The blood soaked deep into the ground centuries ago, forever tainting the soil with the blood of the Other. I spilled blood that day so long ago, the blood of thousands who challenged my lands. They were our rivals from the north. They came here thinking they could steal our lands, for they had heard we were pacifists, artisans, and traders. We did not start the war, but I was more than happy to end it.
Our numbers were small in comparison, for the Others in my land did not breed like the vermin from the north. We kept our numbers low for safety and to preserve resources. Besides, those in my lands were gifted with extended life, and there would always be time later on for children. We never thought we would need greater numbers for defense, and I admit that may have been an oversight on my part.
Nevertheless, even with smaller numbers, our enemy didn’t count on one thing, which was the trees.
In the north, they had long ago stopped talking with the trees, the grasses, and the sprouting buds. They had forgotten how. My kind communed with the forest daily. We dug into the dirt, wriggling our fingers deep into the ground to grab the roots of the trees. Through the roots we could feel all of the trees in the forest, see what they could see, feel the wind on our bodies as they felt it through their leaves.
The trees stood watch as our sentries.
From days of old, a spell had been passed down in my family, a secret spell that could grant new life, but it was a spell I swore never to use, for the aftermath would be grim beyond imagining. But as I wrapped my fingers around the roots of the trees, sending my consciousness to the edges of the forest all around my domain, I saw my enemy surrounding my lands. I saw the hatred in the eyes of my enemy. Their bodies burned with greed and spite. They would rain fire down on our lands, burn all of it to ash, just so they could take them as their own. More empty lands to fill their empty hearts.
The time had come to use the spell.
With assistance from my loved ones, we dug deep into the ground at the base of the oldest oak tree in my domain. I stripped off all my clothing, and our priestess cut long, deep vertical slits down my arms and legs. They laid my body in the hole, wrapping the roots of the oak tree around my wounds to bind them. As I bled out, I chanted the words, and my blood spread from the roots of the oak to the roots of all the trees in my domain.
With the blood given and the words spoken, all the trees woke up.
As I shared my essence with the oak tree, it healed me and kept me alive, and through its root system I stood as the general among my army of trees. As the hordes from the north advanced on my lands, I ordered the trees to pull their roots from the ground and march toward the enemy.
Caught off guard, the enemy troops on the front line were slaughtered by the first battalion of trees. The leaders of my enemy began to catch on, and their fighting style changed to battle every living thing in their path. They began their slow advance on my lands. With them they brought iron blades and iron cannons rolled on iron riggings. My people would never dare pull that mineral from the earth, and yet my enemies had ignored all the old laws, as they stole the iron ore to make their weapons of death. What they had stolen, I knew I would have to return in some way.
The battle lasted for days, for the trees would not stop, and nor would my enemy step down. The further the enemy pushed into my lands, the more of their own people were killed by my trees, but their numbers were so high that they seemed not to care about those they had lost.
On the morning of the third day, the remaining horde stood at less than 100 fighters. They marched into the meadow, their bodies badly beaten, bruised, and bloodied. Unbeknownst to them, I had allowed them onto that meadow, letting them believe that they had a chance to win. I pulled my trees back, commanding all of them to bury their roots firmly back in the ground. Cautiously watching the trees that stood at the meadow’s edge, the enemy advanced on the meadow, wheeling their cursed iron supplies.
The general of the enemy called out my name, demanding I step forward and relinquish my throne. With the roots still wrapped around my arms and legs, I walked toward the general, and the oak tree walked behind me.
I stopped at about 50 paces away from the general. His remaining troop of soldiers clustered closely together as they watched the area, expecting the nearby trees to attack. Once more, the general called my name and demanded I give him my throne. I called out to him and told him that his army of thousands had been slaughtered by my command. If he left my lands now with those remaining and vowed never to return, I would let them leave in peace. If he took one step toward me, he and all his soldiers would die. The general laughed, and his soldiers laughed with him.
He took his last step.
As his foot settled on the ground, the roots from all the trees surrounding the meadow dug through the soil. The roots popped up from the ground beneath the soldier’s feet and grabbed onto the ankles of all the enemy soldiers. Every one of them was pulled down below, where they choked on dirt soaked in the blood of their brethren.
Our enemy was dead and buried.
My people named that place the Meadow of Iron Blood. It was there we left their weapons to the rains and the sun. In time, the iron wheels and cannons and blades rusted over. Weeds now slowly strangle the long forgotten tools of death.
While I will live on eternally, my soul forever bound to the trees and the soil, many of my people have passed on. We have buried our dead in the Meadow of Iron Blood, for nothing but weeds and shadows can dwell in that place.
Now humans walk in our lands. They do not know us, nor can they see us, most of them, so they have no idea of the battlefield they walk on when they stroll through this meadow. As the bones crunch in the dirt beneath their feet, the humans do not see the ghosts from the battle. They do not feel the taint of the blood burning through the soil. All they see is the rusted remains of our enemies, the only surviving ruins of the battle.
The above was a free write exercise, which I hope you enjoyed. If you have any comments, I would be happy to respond. The cover picture inspired this free write, and my partner took this picture while we were out hiking on the Dry Creek Trail near Union City, California.