Alabaster arrived on scene to find exactly what he feared. Environmentalists.
The wizard marched up to the tree, wand at the ready. There were two of them. They had somehow altered a mending spell, of all things, to merge the skin of their backs to the bark of the tree. Henry wouldn’t be able to target the tree with a lumber spell without cutting up the teenagers as well.
And while that was tempting, there was no way he’d be able to get away with it. Alabaster was certain the tree huggers had made a big fuss to everyone in town about what they were planning. No one may have come out to watch them link themselves to a tree, but it was well known what they were up to. If they went missing, it wouldn’t take much magic for people to know who to point their wands at.
Alabaster would have to do this the traditional way. With reasoning, fear, and a quick wand.
“He’s coming,” Talina whispered to Alenor.
“I can see that,” he replied. The wandmaker was indeed walking towards them with single-mindedness. “Are you going to panic like last time?”
Talina gave him a glare. “Last time we hadn’t attached ourselves to the base of a grand willow.”
Alenor smiled. “Which means you can’t run away this time.”
“This is no time for jokes,” Talina said. “If we don’t save this one, our valley will lose its magical potential.”
His smile disappeared. “That and so much more,” Alenor whispered.
Four people stood at the base of a willow tree in a valley hidden from the world. It was the last in the country. One man waited nervously to shred the tree into usable wood. An act he was certain would leave him stained. His boss stood tall and imposing. Alabaster wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of progress. Then there were the teens. Desperate and willing to sacrifice it all for their version of the future. Because that’s what this was in Henry’s eyes. A fight that would decide what path the last magic in the world would take.
And no one cared enough to participate, or even witness the event. Only Henry. And he wished he could be home too.
The moment of tension where everyone’s eyes were locked on each other, waiting for the first movement, lasted an eternity. Alabaster cleared his throat and began.
“While I appreciate the determination of youth, your motivations are misplaced.” Alenor snorted. “Oh, I understand why you are here.” Alabaster continued. “You believe in tradition, unity, and guardianship. This is the last willow tree in the land of magic and you cannot bear to see an era end.”
Talina braced for the but. “And while I love to see such enthusiasm, you forget that we cannot use magic without a conduit. Willow wood is the lifeblood of wizardry.” Alabaster held up his wand.
“The wands this tree could create would sponsor four generations of wizards. At least. Wizards who can then focus on discovering new sources of magic. I hear Omath is close to a breakthrough with his osculating crystal absorption. But he may have to hand his research off to his children. Children who cannot study and learn without new wands. You would end all progress by saving this one tree. Era’s do not end, they simply change. Be part of the change instead of blocking it.” Alabaster lowered his wand as if he expected the two mages to simply leave after that. They did not.
Talina opened her mouth then closed it. Alanor did not hesitate. “You forget that without willow trees this land will not even be able to manifest magic. What good are wands if magic stops working.”
“Never proven,” Alabastor said.
“Technically magic isn’t proven! We have relied on age-old manuscripts and word of mouth for centuries, but now you don’t want to listen to the elders? To believe in magic is to believe in what can’t be fully proven and explained.”
Alabastor opened his mouth but Alanor continued, “And I don’t care how much progress the researchers make. There will always be more questions about magic. You cannot deny that magic is part trust. And I trust that my ancestor’s taught me true when they said that the willows recycle the flow of magic bringing what was used back to us. Take this willow and we will use up all the magic! Your progress is moving too quickly. Instead of trying to create new wizards as fast as possible why don’t you try figuring out a feasible plan before you destroy the last grand willow. There’s no turning back once you do that!”
Henry nodded at all of them. They made good points.
“We won’t be able to use magic if we don’t get new wands. It’s as simple as that,” Alabastor said.
“There won’t be any magic left for us to use if you kill this tree. Simple or not.” Alanor said.
They continued the argument. And like all conflict, passion began to overrule their logic and it became a screaming match. So Henry left. It didn’t seem like they would end any time soon. But when they did calm down, he wanted to make sure his treasure was still there.
Henry hiked to the next hill over. There was plenty of sun and a river down the way. It was ideal for growing which is why Henry had planted the seed of that willow tree here. Just as magic could not create magic, wizards could not make willow trees grow with any kind of spell. Otherwise, they would just create a factory of them.
Henry grabbed his bucket and filled it with water from the river. He returned and slowly wet the ground around the growing sapling. Magic could not make willow trees grow, but as Henry had remembered, most plants didn’t need magic to grow. Just sun, water, and good earth. Patience was never the strong point of wizards. But Henry had learned to wait. He would wait for the others and would show them how to garden the mundane way. They wouldn’t like it. Trees took years to grow. But they would do it anyway. And a mundane act of planting a seed would save the magic in the world.
Photo by Zhenya