I selected the moss-covered tree at Brookgreen Gardens image for my twenty-minute sprint this week.
The Temple’s Magic Tree:
Kyli crept along the wall slowly, her eyes sweeping the ground in front of her. She didn’t want to step on a stick and make noise, or worse stumble and fall. The moon was only a bare sliver in the sky, providing almost no illumination. Thankfully Kyli could see well enough just by starlight to make her way down the wall toward the ancient trees.
If she made it that far, she’d be fine. If the trees didn’t reject someone, the priests wouldn’t either. She was technically doing the same ritual initiation that the temple apprentices did, she’ just didn’t exactly have permission.
As Kyli approached the trees she could hear them swaying. The moss that clung to them made eerie patterns when she glanced up at them. She tried hard not to think about what would happen if the trees rejected her. It was unlikely. She had far too much raw talent for the trees not to recognize her, but it was hard to find out about the ritual when no one would let you near the temple.
Kyli heard movement on the other side of the wall and froze.
“They’re very active tonight,” someone said. She thought it was a male voice, but it was hard to tell with how the voice echoed on its way over the wall.
“Something important is coming,” a slightly deeper voice replied. “They get excited.”
“No one ever mentioned them having emotions,” the first voice replied.
“You’ll understand better when you’ve progressed a few more years in your training,” the other replied. “The trees are not a mystery to be understood quickly.”
Kyli glanced up at the tree just ahead of her. In a few more steps she’d be in range of its long, thick branches. If the trees had emotions, did that mean they understood things too? Kyli knew that they could sense the magic in a person, which was why they only allowed those with the potential to wield magic step past them to become priests in the temple. Was it possible the trees knew other things as well?
“I will strive to better understanding,” the first voice said from across the wall. They were moving away.
“Keep up your studies and you’ll do fine,” the other replied.
Kyli waited a few more moments, wanting to make sure they were far enough away before she approached the tree. It wouldn’t solve anything if she was discovered before the tree had let her pass.
When she moved again, Kyli stepped away from the wall, walking toward the tree as its branches began to creak with the increasingly fast swaying of branches.
Just short of the tree, Kyli dropped to one knee and bowed her head.
“I come to you humbled and alone,” Kyli said. “If I am worthy, let me pass. If I am not, I beg you for a clean death by your rejection.” She didn’t know the ritual words the temple apprentices would use, but she believed that it was her intent that mattered, and her ability to become a magic user.
Kyli rose to her feet and walked toward the tree. She was shaking. She’d heard the stories about rejected apprentices who came away maimed or killed by the trees’ rejection.
The branches continued to sway and creek as she walked forward, but none reached down to impede her progress.
Her heartbeat was loud in her ears as she continued forward. It grew faster and faster as she neared the trunk of the great tree. It was so large it would take three people to wrap their arms around it.
When she reached out to touch the rough bark, Kyli couldn’t hear anything above her own racing pulse. The tree had allowed her to approach.
The bark was warm. A normal tree would have been cool, especially on a night like this.
Kyli jumped when something brushed her arm. She turned her head, expecting to find a priest had discovered her.
It was a branch. One of the small ones at the ends.
Kyli kept her hand on the trunk as she turned to trace the line of the small branch back to the thick, weighty branch it came from. It was curled down around the trunk so it encircled the entire tree before reaching out to touch Kyli. She marveled at the beauty of it.
As she watched, the other branches began to move. They curled down as well, creating a sort of decorative cage around the trunk. Kyli was small, and could still slip out if she wanted, but it was so beautiful, and she could feel the magic in the tree through her hand on it.
Even when the shouting started, Kyli didn’t move. She just stood there smiling as the tree wrapped around her.