“Well, this is certainly awkward.”
There wasn’t much else to say at that point. I was lying face up in the Commons of the Bly Forest, as place that is as sacred as it pretty much gets with more and more Jeekan faces glaring down at me. And it was not comfortable either. When you finish coming down from a climb of the Tiki Tree you usually have people to help you up. They pat you on the back and talk to you. They’re excited for you. Not me. And fair enough really, considering that the tree that was behind me did not use to exist. I made a tree. Around here that was kind of a big deal.
We live in trees, us Jeekas. Trees are our thing, pretty much. I was born in one. I learned to climb before I could walk. Our red wand soldier Jeekas have a drawing of the mighty Tiki Tree on their shields. They were not just a part of every moment of a furry little guy’s life. They were downright mystical. The Bly Forest has long been called the Po-Ha Spirit Shal-Than’s sacred garden. Indeed, from where I was lying I could barley make out the afternoon sky, filtering its way through the dense foliage high above. The Tiki Tree, or this side of it, took the most of my view. That thing wasn’t a tree when you stood before it like I had done the day before. It was a mountain. It was sheer wall of bark ascending into dense foliage with skybug lanterns swinging above the whole of the Commons. It took long to climb, which is saying something because climbing with our fore and hind claws was kind of something we are known in Tarsha to be good at. All around the Commons, which is the sweet grass circle between the Tiki and the wand trees, we numbered in the hundreds. The event was over but lots were sticking around to see what would happen with me.
Ok, they all were.
Because of that it took a while for Readspa Weet and his horrible little nephew Dinnlen Weet some time to push through the crowd to get to me. Readspa was the Seat of the Tree, the head governor of all the Bly. I was not looking forward to meeting him as I lay below the curved branch that had brought me to the forest floor.
“There he is Uncle!” Dinnlen said as he got close “There’s Jeebles!”
Oh, yeah…Dinnlen was enjoying himself thoroughly. One more thing I had done wrong. One more thing to go to a governor about, and he was related to the top. The guy was in spoiled rich pup heaven.
“Don’t you have workers you would rather be lashing, Dinlenn?” I said. We were never really super close.
I didn’t see him. He was clearly standing back a ways from me, along with some of the others in the crowd, as though they didn’t know what I was going to do next. Perhaps I was going to turn into a Turweef spider and begin lashing in every direction. Truth is I had just had fallen hard from the rope branch that hung like a thick snake above my head. So when it came to lashing out with anything, I could barely move. Then two Jeekas did come close. Dominion Red Guards. Seeing those two standing above me with wands drawn to my face was enough to get my attention. I shelved my snarkyness in an hurry. The gemstones from both wands were close enough that I could almost grab them, which would be, of course, immensly stupid.
The gemstones swirled like eddies in a river, not pulsing but glowing steady with a heat that cannot be described in terms of temperature. You just felt the fire within those pure shards of Si. You knew about the power of rock-thrower, that could send stones beneath you into a hail of the fastest missles. You knew that the guards simply had to touch your skin and let the power seep into your flesh. The fire would reach your center like rot shredding its way into a trees very root.
“Get him up,” came a command from a gentle firm voice.
With wands still on my face, another set of strong arms hoisted me to my hindpaws. Still feeling a bit shaky, I padded myself down for a moment and thanked them for helping me up, which did not receive much in the way of smiles. In the crowd behind Readspa Weet and Dinnlen I could see some of the others moving their muzzles side to side slowly. They weren’t eating. That movement came from how we Jeekas chatter out teeth, which again has nothing to do with how cold it is. It’s always the perfect climate in the Commons. No, chattering our teeth is something we do when we are angry. Well, that or afraid. Or someone just sent a hundred foot tree rocketing from the soil beneath them into the sky like a ship crashing into a headland. I was just that popular that day.
“You care to explain what happened Fleet Jeebles?”
I just looked at him. I actually was trying organize my thoughts so I could work out where in the story should start.
Climbing the Tiki was a rite of passage for Jeekas my age. You got to the top, took a rope branch down to one of the six trees, got the wand that decided how you would serve the Bly and then come down. Dinnlen had just done it, as had Teekthie (from the Tikitaa district like Dinnlen. Hated her.) Bithel (from the Heepata like me. Nice guy, and I’m not just saying that because he was working class too. Kind of dull though. There, I said it.) and about forty other Jeeklings. Jeeklings going up the tree. Jeekas of the Bly coming down.
I was a Jeeka now. And boy, was I in the deep fertilizer.
“I got in an arguement with Dinnlen, sir,” I managed “It was nothing.”
And that was a give my head a shake moment. Why in blackness did I go there? I could have just said that I didn’t know. I could have said that it was the darndest thing. But straight away with “Golden Trousers” himself leering, I knew that Dinnlen had told Readspa his version of our arguement on the top of the Tiki. I was a bit of a fistfight in probably the most dangerous place in Tarsha to do that. Not only is it high, high…I can’t even describe how high up it is…but the intense Si of that place doesn’t exactly approve of people fighting or indeed having a little sightseeing moment. Everything started to sway and Dinnlen and I had to jump onto the first rope branch we could see. Our harnesses clicked into place and down we went, flying and spiralling around through the clouds on our way back. He vanished from my sight as I burst through one cloud and into another, the rope branch swinging and diving past others until it came to its end. The end was still high off the ground and without a wand tree in sight. I firmly believed I was fertilizer myself when…well…I made a tree.
I explained all this to Readspa. At least I think I did. No Jeeka, not even the red army could beat the Seat of the Tree for looking intimdating. His purple stone wand could tell you if you told the littlest fib and he was a very tall elder with eyes that looked right into you. He got to his position by his extraordinary insight and razor sharp wisdom. I’m not being sarcastic there. You would not want to play a game of stones with Readspa Weet. He came from generations of great governors. His great grandsire had been the one to settle the war between the Lotherans of Laboi Canyon and the Bly. Their weapons still remained in the stone columns before the Clay City of Tercichio thousands of leagues away as a sign of peace. I guess the idea behind that was that neither of us could get those great weapons back. Only the immortal Vakkal could enter their home. The Si energy in that place would drive any mortal Si mad if we tried to enter.
Anyways, back in the soft cool of the Commons, I couldn’t really look at Readspa as I explained what I think had just happened. I told him about getting the wand in the empty round room. I told him about the wierd inscriptions on the walls, running around the ridge between the round wall and the solid ceiling. There was also the fact that the empty room was in a tree that came out of nowhere just moments before. And there I was standing before him with a pure white wand in the wand-sheath behind me with no color at all, so it looked like someone had made some kind of mistake somewhere. The wands were orange for a worker, green for a farmer (that was my father’s kind) red for a warrior, blue for a healer, purple for a governor, and yellow for a seer. Mine was like some wierd kind of exclamation point.
Dinlenn said I threatened him which was kind of annoying. We threatened each other. Actually, we threatened lots of other Jeeklings because they had to get past us scraping to get to the rope branches. That’s the kind of thing perfectly sane people do.
“Fleet, have you ever been outside of the Bly Forest?” he asked bringing his wand between us. The light from its regal purple began to glow.
“Um…no…sir,” I stammered. I hadn’t. He knew that was true immediately.
“Have you ever been near the Southern gate? Sands of Umahh?”
He considered me for a moment and then, with his wands ability to amplify his voice he sent everyone on their way. Dinlenn protested but he was met with the same authority from those sharp eyes. Suddenly I had the very wierd experience of standing in the soft coolness of the Commons with Readspa Weet. Well, and his gaurds. He wasn’t that reckless.
“Follow me little one,” he said with a concerned face before leading me back to the Tiki Tree, to the other side where between giant natural curves in the grain we entered the Room of Roots.
I was made to wait in the that round lower room with its ceiling that was so high that you couldn’t actually see it, sunlight streaming in from where I had entered and through a similar entrance far to my right. Guards stood by the door to the upper rooms across from me, the whole interior carved into the base of the Tiki Tree ages ago.
There were benchs all around the circular room with a darker wood star in the center. The star had six points, one for each of the gemwands. I sat with the quiver behind me holding the wand whose gemstone did not belong. The thick cloth and metal hook still hung there on my back too from when it held me to the rope branches in the sky high above. The guards did not look at me. They stood like statues, hands behind there back, next to the skybug lite stairway that climbed out of sight. I had never been in the room before. I had spent most of my time in the working class district of the Heepata far to the southwest except for when I was born. I was born in the Typlem Hollow on the north border where we had a grain farm. That was before my father’s accident. We had lots of food before entering the Bly-supported trees of Heepata. I had been in that district for so long that I could barely remember those days of playing with my little sister in the tall grasses and the open sunlight that danced on the Dawzu River. It flowed far from the Great Eastern Range and the eastern canyons before passing through the Bly and under it. I had been in the submarine trails where some Jeekas lived below the surface. Down there it was all giant roots and skybugs dancing above the white water and pathways. On the wall above me was a giant drawing of the Bly Forest and it’s communities. We rarely left the Forest other than in goodwill parties to the city of South Leah far away. That didn’t happen that often. We were still somewhat shy when it came to Lothrans. I had seen one when I was a little Jeekling pup. Or at least I think I had. My father met someone on the northern road before the Bly Gate. They talked and I watched from a distance with my mother keeping a firm grip on the fur behind my neck. That was probably a very good idea at the time. I’ve never been known for my self restraint. That rumor wasn’t helping me much now.
My sisters name. My father’s voice! I suddenly sat bold upright on the smooth ashwood bench. Creet Jeeble’s voice came from the other door to my right, sunlight and tiny sparkles of air playing in its bright north western entrance. That’s where suddenly I saw a very familiar sight. The sight of soft white and hazel fur around black excited eyes.
“Big brother?” came her little voice, it’s little sound echoing into the vast chamber.
I looked at the guards, worried, and then back at her. They hadn’t moved or anything. I guess someone two and a half feet armed with a birchwood doll wasn’t a major threat. Still, it was Meepsa, here, in the same room as Jeekas who could…I went over to her as quickly as I could within breaking into anything that looked like a run.
“Meepsa!” Father called again from somewhere close.
“In here!” I called out the window as the little Jeekling raced up to my legs and with her muzzle to one side which still pressed into my stomach, she hugged my legs with all of her might.
“Oh, there you are!” Creet Jeebles, that’s my Father, said “Are you ok?”
“I’m great, sir. Um…” I said turning to the guards and motioning to the bench “Is it ok if my family sits on the…”
They didn’t move. I guess it wasn’t not ok since they didn’t seem to be opposed to it. I still felt nervous with those red wands near my family. I felt nervous with them near me. I mean I had been in trouble with the local governors for getting in fights with upper crush twits like Dinlenn, but I never had those guys around.
“Ok,” I said to the people I loved most in the world like someone at a district meeting “Try to keep it down a little bit. I’m waiting for Readspa Weet to come back. He told me to wait here.”
“Readspa Weet!” my Father said “And the Room of Roots. You’ve had quite a day!”
“That’s right, sir,” I said “Let’s just sit over here. Meepsa? Can you let go of my legs now?”
“Or we can stand here,” I agreed.
Oh yeah, I call my dad sir. We all do. It’s just a Jeekan show of respect to an elder. Meepsa told me she was scared when I didn’t come down right away like everyone else. That’s when they heard of a tree exploding from nowhere. They had been on the other side of Tiki Tree so they got the information second hand. That’s how big this tree is. Even this room could fit a hundred of us in it easily. And, fun fact, from what I’ve heard, you can actually see the Tiki from anywhere in the Tarshan Peninsula.
I heard that one from my Father. He had been to the northern city of Moz once to sing with a choir for the Lothran’s midwinter festival. He is where I got my musical traits. My mother was always the pragmatic one. I remember my father singing all the time when I was younger. It was an unexpected treat to hear it these days. It’s one of reasons I built my first clavacar. The thing was terrible but when I strummed it I could make a sort of chord like sound. Sometimes the thing even sounded tuned.
“What’s going to happen, son?” he asked as Meepsa looked up at me.
“Mr. Weet asked me some questions and…I don’t really know,” I replied, only to see Readspa Weet coming out of the stairway with two more guards and a Jeeka who dressed with a yellow sash around his frame. A yellow wand.
“Fleet Jeebles,” the yellow wand said in greeting. He did not hold his wand in his hand. He didn’t need to be I knew it was on as he looked me up and down. He walked around me before asking to show me the wand I had received. I took it from it’s sheath behind my neck and held it up for him to look. Everyone looked at it as though I was holding a rare bottle of Thorkberry.
“You can put it back in your sheath, Fleet,” the yellow wand said, apparently content. He nodded to Readspa Weet before heading back to the stairwell with one of the two guards accompanying him.
“Creet Jeebles,” Readspa said to my father softly “How would you like if you and your family got to go to the Lothran city of North Leah? And we will pay your way. Handsomely.”
All three of the Jeebles family stared at him dumbfounded.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. It’s a new spin I’m trying out on an older project and would love to hear any constructive thoughts.