I don’t know how it happens, but with a deadline looming next Monday and my husband taking four days off, my chapter five of Dragons Daughter felt like it took to months to rewrite.
It did not, it was just a couple of days, yet I am eternally grateful to have have gotten through it today. Fingers crossed the rest flows much faster than that last chapter.
Here is the revised Chapter Five: Havent We Seen These Trees Before?
Warning: Its not been tuned up, its just a sneak peak into my book.
Havent we seen these trees before?
The lovely sound of bird song greeted the dawn light of a new day, followed by the indignat squawk as a limber tree limb swatted the poor bird, making solid contact with its body in a puff of little brown feathers.
Flying away, it screeched obsenities at the strange tree for the stining slap.
Rue sat up, streatching and seeing the sun was already up she jumped to her feet, picking up her blankets and hurrying around frantacly.
“Wake up you lazy bones, the suns up its time to go!” She kicked Tuckers legs as she walked past, hastily rolling her blankets haphazardly and attatching them to her geldings saddle.
Frowning in concentration she waved her hand and released the magic with in her, saddling the horses and packing the bags loaded up on the pack mare and all the blankets rolled up and tied back down where they belong.
The horses not understanding why they were suddenly moved with out using their legs to the road and already saddled and bridled tossed their heads snorting nervusly, unused to such treatment.
“Easy, Rue, horses are delicate creatures,” Tucker sat up, his bedroll already packed having been flashed out from under him.
Grumbling about horses having more sense than mages he climbed to his feet stiff from sleeping on the ground in his armor. Walking over to his gray mare he sothed her, stroking her nose and scratching behind her ears, he continued muttering to her about Rue not bothering to put anything away right and how was he suppose to find anything to cook with next time they made came.
She wickered at him, nuzzling him with her nose making him smile.
“Oh for the love of-” Rue saw him with his horse and with an impatient snap he was in the saddle holding the reins, his horse once again confused.
Seeing the pack mare with Thorn already on her back both of them just as confused frayed the last bit of Tuckers temper.
“Really, Rue? You just couldn’t let me get ready in my own time?” He snapped at her, crossing his arms angrily across his chest with a metal clink.
“We don’t have time, Tucker, we need to get on the road now,” She shouted at him as she waved a hand at her self changing into a lavadar colored riding tunic and tight dark brown leggings ending in her black lace up boots. Her hair neat and tidy in her hip leangth braid.
“I don’t see what the hurry is, the city is still going to be here the roads arent just going to jump up and run off.” Tucker argured.
“Its the princple of the thing.” She snapped at him, haughty on her own horse while keeping the white beast from taking a chunck out her leg.
Frowning down at the cantakerous horse she kicked at his nose, missing by a hair.
“No Rue, its consistancy thing.” He told her, watching her struggle with her horse with amusment.
“No its a stupid horse thing, that even if I created some sort of routouine he would still oh for crying out loud..” The horse was now going in circles, as she tried and failed to pull his head around.
Now in an even fouler mood she finally got the horse to stand still both of them breathing heavily.
He eyed her evilily, waiting for her to let her guard down and try again.
“Sure, magic and flashing the horses is nice but we have the time to create a routience and earn the horses trust, not everything has to be done in your time.” Tucker grinned at her.
“Come on you stupid thing, I just want to get on with this day in a timely fashion!” She yelled at her mount, startling him long enough she was able to get him walking down the road.
“I don’t think he likes how you treat him.” Tucker pointed out, as his mare started forward, following her gelding.
“I would hardly thing this dumb animal has that deep a thougth,” She answered out of breath.
“Magic is strange and scary to a horse who only thinks of grazing and sleeping in the sun all day.” Tucker leaned forward, trying to press his point home. “They like to be reassured that all is right in the world too. By taking the time to physically saddle them and pet them and unsaddle and groom them, you create a predicatable routine that reassures them.”
“I just don’t have time for any of this.” She snapped at him, the situation had spiraled completely out of her control, unused to such things she was fast losing what little control she had on her temper and her magic.
“You’re going to have to make time if you want your horse to listen to you,” Tucker smirked at her, walking his horse closer to hers, reaching out and scratching him behind his ears.
The cantakerouse horse rolled one baleful eye up at Tucker who grinned down at him. Heaving a deep unhappy sigh the horse gave up for the moment, going on straight down the road, as his rider asked of him.
“See, I did it, your lecture was for nothing, Ha!” she exclaimed in unearrned victory.
“Right, well just remember, fear manifests in all creatures in different ways, including beligerance.” Tucker told her, letting it go as she took the lead.
Glowering at her husband they all continued walking down the road, her father was off hunting before gliding back down to the road ahead of them. He had decided to begin traveling openly with the group, thinking that he could changes years of fear if others saw that he wasn’t dangerouse.
Rue did not agree, strongly did not agree.
As they were traveling on the bright sun lit road, Bob kept feeling a nagged at him, bothering him that he couldn’t place just what it was, like it was a word on the tip of his tongue he just couldn’t remember.
Shaking his head to clear his thought Bob went back to watching the road, thinking about Rues fit of temper this morning and feeling proud of how Tucker had handled it with out enraging her further.
She would never admit I, but she knew that what she had down was wrong, she was upset about oversleeping and being in a hurry had made her rash.
BOb knew that his daughter and that she had set her self up to get thorugh this journey as fast as she could, waking up early and eating on the road to save time.
Even if she thought the horses didn’t need a routien, rountiens were how he had taught her how to control the dangerous magics that flowed so freely inside of her.
Fifty years ago when they were out in of the villages fields for a lesson, she had gotton careless and slacked on her daliy exercises for a week, allowing her mind to go soft when she practiced that day her magic escaped her control and killed the woodcutter who was near by.
She had never forgiven herself for that, no matter how hard Bob had tried to explained that she was still learning, she was a exceptionaly new wizard and new to magic.
She had been devistated and had never deviated from her mind exercises again. Controlling her magic with an iron will, nothing would ever break through again and nothing ever had, until she had married Tucker.
Even if fifty years old might be old for the villagers, he had tried to tell her that she was no longer human, no matter how much she might resemble one. The magic inside of her had changed her on the most basic levels, she was a wizard, a race of its own, just like he was a dragon, even if he changed to look like one.
Fifty years of learning everything she could she had dedicated herself to becoming a great healer, choosing to make reparations to the village as their personal healer.
Now she was here, unwillingly, on the road to the King’s City, with him to investitagte why they would be hunting dragons.
Their group was coming up on one of the smaller settlements as they were riding down out of the mountains, only a few days way from Rue’s home village.
Most villages and settlements were few and far between until they got closer to the Kings city.
This one had a tall log palisade, sharpened poles sticking up onminously all around it. A watch tower was built in the center behind the wall.
It was curiouse, Bob thought as he stood and looked at it, why would this small town need such fortification?
Rue rode across the drawbridge spanning a muddy moat circling the entirety of the town.
“Halt, who goes there?” A guard stopped her at the gate. He had to do a double take at the large green dragon waiting patiently with the two men on horses.
“I’m Rue and we seek shelter for the night, a bath too if there are such facilities for such a thing,” her lip curled as she looked around the dirt packed town.
“We can arrange that, who is coming in with you?” The guard scratched the back of his neck, afraid of her answer.
“My husband, Sir Tucker Whitenhall our companion the Bard Thorn and my father, Bob.” She answered, pointing to each person in turn.
“Did you say dragon?” The a guard asked, looking at the beast in question. “I don’t think we can fit the dragon in the walls.”
“I didn’t but as you can see, yes my father is a dragon.” She sighed looking back over her shoulder at her fathers size. “I don’t believe you’re going to fit father.”
“No I suppose not,” He rumbled, upset at the change of events. “I have my own business to attend to any way.”
“Um, So no dragon?” Squeeked the guard, gripping his pike tightly in front of him.
Rue looked back at her father and frowned at him. She did not approve of him making his appearance know and had already told him so, loudly.
This was a comparativly mild reaction than the one she had been anticipating.
Shrugging his winged shoulders he jumped up and with a couple of mighty wing flaps and puff of smoke blowing down on them head off into the sky and quickly disapearing.
“No, he will not be accompanying us tonight.” She turned back to the slacked mouthed guard who was still staring up at the sky.
“I say we just go in and find a nice hostel to spend the night in.” Thorn leaned forward, suggesting his plan.
Rue rolled her eyes at the lot of them and kicked her horse forwards, Tucker and Thorn following her with the loud noise of the their horses hooves cloping against the wooden draw bridge as they entered the squalid little town.
Following the single road, a packed dirt track it didn’t take much time to find the stable and tavern.
A boy of fifteen summers met them out side the stables, collecting their horses and instructions for their care with a curt nod, eyes going wide when Rue tipped him ten coppers for their three horses.
Rue and Tucker grabbed their saddle bags Thorn having nothing hopped down following them into the front door of the tavern.
Walking up to the desk they found another bored looking kid, this one seventeen years old sitting behind it with his feet propped up on the top of the desk.
If Rue had to guess she would swear that the stable boy and this boy were brothers, the proprietor putting his own kids to work, helps keep the business in the family and keep expenses down.
Nodding at them in greeting the boy turned out to be a sharp business man, haggling with them smartly over the price of their rooms and baths as well as the care for their horses.
All parties coming to a satisfying agreement of five gold coins for all, Rue paid the boy and recieved the keys to their room as smiling they all clomped up the stairs, saddle wear and travel worn.
The first door Rue unlocked and turned to face Tucker, blocking the door way. “You can sleep with Thorn in the other room.” She handed the knight the other key and pointed to the room across the hall.
“What ever,” Tucker snatched it from her hand with a snarl, turning and unlocking the door across the hall. “No funny business, Bard, I know you have loose pants strings.”
Dropping his bags on the single bed, claiming it for the night.
“Of course, I will just meet you for supper shortly, I have some buisness with a man in town that requires my immeadiate attention. Im sure the lady would like time to bath before she eats either way.” Thorn suggested walking just inside the door before turning and heading right back out of it.
Shrugging and not looking up, Tucker began the process of taking his armor off and pulling out a rag and oil sat down to polish it piece by piece sitting in his shirt and long underwear on the bed, teeth grit together as he worked through the last few days in his mind.
He didn’t notice his own hunger or the light outside deeping to full dark, he muttered to himself angrily, picking up the last piece that buckled across his boot he nearly fell off the bed when a sharp rap sounded on the door.
Setting everything down with shaking hands, his heart racing he walked across the room and opened the door, unprepared to see a red cheeked Rue on the other side, her hair still wet and curling from her recent bath.
She looked breath taking, Tucker gulped hard trying to breath evenly.
“Its dinner time if you’re hungry.” She told him in a sing song voice, smiling up at him.
All he could do was nod his head, she had to be the prettiest girl he had ever had the misfortune of meeting. He stepped back and shut the door, running back to his saddle bags he quickly changed his cloths, throwing on a clean shirt and trews before pulling on his boots and before she could knock again threw the door open, still out of breath.
“I’m hungry,” he said, looking down at her.
Blushing Rue spun and hurried on down the stairs, Tucker hot behind her as they headed in to the main tavern.
Looking around at the crowded room Rue took a moment to locate an empty table before heading towards it, Tucker walking behind her reached around and pulled a chair out indicating she should sit in it before pushing it back up to the table for her, walking around he took his own seat next to her.
A harried bar maid came up at the same time Thorn sat down gripping a new lute in his hands. Quickly they all ordered pints and what ever was hot and ready, with a terse nod the serving girl hurried off, more people to get orders from across the room.
A different serving girl arrived a short time later with three bowls of steaming stew and fat slabs of cheese and fresh bread, behind her came the first girl with their tankards. The three of them greatful for the hot food tucked in and didn’t look up until they were wiping out their bowls with the last of the bread.
Pushing his bowl away, Thorn picked his new instrament up and began tuning it with practiced fingers.
“I see you’ve found a new lute,” Tucker stated, stacking his bowl on top of Rues and Thorns leaving them in the middle of the table for the maids to snag later, sitting back with his ale and eyeing the bard.
“Yes, I have found one that suits me I believe.” He said, stuming its six stings harmoniously, its well made body reverberating beautifully. A fine piece of craftmanship, typically something Tucker wouldnt think the bard could afford.
As the notes faded, they caught the attention of the other patrons in the tavern, one by one they turned falling silent. Grinning Thorn began plucking a melody, smiling even wider when Rue joined in with her clear voice.
Excitedly Rue clapped her hands to the beat, encouraging the crowd to start clapping and singing along with the chours. Then Thorn began to sing with her, their voices blending together perfectly.
Crossing his arms and slouching in his seat, Tucker frowned taking a deeper sip of his ale. He knew he couldn’t sing, he wasn’t about to try, he had other talents.
He was a fighter, he fought, with a sword, thats what he had trained for. He was a Noble Knight damn it! From a noble family!
Those didn’t just pop up out anywhere you know, he slouched further in his chair, his shirt catching on the back of his chair and pulling up some, uncomfortably.
Angrily he tugged it down.
Thorn and Rue were now singing a duet, a love song.
Rolling his eyes, Tucker thought about going up stairs but he wasn’t sure he could leave his wife alone with the randy rooster singing her a love song just then.
Frowning at a memory of his father giving his some random advice about bards, Tucker wondered why his father would tell him about them when at the time he was niether married or old enough to get married. The honor of betrothal had gone to his older brother who was in line as the next Head of Council, not to a lowly knight in training, noble or not.
Tucker snagged a near by serving maid, exchanging his empty tankard for a full one before turning back to the duet in front of him with a glower. There he stayed, only getting up long enough to retrieve a fresh ale as he watched his wife and the bard charm and awe their audience with their music.
Mug after mug he knocked back ale as time passed from early evening in to late night, by the time Rue and Thorn were ready to call it quites, Tucker was sloshed and needing help to get up the stairs to his room.
With a sigh of disapointment, Rue wrapped a steady arm around her husbands waist and heaved him from his seat as Thorn hurried to wrap the knights other arm around his shoulders trying to take the majority of the weight off of Rue.
“Does he do this often?” Thorn asked, looking over at Rue as they climbed the stairs with Tuckers dead weight.
“Do wha ofen?” Tucker slurred blowing boozy breath into the bards face.
“Why get smashed of course,” Thorn answered lightly, struggling some up the wooden stairs.
“How dare you, s-sir, to im im imply tha Im in my cupsh!” Tucker suddenly stood up, defying the natural laws of drunken order and holding a thick finger up to poke the bard in the chest, nearly toppling himself back down the stairs.
“Im not implying, I’m telling you and I’m asking the lady over there why she tolerates it.” Thorn said, grabbing the front of Tucker’s tunic before he could overbalance, Rue catching the knight from behind shot the bard a grin from around his broad back.
“Its a marriage of inconvenience, we don’t have much in common and I try to ignore what he does.” She replied, starting back up the stairs.
“Hey now, Im right heres yous know.” Tucker looked from one blurry face to the other. “Did you that this was how we ened up mar-married I the firsht plash?”
“Is that so?” Thorn asked, pushing the door open.
“Yeah, you gotta wh-whatsh out or you might end up mar-married to me too.” Tucker stuttered, falling towards the bed and ending up flat on his face passed out on the floor.
Grimacing, Rue stared down at him, knowing that was going to hurt in the morning.
They both took a moment, contemplating his prone form before walking back out of the room into the halway.
“I had a wonderful time tonight, Thorn, thank you.” Rue said, walking to her door and turning around.
Folowing her Thorn stooped infront of her, crowding into her personal space. “Anytime my lady, shall we continue this conversation inside?”
Her floral smell going to his head and making him rash.
“I’m not sure what your talking about.” She laughed nervously, pressing back as far as she could against her door.
Pressing closer, Thorn leaned against her, caging her in on either side with arms, hands pressed against wood beside her head.
“We both know that you do not love your husband, you have been flirting with me all night.” He leanded forward, brushing her nose with his.
“I-I don’t thing you understand,” She started, the breath catching in her chest. “I took an oath.”
“Of course you did, but it doesnt mean anything, you were tricked, you said so your self.” Thorn told her, his breath washing over her face.
“My oath is my bond, Thorn, this is not going to happen.” She told him firmly, straightening up away from the door and pushing him away. “As much as I have enjoyed your company, I am a married woman and to break my vow would mean the loss of my power and I will not do that, good night.”
“Rue!” He reached for her as she slammed the door on his hand angrily. “Damn it, that stupid knight already married to her.”
Frustrated and now out of sorts, Thorn reached down to rearrange his pants before heading back down to the tavern, not ready for bed just yet. There was a lovely serving girl who had been giving him the eye all night, he would be good money she would be up for a private audience tonight.
Whistling he gabbed his new lute and headed on back down the staircase in a better mood than a moment ago.
Groaning Tucker rolled over, throwing an arm over his eyes as the morning light attempted to drill its way through his skull. “Why does this keep happening to me?”
He lay flat on his back as his head pounded away miserably, stiff from sleeping face down on the floor.
A piercing scream rang out, causing him to jump to his feet, flinching as he felt his head wobble on his shoulders woozily.
Rue met him in the hallway as another shriek rang through the tavern, sharing a worried look they both bolted down the stairs, Rue a beat behind waving her had at Tucker to flash his armor on him complete with sword as they made it to the last step and out the door stopping to look around the court yard.
In front of the stables, they found their bard tieing off his breeches hastily as the tavern owner was shaking a girl wearing only a thin shift by the arm angrily.
Nearby the brothers held pitchforks and a hoe threatening Thorn who didn’t look worried.
“What’s going on here?” Rue shouted, voice cutting through the melee.
“Your bard her charmed me daughters virtue from her!” The proprietor, the girls father, shouted.
“I assure you good sir I was not the first.” Thorn had to duck quickly as the older brother took and angry swing at him with his garden hoe.
“How dare you, your noting but a robber of innocents.” The mans florid face was turning an alarming shade of purple.
“I find that acusation a bit extreame given the evidence to the contrary.” Thorn ducked again, well practiced at this game as the same brother swung again.
Running up, out of breath a man dressed as one of the towns guards bent over, sucking in deep breaths, hands proped on his knees. “Aint you Rue Dragonsdatter?” He gasped, pointing at Rue.
“if you don’t mind, Im in the middle of something right now.” She replied tursly, not taking her eyes off of Thorn or the Tavern owner holding his daughter by the arm tightly, the girl was going to have bruises there later.
“This is urgent, there is grove of trees asking for you.” He told her, standing up finally.
“Right cause Im the Queen of the Kingdom,” She snickered at her own joke.
Tucker looked at her askance, not sure what to make of her attitude this morning.
“Look here guardsman, I want you to arrest this vagabond immeadiatly for defiling my fair daughter, until he agrees to marry her and make an honest woman out of her.” The Tavern owner snarled, interrupting the guards next senctance.
“Magnolia? You want to shackle that poor bard to Magnolia?” The guard swung around incredulously, tipping his hat back and scatching his sparse hair, most of it already gray.
“You bet I do.” He answered swelling his chest out importantly.
“I get it, the girls a wild one and needs to settle down, but that bard aint the one for why don’t you ask the girl what happened?” The guard answered logically.
“Yes lets do that, Im sure there’s a reasonable explanation for all of this,” Tucker chimed in, looking over at the girl expectantly.
“Yes, Magnolia, what happened to you when you ended up in the stables sleeping naked with a foreign bard?” Her father turned on her.
She smiled dreamily, the look making Rue blush, wishing she had taken the elf up on his offer last night, but one look at Tuckers thunderous expression made her glad she hadnt.
“We spent the best night of my life together, he has taught me many new things.” She answered dreamily bitting her lip at the memory.
“There you have it, seize that vagrant!” Her father shouted pointing at Thorn who was trying to back away with his hands held up in front of his chest still protesting his innocence.
“Hey! I resemble that accusation.” Thorn smiled at the crowd of angry faces before dropping his hands and drooping his shoulders, defeted.
“Easy now, Kieth, you know your daughter hasn’t been any kind of saint since she turned fourteen, I don’t think you should be pinning all of her sins on this transient bard.” The guard, who had kept the girl warm just the other night wrapped an arm around his friends shoulders. “Why don’t you just let her go so she can get cleaned up and dressed, shes giving the town a free show out here in the morning sunlight. Why don’t we head on in and have us a good morrning ale?”
The guard patted the other mans shoulders dislodging the tight grip he had on the girl who bolted around the corner of the tavern with out having to be told twice and the guard lead the the tavern keeper inside while the other man kept glaring at the spot the girl disappeared around until they too were out of sight.
“We should get going now” Rue said, already heading in after the two men to collect their gear.
“Rue, wait, I-”Thorn raised a hand to stop her running three steps towards her before she turned and stopped him with a glare. “Never mind then.”
Deflated he turned and walked back into the stables to grab his shirt and his lute.
Confused and angry yet not understanding why that brief altercation between Rue and Thorn upset him, Tucker took off after Rue, getting their bags and coming on back down the stairs, not making eye contact with each other or paying attention to boisterous ruckus going on in the taverns main room as they went back out the door.
“Rue, hang on a second,” Tucker suddendly rembering how Rue liked to get things done.
To late, the animals were waiting for them, saddled and packed, only Thorn was missing.
“We are going to have a serious conversation about this Rue,” Tucker told her angrily, swinging up in his saddle, holding the bridle of her horse so he wouldnt act up while she was mounting.
“You didn’t have a problem with it when I flashed your armor on you and cured your hangover just a minutes ago.” She snapped at him.
“Still, you need to respect other peoples and animals bounderys, not everybody’s going to appreciate this little talent of yours, infact, it might get you hung as a witch.” He answered her, upset that she was taking this seriously.
“It’s not a little talent, Tucker, it’s my Goddess given gift and I’m within my rights to use it how I see fit. I’ve been given this responibility and I will choose who to use it on!” She shouted back, kicking her horse in to a gallop, racing down the road and out of the gate thundering over the draw bridge and back on the road they were traveling.
“Damn it Rue!” Tucker yelled after her, clicking at his mare to get her and their pack horse moving to catch up with her.
They rushed by so fast that they didn’t stop to notice a peculiar group of trees, calling themselves Rue’s Grove, with a collective sight, they began their tedious shuffling after her.
Further up the road, Rue turned to Tucker, “DId we leave Thorn behind?”
“Why would it matter?” He asked her through clenched teeth, hating the good for thing bard, even more for his escapades this morning.
“He’s part of our party, and helpless, you should at least be a little concerned as to where he’s gotten off to.” Slowing her horse down to match his mares pace, worry for the elf creasing her forehead.
“Look, he’s made it clear he has feelings for you and it looks to me like you’ve got some sort of spark for him. Far be from me to get in the way of your blooming romance, but oh yeah, wait, youre my WIFE!” Tucker shouted at her, red faced and angry.
“I told you, my vows are binding. I couldn’t do anything with the elf even if I wanted too.” She leaned over towards him, narrowing her eyes at him as she felt her face turning red.
“Didnt seem to be stopping you last night while I was asleep, Rue, just what did happen?” He dropped his voice ominously on the question.
She sat back up and looked away, blushing. “Nothing, okay, nothing happened.”
“Thats not what its look like from over here.” He snapped at her, having to look the other way at trees, the sight of her unable to meet his eyes just to painful.
Kicking her horse forward again she took the lead, to embarassed and angry to talk to him anymore.
Thorn, having been forgotten in the heat of the moment by everybody had walked out of the fortified town, whistiling and thingking up new songs as he strummed his lute, figuring it was a good idea to give the newlyweds some space and of course they had his horse.
Struming along he figured he would catch up to them sooner or later, or they would come back for him, either way he knew he would catch up with them.
Walking along enjoying the sunlight, he came up the strange sight of a group of trees, shuffling along down the road using their roots to walk much like a sea star does along the beach.
They continued marching on in single minded determination, not quickly but doggedly, on a mission to meet up with their mistress.
Walking in and amoungst them, Thorns head swivled back and forth taking in this new wonder with wide eyes before they all stopped noticing him.
He ran right into the trunk of the one that stopped in front of him with a oomph, his lute flattering noisily to the ground when he lost his grip on it, falling backwards on his ass, his hands holding his squished nose painfully.
“What is this?” one tree asked another in a cruchy voick, branches shaking in agitation.
“A human?” Another one rattled back, leaves falling loose around them.
Should we terminate it?” A third rustled, leaning over its roots to better see the intruder.
“See here, you…you trees.” Thorn got up, brushing himself off, wanting to get to his feet in case they took that suggestion to terminate him seriously. “What are you doing in the middle of the King’s Road?”
Propping his hands on his hips, leavinghis lute at his feet he tapped his foot impatiently waiting for the trees to respond.
Feeling abashed and put on the spot the circle of trees leaned back, away from the suddenly demanding person.
“We are on our way back to our mistress.” The crunchy sounding one finally answered after conferring with its brethren in a soft rustling of leaves.
“You have a mistress?” Thorn laughed, slapping his knee at the hillarity of the joke.
“Of course we do, and she needs us.” The tree to his right spoke up angrilly, sheding more leaves as it shook its branches at him angrily, causing several of the other treees to bang their branches together with a clacking.
“Right, right,” She smiled at them, wiping way tears of mirth with his fingers. “Who is this Mistress you speak of, why is she not here taking responsibility for a walking talking forest of trees?”
“She has many things on her mind of late,” One tree answered, a face forming in the bark of its trunk as it spoke.
Thorn had noticed that the more he interacted with the trees the more they were developing individual features and personality differences.
“She was in a hurry,” Another tree, forming a mouth from a knot hole in its truck, told him.
“She is great,” sighed another, bark forming eyes and a mouth where a branch had come off.
“Thats so sweet, you make excuses for her,” He was beginning to get an idea who was responsible for these trees walking and talking. “Did she by any chance have flaming red hair?”
“Yes! Yes, but she would never hurt us,” a tree on the outside of the circle spoke up.
“She have snapping green eyes and a Dragon compainion?” He asked them, his face seriouse now as watched the trees around him shivering excitedly.
“Yes, yes!” Came back the chours of shouts.
“Last question, is your mistress’s name Rue, by any chance?” He crossed his arms and cocked his head to the side, knowingly.
“You know her.” One tree was all but bouncing up and down on its roots, a feat that Thorn would have never thought possible for a tree.
“Have you seen her?” another asked crowding in closer, nearly knocking him over in its eagerness.
“Which way did she go?”
“What is she like?”
Issn’t she pretty?”
Can you take us to her?”
All of the trees began talking over one another, moving is so close that Thor was getting wedged between trucks. His face was squished against the bark hard enought that his cheek was pushed out past his lips comically.
Slapping the tree trunk nearest him to get its attention, he choked out a shout: “Back up…can’t breath.”
They all said, backing away and aplogizing as they gave the bard space, standing in a loose cirlcle and looking down at him gasping remorsfuly, or at least as much as a tree can be remosful.
Taking a few deep breaths to calm his racing hear, Thorn never thought in wildest dreams that he would be in danger of being crushed to death by curious trees.
“Whew, okay, I’m not human but I’m still squishy like one, alright, you’ve got to take it easy on me.” He bent over his knees, trying to gather his wits.
They took another couple of shuffling steps back from him, eyes unblinking in the back they had made them from. Wating patiently in the way only a tree can.
“Where to star,” Thorn stood up, stroking his smooth chin thoughtfully. “I am acquainted with Rue, yes I do know where she is heading.”
“You can take us,” Shouted a tree.
“Of course I can,” He chortled, he couldn’t wait to see her face when she finds out she accidentally created an entire grove of intelligent trees. “I will do you all one better, I will travel with you while we make our way to her, I figure we will spot her sometime this evening when she breaks for came, if not sooner if she can convince her husband to come back for me first.”
“Oohhhh,” They all rustled, pleased with his answer.
Scooping up his loot, he strumed it, flinching when the notes clanged out, in a few practiced motions he had her all tuned up and sounding perfect again, looking up he grined at the curious trees, “Shall we?”
They all started back down the road, Thorn entertaining them with his music and stories of Rue.
Surrounding the bard the trees remained for the most part silent the sound of their roots on the road was a soft scraping as they listened to him, only asking an occasional soft question.
Bob’s shadow briefly blocked out the sunlight, causing the unsual group to stop and look around. Thorn grinned and looked up, waving to large dragon cheerfully.
The trees on the other hand, discovered that they were unable to look up and were not comfortable that the bard could see something they couldn’t.
Spotting the speck waving at him and puffing out a breath of smoke at the cheeky elf he banked sharply comeing in for a landing just up ahead of the elf, folding his wings and walking up to him.
Seeing the bard smiling widly he aproached caustiously, in his long experience he had never seen a bard smiling for a good reason, trouble always followed.
“I knew they wouldnt leave me out on my own.” Thorn rushed forward, his lute gripped tightly in his arms.
The trees stood still, shivering in instinctive fear of the fire breather.
“Hmm, I wouldnt go that far, but my curiosity got the better of me,” he rumbled, scratching his neck scales with a claw rasping across them loudly.
“Either way, here you are.” Thorn replied cheerfully, not one to look a gift dragon in the mouth. “Have you met Rue’s Grove, yet?”
Turning back to the trees standing still and silent, their features having gone back to natural looking back, they were all standing in the middle of the road looking like they belonged there.
“Did you hit your head one to many times, Bard?” Bob asked him, tilting his large head to the side in concern.
“No, these trees can talk, come on guys, tell him.” Thorn adress the trees impatiently, feeling foolish in front of Bob.
“They are trees, Thorn, nothing more, nothing less,” The dragon told him, sitting down on his haunches with several puffs of smoke leaking from his nose.
“Since when does the King’s Guard allow a randowm strand of trees to grow in the middle of the King’s Road?” Thorn demanded, knowing full well they didn’t, thats why they all paid taxes, wasn’t it. Or well all of them, not him persay.
“We are far, far, from the King’s City, the guard likely doesnt check ths far out,” Bob reasoned with the irate bard.
“I know,” He snapped his fingers, having a sudden strike of inspiration. “This dragon is Rue’s father, he knows exactly where to find her.”
Just like magic they all came alive, faces reforming in the bark and shuffling forward to get a better look at their maker’s parent, rushing in slow motion towards him.
Jumping to his feet with a startled puff of smoke, Bob backpedaled to avoid the slow crush of the over excited trees, their voices lound and indistinct in their excitement to learn more.
Whippping his tail back and forth agitatedly, bob knew that the bard was to no good, he thought to himself staring at the livley foliage.
“Calm Down!” He bellowed over the top of the trees, more smoke leaking out of his mouth threateningly.
They halted, falling into a terrified silence.
“That girl is going to be the death of me,” Bob muttered, rubbing the bridge of his muzzle with two clawed finges, developing a head ache.
Walking forward, coming around the trees, Thorn came to stand in front of the trees, strumming the strings of his lute thougthfully.
“I think, and this is just a suggestion, that you should let Rue know about her trees, have her stop where shes at or come back to take care of this.”
The notes blending in with his voice seemed to swirl around the dragon’s ears and seat themselves in his mind, the suggestion taking root as an idea and blossoming into an action.
“That’s a good plan,” Bob agreed, shaking his head back and forth, something bothering him, “I will go and get her.”
He turned and took off running down the road, flapping his wings to get life and was soon air born and out of sight.
Smiling to himself, Thorn turned back to his awe struck audience. “I told you I would get you to her today.”
Still strumming along, Thorn and trees continued their treck towards Rue, the trees shuffling along slowly, as fast as they could go.
They hadn’t interacted with to many other beings, yet this one seemed to be alright in their collective opinion. His music was soothing and helped to pass the time as they made their way to their mistress.
Hoof beats could be heard rushing towards them a short time later,.coming from up the road, racing towards them was Rue on her cranky white horse, her red hair in a braid flying out behind her.
Pulling up sharply on the reins, Rue and her horse skid to a stop right in front of Thorn with a spray of dirt and gravel.
Coughing and waving a a hand in front of his face, Thorn looked up at the irrtating woman.
“What is with you and getting dirt everywhere?” He coughed some more.
“Im sorry, I was told it was urgent I get back here as fast as possible. Tucker is right behind me.” She looked over her shoulder as she threw a leg over the saddle and hopped off her horse.
She handed the reins to Thorn before coming to stand in front of him, proping her hands on her hips, irritated to be summoned back.
“Spill it bard, what was so urgent that I had to race back at break neck speed to your philandering ass?” She asked with a grin, glad to see he was doing well.
“Have you ever met a talking tree?” He asked her, not taking her last comment seriously, picking notes here and there on his lute.
“No, trees have have never chosen to talk to me.” She said, confused.
“Maybe its time you met,” He paused for effect before turning around and reveling the grove of unblinking trees standing in the road, speachless, finally getting to meet their mistress. “You’re Grove!”
He held a hand out, indicating the trees.
“Did you hit your head to many times?” She asked him, crossing her arms and frowning at him. “I can help you with that.”
“Why does everybody keep asking me that today?” He asked crossly, rubbing the back of his head, ruffling his short dark hair. “No, I havent, these are your trees.”
“I don’t own any trees, thron, nobody but the king owns the forest.” She was beginning to think she had rushed back for no reason.
“They are shy, good Goddess, why is it every time I have something to show you its so difficult,” He shouted throwing a hand in the air and turning his back on her, huffing he stomped off the the side of the road, keeping a tight grip on his lute. Her hose following him.
“There’s no need to be so dramatic.” She rolled her eyes at his theatrics.
Grumbling to himself, he didn’t respond to her jab, refusing to look at her as he picked at his lute, his one and only friend.
Taking a deep breath she held it in for a second before releasing it in a rush, signing she uncrossed her arms and walked up to the trees in the middle of the road, looking for all the world as if they had been planted there on purpose.
She might as well go and look at them since he was being so insistant.
Distanctly she could hear Tucker riding up the the road, heading her way.
She thought, maybe, just maybe, if she squinted, she might be able to make out faces in the bark. Maybe if she tilted her head? Pursing her lips she just never was creative enough to imagine the trees as people like the other village kids could when she was much much younger.
Relasing a pent up breath she turned to face her irate husband, just now coming to a stop behind her.
“Well?” He demanded, not get down, watching her from his higher possition.
“He says these tress,” She waved a hand behind her at the grove, “can talk, and that he’s been traveling with them all day.”
“Did he hit his head to many time?” Tucker demanded, glaring over at the wife theif.
“No! I have not.” Thorn yelled angrily, truning around to face them.
“Riiight,” Tucker drew the word out with an eye roll, unconvinced.
“They are right here, talk to them,” Thorn begged, his lute jangling under his tense hands.
“Keep your panties on bard, I’ll get sorted out shortly.” She told him, dissmissing him as she turned back to the trees.
Clenching his teeth, thorn fell silent, strumming the lute to soothe his temper.
“Could you stop that infernal noise?” Tucker snapped at him, pointing at the instuments in Thorns hands.
“What? No, it helps me.” He snapped back, strumming faster just to see the knights complection turn redder, irriating the knight. Stupid knights.
“Come on boys, ease up would you, I’m trying to figure ow what’s going on here.” She rubbed at the bridge of her nose, developing a headache from their bickering.
Life was so much simpler when she had lived in a cave with her only her father for company.
“The fire breather did that too,” A soft voice crackled from in front of her, sympathy in its tone.
“I imagine he does that a lot when I’m not looking,” she sighed, her eyes still closed.
“I don’t understand why,” a second voice, sounding like crushed leaves said.
“I’m developing a headache, and rubbing where it hurts helps it to feel a little better.” She explained gently as if to a child, she cracked one eye open suspiciously.
A grove of eyes made out of bark stared back at her intelligently.
Yelping she jumped back, hands up and sparkling as the trees leaned away from her, unsure of what had just happened.
“You do talk,” She accused them, golden sparks falling off of her hands and fizzing out in the dirt at her feet.
“It really is you,” they responded, loud for a group of trees, shocking Rue even more.
Tuckers jaw dropped, never had ever thought he would be experienceing talking trees.
“Hold on, just hold on,” She held a hand up, stopping them in mid shuffle towards her as she tried to wrack her brain for what was happening. Her whole reality had just been tipped on it ear.
Thorn walked up, smirking, satisfied his point had been made.
“Mistress,” they whispered amoungst themselves as the ones in the back moved around to form a semi circle around her, all of them wanting to see her, their creator.
Bob landed with a whomph behind the horses, eyes landing on the moving trees. He had halfway convinced himself he had been imagining them the first time.
“Dad.” She turned to him, relieved the voice of reason had arrived to help her. “Whats going on here?”
He strugged, his green scaled wings catching in the sun light with his movements. “I havent a clue.”
Rue visibly deflated, what was she supposed to do with a bunch of sentient trees? She turned back to the trees, their rough faces staring at her expectantly.
Everybody stood staring at eachother at a loss for words or explanations.
“I think you should take responsiblity for them,” Thorn finally broke the silence, for once his hands still, no music could be heard.
“Just what does that even mean?” She asked him, exasperated, this was over the top even for her. She had no idea what to do with a bunch of trees.
“Why don’t you try giving them a job?” Thorn suggested gently.
He could see she was over whelmed with this delima, his heat went out to her.
“What could the trees even do?” Tucker snapped at him, irritated the bard was helping and he was stumped, Rue was his wife damn it, he should be the helpful one.
“He’s got a point, Tucker, what is a good job for a grove of walking trees?” She mused, folding her arms across her chest, turning in a slow circle to see all of them, the cogs of her mind churning over the problem.
“They had mentioned they needed to guard you.” Thorn volunteered, hoping his suggestion was helpful.
“They would make good sentinels,” She murmured to herself, “They blend in perfectly, no matter where they are.”
“Send them home, Rue, to stand watch over our cave.” Her father told her, sitting down and looking at her intently.
“I believe that would be our best bet until I can find a permanent solution for them, a more pressing question is how did I make them? She looked over at her father over her shoulder.
“Send them away first, daughter.” He told her, nodding at the trees waiting for her.
Turning back to the task at hand, she shearched for the tree who seemed to be in charge of the grove, finding what looked like the most defined face amoungst them and apprached it.
Reaching her hands out slowly, she gave it the chance to back away if it was going to and seeing it holding still she pressed her palm against it, reachingout with her mind to connect to its.
Sinking deep through the layers of its consciousness, reading the strange and alien way the tree formed thoughts and shared them with its grove, she was able to see how they were all connected, each tree and individual and yet tied together in its grove.
She pressed an image of her home, the village, the routes and her cave into the collective conciouse, circling where she wanted them to set up their vigil. Impressing a sense of urgency and secrativness, hoping they would go unnoticed by anybody on their way back to her home.
Pulling back out of their minds gently she pulled her hand away, swaying on her feet exhausted, her hands covered in sticky sap.
Running up to her, both men tried to get to her first, Tucker beating Thorn out by a step, he wrapped an comforting arm around her shouldered, steading her and looking down at her ashen face with concern.
She looked up at his freckled face woozily, smiling.
“I understand Mistress, it will be done,” The rustling voice of the tree infront of her said before turning with the rest of the grove and swiftly blending into the surounding forest, disapearing from sight on their way back to her village.
Frowning down at her sap covered hands she grimaced, knowing the sticky stuff never just came off.
“Tree sap is the worst,” she said pulling away from Tucker steady on her feet now.
“What did you do?” Tucker asked her, dropping his arms to his sides with a clange of his armor.
“I-how do I explain this?” She channeled a spark of her power into her sticky palms, considering how she could explain what she had done to him. “I connected my thoughts with the trees thought and told it in feelings what I wanted it to do?”
Igniting the sap on her palm, it burned off in a golden show of flames, not burning her skin, knowing if she didn’t it could be a full week before the stuff wore off naturally.
“What I want to know is how they came to be in the first place.” Thorn said, looking at every one.
“I Believe I have the answer to that one if you will.” Bob stood back up, flapping his wings some before restettling them.
“Go on,” rue turned to face him, giving her father her undivided attention.
“You’ve been throwing your magic around carelessly, child, understandable as this is your first time out of your home with out the typical restrictions and given your impatience, you’ve been using more than necessary to the the job and when you spark it falls off of you and the ground absorbs it.” He explained, pointed a claw at her chest. “The tree’s taking what’s in the soil creating the strong bond we just witnessed. That is your left over magic, the excess, Rue that was trying to return to you.”
Blanching, she understood perfectly what he was telling her.
“Sooo,flashing the horses and our cloths is out of the question now.” Tucker grinned over the top of her head, feeling like he had made his point.
Growling at him hunder her breath she stalked over to her horse, Thorn having dropped the reins when he had rushed forward to help her. She gripped the saddle horn and hoisted her self up for once with out complaint from her mount.
Turning her horses head back the way they had come she continued on up the road, intent on getting this wreatched mission over with as fast as she could.
“Here you go Thorn,” Tucker grudgingly held out the reins to the packhorse, “You can ride her as long as youre traveling with us.”
“How kind of you, Sir Knight.” Thorn mocked, snatching the reins out of the gauntlet covered hand before hopping up over the bags packed on her, wedging himself inbetween them comfortabley, kicking her on after Rue.
Rolling his eyes at the dramatic bard, Tucker mounted up and patting her neck headed on after his compainion, greatful for a patient and calm mare with all of the shenanigans happening around them.
Bob started walking next to Tucker keeping the other two insight but leaving a distance between them.
“Tucker, I know you’re confused about Rue and why I would pick you as her life mate, but please understand that I know what I doing.” Bob told him, brining one large green eye, the same shade as his daughters, Tucker noticed, down to face level with the knight.
Exhaling with a whoosh, he ran a hand through his sandy colored hair, messing it up more.
“If you say so, but it looks like that bard has more of her attention than I could ever claim from her.” He replied, waving a had at the two laughing ahead of them, riding side by side.
“Some times you have to go the wrong way so you know which is the right way,” Bob told him, puffs of smoke curling around his snout.
“What ever that means,” Tuckers head hurt even trying to understand that last riddle. He figured it was a dragon thing, makes them sound smarter.
“You will see, young knight. I believe in you.” Bob chortled, reading the boys thoughts as they flit across his expressive face. He would never be good at cards, Bob thought to himself, pulling his head back up and walking quietly beside Tucker riding his mare.
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