The Magi of the Woodlands

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
The mysterious forests of Yryss'theal are set upon by a strange unnatural blight, as the Elven Magi of the forest Ailean works to uncover it's source.

Submitted: August 29, 2017

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Submitted: August 29, 2017

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The Magi of The Woodlands.

One.

The flower felt wrong to the bare touch of Ailean's pale delicate palm. The blackened petals of the Yraril rose was already enough to give a certain sense of wrongness but the texture was as if any life, any touch the spirits of the woodlands had blessed upon what was once a seed to the rich forests of Yryss'thael had been replaced and dried with age. It felt like the leather hide of a slain Nelc on the tanning rack, the domesticated beast often used as cattle to supply rich feasts or ample leather. Yet the petal itself was nothing like the leather used for armour and despite it's similar texture crumpled in his hand like an note burned in a fire. Almost a scent of burning escaped the flower instead of any natural scent from the flower or any of its thousands of siblings, but not quite burning. This was a deeper and richer scent that stuck to the nostrils, despite the wishes of those unfortunate to smell it gave that sense again, one of wrongness. As if sulphur.

The Elf stood as his full height with a clear look of contemplation upon his pale face as the crumpled flower fled back to the ashen ground, his talon unclenched for a time only to stick to the weathered grip of a wooden stave. He felt his fur armour dig into his shoulders with clear weight upon the lithe figure, the drape around his midriff cover most of the simple hide trousers, though the leather making an almost makeshift cuisse from the leather padding. His eyes looked to his stave in clear thought as to reflect the ring of ebony flora around him, the staves tip carved with the symbol of a owl with the wood dangling with several charms that would fill the air with their relaxing song when-ether moved. It was a method to calm the spirits of nature that had granted his people life as the stories were told, though it did nothing to restore this perfect spring of death.

Indeed the flower was not the only casualty of this strange, new ailment. This circle was such a new very strange thing, anything within it had been drained of any colour though perfectly preserved in it's death, despite the blackness that robbed it of any colour it would be considered beautiful by an outlanders eyes. To an Elven eye, and especially his own bright amber gaze it looked like some sort of blight upon the land cast by misuse of magic. He had not tasted the soil yet however, that would give away much of the nature of any magic used in this strange place. His boots, made from the hide of Nelc cattle like the hide of his armour, pressed and knelled again into the the ground as his bare hand padded the soil. His fingers dragged along the soil with the precision of a farmer tilling a soil, ended only by his finger tapping the end of his tongue. He spluttered in response from recoil.

Sulphur indeed. It had tainted this soil and it likely tainted any flowers or would be saplings that had, or would grow have grown here. It was lucky a spirit had not been here or it may have blighted the spirit, such would have invited a much darker shadow than that of the night. Angered or lost spirits would become dark creatures indeed and often reshape life into a much darker shadow of what should be. Life into shadow fey. Though the did not create perfect circles of blight in open areas of woodland and nor did they tamper the ground with sulphur, no this was the work of something different. Something new. Yet standing to his full height as he retreated back into his hood, his long fair brown hair tucked within the same item, he began to stride back towards the town of Rlysia from where he had came. The space around him would chime as he would walk, his aura would bring about the calming of the spirits and natural world alike. Such was the way of those few granted with the magic of nature itself.

Many thoughts crossed his mind as Ailean travelled through the makeshift road cut through the woodlands, no outside influence marked out these roads but the otherwise thick grass gave way to softer soil. A mark of respect from the woodlands itself towards the Elven. The first thought of the contemplating Elven was to who could betray the forest so to defile it in such a strange way. The answer was quick on his mind to those furious as it's betrayal, the rare few Elven who would train to become a magi and master the wishes of the forest yet fail. Hateful they would often flee from their woodland homes and villages to live as exiles in the strange northern lands of the civilised barbarians and defilers. A few would try to attack the forest with the burning fire and strange, wrong creatures summoned from realms unknown. The failed students did not go to clear effort, nor did they have the patience, to create perfect circles beside forests paths with their wicked and wrong sulphur.

It could be possible that a blighted spirit could be responsible in part. That it had simply been driven mad and this was the result of a unknowing strange impulse before fading into the night. They did not use sulphur to burn though and they could do such strange, dark things by merely touching the nature that would be right. Their way was to twist what was right and natural into what was wrong and hostile in their trickster ways, to ruin harvests and make docile creature rabid with hate. It could be possible that a dark spirit had twisted a creature into something new and darker however and this was the result of it's strange new purpose.

Whatever the case it was certainly a mystery and a new task for the magi to take up. But through his thinking the passage between here and there had passed as he approached the small hamlet of Rlysia. It was built upon a creek and the rushing of water, the sounds of children playing a small game and the scents of cooking venison brought a refreshing smile to Ailean's face as he looked upon the village once more. A stranger to Elven lands would see intricate cave doorways built into strange thick trees but those of Elven nature would recognise the clear insignia's above each house, markings almost similar to glyphs or runes that would read clearly the owner or purpose of the doorway. Each doorway would lead into the undergrowth of roots and soil where each Elven would make their mark underground. Still lost in the sounds of the hamlet the sudden patter of feet and words of young Elven snapped the Magi out of his trance. Like a flock of hatchlings chirping towards a mother ready to feed they were eager to hear stories from the travelled Magi, the imagination and boundless energy of children was always a blessed treasure. A sign they would grow into strong Elven in turn. A question was spun by one with long hair, golden and bright much like the tone in which she asked with excitement. “What did you go to see Ailean? Did you talk to the trees?”

Another voice interrupted his before he could answer, even if he didn't know him the resemblance would give way her sibling with a similar face and similar hair though the tone he spoke with overpowered her own with excitement. “No Eilidh, he was out hunting the big bad forest demons! He slew them with the power of the harvest! Just like mother said in her stories!” Clearing his throat caught the attention of both as she looked to him and between each other in some manner of fear, a side effect of his duty he did not like that was dissipated with a small smile. His voice as ever, stern but wise as each word was accentuated, as if telling the best part of a good story.

“Eilidh, Mata, you can tell your mother her stories are as true as a summer leaf upon a cooling wind. My adventures have taken me to a strange and wondrous mystery I must yet uncover. If by dark spirit or by demon... Now go and run...” His voice shifting ominous to wait for the reaction of fear, before dissipating this effect with a smile and a warming chuckle “..For you'll soon be late for your supper, as the sun burns late.” His smile seemed to calm them as they nodded. Mata would run, and Eilidh would push up her small dress to run after her brother across the creek. Children were so precious for the Elven, as the females of his kind could only conceive the future of their race by appeasing the right spirits with ancient rites, waiting until the moon would shine whole above. He lingered to this for a moment as a look of sorrow almost poisoned his gaze, though it was soon carried away in a new urgency. His steps taking him to the shrine of the woodland spirits.

A heavy earthy scent was the first familiar aroma to bolster Ailean’s nostrils before the familiar sight of the natural undergrowth nestled a warming familiarity to the Magi. Like perilously slow serpents slithering through the thick earthen ceiling the roots had burrowed into the shrine itself, a natural dome with its walls decorated in Elvish writing of ceremonious nature, extended to two large drapes covering two parallel entrances to side rooms. The room was otherwise fairly empty aside from the various offerings and the shrine to the Woodlands itself. The image of woman tended by the Grover, the Elven who would interpret the will of the Woodlands as much as they could and would maintain the shrines wherever they sat, was beautiful in her visage. Oak was carefully shaped and shifted into something else, with a posture of a maiden with long hair and narrow face, her hands one atop another to her belly. Around here were the many trinkets, heirlooms and offerings the simple folk had offered this shrine in the hope of appeasing the will of the soil and the trees in order to grow fertile fruit and healthy crops. To see the shrine in such a simple way was a life that Ailean sometimes wished he had, yet it was not what had been chosen for him.

The sounds of distant mumble caught his ear in a sharp hook, from the room to the right Ailean could only assume it was the Grover deep in work as the familiar sound of a scroll being opened granted him satisfaction in his assumption. Sometimes they would greet those who entered and with the chimes to his staff he had most certainly altered his presence upon this place. Though it seems this Grover had chosen his scrolls over the footpads and chimes of a strange visitor, which Ailean did not disrespect. A hard worker often had the best harvest after all, reaping the fruits of their labour in later times. His attention once again turned to the bark skinned maiden as he set to work, leaning down with the help of his stave as its music filled the air. Upon one knee, he simply extended his hand towards the hand of the maiden and lay it atop the wood.

A soft thud came from the skin of the female. The thud of a slow but youthful heartbeat. His eyes were closed yet his mind was open as it was granted a vision of a place so serene, so beautiful it was not meant for anything but the wilds. Trees the size of mountains with mushrooms growing like great oaks below. It was here he on a plateau of viridian grass he knelt within a circle of strange, alien plants and with his opened mind was granted sight of the oaken priestess in her full form. She looked as before, yet her body was clad in leaves that almost made some sort of clothing. Her eyes burned with bright red light, flickering every so often as if to mimic blinking. He had found his hands interchanged with hers in mutual grasp, though as his were delicate and almost loving to this spirit the spirits were hard and painful. It’s voice was both serene yet laced with a fury only the wilds could speak with. It could only be compared to the sound of birds in song yet with words he understood. Words that were with instruction.

“Gifted Magi of the wilds, child born of the womb of Elven but blessed with nature. You come for guidance, in order for answers for the blinding pain subjecting us?”

“I grant you answers. The pain you felt was due to a sulphur within the soil. The life had been taken from your lands as if moonlight had embellished it and stolen it. You have declared my purpose in cleansing it, to restore this pain yet I have not seen anything like this before. What is your guidance?” His voice was as if underwater, yet as if wrong for this place. It disrupted the forest and caused anger from outside his circle, a clear indication that his kind did not belong in this perfect of places. Yet while unsettling, he kept his voice calm and rhythmic as ever. The voice in response was still as beautiful but as furious.

“As par what is right and what should be, your truth will be the water that guides into the growth of a new seedling. This seedling will be your guidance once it grows into sapling, then sapling into tree.” Ailean was confused for a moment to if this was literal or their way of speaking, though the wooden maiden, the spirit of nature Ailean could now fully assume, let go of his hand and turned with a speed far from Elven, within a second she had shifted to the distance burying something within the soil. Her face turned upwards as a single drop of water fell from a great height to the mound of dirt she had unearthed. Defying time itself, the water wetted the ground and from it grew a sprout, growing further and further as it shaped into a sapling. It’s hastened growth only stopped as it had shaped tall and thick into a familiar tree, these were the trees found in the north of the woodlands. This was the nature of the spirit's guidance and as if realising this both at once, Ailean gasped for air as his eyes opened to the shrine within the hamlet.

A few sharp exhales inwards and out steadied his breath but his body was spent. The communal did not just sap his mind, aching and budding with the start of a headache but left his body bruised and exhausted. The rustling of a paper and the sounds of footsteps by one of the side entrances turned his head in his recovery however, the Grover staring at him with his worn brown robe covering most of his features, though not his wisp like aged grey hair or grey beard. His face was neutral before nodding and offering a small smile as his voice was raspy and weathered, though with a good nature. “I do not envy your purpose. The scrolls and books simply grow tiresome, but the visions… You look dreadful. Can I do anything to assist that?”

Ailean had a small chuckle before replying in kind, a nod with a calm tone. “I am envious of you. Between the visions and the constant walking… Scrolls would be less strenuous. You have done enough by allowing my duty here, Grover.”

“And yet I feel myself duty bound to help you further. I know I cannot. Though did your vision grant you clarity?”

Ailean risen to this as he turned towards the ladder, turning to face him once more with a sharp nod. “Indeed, clarity of direction I will face upon the next morning sun. May the woodlands grant you and your village a strong harvest.”

“And you a safe passage.” The voice rang as he began to climb to the door. His destination was clear as he found himself an inn, some dinner consisting of venison and berries, and eventually a bedroll to rest his weary body. A thought remained as he rested from the exhaustion however, the trees stood dangerously close to the savage organised barbarians. Those who would call themselves Humans and hurt and desecrate their own woodlands. It could be possible that perhaps they had found some kind of magic, dark magic that they would use to decay and defile Yryss’theal?

Two:

A symphony of the caws of seafaring birds hungry for the Rhea to return to the waking world, entwined in the scent of an ocean breeze climbing into her nose illuminated the blackened haze of her slumber. The nauseating sensation of a boat rocking in sea came almost as quickly as the knowledge she could only see a dull colour of wherever she was. Instinctively pulling away a pain grew tight like the Human’s wrists she cursed loudly, her voice hoarse and weathered as a thirst taken her, the headache from dehydration indeed another indication that she had been out of it for some time. Her hands were bound in some banner behind her back and she had been sat down, instinctively trying to stand tightened the binding rope around her wrist causing her pain again, begrudgingly sitting back down. It seemed wherever she was, however she had gotten here she was a prisoner in some accursed vessel.

Not one to be easily defeated Rhea gritted her teeth and forced them together as she planned to force her way out of the knot through sheer force of will. The attempt was halted as she halted the effort to focus and listen past the noise of the ocean waves and the gulls. This place smelt of a strange but potent spice that was nearby, a scent that would mask any crewman with a particularly strong scent. Her ears would have to do as she listened out for any footsteps, or heavy breathing around her. She heard smaller sloshing, quickly assuming to be in some sort of storage area which was unlikely guarded from the inside especially with the rope and blindfold. As almost a reassurance she heard no footsteps in her close proximity, or snoring of heavy breathing from any sort of interior guard of this room. A conversation was heard from up above between a feminine and masculine voice about how they would have their fill of ale and plunder once they hit the port. Pirates it was, it seemed.

Her plan to brute force her way out of this rope was ago however, gritting her teeth once more she pushed herself forward as she felt the rope tighten around her wrist. Digging into the skin as her hand began to hurt and ache with the pressure, the pain caused her to give up the first attempt and try again. The result was similar, she wouldn’t get out of these ropes my forcing her way out unless she wanted to lose a hand in the process. She sighed and slumped next to what she assumed was a pillar, and what she assumed the rope was bound too in an attempt to clear her mind. If she couldn’t brute force her way out of this situation she could rely on the gift of tongue to secure a preferable way off this ship than as some pirates slave or treasure. First Rhea had to remember how she had gotten here however as she focused to retrace her steps.

The day before had been spent mostly in and out of a sleazy port inn known as the Drowned Rat looking for work. Rhea did what she needed too to survive, her life was one of a mercenary that would act as a guard, retrieve items from would be thieves or scare competitors away wherever she wandered. She would get payed in silver to pay for her work depending on the quality of the service delivered that would be spent on food, drink, ale and a room in a inn or stable. Picturing herself in the Drowned Rat she imagined the bar and the stool of its interior. She has been sat in a three legged stool with her leather armour tightly kept to her athletic, somewhat short body with her right arm bare with naught but a tattoo. A sword poked out from the armours side that had been expertly smithed, a reward from a particular well performed job and satisfied client, as well as her belt with coin pouch and leather drinking flask. Her head was free, her strong jaw but gentle face almost perfect (not so perfect in the flesh, but this was her imagination of herself after all) with her long, messy but perfectly falling blond hair. She was truly beautiful, and truly a flawless but rugged catch. Despite the satisfied smug grin over her confidence in her self image, she let the rest of her night play out.

She had been scouting the inn not for any taking note of her dashing good looks or confident pose, not that that was ever unwelcome, but for the sounds and sights of someone who didn’t belong in this crowd. A client looking for business. Recalling one in particular that drawn her attention, the female had a shifty look about her and was in clothes that seemed all too much like she had asked a tailor to help her fit in, the aesthetic matching but with everything far too finely stitched and decorated. Despite looking like Rhea did and being skilled with a  few stories under her belt, Rhea was not a man. Men were often picked out of favour from Woman for these sort of jobs believing them to be tougher and stronger in a fight. To compete this she had started to pay some silver for the gossips to spread a story of the Snake-Fang, a female mercenary with the tattoo of a snake on her arm who would succeed on what two men could not do with half the effort and double the speed. The rumour had been successful and was a legend upon the Human Empire, whether her rumours were true or false.

Snake-Fang had successfully lured the interest of this particular merchant looking for a threatening presence to deter looters and thieves, an interest repaid in silver and an afternoon to mid evening of watching certain onlookers for shifty behaviour. This had been followed by time back in the inn, as she had eaten her fill with silver and garnered the interest of shirtless handsome man who had brought her a special drink…. The drink! She managed to put two and two together, the stare as she had mentioned the name of Snake-Fang had drawn attention from a group of pirates. A similar face in their, was the face of the same male who had brought her the drink! He had poisoned her drink and offered it to her, and was the reason she was here right now! The bastard! By luck it seems she had only been here a day at most and the poison had not caused any long lasting damage to her, aside from a lingering headache akin to a bad hangover. Figuring out how she had gotten to this point however, she needed to think fast for a way to barter with pirates.

A new sound interrupted her before she could bind together a plan using her previous scrapes with pirates however, the locks to her door being opened and pushed forwards with a creak that filled her with caution. The thud of heavy boots and the occasional whine of wood filled the tension in the air and added to it in abundance before a voice shattered it. A voice of a well mannered male despite the company of those on the ship, though laced in a cocky tone of a victory he was certainly sure to already be won. “You’re awake! I wasn’t sure if I would have to throw a bucket of waste over your head to get your attention. Ready to die?”

She thought fast as she spoke in a confident, but respectful tone. Unfortunately for her it came out hoarse and rough with the lack of water, coughing quickly to repeat the afore attempted tone. “Well, you have me a in a bind don’t you. You’re crafty, and skilled to be able to trap the Snake-Fang in such a trap. Well if I’m going to die, least you could do is tell me why I’ve angered you off, and how you’re going to do it. Also how much it would take for you to spare innocent, and wealthy little me.” Fluttering her eyes at the last comment she cringed to herself realising the attempt was useless under the blindfold. A laugh came in response and it came back as cocky but laced with clear amusement.

“What a clever tongue! You’d make a good first mate. Nah, you stopped us robbing that merchant blind and took her place in making sure we got to port safe. See these waters get close to that Elven land and the water needs meat, less my crew get eaten. Living meat it turns out would you believe. You’re paying me by having one less loyal crewmate be eaten alive. I think we’re getting close to the place with the fish folk too, so this is where you end.” A hand moved to her face as the blindfold was removed, a clatter moved her sword towards her within hands reach, if her hands weren’t bound behind her to a pillar. She cursed and sighed, looking to him eye to eye as he shrugged in response. “Not a monster. You can see before you die, and you can fight us if you want but I got a crew of one and a half dozen skilled cutthroats. Not sure your odds.”

She spoke back with a neutral, defeated tone. Indeed this seemed to be the end for the Snake-Fang. “You one of them?” A small grunt then a chuckle filled the entry before a late response came, a burly looking man and woman came towards her to cut her loose.

“Oh, I’m the best for a thousand miles. If you got any gods, now’s the time.”

She remained silence in response, as she stood and looked between the man and woman. They in turn looked back to her in silence before she picked up her sword keeping eye contact, putting it to her belt before pushing her hair back behind her shoulders. Wordlessly she pushed one aside to walk out to the deck of the ship, ready to face her death with pride.

Three:

Ailean had been traveling for the better part of a day, his feet treading on earth untouched by any Elven for weeks. The journey had been partially taxing, having to travel through some rocky outcrops and off the traveled path to reach the tree the vision had suggested to the Elven. The clouds above were heavy before in a moment as if struck by woeful news they wept raindrops down to the soil. A hood kept down was quickly righted to cover his head, although most Elven with no exception to Ailean took pleasure to the sensation of rain, it was better to not be soaked if the rain worsened in the case of a fight. The rain lifted the scent of moist earth in the a particular tangled shrub, gently moving through it as the air felt thick and damp the Magi narrowed his eyes to the sight of the tree in front of him. It was a bulbous tree that would become strangely thin near the top as if that of a pear, each of it’s branches held a similarly strange shape with leaves red, unlike its grey bark. There were many more like it but this was the perfect image of what the vision had offered, if there were any doubt to if this was the one he was meant to find the tree was secluded ominously away from any of its wooden kin.

He paced around the strange empty grass that stood not wild but strangely only foot high. A few light giving insects fluttered around the tree as it illuminated its strangeness but no other life that he could hear or see dared so close to this exile. It was highly likely that this was the work of a particularly mysterious spirit but also the chance is was the work of a Magi since passed. Perhaps this area had been touched by a similar corruption and this tree was the only thing that had silenced it, the visions offered him a suggestion of past deeds. He still needed to scout the current area this was situated however to which he began the task of scouting the forests lengths. To one side was more of the forest that circled almost perfectly around if, if not to the other there a natural beach impeded the forests full encompass of the tree. The sounds of waves in the distance were soothing to the Elven, though there was nothing threatening he could feel in the air about the area surrounding this tree.

He had hoped his chimes had effectively calmed the spirits as he opened his palm and touched it to the bark of the tree. There was not a heartbeat like the shrine had been and he was soothed by this, it meant there was no active spirit that seeked to entrap him. Yet moving one hand to his stave, he turned his ankle to make the chimes resonate certain notes in certain places of the tree. He had hoped to wake it for just a moment to hear what it would speak to him, a hope that was soon rewarded by a whispers as if of a playful child. A series of whispers that came of the same voice as he heard not this tree, but the whispers of the trees all around the Magi. It was hard for him to focus yet clenching his closed eyes he focused not for specific answers but the most common things that came in the whispers.

“Child of nature!”

“Uprooted child!”

“Waves!”

“Drowning, drowning!”

Elven were considered children of nature, it was to be expected that the woodlands of these strange trees would speak of his presence as a strange occurrence given they were rarely explored. Uprooted child similarly was an echo of this sentiment. But there was no flooding around the area and nor was there any good reason for them to be muttering such strange things about the waves or to call out drowning unless they meant something within the waves themselves. His hand was removed from the tree and quickly towards the sand, feeling the soft terrain upon his feet sink with the added moisture from the rain. Walking towards the beachfront he peered out towards the waves as they crashed against the sand to steal some of the soil and add treasures of the deep upon the shore. It was here that Ailean noticed the trashing of a strange creature far from shore, before to the left he noticed the trashing of another creature to dive out of the sea and into it. She had the face of an Elven but the lower body of some kind of seal, it was one of the Merfolk. The strange creature he now assumed to be a Human of some kind was not.

Merfolk were told in stories by the Elven and they were a tribe of Elven were said to embark on a great pilgrimage to a unearthed island. Yet as they plundered such ancient lands in quest for resources and spirits of nature, a evil force plunged them back into the depths and changed their hearts and bodies. Hatred and madness driven them to kill any who would swim to far into the west coast of Yryss’theal. This Human could be the answer to why he had been called to this tree, but more so he could not let a creature innocent or not become victim to these foul creatures. Extending his will as he drawn the stave, Ailean whispered a prayer upon the winds to the spirits of nature around him. The stave was not simply a weapon, the wood a part of his body that intertwined with the natural world. While his sight was locked upon the figure trashing upon the waves, a red glow shifted over his sight as he drawn his free hand into a fist extended towards the waves, watching clearly the Human trash within his mind's eye.

Within his mind the face of yellow haired female was desperate and wild with panic, soon to be confusion and terror before a merfolk gnashing with grey skin and primal fangs would be swatted aside by the back of a fist cast of the tides themselves. His hand imitated this act as far away as he was, before it changed into a grasping fist that pulled towards him. The effect within his mind caused the ocean around the female to clasp her close and pull towards shore, as if a shark speeding towards prey. The creature standing at the shore with it’s fist pulled back was a creature half of wood and half of Elven, with it’s roots deep in the sand before the vision faded from his mind. He was brought to one knee with both hand around the stave now buried into the sand, with quick shaky inhales and exhales. Catching his breath and regaining his composure he fastened the stave back to his back and looked down towards the shore, where a Human female was hunched over coughing up water.

His voice came out like a storm upon the Human, his own tongue bursting with an aggressive demand to his words. “Human, speak your purpose in these Woodlands.” The response was not as perhaps Ailean had hoped as her eyes fluttered, her mouth speaking some harshly toned wording he did not understand before her face made an impact upon the sand next to her. Like a wolf to a nelc fawn Ailean quickly moved a hand towards her neck to check the creature was still living, a slow unconscious pulse sung her secrets of life upon the Magi. In practicality this was a better result now he realised she clearly did not speak the known tongue very well, or wasn’t coherent enough with her brush with death to give him any sort of satisfying answer. He could use the nature around him to bind her arms and legs to minimise any foolish action her Human heart might make her. Carefully dragging her back, after trying to pick her up but finding the stocky build of this creature far too heavy for his arms, he intended to use the same tree in his vision to help control the creature upon the time of her awakening.

 


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