Ascension: Oak of Souls
Anything that can be done with magic, will be done. This was a common philosophy for the educated sorcerers of Vigil. Yet, under threats of exile, imprisonment, and even death some realms of magic were outlawed. Doors were closed. Walls were erected. Fortifications were made.
At the top of the list was a realm called the Dreamscape, a place of fantasies and nightmares, a place only accessed by the unconscious mind.
It was in a small village on the outskirts of the Enlightened cities that a curious and powerful sorceress tore open the first portal to the Dreamscape and stepped through -- a fully conscious being in an entirely unconscious realm.
This wondrous place captivated the young sorceress. She discovered beautiful creatures and ones so alien and terrifying that to look upon them would send the mortal mind spiraling into madness. Impossible landscapes that spiraled and bent with each step, mountains of glass, oceans of light, living cities of flesh and bone. But more than all of this, it was this place that was the source of all magic on Vigil.
The sorceress returned many times, bringing along allies to assist in her exploration of the Dreamscape.
The deeper into the subconscious the sorceress and her companions adventured, the more monstrous the creatures became: unfathomable entities spawned from fear, insecurity and madness.
One such monster, a Dreadmare, took the shape of a fiery black horse stitched together from the nightmares of some long gone civilization. The monster breathed out a wave of fire and shadow that consumed her, and there, in the Dreamscape, she died.
Until this moment, to die in a dream was nothing. A cold sweat, an abrupt awakening, and the mind returned to the body.
True death, for the first time, had come to the Dreamscape and there was no mechanic here for what happened to the soul - no pathway to the afterlife.
The sorceress was the first conscious creature to die in the Dreamscape.
And in that instant, a spiritual singularity occurred.
The sorceress’s companions watched as the their employer’s soul escaped her body. They watched as it slowly compressed, shrinking and hardening until it had become a tiny crystal seed.
They could not touch it. They could not move it. They could not destroy it.. As far as they knew, it was the only unchangeable thing in the Dreamscape.
For years, the seed remained frozen there; a mystery to the Dreamscape explorers who followed in the sorceress's footsteps.
Hundreds of years later, when Vigil’s war came to the Dreamscape, so did death, but this time on a massive scale - and the seed finally began to change.
With the first deaths, the seed sprouted a tiny glass stalk, tendril-like roots, and a few leaves that crackled with energy.
As troops flowed through and the war grew, so too did the sapling, growing into a great tree of crystal and lighting, it’s thick roots, planted deeply in unconscious space, pulsated with light.
Scholars have named it the Oak of Souls. The spirits of those who die conscious deaths in the dream realm gravitate towards it until they are absorbed into the tree.
Those who’ve peered into glass trunk and branches have seen the souls of the dead within, trapped and deteriorating, as the Oak of Souls feeds on them. The spirits pound at the glass with spectral hands and scream in agony, as moment-by-moment they shrink away into oblivion.