I needed to find ways to protect my forest. I had this feeling Maximus would come again. For some reason he was after spirits. I spent the next few days bouncing ideas off of Ivy and Mist. Literally. Since there were so many apples leftover from the ending autumn, we had lots of ideas that we practiced with apples. I was using our brainstorming session as another way to help Ivy and Mist with their training. And sometimes the results were... very messy.
“Mist, if you let the bubble have a little more give to it you should be able to get it to make this bounce back.” I tossed an over ripe, power loaded apple toward the pond. Mist popped above the surface and with a shimmer of energy formed a bubble around herself. The apple looked like it met some resistance as it slowed ever so slightly when it touched the bubble. But in the end it still passed right through, popping the bubble before exploding.
“Still gross!” Mist yelled, disappearing below the water. “Why did I let you talk me into trying that again?”
I chuckled as I turned to Ivy.
“Now you try loading an apple, Ivy,” I said. Ivy now held a rotten apple in one hand and tried to charge it with spiritual energy. She was getting pretty close, too, when she lost control. Apple mush flew everywhere as the overripe fruit exploded in her hand.
“You know, I think that one was better than last time!” Mist called from the pond. She sounded a little too cheerful about it. I think she was happy about not being the only one covered in applesauce.
“But still pretty messy,” Ivy replied, wiping apple guts off her face. “Does it have to be apples again?”
“What if you try it this way?” I asked, taking one of the apples and charging it with energy. I then threw it as hard as I could, watching it make a clean arc across the water. The apple was loaded with enough energy that its explosion sounded like a small thunderclap. There was a small scream from across the water.
“You nearly killed me!” Rine squawked as he flew across the pond.
“Ah. Sorry, Rine,” I said. “I didn’t notice you there.”
“That’s not even the worst of it! Did you make that monster bush I passed on the way here?”
“Oh! You mean the ivy-hedge!” Ivy suddenly lit up with excitement. “It’s my first try combining plants on my own, how did it work? Laurel showed me sundews and I wanted to see what I could do with them.”
Rine gave Ivy a hard look, which was odd coming from someone so small. “I was trying to hide from a raven and I found a bush with your power signature. I figured I would be safe in something that Ivy made. But as soon as I landed in it, the bush started to try curling around me. I had to fly out of the bush or risk being stuck there!” Rine hrmphed. (Can you turn a hrmph into a full sentence or two? I was not sure, but that is what it felt like.)
Ivy’s face turned the vibrant green only a young dryad can manage. “I did encourage the ivy to grow fast, and to respond to movement…. Maybe I overdid it? Sorry, Rine.”
I sighed. One more thing to fix before I left.
Rine nodded at Ivy, not willing to stay angry with her for long. He clearly had a soft spot for the young dryad. Faun would say he was like a mother hen watching over a chick. I had a pang of loneliness for Faun as the fairy flew up and landed on Ivy’s shoulder, now one of his favorite perches.
“Laurel, I have a message for you from the elves and the prince of the Franelkin Dukedom.”
Ivy put in, “That’s Freakling Dukedom.”
Mist cut in with, “I have a feeling neither one of you has it quite right.”
I raised a hand to my forehead and sighed. I really didn’t want to deal with the elves again, I just got rid of thim a few days ago. “What’s the message?” I said with another sigh.
“The council of elders and the prince would like to have you attend a banquet tonight in celebration of their agreement on a mutually-beneficial plan to protect the forest border, or something like that.” Rine handed me a hand-written note with some kind of odd fragrance to it.
“What is that smell?” I asked. Ivy shrugged. Reading the note, it was from the prince himself. It said how much he really hoped I would come and that he would love to see me again…. I found my face slightly flushed green reading his words.
This did not escape Mist’s notice. “Laurel! You’re blushing!”
“That’s ridiculous. Why would I be blushing?” I said defensively.
“What’s in the note?? Show me!” Mist demanded.
“Uhhhh, no?” I was not sure why I felt self conscious of this letter, but I did not want Mist to see it. But while I was distracted reading the rest of the note, Mist reached out a tendril of water and snatched it from my hand. I reached for it, but Mist pulled it back to the pond too quickly for me.
Rine hopped up and down on Ivy’s shoulder. “Hey! I didn’t know you could do that, great work, Mist!”
“What does it say?” Ivy asked.
Mist sighed dramatically. “Only the deepest, most romantic sentiments possible! And that smell? It’s perfume!”
“Honestly, Mist, you’ve only ever lived in this pond! What do you know about romance? And why perfume? It’s not like he’s a flower trying to get… pollinated….” I was REALLY blushing now. All this attention on a male’s interest toward me was a new experience for me.
I heard her snicker from below the water. “While you were gone, Rine told me some very interesting stories.” She didn’t say any more than that, but I could almost feel her grinning at me.
Ivy looked confused. “I thought a prince was a boy, why is he being pollinated?”
I looked at Rine. He was having a pretty impressive turn at blushing now, too. “Well, the banquet starts soon! I’ll just hurry along and let them know you’re coming!” He flew off Ivy’s shoulder like a shot.
“But, wait! I never said-!” It was too late. He was already gone. I sighed. It was not worth using the forest to stop him. He has had enough trauma over the last few weeks from the stories they’ve told me. I guess this time my mind was made up for me. I looked at Ivy, who still looked confused. I decided I wasn’t going to touch that one. I held up one hand to stop her before she asked another awkward question. “Ask Mist.” She would have to clean up this mess she started. “Where is that fairy-eating bush of yours? Maybe I can fix it on my way.”