They called it the Unburnt Tree. In Corthwin, which had burned thrice in known history, and, from the records in the places not yet rebuilt, appeared to have burned at least three times before they began counting such things, there stood an Ash Tree. It was unbelievably tall – the tallest thing in the city – and incredibly wide. And nobody built within a hundred meters of its spread in any direction.
They called it the Unburnt Tree for good reason. By all indications, the tree had been growing for longer than Corthwin had stood. In a city which had burned so many times, in a land where massive forest fires had once ranged, the Unburnt Tree stood. When the Empire had taken over the nation of which Corthwin was a major city, the Unburnt Tree stood, unharmed, untouched, even when the catapults flung burning pitch over the walls. When an earlier Emperor had, soon before he was quietly helped to the next life, sought to eliminate sources of “superstition” throughout the Empire and ordered the Unburnt Tree cut down, the axes had bounced off.
What was more, scions of the tree or seedlings grown from its seeds, all of those that survived to be saplings or larger took on the properties of their ancestor. Now, surrounding Corthwin, there grew a wall of trees, some no thicker than a finger, but all of them bearing the promise: the world might burn, but these trees would not. And, what’s more, all those who sheltered under their leaves would be safe.
The Unburnt tree could not protect all of Corthwin. But with its children, it could protect the people.
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