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Authors: Kathryn Huang

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A Guide Book to the Great Tree

BOOK: A Guide Book to the Great Tree
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Guardians of Ga'Hoole

A Guide Book to the Great Tree

By Otulissa, A Guardian of the Great Tree

With the Most Essential Guidance of Kathryn Huang

New York     Toronto     London     Auckland     Sydney
Mexico City     New Delhi     Hong Kong     Buenos Aires


First, a Word…

Attention, scholars of Ga'Hoole! You know the Great Ga'Hoole Tree as the home of honor and benevolence, of scholarship and invention, and above all, the home of an order of knightly owls known as the Guardians of Ga'Hoole.

It is a historic time at the tree. Boron, Barran, Strix Struma, and Ezylryb have all passed into glaumora. The arrival of Coryn, the first true king in a millennium, is bringing about an era of monumental change. We, the new generation of Guardians, have inherited the great tree, and there is much for us to do. This is a pivotal time, as was the time of the legends, and it must be remembered. This is why I, Otulissa, have written this volume. It is my hope that future generations of Ga'Hoolian scholars will read this and understand what life was like at the great tree during our time. With that, I give you
A Guide Book to the Great Tree.

The Natural (and Supernatural) History of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree

he Great Ga'Hoole Tree stands alone on the Island of Hoole in the Sea of Hoolemere, a symbol of goodness and nobility, a place of selfless deeds and heroism. Above all, it is my home. And I love it, with my heart and my gizzard.

“Ga'Hoole” means the “Great Spirit of Hoole”—a befitting name. In the time of the legends, as Hoole and his companions approached the island, the scores of owls that followed them cried out, “The Great Ga'Hoole Tree! The Great Ga'Hoole Tree!” And so the name would forever be remembered in the annals of history.

Ours is the first and largest tree of its kind. It rises hundreds of feet into the air. It would take one hundred of the largest Great Gray Owls, with their wings fully stretched,
to surround the enormous trunk. Its branches reach out in every direction over the Sea of Hoolemere, giving the tree a glorious green crown in the times of the Silver Rain and Golden Rain. During the time of the Copper-Rose Rain, the leaves turn to varying shades of gold and russet.

Massive in form, and perfect in symmetry, the Great Ga'Hoole Tree can be confused with none other. Its roots reach to the farthest edges of the island. Strix Pycelle, a botanist in the time of Hoole, documented that the root of any tree beneath the Earth's surface is as big as the tree itself aboveground. Imagine, then, a mass of roots burrowing hundreds of feet deep, anchoring our home in the sky above. From a distance, the trunk and limbs of the great tree shimmer in the light of the setting sun. This is because the tree develops knobby bark in shades of brown in the times of the Golden Rain and Copper-Rose Rain, and smooth white bark in the times of White Rain and Silver Rain. New shoots have a bright red tint. All the colors, when combined with the reflections from the sea, give the great tree a scintillating presence.

The Great Ga'Hoole Tree wasn't always the giant you see today. It began, as all trees do, as a seed. Some find it astonishing that a seed could have even reached the island given the great distance it had to travel over the Sea of Hoolemere. Maybe it was carried by a great gust of wind,
or stowed away in the feathers of an unknowing bird—nobody truly understands how it got here. Nonetheless, the seed found itself on this once-barren island. I can only guess that the beginning of our great tree was somewhat…magical in nature.

One legend claims it was King Hoole who caused the seedling to burst forth from the ground; that he unwittingly imbued the seed with Ga as he and his companion, Grank, flew over the then-barren island. Grank himself thought that it was Hoole's tears, tears he shed for his mother, Siv, that caused the seed to sprout. Others say it was the great ember that summoned the sleepy seedling to wake from afar in anticipation of the coming of the true king. In any case, the seedling grew at an astounding rate. Young Hoole himself saw the seedling grow to the height of his best friend, Phineas, before his very eyes.

Soon after King Hoole established the Guardians of Ga'Hoole in the great tree in the time of the legends, the great tree was put on record as being “hundreds” of feet high—an astonishing fact, as even the fastest-growing trees only grow six to seven feet a year. It is roughly one thousand years old.

The tree developed many comfortable hollows for all its new residents. This, too, must have been supernatural, for it cannot be explained by science; most trees don't
have hollows until they have reached middle age at two to three hundred years old. According to the annals, the tree seemed to understand the needs of its owl inhabitants. The hollows accommodated just the right number of owls. There were big hollows for the likes of Great Grays; small, cozy ones for Elf and Pygmy owls; and every size in between. The Great Hollow has always been there, ready to serve whatever needs the Guardians had. So, too, has the hollow that became parliament. Hoole chose this particular hollow because it was closest to the roots of the great tree. He did this to remind us that the source of the Guardians' power is rooted in earthly values—goodness, equality, and nobility of deed. So it seems that the tree has always recognized its purpose, and ours.

Another curious phenomenon observed by all the owls of Ga'Hoole is the perennial thick fog that hovers over the island. According to the legends, in the instant that Hoole and his companions flew over our island for the first time, the clouds parted in the sky, and the fog lifted from the sea. A beam of moonlight guided them to the tree. It was as if Glaux had opened a great gate over the island. Strix Estera, a little-known, but nonetheless respected weathertrix of the Age of Enlightenment, concluded that the great spirit of the tree summons this fog
to protect its inhabitants from unwanted intruders. Mist conceals the island, parting only for those deemed worthy. Those unfamiliar with the location of our island often fly right over it without ever knowing what rises up beneath them. However, this protection is not foolproof. The so-called Pure Ones, led by Kludd, were able to penetrate the mist when they launched their attack upon the Great Ga'Hoole Tree—a terrible episode known simply as the Siege.

It might surprise some to know that the great tree has lived for a thousand years without ever coming to any lasting harm. After much research, this writer found only two incidences in the history of the tree when the Guardians thought the tree was in danger of permanent injury—or death.

The first such incident occurred early within the Age of Enlightenment. The Ga'Hoolologist at that time was a young Barn Owl named Sianna. She noticed one spring night that the great tree had a new guest, a caterpillar that glowed with all the colors of the rainbow. Caterpillars are a common sight on the great tree and make a tasty snack. But this one was different. Not only was it beautiful, unlike other caterpillars, it also spun fine, multicolored globules of silk that hung between branches like large
teardrops, mimicking the shape of our prized milkberries. The silken teardrops were glorious to behold. They sparkled and twirled in the moonlight. The colors constantly shifted, creating mysterious shapes on the surface of the silk. It was said that once you looked upon one, it was most difficult to look away. The owls called them luminaspheres.

Sianna, along with many other owls of the great tree, was mesmerized. The rainbow caterpillars were declared a blessing from Glaux that glorified the Great Ga'Hoole Tree. It was proclaimed that no owl should eat any of these caterpillars. Inhabitants of the great tree would spend several hours each night admiring the luminaspheres that covered the tree, sometimes neglecting their other duties.

Unbeknownst to the distracted owls, hidden from view by the luminaspheres, the rainbow caterpillars were devouring the leaves and new shoots of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree, stunting its growth. The tree was suffering. This went on for weeks, then months.

As the time passed, Heilo the Blind, an old Spotted Owl and retired weather interpretation ryb, began to get odd twinges in his gizzard. Unable to see the luminaspheres, Heilo was immune to their bewitching effects. He couldn't put his talon on it, but he knew something
was very wrong. He shut himself in his hollow for a period of intense and undisturbed meditation, and finally sensed the true nature of the tree's sickness. At once he knew the cause. Despite Sianna's protests, he informed the parliament, which ordered the destruction of all luminaspheres and the death of all the rainbow caterpillars. And so it was done.

Later that year, the milkberry harvest was paltry. The berries that did grow were small and tasted chalky. It would be three years before the tree fully recovered. The owls learned a valuable lesson, and Heilo the Blind was hailed as a hero. Since that time, the great tree has been tended to with much vigilance to ensure that it remains free from unfriendly visitors.

The second incident occurred only a few centuries ago. During one particularly damp period in the season of the Golden Rain, it was noted in the annals that the Great Ga'Hoole Tree did not grow as profuse a green crown as it had during previous years. Its leaves looked small and sickly, and its branches sagged under an invisible weight.

The famed Ga'Hoolologist and ryb Isolde, a Burrowing Owl, set out to find the cause. She and the Ga'Hoolology chaw flittered through the boughs, examined the colossal
trunk, and poked around the roots. It was no easy task, surveying the great tree. (It must have been mind-numbingly boring, too. Why, I'd rather bury pellets.) After several days and several inspections, Isolde found the first clue.

Little mushrooms of a kind Isolde had never before seen were growing in a crack near the roots. They had ominous matte-black caps shaped like clamshells, and thick yellow stalks. When Isolde touched the caps with her wing tips, a fine black powder spurted from them into the air. On a moonless night, she cut into the root beneath the mushrooms with the aid of a pair of modified battle claws. To her horror and amazement, she discovered streaks within the heartwood of the root that glowed like fire in the night. With the color and intensity of hot coals from the forge, the streaks lit up Isolde's face. She
cut along the root farther into the ground, and discovered that the streaks ran deep into the tree, zigzagging, she was certain, through much of the root system.

The Ga'Hoolology chaw had never seen anything like this before. Several young owls in the chaw were transfixed at the sight; some muttered that the streaks were the result of nachtmagen. A mood of both enchantment and fear spread through the group.

The next night, Isolde and her chaw set out to find a cure for the great tree. The chaw split up into pairs and flew to various parts of the Southern Kingdoms, seeking knowledge from all the sage creatures of the land. Pollianne the Barn Owl and Hildeth the Spotted Owl headed for the Shadow Forest to seek an old Snowy named Aude who had a reputation as a tree healer. Elva the Elf Owl and Sanders, another Barn Owl, went to the Forest of Tyto in search of the Dark Sisters, a group of nest-maid snakes who were masters of potions and poultices. Isolde and Marduk, a Great Gray, headed for the Forest of Ambala to speak with the eagles, who always seemed to know the latest happenings in the entire kingdom. The three groups would reconvene in Ambala to discuss their findings.

Elva and Sanders found the Dark Sisters in a hollow of an oak tree formerly inhabited by a family of Great Grays. “We can give you what you seek, if you know what you
seek,” the blind snakes said. Elva and Sanders tried to explain the glowing streaks in the root of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree, but without knowing the name of the condition, the Sisters could not concoct a cure. Thwarted, the two young owls flew onward to Ambala to reconvene with the rest of the chaw.

Aude the Snowy did not disappoint. He knew at once the name and nature of the malady. To Hildeth and Polianne he uttered two words: “black fire.” A nasty thing black fire was. When it got into a young tree's roots, it could kill the tree within a year. A stronger, older tree could live with black fire for several years before it died, but die it would, and a vile end it would have. Black fire had not been seen in the Southern Kingdoms in hundreds of years, Aude had claimed. But the glowing streaks in the heartwood of the roots could mean nothing else.

“There is a cure, a potion made from an herb called Lyssop,” Aude told Polianne and Hildeth. “But I have none of it, and I have not seen it in these parts since I was a mere owlet.” Polianne and Hildeth rushed this news to Ambala.

In the Forest of Ambala, the eagles reported that several stands of trees in Ambala had been killed in the last year by a yet unknown malady. It was now clear—black fire was back in the Southern Kingdoms.

Armed with the information brought back by Polianne

and Hildeth, Isolde and the Ga'Hoolology chaw once again called on the Dark Sisters.

“Lyssop you seek, Lyssop you shall have,” the Sisters chanted. With that, they slithered from their hollow onto the forest floor. “Return in two days,” they told the six owls.

And so they waited. When they returned, they were presented with a bottle of bright green liquid. “You must keep the afflicted roots moist with this,” the Sisters instructed. “Two weeks, and the herb shall do its work.” Isolde held the cure in her talons and gave the Dark Sisters her gratitude.

Back at the Great Ga'Hoole Tree, the Ga'Hoolology chaw went to work. Night and day, the owls took turns moistening the roots with a feather dipped in Lyssop potion. They did this for two weeks, just as the Dark Sisters had said. First, the fiery streaks stopped glowing, and turned an ashen shade of gray. Then, the black mushrooms withered and died. And finally, just as the potion was about to run out, the streaks disappeared, leaving thin hollow channels where they once had glowed.

With the help of the Dark Sisters, black fire was eventually eliminated from all of the Southern Kingdoms. But, if it came once, it could come again. For this reason I
always include both the disease and the cure in my teachings.

BOOK: A Guide Book to the Great Tree
10.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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