Crystal Forge Lore

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   Back to Main           Prologue                  Chapter 1

   Chapter 2                 Chapter 3                 Chapter 4

   Chapter 5                 Chapter 6                 Epilogue

Chapter 3

          Later, Oliver Rose guided his tour group onward to a wide overpass. From it hung more dome-shaped wigwams and wooden buildings with glass panes. Below was a ridge where a horde of giant mushrooms were walking near an octagonal building with twin towers on either side. “Do you guys see the building there between the towers?” he said. “I live in an apartment flat on the second floor.” 
           Exclamations resounded from the group as they approached the six-story building.
          “There are conference halls in each tower for guild meetings, and you can usually find me in the loft in the high-rise on most evenings. Unlike a lot of the other houses, it’s actually quite basic. But it serves its purpose well and doubles as our kind of oval office. As for the buildings that appear upside down,” he said, his gaze moving in an arch, “they actually contain normal living spaces and rooms with everything right-side-up. The glass windows and floors let you see out and make you feel like you’re constantly drifting even when you’re not.”
          Some of the group responded with more chatter, clearly impressed. The rest were focused on what lay beyond the overpass.
          “Feel free to familiarize yourselves with the living quarters and meeting locations later, should you decide to join our Guild. Follow me if you’re ready to see the heart of the city!”
          But most of the people were already drifting toward it, drawn to it like a magnet. Like moths to a flame. 
          Oliver chuckled to himself and sped on ahead, but his tour didn’t fall far behind. Everyone was eager to see massive white rose at the center of the city. And see it, they did. 

Heart of Treeforge

          Towering hundreds of feet over everything in the forest like a shining monument, the humongous white rose swayed gently back and forth under its own weight. Glistening white pedals that were each the size of a building orbited the flower, slowly floating around its base. The plant’s stem had a circumference nearly the length of a football field. 
          The crowd’s reactions ranged from boisterous glee to silent delight. Their exclamatory remarks intermixed with the din of the forest to the point where Oliver just smiled and waited several minutes for everyone to settle down.  
          “Welcome to the Heart of Treeforge,” said the white-eyed Guild Leader at last. “This rose was my gift to the Guild for appointing me as leader…of course I didn’t create it alone as my powers from Psylerra weren’t enough.”
          That would have gotten him bombarded with questions and strange looks, but the people were too pre-occupied by the phenomenon before them. 
          “It’s quite difficult to explain its many purposes,” Oli continued. “But it’s essentially an extension of the nebula infused into the trees around here; should this place ever be invaded and Eeventide decides to destroy it, the rose will act as a sort of force field to preserve the heart of the city should the worst come to pass.”
          “What about those?” asked someone, pointing at one of the massive pedals floating nearby. 
          “The pedals are indicators. Each time one falls, it’s caught up in the rose’s gravitational pull, and yes, it has its own gravitational pull,” he said as some got too close and had to forcefully will themselves away from it. It alerts us to catastrophic events across Eeventide in real-time since the plant’s roots have been integrated so deep into the planet’s core.” Oliver drifted sideways around the massive base at a safe distance, and the crowd followed. The rose on his neck ruffled lightly as if reacting. “It’s beautiful, but it can also be deadly…”
          As if right on cue, a fresh pedal tore itself away from the massive top, falling into its new place with a pulse that caused the air to rumble. All of the Drifters except for Oliver backed away in a hurry, distancing themselves even more. 
          “Don’t worry!” explained Oliver Rose, trying to speak up for those far away to hear. “Most of the events as of late are related to mass freezings by Shardveil. In fact, this Guild mainly exists because of them; I’m here mostly to see it through that Shardveil is stopped, because what they’re doing is worse than destroying the planet…”
          Just then, another Treeforge Drifter in green robes approached Oliver in a hurry, “Oli, we’ve marked a new location that was overrun by the approaching ice!”
          “Where?” asked Oliver, turning toward the messenger. He held up a hand in an attempt to ease the panic spreading through the crowd. 
          “The land between the east side of Vendetta Plateau and the ocean over there—we uncovered what appears to be a Dragonis excavation site beneath some of the ice. It was presumably abandoned at the first sign of a threat,” replied the Treeforge Drifter.

          “Are any of Crystallus’ forces in the area?”
          “No, Sir. Any Shardfolk that were summoned to speed up the freezing process have since moved on. The entire land is completely blanketed in ice.”
          “Very well,” replied Oliver. “I doubt they will stop at the plateau—take who you need and set up a temporary blockade on that side of the mountain. I also want you to send another party to chip away at that excavation site to see if we can uncover any clues as to what they were doing.”
           Yes, Sir!” agreed the Treeforge Drifter before flying away. 
          Oliver turned back to his guests, “There’s no need to panic,” said Oliver loudly. “This is an everyday occurrence for us, and it’s why I’d be so glad if you’d join our cause! The other Guilds are very aware of the fact that the Shardfolk are plunging entire sections of the planet into an icy slumber, but most of them couldn’t care less unless the ice encroaches on their own territories. Crystallus is a tyrant who created the Shardveil Guild for the sole purpose of removing all purpose—we must rally to preserve not only our forests, but all forms of life on Eeventide!”
          It took several moments for the tour group to settle down and listen to what Oliver was saying. 
          Oliver elaborated as the crowd came back, “Teamwork is key! I believe we all have a purpose. If you were to fight for a cause, why not this one?”

          As Recruitment Day came to an end, Oliver Rose let Treeforge’s guests play and interact with the forest’s creatures. Kids mainly gravitated toward Mushfolk, especially the smaller mushrooms. Others aggravated the Treefolk throughout the complex or hung around chatting with existing Treeforge members. A couple of people, however, were seen as they backed away from an aggressive Treefolk heading toward them. It caught Oliver’s eye, not because they were surprised, but because they seemed authentically scared. Had he seen that type of thing before, Oliver would have dismissed it save for the fact that they were backing away on foot, too frightened to fly away. The guest Drifters grew more visibly upset with each passing second.
          Oliver had not seen that particular Treefolk before, which was unusual, but not impossible. Eeventide regularly sprouted new and interesting trees with characteristics of their own, but this one clearly wasn’t natural.
It can’t be from Eeventide, he thought, because it has a face
          The tour group parted down the middle as the panic-stricken Drifters who first encountered the menacing tree hurried to get lost in the safety of the crowd. Oliver’s heartbeat quickened and he jumped in front of the Treefolk’s path. “Stop,” he commanded, raising his Helver. 
          But the Treefolk did not stop. It continued dragging itself by its own two legs, blue eyes flickering. It had no mouth. 

     Peoples’ attentions shifted to the upright lifeform fast approaching Treeforge’s leader. 
          “I demand you stop this instant!”
          In the blink of an eye, the blue-eyed Treefolk swiped the Guild Leader aside, its reach longer than anticipated. 

          That got a collective gasp from the crowd who parted further as the Treefolk encroached on their space. A dozen friendly Treefolk and Mushfolk rushed into the fray to protect the Drifters, but they were quickly stopped in their tracks. The blue-eyed creature flexed and sent flashes of bright blue energy through its veins—or tubes—on display for all to see. As the light faded, the surrounding creatures sunk low to the ground, stunned as their bodies were sapped of energy and transferred to their attacker. 
          Alarm and fear rippled through the crowd as the enemy Treefolk raised an arm to strike again as it walked. Oliver had no time to summon anything. He lurched out between the creature and the crowd, the rose on his neck blooming larger than ever. The monster struck again, this time slashing Oliver across the face and drawing blood. 
          It raised its other arm to strike the fast-retreating mob of people, but Oliver Rose was already there. He once again threw himself between the monster and his guests, but this time he moved on a field of wind. Vines raced across his limbs and dug into the ground, raising him high on tendril-like cords. With no time, he exercised his powers to throw up a wall between him and the rogue tree. The wall pulsed with energy in a leaf-like pattern only once before it came crumbling down. The Treefolk with blue eyes reached up and grabbed Oliver in a death-grip as people screamed and fled. Other Treeforge Drifters had seen the danger when the wall went up and immediately arrived on the scene. 
          “Summon something to destroy it—” Oliver tried to say, but found his mouth covered by wood when the Treefolk tightened its grip. The monster battered him, slamming him against the ground and nearby trees over and over without letting go. 
          “Hang in there, Oli!” he heard one of his Guild mates call out. But then he was slammed again against a nearby tree that shuddered and fell to the ground as its energy was leeched. Oli’s vision darkened as he felt a harsh ringing in his ears. The rampaging Treefolk raised Oliver to its face as if to look at him one last time before it killed him. Oliver Rose focused hard enough to see into those menacing blue eyes, eyes that bore into him like a creature’s never could. No, there was something behind the monster’s gaze that felt—human.
Is this…how it ends, was the final thought that crossed the young Guild Leader’s mind. And then: nothing; the world went black.

          “He’s coming to!” 
          “Stand back!” 

          Oliver heard people shouting over him as he woke from his painful dream. 
          “Mr. Rose, can you hear me?”
          “How many fingers am I holding up?”
          The world was spinning, and Oliver felt as though he might vomit. “…Mariah,” he mumbled, slowly waking at last. Two of the four medics standing over him immediately took off in a hurry at the first sign their leader was going to be OK. There was a collective sigh of relief from the others, one filled with surprise and desperation. “What—what’s going on?” 
          “Sir,” replied a medic Drifter, helping him to carefully sit up, “you’ve been out for nearly 36 hours! We’re so glad you’re awake!”
          “I was out, where?”
          “You were out—out, as in blacked out! You were in a coma, Sir,” said the medic, more frantically than before.
          It took a moment for Oliver to process everything against his pounding migraine. He could literally hear his own heartbeat, along with tons of noise in the background. It sounded like fighting and…explosions?
          “Sir, did you hear what I said?”
          “Did—Did you say I’ve been out for days…?”
          “That’s correct, Sir! The entire Guild has been assigned shifts to keep that creature at bay!”
          Creature? Right, he was on Eeventide, tethered just like everyone else.
          “Sir, normally we wouldn’t ask you to fight in this condition, but—”
          Fight? Of course, the hostile Treefolk. It all came rushing back to him over his headache. …Days?
          “I’m sorry, Sir,” said a Drifter near the medic who was out of breath, “but we’ve finally managed to activate the Heart with the help of Mr. Brown and Mr. Willems. They’re adjusting it to match the target’s course now!”
          Heart? As in, Heart of Treeforge? That got Oliver to his feet, albeit very clumsily. Memories of his beating by the Treefolk played over in his mind like a horror movie. Everything still hurt. “How is that monster still here?” But Oliver answered his own question as everything came back into focus. He peered out over the hill and saw thousands of Drifters, his entire Guild, battling against that mouth-less, blue-eyed Treefolk.
          “We’re quickly approaching the 2-day mark,” said the medic. “Nobody’s really slept, but we’re moving in shifts so that those on the frontlines can eat and get what rest they can afford.”
          Oliver couldn’t believe it. That violent Treefolk he had never seen before was attempting to wipe out their entire Guild. And they’ve only been keeping it at bay. 

Apparition Grove

          “I’m sorry, Sir,” grieved the medic before turning to a female Drifter who’d arrived at the hilltop, equally disheveled and awaiting orders. “I’ve been told to clear the area of our party and tell them to fire the Heart at once!”
          “It’s Oli,” corrected the Guild Leader, ignoring the shifting attention spans. “Wait, are you guys going to use the rose to—”
          “Yes,” the healer interrupted, “We didn’t think we’d be able to activate the flower without you, Sir, but—”
          “It’s Oli!” he couldn’t believe his Guild would be so reckless without him. 
          “Right, Oli—I apologize, but that weapon is our only chance to vanquish this monster.”
          Vanquish! Of course, thought Oli. “You guys can’t just use the rose to blast that creature into oblivion; there will be too much recoil! It’s meant to be a shield, not a weapon!”
          Several people near Oli on the hilltop stopped in their tracks and stared at him. “Inform the temporaries that Oliver Rose is awake and reinstated immediately,” said the other medic. Someone nodded and flew off. 
          “Where are our guests from Recruitment Day?” asked Oli, rubbing his eyes. 
          “They were safely escorted away right after we lost you. No other Guilds have offered to help, and we’re sure word has spread by now of the intruder. It’s just crazy to think how powerful this thing is! We’ve never seen another creature like it before!” 
          “How are they managing?” asked Oliver, looking down at the entire gathering of the Treeforge Guild, besides those resting in the distance, battling against a single tree. It wasn’t even a big tree either, only slightly larger than a human.
The creature’s brute force, the way it moves, the look in its eyes, thought Oliver. It can’t be.
          “The Drifters are each summoning multiple creatures at once and hitting it with all they’ve got. The Treelight Convoy is allowing them to loop our assault, but each wave tires quickly. That monstrosity is somehow able to extract energy from everything around it to give itself more power. Every time we weaken it, the thing comes back stronger than before!”
          “Have you tried siphoning the energy back out of it?”
          “Yes, we’ve tried everything! At first we thought it was here for no reason, but then it started heading for the Heart after about the 10-hour mark. So, we mounted an all-out attack effort to redirect it away from the rose at the center of the city. We don’t know what else to do; it just won’t go down!”
          Oliver tested his drifting prowess over the hillside, several advisors in tow. He could still fight. 
          “Mr. Brown and Mr. Willems will make short work of this; save your strength, Oli—”
          “No!” snapped Oliver. “Tell Jon and Carter to stand down! Give me a chance to stop this creature myself.”
          “But, Sir, you were almost killed—”
          “I said stand down! I just need to get one last look at it up close to be sure…if I’m right, and I hope for everyone’s sake I’m not, then we won’t need to use the Heart of Treeforge at all.”
          The Drifters following him looked at him incredulously and said, “But there’s something else you need to know about it—”. The Guild leader took off toward the battle, the medics and other advisors unsure of whether or not to follow. “After it harbors enough energy, it explodes,” they called after him.