Someone killed Jack.
I’d known Jack ever since I’d planted him as a sapling in 1803. There was a tang to his fruit that few enjoyed, and I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly fond of them either. Not until I started to press the windfall and kept it around for applejack.
It was how he got his name.
I’d walk and see him about once a week. Sometimes every other week, depending on the situation in Cross or the Hollow, or both.
It’d been a solid week since I’d last spoken with Jack, the conversation nothing more than an exchange of pleasantries, and there’d been no weather to speak of in that time.
When I came upon his remains, the stink of magic clung to the air.
Something had twisted and pushed the old apple tree down, and then someone else had taken axes and saws to his branches. All of which were missing.
I stood there for a bit and considered who or what might have done this to the tree.
Upon questioning the other trees, I learned they did not know what had happened. There was a fog over their collective memory, and even the dryads and other fey had been affected.
I knew it could not be my mother, regardless of which version might crawl out of the Hollow.
No, the magic was too strong. Too strong and too dark.
This was old magic, and only one group practiced its type in Cross.
The professors and students of Miskatonic University.
They’d come onto my land, found the oldest tree in the lower orchard, and put him to death.
They’d murdered my friend.
More than likely for nothing more than his wood and the power a speaking tree had within its fibrous bones.
I looked long and hard at Jack’s mangled form and then made my decision.
I’d not work magic on the offenders. I could twist well enough without the need for arcane utterances.
And as for their limbs, well, I had plenty of handsaws and axes for that, too.
With my decision made, I turned and headed toward home.
There were tools to gather and fools to visit.