Chapter Twenty-eight: The Faeryhaven
Lindrea’s eyes bugged out as she stared at the dungeon core.
“You did this?” she asked. “Why?”
The normally placid faery maid was beside herself in worry and confusion. She could not imagine why anyone would do such a thing. Faerythorns were not like other plants. They needed special care and attention. If they were not grown right they would never sync well with the magics of the fae who lived in them. The faerie charms and wards that their people relied on would never take hold. That could in result in a rejection from both parties. They would never be able to turn this into their home. The faerythorn itself would slowly lose its own magic and lose its faerie characteristics. This tree, the greatest faerythorn she had ever seen, had just be been turned into waste and she wanted to know why. Why would he do something so cruel?
The crystalline figure hovered before them. His eyes scanning them but seemingly dismissing the hurt and protest in their eyes. When he did speak it was to them as a whole and not to Lindrea, the one who had asked the question.
“I’ve just been informed that you care for and mould the tree over a period of centuries. You will not do that in this case”, Brandr told them, the stupidity of the notion still not lost on him.
“I understand that for you this is as a form of cultural and perhaps, a near-religious observance”, he conceded. “Nevertheless, I must inform you that we simply do not have the time for such things. Rather than waste the next century growing a tree, you will spend the next decade familiarising yourself with it.”
“Understand that I am not doing this to disregard your customs but to relieve you of some burdens. You have had these trees feed you, house you and protect you. Now, those roles fall to me. You may live in the tree but do not forget that it is this dungeon, my domain, that is your home. You cannot afford to do so or when the invaders come, we shall all perish.”
“Forgive me”, he said without a trace of remorse. “I understand that my actions might lead to some…friction between us. Be that as it may, it is my hope that you understand that your efforts are needed elsewhere.”
“Once, you tended to your forest but now you tend to me. I will provide for and protect you as much as I am able but dungeons do not live peaceful lives no do their inhabitants.”
“YOU know this”, he reminded them. “This is a dungeon! In the coming years, nay… days, we will be raided constantly. Some of the invaders will be appeased with treasures but others will come for blood. Will that be the time where you forsake your protection to sing and dance around a tree? Have all your years of living been wasted? I would think that as folk who tended to the forest you would understand how the cycle works. Even if you did not, your experiences with Makas should have shown your errors.”
From his place in the air, Brandr spoke not down on them but down into them, his cutting words shooting straight into their hearts and minds. It was not the best way he could have done this but it was the most effective. The sprites needed to wake up. Their days of frolicking in the woods, placing dewdrops on flowers and helping birds hatch eggs were over. Not realising this would only cause more damage down the road and the ones who stood to cause the most harm were the sprites in front of him.
The former daolord did not know much about sprites but he had observed enough to know that their society was led by the elderly and powerful. The elder council that he had had Thorn bring was down to these three individuals and they were the ones with the most power. The problem? With age often came stagnation and a reluctance to change. People who were used to doing the same thing for years often refused to let go of their habits to talk about people who had done so for centuries.
However, he could not afford that here. He could not have the sprites fall back to their old, laidback, happy-go-lucky lives. Not when he already considered them one of his trump cards. If he had to break and remould them, so be it.
“This tree will be big enough to house as many of you as needed and will grow to accommodate any future additions”, he said, gesturing at the subject of contention. “It will be strong enough to shelter you and unlike the one you were attempting to grow, it will be capable of protecting itself and adjusting itself to suit your needs and essence. I am told that is important. All this without a need for coddling or constant care.”
“I know you wish for calm, peace and even a return to your former lives but I am afraid the dangers are only just beginning. Makas the troll was merely an initiation”, he added. “Others will come. Many of whom would be more fearsome than the foe we have just beaten. If we do not prepare for it, we not survive.”
“You want us to fight!” Nettle said, his lopsided wings beating as he hopped forward on his remaining leg.
Brandr did not deny the accusation. “Yes!” he confirmed. “…but not in the way you are probably thinking.”
“While those who wish to leap into combat are welcome to do so, I do not expect you to take up arms and march against the invaders. I want you to do what you do best”, he told them. “From what I have come to understand, a dungeons greatest assets, its greatest defences are its creatures, plants and terrain. You fae have tended to the forest for generations. All I require is that you do same here. Put your mind and will to improving the dungeon and all in it and we may not have to fear the invaders that come.”
“That’s it?” Nettle asked.
“Why?” Brandr said with a smile. “Are you disappointed?”
The crippled sprite said nothing but he did not need to. Brandr had seen his type before. Battle-hardened warriors who had been relegated to the sidelines because of age and infirmity. The kind who dreamt of war with longing and hated what they had been reduced to.
“You have practised the Blitzwing Techniques, haven’t you?” Brandr asked rhetorically.
The old warrior did not deny it.
“I can see its traces in your movements. You have made great progress considering…” he added. “Tell me, Nettle, would you like to fight?”
Completely serious, he advanced on the old sprite staring him right in the eyes. His crystalline gaze, like a sudden weight, seemed to pin the sprite in place and his voice, heavy and authoritative, asked, “If I gave you the chance and the power this very moment, would you lead your warriors in my name, fighting off invaders and protecting your people and this dungeon?”
“Wait…you can’t be serious?” Bellwhispers yelled finally speaking up. gathering his courage he tried stepping forward only to be held back by Lindrea. She shook her head at him silently and somehow, he understood that he was not to interfere.
Visibly trembling, Nettle clenched his fists before speaking. “I want to… but my leg…?”
“Excuses!” Brandr spat. “Would you or would you not?”
Voice shaking, Nettle answered. “I will!”
“I am not useless!” he added loudly.
“Good!” Brandr said, rearing back and dispelling his forceful aura. “Then step forward!”
Nettle did as asked, only for a harsh light to fall on him. Sparking motes of mana coalesced on his back right where his wings were. The injury that had crippled Nettle also mangled one of his wings. This wing was plucked off to the distressed gasps of the spectators. They watched as it was burned to ashes in a flare of light. Following that, more light coalesced in the air and a vague shape began to appear.
“You do not need a leg”, Brandr told the old sprite. “Not when you can fly. And fly you shall!”
A new wing, a mirror of the sole good one that remained, one made out of silver filaments and light connected itself to Nettle’s back where the impaired one had been latching on to his magic and flesh like it had always been there.
|[New Item Created: Wing of the Knight]|