The tree first appeared growing through the cracks in the checkerboard that had once been the Marquis’ outdoor garden. A parched, spare little thing, and the boy took pity on it. He found a dinged-up watercan in the ruins of a garden shed and patiently gave the sprout a few drops.

Every day thereafter, he would return for the same ritual. A little water from the old can, depending on how dry it had been–the sort of thing he was already learning from Father for when he was older and could begin to help with the harvest.

In time, the tree grew tall and strong, spreading boughs over what remained of the garden terrace and tearing up what remained of the Marquis’ checkerboard with its roots. Birds came to perch amid its spreading branches, and will ‘o the wisps could be seen about its trunk at dusk and dawn.

It was an inspiring sight, but also a fearful one. The boy had begun watering the shoot when he was five years old. By the time he was seven, it was larger than all but the oldest boughs in the forest.

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