The rain fell heavy against her leaves, tracing its way down her coarse branches in thin rivulets. The water calmed her, eased her aching joints as it flowed between the cracks in her ancient bark, moving ever closer to the earth. Always towards the earth, pulling the dust of many ages down with it.
The dryad let out a deep sigh, startling the dozing warblers in her canopy. The sound was more of a creaking; a great release of pent up energy. Her head hung low today, heavy with the rainwater that coated her thick mane of greenery. But this was not all that caused the ancient woman of the forest to droop. The knowledge of what was to come also weighed upon her like a drenched woolen blanket.
The days of mirth would soon be at an end. She was getting old. Too old to count. Too old to remember. She had seen many generations of ironwoods come and go. She had seen the maple saplings grow a hundred feet before finally cracking in half, only to watch the entire precession over again. Her roots had penetrated deep into the earth, cracking boulder and limestone in search of drink.
But now the time of mirth would soon come to a close. These were dreadful days. Terrifying days ahead.
As the clouds began to relent and the pounding of the rain became exhausted, the dryad was left to ponder her next course of action as her leaves dripped rhythmically upon the forest floor. The forest of Terranür was ancient, far older even than the dryad. The debris that lay damp at her feet had witnessed countless dryads come and go as it pilled ever higher. She was not the first of her kind, that much was certain. What was uncertain was whether or not she would be the last.
The sun poked its head out at that moment and bathed her foliage in life. Washed her skin in warmth and kindness, igniting the fire within her core. She could not postpone any longer. With the rays of sunshine came the strength to perform her final act upon this earth.
She knew exactly what must be done, but that did not make the task any easier. With a massive stretch, she shook the remaining raindrops from her leaves, straightened her aching trunk and blinked open her sepia eyes. These wet, sad eyes had seen countless springs, witnessed untold seasons, but today they focused upon something new. Something unsettling. As she looked from the forest floor towards the azure sky above, the dryad could see the plumes of acrid smoke rising in the south.
This was not the smoke of any fire she was familiar with. While it was true that other trees feared the flames which came racing through the night to extinguish all life in the forest, the dryad of Terranür had witnessed them many times before. She had seen her friends eradicated by the will of Chênoras, the Undoer, and had survived to tell the tale. But this new smoke, waving like a black standard above the canopy, these fumes made the dryad shudder.
This was no smog produced by nature. This was the fire of industry.
Unable to bear it any longer, the dryad lowered her eyes and called out for the Guardian.
Unspeakably loud, the tremulous call of the dryad split the serene forest air, penetrating even the deepest, darkest corners of Terranür. It was the sound of a hundred tree trunks splitting asunder. The sound of a thousand root clusters being ripped from the ground. It was the sound of a forest dying.
The Guardian would not be able to ignore the dryad’s languished call. Patience was all that remained to her now. Soon enough the Guardian of the forest would arrive and the dryad of Terranür would be at peace.
It was not long after her mournful cry that the warbler began to sing. As if feeling the pain of his host, he began quite softly.
As summer sweetly burns the hours,
The morning’s dew will heal our pain.
Not oft the bee forgets the flowers,
Nor sun forgets to dry the rain.
Stilled by the echo of the ghost,
Chilled by the winds beneath our wing,
We have tomorrow at the most,
We have today to feel the sting.
Can you imagine moving past,
The hours that hover through the air?
Can you discern the trumpet’s blast,
That tolls the end to nature’s prayer?
With winter clawing at our backs,
The Guardian presses close at hand,
The mourning lark lets drop the axe,
The timid song turns from the land.
The dryad let but a single tear fall from her round eyes. She would not be defeated just yet. With the Guardian came hope. The forests must survive.
To be continued…
Please take the time to comment on this piece if you enjoyed it. I am hoping to perfect my art and wish to use this blog to receive feedback on the style and substance of the narrative. Any constructive criticisms or editing comments will be appreciated and considered. Eventually, I hope to have a novel published based on the world seen in these short stories. Thanks in advance for your help with this!