Sami walked through the dark valley formed by two of the World Tree’s roots. Grass crunched under his paws, and he could smell mint from the illuminated green veins that ran through the roots. As he walked, he ran his paws along the coarse, warm walls and felt the pulse of the Tree.
He came to a clearing where the roots lifted into the air, forming a ceiling of dark red wood, smooth, almost polished. Leaves of all colors covered the gaps, painting dots of light over the concrete floor of the Keeper’s chamber.
“Hello, Sami.” The Keeper approached as a swarm of rainbow insects. Sami took a step back as the buzzing swarm approached, but the mint smell got stronger as it did, and it calmed him. The swarm swirled, taking the shape of a fox. The swarm walked to Sami, around, then back to his front. It turned into a fennec fox, identical to him.
“Hi. How do you know my name?”
“The Tree experiences everything. But your name is all it would tell me. I’m not familiar with your species.”
“Fennec fox. We come from the desert.”
“Ah. Cute species. Why do you seek me?”
“To learn more about the world.”
“Why do you want to learn more about the world?”
“I’ve heard of magic.”
“Are you not happy with your abilities?”
“It’s not that. The Tree keeps me happy and healthy. But I desire more.”
“Sami…Sami, Sami, Sami.” It walked closer, until its muzzle almost touched Sami’s. “What you are is ambitious. Be honest.”
Sami looked away, then back. “Yes. I want power.”
“For what purpose? Do you know why the Tree takes such care in deciding who to trust?”
“Someone with your power could destroy the world.”
“What? Oh my, yes. But under no circumstance will your capabilities ever approach mine. I earned the Tree’s trust with a hundred years under its tutelage. Then I worked my way up through the different manifestations of the Tree’s power, enhancing and proving my capabilities and wisdom. I only became Keeper a hundred years ago. What will you do with the power the Tree grants?”
“I want to explore the Tree’s Gift. To see all there is to see.”
“Exploration!” The Keeper glowed and pulsed, then returned to the fennec form. “This ambition is healthy and reasonable. Life is best when it moves and changes. Why do you need power for this? The Tree rarely involves itself in the motion of life, and it has all the power in the world. Yet life still finds its way around.”
“Safety. Like you said, the Tree rarely involves itself. I want to protect myself from dangers as I explore.”
“Dangers. What dangers? If you die, your consciousness merges with the Tree. The value of your life experience and unique perspective adds to the whole of life.”
“By that reasoning, the value of my death rises the longer I live, and the more I experience.”
The Keeper turned back into a rainbow bug swarm and flew out of sight, but Sami still heard its voice. “Good answer. You now have the ability to summon these creatures and create a specter of any kind of life you can imagine. Use it wisely.”