The tree of life, called “vuli” in Atlantean, is a deciduous evergreen tree with dark, smooth bark and spreading branches. Its leaves are a very distinct trefoil; its flowers consist of seven long, narrow yellow petals; and its gold-skinned fruit very closely resembles a peach, though it also possesses features that allow it to be mistaken for an apple, such as the long stem. The fruit’s stone is round and smooth like an avocado’s.
The tree of life has a life cycle that spans often spans multiple millennia. It begins as a seed no larger than an almond. Once planted (or otherwise in favourable conditions), it begins to grow. It begins with a rapid growth spurt, reaching a height of one metre in the span of just three years.
However, after this point, it grows extremely slowly, taking at least fifty years to double its height to two metres, and a further five hundred to reach five metres. The tree of life can continue to grow for millennia, however, and there is one record of a tree reaching nearly a kilometre in height.
The tree of life flowers once every hundred years or so (on rare occasions they skip a century). They stay in bloom for five to fifteen years, after which they produce their fruit, which go by many names, including “apples of life”, “peaches of life”, or “golden apples”.
Like other plants, the trees of life rely primarily on sunlight and carbon dioxide for sustenance, as well as certain nutrients pulled up from the soil.
Trees of life possess a powerful telepathy which they can use to communicate to one another and to humans. They can also learn magic, and have the unique ability to handle antimagic without damage to their soul, making them potentially very formidable mages. There are very few records of magic used by the vuli of Earth, however, meaning that the exact nature of their powers is largely unknown.
The fruits of the tree of life have the effect of reversing the effect of aging. If eaten regularly, a person can remain in their prime indefinitely. It does not reverse the effects of physical maturity.
Society and Culture
Trees of life are generally loners. Though perfectly capable of communicating with others of their kind and even other species, they are more commonly content to simply bask in the sunlight and experience the changing weather and climate. When they do communicate, they are typically very friendly and not prone to anger. In fact, only a single record of an angry tree of life exists in Atlantis’s historical library.
The trees of life have a historical relationship to the conways (a species of which the Phoenix is a member), who typically form colonies in the tree’s branches and live off their leaves and insect pests. Eating the fruits of the tree of life is taboo in conway culture. Few conways currently live on Earth, though.
Some prehistory of the vuli has already been covered in the conway entry.
When the being who would later become known as Merlin landed on Earth, he had a single peach of life with him. Two of these seeds were planted on the isle of Eden, which was then ruled by the Mu Kingdom; they became known as Yeda and Chaim, and were later immortalized in the Bible (albeit in a very unflattering depiction) as the fabled trees of knowledge and immortality respectively. The third seed was planted in modern-day Poland and became famous as the World Tree, Yggdrasil.
Though Yggdrasil was eventually felled by the Tuatha dé Danaan during a Throne Game (in their role as the jötnar), and Yeda and Chaim perished when the isle of Eden sank beneath the waves, several of their offspring were transferred to China, India, and northern Africa (in an area known to the ancients as the “garden of the Hesperides”). The fruits of these trees were largely responsible for the age of the gods, granting immortality to several pantheons, including the Greek gods, Roman gods, Norse gods, and a number of middle-eastern gods such as Ishtar. These gods were primarily human mages who used the peaches of life to stay young. Some early emperors of China, including Yu the Great, also ate the peaches of life.
By the eighteenth century, though, only the vuli of Shangri-la, a hidden valley deep within the Himalayas, still survived, tended to by the Phoenix and her daughter, the Russian Firebird. Most of the fruits of these trees were stolen each century by the ancient djinn, Iblis, better known in modern times as “the Devil”, though he was originally one of the founders of the Mu kingdom.