The Source

The First Tree. There are as many versions of the story as there are blades of grass on the plains. I have heard many in my travels, and there are more still I have not.

Yea ev'ry creature knows the Tree
Our mortal souls Her living seeds
Once cast upon primeval earth
Where'er they landed there were we

In some tellings, this tree bore branches of every kind, and the winged seeds of ash and elm and their ilk took to the air to become birds and flying insects. In others, the souls were not seeds, but motes of pollen. Some hold the material plane to be but one of its countless fruits, and the tree itself to be the axis of the world.

My darling myth-maker told me another version—the one her kinfolk tell, about the First Mother.

In the time of the gods, when light and dark were as one, there lived a woman named Bosc. In her time, there were no trees, but today we would recognize her flesh as fine hardwood, and her hair was the color of autumn. Her voice was as warm and as dark as a summer night, and her bite as cold and as sharp as the winter sun.

She was shy by her nature, and so she wore a mask hewn by her own hand from her own flesh, because her options were limited in those days, and because what she took from herself would grow back in time. She wore it so well that eventually the mask once again became a part of her, and with it she could take any form she cared to imagine. And being an anxious creature as she was, she could imagine many things. So she imagined, and so she became, and despite her craft and cunning did she come to be known.

Bosc imagined herself as many things. Some days, she would shuffle through form after form and not one would be right; other times, she would find one shape and hold it for days before growing restless again. Many shapes she wore again and again, while others she might wear only once. Eventually, Bosc embodied Form so fully that it, too, became a part of her.

But Bosc had a cousin, Marimere broad-as-she-is-tall, formless and grey. Marimere lusted after her cousin's humble mastery of form. In those days, the world was young, and a proper shape was not so easy to come by; Marimere sought to have Bosc's abundance of shapes for herself, or if not that, then to simply deprive her cousin of what she had.

So Marimere came before Bosc, who had taken the form that we now call Tree, and had held this shape for a season, and Marimere called out to her, "Cousin, would that I had your mastery of form! Give it to me, that I might become!"

And Bosc said to Marimere, "I will teach you."

And Marimere said to Bosc, "Then I will learn." But Marimere, water of waters, churned in her depths and swelled at her shores and could not quell her motion, for motion had become her. So in her fervor to form did she lap at the roots of the great tree, and in time did her ebb and flow turn to foam and squall, and her passion soured. And the great tree that was Bosc braced itself against the growing storm, and her roots grew deep and strong, and for a season did they hold fast, until Marimere realized that even she could not topple Bosc.

By and by, Marimere forgot her ambitions. Desire blossomed into mindless fury, and that fury into hatred, and that hatred she shaped into a blade. And with her newfound form, she bore down upon Bosc and cut her down.

Where for two seasons had stood the great tree that was Bosc, only a great stump remained. But all was not lost, for with this first death came the first life. And the hundred hundred fruits that scattered from her bough took to seed, and the hundred hundred shapes that she imagined became the creatures of the world, and as formless motion washed over them, so too did they move.