Granny Toadstool's Long and Drawn Out Backstory
Gladys Oakenhelm, or Granny Toadstool as she is often known as, has a storied history somewhat unique among dwarves. As a youth Gladys travelled (with her family) a long distance from her homeland of Valexys into a strange new home for her clan—a portion of the Immortal Forest overseen by the Kesiana elves. As she was young at the time she can’t remember the details of this migration or the exact reasons why they settled in such a strange area; all she recalls is that her father was an old and close friend with a Kesiana elf of some repute. After a fractious dispute with their kin (of which Gladys knows next to nothing), their large family split from the trunk of the clan and settled in this strange new land where death was next to unknown, given leave by the elves to start a new life sheltered from the rest of the world.
Gladys was a quiet child of a contemplative bent, rarely showing interest in the industrious and material mindset of her peers. Instead she took to slipping away from her handlers to spend long days exploring the enchanted forest. To her delight, the creatures there were surprisingly intelligent (having lived for centuries at this point) and docile, finding little danger in this grubby curious child of the earth. She found fascination in the rugged beauty of nature and its children and found a solace there that her people could never provide.
One fateful day in her explorations she came across a surprise—a small circle of druids nestled secretly and quietly not a day away from her home. They knew of her of course; the druids were aware of the dwarves nearby from the moment they arrived, and the forest creatures had long since told them of the inquisitive little dwarf girl that liked to meander and gape at the green around her. They welcomed her into their little valley, a dim but earthy paradise of sun dappled leaves sheltering the loamy forest floor. The druids were an odd sort, a sect that embraced death and life as a whole instead of overstating the importance of the living side of nature. To them death was just as important if not more so, the cleansing and nurturing rot necessary for all things to flourish. Much of their philosophy was encapsulated in the parasitic life of the fungus, a creature that thrives on the natural cycle of death and decay.
Over time as Gladys grew, she got to know the mild and philosophical druids and found in them a family her real family had never been. It was there she discovered her first love, a short stocky human woman with nut brown skin and the wisest of knowing smiles. This woman, whose name was Ila, taught her many things about the slow, methodical growth of fungi and the secrets they could share. She also taught her about the gentle art of love, both physical and emotional.
The druid’s home encircled a shallow cave system that branched into the Underdark, and there the druids kept their most sacred of groves—a large system of branching mushrooms and other fungi, a veritable city of teeming life and undulating rot. Unlike in most of the surrounding forest, death was known here; Ila revealed to her that the reason for this was an artifact in their possession, the atrophied root of an ancient tree that some once called the Blight. This artifact broke the unnatural enchantment of the forest and allowed nature to take its true course in the limited area around it (while the druids took care to keep the artifact far from the great immortal trees). Here, in their own type of natural temple lay the heart of the Circle, carefully tended by the druids and the peaceful myconids that shared this shallow bit of the Underdark with them. Eventually Ila revealed this hidden beauty to Gladys and she fell instantly in love. At this moment she knew that her future lay not with her people, but with the gentle druids and the apple of her eye, Ila. Gladys contacted her kin only one last time after this, and it was not a pleasant meeting. She confessed her love of the Circle and especially of the special bond with Ila but they took it very poorly. Her father denounced her, citing her unnatural fascination with the “death cult” and how it flew in the face of the great Moradin and everything that the dwarves represented. In her own placid way Gladys took this in stride though, retreating permanently back into the safety of her adopted family, never to see her kin again.
For many, many years the dwarf lived peacefully among the Circle, learning their ways and becoming initiated in their mysteries. Her Ila grew old and eventually passed, as all things inevitably do, and although distraught Gladys took this in stride as the natural order of things. She celebrated the time she had been allowed to spend with her love and grew all the more wise and understanding because of it. More years passed, all her human friends dying around her as she outlived them all. She grew more quiet, more contemplative, and adopted a twinge of melancholy despite her firm belief in the Cycle. Many looked to her as a leader of the Circle but she did not take well to that moniker, choosing instead to spend more and more time with the myconid meld that helped care for their grove. She learned a great deal from these peaceful creatures and they from her. While living amongst them she was gifted with what was to be her most lasting friend, a creature she called Psyllie. This creature, a tiny, semi intelligent fungus related to the myconid, has been with her ever since. Time marched on, and gray began to streak her hair and lines and wrinkles sprouted across her face as even she began to succumb to the inevitability of death and to welcome it as the last and greatest peace to her soul. However, such was not to be her fate…yet.
Without even quite realizing it Gladys had spent over a decade with the myconid in that shallow patch of Underdark, rarely communicating with her Circle. One day a great outcry permeated the telepathic rapport spores all around her, bringing her the news that the Circle had been attacked. She rushed to the surface, her eyes streaming with tears from the dim sunlight she had grown unused to. There she found her entire Circle destroyed, cruelly maimed and left to bleed out into the rich earth. Here and there she saw the corpses of some of the attackers, strange fae that looked to have been twisted by some dark and evil power she was unfamiliar with. This violent, unnatural carnage tore at her heart but deep inside a flame kindled as well, the nearly forgotten vindictive rage of her dwarven heritage breaking the surface of her placidity. Even worse, amongst the bloodshed and chaos left behind she realized that the artifact, the Root of the Blight, had been taken. It was obvious that this was the goal of the dark fae attackers, to spirit away with this magical tie to a past best left forgotten. She had no clue for what purpose they wanted the thing, but she knew that it could not be anything but for evil. In all of her time with the druids and the myconids she had learned what the Root really was, and that in the wrong hands it could be used to disturb the natural order on a colossal scale. The thing known as The Blight had once represented everything Gladys believed about the importance of the cycle of life and death and rebirth, and it had sought to bring that order back to the Immortal Forest centuries ago. However the thing had become twisted and lost sight of its original goal and was nearly responsible for the end of everything. When she came to this conclusion she hardened her heart and knew what she had to do. As the last remaining member of her Circle, it was her duty to retrieve the Root and make sure it was kept safe from nefarious forces. She picked herself off the blood soaked earth, quelled her aching bones, and left her little fungal grove for the first time in nearly two hundred years.
For many years now she has roamed Calador, searching for information on these dark fae and what their location and goals are. Unfortunately she has found little, just tantalizing whispers here and there, but what she has found is that the world needs her. For so many years she had shut herself off in her tiny corner of safety and peace, but there were so many beings that have never had the chance at such a life. She may be in her old age, and her bones might ache with the journey, but she will not step back into the shadows again until she is able to make a difference in the world. However, among the rights she has tried to wrong, and the imbalances she has attempted to clear, her main goal is, and will always be, the recovery of the Root of the Blight.
In recent days Gladys has become affiliated with the Independent Society of Antiquities, a group of like- minded individuals dedicated to recovering dangerous and stolen artifacts from after the cataclysmic event in distant history called The Folly. Gladys hopes the Society will help her with her ultimate goal as well. She has been sent to Malixia City to delve into the recolonization efforts of that fallen place and to liberate and secure any artifacts that might become unearthed. She hopes that she might find out more information about the mysterious shadow fae here as well, and that her long cold trail can be picked up again.