Fanfic Friday – “The Heart Tree”

20 Jul

The air was cool inside the temple, and motes of ancient dust floated across the beams of light that slanted through the tall stained glass. The boy’s boots tapped softly on the smooth marble floor and echoed to the lofty stone rafters, brushing fallen leaves aside as he strode. Elegant runes which ran along the walls told tales of heroes long forgotten, whispered prophecy and primeval faith intertwined in the ageless rock. Whoever had erected this grand and solemn structure had vanished from the world many ages past, but there was a lingering divinity in the stillness which slowed the boy’s step and kept his breathing hushed and reverent.

He reached out his sword hand and touched a mossy wall, as if the feeling of it would connect him to the elusive magic of this place. He thought he sensed the voices of its caretakers, spirits now; intoning low and sweet in unheard chanted song.

He looked at the tree which sprouted from the base of the altar and rose high above his head, its roots creeping out in tendrils down the steps toward him. The temple lay dormant, but the tree was alive; its life-force flowed outward warm and bright and filled the air with energy. But something was wrong, deeply wrong, and the boy could feel it.

He gazed at the pallid white of the tree’s flesh and saw a black gash in the centre of the trunk, spidery black veins radiating outward from the gaping wound. The tree was in pain, it was obvious, he felt its sorrow, as acutely as he felt his own heartbeat. Red leaves, faded with grief, fluttered down past his face. He walked forward up the steps until he was face-to-face with the trunk, and raised an arm in sympathy.

On the back of his hand, the triangular outline began to glow, pulsing golden light timed with the rapid beating of his heart. His palm extended toward the ugly black scar, and he was certain it was evil. It burned hot and malevolent and for a moment the boy was afraid.

There was a violent flash of black light and the boy was thrown bodily into the air, shoved away from the tree by an invisible hand. He landed in a heap on the smooth temple floor and was battered by a vicious howling cry, which sliced through the silence like a heated blade. He spun around to face the altar and saw the jagged shape of a giant wolf, which snarled through obsidian teeth before pouncing from the seat of the tree straight at his face.

The boy’s blade rang out from its scabbard, reflecting the window’s slanting light into the wolf demon’s myriad eyes. Its leap was cut short as it staggered onto the floor, whimpering, and the boy saw his opening. He rushed forward with a roar and brought his shining sword down in a sweeping arc, aiming to cleave the beast’s head from its hunching shoulders, but it sliced through curling smoke and bounced off the ground. The boy heard growling behind him, and whirled around to see the wolf crouching near the entrance to the temple, its shadow-fur gleaming evilly in the dusky light. It squatted on its six legs and sprang forward again, howling its profane echoing howl.

The boy’s fist plunged into his pack and emerged with a handful of forest nuts, which he cast out at the charging demon. They burst in brilliant flashes and blinded it again, sending it thrashing and screeching. Between the writhing folds of its inky flesh the boy spotted its exposed heart, glowing green and pale. He rushed up and thrust his blade straight into it, unerring and sure, and there was a scream such as the boy had never heard before the temple was plunged once again into silence.

He crouched, breathing hard, wisps of jet-black smoke swirling around him and disappearing. When he stood, the demon was gone, and the soothing spirit voices crept once again into his ears. Peace was restored, and the temple was safe.

The tree’s bark was pure again, blazing white with flecks of shifting colour, its leaves bright red with lifeblood. The boy approached it, hand on his breast, and knelt at its gnarled foot. He kissed his fingers before pressing them into the bark, the Triforce throbbing on his hand, the gratitude of the tree filling his heart.

The boy sheathed his sword and smiled.

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