Lily and Marcus, talking to the trees

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Woods of Dryad Village, The Crossroads

Lily slowly circled the edge of the settlement. “You know,” she said to Marcus, “I may have a bit of a motormouth, but that doesn’t really make me a star at diplomacy. More like the opposite, really. You got any ideas on how we should approach this?”

The gruff voice which managed to come out in a normal tone instead of tiny squeaks began with a chortle. “I can talk to the other animals, I wager. And Swords & Strongholds I have a good rapport with one of those Dryads.” He was an expert at the game she knew nothing about, but he did not stop to explain.

The mouse leaped off her shoulder onto a low branch and then onto the ground. He sniffed a bit and then squinted his tiny eyes as he scampered about. “I don’t think they’re nearby, let’s go.” Marcus began to run instead of riding on Lily.

Eventually he stopped his pace, which would have been a brisk walk for Lily, and came closer to her, climbing back up. He was glad she didn’t mind, as it was quite convenient. “Y’know,” he said, flicking his tail at Crush with a ting sound. “These treefolk may not like that thing, but hopefully our new speakin’ will help ease any discomfort. I can maybe relate as a… wild one?” Marcus could hear the rustling of branches which would signify a strong breeze or movement not too far from them.

"Hmm… That seems likely. They're very nature centered, so they're more likely to listen to you than to me. Not with this hunk of metal on my back." Suddenly her face lit up. "Hey, I got an idea! I could disguise Crush! There's tons of leaves and branches and vines around here, I can cover up the barrel with it!" She squatted down and began raking plant material together from the forest floor. "Get on top of my head and keep an eye out, will you?" she added. As Marcus clambered up - she winced as her hair was pulled - she pulled Crush over her shoulder and unlocked it from the rail. She started wrapping vines and branches around the gun, trying to keep the rail as clear as possible. "Spot anything?"

Marcus snorted a bit, a noticeable curl of his rodent lips showing. He was not very confident she could hide that thing, but everyone here was fairly keen and up for great challenges, so who knew.

Up on her head, he did happen to hear more rustling nearby. “Yeah,” he said in a loud whisper. “Think they’re…” Marcus paused - the dryads hadn’t been there all that long, so they probably missed Lily’s idea for Crush. But they were there. He could hear it, even smell it. “Here.”

One of the tree creatures (not Thetis) slowly popped her head up and looked at the two - one carrying a leafy log or something, and the other a talking mouse. She had seen stranger things, but it was humorous. While she was fearful of their intent in these woods, she did manage a slight giggle.

“Aye,” Marcus said, jumping off Lily in 3 or 4 bounds. He stayed a bit away, not wanting to scare her. “Nothin’ funny about a talkin’ mouse now, eh, lass?”

The dryad stopped her giggle and cocked her head to the side. On the tree a bit across from her, seemingly out of the bark itself, another one formed into visibility. This one spoke with a deeper tone, although still very effeminate. “Not funny, but also not welcome.”

Lily stepped forward but Marcus scampered a head to take a stab. “We mean no harm, we just--”

The second dryad interrupted. “Understand you we do. Always wanting…”

Marcus looked up at Lily and then back at the dryads. The first one had already blended back into the brush, although a third one appeared high up in a tree behind the second. It was almost like a dance. “The Being sent us.”

The second one seemed to squint at Marcus and then at Lily. “Being also made us here to protect.” His body became rigid, almost like the tree out of which he blended a moment ago, a signal of rigidity perhaps.

Lily stepped forward a little. She hadn’t quite finished dressing up Crush, and she didn’t want to attract attention to it. “Please, honorable dryads,” she said, kneeling down. Couldn’t hurt to be as humble as she could possibly manage, she thought. “We are on the same side, the side of good and beauty and love and… stuff… And… we’ve come seeking your help. It’s to fight the forces of darkness and it’ll really help us protect this place, and all places! All we need is some information from one of you.” She looked at their impervious faces. Balls, these guys were hard to read. “We can maybe barter for something, if you prefer a trade? I mean, we would help to protect this place so I guess that’s a kind of trade but maybe we can do something else for you as well…?” Her negotiation tactics were running out of steam. “We just need… the location of the Heralding Tree.”

((Thetis included in character selector as a representative for Dryads))

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