Iiiii dooon’t remeeeembeeer theee naaaameee…. ooof myyy teeeacheeeer…. I loooost it.. I lost soooo muuuch.
But he knew they were the ones that gave him the name - Ulukeil after the color of his leaves. They taught him things… now no one remembers what they were, but he knew he was taught, and that he enjoyed learning. About cycle of life. Of animals. Of their duty. And he met with many others, like him… but he forgot them as well, only remembering that he forgot.
But there is one lesson he still remembers. One of the first things he was taught, while he was still learning how to move in his new form.
One day, a snakeling came. Seemingly fresh after its first molting, scales shining in all colors of the rainbow. He might have found it cute, if it wasn’t obviously chasing an innocent Shadow lice- a small thing sustaining on the ambient mana of the dark. It hurt no one, just walking around searching for magical shadows, digging small holes to find deeper darks. Why does it have to die? And doesn’t Ulukeil finally have the power to stop this injustice from happening? Should it really fall to this foreign monster, that doesn’t give anything back?
But his teacher stopped him. No, it has to be left alone. Who are you to judge who dies and survives, and if too many lices were alive wouldn’t they block others from living? Wouldn’t they trample all the small flowers? In search of shade, wouldn’t they destroy the ground so that no other creature could live?
“Don’t” his teacher said, seeing what he was about to do
“But why?” he answered, their speech but a whisper of leaves to the surrounding fauna.
“Why should an innocent being die?”
“You are still young. Yeees. Inexperienced! Even with all your passion for watching, you do not understand. Yes, it might seem that this lice is innocent! What can one shadow lice do? But what about thousands of them? There would soon be thousands if unchecked by their predators! A scourge! They gather together and dig tunnels deep into the earth, trapping other animals, destroying roots, and if still unsatisfied in their search for more energy, they start feeding on the shadow mana produced when you dig into the living body. Yes, you need to learn! Learn the complexities of the forest!”
So he watched. As instructed,doing nothing while the snake sneaked, undetected. The lice just laying there, napping, securely. And as the snake was preparing to jump…
It jumped! A loud sound of wind moving branches spooked the lice so much, it couldn’t help but do so. Vary, it scuttled away, deeper into the crevice between the bark… but after looking around, and seeing nothing it once again resumed its nap.
The snake was still unnoticed, cleverly hiding itself instead of attacking at the last moment, hanging under the branch its target was on. It silently moved, trying to get back on top…
But the branch moved! It did not understand what was happening, as it was falling towards sharp roots near the base…
It tried its best to dodge, managing to save its vital organs, but the wood still pierced its tail. The wound will most likely be fatal, it hissed, confused, not understanding what happened!
Ulukeil didn’t want to interfere this much, but he was still young and rash, merely a thousand years old! He would stop after this time. Surely. Fortunately his teacher was busy with his mystical stuff, no one would see… especially if he hid the corpse…
Except the snake was no longer there! It snuck away! This little…
“Stop!” - no longer whisper of leaves but a rumble of broken twigs.
“_______________” The ancient tree shouted, the message also lost. It was something important, but he doesn’t know what, even this memory starting to be full of holes.
He remembers the teacher feeding the snake one of Ulukeils healing fruits. A mistake! It should have died there!
And he remembers the look that the snake gave to them as it slithered away, still hurt. The look of fear, of pain, and humiliation.
“Theee buuuurning. The buuuuurniiing!” Ulukeils leaves no longer their old color, now red with blood! With fire! With anger!
Two thousand years have passed and the event a distant memory. The forest now much smaller, most of the old area still scorched desert due to the descent of the son of sun!
It was much bigger, much stronger, its whole body sharper and more magical! And yet he recognised it immediately when it came. “I wish to eat the fruit that I ate when I was but a snakeling” it said. “And you were the one that grew it”
But Ulukeil grew as well! He was the mightiest treant from those that survived (and very few of them did). His deep roots (that he dug to be able to see what the underground inhabitants do, and how they live) survived, and he regrew from them, mightier and sturdier than before! And he saw no reason to share.. But yes, maybe it was wise to give it one of its fruits. For the sake of peace.. He still disliked snakes, but the age mellowed his feelings out.... But then he remembered how he was forced to share his fruit before.
“No,” he replied. Why should he bow his head?
“I am Ulukeil, the shepherd of this jungle, the tree that survived the sunfall, all that live in this jungle listen to me, or leave.”
After all its treants plans that allowed the flora to grow back so fast! Their work in planting and tending that was restoring jungles former glory! And their might, that they were blessed with, final proof of their right! Indeed, was he not allowed a bit of selfishness for his work for the greater good?!
How wrong he was!
“I am not named, for snakes need no names. I listen to no one, as I didn’t listen before, and I take what I want. From you I shall take your pride! And from your corpse, your fruits!”
He lost. The pain, even the cleansing flame of soul ignition could not make him forget, still with him. His trunk broken apart, his roots pulled out, his crown burned. His tree friends that tried to help- burned in front of him. Those animals that lived inside, his flesh, eaten. His consciousness drifting between the shards of hist split apart body, charred by the magical flames making fool of his sunfall survivor title!
The only thing he managed to do, after even using the blasphemous soul ignition.. Was to hide a single fruit. Hide! A single one! The mighty treant!
With the last of his strength he put all his soul inside it, all he had remaining, leaving his survival to fate.
The same fate that led a travelling bird to soon fly down, in search of food, just next to its charred body.
He swore revenge. He forgot nearly everything… so now he repeated this story every day. To never forget. To make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Yeees, thaaatss three stooory… I stiiiil reeemeeembeeeer…”
The running emotions caused his crown to no longer be just red with leaves, but to literally burn up! The bark spilled black oil from within the tree! The branches and roots wiggling aggressively!
So aggressively that one of the snake heads fell off from their spot on its shoulder. Yes, in his madness, he adorned his body with the corpses of his victims. Talking to them, humiliating their memory! And enjoying it!
But it was just! A necessary step to avoid the past mistakes! Indeed, a careful management of the forest is needed, as his teacher said! Very careful management of pests, they can not be let to spread!
And as he walked up, towards the mountains, the skull rolled down.
And rolled, and rolled, until it hit a rock wall of a cave. It’s empty eyes looked over the mute forest, it’s orchestra of dying and living, and struggling, now shorter a few hissers here and there. The moon still rose, and set, and then the sun, as always followed, and left, seemingly unconcerned.
The life continued seemingly unchanged for nearly all, even for the small insect coming to the severed head, wanting to feed on the rotten meat.
And as usual , its life suddenly ended. No one cared.
And in one of those heads, hidden inside a dead skull was a young snakeling - the very same snakeling, now old, recalling this story to the taker.