Chapter One - Nausicca

Once again the streams and rivers began to break through the crust of ice covering them, the springs gurgling forth to the earth above, the life of nature came back in full force, and the pain of the world lifted.

The clouds grew more pleasant and less threatening, the skies more blue, a light blue, one of summer—not the dark clouds and skies of an omnipresent winter—and the pain of the air lessened.

New life began, sprouting up from the ashes of cold days, into the crisp spring air, and dead leaves from the last autumn crunched under the boot of a man—the care-taker of the forest.

The man knelt down before the growing stem of a crocus, and smiled, the wrinkles on his face curling to the shape of his mouth. "You grow big and strong, you hear?" he spoke to it, as though it would answer back, his calm voice echoing through the wood.

Then, he touches the stem, raising his finger up, and the flower grew, blossoming into a beautiful purple and white crocus. "You'll be the most beautiful of them all," and then more stems appeared around it, forming a delicate circle of color in the clearing between the two elm trees.

He walked over to a giant birch before him, its wretched branches sprouting buds of its own. "I'm getting old, e lanasor. Too old." Wind blew through the branches, making a scratchy sound on the air, and the old man understood it.

As have I, Nausicca. I've seen far too many winters.

"But a summer is arriving."

You can feel it as well as I. The next winter will tear me limb from limb, scatter me throughout our wood.

"And it won't be wind."

I can feel it as well, Nausicca. The forces of men are breaching the edges of the wood. We will soon. Our empire is losing its stability.

"Every empire loses its stability at some point." Nausicca walked over to the side of the birch and grabbed a hold of the lowest branch, hoisting himself up again and again to the very top of the tree.

The sunrise burned red on the horizon. For many days passed it has been the like. It was not the sun that burned so bright. "What would a man need wood for at this day in age?"

I do not know, but the fear of its awareness to me turns my bark gray.

There was a long silence, during which time Nausicca did naught but gaze off into what he hated so much, so much destruction. The world was coming to an end. There was no way to stop that which was destined to come.

"The forest hates me, e lanasor. Tara'g fari o sol ae," he spoke in the forest's tongue. 'My time is near.'

The birch's wood fell silent, the wind stopped. Clearly it shuddered to hear the words that is care-taker spoke just then. 'Tara'g fari o sol ae.' 'My time is near.'

Nausicca spoke again. "I will not be able to defend life against what comes. I am not strong anymore, not since I lost Aental. My strength has gone with her. I cannot find her."

There is nothing that you can do to make the hatred stop. There is nothing that any of us in the wood can do to prevent it. The elms shudder with fear, they would kill themselves before holding off while someone else fights. The pines are worse, they will fight, but they will not protect. Everything else in the wood could fall, but the last thing to stand would be the pinewood off to the east.

It will happen. Our empire must fall. More silence. Your empire must fall.

"I only wish that I could find it within me that the forest hates so much. I will die for the forest; I will fight this red dragon to the south." He turned his eyes to the forest below him. "However, I will not win through to victory, no matter how hard I try."

You were a great ruler, Nausicca.

"I was a tyrant!" he spat. "I gave all that I could, but I cared only for you and for Aental. Nothing more."

You cared for us all, Nausicca. I know you did. Even if you deny it. You would not have survived for so long.

"Three hundred years, e lanasor. I cannot go on any further."

But you will fight for us?

Tears formed in the corners of his eyes. "I will die for you."

He climbed back down from the twisted nest of branches in which he sat in the birch and began to walk away when his eyes shot to the south. He heard another tree fall, crashing through to the floor. There is too much pain, he thought. Come soon, Aaralyn. Please… come soon. I cannot fight without you.