18.2 Oak
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"What do we know so far?" I asked. We sat in the center of a large room of what looked like a library. The books that littered the ground were barely recognizable now. After being waterlogged for hundreds of years, it made sense. Several people I had come to trust, and some I still didn't know well sat around the table.

"The Saurians are mobilizing and on their way to the island. They will only have a small army here in a day or so," said Srak.

I nodded and continued looking around the faces in the group.

"The Gnomes are on the island already. They're camped near the east side of town," said Porthos.

"The Elves are working on mobilizing," said Tallesia. "Though we are a more segregated people, controlling several mountain ranges and plains. We are working on spreading the word and getting all of the groups to join together, but it's a slow process."

"Same goes for the Beastfolk," said a gorilla Beastfolk. I recognized him from when we first came back to the colony. "Lobo somehow managed to get a ride through the teleporter room, and I'd imagine he is part of the resistance."

That was not good. I would have to follow up on that to keep him from giving away any details about the Gnomes.

"Do we have any word on the Avians, Dwarves, or Humans?" I asked. I looked around for the different representatives I came to know through the colony. Of the three, Kethral was the only one there.

"The Avians have seen the threat and were fairly easy to convince. They are also on their way. We should start seeing the first of them tomorrow, though I'm not sure how helpful we'll be against a monster like that."

Tibil was absent from the meeting. I had heard that he died holding up a boulder far too large for his magic to lift. It bought time for the colonists with him, enough time for them to escape. Tibil wasn't so lucky though.

Instead, Cairn was there. "I spoke to the Dwarves myself. They know about you and what you've done for them. They are willing to help. They'll be here in a week by the looks of it."

A week? That was too long. This monster could leave the island by then. And at that point, we'd be chasing it through a trail of rubble. Once it left, the destruction would begin.

"Okay," I said.

I sighed, not sure of how to feel about the news. I looked for a Human at the table. Rodrigo was off speaking with the Human leaders. Geralt was at the meeting in his place. "We do not yet have word from the Humans. Last I knew, they were conflicted since the person that made all of this happen was a Human. Rodrigo has his work cut out for him. I plan to speak to my father tomorrow to see if he can aid in the cause."

"Thank you," I said. "And what news do we have of the monster?"

"It's moving slowly at the moment, but it's growing stronger by the day. We need to attack soon if we're going to stop it." A white cockatiel Avian spoke. He had been in Kricoo's group. I think his name was Arayoo.

"How about the location? Is Malcolm still out there?"

"Yes, Malcolm has been tracking it on his dragon. He goes in a few times a day to try and use mind magic on the creature, but so far it has proved ineffective. If we do face the monster, there is a good chance that we will have to confront Malcolm and his dragon as well."

His dragon that couldn't breathe fire anymore I thought, feeling a tad proud of myself.

"I wouldn't expect any less," I said. "Let's keep trying to convince as many races as we can. I don't think we have long until we're forced to act. We'll need all the help we can get."

The others nodded and we broke from the meeting. Tigala and Lolan joined me as we entered the streets of Birdsbane. There were people on stretchers outside of some kind of ruined church building. Cavel worked alongside the Human apothecary treating patients.

We headed back to the Gnome building we were calling our house. It wasn't a great place to sleep, but I at least preferred it because it was one more memory with Zef that I could cling to.

I processed the meeting silently as we walked. As good as it was to have so many people joining the cause to take down the monster, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be enough. That thing was a world-ending threat the first time it came to power. And sure, it was submerged in the ocean for hundreds of years, but we couldn't assume it was any weaker.

"What's wrong?" asked Tigala.

"We still don't have enough," I said.

"People? The races are assembling to attack it. This will be the biggest combined effort in our lifetimes."

"Right, but it's still not enough. You saw that thing. It's going to take more than a few armies."

"So what do we do?" asked Lolan.

"I have an idea, but you're probably not going to like it."

"What is it?" said Tigala with a skeptical tone.

"Remember that forest of wandering trees?"I said.

"Yes," said TIgala. "They forced you to jump off a cliff the last time you ran into them."

"Yeah, they did. But before that, I got the sense that I might be able to convince them with more time."

"How? I heard they wanted you dead for creating them. It sounds like you're the last person that should talk to them."

"I think I'm the only person. They see everyone else as enemies, people willing to cut them down for their own gain. Some were angry at me, but others were open to it. Maybe if I show my face again after jumping to my death, they'll be less likely to try and kill me again."

"You have some death wish. Why do all of your plans have to be built around you potentially sacrificing yourself?" asked Tigala. Her tone was angrier now.

"It's not intentional. We need more people though. We can't take that monster on our own, and unfortunately, that means we need to convince people that would normally kill us."

"It doesn't always have to be you," said TIgala.

"It doesn't," I said. "But this one does. They know me. I survived them twice already. I'm the one that created them. I have the best chance of succeeding. Besides, I feel like I need to atone for my people. Even if they didn't come up with the plague, they're the ones who used it."

"You are not your people, Kaia," said Tigala. Her forehead creased in distress. "You've already done more than enough to atone for your people. They did a bad thing, so have all of us. Everything we're trying to do is move forward from the hurt of the past. We need to continue on like none of that happened."

"No," I said. "I don't want to forget. I wish we could, but that's not how it works. No matter what I do, your parents are still going to be dead because of the Treek plague. Lolan. Your parents will still be dead because of Wikith. Brendell will have trauma from the brainwashing for the rest of his life. We can't forget, because forgetting would be allowing it to happen again. What we need to do—what I need to do—is learn from the mistakes of my people. We need to learn from our mistakes, and figure out how to live with each other."

Tigala looked at me but she didn't speak. I looked to Lolan, he had a similar reaction.

"Fine," said Tigala. "But just because we can't forget our mistakes doesn't mean you have to make up for the whole Treek race."

"Yeah, maybe not. But there are so few of us left to do it. And I don't see anyone else stepping up."

"Do not sacrifice yourself for this," Tigala said through clenched teeth. She was angry. I thought about it and remembered the story she told me about her sister, the day she lost that arm. It was because her sister sacrificed herself to take out the Gnomes. No wonder she was so adamant.

It's not that I was planning on sacrificing myself for everyone else. I didn't want to die. I had no clue how this was going to play out. But I had lost my own race. I didn't have my own people. And I couldn't sit around and let this kind of thing keep happening. If dying meant I could save children from being orphans and families from being torn apart, then maybe it was worth it. But that was a heavy thought to have, and not one Tigala would want to hear.

"Okay," I said. "I'll do my best. But I'm going to need help if I'm going to survive this."

"Yeah," said Tigala. "I'm coming."

"I'll do what I can too," said Lolan. "Waiting around here is just making me anxious about Brendell."

"Should we bring anyone else?" I asked.

As if I summoned him, at that moment I heard a voice behind me. "I'd like to join."

I turned to see the old Treek from the crater walking toward me with his elk companion. "Palem? I thought you left with Kadero."

"I did," he said. "But I've been thinking about what you said. I want to survive. I want to protect the Treeks. And honestly being here is a bit terrifying." He winced as he gave a slight smile to Tigala who towered above both of us. "But you're going to need all of the help you can get against that monster. We need each other."

I didn't know what to say. I thought I had lost any connections I had with the Treeks. It was such a relief to see him. Instantly, I felt a weight lifted off of me. As much as I loved Tigala and Lolan, and the other friends we had made, they still weren't my people. There were things about me that they would never get, but having another Treek around was what I had been hoping for since I was a kid. It was why I came to Daegal in the first place.

"We're glad to have the help," I said. I looked at the others. "This is Palem. He knew the village I was born in."

"Hi," said Tigala.

"Gald yo have you," said Lolan.

"Glad to help," said Palem still looking a bit out of his element. "Oh, and this is Bubba." He pointed to the elk that accompanied him, chewing on a small branch.

"Is bubba any good in a fight? Or just for transport?" asked Tigala.

"He's not great against a magic-user, but he can be pretty intimidating when he needs to be," said Palem.

Tigala nodded.

"Where are we going by the way? I think I missed that part," said Palem.

"Oh, right," I said. "We're going to see if the trees that I animated can help us fight.'

His eyes widened as he processed the thought. "Well, that will surely be interesting."

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J. C. Weston, Novagirl93, Joshua Gore

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