The day drew to a close. The forest was covered in blood and bodies, some strewn along paths, others caught in thickets or on tree limbs. Ravens picked at the dead. Kara searched for her people, marking each spot with a small flag so the body could be gathered for funeral rites and calling for healers when she found someone still alive. She was tired and beginning to lose hope.
Mona brought her water. “Any sign of her yet?”
Kara shook her head, unable to find her voice. Then the wind picked up and blew around her, carrying familiar scents. Kara thrust the water cup back at Mona and followed the wind as it went around a hill and into a stand of trees. Kara paused, resting a hand on a tree for support.
Ada was lying under an oak with Dree bent over her. Silver water flowed from her wounds where blood should have been. She looked pale and was breathing rapidly. Kara could hear the death rattle in each intake of her breath.
Kara felt her heart in her throat. “Ada…”
Dree said without looking up, “I don’t know if I can keep her alive.”
Kara took a step closer. “What do you mean?”
Dree looked up, zir face flickering from form to form. “I mean she resists me. Perhaps she will stay for you.”
Kara cautiously approached, watching Dree. “Get away from her.”
Dree seemed amused. “Very well.” She stood and stepped back. “You don’t trust me.”
Kara’s eyes narrowed. “Trust you? No, I don’t.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“You tried to kill me on my wedding day!”
Dree waved dismissively. “Oh, that. Well, you were a distraction for my champion. I suppose I should be glad she interfered. You’ve proven quite useful.”
Kara was at a loss for words. She finally settled for a sarcastic, “I’m so glad.” She took a small step forward, staring Dree down.
Dree took another step back though ze was clearly yielding because it suited zir to do so.
Kara knelt by Ada and sang softly to her, asking her to live a little longer. She sang of their joys, music, and plans. Ada was hovering between life and death. Kara could feel the conflict within her; her desire to live for her vying with her desperation to be
away from Dree.
Kara looked up at Dree and asked, “Will you release her? Let her live out her life in peace?”
Dree considered. “I must have a champion.” Ze looked past Kara and spied Mona hovering at the edge of the grove. “Ah, girl. Come closer.”
Kara looked back and said sharply, “No! Stay there, Mona. Have nothing to do with that creature.”
Dree ignored Kara and walked around the edge of the meadow towards the girl. Zir appearance flickered across a spectrum of forms, ranging from wooden dryad to beautiful lover. “Mona, is it? What would you give to save Ada’s life?”
Mona watched in fascination, uncertain what to make of the apparition. “I would give anything within my power to give.”
Dree tilted her head to one side. “Why?”
Mona looked confused. “What do you mean, why? She’s my mother. I love her.”
Dree stepped up to her and ran a long, twiggy finger along her cheek. “But she’s not really your mother.”
Kara shouted, “Dree, leave her alone! Mona, don’t listen to her.”
Mona scowled and stepped back. “Why does everyone go on about blood? She and Kara raised me, cared for me, taught me everything I know. This is my clan. I am Dreezian.”
Dree nodded. “So you choose the Dreezians. Not the Jormuna.”
Dree turned back to Kara. “I will release Ada but I cannot guarantee she’ll live in peace. The world is changing.”
Kara frowned. She didn’t like the idea of dealing with Dree. She looked down at Ada’s pale face. There wasn’t time to argue. She said reluctantly, “We’ll take it.”
The silver water flowing out of Ada’s wounds turned back to red blood then the wounds closed. Kara continued to sing to her, weaving Dree’s promise into Ada’s song and coaxing her to stay with her.
Dree said, “I won’t heal her again; see that she uses her life wisely.”
She transformed and blew past Mona. She whispered, “We will talk soon, little one.”
copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved