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Tree of Life (Starseed)

The source of the coveted Starseeds, Trees of Life make space travel possible.

As seen in A Few Good Elves
The stars are almost completely blotted out of their view in the branches of the Great Tree the Telasian System elves call Yggdrasil’s Sprout. Each leaf is as large as a small moon. For the first time, it occurs to her to wonder about the astrophysics of it all. Is it the enormous tree that makes gravity on the tiny world of Peridot seem Telasian-normal? Or is there some magic of the Airts of which she is unaware?
Homefront by Diane Morrison
  Trees of Life are a naturally-occurring starfaring species of plant that navigate the Airts as a normal part of their reproductive cycle. They are often so vast that they become literal words of their own. Because these mysterious trees manipulate the Airts (and therefore, gravity) they provide sufficient gravity to sustain populations and in some cases ecosystems, with a fully functioning atmosphere created by the Tree's off-gasses.   Trees of Life produce the coveted Starseeds, which were the first form of space travel, and which the elves still use as their exclusive spaceships. Starseed ships are classified by size (ship class,) which is determined by the point in their cycle at which they were harvested. Starseed ships can range from a tiny pinnace to an enormous dreadnaught.   Trees of Life also spin in space, just like any other planetary body. They have a peculiar quality that no matter how far away they are from a system's sun, their natural feeding cycle produces enough light to create a normal day cycle on the side that the sun is currently facing, and enough natural heat of their own to sustain life. Indeed, it's almost as if the Divine designed them for this purpose. Also by some unique twist, believed to be a side effect of their natural Airt manipulation, smaller "worlds" on the outer edges of a Tree of Life's branches or roots do not see the tree's limbs or trunk in their night sky. This, however, is not true of "worlds" or settlements located within the branch or root structures.   Many significant locations in the Known Worlds are Trees of Life, including Yggdrasil's Sprout, Greenwood, and Trinhea.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Shaundar pitched the Starsinger’s bow closer to the root that nestled around Peridot, and followed it in deeper towards the “Old Man’s” trunk. The visible light in the starry sky around the root dwindled until everything was illuminated in the faint purplish green of dusk in a rain forest.   “Have you ever been to the underside of the root, Shaundar?” asked Blackjack.   “No, elan, but I’ve always been curious.”   Lieutenant Goldenbough slapped a hand down on Shaundar’s shoulder. “Today’s your lucky day, then. Set course for the underside.”   He was happy to oblige. The root’s “underside,” if you could call it that in space, was more wild and overgrown than the “upper” side. Smaller roots, which resembled twisted, leafless trees at this distance, branched out haphazardly in all directions.
A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
  Vast branches and roots reach into the surrounding space in a roughly spherical shape around the trunk. There is no known limit to the size they can reach, and tales persist of eon-old Trees that rival the size of immense gas giants; though no one but drunk spacers in dockyard bars ever claim to have seen one, and most such tales usually begin with "I heard from a friend of a friend..."  
Up close, the Tree-of-Life almost looked like a mineral sculpture of a tree. Its crystal-wood structure shimmered with an iridescent gleam in the harsh sunlight of space. Again, Shaundar could not find a single leaf or fruit. He ran over the sprawling root system, searching for a tendril that could be easily removed. His heart thundered in his ears.
Brothers in Arms by Diane Morrison
  Trees of Life appear to grow in a unique "crystalline wood" structure that has properties in common with both wood and crystal. They are hard enough to potentially deflect, or be damaged by, siege weapons.

Genetics and Reproduction

Dangling from the vast branches, about the size of maple or ash seeds at this distance, are the shimmering iridescent Starseeds. Maple or ash seeds are perhaps what they most resemble: narrow-bodied, with leafy wings extending from both sides. They are flat with rounded edges, and they come in different sizes. Some seem like buds by comparison. If allowed to mature naturally, they will eventually drop off and be shaped into men-o-war or even dreadnaughts, depending on the size they reach when they let go from their stems. One can also encourage the immature seeds to let go early, in which case they will become skiffs, pinnaces, launches, cutters, fighters or even corvettes.   They land on a branch that clutches a man-o-war sized Starseed on a single stem. The Starseed is a lovely shining blue and green that shifts and changes, depending upon where one stands when looking at it.
Homefront: Toy Soldier Saga by Diane Morrison
  Trees of Life reproduce by spawning Starseeds. In nature, a ripe Starseed will break off from its parent tree, which will then find a new star system to grow in by traversing the Airts. This is determined by some little-understood process that seems to be related to the health and radiation of the system's sun, or to the flow and shift of Airts. The prevalent theory is that either the Trees or its Starseeds can perceive threats to their existence, and therefore can release the seed before it would naturally be released in its life cycle. It is unknown whether Trees of Life pollinate, and if so, how; or if the Starseeds are more like spores than seeds, that carry their own means of reproduction without the need for a Tree's pollination. Crashed Starseed ships have been known to develop into sprouts on a planet's surface, so it is assumed that they initially need material in which to root. Smaller worlds, like Peridot in Yggdrasil's Sprout, may be the fragments of larger worlds broken up by a Tree's roots over eons.  

Growth Rate & Stages

As befits a lifeform that operates on such a cosmic scale, Trees of Life grow extremely slowly, with stages measured in centuries, millennia or even eons, slowing as a Tree matures. Starseeds also develop over a period of years. Even the smallest Starseed ships can only be harvested after several years have passed, although it's impossible to predict just how many years are required. This is likely dictated by the unique growing conditions of a given star system and galactic Airts, as well as the life cycle of the star a Tree orbits.

Ecology and Habitats

The ideal habitat for a Tree of Life appears to be little-populated regions of a star system that receive regular solar radiation, although some incomprehensible element of Airt flow appears to serve a function as well. Trees of Life have never been seen around a star that is hotter than a White Star, or one that's cooler than a Yellow Star, nor has one been seen around any other large stellar body, such as a pulsar or black hole. However, it's unknown whether that represents a need for a particular combination of radiation or a particular intensity of Airt and gravity flow.  

Dietary Needs and Habits

Trees of Life feed on solar radiation like any other plant, and possibly something in the flow of Airts as well. The natural propagation of Starseeds is believed to be triggered by a search for more food resources.

Biological Cycle

According to legend, Trees of Life do display seasons. In ancient sagas and stories, their leaves have been said to turn colour as solar or Airt cycles wax and wane. At least one Tree is known to have shed its leaves, but because such seasons are measured in eons, it's unknown whether that represents the death of the Tree, or a winter cycle (see Trinhea.)

Additional Information

Uses, Products & Exploitation

The primary product of Trees of Life are Starseed Ships. They also produce a healing sap which is known as the Elixir of Life. If one can acquire it, Starseed Pollen has a similar property.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

There is at least one Tree of Life known to be present in each of the systems of the Core Worlds. It is assumed that there are many others throughout Known Space, but for the moment, their locations, if any, are unknown.

Average Intelligence

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

It is unknown how a Tree of Life perceives the universe, but sages believe they must obviously have a natural sense of Airts, temperature and light, to be able to use and manipulate them as they do. About the Starseeds, more is known: a Star-Pilot in symbiotic link with a Starseed can perceive the flow of Airts (and therefore have a sense of the placement of masses like people, objects, or celestial bodies,) heat, pain, and vibration (including sound.)

Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms

A variety of species grow in symbiosis with Trees of Life, including most of the natural flora and fauna in the universe. Of special note are Cosmic Mistletoe, Cosmic Moss, Star Mushrooms, and Jewel Bugs. From time to time, starfarers also encounter the Ratatosk, a sentient species of giant squirrels, sworn to protect the Trees.   Rachs occasionally attack Trees of Life, presumably to harvest their resources.
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A Starseed fighter craft in flight.
 
Genetic Descendants
Scientific Name
Proteales Platanus Celestus
Lifespan
Eons
Conservation Status
Trees of Life are exceptionally rare, and becoming more so as elven populations dwindle. Elves guard and protect the Trees jealously, and do not allow other species access to them when possible.
Average Height
10,000 to 60,000 km
Average Weight
5.972 × 10^24 kg to 1.898 × 10^27 kg
Geographic Distribution
space-tree-of-life-Yuri_B.jpg
Tree of Life Sapling by Yuri B

Cosmic Trees

The day that Shaundar realized he would never be a swordsinger was a beautiful, but otherwise ordinary day on the small world of Peridot. The elves loved their unusual home, with its great roots and branches that stretched all around into the starry firmament, and they called it Yggdrasil’s Sprout, or affectionately, “Old Man” after the Green Man god Bile. Even below, in the far reaches of the roots of the great cosmic tree, the climate was mild and temperate.   It was bristling with old-growth forest too, which made it the perfect colony world for the families of the Avalonian Imperial Navy spacers who patrolled the great tree’s orbit policing pirates, which kept them in fighting shape, even though the Great War was long over.
A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
 

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Shortlisted: WorldEmber 2019 Species Category
Special thanks to C.B. Ash (Kummer Wolfe) for helping to expand on ideas for this article!

Articles under Tree of Life (Starseed)



Cover image: Yggdrasil's Sprout by Diane Morrison
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Comments

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30 Dec, 2019 13:10

This is just awesome. I love coming back when there are updates for this one.   Do the trees suffer occasionally suffer problems from a space-faring insect? Like a space-faring beetle species? or aphids?

— The wolf of Tales of Justice, Creator of Legends of Elohey, Star Wars: Shards, Fiven Chronicles and more!
30 Dec, 2019 18:48

I know there are cosmic squirrels! But I suppose there should be, shouldn't there? Nothing exists in nature without something else to parasite from it, after all. I suppose I should have cosmic moss and mistletoe, too. Great ideas! Thank you!

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
30 Dec, 2019 20:19

I for one welcome our Cosmic Squirrel Overlords with a starship full of nuts!

— The wolf of Tales of Justice, Creator of Legends of Elohey, Star Wars: Shards, Fiven Chronicles and more!
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