Cael crouched silently on a low branch overlooking the river some hundred yards from the willow tree that the small town of Willowford was named for. Looking down at the river below her Cael should have been soothed. Flowing water was normally a source of life and comfort. The moonlight sparkling on the water as it danced over submerged rocks was dazzling and pretty. Unless one recalled a dead body found adrift in the same river only that morning. The servant appeared to have knelt near the water, then simply appeared farther downstream, dead of unknown causes. The cause after the enlightening conversation with Joenns Wurst earlier in the eve had made it apparent that the death was likely due the impending conflict with the remaining Shee. The Shee were more then likely for the second “wolf” attack earlier that had nearly cost Prior Bevan his young life. Were it not for the keen eyes of Jim, none would have even seen the danger until after the Prior lay dead on the steps of his own church. Someone wanting Prior Bevan dead had also seemed an unsolvable mystery until Joenns story had come out.
A deep scowl marred Cael’s normally pleasant features as she thought back to their visit with Joenns. Deep shame seemed to emanate from him as he told his sorry tale, yet Cael had trouble believing the state of his emotions as the full tale had come to light. Apparently the now peaceful and prosperous little crossroad town had begun in conflict. The land Willowford sat upon had been home to the very hemadryad the inn was named for. She had not willingly given up her home. When she had refused to move, the founding Prior had enlisted Joenn’s help in imprisoning the hamadryad in her own tree. The very same willow tree they had found the dead Shee under just the night previous. The burned glyph was a result of the Shee sacrificing his life to help unbind the hamadryad.
Joenn’s claimed he had loved the hamadryad, yet been swayed by the Prior. That was one of the most infuriating things to young Cael. In all the stories she had read or heard of love, she had never heard of such a hurtful betrayal. How could you truly love someone, and then banish them so completely? Wound them so deeply? It was unfathomable; therefore, to her mind it must not be true.
The current dilemma facing their small group now was how to make things right? The Shee were doomed without their hemadryad. It was apparent now they would risk anything now to free her, including their lives. Not to mention the lives of anyone currently calling Willowford and the surrounding area home. Eventually they would free her. Cael’s sympathy lay with the wronged woman and her followers. Even so, Willowford was home, more or less, and the people within were friends. She would not see any of them harmed if she could help it. So how to accomplish both….the freeing of the hamadryad, and the safety of those now calling Willowford home?
Dropping lithely from the branch Cael wandered a bit closer to the willow tree. Pulling two pouches from her backpack she began to sift through them pulling out various seeds and roots. She began by separating several small iris rhizomes. Starting close to the water’s edge she loosened the moist soil into small holes and planted the roots. Moving back from the river she poked a dozen holes within a four inch space for the tiny Yellow Bell seeds as they preferred to grow in clusters. Under the shade of a large spreading mountain pine she planted a few fairy bells. The last flower seeds she planted were lavender. They were one of her personal favorites. They were fragrant in tea and particularly useful as a healing herb. Finally she glanced around at the spacing and decided two slender birch trees would add a bit of interest to the area. They were fast growers especially with such an abundance of water.
Settling cross legged onto the grass she drew a few deep breaths, closing her eyes and willing herself to relax. Her anger had diminished and drifted away by the time she finished her planting. She hoped the peace brought to her by the new growth would translate itself to the hamadryad as well. Tomorrow was a new day, sure to be as chaotic and fraught with trouble as today had been. Still, like today there were pleasures to be had as well. She had competent enjoyable companionship. There would be good ale to be had at the end of the day, good food, and even better cheese. She smiled softly to herself and decided to return to her camp to ready for tomorrow’s travels.
Before she had a chance to rise she heard noise to the left, something or someone coming through the bushes. She quickly rose into a crouch prepared to face whatever new danger might face her. To her surprised a bedraggled old man stepped through the bushes. He looked around in apparent confusion for a moment. Then he noticed her. “Well met sir.” She spoke relaxing a bit. “May I help you find something?”
“Hmm, are you Flint’s daughter?” he asked much to her surprise.
“I am, have we met before?” she asked studying him again trying to place his face. Nothing came to mind.
‘No, we have not, though I know your father. I am Caddoc of Second Meadow.” He walked over to her and looked at the ground next to her where she had planted her last tree. “What are you planting?”
“This is a birch tree, I also planted a few flowers. I had hoped they might make the hamadryad happy.” She replied with a soft sigh.
“Ah.” He smiled and began rummaging through a sack. “I have something for you then.” He pulled out a jumbled mess of dirt, hair, seeds and various other items and began pawing through them. At last he drew out a palm sized seed and handed it to her.
She accepted the seed from his vary dirty, very wrinkled hand. “What is it?”
“It is a tree the hamadryad will like.” He replied.
She planted the seed about three feet away from the birch near to Caddoc. After the seed was covered Caddoc waved a hand gracefully over the dirt and a soft glow shown between his hand and the soil for a moment. Soon a plant tendril rose from the ground and proceeded to grow into a six inch tall sapling. “Yes, she will like this very much.” he said softly to himself. His eyes seemed to lose focus then as if lost in memory or thought.
“Thank you for your help.” She said to the druid after she felt the silence had gone on long enough.
He glanced over at her and a look of confusion crossed his face followed by one of recognition. “Ah, you are Flint’s daughter are you not?” he asked.
She studied him a moment to see if he was joking and decided he was not, merely forgetful and confused. “I am his daughter Caddoc.”
“I have something to show you then.” He replied and started back into the trees through which he had arrived. After a moments consideration she decided to follow him, to keep him out of trouble if nothing else. In about ten minutes they had left town behind and she found herself standing before a small cottage. To the right was a wooden archway leading into a fenced garden. The garden seemed a bit unkempt, if garden it was. Caddoc turned around and seemed to just notice that she had come with him. “Ah, you are Flint’s daughter are you not?”
Patiently she replied that she was.
“I have something to show you then.” He replied and turned to walk through the archway. Once she followed him through she noticed an immediate change in Caddoc. He stood straighter and moved with purpose. When he turned to speak to her his eyes were bright and focused, clear of their earlier confusion. Looking around she noticed a distinct change in their surroundings as well. The small garden was now a large tract of land with a river running through it. It looked very familiar to her. It was many minutes before she could place the memory. They appeared to be standing in the middle of Willowford, minus the buildings and the large prominent willow tree.
“What is this place?” she asked thoughtfully.
“This is to be the hamadryad’s new home. A perfect replica, as it was before Willowford was founded.” He answered her.
It turned out the druid had been working on a way to help the hamadryad for many years. There was only one item required to complete the hamadryad’s home, her willow tree. Caddoc entrusted Cael with a small root ball, the needed willow tree. She needed to acquire the blessing of the Shee upon the root. Once this was done the tree could be planted. It would become a duplicate of the hamadryad’s current tree, allowing her to move freely between the two trees. Cael felt new hope within her as she left the garden to find her companions. They had planned to leave in the morning to find the totem and the Shee already. Quickly she made her way through the woods to Joenn’s house.