The Evergreen

The Artist breathed a single cloud, which carried within its pillowy softness one tiny seed. Then the Artist summoned the wind, and the wind answered, singing softly. The wind gently lifted the cloud and sent it eastward into the vast silver and blue of Sky Sea.

For two thousand winters the cloud carried the seed within its empyrean cradle and arrived, at last, at precisely the moment the Artist had designed.

The wind ceased its singing, and all was silent.

The seed fell soundlessly from the cloud—down through Sky Sea, down, down to the dry earth — and planted itself upon the windswept cliffs of Alluvionne, high above the Western Shores. The cloud began to rain upon the seed, and after a time small green branches pushed through the soil, stretching their infant arms upward to reach longingly for the warmth of the sky.

Suddenly, the earth was veiled in shadow as a dark form swept over the young tree and sped northward across the barren land. From out of the north a looming darkness spread its grasping fingers across Alluvionne, for the spirit of Muud had been awakened to the arrival of the tiny seedling from the Isle of Sky. In his greed, Muud had long ago claimed Alluvionne for his own, though all within the magical realm knew the entire earth belonged to the Artist alone.

And so it was that Muud set about a plan to destroy the tree. He sent from the Underworld of the North a cruel rain upon an angry wind, which pelted the tree and flung great splashes of mud onto its lovely trunk and tender branches.

But the tree was not afraid. It shook off the soil and rain, bent with the wind and clung even harder to the rocks with its roots. The tree grasped the cliffs of Alluvionne and grew tall and strong in the terrible storm.

Muud in his wrath sent a punishing frost. The North Wind blew more fiercely, as sleet and snow tore at the branches of the young tree. Still green, ever strong, the tree reached for the warmth of Sky Sea, made a song with the wind, and grew even taller.

Despite freezing rain, biting snow, and howling wind, the tree towered over the ocean, unyielding, magnificent, and beautiful. The sweet fragrance of tree and ocean filled with air. The music they made together was like that of the Artist’s realm, far away upon the Isle of Sky.

Enraged, Muud brought forth the the most powerful of all his weapons. At his command, an immense thunderstorm streaked across the northern sky and cast blazing spears of fire into the trembling earth. The destructive force of the storm cracked against the cliffs of Alluvionne with a shattering roar.

The majestic pine tree clung to the rocks, shook off the rain and bent with the wind, but at last could not endure the flames. Its fragrant branches exploded in heat and fire. Orange-red sparks crackled and danced away into the tempest.

The music of the tree was silenced. Its boughs ceased to sway, and its pinecones, charred and blackened, fell crumbling to the earth. As ashes and soot blew over the cliff and sank into the cold waves, Muud was at last satisfied with the complete destruction of the tree. He returned to his hiding place in the Underworld of the North.

He could not hear when the warm West Wind began to sing softly. He did not see when the charred pinecones released their treasures, thousands of seeds, which blew over all of Alluvionne. He did not notice the gentle rain as it fell upon the seeds, or the countless tiny branches that pushed through the soil and reached once more toward the warmth and light of Sky Sea.

To this day Muud sends, from time to time, an angry fire-storm from the Underworld. His rage burns groves of the royal Evergreens of Alluvionne, descendants of that first tree from the Isle of Sky. Even now the fires of his wrath serve only to make the forest stronger.

As the trees release their seeds in the flames, and as the wind scatters them the world over, ever more magestic pine trees spring from the earth and stretch their beautiful branches toward the sky.