The Lord and the Tree Walker

Once upon a time, there was a wealthy lord who dwelt in a beautiful manor in the middle of a great forest. The manor had been in his family for nine generations and each generation had always added to it, making it greater in one aspect or another; some had improved its beauty, some had improved its comfort but one, just one, the hero of our tale, decided to improve its security.

The lord, you see, had long ago encountered a monstrous creature of a faraway forest called the Tree Walker and become entrenched in a war with it. The Tree Walker had, over time, systematically taken away everything the lord ever loved and broken and humiliated the lord by making a cripple of him. Since then, it had been laying siege to the lord’s house, walking amongst the trees that encircled it, though never crossing the wall of thistle and weeds that had, somehow, at some point, become the barrier between the lord’s domain and that of the Tree Walker.

Although it seemed that the Tree Walker was content to wait and allow the lord to waste away in his manor, turning the beautiful home into a living mausoleum, the lord decided it would be naive to not prepare the manor for an attack from the creature. It may be prudent at this point to note the lord’s intent; to prepare the manor for an attack, not himself, because, you see, the lord knew, and had known for some time, that if the Tree Walker truly wanted to kill him, it could, and would, kill him with little-to-no effort on its part and that the only reason for his survival was that the Tree Walker was not devoting its full energies to destroying him, in much the same way that even the most enterprising of humans rarely make a concerted effort to kill a certain ant. The lord wanted to protect the manor so that even if he perished, and his entire bloodline with him, the manor would stand as the last remains of their legacy, ready to shelter someone else, if they so chose.

To ensure the manor’s survival, the lord called up what the moronic might call wizards, what the mundane might call engineers and what the mad might call gods, but what he referred to as magicians, for they knew all the tricks of their trade, all manner of traps and illusions with which to ensnare any who might trespass against them or their clientele. These magicians turned the ancient manor into what could only be described as a fortress, equipped with magical eyes that gave those who dwelt within the ability to see the entire forest outside the manor, a complex series of layered alarms that would alert the manor’s residents, the police and the magicians themselves and multiple less-than-lethal security measures designed to incapaciate potential intruders, from electrified windows and doors to concussive sonic weaponry concealed in the garden. The magicians had, quite simply, turned the manor into a castle.

And so it was that, some weeks later, the lord sat in his library, reading a book written by the late lady of the manor. He was just reaching the climax of the tale when his eyes, keenly honed by paranoid decades searching for the creature in every treeline, beheld the Tree Walker, truly beheld its form for the first time in over four years. On this occasion, it did not attempt to trick the lord, as it had on so many occasions, by switching places with a nearby tree. It simply stood, defiant and watching, staring without eyes at the lord. It simply stood, faceless and excessively real, as the lord smiled back at it, grimly forming his hand into a pistol shape, which he aimed at the creature who had tormented him for so long. The lord chuckled.

“Welcome back, old friend. We have a lot to catch up on.”

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