“Gather round, little sprouts. Let me tell you a tale you haven’t heard before…”
The tiny Tendraam, none higher than the knees of a human, flitted nearer to the storyteller. He had come into the village just a few days prior, bringing all manner of knowledge and news from around the Savanna - even some from as far east as the Dunelight Sands.
The glowing root of Maarla they gathered around cast eerie shadows up the Kistoon storyteller’s face. The light itself seemed to brighten in anticipation as he took a breath, and the sprouts found themselves leaning in.
“In a village not far from here was a sprout, much like you, named Braama. Braama was the smallest of her friends and her wings, oh her wings -”
“Were they them HUMONGOUS wings!?” asked the smallest sprout.
“I bet they was BEAUTIFUL!” said another.
The Kistoon threw a glare toward the sprouts that sent them fluttering backward.
“They were neither. In fact, they were so small and lackluster, like Braama herself, that she had a hard time staying off the ground.”
The sprouts gasped. All of them knew that touching the ground was against the holiest of Tendraam rules, passed down from their plant goddess herself: “To tread on the ground / is to tread on me.” So says Maarla.
The Kistoon’s paw stretched out and hovered above the ground just above the reach of the wild Savanna grass.
“See, Braama struggled to stay above the ground, even when traveling short distances. She had to take stops to alight on rocks, boulders, and the occasional Wompit. She tried her best not to touch the ground, despite the pains it gave her tiny wings.
“One day, Braama went out to gather Baconweed for her mother. She soon found herself in a field of Baconweed and Sunshrooms, far as her eyes could see. She stuffed her belly as she gathered and quickly lost track of time, growing heavier all the while. Light began to fade and Braama suddenly realized she had taken too long. Her mother would be waiting for her at their lakeside home.
“Her wings ached deeply by the time she returned. But there was no home to be found, only ruin. Embers glowed into the night, reflecting orange into the water. The light stretched beyond the destroyed house to reveal a huge tartil, Glartalar, receding into the distance.”
“NOT GLARTALAR!” The sprouts shouted and shook. The Kistoon storyteller carried on.
“Braama panicked and dropped her bounty. She called for her mother, but there was no answer. She rushed into the embers and found only her mother’s rootfist.”
The sprout at the back of the group bustled his way forward. “But why did that tartil go on ‘n attack? Seems like one them plot devices. Heck, I’d even say it’s lazy!”
The Kistoon traveller settled back into his pack and stretched a paw toward the sprout.
“Sometimes, little one, life gives no reason for its plot twists.” He gently pushed the sprout backward through the air, sending him tumbling to the back of the pack.
“You know what had to happen now, don’t you?”
The sprouts nodded gravely.
“Braama had to bear her mother’s root to the village elder, whom the day before had done her a good deed. But the root itself was heavy, so heavy that Braama couldn’t carry it more than a few yards without taking a rest.”
The storyteller raised his arm and made the shape of a flower with his good hand. The other, heavily bandaged and considerably shorter, lay in his lap.
“Sometimes Maarla reaches up to the surface. Do you know why this is, sprouts?”
The flittering wings of the tiny Tendraam grew more intense as they thought through the Kistoon’s words.
“To keep the lights on at night?” one sprout said, glancing at the glowroot they gathered around.
The Kistoon shook his head.
“To get closer to us?”
He chuckled at that, and shook his head again. Silence hung in the air.
“Well.. we don’t know!”
“Maarla sometimes comes to the surface to choose.”
“A Seedsoul.” The Kistoon’s hand plummeted to the ground and stood on two digits, like a striding man.
“Wassat?” said the smallest sprout. The storyteller nodded at him and carried on.
“Braama, tiny as her wings were, struggled for two full days to get the root from her mother’s home to the village elder, who lived on the opposite side of the lake. On the dawn of the third day, Braama found herself in the middle of the Savanna, in an eerily quiet glade, with nothing for her to rest her tiny wings upon.
“She dragged the root forward as far as she could, but her exhaustion made further travel impossible. Braama felt the light of the world fade as her vision went dark and her wings went flit-flit-flit…
“And then stopped.”
“NO! SHE’S GOING TO TOUCH THE GROUND!”
The Kistoon leaned forward. The soft light of the glowroot beamed up his face, etching dark shadows in his fur. He had them now.
“She lay on the ground for a long moment while the dawnlight tried to reach her. All was quiet… and then, Maarla herself rose out of the glade! She wrapped the unconscious Braama in her bows and rose up to a great height, casting her golden light wide. She looked down upon Braama and her tiny wings, unfit for any Tendraam. She saw the root, Braama’s mother’s, and felt the grief within the small Tendraam. Maarla looked down on Braama and smiled and frowned all at once.”
The Kistoon’s hand opened, palm up, as if he were holding Braama herself. With a snap, he crunched it closed and slammed that fist into the ground.
“Braama had, after all, touched the ground! This was not to be unpunished.”
The sprouts nodded vigorously.
“But, Maarla saw, it was not for lack of trying. She sympathised with Braama’s plight, and so she came to a decision.
“What she was confronted with in Braama was a resolute soul, facing an arduous task. It was most fitting for a Seedsoul, not like the pious individuals who often claimed they’d be next on her list. Maarla let out a peel of laughter that set the glade in bloom, and bore the blessing into Braama with all her might.
“Braama’s body writhed under the energy and she woke, bathed in golden light and held by Maarla herself, in incredible pain. She shouted out for Maarla to stop, for she was carrying her mother’s root and her wings were just too small. Maarla only bore down harder, priming the small Tendraam’s body for the final burst of energy that would complete her transformation. The golden light faded away as the final ebb of energy flowed through her, and Maarla retreated back into the ground, leaving the glade in full bloom and eerie silence once.”
The Kistoon brought a toothpick to his long, flat front teeth and idly prodded around them. The sprouts were now hovering over him. He breathed deeply and flicked the toothpick into his pack.
“Braama thanked Maarla that she’d been spared, though the pain had been terrible. She grabbed the root of her mother and felt her wings flutter and lift her briefly off the ground. And then, with a sudden crack, off they came.”
The sprouts gasped in horror.
“Braama turned around to find them helicoptering down to the Savanna, like two dried leaves. She reached her hands out to catch them but lurched instead. She tripped and fell, and found her rootfists pressed to the ground.
“Terrible pressure mounted in her chest and flowed through her arms - from around her hands she found Savanna plants growing in lush, furious activity! She looked on, stunned, as her wings disappeared in the vibrant overgrowth that spawned from her hands. She pushed herself up and backward, stumbling again on legs that were strikingly powerful and new. She looked down and saw that the once shriveled roots her legs were had become powerful, deep green limbs, like the living branches of a tree.”
“She walked on the GROUND?!”
“Yes, sprout. Maarla had chosen her for a Seedsoul.”
“I WANT TO BE A SEEDSOUL!” shouted the smallest sprout.
The storyteller reached up to the squawking Tendraam and covered its mouth.
“You may not, once you hear how the story ends.”
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