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Matéo craved his father’s attention. The Duke had
never showed him kindness and Matéo yearned to
earn his respect. While we courted, he set his heart on
the notion that if he could catch a great elk of Wyscan,
he would finally be worthy of his father’s regard.
The hunt was a disaster. We never heard anything
of the trackers he sent and it was soon we who were
the prey. The arrows of unseen elven bowmen forced
me to turn our skin to stone. An hour into the ‘hunt’
there was a deep bellowing ahead and Matéo pushed
the group still harder. Eventually we came upon a
clearing with a pair of saplings in the centre. It was
clearly some kind of sacred grove – what fools we were.
A roar shook our party, so loud I could barely breath.
On the far side of the grove I saw him. A Treefather,
a gut-wrenching fusion of elf and dendron, emerged
from the wood. It was impossible to know whether he
was a mortal clothed in wood or an oak imbued with
life. I have seen hippogriffs tear through a battalion,
yet before this being I quailed in fear. His hands,
with their huge, gnarled knuckles, balled into fists as
he strode towards us. Matéo, brave Matéo, charged
forward on his horse.
They met in the centre of the grove. We followed,
spreading out behind him. The Treefather brought
back his hand for a mighty swipe. Matéo brandished
his father’s blade of ensorcelled steel.
“Stop!” Matéo cried, his tenor voice cutting through the
clear air. To our amazement, the Treefather stopped,
his arm still held up, an overhanging branch poised to
crash down. “If you come any closer, your children will
die.” I realised with horror that the saplings to which
Matéo’s blade was levelled were divided into the same
humanoid proportions as their father.
I have rarely seen such rage and grief. The living tree
lowered its mighty form before Matéo, its deep, dark
eyes boring into the man before him. Matéo’s blade
flashed down, severing several of the creature’s fingers.
“Flaming arrows! Now!”
With the discipline of trained soldiers, his retinue had
bows unslung and arrows prepared. A torch was lit
and the first few arrows loosed, which burned brightly
in the skin of the forest giant. The ground beneath us
was rent as roots erupted and impaled the men near
me. Stung to even greater wrath, the Treefather dealt
Matéo a brutal backhand swipe that sent him flying
across the grass. The wooden giant surged forward,
standing astride the two saplings and swinging his
arms like scythes across the assembled archers, knights,
and huntsmen. The flames continued to burn across his
body but he stood firm, roots punching all around him
to form a natural barricade.
We fled. Matéo’s horse brought him out safely, but most
of the party weren’t so lucky. We passed the bodies of
some of the scouts we sent in advance, impaled on the
edge of the forest; likely they were dead before we even
entered. Somehow, in all the mayhem of the encounter,
Matéo had grabbed one of the Treefather’s fingers. He
presented it to his father as some kind of prize and
was roundly ignored. I saw true fatherhood that day,
but not in the realm of men.
A tale of the summer of 894 A.S. recorded
by Thomas the Bard from the account of the
Maiden of the White Rose (919 A.S.)
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