The Grove Keeper did not have a name, none of the bruan'chii did. Not in the sense of the sapient races, or even the Colony, it would seem. They lacked many things that others had. No first or family name, no gender, no homeland, or indeed, any real history. They possessed no spoken language, little industry or cultural artefacts, no religion or relics or indeed anything that outsiders might think was essential to bind them together.
And yet, no people on Pangera were more united than they. The reason for this was simple, and impossible for any other group to replicate: they were of one soul.
The Keeper could remember being born. A splinter of Mother Tree had broken away, not her physical form, but her very spirit, and been cupped in her loving hands. Embraced by the Mother, that shard had begun to grow. Ideas, thoughts and emotions had coalesced slowly inside that timeless realm within the Tree as the Keeper had been nurtured by its sole parent. Over time that tiny shard had grown into a bright, burning spirit of its own, a fully grown entity, ready to be unleashed on the world.
Yet that had not been the way. Rather than being sent out into the world, the Keeper had been kept close to the Mother, released from her hands and allowed to mingle with the other spirits she had raised.
How to describe that world? The Keeper didn't have the words to paint an accurate picture. There was warmth, and comfort, and safety. More than those things, there was community. Thousands upon thousands of bruan'chii frolicked there, held within the Soul Home. In that place they experienced a wordless joy as they enjoyed the company of quite literal kindred spirits. Of one soul, they had no need to communicate, able to share thoughts and emotions on a primal level that transcended physical reality.
The Keeper had spent most of its life in the Soul Home, beyond time, beyond the individual, held in the embrace of the Mother.
Now though, the Keeper felt the push.
It was not a command, or a directive. The Mother Tree did not interact with her children in that way. Instead, it was a gentle suggestion, but one that not a single bruan'chii had ever refused. As the Keeper's spirit began to move, so too did many that were close, all of them shifting with increasing speed as they departed their home and entered the wider network that was the Mother and her roots.
Through twisting paths and coiled branches they flew, each radiating joy and happiness as they revelled in the journey and each other's company. The Keeper felt a deep satisfaction. This was what it meant to be bruan'chii, this togetherness and unity of purpose that couldn't be found anywhere else.
When they finally arrived at their destination, they found the Mother had prepared their vessels, as she always did, and they leapt into them like children into a burbling stream. It was always a strange shift of perspective, when they joined with a body. They transitioned from beings of pure light that existed only within the Mother, to creatures of mundane reality, with senses and limbs. There was sadness in the loss of freedom, but also joy of a different kind. In their physical bodies, they could effect change on behalf of the Mother, and lift each other up.
The Keeper experienced a quiet, dream-like state as the body prepared by the Mother continued to gestate. A steady flow of life mana poured in and in response the Keeper grew. Powerful, trunk-like arms swelled with strength as the bark coating thickened and hardened with time.
Quietly, on the edges of awareness, the Keeper could sense the others growing alongside them. So many… clearly the Mother had great plans for them.
In time, the process was complete, the Keeper stirred for the first time in this new form. Wood creaked and snapped as the giant form broke free of the root on which it had been formed, the Keeper stretching their limbs and opening their eyes for the first time.
Nearby, thousands more emerged at the same time. Keepers and regular bruan'chii alike shook their new bodies as they connected with each other via their wordless bond.
As one, they felt the presence of their mother descend. Her mind, so enormous and powerful that it dwarfed their flickering selves, lay a gentle hand on them, and through that, they knew their purpose.
The Keeper turned to the others of its kind and they quickly organised themselves, gathering together with their kindred and then setting off through the tunnels. They had been formed close to the main roots, but their steps quickly ate up the ground as the proceeded through the winding tunnels.
There was an eagerness to the thousands strong group, a fierce energy that radiated from them as they moved with purpose.
The Mother had held them back for so long, but at last they had been set free.
The Keeper's wooden frame was alive with righteous anger. The enemy had tormented the Mother for too long, nibbling at her roots and consuming the spirits of their kin. The aid of the Colony had helped turned the tide, and for that they would be eternally grateful, but it wouldn't do for the conflict to end without striking with its own branches.
The bruan'chii should be the first to fall in the defence of their parent. And now she had at last allowed them to do as they pleased.
A deep hum rumbled out of the Keepers, a wordless exclamation of grim satisfaction as they strode forward. Giant hands of Iron Wood flexed their thick fingers. The Mother had granted them forms suitable to battle, she must have stockpiled these resources as the Colony fought.
Overflowing with strength, the bruan'chii marked relentlessly forward.
When they came upon the termites at last, they surged as one, the hum growing in volume until the air vibrated with the strength of their rage.
Too late, the termites turned to face the new threat, unable to form ranks or organise their numbers in time. The Keeper brought both hands down in an overhead smash, pulping the closest monster with a satisfying crunch. They stepped forward, slamming a foot down on the defeated foe as it trampled forward, savage joy alight in its soul.
A feeling that was shared amongst them all. As one, the bruan'chii advanced into battle, their spirits aligned and singing the same song.
Bio: Working older person with family who really likes webnovels and decided to write one. Here we are!