-1Chapter 3

"Excuse me, Adam there is a call for you. It is from a boarding school, they say they must speak to you about your son." Adam who had been in the chapel praying mentally cursed his daughter. What trouble had that sinful child gotten into now?

"Yes thank you." Adam said walking over to take the phone from another priest who worked at the chapel. "Hello?" He spoke into the phone that was attached to the wall just by the doors of the chapel. The man on the other side of the line then spoke.

"Hello, I am Mr. Rickman the principle at the school your son attends. As you know your son has problems with the other boys bullying him. Well it came to our attention that your son has been missing all of his classes for a week now. Did you pull him out to go on vacation with you or something?" Adam stood silent for a moment, genuine concern flooded him.

"No, me and my d- son havent been on speaking terms lately. I don't know where he went. Why was I not contacted sooner?"

"Sir, please calm down, your son was supposed to sign out when he planned to go away for a while. Our records have no such note of him leaving."

"Alert the police, he is missing! Do something!" Adam said then hung up the phone and leaning against the wall slid down to sit on the ground putting his head in his hands.

He wept, he had for so long hated his daughter for living while her mother died. He had blamed everything on her, and cursed her for being a girl. Yet even though he had become so angry she still tried to make him happy, by dressing and acting as a boy. Sakuya had done so much to try and earn Adam's acceptance, but he had been spiteful and held hatred for not being able to save his wife. Though he knew the method of magic he was taught by the centaur he found that he was unable to use it, on either side of the Tree Line. He clearly recalled the centaur saying that one had to have pure enough blood to do more powerful magic. He also recalled the promise the centaur made that if he or any of his kin crossed the Tree Line again that the centaur would personally kill them. 'Promises be damned I am going to cross into their world again and find someone who can find her. Whatever the cost.' Standing up Adam left the chapel and made his way towards the Tree Line.

On the way he stopped at a popular shop that sold polished stones. Making his way to the back where there was a counter covered with shaped stones of higher value he picked out a selection of sapphires, rubies, and amethyst. Make sure that each stone had no visible imperfections he purchased the selection. Then tucking the bag inside his pants pocket was on his way again. Now he smiled to himself, he had bargaining chips.

After crossing through the woods that seemed much darker than they had been when Adam had first crossed he came to the Tree Line. Before he could take a step over the line he was hit with a stabbing pain in the left shoulder. Staggering backwards he placed his hand around the shaft of an arrow that protruded from the shoulder, blood welled up around the shaft but Adam was smart enough not to pull out the arrow for he would bleed much faster then. If the arrow wasn't poisoned he would be in luck. From the trees walked the centaur a tall well muscled creature. Who's hooves were wide for optimal balance of the thick legs that supported a horse like body and the resemblance of a human torso. Though the centaur was far more angular and had a heavy brow. His chestnut fur gleamed in the gloom of the dark woods. The hair on his head fell back behind his shoulders in a thick mane of slightly darker chestnut color than the rest of his body. He held a tall longbow which was taller than Adam, another arrow set against the string and ready to be fired.

"Cersem, just who I was looking for." Adam said in a challenging voice despite his wounded shoulder throbbing with pain.

"Adam do you not recall the oath you made? Or do you now wish for death?" Cersem said in a challenging voice. The entire conversation continued in the same challenging tones.

"Those spells you taught me never worked, as I see it that means you broke your part of the oath first. So it does not now apply to me."

"Then you are a fool Adam of the Mutts. I told you so many years ago that the spells would only work if you had enough magic in your blood to do them. You are not pure enough. No human is."

"I did not come here to dwell on the past. I have come for your help and will not leave without your word that I will get it." Adam knew that centaurs were always on a topic of dominancy and currently Adam had to gain dominancy of the situation before he could hope to get Cersem's help. Though it was debatable that the Centaur owed him.

"You think you can order me mutt? I see no reason to aid you, nor do I see any reason listen to your demands. I am not the one with an arrow stuck in me." Cersem said making his point by slightly raising his bow.

"I never suggested that you help me for free. I have a way to pay you Cersem." Adam said putting his hand in his pocket he pulled out one of the larger stones he bought. It was a blood ruby cut to perfection. The stone was clear though a deep color. Cersem looked at the stone and said.

"One stone is not enough to tempt me. Pay in full now, and I will see what I can do to help you." Cersem said with an inward smile, if Adam did give him all the stones now he would simply take them and not do a thing to help the human.

"No, I'll give you this now, with a promise of more to come when you have helped me to your fullest." Cersem flicked his tail in annoyance, he had clearly taught the human the ways of the Stri-anaduren to well. The stones were valuable and Cersem was at a shortage, he saw no option but to accept Adam's offer.

"What is it that you need from me?" Adam smiled and handing over the ruby to Cersem began.

"First, heal my shoulder. Then I need your help finding someone, My daughter has gone missing. I don't know if she has simply run away or has been taken. I want you to find her and bring her back to me." Adam said with a gasp of pain as Cersem pulled the arrow from his shoulder none to kindly. Placing a hand over the wound Cersem began to heal it with magic, as he did so he spoke glancing down at Adam's face.

"The daughter you found here at the Tree Line? You do realize she was probably a changeling and has gone back to whatever race she is. I advised you never to take the child. Changelings only ever cause trouble-"

"She is not a changeling. I had her checked out by a doctor and she is human. Though her being among the Stri-anaduren is a possibility."

"I do not understand you Adam. Why do you care so much for a child that is not even your own kin?"

"Humans are loving, and grow attached easily. It is one of the things that we are as 'mutts'." Cersem snorted in amusement, it was like Adam had forgotten that humans and other Stri-anaduren are not so different in the aspects of attachment and parental love. Though some Stri-anaduren did go about those things differently it was all generally the same. Removing his hand from Adam's shoulder to reveal a spot of skin where it was a scar pink color, the former harbor of the arrow.

Adam looked at his shoulder then sighed, he would never get over the strange itching feeling that was felt when magic was being performed around him. It was the same feeling that one got when they were being irritated by a fly. Cersem turned away from Adam and walked off at an easy pace and said over his shoulder.

"Come back in a fortnight and if your 'daughter' is to be found I will have her with me. You will pay me regardless of the outcome." Then Cersem was gone vanishing as he crossed the Tree Line. Adam gave another sigh, he hoped that in a fortnight, if the police had not found her, Cersem will have. Though considering that he was not sure it would be the best thing if Cersem did find Sakuya. Even though Adam had assured Cersem that Sakuya was a human child he himself was not actually sure. When he had found her as a baby at the Tree Line returning from a visit with Cersem she certainly held an air of magic. When he had found her she was only a few days old a week at most. She bore no clothing but had a symbol on the middle of her back. It stretched across her back and slightly wrapped around her back on to her sides. Adam had been able to read the Stri-anaduren script back then and though he was fluent he could not make out what the entire symbol meant. What he was able to get out of it was the name Sakuya. So that is what he called the baby girl when he brought her home to his wife, who was unable to have children. She immediately loved Sakuya dismissing Adam's concern for the mark on her back. Within a few days the mark began to fade, then it was gone entirely. Adam had always wondered the meaning of the mark, though unable to search for answers after Cersem destroyed the only copy of the mark Adam had drawn. Adam had originally gone to Cersem with the copy of the mark hoping to find answers to its meaning. Though Cersem did not know what the symbol meant he knew what type of Stri-anaduren script it was. When Adam inquired where he could find a Stri-anaduren who could tell him Cersem shredded the paper. 'You are safer not knowing, and even more so not having a copy of that mark. If it has truly faded from the child's skin then you need not worry about it. She is pure.' Was what Cersem had told Adam.

Though there was nothing Adam could now do to help Sakuya, he wandered back towards civilization and home. In a fortnight he would return to the Tree Line, but staying there any longer would risk being found by a different guard and actually killed. Then he would be unable to help Sakuya at all. He vowed that once he had Sakuya back he would give up his life at the chapel and find a different job. Even if it was flipping burgers, he would do it to bring his shattered family back together. Never before had he thought about how Sakuya felt when she tried to gain his acceptance but nothing she did was good enough. Now having lost her he realized that he had been to hard on her. That his misplaced anger had driven her away from him, and now that he would have to prove himself to her, before she would trust him again.

Cersem walked across the Tree Line and let out a deep sigh. He was not sure what had happened to the cursed child but he was sure that she was among the Stri-anaduren. The only question was, which race? Holding out the ruby Adam had given him in the up front payment he lined it up with the sun and gazed into its crimson depths. The stone was human cut, but that did not make it of poor quality. Humans were notorious for taking anything and everything they could, it was simply in their nature. Though that was not why Cersem held the stone up to the sun, he had no way of finding the child without scrying for her. He focused not on his last memory of the child but on the symbol that Adam had shown him when he first found the child. The symbol that had been on her back, that marked her as tainted. The fact that it had faded did not make the child pure, it only hid her the truth about her. Though it was not visible the symbol would still be there.

It was not long until within the ruby an image shimmered into focus of the heart tree. The tree inhabitant by the ruling dryade of the forest, Iori. Due to a protection spell around the tree he was unable to get a more precise focus on where the child was, but if he was being shown Iori's tree that was a good place to start looking.

Pocketing the ruby Cersem made his way to the heart tree which was an oak older than any other tree in the entire forest. Once there he looked up to the balcony high above the ground. The area thrummed with magic, more than was normal for a dryade to be putting out.

"Dryade Iori, I Cersem seek an audience." He called up. Though Cersem could run over a hundred yards in a matter of seconds, stairs were a different matter entirely. His hooves were to big to fit on to the small steep steps. Not to mention the stairs were not wide enough for him to climb. Iori would have to come down to him. He waited for a few minutes and called out the same formal sentence again.

"She isn't going to answer you." A nymph with pale green skin and tall grass growing as hair said to him. Cersem turned to look at her, the nymph was naked in a sense, she had no breasts. The nymphs body was without flaw, she had no belly button because she was born from nature not from another Stri-anaduren. Her eyes were black as a starless sky, and when she spoke sharp iridescent white teeth showed. Her ears were long and pointed not like that of an elf but more of a spike on each side of her head with a web of skin attached to it that hung down to protect gills when she was out of the water. Though from the coloration of her skin in slightly different shades of green on her arms and legs. It was evident that she belonged to a pond somewhere nearby. The nymph sat on a low hanging branch of another tree. Her webbed feet swinging back and forth she continued to speak. "She had been up there for a few days now, hasn't moved from her spot at the top of her tree. She is even letting her crown of branches grow, so whoever she is summoning it is important."

"What would cause her to give up the ability to move freely?" Cersem asked knowing that all dryads dreaded letting their crown of branches grown for it was near impossible for them to wander the forest after that.

"I bet its all the magic around here. Were you drawn by it too? I sure want to know who else is putting out so much magic within that tree. Do you think someone was able to claim that magic sword in there?" The nymph said with a contented sigh, Cersem could hardly argue with the nymph so much magic being released allowed others to absorb some of that magic. It also acted as a beacon to all, it urged any Stri-anaduren who were close enough to feel its pull to come to that location. A simple way to put it was that every Stri-anaduren was like a candle in a room, together they lit the room alright, and there was no focal point. With this much magic being released it was like adding a torch to that room, a focal point was them formed and all attention was drawn to the torch.

"Couldn't you go up there and find out what is going on?" Cersem asked wondering why the nymph was there if not for Iori's aid.

"Hmm, no. I am just here to absorb what magic I can. I plan on trading spells for stones to keep in my pond. I had to trade most of mine to get a dead bird pulled from my pond and have it cleansed." The nymph explained, Cersem nodded understanding the cost of a cleansing spell. Long ago he had to get some fields cleansed from human chemicals for his flocks to be able to feed. The nymph more than likely had given extra stones to ensure that whoever was performing the cleansing spell did a good job. If they didn't it was the nymphs life at risk.

"Would you go and see who is up there? If you come back with good information I can give you compensation." Cersem said, willing to give up his newly acquired ruby to be on his way soon. With so much magic in the area less than savory Stri-anaduren were guaranteed to be attracted to the area. The nymph regarded him for a moment trying to determine if he would keep his word or not. She shrugged and went up the steep steps to the balcony above. Cersem waited for about three minutes saw the nymph running down the steps with a mischievous smile on her face. Her dark eyes gleamed with new found knowledge. She stopped in front of Cersem, the nymph only stood as high as his knees. She was as tall as a human child but older than any human could possibly be.

"Prove you can pay for what I have to say." She chimed before giving him any information. Cersem pulled the ruby out of his belt pouch and held it up for the nymph to see. "Ah! Good compensation. Here it is, at the very top of the tree is Iori doing her summoning. But inside the tree on the second floor in a hidden room. I found the other source of magic. It is a human girl! She is dressed like a human boy would be though, her hair is short but I was certain of what I saw. It was most definitely a girl. She is bound to the tree next to that magic sword by the same branches. Some of the branches are even under her skin. The human has magic, a lot of it too, only a fraction of what you can feel is actually from Iori. The forest has claimed the magical human!" The nymph said ending with a laughter that was like bird song. Cersem nodded and handed over the ruby. It was no mistaking who the girl was, Adam would not be pleased to find that his 'daughter' was claimed by the forest.

Cersem thanked the nymph then turned and left spying more Stri-anaduren who hung around in the trees and bushes. There was also a large black furred creature skulking in the shadows, a Duroth. Duroth were a Stri-anaduren of the night. Their bodies a mix of a wolf and lion they were the worst predator in the forest. Their presence in the day meant that Stri-anaduren from outside the forest would be attracted to the magic. Duroth lived and hunted in packs so having seen one Cersem knew to be on his guard for others. Though in the day was the safest time to encounter one it was still like offering your hand to a starved bear, better to just not risk it. So instead of taking a faster rout to his herd through dense forest Cersem opted for a longer and considerably better lit path. This was the better of the plans since Duroth could only see movement in shadows during the day. During the night they could see with surprising detail.

Though Iori spent her time and energy on the beacon for the Elder Dryade she remained aware of what was going on around her. In the woods around her home many Stri-anaduren were gathering. The recent appearance of a pack of Duroth confirmed her suspicion that the magic would attract Stri-anaduren from outside her forest. The elder had picked up her beacon and was making his way towards her location. To Iori's delight he was moving faster than he would normally, apparently sensing the urgency of her beacon. At the rate that the elder was moving he was due to arrive in about a week. Iori only hoped that he arrived before foreign Stri-anaduren. 'At least when he gets here I should have a full crown. That will be painful to get rid of afterwards.' Iori thought. It had only been two days since she had sent out the beacon and was forced to sap magic from the human boy inside her tree.

One week later….

The signs of the elder dryade was evident when the fall forest became lush as it would be in spring. Trees and bushes bore fruit once again even though they were out of season. The forest around Iori's tree was like a gathering of Stri-anaduren. Many came from other places outside her forest, they were not used to the bountiful forest that they now resided. Iori knew many of them would stay, some she hoped would leave. The forest did not need any more predators, the Duroth pack was enough. Though she again feared that her peaceful forest would soon become home to unsavory characters who roamed the forest in the day.

Iori had stopped her beacon to find a half grown crown on her head. The branches were leafing out and had budding flowers just starting to open. As she moved about her tree she found that she could not move her head quickly, that her movement was restricted by her crown she did find a plus that her tree had adapted to accommodate her crown. The ceiling in each room had raised itself and the branches moved so Iori could move about the tree without getting stuck in it.

Iori stood at the top of the stairs of her tree looking down to the crowd of Stri-anaduren parting for the Elder Dryade. He was almost as old as Aurora the very first dryade. His age evident by the deep green eyes that studied everything they saw. He had thick branches growing out of his shoulders and back, A beard of wispy green moss that covered most of his chest. His crown of branches was cut short and restricted from growing with caps of gold that was nailed through at the base. He had a strap across his chest with a number of objects tied to it. A coconut that had a small hole in it where the tip of a green leaf could be seen. His tree, it was well known that for an Elder Dryade to be able to move around like they did they had to take their tree with them. Though they were also forced to keep their trees as saplings to retain their mobility. Around the rest of the belt were small bags marked with different types of medicine. Each had to be taken in the form of tea but were more effective than human medicine and had no side effects like human medicine did.

When the Elder Dryade reached Iori she dropped into a kneeling bow to be greeted by an extended hand from the Elder Dryade. It was a sign of equality, one that no Stri-anaduren of purer blood gave to those of lesser blood. She rose hesitantly and waited for him to speak to her.

"I am called Thero'c, why have you summoned me Iori Guardian of the sword?" His voice was dry and calm. Iori replied in a respectful tone.

"There is a matter about the sword that I would show you. Please follow me." Iori then turned her back to Thero'c and entered her tree leading him to the room that held the sword and human boy. When she stepped aside for Thero'c to see his eyes widened and his mouth hung agape for a moment. The human was now not only bound by the branches but many of the branches dug under her skin. Moss and leafing vines grew on her skin, she was claimed by the spirit of the forest. The spirit of the forest was a collective mind of a bit of the soul of everything alive in the forest. Once someone took permanent residence in the forest the spirit of the forest stole a part of their soul. The person would be unaware of the theft but it gave the spirit of the forest ultimate control. The dryade and other Stri-anaduren were merely the shepherds of the forest. Tending to its every needs, but when the spirit of the forest decided to claim a person Stri-anaduren or human mattered not. The spirit would stop at nothing to get what it wanted.

Cautiously he moved forward to touch the human held in the grasp of the tree. When his finger tips came within an inch of the human and the sword a branch that had been rooted under the humans skin ripped free and lashed out at Thero'c. He pulled his hand back quickly, the branch curled around the human again, barbs visible along the sides of its slender length. The entire branch was a deep red color as if filled with blood from the human.

"How interesting, because of the human this part of the tree has turned wild. Yet this human should be at The Gateway she posses to much magic to have gone so long unnoticed." Thero'c said mostly to himself, then turning to face Iori continued speaking to her now. "Iori you are here by charged with this humans life. When you tree releases her you are to teach her the ways of Stri-anaduren, if she turns out to be the next wielder of the sword then you are to teach her of the swords past and the ways of the sword." Iori opened her mouth to object but Thero'c held a hand up and said. "This is not up for debate. I must go now to a dryad who's tree is damaged by human interference. Do not disappoint us Iori." With that Thero'c left Iori standing in the room with the human who Iori now knew was actually a girl.

"I'll be damned if I am going to let some human turn my tree wild." Iori said reaching out to grab the girls arm and pull her from the tree. When branches pulled free of the girl and wrapped around Iori's arm as they contracted painfully tight blood oozed out of the barbs that had grown from the branches.

"You are not a wild tree. Will you abandon me for a human who would chop you to fire wood?" Iori challenged her tree gritting her teeth in pain. The branches loosened and wrapped around the girl again, this time more protectively. From the tree came the rasping voice of a spirit. Iori knew better than to think it was a random spirit, the voice belonged to the spirit of the forest.

"This one belongs to me…" Iori glared at the invisible spirit.

"You can not take my tree from me, take the human but leave my tree to me."

"No interest in your tree…wait two years…then take your tree back, difficult the soul of this human is to take… Must have time…only this tree strong enough to change her." Iori wanted to deny the spirit of the forest the use of her tree, but that was impossible, the spirit held more power than Iori.

"You have two years, that is it." Iori said then turning and leaving the room, two years was a long time for the human to be putting out so much magic and Stri-anaduren would continue to gather around Iori's tree.

Cersem stood waiting at the Tree Line the time that he had told Adam to meet him again. It was not long before Adam walked through the gloomy trees, he looked like he hadn't bothered to take care of himself at all throughout the fortnight that he was waiting. He was in desperate need of a shower and to shave Cersem noted as he neared. Despair washed over Adam as he approached Cersem, the centaur was alone.

"Adam, she is not dead, but she had been claimed by the spirit of the forest. Though I am afraid there is nothing that can be done to help her now." Adam's knees gave out and gave a feral yell of agony. 'What do I have to live for now? I've lost her forever. She is really gone…' he thought. Cersem sighed, he knew it was not a good idea to take Adam to see his 'daughter' but the man would simply give up in life if her could not see her again.

"Adam stand up. I can take you to see her, but you can not take her back with you when you leave the forest" Adam stood up his head down agony played across his face in premature wrinkles. Cersem dug in he belt pouch and pulled out a charm on a long leather cord. The charm was in the shape of a maple leaf with a waxing crescent moon of silver in the center of the leaf set on its side so it opened up instead of to the side. "You should wear this, it is a protective charm. Its magical aura is strong enough to keep the fact that you are human hidden from most of the Stri-anaduren in the forest. You will need it to see your 'daughter'" Cersem had barely extended the charm towards Adam before he grabbed it and put it around his neck. The charm came to life when the cord settled around Adam's neck, a steady aura of magic surrounded him. So long as he did not lost the charm or take it off he would be invisible as a human and appear and other Stri-anaduren. It was not uncommon for a Stri-anaduren to take the appearance of a human, many preferred to live in the human cities.

"Cersem, please take me to my daughter." Adam said in a whisper not looking at Cersem the centaur nodded. Leading Adam through the forests open glades to the tree that belonged to Iori.

Cersem noting how long it took them to make their way safely through the forest knew that it would be dark before he could take Adam back to the Tree Line. The forest had become a dangerous place in the past two weeks, all sorts of unsavory Stri-anaduren now inhabited the forest. There was talk of mountain dwarves having been seen recently, this fact frightened many of the original residents because Dwarves did not leave their mines on a whim. If they felt enough magic to stop mining and come to the forest others would be drawn. The forest would collect with Stri-anaduren from around the world, already winged Stri-anaduren of lesser power were gathering. Many Cersem had never seen before, because they were not meant to live in the forest. Some belonged to the desert other to tropical forests, and some even to polar climates. 'I will not risk both of our lives to try and take him back to the Tree Line tonight. To many foreign Stri-anaduren that do not follow the reasonable laws and remain on our side of the Tree Line. To many that find humans a simple and common meal. I will take him with me to my herd, tomorrow he can leave just as easily as he did when I first met him.' Cersem though as they arrived at the tree Iori inhabited.

Adam despite his depression looked around the forest with awe, there were so many Stri-anaduren gathered. 'There must be hundreds gathered here. Why would they all come to one spot? Some of these races are not suited to this climate.' He thought looking through the crowds that packed the forest around the tree.

Cersem pushed through the crowd keeping on hand firmly on Adam's shoulder to keep him at his side. Once Cersem had pushed his way through the crowds to the base of the tree where a section of stairs was accessible he looked down at Adam. Adam was not tall enough to climb on to the section of stairs that they now stood by. With a sigh of irritation Cersem picked up Adam in a fluid motion and deposited him on the stairs that were about five feet off the ground.

Adam at first realization of being picked up had started to protest but realized that in his awe he had not noticed the section of stairs. Though now that Cersem had deposited him on the stairs he became aware of exactly how high up this section was..

"Continue up these stairs and to the balcony. Wait for Iori the dryade then request to see the girl. Explain who you are, and be respectful. Iori is the ruling dryad of the forest."

"Cersem, thank you." Adam said his voice even with sincerity. Cersem motioned for him to go up blowing off the thanks that Adam gave. 'He doesn't realize he shouldn't thank me for this.'

Adam continued up the stairs leaning against the trunk of the tree, his fear of heights making him dizzy at the prospect that a good gust of wind could cause him to fall. For what seemed to be forever the stairs continued endlessly as if Adam had been only a few steps up the stairs case. Though in reality it took Adam only a minute or so to reach the balcony, from there he waited silently not sure if he could call for Iori or to just stand there silently under the assumption she would just show up.

Iori was aware of Adams presence the moment he set foot on her tree, she had been making her way towards the balcony but every movement she made was forced and deliberate due to the weight of her crown of branches that now was almost three feet long. She had intended to cut them after the Elder Dryade left, but she found she had not the time to do so. Most of her time was now spent trying to contain the magic the human girl was putting out. After consulting with the spirit of the forest again, they had come to an agreement that if the spirit of the forest was to use Iori's tree to change the human then the spirit had to teach the human everything it knew about the Stri-anaduren and magic. The spirit of the forest had been eager to accept the offer Iori made, knowing full well that Iori could kill or uproot the only tree that was strong enough to change the human child.

Adam watched as the dryade Iori walked out on the balcony, she stopped when she saw him and waited expectantly. It to Adam a moment to realize she was waiting for him to speak.

"I came for my daughter." He said simply, relieved when a look of under standing came on the dryades alien face. She turned and said over her shoulder though she did not move her head whatsoever.

"Come human." Adam fidgeted as he followed behind Iori's slow pace. He was surprised when she lead him up some stairs within the tree to a bed room then to a room off of that room. Iori stopped at the entrance to the room that held the human girl and the ancient sword.

"She is in there, when you are finished come out immediately, I will know if you deviate from what I have told you." Once Iori had barely finished speaking Adam surged into the small room to find his daughter. The air in the small room seemed thick as if it was extremely humid in the room, though the lack of moisture proved other wise. He stopped in front of her, she appeared to be dead. The branches that bound her dug under her skin and wrapped around her bones. Her skin stretched awkwardly from the added mass of the branches. Her body was mostly covered with moss and vines that flowered and had leafed out long ago. She looked similar to the dryads who were the personification of forests. The sword her hands were wrapped around looked to be something out of an old legend yet seemed lethal in her grip.

"S-Sakuya…" Adam said softly looking upon his daughter who was now dead in the grasp of a tree. Though the moment he had said her name Sakuya's head snapped up from its limp position eyes opened blankly she starred out at her father though not seeing him. Adam jumped with the sudden movement. 'She's not dead!' He thought with endless joy. Reaching out to touch her one of the branches ripped free from Sakuya's skin and snapped against Adams arm cutting deeply into his skin. Adam yelled with the sudden pain and pulled back looking at the remains of the broken branch arch like a snake ready to strike again though it was to short to do so. Adam though was unconcerned for his bleeding arm as, he looked at the branch that sat on the floor it was the deep color of blood and from the broken wood seeped blood. His eyes shot to Sakuya and he spotted where the branch had been under her skin, entering at her shoulder that now bled.

Adam considered trying to touch Sakuya until all of the branches had snapped against his arms, though soon dismissed the idea realizing that the one that did snap was a lucky occurrence and was not likely to happen again. Looking at his arm he asked himself.

"How can I possibly protect you?" Then it came to Adam, if he could protect Sakuya magically then the branches would be unable to kept their hold. He did not even need to use magic himself, Cersem had provided the answer. Adam pulled the charm from around his neck and moved in quickly placing it over Sakuya's head as more branches assailed him. Once the charm was around Sakuya's neck the branches smoothly pulled free from her and she fell forward the sword sliding from her grip. Adam caught Sakuya staggering back as if the air became thinner suddenly.

Outside in the crowds around the tree Cersem felt the flow of magic from the human child suddenly stop. Many of the Stri-anaduren in the area shuffled uneasily, it was unnatural for a magical flow like the human child had been out putting to suddenly stop. Normally the magical flow would be come less powerful as time went on and eventually die away like a fire burning through its supply of wood and left with smoldering coals then nothing but ash.

A unicorn foal who stood only a few paces from Cersem reared up in alarm as the earth beneath the crowds shook violently. The unicorn was thrown off balance and came down striking its long crystal horn against one of the lowest branches on the tree Iori lived within. The horn shattered with a sound much like breaking glass but held more of a ring to it. The unicorn screamed in pain, and was unattended as the Stri-anaduren fled the area forcing the five other unicorns away with them. Cersem remained only stabilized by holding on to the tree for support. Cersem being pure to a unicorns standards meant to help the poor foal but when the ground finally stood steady he was blocked from the unicorn.

Iori drug Adam to the balcony of her tree and threw him off after dislodging him from the human girl. Adam landed on something hard that stabbed into his back like broken glass. He screamed in pain when he landed, unaware of his close proximity to the unicorn foal who now in shock was blind to how Adam had gotten right in front of him. The foal stabbed down into Adam's gut with the jagged remains of his horn.

Adam had fallen and been stabbed to quickly for Cersem to aid the human. When the unicorn lifted its head blood ran down its jagged remains of a horn. Cersem's eyes widened, none alive wanted to see a unicorn like this. It was only rarely that a unicorns horn broke in such a sudden matter, but the blood from whatever source running down the horn was an ill omen. It meant that a war had just begun. Whether it be within the human world or among the more magical races of Stri-anaduren. Cersem knew that if he touched the unicorn now it would mean he was somehow involved with the first movement of the war. Though Cersem's risk of being blamed vanished as the foal ran off in the other direction, his eyes wide with fear.

Cersem ran to Adam's current spot on the ground and scooped up the cringing man. Adam screamed in pain and Cersem picked him up and started running through the forest. Adam felt as if his entire torso was being stabbed with a thousand shards of glass, with each long stride Cersem took.

Cersem ran full speed towards the deeper parts of the forest towards the mountains. Mages lived there in a small village, many of them selling spells to those who came to them. Others healed for a price afterwards. Mages were defined as humans with magical ability that only took a companion with magical ability. They themselves continued the branching of races and created their own race, ignorantly calling their race of pure breed magical humans Mages. Regardless of their faults, they were the only ones who would help Adam now. Cersem only hoped that he would get to their village before Adam lost to much blood and died.