A Cutting From The Tree of Light
The Elves of the Garden are not born of other Elves, they are highly concentrated sparks of magic that develop sentience. The wood elves of the Verdant Wode are hewn branches from the Tree of Light. When they bask in the presence of the tree, their vitality is renewed. When they spend too much time away from it, their magic dissipates and they start to vanish.
The "Last Keeper" is the current leader of the wood elves. He tends to the tree and is the only elf that spends enough time within the light of the tree to be immortal. Centuries ago, he was deceived by Za'Ul who came to him in the guise of Godrik.
Za'Ul took a cutting of the Tree all those years ago and bound it to the Vault of Souls. Now the souls of the wood elves feed the Vault of Souls and further Za'Ul's ambitions.
Journal Entries Stolen from the Last Keeper
I am adrift. Alfonse fades further by the day. His light is dying. I sold Father's amulet last cycle and can no longer afford his visits to the Sun Ring. When I try to bring Al through the Gates, the guards turn him away.
My duties as a Keeper allow me enough time within the Tree’s light to sustain myself. If only I could gift Alfonse my light, I’d give him everything I have.
Here in the Rim, Al was our light. The dusk seemed not so cold with him playing flute and singing the legends of ages. In these last moments, I wish I could remember those nights more clearly. Though we may persist longer than the other races, our memories leave us just the same. What I would give to listen to Al play and dance like he used to. A smile in his eyes and the wind in his step.
Godrik visited again. He can sense my desperation. He knows I would do anything to keep Al from fading. Al begs me not to heed Godrik's words. He is contented to vanish. He reminds me that he has already lived longer and more brightly than father did.
Al does not trust Godrik. I can't blame Alfonse for his mistrust of the Day Breakers. Al is a few decades my senior and was brought up in a more traditional time.
I’ve heard Alfonse speak about the expansion of our people and our forests. He likes to dwell on the expanding groves. Ever the optimist, I don’t think he realizes that he is merely echoing the High Keepers and the other Eternals.
Godrik understands. Despite being an Eternal himself, he sees the subtle evil in the Rings and the hypocrisy in the words of the High Keepers. When I explained Alfonse’s vanishing to my mentor Keeper, he told me.
“Life is temporary, all of us will fade some day.”
My mentor is Eternal, just like his father and mother. He has never known the passing of a loved one. He is willfully oblivious to the pain of watching a brother fade.
Al vanished yesterday. My fellow Keepers performed a dedicated singing for him upon my request. It is ironic that they did not deny my request to commemorate my brother, but did nothing to sustain him or prevent his passing.
I cannot help but to think even as they sing for Alfonse, what more he would have done for our people with even just a fraction of their unending life.
They spring forward to mourn and sing praises to the vanished, but none would trade places with us in the Rim. Immortality is a scarce commodity indeed.
My grief is a void. It is all-consuming. My fellow Keepers pity me. They offer me their hand. As if I want their friendship.
Only Godrik knew Alfonse. Only Godrik understands.
The Day Breakers have a vision for a brighter forest. We know that the Eternals need to be cast down. For millennia they have ruled from the Sun Ring, watching those of us in the Rim fade and vanish. They do not know the dagger they have forged in making me a Keeper. They cannot fathom that fellow Eternals like myself and Godrik could possibly be willing to trade away our immortal lives to end this cycle of oppression.
However, the Day Breakers are ineffectual. Their memories are too short. Their means are too meager. Their acts of petty terrorism may satisfy the young who do not remember the futility in similar acts of fathers before, but they do not effect lasting change.
I have watched three generations of Breakers pass now. I do not know how many Godrik has overseen. Now things are different; now the Day Breakers are led by an immortal Keeper.
It was quick. We combined Godrik's curious expertise in Arcana with my mastery of Sun magics and we contained the Light of the Sun Tree. In their moment of powerlessness we elves of the Rim attacked and overwhelmed the Eternals of the Sun Ring.
It was shocking how easily my immortal peers were cut down. Bereft of their spells and protections, their immortal bodies had no protection against the swords and arrows of their lessors.
Though the carnage and loss of life pain me, Godrik is right. If any Eternals were allowed to live, they might find a way to undo our enchantment upon the Tree. They might seek to inspire resistance in those sheep in the Rim still loyal to the old ways.
We have torn down the oppressive structures that once cast a shadow over these fine wood. Now we begin rebuilding.
I did not expect to be made High Distributor. It was actually Godrik, my greatest rival for the position that persuaded the grove to elect me.
Godrik is correct of course. My memory of our people’s failed system will be invaluable during these early decades of new order.
We have already set about implementing sensible structures. All elves will have ample time to bask in the light of the Sun Tree. Gone are the days of the Eternals, of a select few hoarding immortality. Of course, now every elf will eventually begin to fade and vanish, but the masses will now have their day in the sun. All will have their fair share.
Some have stepped forward and demanded that I spread my knowledge of the Sun magics to others. Once pressed, they shared that they feared what would happen to the Tree, and in turn, our people should I suddenly perish. They will soon find out that I do not take their thinly veiled schemes and threats lightly.
I do not blame them. It is because I share their memories of oppression at the hands of the Eternals that I know they would see me dead if they did not fear for their own lives. It is because I shared in their hatred that can anticipate their betrayal.
It has now been a few decades since I last saw Godrik. He departed the wood without much ceremony one morning, concerned that we should rekindle diplomatic relations with neighboring kingdoms.
My thoughts had just started to turn to the Sun Tree and how little I knew of Godrik’s half of the enchantment upon it, when he returned. He must have already visited the Sun Tree before coming to see me, because he looked as vibrant as any day in my memory.
He presented a series of diplomatic treaties with the Kingdoms of men around us. It was quite the ingenious web of diplomatic work. The agreements essentially bind the kingdoms into a state of forced neutrality. If any march to war, the others will take up banners against them. The treaty benefits our people most as we are still weak from our rebellion and it will be centuries before the borders of our wood start to expand again.
Then just as quickly as he arrived, he departed. Never before have I seen an Elf act with such urgency.
The Sun Tree seems to be ailing. None have noticed but me. No one else has a memory long enough to remember its garish splendor in the age of the Eternals. None save Godrik.
I have not seen Godrik for two centuries now. I grow anxious because I think that sometime in the next hundred years I may have need of his arcane expertise. Some of my fellows have begun to chaff under my leadership. They suspect that I am using the Tree to prevent my fading.
They believed my explanation that my exposure to the Tree in the years leading up to the rebellion had granted me a prolonged existence at first, but now they grow suspicious of my immortality. Some whisper that I will never surrender leadership.
They have no sense of pragmatism. If only they knew the burden I bear. If only they knew my worries for the dimming Sun Tree. Of course I will allow myself to fade after the future of our people is secured, but not before.