It was one crack. Then a whole crackle more stiff and wooden than fire. You could hear the crackle spread as the brittle veins of the limb snapped, one by one. There were the faintest pauses as if the tree wanted to continue holding onto its branch. But this could not be so. The crackle continued its journey through the splintering skin. All it took was one final crack. One final snap, and the limb was forever removed from its parent. It crashed into younger, more resistant branches that merely let the departed limb through their loose clutches. With a thud, it made first contact with the ground. With a thud, the discarded branch splintered into pieces, scattering at the base of the great tree. But the branch would soon crackle again. A crackle that would spread throughout its wooden body as flames lick its skin, turning it to weightless ash.