Mankind's careless consumption of the world's resources has led to a bleak future world. The sky is black and the air almost unfit for breathing. The fossil fuel supplies have been exhausted. Rivers flow sluggishly, weighed down with pollution and chemicals. Drinking water is more valuable than gold. Not even the floor of the ocean has escaped the devastation. The list of extinct species is growing by the hour. Perhaps most devastating of all, trees have become extinct. They have all been cut down long ago for lumber and fuel.
Too late, the human race realizes its dilemma. For while water and air can be filtered, and animals can be carefully tended and nursed back to healthy numbers, there is no way to bring back the trees. The world despairs until an enterprising young geneticist comes up with a solution.
He will create new trees. Trees that will soar to unbelievable heights and breathe in the pollution, leaving clean and fresh air. Trees that will grow in the water to drink in the chemicals and let pure water flow away. Huge trees, growing hollow to shelter colonies of animals, even humans.
Because, if humankind does not depend on the trees for their very survival, will they not repeat their mistake and kill the trees once again? A wonderful idea, say his superiors. A fabulous idea. Except for the humankind depending on the trees part. Humankind doesn't like to depend on anything. We have a better idea, they say. While you're tinkering with genes, create a race of humanoids. One that will be uniquely suited for life in the trees, and you can make them completely dependent on these big plants. Surely, they reason, we won't cut down the trees if we know there's a sentient race that will die out if we do? No, I don't think so, he says, I mean it didn't stop us the first time did it? Screw you, they say, and the discussion quickly becomes unfit for polite society.
Unfortunately, the superiors win out. Against his better judgement, the geneticist, after finishing his first seedlings and transplanting them to a careful test garden, begins work on modifying human genes. This new race will be stronger, more agile. They will have wings, dragonlike wings, to assist with gliding between trees, for the human body is unsuited for true flight. They will also have pointed ears, for the geneticist is a bit of a dreamer and can't keep thoughts of elves and other fantastical beings out of his head.
After years of work, two of these winged-elf children are born, a male and a female. He names the girl Hope and the boy Tree. They grow up, fall in love, and have children of their own. The winged-elves multiply, living and raising families in the new forests that are spreading over the earth's surface. As the trees repair the damage to the planet once known as Earth, it is almost as though the world is reborn, so it is renamed accordingly. Treeworld.
There is one problem the humans hadn't foreseen. After several hundred years, it becomes apparent that the winged-elves are superior to the humans. The only advantage the humans have is their superior numbers, and that gap is fast closing. The humans are afraid that the gentle winged-elves will realize this and try to dominate the humans. So the humans take the predictable route. They build themselves fortresses; armored palaces of steel; inverted prisons designed not to keep the humans in but to keep the winged-elves out. From these strongholds, the humans send out armies, crushing the winged-elves in an iron grasp and enslaving the peaceful race. Humans once again have unchallenged dominion over the entire world, ruling from their iron castles into which no winged-elf may come save the household slaves, and those are watched carefully.
Centuries pass, and the human empire remains unchallenged. For the most part, the older winged-elves are content to farm and work for the humans. Only when the human soldiers feel the winged-elves are getting too comfortable do they officially demonstrate their power, unless the officers are feeling bored. In that case any convenient winged-elf will be beaten, tortured, and abused, just for sport. Comfortable as enslavement may be for the most part, it is still enslavement, and many of the younger ones are beginning to resent it bitterly.
Fortunately, the geneticist, original creator of the winged-elves, had foreseen something of this kind, knowing how humanity would never be content unless they could dominate every living thing. He built into the genetic code of the winged-elves something that, a thousand years after the race was created, would surface. Even to his dying day, he never knew how he managed this impossible task; he sometimes says it came to him in a dream, at other times maintains that the spirit of a winged-elf came to him and instructed him how to do this. Somehow, he found, a winged-elf could be made so that they could manipulate their environment through the dead wood of the trees, creating fire, reading minds, and wielding light and darkness on a whim, as well as, he suspected, many other things. This was what he programmed into their DNA, and told Hope and Tree: "Ten hundred years from the First Year of the Winged Ones, when the Wingless Ones see fit to do what they please with your noble race, five shall be born who will free you from the tyranny of the treekillers. You shall know these saviors by their wings; rather than the color of the black aireater leaves as yours, the wings of the saviors shall be bright with the rainbow. So speaks the creator of the First Winged Ones."
This day marks a full millennium passed since the birth of Hope and Tree. The "prophecy" has been passed by word of mouth from generation to generation, and though it has been largely discarded as fiction, some bright young winged-elves are starting to count up the years and watch the wings of the newborns anxiously. What neither the geneticist or the winged-elves counted on was mutation.
Two of the "promised ones" were born a generation too early. One of them is the wrong species. One of them is a cripple. Only one was born at the right time to the right species with healthy wings.
Clearly, they're going to have to work hard to get the support of the people they need to save.