The light slowly died as he went deep into the sacret forest. Ulakwe searched the many shrubs and trees for the herbs he needed. Gladesong, Sage, and... damn! What was that last one? Oh, if only Elder Kwana still lived. He sat on an old oaken root, trying to remember the third herb, tapping his staff against the earth. Only the chirping of birds and the chittering of critters to accompany him.
Many minutes passed, frustration washed over the seer in training. He frantically scratched the side of his head in an effort to remember... it was a long, very faintly glowing, purple flower... ah, now we were getting somewhere.
"Ulakwe..." a voice whispered,
He whipped his head behind him....
"Ulakwe..." the voice whispered again, this time from over his right shoulder. He stood up and walked toward the source of the voice....
he was getting closer... hooves crunching on the leaves and twigs on the ground below him.
"You are close, Ulakwe... just a little further..." the guttural, baritone voice said.
Ulakwe stopped, the voice unsettled him...
"Come now, Ulakwe, I am just a forest spirit. I wish to help you with your sapta."
Ulakwe took a step back.
"You were looking for Boughshade Blossoms, weren't you?"
... that was the herb he was looking for...
"I have some. Growing at the base of my trunk. You can have them. Irritating things they are to me..."
He hesitantly stepped through the forest into a dead clearing with a twisted, ugly, blackened tree that dripped a foul red ichor from it's branches. At the base of it's trunk, in stark contrast to the brown and dead grass and foliage that surrounded it, were the flowers he sought... just enough for the sapta.
"Come, Ulakwe. Take them. But... when you do take them, I would speak with you..."
He stepped cautiously toward the flower, ready to dart from the tree at a moment's notice. The voice chuckled mockingly. The flower rustled, and it was plucked from the ground by a single black root offering it to him...
"Allow me to assist... you're just like your Elder. How he feared me at first..."
With a shaking hand, Ulakwe took the flower and tucked it into his herb bag. He stepped back, looking over the tree.
"Tell me, Ulakwe... have you prepared the sapta before?" it asked.
"No... I haven't." he said.
"Elder Kawa didn't trust the sapta fully... it was faulty. But I helped him." the tree said, extending a branch with something sprouting from it... a strange red bud... that let light pass through it.
"The Sapta lied to him, but my fruit... it told him the truth... no matter how terrible."
The budding fruit grew into a repulsive, bulging fruit shaped like the skull of some strange creature Ulakwe had only rarely seen in dreams. A few times he could have sworn he saw it throb. A foul crimson miasma wafted visibly from it's surface, and it reeked of death and decay.
"We have a future together, Ulakwe... take the fruit... eat it... and you will see." it said.
He hesitated, but something in the back of his mind, his uncertainty, made him reach out to grasp the fruit in his now trembling hands.
"Yes... take it... eat... and know..."
He snapped the fruit off the branch, and was startled by the pained noise that the voice made, shaking the branch as though it was a hand that had cut a finger.
"Are you alright, forest spirit?" Ulakwe asked, putting the fruit in his herb bag.
"I feel pain... but it is of no consequence to you.... and my name is Skradrassil."
Suddenly the tree bulged, more red ichor dripping from it's branches, and it let out a strange heave... pain? pleasure? Ulakwe did not know. His eyes went wide.
"Agghh... stronger... but now is not the time... go, Ulakwe..." the tree said.
With a hesitant nod, he turned and headed back to the village.