The tree was an exercise given to the members of our writers group, and the brief was to describe a tree, in around half a page.
The following week we were given the task of turning it into a short story, adding another half a page or so.
It was an interesting exercise.
This was the result
I had been walking for days, on my quest for the ‘Eldorin’.
Most believed it to be a myth, while some said that it lived on an island, in the middle of the inland sea, far to the south.
Marryn however, knew the truth.
I found him in the common room of ‘The Travellers Rest’ after a ten day search.
He was not as I imagined when I first heard of him.
The man that the innkeeper pointed out, was much younger than I expected.
From the stories of Marryn, that I was told, he was an old, old man, rushing headlong to his dotage.
But there he was, a man who looked to be in his late fifties, slim and fit, with a shock of snow white hair hanging lazily to his shoulders.
His piercing blue eyes though, had a depth and wisdom that gave the impression of belonging to a much older man.
His clothes looked shabby, in the dim, smoke filled haze of the common room, but he was clean shaven and surprisingly handsome.
He was sitting alone at a small table in the corner of the room.
After introducing myself and telling him of my quest, he invited me to sit down, and proceeded to regale me with stories of his travels.
I listened for hours, as he took me along on his adventures and journeys that eventually led to him finding the lost plateau.
We dined together, that evening and afterwards he sketched out a rough map to the hidden path, up the escarpment.
And so, after long days on the trail, I arrived at the bottom of the plateau, and discovered the entrance to the hidden path late last night, guided by the light of the full moon.
Exhausted, I spread out my bedroll, and had barely put my head on my pack before I was asleep.
I started my ascent at first light, and after a good couple of hours of steady climbing, along a narrow and dangerous path, I found myself at the top of the escarpment.
The day was already hot, as I stopped to take in my surroundings.
Behind me, the lowlands that I had traversed, spread out like a coloured commentary of my journey written across a three dimensional map.
Ahead was an alien landscape of rocks and scrub, and in the distance a line of hills.
It was mid morning, by the time that I reached the top of those hills, and as I looked out through the shimmering heat haze I caught my first glimpse of the Eldorin.
The tree stood silent sentinel, majestic in the midst of a vast and featureless grassy plain.
The distance to the Eldorin was deceptive, due to its size. It took me nearly an hour to cross the plain, and when I finally stood before the Eldorin, I was amazed.
Its roots like great, muscular fingers, reached deep into the earths nourishing and nurturing embrace, spreading out beneath its towering majesty, to mirror the canopy that spread out above.
The trunk, burgeoning from those mammoth roots, towards the Heavens, sports a rich brown and deeply grained armour of bark, a burnished bronze, the match of any Kings polished steel. Its myriad arms reaching, relentlessly upwards to support a canopy, a complete and sustainable biosphere resplendent in its diversity.
The deep shadows and dappled light beneath its magnificent canopy, dance fitfully as the soft breeze frolics amongst its upper reaches, promoting chatter and song from those that live and thrive because of that canopy. Branches and leaves that maintain a delicate balance, perversely accentuating the trees intrinsic silent strength.
The noon day sun, harsh and relentless, browns the tips of the grasses stretching away to the horizon, in stark contrast to the carpet of spent leaves covering the earth around the base of this oasis of cool and comfortable respite.
Breaking free from my reverie, I stepped out of the heat and into the shadow of the magnificent canopy.
The lush, velvet green and lightly veined foliage, hanging above me, like a million faceted emerald refracting the suns savage intensity, played counterpoint to the surrounding expanse of cloudless blue.
I felt exhilarated and at the same time saddened that my quest was nearly at an end.
All that was left for me to do, was to gather the ingredients for the potion, and then I could head for home.
I removed the three, stoppered, jars from my pack, filling the first with small strips of bark that I found amongst the leaves on the ground. The second I filled with fresh leaves picked from the lowest of the branches.
Finally I walked right up to that magnificent trunk and reverently asked permission of the Eldorin, to collect the last of the ingredients.
As I gently caressed its living bark with my fingers, a small branch dropped to the ground beside me and there at the broken end of that branch was what I needed. The Eldorins life blood, its sap oozing from the break.
After collecting more than enough sap, I sealed the jars, and wrapping them up for protection, I returned them to my pack, ready for the long journey home.
The healer promised me that the potion made from these ingredients, will heal my wife and daughter and the majority of women from our village who were suffering from the slow, wasting disease that has beset them, and I know that I have succeeded in my quest, because the Eldorin told me so.
So before I set out on the journey home, I will take a few minutes to rest.
And now, as I lie on my back, luxuriating on the mattress provided by this magnificent creation, looking up in awe at natures jewel floating in a sapphire ocean, I am painfully aware of my own insignificance and at the same time, so grateful for all that the Creator has provided for me.
And thank you…. The magnificent life tree.. Eldorin.