The photo which inspired this flash piece is one I took at Lake Wenatchee in Washington State. The piece of driftwood, snarled and smoothed by time and water, looked (to me) like a dryad emerging from a protective shell of roots. The story took off from there. Enjoy!
The Dryad’s Grove
She didn’t know what awakened her. Stretching out her senses, she tasted the soil beneath her, smelled the air which flowed through her branches. Nothing. Her branches creaked and groaned, their brittle tips fluttering to the ground with each subtle movement. It took hours or years, time had little meaning for one such as she, but in time she emerged from the protective cage of her tree’s branches.
Stretching her arms to the sky, she shook out her leafy hair and examined her grove. Her sisters remained rooted nearby, their thick bark coated in cooling moss. The lake sparkled in the sunlight, a welcome source of water to her parched soul. The air remained clear with only the faintest taint of the human’s machines to sour its taste. All was well, so what had awakened her?
She walked along the lakeshore, and her expression grew darker, her protective vines thornier. The signs of human intruders lay everywhere. Three sections of her grove had been cleared of the dense undergrowth which protected the smaller fair folk who called her grove their home. In the center of each open wound sat an unnatural stone table and a pair of benches. Her lip curved in a snarl. Humans.
Attached to the tables by a chain of harsh metal were bins full of the humans’ detritus. She sent out a root tendril, tasted the metal, and withdrew with a hiss of pain. It burned! Not like the iron of old but bad enough to sear her roots and send a creaking groan through her grove. Her sisters took up her cries, asleep though they were until birds took to the skies and insects scurried into hiding.
HOW DARE THEY BRING IRON INTO HER GROVE!
She stormed down the asphalt scar they’d carved into her forest, knocked over the wooden signs they’d stabbed into her grove’s flesh. They would pay. They would all pay.
As she walked, she called her sisters to wake, rallied the pixies and the nixies and the imps to her side. The small, mischievous fairies pelted the humans at the tables with nuts and berries, stabbed them with swords made of thorns and wasps’ stingers. The naiads stirred awake, creating whirlpools beneath the motorboats fouling their waters.
And the dryad? She stomped on the metal carriages which brought the humans to her grove, tossed them from her mountain and onto the asphalt scars below. For three days and three nights, she and her kin rained terror upon the humans who’d dared to desecrate her home. And when it was done, when nothing of the humans remained to foul her waters or burn her roots, she retreated to her protective cage of dried branches and thorny vines, and she slept.
Until the next time, she slept.