|~ Part Eight ~|~ Part Nine ~|
Author: Jos Mous
Tralin talked to the green forest people for several very long minutes. The debate occasionally got very heated with dramatic outbursts from all sides. After a while though Tralin walked back to the group of humans under her care with a triumphant look on her face.
"OK, we can all stay." She said.
"Stay where?" Nicole asked. "All that's here are a bunch of trees. Or do those green freaks actually have houses?"
Tralin narrowed her eyes and glared at the blonde. "They're Dryads." She said. "You'd better remember that."
"Or what? They'll slap me?"
Tralin suddenly laughed. "I forgot you were an off-worlder." She said. "Please, by all means, continue insulting them. Just remember that while you may not understand them, they understand every word you say. And when they get mad..." Tralin smiled. "Well, let's just say they're very innovative and not very forgiving."
"If they're so dangerous, why did you brought us here?"
"Because they're not dangerous. Unless you get them angry. They're a lot like humans in that respect." Tralin was silent for a moment. "Don't tell 'em I said that." She added.
"Tralin!" Someone shouted.
The knight in question turned around and faced a stern-looking Dryad.
"Geransfi saros." The Dryad said.
Tralin nodded. "Kandare." She said.
"What did you just say?" Lily asked.
"Well, to put it simply, they're going to make our accommodations."
"Out of thin air, just like that?"
"No, not just like that."
The small group of Dryads dispersed and ran back towards the surrounding trees. Within moments the clearing was empty again, save for the group of humans and the sad howling of the wind. Then the trees started moving. Slowly and with a great deal of noise. The trees leaned forward, their branches started bending and new ones suddenly sprouted. Most branches lost their leaves and started to intertwine with each other. Within minutes the trees themselves had made treehouses and stairs to reach them out of their very own branches.
"Wow." Lily commented.
"Wow is right." Tralin said, obviously less impressed with the spectacle. Then she clapped her hands once. "OK everybody, choose a treehouse and get comfortable. I gotta go see someone."
"Who?" Lily asked. "I mean, if you don't mind my asking."
"Well, who do you think? When I said that my dad didn't particularly like humans, who do you think mom was?"
"Anyway, keep an eye on Nicole for me. Dryads are really friendly, but they don't trust humans very much and when they get angry... well... I'd like to get her back in one piece or else L'Esperance is really gonna let me have it."
"Well, this is... rather Spartan." Brooke commented as she looked over the one-room house she now had to share with Sam.
"What did you expect?" Sam retorted. "A five-star hotel suite with bubble bath and complimentary champagne?"
Brooke glared at Sam for a moment. The brunette didn't notice it since she had walked over to a window and was now staring out of it.
"No." Brooke said pointedly. "But I also didn't expect having to sleep on a pile of leaves."
Sam shrugged. "Guess you were expecting to use that girl knight of yours as a pillow."
"WHAT!" Brooke exclaimed, probably being heard throughout the planet.
Sam turned around from the window, a smug smile on her face. "Oh come on, everyone can notice it. You've fallen hard Brooke. It's pretty obvious."
The blonde started turning red. "That's not true." She said weakly.
Sam snorted. "Yeah, right. Well, live in denial-land for as long as you want." She said, then turned around and looked out the window. "I know I am." She added softly.
Not softly enough, however. "What do you mean by that?" Brooke asked.
"None of your business." Sam said. "Forget I said it."
"Oh, yeah, right, like I really would let something like that go. You know, OK, I admit, I have been having thoughts about a certain dark-haired girl that would be considered inappropriate by many, but I'm not completely lost in my own world. You've been acting weird lately and there's no use denying that."
"Maybe I'm not acting weird." Sam said, continuing to stare out the window. "Maybe this is how I'm supposed to act."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't do this me! You can't just say that you're messed up and then forget about it! That's not how it works!"
"Then how does it work!?" Sam yelled, turning around. "Tell me that. Tell me, please, I want to know. How does it workwhen you realise that the entire foundation of your very being has been crushed!? What are you suppposed to do when you're not even certain who or what you are any more!?"
"Sam, what are you talking about?"
"Nothing. You wouldn't understand, anyway. All you have to worry about is being gay."
"And you're saying that's not a pretty huge thing?" Brooke asked, remembering very clearly how painful it had been when she was preparing to tell Nicole. And then chickened out, only to be forced to tell her a day later when Nicole had caught her seriously smooching some other girl.
"All I'm saying is that you never even doubted your own humanity." Sam said evenly, before she strode out of the treehouse.
Meanwhile, someone was pacing up and down the clearing. She was talking mostly to herself. "OK," She said. "How to start? Well, of course, it's pretty easy to start. I just say something like, 'Hi, I'm Majandra.' That's a pretty solid start. But what then? Ask her name immediately? Or maybe she'd just go like 'What do you want?' So, maybe I should say something like 'Do you wanna hang out with me or something?' But in a cool way, of course. I mean, don't want to look desperate or something. But how do you respond when she asks you why you want to go, I mean, hang out with her? Somehow saying, 'I'm having sexual fantasies about you ever since I laid eyes on you a few weeks ago' just doesn't sound right. Maybe I'll--- Oh God here she comes! OK, OK, act cool. Be calm. God, she's gorgeous. Oh Jesus, she's heading my way! OK, I can do this."
Majandra took a few deep breaths, smiled and said: "Hi, I'm Majandra."
Sam briefly paused to glare at her and then strode on.
"And you're obviously not in the mood to talk." Majandra continued to herself again. "I take it that you're really upset about something and that that is why you're in no mood to talk to strangers. Which is cool. I can understand that. So I'll just try again later." Majandra looked around helplessly for a moment. "OK, that went well. I didn't faint. I can do this. Better luck next time."
NOTE: This part is dedicated to Bryan for nagging about it. ;) And no, an ending is not in sight.
Lily was very busy. Unfortunately, the thing that she was being very busy with, was being bored out of her skull. Her boredom dissipated almost instantly when a Dryad practically flowed into the small room. The Dryad rushed over to one corner, sat down and stared at Lily. Now to Lily, all Dryads looked the same. They were all green, female and strangely plant-like. But Lily had the vague feeling she recognised this one. The Dryad briefly looked over the room, then back at Lily, her yellow eyes shining with a fascinated curiosity.
“You’re that Dryad I saw in the forest, right?” Lily said. “And I now realise that you probably don’t understand a word I’m saying, so asking it sounds real dumb right now.” She added, more to herself.
The Dryad nodded.
“Wait…” Lily said, jumping on the gesture as some sort of undeniable proof. “You _do_ understand me?”
Again, the Dryad nodded.
“So, you speak my language.”
The Dryad shook her head this time.
“But you do understand me?”
The Dryad rolled her eyes, then nodded once more.
“Can you tell me your name?”
The Dryad hesitated. Then she pointed her finger at the girl. “Lily.”
“Yeah, that’s me. Who are you?”
“Lily.” The Dryad repeated. “Xazare.”
“Xazare? What does that mean?”
The Dryad laughed. Lily suddenly felt very dumb, though she didn’t know why yet. The Dryad pointed at her again. “Lily.” Then she pointed back at herself. “Xazare.”
“Oh.” Lily said. “I get it.”
Xazare smiled. Her teeth became visible. They were white and sparkling and uncannily sharp. Those teeth would’ve better fitted a vampire than a peaceful forest creature. Lily shivered slightly and stepped back. The smile disappeared from Xazare’s face, to be replaced with confusion.
“Sorry.” Lily said. “I just… wasn’t quite ready for… something.”
Xazare nodded, though if she understood it was a different question altogether. Lily smiled, stepped closer and stuck out her hand. The Dryad seemed to accept the gesture when she suddenly flinched, looked around the room with a haunted look in her eyes and fled.
Suddenly alone and feeling very confused, Lily drew one conclusion.
Dryads made no sense to her.
Sam was walking across the dirt. She had no direction or goal in mind, she just wanted to walk to clear her mind. That proved to be pretty difficult, but she was trying it all the same.
“Sam!” Someone yelled.
Turning around, Sam saw that it was Tralin, running up to her. The knight smiled and put a hand around her shoulder.
“What a coincidence.” Tralin said. “I was just looking for you.”
“Really?” Sam asked. “May I ask why?”
“Because I wanted to show you something!” Tralin proudly announced.
She extended one hand and held it in front of Sam’s face. In that hand, she had a small rock. On the rock there was carved a rune. The top of the rune looked like a small ‘v’, that was connected to an upturned ‘v’ with a thin line.
“Do you know what this is?” Tralin asked.
“Ninathan.” Sam responded automatically.
“Hey! How’d you know that?” Tralin made it sound like she was some little kid who was upset that the fact that everybody already knew her secret.
“Well, you tell me. How _do_ I recognise runes I’ve never seen before?”
“Well, there can be two reasons for this. One: You had a really lucky guess.”
“And two… you are able to read a language said to have been extinct for centuries. A language that even predates human life.”
Sam suddenly turned around sharply and waved a threatening finger in front of Tralin’s face.
“Say it.” She hissed.
“Say what?” Tralin asked with feigned innocence.
“What I am dammit! You _know_ it and I don’t have a clue!”
“Sure you have.” Tralin said, tossing the rock with rune up and into Sam’s hand. “You’re Samantha McPherson. Isn’t that enough?”
Sam glared. Tralin smiled.
“Sorry, but I really can’t help you.” Tralin said. “Well, not any further anyway. And now I suggest you getting back to your treehouse.”
“And why is that?” Sam asked, trying to sound like she wasn’t consumed with rage.
Tralin pointed at several dozen green shapes hurrying around. “Because the Dryads are fleeing back into their trees. That means badness. Lots of badness.”
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