Chapter 9:


Cinder Roots - A Treant's Tale

When the old woman opened the cottage’s door and looked inside the room, her heart almost stopped.

Where is the girl??!! She thought desperately, how? She couldn’t just wake up and leave? I made sure the potion was strong enough to last an entire week! Maybe her powers revealed themselves?? no, it can’t be possible, she isn’t kindled yet, they must be dormant!

Anna’s head pulsed.

I can’t believe it! Just when I was about to do the ritual! Why? Why? Her eyes filled up with madness. No, no, no, no, no, no!HOW COULD IT HOW COULD IT HOW COUL-

Something clicked in her mind. She laughed.

I know! It has to be Titania! That filthy whore! Ohohohoho, you’re going to pay for this! No more games!

Her blind fury a moment ago started to take shape as an icy anger. She took a deep, controlled breath. A plan was forming inside her head.

I can’t go deep in the forest, for this certainly is where Dara is in right now, but I know someone who can. Robert is still alive.

Grabbing a leaf she took from a tree near her daughter’s home, she activated her skill again.

“Mother’s Return.”

She noticed that the familiar feeling of being pulled in and out of existence taxed her a lot more this time. My powers are almost exhausted. I need to rest before using them more today.

The door to Agatha’s home was open. He’s gotta be here. When she stepped over to enter the house, a hulking mass of a man charged her. Using a quick side-step, she dodged the attack. The men fell to the ground.

“Robert! Dear! It’s me!,” she said, staring with no compassion in her eyes as she watched the man turn around, still in the ground, to face her.

“Anna? You… You’re really alive?!” he sobbed.

She didn’t even need to look in his eyes to notice he was crying. Pathetic. The person Anna was seeing right now was a crumbling mess. It appears he already knows the news.

“Yes, Robert, I’m right here.”

“I… I… Anna, I saw Agath…” His eyes darkened. She felt something growing in him. Something other than his sadness.

Anger. Good.

She crouched over, reaching to the man's shoulder, “please, tell me everything.” Her voice was coated in honey.

“Dara had run away that morning… Agatha had gone to search for her. I wasn’t really worried, you know, she was still sad about your sister Lucia passing away, they were really close. I knew she just needed some time alone…” He stared at the ground, looking away. “I thought to do something special for her when Agatha brought her back..”

“Something special?” Anna asked.

“I went into the forest. I… I had this stupid plan to hunt a deer and make a good steak for my daughter, to cheer her up. Agatha never allowed her to eat meat, as she was going to be a druid and all, but I knew she always wanted to try it. Always a rebel, right?” He smiled sadly.

He got up on his feet. “I hunted the blasted deer in a secluded area near Lucia’s grave. That's when I saw the fire and the column of smoke coming out of Pern, so I started running towards it.”

Robert grabbed an axe that was embedded in a tree stump. She could see he was holding it so strongly that his hand was trembling. “I saw a monster, Anna. I saw the monster that killed my wife. I saw this giant… Tree holding her body. It was covered in blood. Agatha’s blood!” He struck the tree stump with his axe, almost cutting it in half.

Interesting. He thinks that Treant killed Agatha…

“I couldn’t do anything, Anna! She was already dead. I thought of attacking the beast, but my legs couldn’t move towards anywhere close to that thing,” he told her. “I returned to the forest, trying to make my way here, to find Dara, but she was also gone. Why?! Tell me, Anna! Why is this happening?!” He threw the axe in his hand at the forest. “They were the only ones I had! I just want my family back.” She could feel the pain in his voice.

“You might want to grab that axe, Robert, because I know where Dara is. She’s alive.”

Upon hearing those words, Robert grabbed her shoulders. “You know where she is?! Where?! Tell me!” She now could hear hope in his voice, but the anger was still present.

“Dara’s inside Sylvan. I believe the Fey kidnapped her. Will you go after her, Robert? You’ll bring her back?”

"That’s all I want, Anna," he said while staring the forest.

“Before you go, I’ll teach you how to perform a forced kindling. Becoming a Kindled is the only way for you to survive inside Sylvan.”

He turned to face her. “How can I do this?”

“To become a Kindled, you need to be a gifted part of someone's soul. The binding of souls, or The Gift as some liked to say, links the individual's fate together. I can't kindle you myself, as I've already kindled someone else. Only the Greater Feys and the Elements can kindle multiple beings. But there’s another method, a forbidden technique that you can perform to become a Kindled without the binding,” she said with a serious expression.

“This method,” she continued, “is done by absorbing the soul of someone who’s Kindled. That would be a quite difficult task for an Unkindled like you, if you weren't in Sylvan with me helping. I'll teach you how to perform it. Are you ready?”

“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes if it means Dara will be safe. That’s all that matters to me.”

He’ll do anything to get her back, won't he? Maybe he isn’t as pathetic as I thought.

“Follow me,” she said while entering the woods.