Day. Night. Day. Night. Day. Night.
Collapsing in on herself. Small creatures scattering. No, not that small. Or was she just shrunk? Uprooting herself. The gleam of axes.
Stupidity, they said. Walked straight in. Told them she was a necromancer. No need to mourn.
Carefully she discussed with the other trees. Calmly, she retrieved what was left, the leaf-shaped daggers, the sigil, the paperwork.
There was no-one quite like Nimrodel, and the world was ending.
She boarded the ship at the port in New Mill'en. It was made of wood, of course. She'd learned not to notice these things.
The paper was made of wood, too. As was the pencil she wrote with. There was a long time in which to write, which was good, because there was an awful lot that needed writing. She finished the first copy just as they were entering the storm.
She wasn't sure what she was expecting, but she was pretty sure it wasn't this. Light and thunder and then nothing. The world here was alive, obviously alive, but also (subtly, at a level below what she would normally consider) it was dead.
Her thoughts had little time to gather, however. There were copies to be made, she had promised to pass her knowledge on, and then there was a strange and alien shore that the Teacher had commended her to.
The snake was bruised and battered, staggering back to the camp wounded from the battle, winded from its excursions. It wasn't leaking everywhere - wasn't dying - but it wasn't fighting any more today either.
"I hear you're a healer," it said. "Can you get me back in the fight?"
She was rather taken aback. When she had first awoken she had considered herself a healer, but nobody of her tribe would give out their true name for something as trivial as mending a little damage.
She stood amongst the trees. Wasps on one side. Fidelians on the other. Somehow she'd stopped them from killing each other quite yet. Or maybe they'd stopped themselves. It was hard to tell how much influence she really had, with her information and her quiet persistence. Probably it was really the Commissar's doing.
They were standing in a circle, the bright ones, the gem people. They frustrated her immensely. They made overtures of friendship, vague stillborn promises of sharing their wealth of knowledge and understanding, but they met in a huddle and those not of their kind were not welcome.
With the strides she'd made with the dryads, she'd hoped they might reciprocate, but instead they were secretive as ever and the other dryads muttered darkly about how they should guard their secrets just as well.
"Noon, in the tavern."
"Five o'clock, in the stand of trees in the middle of the bottom field."
"It's changed to three now, talismancer's meeting clashed."
"Two o'clock, we'll gather up the benches."
"I can come along for the first hour, but then I've got to dash off to the sorcerer's meeting."
Always running from one thing to the next. If only all her responsibilities slotted neatly into hours.
"How do I get in touch with you?"
Explaining the messenger birds. A look of incredulity. Explaining them again.
Trying to copy down the 'tech tree', trying to memorise it before the piece of paper is taken away, no money, no currency but days.
It isn't much like a tree. Once she was paid some money, but she lost it.
"Have you got Minor Genesis? Can I swap you Sacred Hands of Life?"
Once she grew some trees. They tore themselves out of the ground around the place that was still called Nimrodel's Grove. They soared up to the heavens. They were beautiful.
She can still remember the running and the screaming and the blood on the ground, as her beautiful children hoisted her brothers and sisters in the tribe high into the air, impaling them on sudden branches, tossing them like dry leaves into the clear sky.
There was a lot of talk about improving the forests, but she never grew trees again.
"How old are you?"
She had come into the world without vast stores of knowledge, it was true, but she had never felt inclined to be stupid like some of the other trees. The snakes had known what to do with a dryad, having had Nimrodel as an example for some time. They had taught her to speak well and to keep her eyes open.
For some reason the inner islanders all expressed surprise and were impressed when she told them her age. She didn't count the endless days and nights before her Awakening, of course. Those were receding now in any case, a time before thought, less than a dream.
"How old are you?"
"Coming up to a year now."
When he said he was several hundred years old she wasn't inclined to believe him.
There were advantages, she supposed, to the lie. She just wished he wouldn't keep maintaining it in front of the other dryads, as if he was really walking the earth for that long, as if he had some special wisdom they did not. It was a trait of the devoted, she supposed, to have this need to convince other people their way was right.
She did often try to convince people she was right, but it was different. She was right, factually, in such circumstances. It was not a matter of belief or of the philosophy one might subscribe to. She only advised people on factual matters or concerns of basic survival.
But every time that he claimed that he was several hundred years old she wanted him to be right, so she could have some way to abdicate responsibility, someone older and wiser to follow.