Tree 2

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Cult of Meh
Rival Party
The Syrinx
Trees of Life

Tree 2 is a Tree of Life, one of a whole group of them in the province of Timberfall. It is not a monster, but it has a dialogue where it tells a tale.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

by Cepheus

Once upon a time a great empire spanned an entire continent from east to west, dominating land, sea and air. Majestic and proud, its lesser cities reigned larger even than Freehaven itself, its golden capitals acting as beacons of knowledge and wonder known across the corners of the world. But for all their splendour, their creators' collective ego was equally prominent. Powerful they became, and with power can come confidence, or overconfidence.

These cities are nought but ruin and fable today, and today I tell you of the depth of their masters' arrogance, and their first downfall of many. In the days tailing the advent of the Silence, a warrior was born in a rugged land to the west. His people were one enslaved to this new empire, oppressed and broken, but their traits of pride and power in unity were feared and rarely contested.

The warrior's name was Jarg, and it was long whispered that he was blessed with inhuman stamina. Feats of sprinting, swordplay, acrobatics; he excelled in all, tireless and ever-active. Rarely did he sleep, and often he engaged in labours and contests of speed. The longer the distance, the less likely he would shirk from the wager - Jarg was deprived of defeat. Nor was he a modest man; equally often he spread word of his victories and conquests.

He grew to become a leader of renown, and even in youth despised the golden empire for its use of magic, as his people shunned the supernatural by tradition. The empire itself heard word of him and his actions against their designs, and eventually, when crossing the lands west of the Wallpeaks guided by a clan of Goblins, Jarg's own name defeated him. A heavily-mantled Wizard-King upon a sun-barge, having traced his movements with his vanguard, approached the warrior and spoke.

"I have heard whispers of your overconfident boasts, Barbarian. You scorn magic and detest your elders and superiors; we, the curators of this world. The empire is ours, and the planet's destiny is ours to determine. Who are you, savage child of the west, to speak out against our majesty? This day I am of cool temper, and will not merely bear your insults, but also meet them. I propose a challenge; not of intellectual or mystical prowess, but of physical strength. I shall defeat you in your element, and prove the worthlessness of your kin."

"Name your challenge, then, Wizard," spat Jarg. "But mark that you vow fair play; no sorceries, no potions, no enchanted gear and no deceptions."

"This I can promise. I shall challenge you to a race without the use of my magics," came the Wizard's reply. "An even contest of arms - a sprint to the nearest crags of the Wallpeaks, there in the distance. We affirm the competition by invoking the Day of the Gods. The forces above will look down upon us, and should either one of us breach my agreed terms, Heaven shall strike us from existence. Do we have a deal, Barbarian?"

"I accept your challenge, Wizard," Jarg declared, reluctantly. "Very well," replied the Wizard. "Disable my challenger."

With that, the Wizard's followers produced wands of power and fired spheres of flame at Jarg's Goblin allies. The defenceless clansmen fell in tandem, every one of them charred or dead within seconds. Before Jarg could flee, the Wizard's magics bound him; the Wizard, noisily striding toward him, produced a blade and hewed Jarg's legs, inflicting deep, debilitating gashes. Crippled, the spell of binding was released, but he could move not, and collapsed to earth.

Then the cloaked Wizard cast away his mantle, revealing his clothing beneath. The spellbinder's tunic and leather gloves were ornate and pristine, but something was amiss. Where flesh or cloth should have shown for legs, what stood was a pair of artificed, rusted iron limbs, much like those of a Golem. "An 'even contest', we agreed," gloated the sadistic Wizard, "and now we have one. Your natural legs are as broken as mine, destroyed in combat long ago. See the fruits of the magic you discredit, barbaric imbecile! Even grave disfigurements are trivial to the Magi, but not to you."

Defiant but badly wounded, Jarg clawed to his feet without avail, succumbing to his gashes. He fell to the ground, writhing and yelling profanity at his opponent. The Wizard had already set off, clanking away on his iron legs down the road to the Wallpeaks. But the Wizard had been mistaken in one respect; Jarg was no imbecile. "You forget the end of your bargain! 'An even contest of arms', we declared it, and well-armed I am!" Suddenly he produced a concealed golden dagger from his boot, and hurled it with fierce strength across the plains, toward the Wizard's back. Miraculously, it hit its mark, felling the sorcerer.

The wager honoured by the Wizard's choice of words, Jarg was spared Heaven's wrath, but not that of the Wizard's vanguard. He was bound and taken inside their main tent, but torture would come later. Infuriated by their leader's death, the vanguard were yet unfazed; for they had a second fate prepared for the proud warrior, and raised it to life. When finally Jarg was released into the open, he could not see for the shadow of a thirty-foot man wrought of stone, standing before him - the first Titan ever constructed obscured the light of the sun, ready for the kill. This was its test, and Jarg, exhausted, rose to meet it.

Man and Titan brawled for hours on end, Jarg darting around the body of the factured colossus as it attempted to employ thunder, magic and steel against him. Unaware of the machination's capacities, unaware that by meeting a single bolt of its energy his entire body could suffer ultimate eradication, he persevered and fought, avoiding and dodging its every attack. He felt he could not outlast it, but the spellcasters were purely overconfident of its victory. They underestimated the mind of a fellow man against the brawn of their construction.

Finally, as the battle wore on into dusk, even the Titan's constructed mind grew weary of the struggle. Striking hard at Jarg, perched on its shoulder, it missed its aim broadly, driving its own gladius into itself. It punched at the warrior, but he darted between its legs to avoid the blow. Muddled and wearied, the enchantments powering the Titan flickered out and dispersed, and it stumbled towards the twin tents and the oblivious vanguard within, crushing every last one of them beneath its stone figure.

Thus it was that gazing at the bloodied plains, wincing in pain from the Wizard's attacks, the conqueror spoke the words that later fuelled his successful campaign against the golden empire, a maxim that has endured even to this day. "The bigger they are, the harder they fall."