Timblemud Tree

In the days of the Quali Empire, an ancient evil wizard named Petrof experimented with storing human consciousness in living plants as part of his research into immortality. Though never entirely successful, he did create several trees imbued with the partial minds of test subjects. One such subject was a storyteller named Timblemud, whose extensive and detailed knowledge Petrof felt would provide a stringent test. Not only could the Timblemud tree recount any story the man had known; it could also learn new ones. Unfortunately, other mental faculties were missing - the tree could not reason, nor carry on an intelligent conversation. It could only learn and repeat tales of short to moderate length and isolated scraps of information, and answer simple factual questions about them.

Petrof eventually gave the Timblemud tree to the royal family, who planted it in their gardens for the amusement of their children. One of the Quali princes took to using the tree as a kind of diary, and in adulthood as a historical archive. After this prince was killed in a family power struggle the tree provided incriminating evidence against a group of usurping relatives, who then tried to destroy it with fire. Surviving portions of the tree were carried off in secret by a wizard loyal to the deposed family members. He took it to a horticulturist who managed to recultivate it from cuttings. When the new rulers discovered that parts of the tree still lived, they hunted down the wizard and the horticulturist and again tried to destroy it. But again it was saved, this time by an apprentice gardener who hid some of the saplings in his own garden.

Generations later when one of the gardener's descendants took up the calling of wizardry, she realized the magical nature of the trees she had grown up with, and their potential to damage the Quali dynasty. So she cultivated a few dozen seedlings herself and traveled far and wide, planting them in obscure places all over the empire. By the time the Quali royal family became aware of some of these trees, the historical tales they told were less threatening, but a stubborn traditionalist in the family became determined to eradicate them. From among his warrior-priests he created a small order of monks whose mission was to find and destroy all Timblemud trees. He sent them out into the world, and after a few decades these monks believed they had completed their job. But centuries later the tenets of the order still include, almost as a footnote, the duty to fell and burn any tree that exhibits the power of speech.

Deep in the Theronlands today there stands an enormous talking tree, known locally as "the story tree". Besides reciting the family histories of villagers, it can also recount tales much more ancient, stories of a mysterious, faraway empire unknown to the locals. The tree cannot discuss the stories; it can only tell them. But it can discuss which stories it knows about a given subject. If an interested listener asked, for example, "Tell me of the king," the tree would counter, "Of which king do you speak?" And if the listener replied, "King Artemis of Carthos," the tree might answer, "Of King Artemis I know but few tales: that of his fall from his horse and resultant death in battle at the hands of the knight Gerrollian of Tez; the diverting story of the toppling of the cake by Artemis at age twelve during the wedding of his older sister Karinna; and the absorbing tale of his duplicity in the assassination of his cousin, Fenwick II." Should the listener specify one of those tales, it would be then told. But one must avoid interrupting with questions, for the story tree will simply pause as if in thought and then either continue onward or restart the tale anew.