Her tree was dying, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Fewer and fewer of her branches were budding in the spring. The buds that did form were small and weak and rarely produced the full leaves she’d been accustomed to for seasons past counting. She could feel time running out…for both of them.
As a wood nymph, she lived only as long as her tree did. The youngest among them numbered their seasons in the hundreds, and those with stately, long-lived trees eventually stopped counting entirely as the number became meaningless.
But now, she could sense her tree weakening, and every spell and potion she tried had less effect than the last. It was time to seek help.
Nimbly she lowered herself down the stout trunk until she felt the vibrant earth through the soles of her feet. An early morning breeze flirted with the treetops and leaves rustled cheerfully as she passed under their branches. Adele lifted her face to catch the first warm rays of the sun and smiled.
The tree she sought was in the center of the forest. It was the easily the oldest of any of the trees, and its nymph reigned as their queen; if any in the forest knew how to revive her tree, the queen would.
The queen’s tree dominated the forest: it rose well above the other trees, and its wide canopy had long since eliminated any surrounding trees. The ground surrounding the immense trunk was gnarled with the knees of roots that had thrust up randomly as the huge tree sought to expand its support system.
The air was noticeably cooler under the branches, and the noise of the forest faded to a reverent silence. Adele approached the trunk with her head bowed, and dropped silently to sit with her hands resting in her lap. The Queen would have known she was coming the moment she passed the outer ranges of her tree’s roots. All Adele could do was wait to see if the Queen would speak with her.
She closed her eyes and worked to order her thoughts. The Queen did not appreciate nymphs who wasted her time dithering instead of getting to the point.
“Adele Oakheart, have you come with a purpose…or are you napping?” the Queen’s voice came to her faintly from a slender opening in the trunk.
Adele leapt to her feet, “A purpose, my Queen!”
A dry laugh floated on the air. “Well then, I suppose you had better come up then.” She hesitated for a moment—she’d never been in the Queen’s tree. No nymph had, at least that she’d heard of. “Don’t dawdle Adele! Come in, and bring some sunshine with you!”
Adele quickly slipped through and paused just inside to let her eyes adjust to the sudden darkness. “Yes, Your Majesty.” As her eyes adjusted, she hid a gasp behind her hand. It had been several seasons since she’d seen the Queen, and in that time the vibrant nymph had shrunk and withered. Her glowing red hair had faded to silver and crackled dryly as she moved.
“Well? What is your purpose Adele?” The Queen’s voice was weaker than it had been even a few moments earlier.
“Yes, my Queen! My tree, it’s…”
“Getting weaker. Dying,” the queen interrupted.
Adele nodded. “I was hoping…”
“That I could help you save your tree…and yourself.” There was a dark emotion in the Queen’s voice that puzzled Adele.
“Yes, my Queen.”
The Queen sighed and seemed to shrink into herself. “Near the door is a bowl with clear spring water. Take as much as your cupped hands will carry, and sprinkle it around the base of your tree.”
“Thank you, my Queen!” Adele turned to the bowl, then looked back. “Your Majesty, there is very little in the bowl.”
“Yes, Adele, I know. Take it all; it is my gift to you.”
Adele smiled gratefully and scooped the sparkling water into her hands, and made her way carefully down the trunk of the tree. The Queen followed her progress to the edge of her tree’s roots, and sighed.
“My gift…my sacrifice,” she murmured, as the leaves of her tree fell like rain.
This post is my next short story for my Lucky Sevens project – my goal is to write a short story of exactly 700 words every day. So far so good! Thanks for reading and I appreciate all of your comments!