The Keeper of Sorrows considered all of the natural components he had gathered and set them down in a deliberate spiral pattern. He took deep breaths to clear his mind. It was not easy at this time of year. As the power of the Foul rose with the approach of the Harrowing, he felt the pain of all of the Sorrowhaunts in his wood, even this far outside that forlorn place.

The Keeper let those thoughts drift away from him and concentrated on the task at hand. He ignored the cool night air, the sparking stars above him, and the flames flickering at his side. He let his voice reach into the Pale, so that all the Pale spirits could hear him. As he did so, he let the cards fall as they may; each image revealed building the power of his voice. An ancient scroll of calling faded and crumbled as he called upon its magic.

The trees and rocks and even the earth heard him. He could feel them awaken, even if only briefly, and sigh at his call. The wind answered him, rustling the remaining leaves in the trees above him. He called again and waited. The stars moved slowly across the night sky.

When the darkness of the night seemed deepest, his answer came. The flames faltered and went out. Voices, only whispers, could be heard from the darkness. He could see eyes watching him. Those eyes were not human.

“Greetings, child of the Gifted.” one voice whispered to him. “Why have you called out to the Elder Tree? What do you wish?”

The Keeper of Sorrows carefully considered his words. “I have been approached by Druids, Gifted and empowered, who seek the council and wisdom of the Elder Tree. I agreed to call to it, to attract its attention on their behalf. Mine is a path of sacrifice, like those before me, and I have that right.”

The eyes looked about, and whispers in the darkness contemplated and discussed his request.

“The Gifted children have their own teachers; those with Virtue and Hubris are too volatile; too quick to interpret answers and too impatient to understand the whispers of the leaves. You know this. It is why the ancient pacts separated the Gifted teachers from the whispers of the trees. So that the Gifted would not misinterpret the dreams of the Elder Tree, and so the Elder Tree would not reveal dreams to the Gifted that they would not be ready to understand.”

Figures in the dark nodded, and regarded each other.

Another voice continued where the first left off. “The ancient pact is clear. Do not bring the Hubris of the Gifted to the boughs and roots and leaves of the Elder Tree, where ever it might manifest. That is why only we can find its boughs. Because we cannot bear Hubris.”

“Unless the Gifted teach to us,” the third voice clarified.

The Keeper of Sorrows waited to be sure they wished  him to speak. He nodded sagely before continuing. “The ancient pacts were set to last until the ancient wounds of the world were healed, or until the world was threatened anew. The Sorrowhaunts have reason to believe that both are true. They believe it is time for the Pale to once again hear the whispers of the trees, even if that means seeing the dreams of the Elder Tree.”

This time there were no whispers. The figures did not regard each other, nor could any whispers be heard. They simply waited. Time passed.

“Your sacrifice gives you the right to call on the Elder Tree. We shall see if they are ready. We shall see if these Gifted children can set aside their Hubris and fully embrace the Pale.”

Another voice continued. “Even now, spirits more ancient that you and your line awaken. They feel the roots of the Elder Tree, they gaze up into its boughs, and they contemplate each leaf they see. It is vast, yet they hear them, hear them all. The Elder Tree calls them back to the waking world. Expect the first on the first night of the Harrowing. Tell the Gifted to set aside their Hubris and watch for these visitations starting that first night when the Foul shadows the world.”

A third voice concluded. “The spirits will reveal a path; perhaps it will lead away from Hubris, perhaps it will lead towards understanding. It will be the purpose of the Gifted Races that lead them. Each of the Gifted will in turn be as a root, a bough, a leaf.”

Long moments of silence passed before the Keeper of Sorrows bowed. “I will send my dreams forth so they know we have spoken.” When he looked up the spirits were gone.