The Queen of the Dryads
The leaves on the forest floor smiled back at her. Their gold colour was not in the least diminished even thought they had fallen off the trees. Eyla saw the white feet of the Queen, then felt hands take hold of her shoulders and raise her up. Eyla looked up into the eyes of the Dryad. They were an exquisite gold colour, much like the leaves around them but much clearer.
“You do not bow to me Berserker, if you hail from our beloved Soriah,”Queen Rashizvia said. Her voice dominated the air; it was woody but graceful. It felt just as powerful as the white trees that stood guard. She smiled and Eyla felt dumb struck. Queen Rashizvia let her arms go and turned and spoke to the rest of the Dryads. “Arise my fellow sisters; we are all equal here under the shade of the Great Trees.”
The dryads all nodded and rose silently to their feet. The Queen turned to Bizantir, “Please take the children away, then return to us,” she asked. Bizantir nodded and herded away the protesting children. There was silence until she returned with four other dryads, all looking older than her. The four were as tall as the Queen and much more muscular than the rest. Their tunics were thick and they carried staffs strapped across their backs. The Queen nodded to them and they nodded back. There was certain grimness to them. The Queen then walked to one of the trees. It stood directly facing the center of the clearing. Queen Rashizvia touched its bark and Eyla saw the tree ripple under the touch and slowly it opened.
The inside of the tree was warm and fire red like the queen’s hair. It seemed as though it was full of blood, bright and hot. Queen Rashizvia turned to face Eyla, then she sat into the tree.
“Come forward Eyla, Daughter of Berserkers,” she called.
Eyla walked toward the Queen her heart thumping in her chest. When she reached the center of the clearing, the queen raised her hand and she stopped. “Sit there,” The Queen commanded. Eyla lowered herself to the ground. The leaves were soft like a carpet. Queen Rashizvia gazed around and all the dryads sat on the ground as well.
“We are all gathered here, beneath the Great Trees of Behrud for ancient and terrible things are happening in this land,” the Queen began. A shudder ran through ran through the dryads. Eyla felt the settling of oppressiveness upon the company. “Our beloved Soriah has sent us a messenger to which we must pay our fullest attention to. I know that she is sent here bearing some great news for Soriah herself had conveyed this to me previously.” The queen looked around at the astonished faces of the dryads. They all then looked to Eyla.
Eyla was astonished; she had no idea what they were talkingabout. The Queen raised her head higher and said “Eyla, speak.” There was silence. Eyla looked at the Queen with carefully disguised horror. She was racking her brains to remember what news she was supposedly said to bring. She bent her head and her brow was creased so hard it hurt. The suddenly like a soft flare the bright star that Soriah showed her came to her mind. She looked up, that was the message. She was sure.
“Queen Rashizvia, I come only to tell of a sight that I have seen,’ Eyla recanted as she was taught to do for special ceremonies.
“Then tell it,” the Queen said. Eyla swallowed and hoped that she was right.
“It was the last night of my initiation, to become a Berserker Hishta. After I had succeeded Soriah took me to the river called Egren. It was there I beheld the bright star,” Eyla paused for the Queen had risen from her seat in the tree and was staring at her with wide eyes.
“Continue,” the Queen said in a hushed voice.
“It was brighter than the brightest stars in the Cysian Sky. It grew larger as it continued to fall. It became as a streak of silver in the black and there was a tail of white behind it. It fell rapidly and dropped somewhere in the forests beyond the river. That is what I saw.” Eyla stopped.
The queen looked at her and Eyla felt as if she could touch the silence that lay around her. Then in a swift motion the queen raised her hands, lifted her face to the trees and let loose a cry. It rose in loud luminous waves each going a pitch higher than the previous one. The Dryads leapt up and joined her, their voices matching the cry and blending with it to create a haunting but beautiful sound. Eyla felt the hairs on her neck and hands rise. It sounded like the voice of a people who had been in bondage for a long, long time and they had heard that their freedom had been given to them. The Cry gradually stopped and the Dryads fell back panting to the ground. The Queen alone remained standing. She turned back to the tress and touched it once more. The white bark closed back up. She then turned to Eyla.
“You have brought great joy to us Eyla, Daughter of the Berserkers,” she said, her eyes sparkling. She sighed with the smile of one who was trying to hold back tears. “Come,” Queen Rashizvia said quietly, “I will show you the Star.”
Eyla got up. “Look,’ the Queen intoned as she stepped to one side. Eyla was left staring at the space between two trees. The queen raised her hands in front of her and began to speak, “Agtiri negthl reuo-or, erda guidrn. Desn reuo-or visalu ieter uetni Rodilar.” Eyla felt the word pierce her mind and a deep feeling of age rolled on her. The words themselves were old and as she gazed at the space she saw their working. The space between the trees began to grow hazy. Then it became a mist. Eyla squinted, she was sure that there was something in the mist. The mist began to clear but instead of seeing trees, as before she saw a strange creature running. It had the head and forelegs of an eagle but the back of it was like a great cat. Wings grew out of its back, it appeared to be screeching loudly but only a faint sound came through. The mist then shrouded over the creature and when it cleared all was as it was before. Eyla looked at the Dryads in awe.
“Hail the creature born of the Star. It is that which will bring our freedom,” Queen Rashizvia said in a tone of respect and reverence. “Thank you Eyla,’ she said, “You have brought us hope. I do indeed hold it dear that we shall meet in the future and in real this time.”
Eyla bowed and was going to ask what she meant when suddenly the whole wood went hazy. The green mist that had pervaded everything was thicker and there was a faint smell of spice in the air. The mist got thicker and thicker and as it did the wood faded into it. The darkness slipped in. Eyla stood quietly as the last of the green mist was consumed by the darkness. Then she got the sensation that she was being pulled back. Softly at first then a violent tug caused her to panic and she grabbed out into the darkness. Her hands closed of warm flesh only to find a hand grip her own.
She kicked out in fear. Soriah’s voice pierced the darkness.
“Eyla calm down. It’s only me.” Eyla still held on the arm tightly. Her vision cleared slowly and she once again saw the insides of the tent. She let go of Soriah’s hand and raised herself onto her elbows. She was surprised to find herself lying down. The tent was bright with sunlight; all the heavy sheets of cloth had been stripped away and the tent flap was open. She looked around confused.
“You were is a trance,” Soriah said, “It is very uncomfortable to wake out of a trance that lasted two days to find oneself sitting. The body hurts.”
“Two days!”Eyla exclaimed, and then fell silent. “You mean all that was not real?”
“Oh it was real, but you were not there in body but in spirit. And what the spirit feels the body feels also,” Soriah said. Eyla looked at her hands, the tiny pricks from the Dryad children were there. She smiled, then she looked at Soriah.
“You never told me that you lived with Dryads,” Eyla said in mock reproving tone. Soriah looked surprised then smiled.
“Those dryads can never keep their mouths shut about that,” she said sounding a trifle bit angry.
“You saved their lives,” Eyla said, “I would not keep my mouth shut either.”
Soriah smiled sadly, “A small burden to bear I suppose.” She said. Eyla placed her hand on the older woman’s. She thought about telling her that she knew how she got blind but Soriah patted her hand and Eyla knew that she already knew.
Eyla grinned and squeezed Soriah hand, “You would not believe what I have to tell you,” she exclaimed.