A traveler stops to rest in a small village at the edge of a forest. All through the night, he hears rustling outside the inn, and the sound of mysterious creatures creeping among the trees.
The next morning, he asks the innkeeper about what he heard. The other man nods sagely. “Ah yes, the wood is dark and mysterious. The village has many stories, but to find the truth, you’ll have to ask the trees themselves.”
So the curious traveler packs some bread from the inn with his belongings and starts off into the forest. The ground slopes down, down, and the underbrush thins out but the canopy gets denser. The darkness is soothing like deep water. Here, there is no rustling–just a heavy silence.
The traveler spends the first night nestled in the roots of an enormous oak tree, and when he awakes, an acorn has sprouted into a robust sapling where it fell on his coat. His second night he spends in a ring of mushrooms that weave his dreams with light and song. His third night he crawls into a hollow log that smells sweet with decay and smoky with the memory of a long-ago fire.
The forest is strange and unnatural, but it does not seem threatening. The traveler speaks to the trees every day as he walks but they do not answer. Still, he knows that they listen. His path is laden with sweet fruit and herbs, for he runs out of bread quicker than he would like.
Finally, on his fourth day of walking, the traveler comes to a stump in the center of a large clearing. The earth around the stump is obscured by layer upon layer of dry, dead leaves, and the boughs overhead form a continuous ceiling. A hatchet sits embedded in the stump. As he approaches, the traveler sees the letters of a hundred languages engraved in winding script around the handle of the hatchet.
“What is this place?” the traveler asks, half to himself.
A soft voice emanates from the hatchet. “You seek the secrets of the wood, and here they lie. Ask what you will.”
So the traveler asks his questions. The hatchet weaves a story of enchantment and legacy, of the people who once lived among the trees and the people who now live alongside them, of the slow, even breathing of the forest and everything within it.
At the end of the hatchet’s tale, the traveler speaks up once more. “I was told that the trees themselves would tell me their story. Who are you, and why are you the one who holds these secrets?”
The hatchet chirps a little laugh. “As for why, that is too long a story for even me to tell. But who am I? I am the lore axe, and I speak for the trees.”