Read Time: 5mins
As Treanu gazed out upon his home, sorrow coursed deeply through the shaman. Ashwood Forest had changed drastically over the previous days; where once the night would bring darkness and the soothing sounds of creatures, now it carried a deathly orange glow and the distant war chants of demons.
The forest had been burning for two days and at this point, it looked like it may never be extinguished. The arrival of Tuskrage and his gang of thugs had started as little more than rumours; oakthorn farmers whispering of beasts lurking in the tree lines, but now they had decimated much of the once beautiful lands leaving acre upon acre as nothing more than ash.
Treanu had spent his years as a sapling high upon the Northern Ridge overlooking the vast expanse of the rift. It was customary for the oakthorn young to be raised by society as a whole within the protective borders of one of the forest’s many villages. However through some twist of fate Treanu’s acorn had fallen deep within the forest, away from the watchful eyes of the Hollowbark Crop.
The early years of an oakthorn’s life held many perils; whether from a tusker hunting for a quick meal or corvids building one of their giant nests, a sapling left alone would, more often than not, survive only a handful of days.
Treanu had been a different story, the young oakthorn had found shelter amongst the magnificent flora that called the forest home, thickets grew around the sapling protecting him with their barbed thorns whilst the tallest trees bore the brunt of even the most destructive storms until the day that he had pulled himself from the earth and returned to the oakthorn. Treanu owed his life to the Northern Ridge and now it was gone.
The shaman’s mighty hand balled itself into a fist; these were not just plants, fuel to feed the umbron’s monstrous war. They were sacred; homes to the creatures of Ashwood, but most of all they were his family! Some so old their roots ran to the very core of this world, tunnelling deeper than even the mighty rift. They had stood long before the people of this world were born and they should have remained long after they were gone, but now their lives had reached an abrupt and unjustified end.
The honour of being named Cropfather was one that Treanu hadn’t expected to fall to him, there were many within the crop both older and wiser than himself but none who’s connection ran so strongly to the forest itself. The forest and all that dwelled within its borders were Treanu’s family, he had vowed to protect them; a task he now feared would end in failure.
So many had been lost in the preceding days and the Cropfather felt a great weight upon his shoulders, not just trees but fellow Oakthorn. His brothers and sisters had surrendered their lives in an attempt to push back the umbron horde but to no avail.
For the Oakthorn war did not come easily, at least not to the Hollowbark Crop. Maybe if the Bramblespike Crop could be reached there might be a chance of victory but their warriors would never arrive in time and Treanu could hear the cries of the forest growing louder by the hour. Ashwood was in its final days.
Treanu turned away from the vantage point upon the roof of his home; standing there and watching the the flames creep ever closer would achieve nothing. Rushing from his quiet hut Treanu cut through the centre of Mossridge. The village was eerily quiet. All the oakthorn capable of defending the forest had taken up arms against the invading forces whilst the old and young had fled to safer grounds, wherever those might be found.
A fine veil of smoke hung in the air as the shaman moved deeper into the forest. The path here was different to those found throughout the rest of Ashwood; it was older and more ornate, carefully tended with a loving hand. All around great lanterns hung from the trees; their light guiding any who might become lost whilst on their journey.
As the Cropfather approached the end of the pathway he was filled with wonderment just as he had been on his first visit, so many years ago. There stood a being that towered above all others, one who was neither tree nor oakthorn, the old oak.
None knew the truth of how it had come to exist, some said that spirits living within the forest had awoken the oak from its century long slumber whilst children excitedly recited tales of a great oakthorn warrior of old who’s final duty was to serve as the forests guardian. However he had come to exist the old oak had always been the resting place for Ashwood’s most treasured artefact, the Heart of the Forest.
The power that flowed through this stone was without compare. Its very existence was the reason the trees of Ashwood pierced the skies and plant life within the forest grew in such abundance. While it remained within the forest there was hope that Ashwood could once again be reborn.
As Treanu made his approach a weary guard slumped against an ancient moss-covered monument lifted himself slowly to his feet.
“Cropfather,” he said, his head turned towards the ground.
“Be still child, you need not stand for me.” Treanu carefully helped the injured warrior back to his resting place. “How goes the enemies advance?”
“They just keep coming. Every time we put one down another two appear to take its place.” The panic in the young warriors eyes was obvious to see. “The flames grow wilder by the hour and I hear an umbron raid party has almost reached Nurtureville and many of the oldest there cannot be moved”
For a moment Treanu was lost in thought, torn between choices that had no right or wrong. The umbron would surely take a victory this day but on what front.
“Rest now, it’s time the forest showed these monsters that it is not so defenceless”