Here is the final part of the fiction story for now. The adventures will continue though hopefully by then I’ll be all caught up on comic stuff. XD
“It’s no good” Remarked Regalius. “We’re going to have to cut her out.”
Alina was still suspended in the frozen grasp of Dewbeam, who showed no outward signs of life since her healing of Twig.
“I don’t understand it…” Moped Niona. “She said she’d be fine…”
“She seemed to understand perfectly well that I wouldn’t trade a life for another.” Said Alina. “For whatever reason she lied to us.”
“I guess so.” Agreed Niona, inspecting Dewbeam’s withered bark. “She was one of the oldest creatures in this forest. What a loss…”
“It’s a shame.” Agreed Julius. “I’ll never have a chance to thank her, nor will Twig.”
“Honestly, it’s tragic and everything, but she was still basically a tree.” Said Regalius.
Niona gave him a glance so withering he felt he might end up like the dryad and spoke no more.
“Just cut me down already.” Said Alina, trying to cut the tension. “As terrible as this has all been I don’t think I can handle hanging here much longer.”
Julius began hacking at Dewbeam’s wrists, trying to mar her remains as little as possible. Niona pushed him away, gently.
“Here, let me.” In two fluid strokes Niona cleaved both limbs in twain, leaving Alina to slump onto the ground. Regalius and Julius carefully slid the wooden hands away from her shoulders. She stood, stretched, and considered the creture whose grasp she’d been released from.
“Maybe they can regenerate somehow.” She mused. “I’ve seen regular trees leaf after seeming to die like this. Honestly I don’t know much about Dryads…”
“Powers beyond what we know are certainly possible.” Replied Niona. “Even in captivity they refuse to reveal things like reproduction and what have you. Like any sentient being would…” Her gaze lingering on Regalius for a moment with the final words. He was inspecting the remnants of Dewbeam’s hands with a clear eye to making new instruments. In spite of Niona’s gaze he refused to let something as durable as dryad bark go to waste.
“Se’s not dead.” Twig remarked casually. No one had noticed her rise from her makeshift bed, or heard her approaching. “She’s in the wood. Right here.” Twig pointed to the middle of Dewbeam’s trunk.
“How do you know that?” asked Alina kindly.
Twig shrugged. “We should get her out.”
“Out? How?” asked Julius. Twig indicated two places on the trunk.
“Cut here and here.” She replied. “She’ll do the rest.”
Niona carefully positioned herself then gracefully split the bark where Twig had indicated.
“It’ll be easier for her now.” Twig explained, curling back up in her blankets. “Wait till morning.”
In moments she was audibly snoring and sucking her thumb vigorously. Everyone looked blankly at one another.
“Well, we can hardly set out now anyway. May as well see what happens.” Said Alina.
Everyone settled in for a restful night, and Niona was in a much better humor from that point on, even towards Regalius who was now brazenly crafting with Dewbeam’s severed hands.
The next moring the party awoke to find Twig listening to Dewbeam’s trunk. She motioned them over as the sound of cracking wood became more audible.
“We should stand here.” She said, moving everyone into position.
“How long it this-” was all Regalius managed to say before wood chips were blasted out of one side of Dewbeam’s body. A pair of vaguely humanoid legs were sticking out of the hole. With another shattering spray of splinters a small woman slid out and landed solidly on her feet. Her skin looked like the moist inside of a tree, cream colored, and new. A mane of tiny green leaves hung around her face. She looked more or less like a sculpture of a woman that wasn’t quite complete. Her eyes were big, bright, and brilliantly green.
Unable contain herself any longer Niona rushed over and grasped Dewbeam’s hands. They spoke briefly in her language before she turned to Twig, who also had a short conversation with her. Each one spoke in their own tongue, so the others only understood Twig’s portion.
“Twig,” asked Julius, “how can you understand her?”
“Why would I not?” She asked in return. “She’s talking normal.”
“No, she isn’t” corrected Julius. Twig gave him a quizical look.
“Don’t be dumb Master.” she continued. “She’s talking people talk.” Dewbeam made a sound and Twig looked at her. She then turned back to Julius. “Nevermind. She say’s you’re right. It sounds like people talk to me though.”
“Fair enough…” Said Julius.
After a few pleasantries the groups finally made to part company. Dewbeam even seemed pleased when Niona explained that Regalius wanted to use some of her old body to make instruments. Saying that being part of something so beautiful was an honor, which made Regalius so smug he was barely spoken to from that point on.
“What will you do now?” Julius asked Niona.
“Report to our superiors.” Explained Niona. “After that I’m not sure even Alina knows. These events bode ill, obviously. For my part I intend to learn as much as I can from Dewbeam about her people and this forest. I suspect she saw a lot more than she understands right now.”
“She’s going with you?”
“Indeed! She asked as soon as she realized we were leaving.” Said Niona. “I think she’s been lonely here. There don’t seem to be any others of her kind for miles and miles around. At least in the city she can mingle with the house Dryads and such.”
“It was a pleasure meeting you.” Said Julius offering his hand. “I hope this isn’t the last we see of each other.”
Niona ignored the hand and gathered him up in a strong hug.
“Till we meet again, master locksmith.” She said, her face decorated with her toothy grin. “Farewell wherever you fare.”
“Till we meet again…” He answered.
Alina watched them from a little distance away. When Niona turned to go Alina made as if to speak to Julius, then thought better of it. With a wave she turned away.
“Alina, wait!” Called Julius. She stopped and turned back.
“I wanted to say I was sorry.” She said, before Julius could speak. “About the affair with Twig, I mean. I just didn’t want to part on a sour note. I’m not without compassion, you know? I just have responsabilities… People depend on me. When I make mistakes they die sometimes… It’s not easy. I just wanted you to know that. I would have been heartbroken in you had lost your friend. It’s just a luxury I don’t get to have.”
“I understand.” Said Julius. “I wouldn’t have held it against you. Not after I had some time to come to terms with things anyway.”
“I’m glad… Anyway I was going to have Niona give you these, but here.” She said, pressing two silver coins into his palm. “Those bear the seal of my command. I would be honored to consider you and your protege part of my team. Should you ever need to prove it those can be verified by any lawman in the country.”
“I don’t know what to say… It’s an honor.” He replied bowing low.
“The honor is mine, sir. I look forward to when next we meet. Till then, fare you well.” She said earnestly.
“Farewell, my lady.” Replied Julius, quickly bowing low again to hide the look of embarrassment for saying such a ridiculous thing.
Alina waved and took several steps away, then turned again. “Do you think I live up to that woman they paint posters of?”
“If she could feel shame I think she’d fall dead in every one for falling so short of your magnificence.” He replied.
His answer earned him a smile and blush that haunted his dreams for many nights to come. He watched her walk away for quite a while before turning to leave himself. Twig was resting in the shade at the edge of the woods, waiting for him.
“Your hair looks longer, Twig.” He said.
“Does it?” She replied.
“All those different magics mixed together in such a short time, we’re lucky it didn’t turn white.” He replied.
“I think I’d look striking with white hair.” She stated.
“I think you would at that.” Laughed Julius.
“Come on, Master. Let’s go home.”
“Okay, little one.” He replied. “Here, you read the map.”
Twig looked at her name on the scrap of hide he’d handed her for a few moments.
“This map is terrible, master!”