Deshana watched the rebuilding, a small cat creeping among the ruins, dodging dogs, and preying on the many rats. The normal rats were one thing but those fiendish leftovers hurt when they got a grip on her. Her sense of smell led her to underground waterways, foul and dank, the water poisoned by the blood, ash, and destruction that rained upon the city so long ago. Deshana moved among the ruins like a shadow, ignoring the close, dank atmosphere within the once infested mines. Tunnelling animals, but more commonly xorns bribed with a lifetimes worth of precious stones, and metals helped divert the poisoned streams to new courses, charcoal and sand pit beds to filter the water, cleaning it. Countless whispered prayers purified the magical debris, remnants from the demonic infestation within and beneath the city. It was a slow silent process, but progress was being made.
First the pool in the fields became clear once more. Its water tangy with minerals at first, but as the xorns finished their patient moving of earth below. What bubbled up from below now was sweet and pure, and so too were the wells slowly replenishing, each one cleansed from below. Some nights brought a haunting singing from the mines, the remaining villagers attributing the sounds to ghosts. The words were not in common, nor elven, nor any of the tongues known well to any in the vicinity, though a passing druid would recognise the ritual music should one pass near.
As the water flowed it leeched the poisons from the land. It would take years, and much care, and she knew then that she would have to remain nearby to watch her spells and filters. She had time. Another turn of the tunnels and she came upon a room entangled in ancient, scorched roots. So many burrowed into the heart of the earth so deep below the city, the roots tangled up into a great, twisted tree that had withstood fire, flood, and demon spawn. What was most astounding was that the tree had lived. Barely, but any life left after the horror that was the Fall was a miracle.
Deshana ran a loving hand over a gnarled root, whispering softly to the tree in the darkness. So very much blood had been spilled at its base, its roots soaked in the gore of countless paladins and victims of the old city’s regime. Ironic, that it was those very deaths that had given the tree once known as the “Dead Paladin” tree the life force to withstand the coming of Orcus and all that had followed. Now, carefully, the elven woman coaxed strength back into the withered tree. She told it how proud it was, how brave to still be fighting... so many things that had no translation into the tongues of humanoids. It was here, in the darkened hollow beneath its roots that she nurtured not only the great tree, but a deeper secret.
A touch and a murmured phrase, and the great roots shifted aside, revealing a side path, newly dug beneath the city. Deshana passed through and the roots slithered back over the opening, as she followed the path east. Deep beneath the earth she emerged into light. A pool, pure and pristine, graced the center of a cavern filled with and carved from purest crystals. The light within the crystal chamber was as bright and warm as the sun, thanks to a small globe enchanted with her magic to catch the rays that penetrated the ventilation shafts in the roof of the cavern. And, spreading at her feet, with small winding paths between neat, ordered rows, was hope. The soil above was rich with minerals and fertilizer, or would be once the remaining poison was leeched from the earth. The plants grown now were thin, and often unhealthy, that too would change. Here though, under the watchful eye and careful hand of a druid that was also a skilled herbalist, grew an abundance of herbs and plants, all strong, healthy and nearly ready to be transferred above.
Medicinal herbs grew in ordered rows, all those she knew that could tolerate the climate here. A small pebbled path meandered past rows upon rows of young vegetables and fruit trees and bushes. Beyond that, and fenced off, was a motley assortment of dye plants, perfume plants, spices, and seasoning herbs, even a tiny seed plot of saffron orchids. Saffron would require a dedicated tender but would also provide a ready source of income for the recovering city. So too the dyes and perfumes, items that were small to tend but if cared for would be steady income. At the back of the cavern an odd sight, Mulberry bushes in profusion, in case someone was brave enough to attempt to raise silk.
Deshana paused and smiled faintly, another plot, fenced in and set apart from the rest, and screened by a profusion of razorvine, a planer plant that was useful in certain circumstances. Her amusement came from what were behind that fence. Herbs mostly, stronger, more dangerous then those in the common plot, here were the plants used for harming as well as healing. Each plant had a medicinal or trade skill use, but also could be and was often used for poison, for drugging, to knock a man senseless. Nearly all of them could kill. Well all herbs could, but these were those used in the making of poisons and the like. Not the usual sort of plant in a druids garden, it was true. But then, most elven druids were not wed to drow assassins, nor had they seen and used poisons to heal too many times to count over the years. Deshana would offer to stay and teach the healers the good uses for these plants, and perhaps that teaching would result in less of the sinister use for the herbs.
Yes the plants were ready to be brought to the surface.. it was time to see to the skyward side of the great tree… and reveal herself to those in charge of the rebuilding. Deshana caught a glimpse of her coal stained face in the reflective crystals and laughed softly.. Perhaps after a bath.
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