One morning in the 81st year of Yuri's reign, the citizens of Koguryo awoke to a startling sight: the Tree of Reflections, a landmark at the East Gate for decades, had been brutally cut down overnight. Perplexed and disturbed by this event, the people of the community sought answers, but to no avail.|
As nights passed, other trees soon fell, not only in Koguryo, but in Buya and Nagnang as well. No sooner did one lose sight of a tree than that tree would vanish. As the people slept, more and more trees fell, with nobody able to offer an answer.
The spectral messenger Kabocha warned of a foreboding evil, and the twelve Elders one night experienced cryptic dreams, isolated sentences of which, it was discovered, formed a premonitive poem. However, none of these events contained answers -- only further questions. Why was the stump of the Tree of Reflections hollowed out? Where had the trees gone? What did these prophetic visions mean?
Questions would remain unanswered as yet another arboreal victim met its match: the Great Tree. Druids wept at her loss as ravens and crows, with nowhere to roost, flooded the skies of the Kingdom of the Winds.
One evening not soon after, a ruckus caught the attention of the people of Koguryo: huge treelike creatures, not unlike the notable Strange Thing in appearance, had appeared spouting an incomprehensible foreign language. With calls of "Qa rixuan beot!" they beseeched the community, but despite the large axes they held, they were not violent.
Citizens and scholars alike reached out as skeptics debated the friendly intentions of these creatures. The Druid Aezriael led the charge in figuring out and compiling the curious language of the beasts, who, as the community soon learned, were called Triiofa.
The four Triiofa had distinct names and personalities: Tongnamu was mature and sensible, Kkoptchil was sensitive and youthful, Chaemok was slow and thoughtful, and Kurutogi was outgoing and friendly. As they gradually learned the language of the Kingdom of the Winds, answers began to come to light...
The Triiofa were created by a legendary Wizard of the trees, so that they might serve as stewards of the forests. Large, powerful, and equally stealthy, their duty was to cut down and clear the sick trees and plant new saplings. So stealthily could they blend into the surrounding forests that only a few people had ever seen them; the hermit-in-exile Thane even went so far as to create monstrous imitations that wander the Nangen forests robbing passers-by. Triiofa, they insisted, never harmed people or the forests. However... they had been placed under the control of a powerful magic. The four chieftans had been freed by the energy released by the Great Tree when they cut it down, but their brothers and comrades were still under this power. The Triiofa spoke of a great evil buried in a cavelike mound which had been unearthed near the Tree of Reflections, and called upon the power of an old friend to help free their people: the Haggard Witch. The Historian Qantao finally emerged, notes of the community in hand, eager to communicate with these creatures, and quickly befriended sensitive Kkoptchil.
(to be continued)