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It rises like a spectre from the desert – tons and tons of sandstone, carved in an effigy of the forest lost. Trees and flowers and animals caught in unmoving rock, lifelike enough to make one expect the desert breeze to stir the leaves, to think one’s footsteps will startle the deer.

Two massive oaks of stone flank doors thrice the height of a man; pure silver engraved to tell the tale of the Great Withering. They open outwards at the touch of a hand, eerily silent, releasing air that is cool and fresh and carries with it the promise of water.

The guardians stand like shadowy statues in the dark antechamber, unwavering and inscrutable, veiled, even here where all others must bare their heads to pass.

Another set of doors, then; these ones are smaller, unadorned except for a faint repeating pattern of spiraling vines, and polished to a hazy mirror shine. They twist one’s reflection – the corner of the eye catches movement, hints of horns and feathers, scales and claws.

Beyond is a verdant haven with the illusion of a softer sun. A great hypostyle hall, pillar trees rising far above to a ceiling lost in darkness. The light of a hundred lanterns filters through crystal leaves every imaginable shade of green, gleams dully on the bronze-plated trunks.

In the center of the hall rises a spring, trickling up from under a towering granite boulder and flowing out to form a circular pool. Its waters are cold and clear and deep, edged by smaller stones.

And this is the Heart of the Forest; this is the source of Shanendarin. Everything flows from here. This still remains where it always has been, and just as it always has done it feeds the dreams and hopes of an entire people.

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