“Is this tree hollow?” I sputter, looking up.
After walking about two dozen feet into the tree, the inside opened up into a massive, circular chamber. Similar to the platforms spiraling around the Enclave’s trees, the inside of this tree is sporting a wide chasm lined with a similarly thin, useless railing and open back steps leading to rooms on the outer perimeter.
I set Lilia down, but she holds onto me. I guess she didn’t want to be put down. Sorry… what term of endearment should I use for her?! I get lost in my thoughts, then get lost in amazement, as I look back to the chasm carved out before me.
“Since it would likely be safest for any newborns, you and your entourage will be housed in the guest room at the bottom of the tree well. Follow along, it’s a long walk, so we’ll just jump,” explains the dryad.
The blood rushed from my face. Heights and I don’t get along at the best of time, but jumping… intentionally? I’ve alway had a hard time with heights. Nothing bad has ever happened from a high place… in my past life. However, I still get the feeling of danger just looking down over a great distance. Dubhe backs away from the edge, enacting my very thoughts.
The dryad saw our hesitation and informed us: “No need to fear, Gaia trees are well known for preventing any damage from anything falling from them. Either from within itself or from within the perimeter its leaves. Off you go, now.”
He yanked my wrist! As I began to fall, I instinctively grabbed the closest thing to me… Which happened to be the pregnant Lilia. I’m suddenly horrified by my instincts. There would be no was I would consciously grab a pregnant… or really, anyone intentionally off the edge of a very large drop. Especially the mother of my unborn child. I reflect on what I have done, and feel quite disgusted. For some reason, though, Lilia smiles at me and snuggles into my arms as we fall.
As we fall, I happened to have my back to the yawning abyss below us. Suddenly, I see Dubhe roar as she is forcibly tossed over the edge by long vines. She flails like a fish out of water, eyes wide with terror.
Well, if we die from falling, it won’t be any worse, one, two or three of us. Honestly, I can’t see why the dryad would lie to us. Lilia has no sense of danger about this drop, and didn’t retort to his statement. With my previous experience of dropping from a Gaia tree, I half believe that there is no danger. Despite my heart beating in my throat and ears. To that end, I take a deep breath to calm myself, and I use my runes to slow Lilia’s and mine decent. We both grab Dubhe into a hug, catching her. In a lot of ways, it calms my heart to know that Dubhe and Lilia appear to naturally like each other. Well, at the very least, they don’t appear to dislike each other.
I close my eyes and just enjoy holding onto both of them as much as I can. It has been a while since we all snuggled like this together. Lilia, despite being a dryad, with her body appearing to be made of amorphous vines, is always so soft and huggable. The feeling of a girl she transmits is just intoxicating. Dubhe, on the other hand, is much like having a fluffy, warm, giant blanket wrapped around you. It’s enough to calm me to sleep on a restless night.
It didn’t last long, though.
Sure enough, we gently touch down at the bottom of the chasm, me on my back, and the two girls on top of me.
Crushing me. Oh, goddess, when did they get so heavy…
Lilia continues to cuddle me, oblivious to my struggle, while Dubhe rolls off to the side, and gets up.
“Did I not say there were two women who would be willing to help you with that just last night?”
Whoah, whoah! Hold on! I scramble to get up, with a Lilia clinging to me. “Ah, ha ha, nice to see you again!”
As I stand, Dubhe swipes the back of my knees, forcing me into a kneel. What the…? I look over, and she’s directing me with her eyes to follow suit. She is also kneeling.
I totally just committed lese majeste, didn’t I? Lilia… what the heck? She’s climbing on my back and resting there while I kneel!
“Ah, your majesty, good timing. Since these travelers will be staying here at Gaia’s direction, to learn from the Great Ursine Library, it falls to you, and the court, to assist with their childbirth and rearing.” The other dryad lands next to us with several long spindly spring like vines gently setting him down, and starts talking to the female Ursine I had met last night.
Wait, he’s making royalty take care of our children?! Someone help un-explode my brain. Anyone?
“Oh, certainly, I would love to help! It’s been so long since we had children in the royal chambers! Not only a litter of ursines but maybe even a hume and… Dryad… offspring… child, too?” She sounded genuinely excited until she didn’t know what to call a dryad child. Don’t worry, I don’t know what to call them either.
That’s not the important bit here though.
“Ah, ha ha… errr, we couldn’t ask that of royalty. That would just be intrusive,” I say, unconsciously voicing my thoughts.
“Nonsense. You didn’t ask. The dryad did. You’re right, if you did, it would be intrusive.” The Ursine woman from last night, who also happens to be royalty, flashes methe toothy grin of a hunting carnivore who just found some delicious prey.
Let’s just be quiet now. I give her a sheepish smile and nod.
Dubhe interjects, “Your majesty, we are tired from our travels, could we save the pleasantries for later?” She doesn’t take her eyes off of me. They are cold-do-not-talk eyes.
Lillia curls up on my back more, resting… or trying to rest? Trying to get comfortable. I confirm our situation. “Ah, yeah, Lillia definitely is going to fall asleep here on me.” Literally. How does she balance like that? What a crazy girl.
I hear Dubhe growling behind me.
“How bold. Inappropriate, but bold.” The royal in front of us comments, her smile getting wider and toothier.
“Ah, yes, my sister here definitely seems tired, I shall take these travelers to their quarters for now.” The dryad saves us, and motions for us to follow.
Thanks for the support! I am in your care!
Sorry for the late post! I was up late wrapping presents for my children. For those who know, last year my youngest son got me pajamas for christmas. Specifically, a one-piece “how to train your dragon” toothless dress-up pajamas. They are super warm, have a tail, wings, the head is a hood, etc. I love them… probably because they are warm and I’m lazy. Also, I get to dress up as a dragon. This year, he got me the same thing, except it’s Charizard. Epic.