A/N: Well, here goes. This is my first attempt at writing something beyond short stories, so please, PLEASE tell me if there's something missing, or if it doesn't make any sense, or if it sounds too much like any of the other stories. I am very much looking forward to your reviews, so please review and thanks for reading!
The night was calm. A warm breeze blew through the forest, rustling tree branches and stirring up the fallen leaves. The small stream that trickled through the forest was gurgling happily, as if glad that summer had finally arrived.
The setting sun gleamed once more from behind its shelter of mountains, and then was gone. It left only the light of the stars above, and that of the full moon, which hung like a shining orb of silver over the earth.
Deep within the forest, a meeting was taking place.
"Is it time yet?" came a soft voice. It seemed to be coming from a large spruce tree on the edge of the clearing.
A deep, resonant voice answered. "It is time." With that, a tall, dark figure stepped into the moonlight. More followed.
The figures made no sound, for they knew the ways of the forest. They also knew that tonight, it was crucial that they remain as silent as possible.
"Alright, Keepers. This is it. It is time to pick our successors.
"We have had a long and very successful reign over the forest and its inhabitants, and we can only hope that the same will be true for our heirs. The road to freedom from Casperus is long and dark, but, with the proper training, they will be ready." The tall man's speech was met with nods of approval from the rest of the figures. He bowed his head, a gesture of respect, and stepped back from the center. Now it was the Healer's turn to speak.
A cloaked woman, known to all as Healer of the Stars, or simply Star, took his place. "This news will be met by most of you with dismay and perhaps confusion. I must ask you to remain as silent as you can. Zifarra and I are deeply sorry that we could not tell you this earlier, but, because there has been news of a spy in the area, we cannot be careful enough with to whom we speak our words.
"Given the circumstances, we are not going to be able to choose successors for us all. Instead of the traditional Keeper amount—twenty-four, of course—we are only able to choose seven."
The woman paused, looking over her audience for signs of objection. A few shook their heads in disapproval, but they were heeding her words.
The woman sighed inwardly, knowing that she and Zifarra would be questioned mercilessly about this when they got back to Keeper's Cave. "I am indescribably sorry for the inconveniences this may cause us. But Zifarra and I feel that this is the most secure way for our successors to remain Keepers over the forest and to keep it safe."
Healer of the Stars looked up at the moon. It was nearly right over their heads—perfect timing.
"Follow me. We must travel to the Middletree."
The group silently made its way towards the very center of the forest, the place where the magic was the strongest. Zifarra and Star led the way.
As they went deeper into the woods, the trees got larger and thicker. It also got darker—the moon's light couldn't penetrate the dense leafy treetops. The normal sounds of the forest had all but disappeared, as if the animals purposely avoided the area.
Suddenly Star stopped and looked ahead of her. A few of the Keepers, try as they might, could not stifle their gasps.
In front of them lay a colossal tree, bigger than any of them had ever seen. It made the trees around it look like mere bushes. It was well over seven hundred feet tall, and its branches stretched to cover an area at least twice the size of the whole Keeper's Cave. Even Star, who, by tradition, had seen the Middletree once before, looked in awe.
Star knelt down where the thick trunk met the earth. "Dear tree, Bringer of Life, we have come to step down from our place as Keepers and to offer you our choices for heirs."
Star waited. As a tree-speaker, she knew that trees often take a long time to process information, and even longer to respond.
After ten minutes, one of the upper branches on the tree creaked, dislodging a handful of bright green leaves. This told Star all she needed to know.
"The Middletree has obliged. We will now show her our choices. All of you will come forward and tell her your choice for one of the seven Keepers. You may only tell her one name, and it must be one of the experienced and trained."
One by one, each of the twenty-four Keepers stepped forward and whispered their chosen name to the tree. After they all had done so, they waited. And waited.
Finally, a single leaf fluttered down. Star picked it up, bowing her head at the tree. The rest of the group did the same.
"She has accepted our choices. I will now read the leaf-sign." Star held the leaf out in front of her. "For the position of Leader, we have Kirianna Scarlett."
The group nodded its approval, smiling. Kirianna was a strong girl—a bit stubborn, but very strong.
Star continued. "For Assistant Leader, Nikolas Farra." Once again, the Keepers nodded. "For Speaker, Jlanku Daley. Messenger, Arli Blacca. For Warrior, Zubo Dava." Star paused, turning the leaf sideways. "For Negotiator, Gwenn Galfil. And for Healer—" here Star paused once again, a bewildered look on her face, "—Jacen Albrak."
This was met by the Keepers with looks of confusion. A boy for a Healer? That was unheard of! Healers were always girls. Always. That was how it went.
Star looked down at the leaf, checking if she had read it right. When she was sure, she said, "It is very, very rare for a boy to become a Healer. But the Middletree must have a reason for choosing Jacen."
No one objected. They knew that the tree had more knowledge than any of them. There was definitely a reason—they would have to wait to find out what it was.
"The process is almost complete. We must now get the Leaves." Star held out her hand to the tree. One by one, seven small green leaves fell into her hand, soon to be delivered to the new Keepers.
"Thank you, great tree. I am sure you have chosen well." With that, Star and the others bowed their heads and walked back the way they had come.
The Great Seven—for that was what they would soon come to be known as—had been chosen.
It had begun…