Her bare feet skidded across the forest floor as new buds of grass and saplings stretched toward the sky in the early morning light. The year’s winter had been harsh and great storms and winds took the souls of many of the trees that had called the forest home. Today was the first day of spring, and she was late to give her report to the dryad council after they had awoken from their slumber.
“Oh, gosh.” She said to herself as she jumped over a tree log. “Father Gerald will be sore with me.”
Little Yalandra, as she was called by the creatures of the forest, was a human child adopted by the forest creatures after she had been found abandoned in the forest. Blood and footprints in the dirt around her when she was found told a story of why she was there, tucked into a birds nest in a nearby tree. The birds had called for the dryad warriors to remove the child from their nest so they could have room for their own children. After she was presented before the council a debate was sparked on whether she should be killed or raised, as returning her to the human world would risk exposure of their kind. The dryads and other creatures had no quarrel with the human world, but suspected to be met with fear and hate upon their exposure.
The dryads ruled the land over the dwarves, fae folk, nymphs, and the other creatures that had dwindled down in size and number from how they once were. The dryads held council every moon to discuss the workings of the forest. This year Yalandra suspected the council to be shocked by the news she would be bringing.
Yalandra saw the light flicker in a clearing ahead and adjusted her eyes and mind to see the dryads standing below the canopy. Since she had been raised in the forest she was aware how to spot the creatures that resided in it. She burst into the clearing and bowed hurriedly as her ragged breath echoed off the bodies around her.
“Yalandra.” Father Gerald started. “Good to see you have found your way back to us.” His slow movements and cracked bark-like skin showed how the dry winter had affected his kind.
“I hope you stayed warm, Little Yal,” Mother Hetta’s voice flowed over her like a song as she stood next to her husband. Her dreaded hair flowed past her knees and almost brushed the leaf litter of the forest floor.
“The forest is being attacked,” Yalandra panted out as she put her hands on her knees to steady herself.
“What?” Liol, the head of the warriors, stepped forward. He was built sturdy and tall and kept his spear at his hip at all times.
“Explain, child.” Father Gerald demanded as he held a hand to settle the surrounding council.
“The humans, they have started clearing the western edge of the forest. I-I believe they intend to build homes upon it. They have taken forty-six trees and their machines keep crawling deeper.”
The council around her started murmuring ato each other.
“Do the other creatures know of this?” Father Gerald asked.
“Only the ones who were awake as I was. The winter was mild and the humans started taking trees earlier than even they themselves had planned.”
“We must alert the others,” Mother Hetta balled a fist.
“You wish to seed fear in our people’s hearts?” Underlo, an older member of the council, asked.
“Our people must be informed on what is happening in their home.” Mother Hetta stepped forward.
“My children, let us first investigate before raising the alarm among our people.”
“Do you not believe the story recounted by Little Yalandra?” Reshena asked from the edge of the council.
“I do. I have learned through the years that she is our hope in this new world. Once, we roamed free, walked through plains and rooted where we liked. Our seeds and people spread farther than we could dream to travel in a lifetime. Today, we hide. Our forest is surrounded by humans and we are separated from our kin. I have no knowledge on if they still exist outside of our community.” Father Gerald looked toward the West. “I must see their destructive power. If it threatens to shrunk our home further action must be taken.”
“We will accompany you,” Liol stepped forward and bowed his head.
They followed Yalandra across the forest earth beaming with new growth to the western edge. Once the forest had expanded across the country as a whole. Today, it was large still, though shrinking. The dryads moved slow yet determined as their bodies woke from their winter slumber. The edges were seldom visited by those who dwelled in the forest, though older dryads too stubborn to transform rooted themselves where they pleased. There were scores of elders along the edges.
Yalandra signaled for the party to slow. The vegetation grew thin as they neared the edge and the scent of heat and humans hung on the air. A tangy scent that the dryads couldn't quite place. They remained hidden in the sunbeams and peered toward where Yalandra had pointed to.
Before them was dirt trails and toppled trees. Birches, maples, pines, and oaks lay scattered and limbless on the ground in piles. The soil had been upturned by great yellow creatures that slumbered with their faces in the dirt.
“My Heavens,” Mother Hetta breathed out.
“Little Yalandra. What do these markings mean?” Reshena touched orange slashes over the bark of surrounding trees.
“Those are markings to show who they intend to fell next.” Yalandra touched the paint on the trunk next to her.
“The markings extend well into the forest,” Mother Hetta looked around her. “It seems they mean for their spread to be large.”
“We must protect the forest!” Liol jabbed the butt of his spear into the ground.
“Reshena, Poi, alert the creatures of the forest. Seed no fear, but get them to move away from the edges.” Father Gerald instructed two dryads. They moved away with a silent nod each.
“Yalandra, is there any indication of what they mean to do with the part of the forest they claimed?”
Yalandra nodded hastily, “In the night I searched along what they call roads and they are constructing a housing complex. It will house many people, possibly hundreds. They will extend further to create a park for residents of the homes to visit.”
“Meaning we will be infiltrated by humans. How long do we have to prepare?” Mother Hetta asked.
“Many moons. I heard them talking that it will be done in two celestial years.” Yalandra’s shoulders sagged.
“Fall back. We will gather in the forest center with all the beings and collect judgement on how we deal with this attack,” Liol said with authority.
“Yes,” Father Gerald stood staring at the slumbering yellow beasts.
“What troubles you?” Mother Hetta asked her husband.
“Each era they move closer to our protected home. We cannot be sure they will stop here. If they send humans into the forest surely some will discover our existence.”
“We must stay vigilant.”
“Father, what are you getting at?” Liol asked.
“I am tired of hiding. The council will decide on how we reveal ourselves to the humans.”
“You cannot!” Little Yalandra shouted. “They will not understand!”
“My word is law, child. It is to be done.”
Father Gerald turned and stalked away from the small council remaining on the forest edge. His figure distorted in the sunbeams and disappeared as he was hidden by his subjects. Mother Hetta placed a hand on Yalandra’s shoulder.
“It is time to reclaim our home.”
“IT is time to reclaim our world.” Liol thundered.
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This was a good story. I could see it expanding into a good solid fantasy book.