and more powerful spells, since the common spells can be found in the spellbooks of the membership.
The sons of Sisters of the Green possess little if any magickal talent. Given the Sisters' disdain for alchemy, those boys with magickal talent turn often to Half-Elvish shamanism. A few rebel, choosing an alchemical tradition separate from both the Brotherhood of the Fang and the Gardeners. In a word, they embrace chaos, choosing Fire magick and the unpredictability of alchemy. They are not inherently evil, but they are dangerous. These rebel sons become Rods of Chaos.
Several other sects and groups relate to the Red Witches and the Sisters of the Green. The Rangers, the Keepers of the Yeti Spirit, and the Half-Elvish shamanic traditions are the most obvious of these. In addition to the Rods of Chaos, there are the Knights of the Green and various groups of witch-hunters.
The interaction between the Sisters and Knights of the Green, and between the Red Witches and the Rods of Chaos, is fairly complex. All four groups worship the Green Lady or some manifestation of her. All four groups also believe in the existence of a male counterpart, usually identified as the Axe-Bearer. (As an aside, even the Dwarvish folk recognize a relationship between the Green Lady and the Axe-Bearer, though they focus on the Axe-bearer rather than the Lady). The male groups, corporately and as individuals, sometimes take the role of the Axe-Bearer in relationship to their respective Sisterhoods. The Sisterhoods do the reverse, taking the role of the Lady in relationship to their men.
There is a strong tendency for the members of the like Orders (that is, the Sisters and Knights of the Green, and the Witches and Rods of Chaos) to intermarry. A young Rod or Knight will spend his youth attaching himself to various members of the appropriate sisterhood, until at last he finds the right person. At that point, the Knight and the Sister will marry. The Knight becomes the Sister's primary guardian and she becomes his primary healer. Among the Sisters and Knights of the Green, such marriages are for life. The same tradition exists among the Reds, though the Reds' mutual devotion to chaos results in less permanent marriages. The members of both male orders are known for their willingness to die and to kill to save the lives of the Sisters to whom they are married.
All four orders are now quite rare. The Knights and Sisters of the Green have fled to the wilds of the world, intermingling with the Forestkeepers and the shamans. These groups do not share members, but they do share goals. The Knights will give few open signs of being Knights, but a wary eye can spot them. They tend to be very skilled with axes of various kinds, since the axe is a primary symbol of their god and their primary weapon in combat. They sometimes carry small hatchets on their belts, even in cities, but most overlook this sign as the trappings of the woodsman. Forestkeepers also carry hatchets with the same dual purpose. The only way to know if the Forestkeeper you meet is guarding the Sisters or merely a woodsman is to ask the hatchet's purpose. If the Forestkeeper answers at all, it is a sign that he trusts you. If he says, "For fire," he is guarding a Sister. If he says, "For wood," the hatchet is just a tool. If he says, "For firewood," one has run into a ranking Forestkeeper, who knows that most weapons can be tools, and most tools weapons.
The Red Witches and the Rods of Chaos have chosen the cities and various kinds of entertainment as their means of survival. Urban Red Witches practice divination for a price. They are called on by both entertainment seekers and human city leaders, and service all comers, so long as the pay is right. Many of the Rods of Chaos make their livelihoods as performers of magick and illusions. Among humans, they are popular, since one neever knows what one will see when one goes to see a Red Wizard perform. Their emphasis on chaos makes them unpredictable, especially in combat and performance. The spectators, and the performers, enjoy the excitement of wondering what will happen next.
When groups of superstitious Men began hunting the Witches, all four groups began to develop styles of combat and survival in the face of angry mobs. Even the Sisters and Knights of the Green developed such skills, though their general abhorrence of bloodshed means that the Sisters focus on means of defense and of indirect attack. If faced with a mob, the Sisters and Knights will seek to slow an attack by choosing narrow routes of escape, raising walls of earth or bramble, or (in the case of the Knights) standing with axes brandished between the Sisters and the Mobs. If a Sister feels the need to cut a way out, she will likely summon wolves, bears, badgers, or birds of prey. She may also raise a golem. The main type of golem called is usually an earth golem, which will attack anything which threatens its summoner. A second type of golem used is the axe golem, summoned from the axe of the Sister's Knight. If her knight dies, the golem will take up the axe and wield it.
The Red Witches and the Rods of Chaos take a far more aggressive approach to defense. Rarely do villagers survive the experience of cornering Red Witches or their fellows Rods of Chaos. The Reds and their men have been known to unleash elementals of all kinds, as well as firestorms, cyclones, and lightnings at their enemies. Red Witches rarely fight physically. Like the Sisters and Knights of the Green, the men do the melee fighting, using their rods alternately as wands and clubs.