Chapter 7:


Cinder Roots - A Treant's Tale

Level 13! How on the... A surprised expression was visible on his face.

“Look at you, all fired-up, don’tcha worry, I ain’t here to scare you off or anything. Actually, I know you.”

What? How?

“You know you can talk too, right?”

I do?

He struggled to make a sound. Focusing, he reminded himself of how he made noises before. The creaking of his branches, the thumps of his footsteps...

He made a sound. He didn't move anything, but instead it came from within.

"Hum... Hi? Who are you?" The noise rumbled out like a waterfall, deep, rough.

This is new! He enjoyed talking. Testing, he found it was simple to put his thoughts into words.

She Ignored his question. “I supposed I can explain some things to you, it’s part of my job, anyway. But not here, it’s not safe,” With a swift hand motion she started walking.

I don’t trust her. At least not yet. But she may be the only one who can give me answers for my questions.

I’ll follow her for now.

Still alert, he trailed after her. The old human, looking back to confirm he was following, upped her pace. Even with his big legs, following her was difficult. He imagined a smaller creature would have an even greater difficulty to maintain the distance. A few minutes went by as they entered the forest.

His large body made dodging the trees a quite demanding task.

Finding a lake, she stopped. It was crystal clear, a few birds flying by. He spotted a dragonfly in the reeds nearby.

“That’s far enough. Ask away,” she said while sitting down near the lakeside, in a comfy-looking rock, filled with moss.

Trying to find a comfortable place for himself, he leaned against a gigantic tree.

“You said you knew me. How?”

“You were the golden-leafed tree that grew on the glade the fire cleared, weren't you?” she said, more a statement than a question. “My daughter, Agatha, used to visit you all the time.”

Her daughter visited me? Oh! So that means…

“You are my friend’s mother!”

“Friend? How quaint.”

Agatha, her name was Agatha. I won’t forget this.

“Anna… You know she…”

“Yes, I know she died. It was my fault.” She closed her eyes. “We never got really close, you know. I… I never knew the right words to say. My sister did that caring job for me, before she died too. Even my granddaughter disappeared.” The woman said while looking into the horizon. Strangely, she didn’t sound as distraught as he thought she would be.

A granddaughter? Agatha’s child?

A moment of silence passed.

“Moving on, I recently received a new ability, after my Class Upgrade. It's called Ancient Gaze. It allows me to see what trees have the potential of becoming a Treant. You had this potential. Normally, Treants are born when the goddess' power permeates their core, kindling them. But sometimes, the awakened trees become Huorns, wild trees dominated by anger and distrust, and so this is more of a double-edged sword than anything. Questions?”

His mind was spinning.

“Class upgrade? Goddess? Huorns? What?”

A look passed over her face. “Oh well, let’s divide this in parts. You gain a class upgrade after level 10. They say you gain another one after level 20, but I've never known someone past that level, so I can't say for sure.”

“Okay, the class you upgrade into is related to the class you were before?”

"Sometimes yes, but it really depends on what achievements you gained. For example, I’ve gotten the Long-Lived achievement before I reached level 10, so I was given the choice of becoming an Elder Druid."

“And how much XP would I need to reach level 10?”

“The XP doubles every time,” she told him, “I think you can guess how much you must get to be on the higher levels.”

“How in the damned earth did you gain this much XP? You would need to defeat hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies!”

“This you must learn by yourself,” she laughed.

“I think I understand.... What about the other things?”

“So many questions, so little time…” Anna closed her eyes for a second, “Look, I brought you here for a single reason, I need a message delivered for someone, and I can’t go deep into the forest, not right now.”

“This message, what is it?”

She took something out of her green poncho.

“Here, take this. Deliver it to Barcus, he'll know what to do.” It was a small medallion, made of gold. “He lives in a small community, deep in the woods, west of here.”

“But why? Who is this Barcus?”

“Oh, he’s a Treant like you, an ancient one in fact. He was my old master,” Anna said, looking away. “He taught me everything I know.” She took a deep breath. “I’m inclined to think he won't deny helping you too, if you bring my message to him.”

A master? For a split second, he thought of turning his back on Anna and tracking down the red mage that fled the battle. No, I can’t do this right now. I need to prepare myself.

“I accept.”

Sendormist entered the Imperial City. The fire mage was a scrummy-looking man. His glasses tilted a little too much to the left, his red robe was unkempt, and full of ashes. The only thing he had that he really prized was his moustache. It was big, shiny and curvy. He sometimes passed the whole evening just shining it and looking at the fire. The flame was a thing that wondered all fire users. More than a hundred books were published yearly with a single goal, to describe the fire’s nature, but they all failed in his mind. He himself made one of them. It was more like a rite of passage than anything.

“I need a drink,” he muttered to himself.

Givale was enormous, the biggest city on the west side of the continent, some said. This claim was, of course, very debated, as the city-states to the east are always trying to disprove this. Being big did nothing good to them now, did it?

The news of Varania’s defeat was quick to reach the capital, posters were being glued on the walls and little boys were screaming the news on the city’s road. He wasn’t there to see the city fall. The teleportation sickness was making him feel nauseous. Just need a good mead, that’s all.

But he knew the nightmares were waiting for him. A Treant with fire resistance? And not only that, he had fire fookin fists! This defies everything we knew about elemental magic and resistances!

His thoughts were interrupted when he saw the tavern sign.

Really? The Blinking Tree? What a damn fitting name. He entered the building.

Inside, a few patrons were sitting, mugs filling the tables. He chose a cozy spot near the fireplace. After waiting a couple seconds, a good-looking girl came to the side of his table.

“Welcome, can I get you anything?” She looked at his clothes with a distrustful face.

“Just a little bit of mead or ale would be fine for now.”

"We’ve got Mead from Honeykew Meadery, 2 copper coins per mug, and Whiteblier’s deposit, 4 copper per mug. Also, we recently got a hold of some Dwarven Ale, although this would be a little more expensive, 1 silver per mug. What you’d want to be served?"

“Don’t care, bring me one of everything.” Being a mage paid well.

Her eyes glinted with the prospect of profit.

“Sure! I’ll bring them right away, sir!”

His mind wandered back to the Treant. It’s basic knowledge that a kindled can only learn a certain aspect of elemental magic that follows the principle of his kindling parent, or the one he absorbed the soul of.

His mugs arrived, filled with alcoholic content. He grabbed one and started drinking mindlessly.

But the thing is, I’m fairly certain that Titania’s nature is the absolute opposite of what fire meant. This can only mean that it absorbed someone else's soul, or that he was kindled by another being.

Both possibilities frightened him. He somehow learned the rituals himself? No… That’s not possible. He couldn’t learn this before waking up, and the Treants awoke already kindled. But… Titania is the only one who can kindle nature's spirits, right?

Something’s not adding up. That’s it, I need to visit Givale’s imperial archives. Leaving a couple of coins on the table, he readied himself to leave.