After seeing the truth behind the Sylvan Goddesses, I had to say that I had mixed feelings. Yes, the ability to produce golden Sylvans seemingly without end was remarkable. Being able to turn into a tree and back again was no joke, either. I was curious to see whether the tree would be able to expand into a grand forest, as it typically did with others of its kind.
However, the Sylvan race loses the vast majority of its effectiveness when you only consider the golden breed. Without the ‘worker class’, the forest doesn’t expand and can’t be maintained. Without the ‘scholar class’, the forest loses most of its ability to retain the information acquired by their vast numbers, and the processing ability of more advanced minds. And finally, without the ‘soldier class’, the forest lacks much of its own defensive ability.
When you look at it that way, the only thing that a Sylvan Goddess seemed good for was manufacturing demigods. A dozen or so golden Sylvans could be sent to completely terraform a barren world and cover it with a lush, verdant forest. Perhaps there were benefits that Philia hadn’t quite discovered yet, but otherwise… I didn’t feel that it was particularly worth it for the Sylvans as a whole to pursue divinity. Only a select few born with lucky domains would benefit from the process.
In that sense, I felt sorry for Philia. The Goddess of Cities, born from a race that is innately able to produce great numbers from a single individual, lost her ability to command her own city.
Charlotte looked outside at the burning red leaves, a small pout on her golden lips. Of the current golden sisters, she was still the youngest, and had been made to wait as long as she had because her domain was… not very compatible with the planet they were on. How she wished that she could visit another world, one where she could unleash a mighty rain.
Sadly, that was not this world. In this world, water would evaporate long before it could hit the ground. It was all she could do to create a few clouds to block out the evening suns. And even then, her sisters had matured beyond worrying about the scorching heat and blistering light.
As she closed her eyes, Charlotte of Rain basked in the memories passed down through the mother tree. She saw a world where only a single sun rose and fell within the vast sky. A world where the leaves of the trees showed a brilliant green instead of a flaming red. That was the type of world that she wished she could live in.
At times, she had wondered what type of tree she herself would make, when the time came. Cicily of Learning created a tree which passed down all of her knowledge. Would she then create a tree where the leaves stored and released moisture like the clouds in the sky?
“Maybe.” An unfamiliar voice spoke up in front of her, using the language that she had learned from the mother tree. Charlotte’s eyes shot open to stare at the man who sat across from her within her private room. He looked… strange in her eyes. For one, he was not covered with the leaves and vines of the forest. He was also not red-skinned like the demons of Cicily’s memory.
Instead, his skin was pale, his hair black, and he wore a white tunic with black pants. He was clearly not a Sylvan, this much could be discerned from the simple fact that he was a he. But his identity did not exist within her memory.
“My name is Dale, and I am the Keeper of this world.” That jogged some memories for her. Cicily’s mind had a faint impression of the Keeper, but she had never met the man. She only knew that he was some being of extreme power and authority.
Charlotte knew that it would not take long before her sisters responded to a new entity within their tree, so she had to determine if he was a friend or foe before they acted. She held her hand out towards him, a pleading look on her face. With a small, understanding nod, he took her hand.
What is it that you want here? She hurriedly asked through her racial telepathy.
“I want to talk to you.” He spoke aloud to answer her, but seemed to be musing about something. “Interesting, I’ve never felt this myself. So, you use low-level mana emissions to transmit your thoughts via touch. If you trained yourself as a mage, you could probably talk over long distances as well.”
Charlotte’s eye ridge raised as she looked at the man, unable to fully make sense of what he was talking about. What did you want to talk to me about?
“Ah, right… Sorry, but I’d like to ask you a favor. Something that I believe only you can do.” When Charlotte nodded for him to continue, he began to explain. “A friend of mine has a world that has been ravaged by heat, much like this one. But for her, it was not the result of the sun, but a monster. She needs the help of someone special to save her world. In other words… I would like you to help me bring rain back to a dying world.”
Charlotte’s eyes went wide at that declaration, feeling that it was too good to be true. For almost a century now, she had been waiting for the chance to display her power, to dance beneath the falling rain. And now… she was going to be given a chance? What do I have to do?
Her transmitted voice was filled with excitement. At the same time, she spoke to the tree itself, transmitting her thoughts to the other golden sisters that she felt rushing in this direction. She told them to wait, that the person who had arrived meant no ill will.
“For now… nothing. The time is not right yet for me to send anyone to her. I just wanted to come to you early, to make sure that you did not take root before I was able to send you to her. I don’t know how long it will be… but if you would like, I can have you moved to a different forest for now to prepare. It would be the one where your mother was born.”
Charlotte’s smile grew even wider at that, threatening to split her face. But, at the same time… that meant that she would be leaving her sisters. Can I have some time to think about it?
“Of course.” The Keeper nodded his head. “However, before I go, I was wondering if I might be able to make a suggestion? Both for you and your sisters in the forest. I feel like it might help you out in the long run.”
Charlotte blinked, but gave a small nod, calling for her sisters to come to her room. Soon, the wooden wall split open as several golden women walked in. Seeing that those inside did not hold any hostility, the rest of them lowered their guard as well. The table that Charlotte and the Keeper were sitting at expanded, the two of them staying close enough to hold hands while new seats were created.
“Thank you for coming so quickly.” The Keeper said with a small smile. “Did Charlotte tell you what I asked of her?”
The other five all looked at Charlotte for a long moment while she recounted her previous conversation with them. They flashed looks of surprise, turning their eyes to Dale. Philia, in particular, seemed more curious than the rest. As if, perhaps there might be some hope for her as well.
“Well, then… let me get down to business.” The Keeper smiled towards everyone present. “I would like you to construct shrines to Aurivy within the forest. Additionally, a shrine to Philia would help bolster her power.”
What is a shrine? Charlotte asked on behalf of the others, her question surprising the Keeper.
“Simply put… a shrine is a place where you can offer your thoughts to a higher power. For gods, like Aurivy and Philia, this means that they can receive some divine energy through the prayers of their believers. Of course, Philia would first need to designate someone to serve as her ‘priest’.”
The six Sylvans looked at one another, exchanging their thoughts through their connection to the mother tree. Afterwards, Charlotte turned to look at the Keeper again. We understand why this would help Philia… but why this Aurivy person?
“Ah, that’s actually quite simple.” The Keeper waved his hand, and the wood on the table shifted, forming a small statue that resembled a young girl. “Aurivy is the Goddess of Travel. One of her divine abilities is to allow her priests to open portals between her temples. It takes more energy the further the distance, but it would ultimately allow you to travel between forests to visit one another.”
“You see, I’ve been watching you for a while. Your species is very powerful, but also limited. With your current method of ‘random distribution’ for new trees, you lose any form of unity within your race. And unity is where your species as a whole thrives. The entire forest is a single organism… but once you leave the forest, you are cut off from it. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
The six girls looked at one another. They did, in fact, understand him. How could they not? It was a sad day when Gracia had to leave, because they knew that they would never be able to see her or her forest. They were losing a sister in order to allow her to answer the call of her instincts. A call that all of them heard on a daily basis.
“Additionally… you could use the shrines of Aurivy in order to choose where you want to place your next forest. When you pray to her, you can offer up meaningful sacrifices, such as special fruits from your trees. The more important it is to you, the more you will be rewarded with these small coins.” As he spoke, he created a silver coin that showed the face of the woman from the statue.
“These coins can be exchanged, if you have someone who serves these two.” Tapping the table again, two new statues emerged, these two looking much closer to sylvan in body type, without having any plant coverings on their bodies. “These are Ryone and Leowynn. If you serve both of them, you can exchange the coins of Aurivy for special travel requests. For example… you could choose to go to a specific world, or narrow it down based on requests.”
The six girls exchanged somewhat bitter looks as Charlotte spoke to the Keeper. First you want us to worship this Aurivy… now also Ryone and Leowynn? While they were able to understand the benefits of worshipping these goddesses, it was quite a lot for them to take in at once.
“You don’t all have to worship them, naturally.” The Keeper shook his head, before scanning the room. “Ryone is the Goddess of Magic.” One of the girls lifted her head abruptly at that. “All it takes is one of you to open the system and exchange the coins.”
“Finally… once you have the rest of this set up, you’ll be able to start on this next improvement. At present, the weakest moment for your species is the first year when one of you starts taking root. At this point, you lack the proper means to defend yourself. I propose, once you are able to control where you will plant your new forest, you send people in groups of two. One of you will become the new tree, while the other serves as the guardian.”
“After the tree is established, the guardian can then guide the first generation of the new tree to help integrate them with the society that you are all building. This way, you will be able to ensure that the unity of your race persists throughout the generations.”
When the six girls heard his final suggestion, they fell deep into thought. Each of his ideas indeed had merit, and would improve their race as a whole. However, they were unsure what would be required of them in order to worship these three gods. Their kind had never devoted themselves to a god before, after all.
I’ll do it. One voice spoke up, the girls all looking towards its source. Joyce of Magic had a determined look in her eyes, causing the girls to share wry grins. Due to their secluded nature, they had never really had a means of learning magic. Her ‘domain’ was about as useful in their current situation as Charlotte’s. It was no wonder why she would jump on the opportunity to make contact with the true Goddess of Magic.