I really wished we brought a Saurian with us today to convince her that we weren't dangerous. The Saurian breathed heavily as she realized she was outnumbered. Her eyes darted around, and then she turned and ran.
She swept her arm down as quickly as she had turned to send a torrent of water at Tigala's feet, tripping her up. The Saurian ran for the river.
"We don't want to hurt you," I said. "We work with other races." It was pointless. How were two Treeks, a Beastfolk, and a half-Elf-Human supposed to looking unintimidating to a stranger of a different race in the woods? We weren't.
The Saurian continued to run. She was more nimble than some of the others I had seen at the colony. She was quick too.
We ran after her. I hadn't seen her before, meaning she wasn't part of the colony and wasn't one of the abducted colonists. Is she a native of Daegal? How does that work?
"My name is Kaia," I yelled. It sounded so stupid, but maybe introducing myself would help. It didn't. The Saurian kept running down the bank toward the river.
When she finally reached it, she stopped and faced us. She still breathed heavily but looked much more confident with the water at her back. Given what she had done in the middle of the woods, I was nervous to see what a properly fueled attack from her would look like.
"Stay back," the Saurian said. "Let me go before I am forced to hurt you."
I raised my hands trying to look unimposing. "We just wanted to talk. We don't usually see unknown people on Deagal." Actually, I guess we had. I probably should have been more nervous that she was a Human in disguise as a Saurian, but I got the feeling that Malcolm was wholly focused on the doom drake now.
"We're from the colony," I said, "the one where they had the truce. We're not going to hurt you."
The Saurian looked at us, with downturned brows. She was skeptical, and she had every right to be. "What do you want to know?" she asked.
"What are you doing out here? How did you get here?" I asked.
"That's not important," she said. "I'm here. Now let me go and we can all walk away from this."
"Okay," I said, trying to think. I wasn't sure what exactly I had expected her to say, but I was hoping for more. "Do you want help?"
"No," she said. "I'm fine on my own."
"I felt the same way when I first came to Daegal," I said. I looked at Lolan. "This island taught me pretty quickly that it's not safe to go alone."
She still stood poised to attack, while the four of us stood higher up the bank looking down at her. "Okay," I said again. "But you should know, this forest might be extremely dangerous. The trees might be alive."
"Is that a threat?" she asked.
"No! No," I said, surprised at the response. "This is a magical forest. Last time we saw them they were—"
"I don't care," she said. "Just let me leave."
I looked at the others hoping they might be able to say something to change the tone of the conversation. They looked just as lost as me.
"Yeah, okay," I said. "If you do want to find more people, even more Saurians, we're in the town near the towering mountains toward the center of the island."
The Saurian stared at me for a moment and then turned to cross the river.
We stayed put and watched her leave. I wasn't happy with how that interaction went, especially when I finally felt like we were making progress in getting people to work together. Whatever was going on with her, she hadn't been around the colony and probably hadn't seen the drake, given her tone. I hated seeing anyone go out into Daegal alone, especially now. She didn't know what dangers were waiting for her here.
"I wonder what she's up to," said Lolan.
"I wish we knew. She was so hostile," I said.
"Can you blame her?" asked Palem. "She was attacked by a tiger and then chased by an Elf and two Treeks. I wouldn't be happy either."
It did make sense, and if anyone could relate out of the four of us, it was Palem, our newest recruit.
I looked up at the trees again. "Well, should we continue our search?" I asked.
Just then I heard a noise that was all too familiar: the sound of roots pulling from the earth. It was followed by a scream in the direction the Saurian had just left us.
"I think I found them," said Tigala.
The Saurian was now out of view, but we could see the canopy shake up ahead.
"Come on!" I said.
We ran forward through the brush, toward the moving tree. I kept my eyes on each tree we passed curious if they too would wake up and join the chaos.
When the Saurian came into view she was in the bark-covered hand of one of the trees. It was standing back up, clutching her. I looked up to the tree. It was the one with the broken top. He had been one of the ones convincing others to kill me the last time I saw them. Great.
"Stop!" I yelled up at the tree. Lolan, Tigala, and Palem stood at the ready behind me.
The tree looked down at me.
"Yeah, you remember me?" I yelled.
"YYEEEWW," said the tree in its ancient creaks and groans.
"Yeah," I said. "I'm the one you tried to kill, twice now."
In the distance, I heard the sound of more roots pulling from the earth and saw the distant sway of branches.
"HOOOWWW DDIIIID YEWWW?" the tree asked, not forming a whole question.
"I'm stronger than you," I lied. "I created you, and I can't be hurt by you."
I saw Tigala eyeing me. Was that too much? I had to try something different. The last time almost got me killed.
"Put her down," I yelled, "gently!"
The tree stared at me for a moment, and then slowly lowered the Saurian to the ground. He hesitated and then loosened his grip. The Saurian jumped from the branch-like hand and kept both the tree and our group in her field of view.
More noises of trees uprooting and groaning filled the forest as they awoke.
"No," I said, cutting him off. I had to assert my power to pull this off, at least that's what I thought. "What were you doing? Why were you and the others still for so long."
The bark on the tree's face shifted slightly, making it look confused. "RRREEESSTTT," it finally said.
"You were all resting here?" I asked. "Why here?" I didn't ask because I needed to know. I was just curious. I wanted to know how these tree people worked. I wanted to know more about something that I had a hand in creating.
The tree continued to look confused as more trees began waking up. The Saurian seemed to realize that she was probably safer close to us than if she went off on her own at this point. She took a few small steps toward us.
"TTHHHIIIRSSSSTYYYY," said the tree. It turned its head to face the river.
Huh, so they need to drink water. That makes sense.
Some of the trees that had woken were now making their way to us. One, in particular, I recognized. Grollock approached with his glowing green face.
"YYYEEEWWW LLLIIVVEE," said Grollock.
"Yes, I do. And I need your help," I said, trying to still display that confidence.
"HHHAAAAHHH," said the broken tree, laughing at the request.
"I need your help because I know you want your kind to survive," I said. "There is a monster that is looking to destroy the world, trees included. And I think you don't actually want to hurt me. We're stronger together."
Grollok looked at the other trees around him. What was he thinking? Did they think? They must, but it was still so weird.
"HOOWWW DOOO WEE NOOOO SHHEEEEE MAAADDE USSSSS?" said the broken tree.
"SHEEE HASS PLLAANNTTT MAAGGIICC" said Grollok.
"SOOO DOO WEEE," said the tree.
"Why does it matter?" I asked. "That monster is going to kill you. It's going to kill all of us."
I saw the Saurian trying to sneak out while the attention was on me. She hid behind the leg of one of the taller trees and poked her head out looking for an opening to sneak to the next bit of cover.
"What do you want me to do?" I said with my arms raised.
The Saurian sprinted to the next trunk. I didn't say anything. If she could get out of this, porps to her.
"SSHOOOOWW UUSSSS," said the broken tree.
Show them? What did he mean? I reached out with my magic and grew a vine. It stretched up and snaked around mimicking the movements of my arms to make it exceptionally clear that it was following my commands.
"MMMMAAAKKEEE USSSS," said the tree, clarifying.
Oh, I thought. I wasn't sure I could do that again, not without the nature magic veins. I reached out to the vine again and expanded it, growing extra limbs to look like arms and legs.
The Saurian made another dash between cover. But this time, something went wrong. I chanced a look when I heard the splash of water. She was facing off against one of the smaller shrubs that likely just woke up. It stood back up, dripping wet, and lunged at the Saurian. She probably could have handled it on her own, but all eyes were on the Saurian now. One of the trees grabbed her again before she could hurt the sapling.
"SSHHHEEE FFFIIIIGHHHTTSS USSSS," said the tree holding the Saurian.
"She's defending herself. Let her go. She doesn't know what you are," I yelled at the trees.
"YEEWWWW CAMMMEE TOOO KILLL UUUSSSSSS," said the broken tree. "YEEEWWW CAAMMMEEE WWWIITTH MMMOORRRR."
More what? People? I shook my head. Just when I thought I might have had them.
"Look, I'll prove I made you. I'll make more. But when I do, you let her down unharmed." I said staring up at them.
"SSHOOWWW USSSS," said Grollok this time. I got the impression that was him agreeing to the deal, but it was hard to read these creatures. Or should I call them people? It was a weird thought.
I focused on the vine once again. I poured my magic into it, strengthening it but keeping it flexible for what it was about to do. I turned the tip of it toward the ground. It scraped at the moist earth and pulled its root clump free. The vine coiled around the moist dirt and held it in the center of its body. More vines stretched out strengthening its limbs and forming what looked kind of like a head. When it was ready, I made it run forward and then bow to the trees.
"There you go," I said. "I made you, and I need your help. But more importantly, you need your help."
"NOOOTTTT USSSSS," said the broken tree.
I looked at the tree and then at my vine monster and then back at the tree. Not us? I thought. What was that supposed to mean? I looked up at them. They were sentient beings. Did he really want me to create another living thinking creature like them?
"I can't do that part of it again," I said. "That was only possible because of the veins of nature magic."
"SSHHHEEE LLLIIIIEDDD," said the broken tree. Grollok looked down on me in silence. He agreed.
"I didn't lie. I created you, and I think I could do it again with the right situation."
"LLLIIIESSS," the broken tree said.
The tree that held the Saurian started to move its hand. I wasn't sure what it was about to do but I didn't want to find out.
"Stop!" I yelled. I looked around frantically for some way of tricking them, some way of convincing them that I was the one to create them. If only Zef were still here, he'd be able to create an illusion. But he wasn't.
In the split second it bought me, I looked up at Grollok again to try and read his 'expression'. I stared into the green glow and couldn't make out any kind of emotion from him. But then it hit me. The green glow! I thought. That used to be the green veins!
"I can do it," I said. "Don't hurt her." I looked at the tree holding the Saurian. It remained still for the moment. "Grollok, I need you to come closer though."
The tree looked down at me, and after a moment, it lifted one of its giant tree trunk legs. I stepped down directly in front of my vine monster.
"Okay, one moment. Nobody hurt anyone." I said, hoping they would listen.
I glanced at Tigala. She looked back with a look of concern, but she didn't stop me. She knew this was our only way out of this mess.
I focused on the vine creature I had made. The magic that controlled it glowed green, brightest in the root ball at its core. Then I focused on the glow coming from Grollok. The biggest mass of it was centered on the treant's chest. I dug into it, much like I had so long ago. Slowly, I began pulling from it, dipping my toe into the well of magic and falling in to my waist, so to speak. The magic rippled out and flowed down toward the vine creature.
It was impossible to direct perfectly, impossible to regulate the flow of magic. The green glow reached the vine creature and filled our vision.