This is the first installment of my serialized book, “The Linden Tree.” Future episodes promise to be longer and more exciting. Enjoy!
Lightning struck the ancient linden tree five days ago. The scar was still smoldering when I left the village yesterday, even though Elder Jared had tried his best to heal the wound. He said that the tree is dying and that if it passes, it will mean the end of our village. The elder has said that the tree has lost it’s glow, that we are doomed and must atone before the end. He was still sitting before the tree, head bowed in prayer, alone.
The villagers are a hardy group, but they are frightened. Rumors have spread among them of the coming Southern Darkness. A child’s tale, but one that has taken root with them. I pleaded with the elder to lead the people, to succor their fears, but he has given in to defeat.
It has fallen to me to find the answers to the signs.
The shepherd’s son saw one when the linden was struck. He was driving the herd in early because the wind had shifted from the west to the south. He knew a storm was coming. He tells the tale that the bolt was shaped like a sword, that it drove straight to the heart of the tree. No one else saw this, but he is a trustworthy lad and no one questioned him.
We have tales of the Nature spirits making themselves known in this manner. Sword shaped lightning, shield-walls of water forming in the eastern lands, fiery hands reaching down from mountain tops – in such ways the spirits make there presence felt.
Many believe we have somehow angered the spirits. That the lightning sword was sent to punish us for growing away from the old ways. They say that we must begin the sacrifices again.
I disagree. I too, have seen signs that need answers.
The wound in the linden revealed a rot in the tree’s core. The tree had been dying already before the spirits sent their sword. The heart of the tree was black and stank of death. Elder Jared took this to mean our doom. He said that the tree had abandoned us long ago and that the Sky Spirit was just finishing the job.
Again, I disagree.
The wound in the tree revealed something more. Something no one else saw but me and it is why I left the village yesterday.
Deep within the wound, buried in foul rot, I saw a glint of blue. Reaching in, I pulled out a stone of clear blue the size of the nail on my small finger. It was warm and I could feel it pulse like a heart. This, I knew, was the heart of the tree and it still lived for it spoke to me. Not in words but it showed me a vision of a linden tree so big, so alive and so ancient I knew that I was seeing a Nature Spirit in its true form.
And so, I left the village yesterday. I told no one about the stone or what it showed me, only that I was seeking help from some of the larger settlements further north.
I mean to find the Tree Spirit and get answers. I believe it can help.
And if the rumors of the Southern Darkness are true, I may not have much time.