It began in the spring of the year 313 after the Good Peace, although everyone agreed the weather was more winter-like than it should be. The small and sleepy village of Heldren first welcomed a runway slave from Thay. It was Lidiya who was brave enough to befriend the stranger Bragea; but then Lidiya was in the habit of trying to befriend everyone. Bragea seemed more comfortable around children than adults, avoiding religious gatherings and only attending festivals at their periphery (unless Lidiya dragged her forward). By the time Mellifluere showed up, Bragea was almost considered a regular – performing odd jobs and building her lodgings at the edge of the wood. That she talked often and loudly to her mask was just one more oddity about the newcomer.
Lidiya’s youngest brother Pess woke her one cool spring morning. He claimed to have seen a tree waive at him. After confirming that Pess had indeed waved back, Lidiya got him to show her where the tree was. Together they raced through the tiny village and to the edge of the forest. She woke Bragea with a yell and told her that her brother “Pest” had seen a tree-man. Bragea, being Bragea was overjoyed. Lidiya and Bragea had been looking for a tree-man on and off since Bragea’s arrival in Heldren. She marched right up to the tree and knocked on it. It didn’t respond. They all tried talking to it – but it remained silent. It wasn’t tall and majestic, the way Lidiya thought such things should be, but it also wasn’t a tree that was familiar to any of them.
As they contemplated what to do next, a slim young woman in a fine cloak made of leaves came up behind them. Her soft voice started them as she greeted them shyly. She came from the Court of Trees to speak to the emissary of the Witch Queen. Lyida, recognizing neither name, decided that she should come speak to Theodora, Lidiya and Pess’ mother. Pess ran off to find her, while Lidiya took Melliflueres arm and guided her back to the village. Mellifluere’s arm was made of the smoothest of wood. She had no fingernails, no hair on her arm. Her eyes were two well-shaped pieces of amber in a finely grained wooden face.
Pess found Theodora delivering stout to the local inn (the Silver Stoat). Deep in conversation with Meander Garimos (the innkeeper), they were startled by Mellifluere’s appearance. After a brief discussion, retelling Mellifluere’s purpose, a horn sounded in the distance. As people gawked two carts and a dozen or so outriders came into the village green. A woman in courtly robes dismounted the cart and came to the inn to ask if the Lady Argenta Malassene, apprentice to the Symbol and emissary of the royal court could set up in the commons. The locals agreed (how could they not) and the lady bowed, turned and with dramatic waves of her hands caused the carts to disassemble and reform into a small cottage. Fortunately, the horses and soldiers both were well warned and out of the way of the magical deconstruction and reassembly, and so suffered no harm.
Mellifluere and any member of town with a touch of power were invited to meet the Lady after she had rested from her journey. Most of us stayed in the courtyard outside the inn (where tables were arranged and a few locals were waiting for the midday stew to be served). It made for a fine show. When the Lady Argenta’s hand maidens signalled she was ready, Lidiya, Mellifluere, Bragea and Tessaraea (the local apothecary) went to the cottage. They were guided to a small central room with its own hearth, where chairs were quickly arranged.
The Lady received our introductions, and listened to Mellifluere’s sad tale.
Mellifluere is a dryad. She lived in a grove deep in the forest. One day, while talking to a Leshe (a tree shepherd), she felt a sudden and encompassing pain so great she could barely move. The Leshe picked her up and raced to her grove. There they saw two humans and a grouping of trolls with battle axes. They cut down her tree, leaving herself felled. The Leshe put her gently down and tried to defend her tree, but it was to no avail and he was badly injured in the battle.
The humans carried with them a sickle made of ice and a cauldron. The cauldron was bubbling atop a fire, and a swarm of fire bees came out of it. They shrunk Mellifluere’s tree and took it with them, departing through a rent in reality into the realm of shadow. The trolls followed them. Somehow, Mellifluere managed to crawl her way to the Leshe and together they saved each other. They went to the Court of Trees with their tale, but even here in Heldren, we had already heard of a dryad’s fall; so it was with mixed emotions that we learned the dryad did not die.
The Lady Argenta recorded the dialogue of the conversation using a magical pen that transcribed everything; and we were dismissed as she needed time to consider the events as they were told. Tessaraea was deeply moved by Mellifluere’s tale, so much so that she was brought to tears. As we depart, Tessaraea insists on helping Mellifluere seek revenge.
We are invited on the morrow to go to visit a local point of power with the Lady Argenta. It is a strange proposal and one no one feels they can refuse.