"I can only give you recollections of what happened last time," said Emerald fluidly. "The forest never forgets. But you know more about the Mist than you're letting on, Princeling."
"What?" said Kamika, as Emerald's words came to her at last, as if from behind a silent waterfall. "What else do you know?"
Thorn fidgeted uncomfortably.
"Nothing, I -"
"Thorn! Don't make me hurt you."
"Alright, alright - have you ever heard of the Mist of Engoroth?"
"Well - that's what it is."
"Oh, is that it? You only know the name?"
"I've read the Book of Old before. The whole last tome is about the Mist of Engoroth. But my father, he - he forbade me from reading the last page. 'It doesn't matter, son,' he said, 'it won't happen in your lifetime ...' "
"What are you on about?"
"The Mist of Engoroth surfaces whenever the forest is out of balance," said Thorn resignedly. "Something's happened - some sort of energy is being leached from the trees, that the Mist doesn't want to let go."
"You're not making sense."
"I'm doing my best! Unless you want me to say it like the Anciente Foreste becometh enshrouded with moste evile -"
"Right, we're not getting anywhere," said Emerald matter-of-factly. "Let me explain.
"Aeons ago when I was freshly grown from the root of a young ash, the Mists came. No-one knew how to do anything about it - anyone consumed by Engoroth turned to dust where they stood.
"The only people who could do anything about it were members of a secret Priory in the Elven Church, so secret that only its members and the Royal Entourage ever knew about them."
"Well, I haven't heard about them."
"The Priory have disintegrated," said Emerald crisply. "Discipline over the years has lapsed and its secrets have died out."
"No they haven't! You -"
"Was I a member of the Priory?"
Thorn fell silent.
"The only thing I can remember is that only one has the Gift -"
"The Gift of Rebalance, yeah I know that bit," Thorn interrupted.
"- but they have to know how to use it."
"Is that why we weren't swept away by the mist, then?" said Kamika, with a shiver.
"It means one of you is the Prior. And the Prior must act - before it's too late. Even a phoenix can't stay on the wing forever."
Emerald's final words died on the breeze, as if muffled by the Mist.