The Favor Tree
One of me favorite memories is the story Papa telled me as a young'un about the favor tree.
"Many, many, many year ago," he would say, "afore there were even the ground we stand on, there were the gods. All was fine for a long while, until they began to get bored doin the same thing over and again with the same folk. After all, they only had each other, and were all alone in the world. So, one day, after Elanthia were formed, a few of them got together and decided to do something new, and they begin ta make creatures of all manner. Glythtide were especially pleased with the way Olvi turned out," Papa chuckled. He always thought the way Glythtide brought the first Olvi ta life was ta pour ale down his throat till he woke with a smile and a thirst fer more.
"The gods also made others," Papa said," like the 'Togs, humans, dwarfs and all the rest. Things were fine fer a while and the gods were happy watchin these creatures run around and try ta figure things out." Papa laughed, "It must'a been quite a sight and quite a confusion at first. But these new creatures of the land were so very fragile. They were constantly gettin hurt, and not bein mortal like their makers, they also died... a lot. "You know," Tamsine said to the others one day, "if they keep this up then soon they will all be gone. We should do something." Most of the others agreed and so they formed a plan.
"Hodierna planted a very special seed on a high secluded cliff. Lemicus dutifully fed the seed with fresh water, while Peri'el sang an enchanted melody to help it grow. As the tree sprouted and grew each of the gods touched it, and where each touched a new branch sprouted. Soon beautiful buds began to show among the rainbow of leaves.
"The first mortal to see this tree was awestruck. He had never seen such as this. The leaves seemed to whisper a song as a gentle breeze on this otherwise windless cliff wafted through. The mortal, an Olvi of course, approached cautiously. So many dangers had he already found in the land, he was suspicious. "Great gifts of Glythtide," he whispered, "what in the..." Just then a voice as sweet as honey and full of laughter echoed in his own head. "You call me by name, mortal. Prove yer devotion if ya will." Before the olvi could even blink, a blinding light flashed from the tree and one of the buds sprouted open. Sitting just in the center of the delicate pedals was a glowing orb no bigger than a ripe taffleberry. The light of the tree faded to a warm and inviting glow.
"The Olvi stood there beneath the branches shivering from fright. All the same his shaking hand reached out as if on its own. His short cold fingers wrapped gently around the orb and he was filled with a warmth and a sense of calm unlike anything he had ever known. Just as his hunting party came over the rise, he plucked the taffleberry orb from the tree and a swirl of mist and light danced around him and he vanished from sight. His friends were shocked, to say the least. When he reappeared in the blink of an eye, safe and sound the friends rubs their eyes and looked again. Had they really seen their friend disappear?
"The Olvi told them that he had visited the gods and that they had smiled on him. His friends were confused and afraid. They didn't want to believe this was even possible. "No one sees the gods," one said. "The gods don't speak to mortals," another chimed in. "But it be true," the Olvi persisted, I have proof..." he started to say. But as he opened his hand and looked at his empty palm, he realized the orb was gone. "Ye must be daft," said one friend. "Ye been out huntin too long." Another seemed to grow more nervous as he said, "Either that or he be cursed." This only added to the fear and uncertainty of the others. They became angry and lashed out at the Olvi, finally chasing him down the mountianside and into the swamp.
"The friends knew the swamp well and knew what dangers lurked within for a man alone. They knew they had sent the Olvi to certain death. It didn't take long for the sounds of battle and cries of pain to ring out. There were mixed feelings among the friends. A few began to wonder if what the Olvi had said could be true. Some began to feel guilty. After all, he had been their friend and hunting partner for a long time. They had never known him to make up something this wild. Had they really seen him vanish? These growing doubts caused them to go in search of their friend. If nothing else, to give him a respectful burial.
"A short search brought the friends to the battle ground. They rushed in making so much noise the swamp creatures fell back, and there, as expected, they saw the broken and bleeding body of the man they had once called friend. A great sadness filled each of them. Then, as the Olvi breathed his last, the friends saw something they did not expect at all. The ground around his body seemed to open up with a quiet rumbling as if to swallow him whole. The swamp itself had come to life, they all thought. When the rumbling stopped a moment later, they saw what was clearly a fresh grave, but it was unlike any grave they had ever laid eyes on. It was aglow.
"Too frightened to move, the villagers looked on as the glow began to grow. A breeze came out of nowhere and grew into a fierce wind. Brighter and brighter the light became until they had to turn away. Then with a booming laugh that echoed through their heads all grew still and the glow faded. When they turned back to the grave and opened their eyes their jaws dropped. For, standing right in front of them, unharmed and whole again, was the Olvi. He was as amazed as the others as he patted and pinched himself to see if he was dreaming. "Zombie," one whispered. "Undead," breathed another. "No," said the Olvi. "I saw the void, true enough. But the gods told me I had won their favor and they sent me back." The friends looked the Olvi over and then began to approach slowly. "It be the tree," said the Olvi, "The tree granted me the favor."
"What happened to that tree," Papa said, "no one rightly knows. Some say it still be around, waitin fer another true believer to pluck a taffleberry favor from its branches. Some say that on a clear night, if ye be high in the mountians and the air be still, a strange glow can be seen very far away."
Of course the gods do still grant favors to those who would prove their faith by sacrifice. Sorenne, one of the first clerics I met in the guild, was kind enough to help me figure it all out. She was also kind enough to show me around and help me settle in when I first arrived. I will always hold a special place in me heart fer her, fer the guidance she gave ta me, and still offers when I be in need.
As fer the favor tree... I still nae be sure if Papa were makin that story up, or if it be true. But on a calm night, when sleep stays away, I find meself lookin fer a high spot... just in case.
©2001 Taffei Snarfn'tart, a.k.a. Pamela Conard