Sea of Trees

Photo by Matt Clarkson on Flickr
Photo by Matt Clarkson on Flickr

The wind told me a story, this story blew in on a gentle night breeze, softer than the touch a luna moth’s wings and darker than the places between stars. It spoke to me of a land of the dead, and of music like none I’ve even known. Hear these words as told to me by the wind.

If you follow the path of the sun, follow it straight and follow it true to the place where it sets each day. There, through the fire and flame, past the dying light, is a forest. Well, no that’s like calling the Atlantic a body of water. If you follow the sun to the land where it dies there grows the Sea of Trees. It is exactly as it sounds, a forest vast as the open sea. Trees so tall that their branches grow to bracket the stars and their roots sink down to sip the stuff of other worlds. The forest belongs to the dead and the secrets they keep. The living should never trouble the dead. Of course what should be, and what is, often have miles of difference between them..

Grimoire and scrolls, books and stories tell of necromancers, those who would divine secrets from the dead. They detail incense and rituals to call up and bind the spirit, words to compel them, sigils to command them and hold them to the truth. In the Sea of Trees is their world, not ours. There the dead are not compelled by the living… Only madmen, fools, and those seeking to join their number attempt such a thing. They must be treated with, and in the long history of the Sea of trees there is only one thing they have ever been known to accept in exchange for their secrets or safe passage through their lands… music.

Now. Sam was a bard worthy of the name. With soft words he could charm birds down from trees. With a few bars gently hummed he could turn a mans heart. With his lute in his hand he could wring tears from a stone. Far and wide he was known as the greatest musician of his age. He wandered far, welcome any and everywhere for the gift of his music. He walked to the storm wall, and learned the music of the Everstorm. He tracked through Jackuracu, the burning plains, and learned the song of the desert and shifting sands. He traveled to the lands of giants, and to the peaks of the world’s end mountains to learn their music as well. Inevitably his travels brought him to The Sea of trees. On his first day he strode past the dying sun and where its flames leapt up to burn him and turn him back, he struck a note on his lute and intoned in a soft singsong:

“Peace , O flames of burning day, harm not your cousin made of clay.”

At his voice the fires parted before him and so he walked on. On the second day he found the edge of the forest. Before him trees and branches, vines and brush rose up in an impassible wall, sharp thorns and twisted growth rearing up and up and stretching on and on in all directions as far as he could see. At this he struck a chord on his lute and sang in a voice rich and proud:

“Where music flies there I will follow, through glen and forest, glade and hollow.”

Then, he looked hard at the wall of thorns and branches and he saw in it three notes of music clearly penned. He sang them out, he sang them hard and sharp and white as fire, and struck another chord on his lute. At the sound of that note, ringing out hard and pure and true the way opened before him and he walked on. On the third day, Sam found himself deep within the Sea of trees. All about him ranged the dead, in all shapes and sizes and forms both foul and fair. Many of them reached out to him some beckoning some demanding. Wisely he stepped aside– it is not a good thing for the dead to touch to living. At first he thought to continue on his way, but soon the dead crowded about him so thick that he could go no further safely. He stopped and looked and everywhere he saw the dead. He looked again and this time he saw the music in them, so he raised his lute and played that music, he played and sang it out in wild notes that shivered his soul, he sang it in mournful minor keys that set him to weeping, he set it free in leaping refrains that flitted about the trees in dazzling notes before flying off to dance among the dead. He wrapped himself in the song, wove it about himself in a glamour fit for the fae. At the sound of this music the dead stepped away and a path opened before him. Sam with the music burning in him walked on, he walked and he played for three days unceasing in the light of the sun, and for three days unceasing in the light of the moon. And on the dawn of the fourth day he saw a thinning in the trees and could see in patches the open sky. He sang on though thirst and hunger wracked him, he sang on though sleep blurred his thoughts and made his step stagger. A hundred yards to the end and he sang on though his throat was agony, fifty yards and he sang on, though he could barely remember why he was singing at all, twenty yards and he sang, though sleep was right there close enough to touch. Ten Yards and he sang.. even as a nightingale, a small thing flitting by overhead drew his eye. A small distraction, but that was all it took, there was a burr in his music a missed note…

His spell unraveled and the dead took him.

The wind says that if you follow the sun to the place where it dies each day, there through the fire and flame in the dying light you can hear music wild and otherworldly coming from the Sea of Trees.