Note: This is a little “Lord of the Rings-y”, but this was fun as hell to write. It might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.
Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings sat quietly in the corner contemplating his fate. It had been a long time since the Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings had thought such serious things, but there was little else he could do.
Thinking was hard.
Remembering was easier.
Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings had once been a tree. He did not remember his name then. It had been different, not of man, but of the Earth, for the earth gives names just as men do, but that was long ago.
He (if Trees have genders, it is not for us to say), had grown on a high hill overlooking a sunny valley where a small village had sprung up during the summer months. He was surrounded by his brothers and his roots were strong. He had seen many storms and many winters and stood straight and tall for a tree so young, his branches reaching towards the warming sky, moving in the breeze that came through the valley and up the hill to where his fallen leaves lay surrounding him.
While it may be true that trees cannot see, they can still smell, the memory of burning wood and hot iron engrained in the wooden parts that make the whole, feel the vibrations of the people and places they inhabit, the warmth of the sun and the cool of the rain on their backs, their memories in every scratch and scuff— I must say, trees are much like people.
One day, many, many years after he first remembered feeling the warmth of his first Sunlight and feeling the delicious itch of his first sprouts, he felt a strange pulse in his roots. He smelled smoke and fire and meat and blood and death and knew it to be men. Men had come.
He had heard the stories of the birds in his branches, of these “men” who took and killed without permission or offering, and now they were here, among his brothers.
Trees do not have much to fear. They are one with the Earth, with the storms, with the seasons, with all that Earth gives, with its creatures and its majesty, they receive for nothing, being of the Earth. If they fall, if their branches wither, when they grow too old to bear the weight of their own limbs–it is well, for the trees have a saying. “What will be of the Earth is of the Earth, and of the Earth is Earth”–so no tree ever feared demise in the age when what was of the Earth was of the Earth.
But now, the tree who would become Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings was frightened.
The men took four of his brothers that day. His brothers fell without sound, save for the songs of the men as they went about their work and their cheers when the mighty trees finally toppled.
They went away then, and stayed away for quite some time. Then they returned.
This time, they took him.
The tree that became Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings was unceremoniously ripped from the earth and taken down from his high hill to the valley and into a damp and musty warehouse. There he sat for many days, growing thirsty, forgetting that his roots were gone, then remembering, then forgetting again.
Finally, someone came for him. He was carried from the warehouse and into the sunlight, where he thanked the Earth for the warmth on his trunk and the feel of the breeze on the branches the men had left. He was placed in the water, and his broken stump gratefully drank what water he could without his roots.
He floated for a long time, down a river, through rapids and peaceful streams, until his trunk thudded against an unfamiliar bank. Men wrapped ropes around him and hoisted him from the water and brought him into some other place, again where the sun could not reach his limbs.
Unfamiliar smells reached his branches, strange vibrations shook his trunk. He felt himself being lifted again and he smelled iron nearby. Close. Too close. For the second time, the tree that would become Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings was frightened.
He remembered the feeling of being hewn, his limbs separated from his mighty trunk, his trunk split and shaped and split again until he was no longer one being, but many pieces.
Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings wondered what had happened to the pieces that had been left behind. Trees are not familiar with the concept of separation and division. Leaves fall and return to the earth. Dry branches crack and split and fall, but they are still always nearby. The wind may come and take leaves far away but they still land on the earth. Whole portions of him had been removed and taken away and he did not know where they had gone or what became of them.This worried him.
He remembered more.
He remembered being in pieces and feeling the warmth of fire near him, feeling the pieces of himself shaped and changed by the rough hands of a Man. Over time, he grew to know the Man by his smell. The Man smelled of iron and young saplings, but most importantly, he smelled of Earth. He grew to know the Man by his touch– rough, calloused hands that carved his pieces gently and with great care.
Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings did not care for men or their practices but he had liked that Man. The Man had changed him and changed his pieces and parts into something that men called “chair”.
And so, the tree became a chair.
Because trees cannot see, the tree that became a chair could not see how he had been transformed. And what a transformation had been wrought. The tree had felt the Man carving him, but he could not see the stories of men that had been carved along his branches that became legs. The tree had felt the Man brushing tiny strokes of something warm onto his new shape, but he could not see the gold and silver that now lined the wood that became arms. The tree had felt the man rest something soft along his branches that became a seat, but he could not see the rich embroidery of the brocade that made the cushion that Kings of Men would sit on.
And so, the tree that became a chair became a throne.
Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings remembered the strange feeling of the first of the many men that would sit on him. The man’s hands were rough and gripped his branches that were arms tightly. His weight was surprising, but not unpleasant. The man did not shift in place as many of the men that had sat on him had done, nor did he swing his legs or lean back as the smaller men did.
Over time, the Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings became an excellent judge of the men who sat on his branches that became a seat. The ones with rough hands and a gentle touch seemed to sit the longest. The heavy men, the sweaty ones with soft hands and a tight grip never seemed to sit on him for very long. There were men who seemed to jump into his seat, those who always hesitated for just a moment before their full weight fell on him and those who barely seemed to sit at all, so ready were they to jump up again.
He had felt the warm blood of some of them spill down his legs and felt others grow cold on him as they returned to the earth. Once, he had felt the tiny movements of a tiny man placed on his seat by another type of man. This man smelled of sweet fruits and flowers. He was a different type of man, what men called “woman”. Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings often wished he could see this man, to see what differences separated him from the other men. This man’s touch was gentle and the man would often hold the tiny man in his arms, rocking him. Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings supposed this was so the tiny man could feel the wind in the branches that men called “hands”.
There were times when he had felt fire nearby, very close. Sometimes huge vibrations that would shake the ground he sat on would bring the smells of iron and blood and death. It was always the same. He would wait for the men to come, to lift him and then he would feel the vibrations of a long journey. Then he would feel himself put back on the Earth and he would feel the familiar weight of men on him again, until the next time the smells of blood and death reached him.
Over time, the gold chipped away, the carvings lost their detail to the smoothing of time, the brocade faded and tattered until his seat was bare, but he remained. The men always came for him.
Then, there was a time when men did not come for him. No one rested their weight on the branches that became his seat, no one rant heir hands over the branches that became him arms, and his wood grew dry and dusty without the attention of men. Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings sat in that condition for a long, long time.
Then men came again. They wiped the dust from his branches that had become him arms and legs and rubbed oil to relieve the dry condition of his wood. They replaced the soft cushion on the branches that became his seat and they took him to a place with bright light that was not the sun. But still, no men sat on him. He could feel them walking by him, around him, their vibrations always coming close enough to give him hope, but their weight never rested on him. Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings was lonely.
Then, again, he felt the huge vibrations that meant that men would come for him. He smelled the iron and blood and death and waited for men to come and lift him and take him on another journey. Then, suddenly, there was a great, crushing weight– but this was no man. It felt as though the Earth herself was falling onto him, all of him, not just his branches that became a seat. Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings, was worried for the second time.
Trees are patient, and so the tree that became a chair that became a throne waited with the crushing weight of the Earth on him. He waited there for many years.
Then, finally, the men came. They lifted the weight from him and dusted and oiled and cared for him before, and again they brought him to a place with bright light where the men did not rest their weight on him. They placed a rope across the branches that had become his seat and so men walked by, sometimes stopping, sometimes passing by without a pause.
The men would come once in awhile to dust and oil him, to adjust the cushion or to examine his carvings, but they never sat on him.
And so, Wselwulf, Stalwart Seat of Victorious Kings, sat, patiently waiting as trees are wont to do, wondering who the next man would be to rest his weight on him.
He didn’t have long to wait.