She watched anxiously as the tree lords strode away, their crunching steps always somehow softer than she’d imagined. They had a grace about them that was at odds with their jarring, hardwood armor. Eliriya suspected that there was more to the sylvaneth than simply sentience in tree-form. She had seen the revenant farmers nurturing young hunters and slow-growing lordlings, and she wondered what other spirits coursed through the children of the forest.
As the last of the wargrove faded from view, only Eliriya Tree-Sister and her young charge remained. The Undissons had long allied themselves with the sylvaneth who inhabited the foothills and valleys below their icy lands. After generations of scholars had apprenticed and labored alongside the spiritual gardeners as they grew the next generation of forest people, Eliriya alone had been deemed worthy of learning the secrets of the soul-pods. When her brother, last of her family’s line, had been cut down by a plague-rotten knight she prayed to the clan’s patroness and was shocked to see not only the queen of the winter storm in her dreams that night, but the Everqueen as well. Eliriya’s grand work had never quite earned the acceptance of the grove’s other residents, but he grew nonetheless. As his bark had grown harder and viney reach expanded, his sapling-kin had taught him to hear the forest’s songs and listen to its needs. But while they learned to race along hidden pathways as every prior generation of guardian, her brother only grew heavier of fist and of preference for the mountain stones he stacked and balanced everyday.
Snapping back from her memories, the priestess looked over at her brother’s reincarnation. He was straining to lift a small boulder the size of a grown dwarf and place it atop the tenth stack in his circle. With a comically small growl, C’Drak lifted the stone into position. Breathing heavily, he took in his latest creation before finding a seat in the center of the ring. There he let himself root into the earth and absorb her strength. He stretched towards the sky, soaking in what little warmth the winter sun could offer. The warrior-to-be drifted off into slumber while his sister and caretaker smiled proudly.
That peaceful moment would be short-lived however. In the distance Eliriya could make out the discordant sounds of rusted war gongs and bent tin chimes. The defilers were coming and the few tree kin left in this valley had left for the march. C’Drak was preternaturally strong for such a young sapling, but he was still a babe compared to the great tree-lords that had grown in this grove previously, and even they had failed to hold off the tide of filth closing in on her mountain home. While he napped and soaked up the Living Realm’s bounty, Eliriya combed the plot and those neighboring theirs that had been left empty. She had previously never been allowed on those grounds. The novice gardener filled her pack and pouches with forgotten soulstones, tiny wooden carvings, and all manner of other trinkets that could amplify her connection to earth and ancestor alike.
With their belongings ready, the adopted sister of the forest and favored daughter of the mountain knelt and quietly sang a woodland hymn. The small fox previously darting from shrub to stone finally settled nearby, its glittering spirit trail fading into the wind. Her heart swelled knowing that her ancestor-guide was near. Though Eliriya did not open her eyes to see them, she could feel the presence of other sprites and spirits of the forest as they joined her song of friendship. Her whispered final lines gave way to a roar of defiance. Eyes crackling with lightning and fists hard as ice, she emptied her lungs and beat the ground in furious rhythmic challenge. With a thud, C’Drak’s heavy fists joined her own, his eyes ablaze with the mountain’s power. In unison they stomped, punched, surged upwards and slammed down into the dirt. Chests heaving and steam rising from their mouths, the unbowed duo took a moment to enjoy the echoes of their ancient war dance.
...And then they left, climbing an imperceptible trail amongst the stone and rubble towards the elevated home of the Undissons. She had hoped that if a last stand was to be made, her toils alongside the Sylvaneth would’ve been the catalyst for a great alliance between the races. Instead she brought no aid and knew this climb would be her last before finding an honorable death alongside her last remaining kin. It appeared that the time of the Undissons was coming to an end. At least their deaths would be in the spirit gardens, honoring them through their sacrifice.