I was feeling less anxious now that the blight was cleared from my forest. I headed straight to the pond. But before I made it to the pond, the elves and fairies made it to me. “Forest mother you, you have returned,” the oldest of the elves said while they all bowed. “I hope that your travels have been pleasant.”
“I went to save my best friend yet returned without her and you hope that I had pleasant travels?” I said with a bit more snarl than I should have put in it. The elves meant no harm. But it seemed that they had not gotten any better at reading the mood of their ‘goddess’ over the last few weeks. I remembered an echo of my words a few days ago… ‘The elves live there because I allow it.’ Why did I ever allow them to stay? But who was I talking to again? Oh, that prince…. Astrin? Thinking of him, I felt something itching against my skin. It was that odd metal button-thing he had given me. Really, what was the point of me carrying it? It meant something to the prince, but how could a little metal thing bring luck? I sighed and decided I should probably mention his coming to the elves.
“I met a prince from the Frakling Dukedom who is coming to pay a visit to you elves. See that you treat him well, and please keep him and his men away from my pond. I need privacy.”
The elves bowed further still, the eldest saying, “As you command, Forest Mother.” The rest of the elves repeated after the eldest as if it was some sort of a chant and bowed to match him.
I did not bother stopping and talking any more with them, but as they were in my path I was forced to take a detour around them.
Since they were bowed to the ground, and I have to say no one can beat a dryad at walking through the woods quietly, it took them a surprisingly long time to notice that I was not in front of them. By the time I was a few hundred yards away from there, they had just started looking around confused when a small man landed on my shoulder.
“Should I also ask if you have had a pleasant journey?” Rine said after taking a seat.
“Please don’t make me swat you away,” I said rolling my eyes. Walking through the woods at a comfortable speed was fast enough to leave the elves well behind us. “I see that Ivy is here. Am I correct in presuming that is why you sent the message?”
“Yes, she was attacked by a magician. We believe it is the same one that was harming our woods. She said he nearly captured her.” Seeing the worried look on my face he added, “But she managed to escape with nothing more than a scare and a scratch.” I calmed down at hearing this. Then Rine added, “And some seeds.” I could not help giving him a curious glance, but he did not say anything. I guess I would just have to wait until I made it to the pond where the others were.
“I’m glad she got away without too much harm. I know it was the same man. I saw the damage done in Ivy’s wood. I would recognize that taint anywhere. He has already taken Faun from me and harmed our woods,” I said fuming, finding my frustration at the elves’ lack of sense redirected back to the person who caused all this to start. “Maximus the Powerful,” I found myself muttering out loud. There were several other more colorful names I could have called him, but I suppressed them for the sake of Rine’s youthful ears. Instead, I took a deep breath and set that anger aside for a more productive time. Once I was calmed down, I asked, “How has everything else been in the woods?”
“Things have slowed down a little since you and Faun were gone, but that was to be expected. Mist has been having a hard time though. It seems that you have always provided Mist with excess power. Since you left, she has had to be much more reserved with her power and let’s just say that it has been frustrating. She will be happy to see you. She has also been very lonely.” Rine then let out a sigh. “Just don’t say I did not warn you.” That felt a little ominous and out of character for the fairy, but I would find out why soon enough. It would just be a few hours until I reached the pond.
We continued our walk, or I guess I should say I continued our walk, in silence. Rine was just resting on my shoulder so I don’t think that counts as him walking at all. He was just along for the ride.
Once I made it to the pond, the first thing I saw was Mist and Ivy playing some sort of game that seemed to involve them tossing rotten apples at each other. Ivy was fairly covered in apple guts while I noticed an apple simply pass through Mist. This game somehow did not seem fair for Ivy, but it did not look like she had realized it yet. I had a strange suspicion that Mist was well aware of the inconsistency there and just found it a good excuse to cover Ivy in rotten apples. I could not really blame Ivy for falling for the trick, though. Even though she was 600 years older, she had 100 years less social experience.
“Mist, stop tormenting the poor girl,” I called out to them. For a response, I suddenly had two apples flying at me from different angles. I wanted to roll my eyes at the two of them but that would mean I could not track the apples. Their aim was surprisingly accurate and I would not be able to dodge both of them. I am not sure I have ever wished that dryads were fast as much as I did now, seeing two rotten apples fly at me. However, I was far from out of options. Whoever said I needed to be fast to get out of this? With a bright shimmer I turned my body into a small laurel tree. The only thing that really made this tree look different is that there was a clean hole in the middle of the tree, and the fairy sitting on a branch. One of the apples shot through the branches while the other passed right through the hole in the trunk.
The shocked look on Ivy’s face was wonderful and I am sure Mist’s face would have looked much the same if she had a face to show her shock. She did however plop back into the pond with an astounding (or was it astounded) splash. Much of the discharged water landed on Ivy who was standing nearby.
Rine started to laugh uncontrollably at the look of the freshly ‘cleaned’ Ivy and was soon rolling off my shoulder … branch? Another flash of light and my arms were back just in time to catch the fairy before he hit the ground. It probably would not have hurt him much to hit the ground as it was a soft grassy area, but it did not feel right.
It seemed like Ivy and Mist were going to take some time to come out of there stupors. So I found one of my favorite trees and sat under it while the fairy hopped back up to my shoulder. It seems like his fall had managed to shake him out of his fit of laughter.
Looking around my pond I soon saw what Rine had hinted at. Across the pond on the south shore were two small trees, both of which had Ivy’s signature in them. As I was looking around the pond it seemed that Ivy and Mist were back to the present, so I asked, “So what happened?”
Ivy came over and sat down next to me on the bank of the pond and started telling her story of everything that had happened since we had left her woods. She used broad gestures to demonstrate every detail of her story. It was good to hear that she had been practicing but I am not sure if it was really important now compared to everything else we had to talk about. I guess we were not pressed for time. My plan was to head out to search for Faun again, but I wanted to wait a few days to see if Leafy and the others came back. As much as I did not want to admit it, it would have been harder for me to get through without their help. I also could use a rest and needed to spend a little more time searching for signs of the magician and possibly finding some way to protect my forest. I had to think he knew where Ivy went.
Once we finally got to the part about her encounter with Maximus, her story telling became even more animated with her arms gesticulating wildly. Right when she got to the part where she started to run away, I was woken out of the slight daze that came over me after the first few hours. It seems that Mist had drifted closer to our conversation and with Ivy’s recent wave her hand passed straight through Mist’s body, sending a large quantity of water at my face.
“What was that for?” Mist called out as she reformed her ball of water. It was a bit of an odd feeling to have the water peel off me.
Ivy started to panic. It seemed that she still did not know Mist well enough to know that she was not really that mad and more surprised. “I am so sorry. I did not know you were there, I really did not mean to hit you, please forgive me. I really did not know you were there.” While Ivy was panicking, Rine was in another fit of laughter rolling on Ivy’s shoulder where he had been sitting. I could not help but laugh a little at this scene but I did refrain from rolling on the …<thump> ground like Rine.