Soil of Growth

Despite all his shortcomings, Maestro proved himself a useful ally early on. He made dozens of baked goods that would stay fresh for a very long while, some of them we had eaten before we embarked further but we put most of them in our bags as further supplies. We also told him about our journey and about the predicament we were in (I of course didn’t mention the matter with the Gardener, as that should still rather remain unknown). Our trio decided that there were two things we now needed: A way back to the surface, and something that would give me back my original size. Maestro himself didn’t know anything regarding these two things, but he knew a person that might. A hermit living on the other side of something called the “Crystal Sea”, who knew about many things and might help us in our endeavour. But then out of nowhere, Squeakly said that he might know of a thing that is by all accounts capable of enlarging one’s body. “I’ve heard of such a thing while I was looking for the cure for the Ratxellence. A fruit taken from a very specific colossal tree found here in the Wildlands is supposed to increase one’s size. I do not know where it is supposed to be, but perhaps our lovely new…companion knows more as he calls these lands his home, doesn’t he?” Maestro seemed a little bit phased by this question and he said to me. “My lady do not listen to the blabbering of this fool, Than his I would much more value the opinion of a mule.” But as he was saying this, he was avoiding direct eye contact with me (which was quite noticeable as he had seven eyes) and he didn’t say it with his usual jovial arrogance. “You didn’t answer his question, and I myself am curious about the answer.” I said strictly, because the thing Squeakly spoke of could be part of my salvation. But Maestro was still hesitant “The Tree of Growth is nothing but a fairy tale, besides it is surely much safer towards the hermit to sail, that does much less problems entail.” As Squeakly heard this reply, he immediately answered with a victorious smirk. “The Tree of Growth you said? I believe I didn’t mention any name when I was talking about it.” Maestro was pushed into a corner now and it was my turn to start asking questions. “Maestro, does this tree exist?” “My lady I…” “Just nod your head If yes and shake it if no.” Maestro hesitantly nodded. “Good. Now, do you know where it is.” He nodded again and I asked again. “And can you lead us there?” He took a few seconds and he seemed like he really didn’t want to answer, yet he eventually nodded nonetheless. “So where is it?” He didn’t answer he simply looked up. I followed suit and looked up at the shining cavern ceiling above me. Was it somewhere above us, or was the Maestro simply praying to something (It’s hard to tell when he does not have arms). I tried to find some details in the ceiling, whether there were any holes that we could traverse through or something, but Maestro’s stupid house tree was blocking my…oh…all right…that was easier than I thought. “Are you saying that the Tree of Growth is your home? But I don’t see any of the famed fruits on it, how is that?” Sadness was visible on Maestro once I had mentioned the fruit, and I already knew that a deep grief-stricken poem would ensue: “The fruits on my tree were once aplenty, but now there are nineteen less than twenty. One single fruit remains and once that is gone all that I am fades. Please do not take my fruit away, I will help you however I can, just please not in this way.” All his eyes were bursting with tears now, creating a moderate puddle under him. “Why are you crying mate, will you die without that fruit? What is the problem?” “I will show you lady, but not the fool. for he is one sure to ridicule.” I gestured Squeakly away, he wanted to protest but my angry outburst was still fresh in his memory and he followed my unspoken order without question. Maestro then turned towards me and his body began to shift, becoming smaller and smaller with every second until his whole body (all eyes included) was the size of my fist. “Now lady you see with whom you truly have the honour , feel free to laugh and mock. You wouldn’t be the first to at my form mockingly holler.” It all made sense now, the eccentricity, the pompousness, the threats. All of that to deal with insecurities. I wasn’t laughing one bit, I didn’t find it funny, I knew what it meant to be left out, to be an outcast. And I guess that having a family of cruel paranoid arrogant monsters doesn’t help either. “Why should I mock, I don’t really see a difference. A renowned skilled poet with a knack for bakery was standing… well floating before me then, and he is floating before me now, why should I treat him any different?” Maestro’s eyes started glowing with emotions, and he said with a trembling and still somewhat insecure voice: “A renowned poet! Lady you insult me. I am the best in the universe, for such an offense you should for your life plea.” As he started, he regained his former pompous voice and I couldn’t help but smile at the ending threat. Ironic how the turntables. Maestro then immediately started flying towards the very top of the tree and he returned carrying an apple twice his size. I took the apple from him and pocketed it, and then called Squeakly back to us. Upon seeing Maestro now he started grinning and obviously wanted to say something, but I turned towards him with my most menacing glare and put my finger in front of my mouth in a gesture of silence. Squeakly swallowed his words and then said as if nothing was different. “So, I assume we have the fruit then?” “That we do. And I think we are ready to embark once more. Towards the Crystal sea we go.” I hoped that that task would be as easy as this one, but something told me that wouldn’t be the case.

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