A Coincidence of Magic
It’s not often that miracles happen - the arrival of the gods was one, sure, but otherwise, they don’t happen much.
However, with all the rampant magical energies still surging about, the breakdown of reality still occurring throughout the Shard (reduced, sure, but still), and the divine changes enforced upon the land to keep it together, it wouldn’t be unheard of that something slightly out of the normal could happen simply because of chance.
One such case happened in a grove of Kel’a Maeori trees - these titans of life deep in the mountains that had been created to stabilise the chaos of magic. As if the creation of these trees by Malath Kaal hadn’t been miraculous enough, one trunk among tens had, upon its inception, been struck by a particularly potent bolt of magic. While the bolt’s power would have disintegrated even a biological fortress like this, the tree had--despite all probability--refused to be reduced to cinders. For in the same second as its unfortunate exposure to magical lightning, the tree had realised it had a soul, and the determined soul within the tree had learned to wield the very forces that threatened to undo it. The tree had twisted the potential of the bolt that would end it into a spell - a protective charm fused into its bark that deflected the worst of the damage and spread it out across its leaves and the leaves of its peers. The very air around it had radiated an oily aura - the thickness of magic texturing the very air. Lithulmisomilin, the One-Who-Refused, became the first of the Sage Trees, whose souls were enlightened with knowledge of magic and the wisdom to pass it on, be it by creaking bark or twisting root.
Lithulmisomilin would have been utterly alone - as a tree, it had no mouth with which to speak, and despite its magical potential, it could not bring itself to move (at least not yet). However, whatever had created it and its compatriots had tied them and all that grew from the soil together with an endless network of information - the Ke’esath Sae’a. Using these billions of fungal nets, webs and roots, it reached out, its wooden voice pulsating throughout the network like a shockwave, quelling all other whispers of lesser floral souls.
There came no answer. Lithulmisomilin felt a disheartening gust of wind test one of its branches. Its soul had authority on the network, but what was authority good for if no one connected to the network could understand it? It was far from the only powerful voice on the network, too - other trees notwithstanding, other Kel’a Maeori boomed almost as deafeningly as itself, the strength of the magic pumping through their roots not necessarily any weaker than its own.
Its determined soul was not one to give up, though. It called out again.
The pulsing thrum of blood through veins more vast than the bodies of most creatures pumped as the mind of the Formless Flesh writhed unseen. A great violence had upset its slumber, stirring the vast bulk of its mind to motion.
For far beyond its mountainous abode, near the shard’s far edge, a terrible conflict had occurred.
So it was with a groan like a great falling tree that Malath Kaal did wake, his veiled form writhing and grasping in the dark. For a time he dwelled upon the nightmares he had envisioned, wondering at their meaning, grasping at their cause. However, all at once, he realized that it had not been violence which had caused his sudden waking.
”Help!” It was a silent voice, one heard only by a few, and even they caught only whispers. For all but Sa’a Malath Kaal had ears aplenty with which to listen, and so, to hear.
Thus summoned, the god did move, towards the child that had called him.
Lithulmisomilin had not expected to be alone, it confessed - it had hoped that the vast network of souls whose chaotic discussions it could hear so clearly, would have at least one other soul that could answer it. In its mountain recluse, where it grew alongside maybe thirty or fifty of its compatriots, the One-Who-Refused stood amidst unenlightened moss, dull pines, foolish fir and some surprisingly thoughtful mushrooms. The mushrooms, however, did not seem interested in it, no matter how Lithulmisomilin asked. So in its solitude, it reached out to the moss around its roots.
“Bloom,” it said and cast its second ever spell. The moss stirred slightly and then spawned a crown of white lilies to set Lithulmisomilin apart from its peers. Hearing the cacophony of the lesser florals, it declared itself superior - as an enlightened tree and a practitioner of magic, how could it not? Though as a tree, it saw not with eyes, but felt the world through its roots, through the Ke’esath Sae’a. It felt, however, that the world around it was more than just the underground; just as the earth buzzed with insectoid and floran life, the air blew at its leaves and bark, and the air was cool and frisky. As time passed, though, it felt a quiver in the fungal network - something great was approaching. While Lithulmisomilin felt quiet relief that something came for it, it could not help but feel fear, as well. It cast its third spell, and the air immediately around its bark turned to grains of clay, blowing around the trunk in a cautious patrol.
For a drawn out instant there was no reply ‘cept the thrumming lifeblood of the mycelial network amidst its roots. The wind spun about and danced lazily, stirring the clay throughout, spreading it further and further out. Then, quite suddenly--as the clay brushed against something truly vast in size--the wind sped into a gale and blew against the great trunks of the many trees in that first grove.
Some trees of lesser structure shattered into splinters, but many simply bent and waved in the sudden storm of wind. It carried on this way for a time, leaves blowing free of branches, shrubs shredded, trees bending to the wind’s whim, but it could not last.
So it did not, the wind becoming still air in an instant, the grove becoming quiet and subdued as if every living thing remaining held its breath.
Strange light then fell upon its branches and the bark that was its skin. It was warm and familiar, yet all at once unknowable and alien. Through the great network beneath the earth all fungi and flora grew silent, holding their breaths like all the rest. Then, a pulsing rhythm surged through the Ke’esath Sae’a and it was purer than any other could be, or had ever been. It continued, but changed, becoming more complex--intricate and full with nuance and brimming with life. When it touched the roots of Lithulmisomilin it blossomed into meaning, and spread throughout its core, suffusing it en full.
That sound it spoke to the newborn Sage, and its words were thus:
“Child of bark and blossom,” it thundered, coursing through its every fibrous cell. “O’ arcane son, you have awakened!”
There was elation in the rhythm, joy in its thrumming tone, but above all else something greater was communed.
Power. Endless surging might. Echoing through each cell, through its mind, through branch and vine and blossom.
The power had a name, which to the Sage tree instinctively arose.
Sa’a Malath Kaal.
The god’s exclamation was transcendent thunder, twas laughter and roar alike. The wind shook through many branches, but no longer harmed. Soon animals emerged once more, curious at the being in their midst. Yet they could not find end nor beginning to its shape, for that God of Form was wreathed in a haze of faintly glowing fog.
Still, within that vast roiling vapor, there dwelled a silhouette, and it was ever-shifting, always changing, and unspeakably vast; impossibly huge. Though glimpsed, it remained a mystery all the same.
“Lord,” greeted the great tree and knelt before the magnificent being in all sense but the physical. A gust of the wind rocking the forest turned around, and seeds now sailing on the gust, harshly blown from their homes, blossomed into flowers of orange, red, blue, white and yellow, all floating in gentle offering to the source of the mighty, yet wise quakes shaking Lithulmisomilin’s core. An arcane arc of blue twisted through its bark with excitement.
Gentle bursts of wind pulsed against the Sage tree’s leaves and blossoms both, and with a moment’s time, Lithulmisomilin might realized that the exhalations were the laughter of the god.
“Son,” the Great Presence answered. The miasma twisted about its form, writhing into a column, and so the shape of the Formless Flesh changed with it, becoming as tall and rigid as its child. Root-like appendages pressed down into the earth and met with the Ke’esath Sae’a, and in that moment they could truly communicate.
Deep within the fog, the Eye of Malath opened, and it was bright and powerful as its gaze fell upon the great tree. Through the mycelium, and indeed through Lithulmisomilin’s very roots, the thrum of communion became apparent.
“Unto me did you call, so I have come,” the roots and fungi said, carrying their great father’s will.
“What distresses you, O’ joy of mine?”
The Sage Tree tested its metaphorical tongue - complex thoughts and words were still quite foreign to it, but in the safety of a peer like this presence, it dared explore new vocabulary, which its roots could milk from the ever-giving thrum in the mycelium. In its voiceless and wordless language, which still almost had a sound to it like the roll of thunder, groan of bark and trickle of earth, it spoke: “Alone. Seek others. The Lord… Arrives.” If its mycelium could bow, it would. “With help, find more. Learn… Learn… Learn… More others. More Lithulmisomilin.”
Meaning drove through the weft and weave of fungi, reaching easily their father, who in turn responded. Shifting in place, the miasma that hid his shape splayed out, reaching forth in many directions to touch other trees--both near and far. Each of them had been borne of his will, shaped by his power. Then, with a limb of flesh and bark and chitin, Malath Kaal touched his conscious son.
His great and glowing eye, that symbol in the haze, it pulsed suddenly with brilliant life and so the Sage Tree would briefly become dazed.
Finally, that Deity of form--the Formless Flesh, the Unbent Lord--did speak, and his words echoed far and wide, heard by any who cared to listen. Its sound carried a single word, and ‘twas an edict that he proclaimed.
In a single momentous instant, all nature--even his newly awoken son--would black out. Birds from the sky would fall, predators cease in their hunts, prey stumble to their knees.
The sky shook, leaves crashed outwards, carried by the fell wind of his voice. It was a shockwave of forceful power, an expression of divine purpose, it was life--of both flesh and mind. In some seldom few who were not yet ready, seeds of conscious flame were planted to perhaps one day awaken. Yet, in others...in others it blossomed into awareness and flowered into being.
Across the vast shard that remained of a now dead world, other Sages became aware and through roots and fungi did their first cries swell.
Around that God, that Deity of Form, animals awoke once more confused and quite unsure. Nonetheless, life would not wait and so they carried on, unaware of precisely what had changed. They might never know, but one would always remember: Lithulmisomilin.
“So unto you I’ve given siblings, from which to learn and with which to commune!”
Unsaid, other meanings slithered, whispering ’...and perhaps one day to subsume.’
All around the world, the Sage Trees had acquired sapience, and the fungal network filled immediately with enlightened thought of a hundred philosophers; although their vocabularies were still in very early development, one could sense the complexities pumping through a million magical fibres. The voices were not coherent at first, but once all of them understood that they needed to cooperate, they did. Many hundred voices combined as one and spoke, “Thank you.”
In woods all over the Shard, in certain groves, the blue-streaked, glowing bark of a subset of the local Kel’a Maeori trees flickered with the realisation that they could think and that they could practice with the magic fueling their leaves. In every grove, miracles of magic came to life through the work of the Sage Trees. Dying animals healed at the roots of trees who found themselves benign; others who felt themselves to be superior wonders of nature, turned all creatures insolent enough to disrespect their glorious persons to stone and ash. Lithulmisomilin probed the network again, permitting itself a moment to not address its lord.
“Who?” it reverbed.
“Militabulkim,” said one voice.
“Quasaarmahavizim,” said another.
“Rutulmodipilin,” said a third.
The voices presented themselves in calm and collected order, and as Lithulmisomilin inquired as to where they were from, they answered the likes of “mountains”, “vale”, “sea”, “lake”, “ice”, “grass”. Truly, they spanned the world, and while their numbers were few, they were protected by their wisdom and knowledge of the arcane. This, it was certain of. So its metaphorical face turned back to its master and spoke, “Now… Learn… Together.” Warm and pleasant winds blew from its branches towards the miasma. “Gratitude… Overflowing.”
With a nod and a pulse from his great eye, the Deity of Form retreated, leaving the Sages to their discourse as he traveled across the shard and back into his mountain.
Due to strange arcane phenomena, one of the Kel'a Maeori trees--rather than being struck down by a tremendous burst of magical power--is made conscious, becoming the first of many Sage Trees. Calling out through the network, the tree, Lithulmisomilin, desires companions and soon Malath Kaal takes notice. Heeding the call, he arrives, listens to his newborn son and fulfills his dearest wish. Thus many such Sage trees are created from his preexisting children and a method is bestowed by which they might accrue sapience with time.
0MA - Some Kel'a Maeori Trees are given sapience.