Eyla sat cross-legged on the dry earth in their tent. The sun was steaming hot and illuminated the camp. It tried to enter their tent but Soriah had made her block the inside of the tent so that it was as dark as night. Eyla looked around at the many sheets of cloth she had tacked onto the original one. The air had a stuffy feel to it and lay heavy in her lungs. She took another deep breath in hope that it would clear that feeling. But it failed. She just ended up feeling more stifled. She tried to ignore the sensation and concentrate on Soriah. The blind woman was sitting opposite her busy with preparing some herbs. Eyla slouched and leaned back on her elbows. Soriah looked up.
“Sit upright,” she commanded in a voice that held a note of harshness. Eyla raised her eyebrows and sat back upright. “We must always be in a state of reverence for the potions to work,” she said by way of explanation.
Eyla said nothing and Soriah paused for a moment, a brief look of concern crossed her face and then she bent her head back to her work. Eyla watch as the deft fingers moved automatically. Grab a root, slice it up, drop into the bowl and then reach for water. Place a few drops and then sprinkle some grains of wild wheat and on and on it went. Eyla sighed. After about an hour and a half the paste was ready. Eyla sat straighter. Soriah poured some hot water into the bowl and took a stick and stirred it up. A foul smell filled the air. Eyla gagged and quickly held her breath. When she dared to take a breath the smell had changed. It was an earthy but strangely pleasant smell. She began to feel a bit light headed. The tent seemed to be engulfed in a haze. Eyla shook her head. Soriah was looking at her strangely. For a moment Eyla swore that Soriah had eyes. Then the illusion cleared away and she was as blind as before. Soriah suddenly rose and splashed the water against her face.
Eyla sputtered and gasped. The water trickled down her throat. She swallowed and panted in disgust. The taste was horrible. The whole world seemed to be spinning and the tent was going in circles. Then everything went dark. Welcome! A voice spoke softly in her head. She gasped again. A color of green swirled out of the darkness. It began to shimmer and suddenly trees began to emerge from the darkness. She could see the broad trunks of the tall plants. Yet she knew that was not really there because the entire forest was tinted in different hues of green. “This sure isn’t Hurfed,” she said to herself.
Her voice had an open air sound to it yet it also had a closed in sound to it. She glanced around. There was a nagging feeling that she was being watched. She turned around and there was nothing but green mist and trees.
Suddenly a voice spoke to her again. “What do you want here Eyla, daughter of Berserkers?” She gritted her teeth.
“Who are you?” she called. There was silence. She turned around again. Her hair suddenly stood on end as a hand touched her shoulder. She yelped and leapt away hitting at what had touched her. There was a strange hissing sound, like the rustling of leaves. Eyla fixed her eyes on the creature that stood before her.
“My name is Bizantir. You are trespassing in our woods.” The creature said. Eyla stood before the creature with her mouth open. No words in the world could have expressed her astonishment. The creature looked at her with a frown on its face. Eyla had never seen a more beautiful woman. Her hair was green which looked like strands of young twigs and her skin was as tanned as the trees around her. She was dressed in a very sheer green tunic. She was naked underneath. Her arms were strong and muscular and her fingers were slender ending in sharp nails of white. Eyla felt incredibly ugly beside her.
“Well?” the creature asked. Eyla nodded. “You acknowledge this?” the creature said puzzled. Eyla could not believe that this was happening. The creature looked hard at her and then smiled a smug smile. It strode up to her and slapped her hard across the face. Eyla fell to the forest floor a few feet away. The blow was powerful as if she had been hit by a tree. Trees! The thought struck her almost as hard as the blow.
“You’re the trees!” she said in awe.
The creature glided toward her. “Not the trees,” it said, “The spirits of the trees.”
“Dryads!” Eyla said. The creature nodded.
“Now that we know who the other is,” the Dryad said, “Answer my question; what do you want?”
“I don’t know,” Eyla said, “Soriah sent me here.”
The Dryad stared at her, “Soriah?” It asked incredulously. Eyla nodded rubbing her face. The Dryad nodded, “Then you must come with me. I know why you are here.” The Dryad turned and began to walk away. Eyla stood still, was she able to walk in this dream. The Dryad turned back, “Come on,” it said sounding slightly annoyed. Eyla swallowed and took a step. She moved. The laughing to herself for being so silly she followed after the dryad.
The Dryad led her at a quick pace. Eyla reached out and touched one of the trees. Rough bark grazed her fingertips.
“Yes, you can feel them,” Bizantir said. Eyla looked at the Dryad. She had stopped and was watching her. Eyla looked at the Dryad. Eyla quickly pulled her hand away. “No need to feel self-consciousBerserker,” Bizantir said, ‘everything is equal in the forest. For everything depends on one another.” Eyla looked back to the tree and nodded. The dryad then turned and started to walk again.
“Bizantir?” Eyla asked.
‘Yes,” the dryad answered without turning back.
“How do you know Soriah?” Eyla asked.
“Soriah came to us as a young woman. She had eyes like the river water, clear and strong, but green. She wanted to learn of the forest and use its secrets to help others. Our queen helped her willingly. Then there was came the Great Illness of Gashad. Many Dryads were being killed for their trees were dying. Soriah used what we had taught her and saved our trees. Not only did she save the trees but she also found a way to fuse their sap with her herbs making them immune to all diseases. And thus making us immune. We owe our lives to her.”
The dryad paused to cross a small stream. She skipped lightly over the small stones. Eyla tried to follow her but just ended up splashing through the water instead. Bizantir looked at her disapprovingly but decided not to say anything. Eyla smiled in apology. The dryad then continued, “However in the process, Soriah lost her eyesight. She had meddled with many poisonous herbs and stayed within their fumes for days. It was a miracle that they did not kill her. She was greatly distraught for many days but she got over it eventually got over it. And it was then she had decided to go and see the world. And that was the last we ever saw of her. But the trees will never forget her. Neither will we.”
There was a silence that followed. Eyla was lost in thought. She never thought that Soriah had been with Dryads, no wonder she so much. But her poor teacher; losing her eyesight. Eyla’s eyes filled with tears and a spam gripped her chest; that was a horrible payment for her help.
“We are here” said Bizantir with a note of proudness in her voice. Eyla looked up from her dismal thoughts and gasped. In front of her was a huge clearing. There were trees lining the clearing but these trees were unlike anything she had ever seen before. They were as tall as the other trees but their trunks were thick and white. Not like a dead white but a milky white warm and living. The trees rose with broad branches which all converged and formed a heavy canopy across the entire clearing. The trees cast a golden glow under their branches for their leaves were gold. It was their natural color, Eyla could tell from the look of it. She took a deep breath. Within the clearing were more Dryads. They all looked at her. She looked back at them. Then within a moment, she was surrounded by the tree spirits. They were shorter that her, reaching only her waist. They were all tugging at her and touching her skin. Their hand felt like rough bark and their nails were pointed and stuck her flesh. When she hissed in pain they scattered and viewed her with fright. Bizantir came and stood in front of her.
“Shame on you children,” she said, “Hurting a guest!” She gazed accusingly at them all. They cringing and then one spoke out.
“Sorry Bizantir,” she said her high and trembling, ‘we didn’t mean it. We were just curious.” Bizantir frowned. They all backed away and ran behind the white trees. Eyla smiled, it was funny to see them. Suddenly there came a tinkle of high voices. And a large group of older Dryads swept into the clearing. They were all beautiful women. Eyla felt ugly again. Suddenly Bizantir dropped to one knee and placed a hand behind her back and the other on the ground before her. Eyla glanced at her confused. Then she realized that all the laughter had stopped. She looked up and saw that all the dryads were kneeling in a similar fashion. She gaze swept up to the Dryads. There standing in the middle of the clearing stood a tall woman. Her hair was fire red and her skin was as white as the trees around her. She wore a pale green tunic as the rest of the Dryads but it was loose and draped her body beautifully. There was also a broad band of gold leaves around her head. Eyla knew who it was even before Bizantir got up to announce her.
Bizantir swept her hand dramatically. “My Queen, this is Eyla of the Berserker Clan, she hails Soriah. Eyla this is our Queen Rashizvia.”
Eyla dropped in the fashion of the Dryads and knelt before the Queen of the Dryads.