Lifetender architecture is a mix of traditional log cabin construction and the use of natural elements such as living trees and mushrooms. While the interlocking wood cabins can be built by nearly anyone with a sharp enough axe and enough time on their hands, building, or rather growing, the living homes require a strong bond with the various magic-wielding creatures of Nova Thera, and the skill to direct them to create what is needed.
Starting with the cabins, they’re typically built from trees felled by nature itself, such as during storms. This means that even brand-new buildings can look somewhat old.
Lifetender cabins are carved to interlock at each end, providing a sturdy frame without the need for iron nails. If situated in a high place such as along the branches of The Tree, they’ll often have a balcony or terrace extending beyond the branch itself, floating freely above the ground far, far below.
The roofs of these houses are covered with a layer of soil, and in that soil, the Lifetenders grow flowers and other plants, or even cultivate small crops. As most houses aren’t painted at all, this is how they decorate their homes. A family might grow a certain type of flower in a specific pattern, and others may just allow nature to dictate what plants grow there and how they do so.
Other than these cabins, some homes and structures are shaped by a Lifetender alongside the creatures of the land in which they live. If they live in the woods, these buildings often take the form of extensions of trees and other plants, while in the open plains, it might well be an igloo-like creation shaped from earth and stone. These contrast the cabins, yet the two styles have one thing in common — they blend together with the nature around them, but in different ways.
The Lifetenders are very spiritual people and carry many traditions, and the most popular are the ones connected to a cycle or duality. Every season brings its own event.
The Flourishing, sometimes called the cycle of the mind, is how Lifetenders welcome spring. Rather than picking flowers to bring home, each family, couple, or trainer and their bonded companion will search for a flower they particularly like. This journey can take minutes or days.
When they find their flower, they meditate to reflect on the things that matter to them. After this meditation, they'll sing a song to welcome spring, some of these songs being so ancient that the language they're singing in has been forgotten. The song's sounds and message are known, but each word has lost its translation. Some find this almost symbolic, like each indistinguishable leaf in a distant tree.
Summer is the Expression, the cycle of creativity and dreams. The upper families celebrate with a grand ball on warm nights, whereas the other Lifetenders celebrate in smaller groups with performative dances and feasting. Many children draw art of their wishes, and the elder members of the family gift the children with items or advice that will aid them in pursuing their dreams.
Autumn is the Exchange, the cycle of give and take. With summer concluded, so does the height of life when nature is most active and must ready itself for the approaching winter. Rainbow rice is prepared as a ceremonial offering at the start of Autumn. The sticky rice is cooked with fruits, beans, or spices to produce a bowl in several striking colours. These rice bowls are then shaped into squares, and an impression of The Tree is pressed into them.
Lifetenders will leave the rainbow rice bowls on a mat outside for nature to accept. They will return much later to collect the leftovers for their dinner. If a creature ate some or all of a Lifetender family's offerings, then they were believed to be blessed the following year. If the red rice is eaten, the blessing is for good health while green rice symbolises excellent luck and yellow represents wealth.
Winter is the Focus, the cycle of the body. Lifetenders are keenly aware of their impact on nature through the existence of their civilisation. Therefore, they strive to minimise any damage to nature by proactively tending to the land and reducing their consumption. Lifetenders practice intermittent fasting during the Focus and only eat one meal every two to three days.
In addition to fasting, many take the time to tend to the forest or land on which they live. The belief is that through discipline during the winter, the land has time to heal for the arrival of the following year. Members of the upper families in The Tree do not often leave their homes during the winter, but only they know why.
Marriage is the cycle of the Sun and Moon. Opposites attract and amplify one another. When two individuals wish to join in marriage, they must journey together in the wild. They camp and survive together for a complete cycle of the moon without additional assistance.
Most couples find that the challenge strengthens their bond by working together as a team to support each other. When they return, the marriage is finalised and officially recognised. For couples who return early or discover incompatibilities with their partner, they cancel the marriage, with no hard feelings or strings attached. Such is life, as they might say.
The upper families on the other hand, have adopted the tradition where prospective couples live together in a home on the lower branches. Their respective families will provide food, but that is the limit of their support.
Birth is considered the cycle of Water. Lifetender children are often born in water, be it a bath or a soothing river. A mother is taken to a body of water when she goes into labour. A fire is always prepared with warm towels and aides present to tend to the mother and child after the event.
While births are the cycle of Water, death is the cycle of Earth. Lifetender funerals epitomise their connection to the land and believe their souls will continue there long after death. Their belief in cycles extends to the concept of souls. The soul does not die, but changes form, like a seed escaping its shell.
A burial is held for the deceased, who is buried along with a seed of a tree. The type of seed chosen can be personally selected by the deceased ahead of time and the specific seed type chosen will usually be based on family tradition. If the desired seed is unknown, then a guess is made on behalf of the individual. The memorial tree that will grow from the burial location is considered to house that person's soul. Friends and family will often wrap this tree in cloth or rope to denote its importance and warn others about its sentimental value.
Damaging such a tree or harvesting food from it is considered a grave offence, though collecting fallen fruit if the tree bore any, is considered an act of reverence. When a memorial tree eventually falls, the Lifetenders believe the soul has rejoined the collective consciousness of the world.
The Lifetenders have the most organic designs for their clothing and armour, meaning it's often difficult to tell where living weave ends and plain old textile begins. However, the degree to which this is true varies greatly, where some communities may be indistinguishable from the nearby flora, while others dress in simple clothing in various earthy colours ranging from greens to autumnal reds.
The weaves they make are almost exclusively made from plant fibre, usually harvested from dead or dying plants, or in such a way as to not cause undue damage to whatever plant they’re taking the material from. While Lifetenders tend to avoid hunting for food, whenever they do, the hide of their hunt is typically fashioned into tough leather, to be used for making clothing, armour, or other useful equipment.
When it comes to designing armour, their designs are unique compared to the armour made by the other tribes. Lifetender armour places a much heavier emphasis on blending in with the environment, and while some suits of armour can look rather plain, many incorporate living material from the area in which that particular Lifetender expects to fight. For instance, if a Lifetender lives in the Everwood; a forest of mild autumns and snow-free winters, the plant life they carry with them will help them blend into the undergrowth or the treetops, allowing them to gain the upper hand while scouting or during a confrontation.
This is not to say that their armour can’t take a hit. In fact, the tough leathers and interleaving plates can keep the bearer safe from many things. However, the Lifetenders have identified this ability to camouflage themselves as an advantage and make use of it whenever they can.
The duality of Lifetender’s social structure has created two forms of musical expression.
For most Lifetenders, music is used as a guide to explore one’s connection with the world. There is a flow to their sound with a strong emphasis on harmonies. Their songs are usually performed during meditation for oneself to instil calmness. Lifetenders also use chanting and humming, but rarely any vocals.
The steel tongue drum is the preferred instrument for meditation, and Lifetenders personalise them as a form of expression. These impressive drums make for great conversation starters. The meditation music is usually played in isolation to strengthen one’s connection with the world around them. Partners will often perform together to improve their bond, particularly on one’s anniversary.
The second style of music makes use of string instruments accompanied by a grand piano. However, it is rare to see a piano outside the middle and upper families of the Lifetenders. This expensive status symbol is prized due to the complexity of its construction, difficulty in transporting it up The Tree, and the years of practice required to master it.
Heirs to families learn the grand piano to showcase their potential as future heads of the family. Whenever a family hosts a ball, the head or the upcoming heir will begin the dance with a solo piano performance supported by string instruments played at the beginning of the solo.
Other popular instruments among the Lifetenders are harps, bells, and flutes.
The average Lifetender diet is predominantly vegetable-based, but it is not exclusively vegetarian. Life in the forest takes many forms and they all play their part in the food chain. The primary meat of the Lifetenders is chicken due to the ease of raising them and the versatility of the eggs they provide. This humble lifestyle is contrasted by the desires of the middle and upper families. They are more prone to importing exotic foods to offer at their banquets and balls. Universally though, fruits are loved by all and considered an essential dessert ingredient to celebrate the end of a meal. The eating of the fruit is a reminder of the blessings from The Tree and the Everwood.
At the centre of Everwood stands the natural wonder that is The Tree. While the other tribes have a few different titles for it, the Lifetenders who live in its boughs would never be so arrogant as to assume that they should be the ones to name such a marvel. hence, to them, it is simply The Tree. Since nothing can truly compare, nothing can be confused with it.
In the crown of The Tree, the Lifetender capital is found. It has no name either, so associated with its location that mentioning it more or less mentions the city. They’re so intertwined that there simply is no point in making a distinction between the two.
The city is built on the massive branches and mushrooms that festoon the grand being, log cabins fashioned from reclaimed timber, fallen twigs from The Tree itself as well as lumber felled by storm or hand in the forests below. Some dwellings are less mundane in their construction, created by a human and their bonded creature, the former guiding the magic of the latter to shape homes, businesses and social spaces.
To get to this place, you must fly or ascend the long, arduous climb along The Tree’s trunk. The Lifetenders have added rope ladders and by using a combination of the platform-like mushrooms and added construction where needed, there are plenty of opportunities for anyone doing so to rest. The ladders themselves are frequently replaced, but despite these precautions, falls do happen on rare occasions.
Viss Rathorn is the head of her family charged with defending the Lifetender’s nation. Respected by those under her command, those who have met her describe the commander as quiet, sharp, and unrelenting in her pursuit of duty. While Viss’s captains organise the Watchers and Striders, the Guardians answer directly to her.
Eulla Primrose was one of the founding members of the noble system for the Lifetenders. The Primrose family is positioned at the top, literally and figuratively, alongside the Marigolds. Eulla, and her friend Deuris, were the first to become Voices of The Tree and leaders of religious activities for the Lifetenders. Not much is known about her except that she was one of the few children among the survivors who discovered The Tree.
Deuris Marigold was one of the founding members of the noble system for the Lifetenders. The Marigold family is positioned at the top, literally and figuratively, alongside the Primroses. Deuris, and his friend Eulla, were the first to become Voices of The Tree and leaders of religious activities for the Lifetenders. Not much is known about him except that he was one of the few children among the survivors who discovered The Tree.