(Today we have Victoria Zigler and Kishi the Dryad to promote her new book Ulrike’s Christmas, which are available on Smashwords, iBooks, & Barnes & Noble. Also, don’t forget to check out Legends of Windemere: the Spirit Well to get more of Luke Callindor.)
Luke leaps and bounds through Visindor Forest, the trees a blur as the young warrior reaches his top speed. Distracted by the brief sight of someone moving ahead, the half-elf fails to notice the rock root that catches his foot. With a groan of acceptance, he hits the ground and rolls until skidding to a stop next to an out-of-place ash. Remaining face down in the dirt, Luke spots a young woman with pale green skin and moss-like hair stepping out from behind the tree. Making sure not to get his legs tangled with his twin sabers, the blonde-haired hero flips to his feet and bows without knowing why.
“Sorry about the noise and I hope I didn’t hit your tree. My name is Luke Callindor and I’m only passing through. Never knew there were dryads in Visindor, but it doesn’t surprise me. So . . . what’s your name?”
“I am Kishi,” the dryad mutters distractedly, turning to face the tree and resting a pale green hand against the greyish bark of the ash as if in reassurance. “No harm done,” she adds, gently stroking the tree’s smooth trunk as she speaks.
Then her eyes open wide in surprise as the reality of the situation hits her, and she spins back around to face the man, her expression softening when she notices his tumble caused him injury, even if it caused no harm to her bonded tree.
“I am Kishi,” she says again, this time with more confidence. “You are hurt,” she observes. “Will you let me heal you? I should not really, but since you have already seen me…” Her voice trailing off, the dryad lets her hand fall from the tree’s trunk and takes a step closer to Luke.
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to. These scratches will heal eventually and I’ve had a lot worse. Strange that you’re here alone. I thought dryads stayed in groups for protection. Where did you learn healing magic?”
“You misunderstand me. I do want to. Whatever divine being grants magical powers gave me the gift of healing, and I always want to use my gift when I can. It is my purpose in life to use my gift to help injured animals, or tend to sick plants. Dryads are tree guardians first, but general protectors of nature and animals too. You see, humans and elves are not supposed to see dryads. I am supposed to make certain I am invisible when not in my tree form, just in case someone should stumble upon me. But sometimes I forget and stay visible. I should not let you see me, and that is why I should not heal you. But since you have seen me…” She lets her words trail off again as she continues to move towards him, stopping near enough to reach out and touch him. “It is a shame I was not there when you got that,” she adds, indicating the scar across his chest. “Had I been there when you were as injured as you must have been then, I would not hesitate even to ask your consent to use my gift on you. Since you are not in immediate danger, however, I will allow you the option to refuse. So, will you let me heal you?”
“Actually, the scar was made by a demonic blade, so even my healer friend and three days of potions couldn’t fix it,” Luke explains with a shrug. He rolls up his sleeve to reveal the dark imprint of a skeletal hand on his forearm. “This was from an old enemy, but I’m not really sure what it does. No curse behind it, so maybe just a reminder that he was my first real threat. You can heal me if you want. Although, you don’t act like any dryad I ever met. The ones we have here are forest protectors and mischief makers. Nothing more than getting travelers lost for a bit before letting them go home. They do like to hide though, so I guess I’ve just never met one like you.”
“Yes, dryads do enjoy making mischief,” Kishi admits, placing her pale green hands on Luke’s arm, and closing her eyes to concentrate.
A green light emanates from the dryad’s hands, making Luke momentarily glisten as though he’s coated in emerald glitter. When it fades, Luke’s recently acquired cuts and bruises have vanished, as though they never existed.
“I am not like most of my kin,” Kishi continues, opening her eyes again. “I prefer solitude, and though I enjoy causing a little mischief from time to time, I think the other dryads – not to mention the pixies – do quite enough of it without my aid. Perhaps my gift of healing is what makes me different? I feel the pain and suffering of others more easily than my kin usually do. I left my tree long enough to find and aid the faerie dragon, Zeena, so she could break the Spirit fairy’s curse. The others understand me wanting to have the curse broken, but are amazed I could leave my tree for so long. They remained hidden, though they knew where to find her as I did.” She pauses, her head tilting to one side as she gives Luke a quizzical look. “But what about you? Why are you alone so deep in the forest?”
“I guess I did go a little further than I expected this morning,” the half-elf admits with a crooked smile. “My friends and I are on a journey to save the world. We came here to visit a friend who runs a warrior school nearby. Figured it was safe to go for a run, which I haven’t done in a long time. I must have lost track of time and direction then ended up here. Nothing to worry about though. Forest trackers like me are never really lost . . . I will admit to not paying full attention during my lessons. At the very least, my friend Fizzle will come looking for me. He’s a drite, which I guess is what you’re calling a faerie dragon. Never heard the term before.”
“No. Zeena is kin with dragons and fae creatures. Faerie dragons are about the size of a large house cat, and come in a variety of colours. This particular one has purple scales. Her best friend is a pixie named Saarik, and she loves fun and games almost as much as he does, though she tries to act as though she does not. Zeena is special because she is the only one of her kind who can wield the magic for more than one element equally. That is why it had to be her who rescued the other four element fairies, and helped to rid both land and sea of the curses, when the Spirit fairy allowed jealousy to blacken her heart.”
“Actually, that sounds a lot like Fizzle. Drites are small dragons that are rumored to be born from dragons and fairies. He’s also purple. Does Zeena have dragonfly wings like drites? I guess there could be different species of tiny dragons. Wait, if you already had your adventure, what do you do now?”
“Yes, there are different species. Zeena more closely resembles the dragon side of their kin, and appears at first glance to be just an ordinary small dragon. As for what I do now… I help the element fairies to care for the forest, as I did before. These days, however, I sometimes find a certain purple faerie dragon curled up among the roots of my bonded tree, or among my own roots if I am in tree form myself. Zeena knows I understand the need for solitude sometimes, and comes to rest among my roots when the burden of being who she is gets too much, and she wants some peace and quiet. I am honoured she puts so much trust in me.”
Luke looks around for the dragon, his curiosity getting the best of him. “Shame I didn’t get to meet her. Thanks for the healing. Well, I hope you don’t get too lonely out here. Seems really far away from everything, including the other fae.”
“A little,” Kishi admits. “Perhaps I also travelled further than I meant to this day. I rarely move my tree in order to travel further. Perhaps I got a little carried away?” Pausing, she glances over at the ash, frowning in concern, and then turns back to Luke with a serious expression on her face. “I wish you luck on your journey and success with your quest. May Mother Earth watch over you.”
“Considering the monster my friends and I are up against, I’ll take help and guidance from anyone. Good luck with your adventures too.”
Victoria Zigler is a blind poet and children’s author who was born and raised in the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, and is now living on the South-East coast of England, UK. Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, has a very vivid imagination, and spends a lot of time in fictional worlds; some created by her, others created by other authors. When she remembers to spend some time in the real world, it’s mostly to spend time with her hubby and pets, though sometimes to indulge in other interests that capture her attention from time to time, such as doing crafts, listening to music, watching movies, playing the odd figure game or roleplaying game, and doing a little cooking and baking. To date she has published 7 poetry books and more than 40 children’s books, with more planned for the near future. She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II.