The visions began as soon as Jakan touched the rough bark. They shimmered for a moment before settling into focus. His throat tightened and his heart sped. Before him, his village burned. Bright orange wolves of flame snarled at him as they tore cottages apart. He could feel the raging heat on his cheeks, searing his beard. Over the crackling of burning timber, other sounds broke through; not the usual soft murmuring of Arrakesh, but screams and wails so chilling he reeled from them.
The scene faded. In its place he saw The Tree. The oak stood in sunlight, a black spectre, huge and forbidding. Its limbs were bare, though the rest of the forest around it wore its summer greenery. As he watched, two branches reached forward, like hands held out to him in supplication. He stared in horror, as the trunk of the tree split open. Crimson liquid bubbled and bled from it onto the earth below, snaking into the forest. Everything it touched turned black and withered away to dust.
Jakan closed his eyes tighter, clutching so hard at the tree that the bark cut into his hands. His awareness of his surroundings remained just keen enough to be conscious of the uneasiness of the villagers behind him, but he could do nothing to reassure them. The forest held him. He couldn’t move, or open his eyes.
He trembled. What was happening? Please, Arrakesh, no more. But Arrakesh, it seemed, had not finished.