You grew up on Catalina Island, the son of a pair of aging environmentalist hippies. Both of your parents had been serious hippies during the 70s, and had moved to Catalina to protect the few remaining Ironwood groves. As such, much of your early life revolved around protecting the groves. Whether it was taking you along in trips to the legislature, or bringing you to protests, your parents made sure you were involved from an early age. Your older brother had become a scientist and had distanced himself from his weirdo parents as much as possible—they were determined not to make that mistake again.
As such, you spent a lot of time by yourself, up on the mountains of Catalina, sitting with the Ironwoods. You served as caretaker, tour guide, and ecologist. You maintained the delicate balance of the groves and the creatures, and kept the trees healthy.
Both of your parents died when you were twelve. Their death was neither unexpected nor terribly unwelcome—both had lived long happy lives and were comfortable leaving the Ironwoods with you. You lived by yourself for the next five years, continuing to tend to the Ironwoods. However, despite your best efforts, the Ironwoods were slowly dying. Each year more of them died, much to your sadness.
On the morning of your fifteenth birthday, you went down to town as usual to buy food. After your brief stop at the market, you turned to head home. As you were leaving the town, you saw a strange man in a long brown cloak. A single lock of long blonde hair spilled out from his hood. As you came closer, you got the distinct sensation that he was looking straight at you. When you walked past him, he put one hand on your shoulder and said quietly, “The trees need you now.” You looked at him in surprise, then realized what he had said. He nodded once, as if to emphasize his point, and turned to walk away.
You ran up the mountain path to the grove to find smoke rising. A thin trail of fire led through the tall dry grass and was slowly approaching the trees. As you watched, a human figure seemed to form from the flames, a being made entirely of heat and light. It burned all the living matter it touched, sending them up in great gouts of steam and smoke, killing them instantly. And it was moving steadily closer to the Ironwoods.
Somehow, you knew exactly what to do. You made as if to hold a sword, and somehow you were. You stepped between the grove and creature, holding your shining sword out to fend it off. You swung at it once, twice. Each time the flames seemed to reform elsewhere, just out of reach of your blade. You drew your sword back, preparing to stab it, but stopped when you felt a touch at your shoulder.
You turned around to see a curious image. A small gray androgynous figure stood behind you, clad only in thick wiry bark. You knew immediately that this could only be a dryad of the Ironwoods. It opened its mouth and spoke in the sound of wind through trees, “We thank you deeply for your continued aid and help, but our time has ended. This world can no longer hold us, and the time has come for us to pass on. We thank you deeply for your devotion and love, and ask that you simply remember us fondly. This fire spirit has come at our calling, to send us to the next world and begin the process of recycling our bodies into the soil. Thank you again, child of the Ironwood, and farewell.”
You stood back in silent sadness, and watched the fire spirit burn your home. You watched the trees spark and flare up, and you watched the leaves crisp and blacked. You watched as the last grove of Ironwoods went up in flame and fell to the ground as no more than charcoal.
With nothing left to keep you at Catalina, you took a ship to the mainland to seek your fortunes elsewhere. When you arrived at the harbor, a man named Zahir was waiting for you. He took you to the monastery, and you’ve been training there. You’ve made friends with almost everyone very easily, but one person immediately stood out to you. Brushstrokes was so kind, so cuddly, and so… interesting. Of course, it helped that she was a serious hippie too. You asked her out within a week of arriving, and the two of you have been happily together for almost two years.