A Fall of Trees
The goddessless demons were back. Worshipers of fire and hate, they sought destruction of all that was precious. They were always below us; ground dwellers and they hated us for our freedom and our flight. They launched flaming stakes into the air and tried to burn our trees. Evil creatures. One of the spikes pierced the squirrel clan's tree right through its hydrogen bladder and the hydrogen flared from the two holes like blow torches. The whole tree was quickly engulfed in flame and began to fall rapidly. The other trees began to expand their bladders rapidly trying to reverse their own descents and start climbing away from the demons. It was convenient that rising also took them further from the squirrel clan's tree; it's immanent explosion was now more dangerous than the demon's fire stakes. The demons below scattered as the burning tree fell towards them.
The infernal trees were descending again. Heartless monsters and the evil little vermin who rode them, they crushed communities flat. Eradication was the only solution for them. The men gathered on the nearest hill top and waited for them, hiding in the shadows among the rocks. When the trees were close enough they lit their pitch dipped arrows and let loose volley after volley. The monkeys in the floating trees responded with heavy nuts. From that height, in the dark, the nuts arrived with deadly speed and no warning. Men went down.
Vorgle scored a hit on a tree's hydrogen bladder and the tree began to burn and drop towards them. Men scattered to get away, relieved that the other trees were ascending again. But the burning tree dropped fast. Just before it hit the rocks a lot of monkeys jumped clear and then the vermin gave chase to the men. But when the tree hit the rocks, it exploded into a thunderous and bright fireball killing most of the monkeys who were running toward the scattering men. Vintle drew her axe and went to fight the remaining ones. She slew four monkeys before one got on her back and stabbed her in the arm. It would have stabbed her again but Vorgle shot it.
Vintle looked around and saw that the top of the hill was free of the vermin. They had killed them all and only lost two men doing it, Vigle and Vergil. Really they had lost three men because Vergil had been pregnant. The other men, thirty strong, yelled out a cheer in celebration of their victory.
Then Vintle turned and looked at the village below the hill and realized that their celebration was premature. The other trees were descending on the village. It was defenseless. All the men were up here. Only a few dogs were down their to protect the livestock.
While the demons were fighting the remains of squirrel clan, hawk clan and lizard clan brought their trees down onto the nearby village. The demons had build many shells to keep Gaia out. The largest of these contained the most nutritious ballast and so hawk clan aimed directly for the largest shell. Lizard clan heading for a much smaller shell, one that smelled distinctly of demon manure. While hawk clan's tree smashed a hole in the top of the largest shell, lizard clan's tree lifted the smallest shell completely off the ground and tossed it aside exposing the hole underneath filled to the brim with demon manure. The Lizard tree began to fill it's ballast hollow with the rich manure.
Wrolf scrambled as the two trees descended on the village. He signalled to Growlg and Barth to ignore the one going after the latrine and go after the one tearing the barn roof. The two dogs followed him obediently. They each drew four knives and began to climb the barn toward the intruder tree. They were in its branches before the monkeys even knew they were coming, slicing quickly, silently and without warning. Then Barth misjudged a cut and one of the monkeys screamed an alarm call. Suddenly the three dogs were overwhelmed as monkeys leaped on them from every branch of the tree. They took a few monkeys with them but the dogs didn't last long.
Lizard clan was climbing. The alarm call from hawk clan had spooked it. Even though hawk clan quickly eliminated the threat which had caused them to raise the alarm, lizard clan kept rising. Their tree had a good take of manure, enough to keep it fertile and buoyant for many moons. As they rose they saw hawk clan's tree weighing itself down with four or five melon beasts. It would not rise quickly. And lizard clan could clearly see the demons descending the hill toward hawk clan. It didn't look like it was going to go well. Lizard clan screamed in alarm even as they encouraged their tree to rise faster.
Vintle ran as fast as her legs would carry her. She could see her villages most prized melon beasts being raised into the maw of the vermin tree. Even before she could get to the barn, the tree let go and began to rise. She ran inside and raced up the ladder to the roof. But it was too late. The tree was already too high for her to jump onto it and rescue the melon beasts. A nut punched a hole in the barn roof beside her.
She glanced into the courtyard beside the barn and saw Vorgle raise her bow toward the tree floating above her. Vintle yelled, "Noooooo!" but she was too late again. The smoldering arrow flew and struck the tree in its hydrogen bladder. The tree, carried by the wind, descending as the first one had, flaming as it went, drifted into the grain silo. Vintle shielded her eyes as the tree exploded and then looked back to see the silo topple, smashed by the exploding hydrogen. The village's entire stored surplus, dry like desert sand to keep the funguses away, started burning like a giant pitch torch. And from beneath the bright flames a few monkeys streaked toward her, knives drawn. She raised her bow.
Only a few of hawk clan survived the explosion and those few who survived were treeless. They knew they might as well be dead. But they knew how to spend their lives. They would take a few demons with them. Even as the remains of their tree flamed behind them they drew their knives and charged toward the demons. But in the brain of one particular clansman, a noble named HangsFromARoot, a new thought appeared, "What if we don't have to die; what if we don't have to even fight with the demons?" HangsFromARoot turned back and looked at the flaming silo and the burning food. Then he turned toward the windward sky and called, using his long voice, "Fire! Bring Water." It was an ancient command. The rest of the Hawk clan survivors stopped and looked at HangsFromARoot in awe. It was as if the ancient command had reminded them who they were and what the thing was that they did. They took up the call, "Fire! Bring Water."
The answer was only a few seconds in coming, "We Descend To Water! We Are Coming." It was the ancient response, deep in their DNA of the clansmen it resonated. The response came again and again from many clans, Leaf Clan then Butterfly Clan then Swallow Clan then Bark Clan then Worm Clan and on and on it went. Then the second response, "We have Water! We Are Coming."
Vintle lowered her bow. The monkeys were using their eery voices to call for reinforcements. She should shoot them before they brought an army down of her village but something stopped her. She could hear the responses and though she didn't understand them they stirred something in her. Somehow they brought hope. But how could the monkeys be a source of hope? She looked back and saw Vorgle gathering the other villagers to defend against the monkeys. She turned toward them and words burst forth from her mouth, ancient, long forgotten words, "Fire! Gather a Payment!" The villagers looked confused for a moment but then they fell into action as if their elephants were controlling them like puppets. They gathered carts and called back, "We Pay for The Service of the Trees!"
Before long the tree of Butterfly Clan appeared out of the gloom of the night. The tree steered directly into the column of black smoke rising from the silo fire and released a ton of water. A twisting swirl of white steam appeared amongst the black smoke. Then as the clansmen of Butterfly clan coughed through the smoke, Worm clan appeared and dropped more water. HangsFromARoot watched in confusion as the demons positioned carts of midden downwind of the fire. Each tree as it passed through the smoke compressed enough lift gas to drop and descended upon a cart, loading the midden into its hollow and then rising again, nourished into the night. Soon the fire was only smouldering and not burning. More and more clans passed over cooling the embers and recieving their payment in turn.
The demons built a new silo with such speed that it stood empty in just hours. And then they shoveled the wet and burned grain off of the heap that was the broken remains of their old silo and found the dry grain underneath. Before long the dry grain was stored in the new silo. HangsFromARoot was amazed at the speed and skill with which the demons worked.
Vintle wiped the sweat from her brow. The grain was saved. Much had been lost but without the monkeys and their water drops they would have lost it all and starved. The deep instinct to pay for the service was startling. Where had that come from? But now she watched the grounded monkeys and felt another instinct stirring. She saw Vig also staring at the monkeys uncertain what to do about them. She called, "Vig, get bread for our guests." Vig obeyed but was obviously confused.
Then Vintle walked over to the pile of nuts which had been found in the grain. She wasn't certain if they were the nuts from the tree which had exploded or if they had been dropped along with the water by the other passing trees. She knew they often broke open and grew in the fields and that they grew quickly, twisting together. The villagers considered them weeds and ripped them out wherever they grew. She got other villagers together and piled the nuts in the remaining midden. Then they shovelled the wet ash over the pile of nuts. The monkeys watched uncertain what to do but gladly gnawing on loaves of bread.
As the sun rose and struck the midden/nut/wet grain pile there was a series of load cracking sounds and green tendrils emerged from the pile soon forming a new tree in a matter of hours. \
It took a few days but the new clan tree was mature and ready to fly. They didn't really have enough clansmen to control it but hopefully they would recruit mates from other clans and rebuild their clan. As the Hawk clan returned to the sky, HangsFromARoot looked back to watch the demons planting row upon row of nuts in their fields. A new age was dawning, reborn after a dark age of Ragnorok. "Thank you, Jesus." he whispered to the sky.