Luke was breathing heavily by the time they got back to the ship. He had hefted the buck onto his shoulders using his wings as a little leverage. His coat was on backwards with the arms poking out the other way in a desperate attempt to cover himself against the cold. Samara grunted beside him, hauling a huge elk on her back. They looked a shambles trudging their way up to the Gordian Knot.
Luke dropped the buck on the ground as Samara did with her cargo. She slumped down like an enormous stuffed animal and waited. Luke tromped up the gangway trying to catch his breath, the Dryads dismounting their moose and following after him.
Logan was there to greet him.
“What’s with your coat?” Logan asked.
“It’s cold, mate,” he spat. He pushed by and Logan could see how Luke’s wings were restricting his shirt to his shoulders. He chuckled and shivered a little at the thought of being bare this close to winter.
“I can’t go ripping all my shirts to shreds every time I want to use my wings!” he whispered shortly, “It’s not like I have a stockpile down below for me to endlessly destroy.” Tora covered her mouth, trying to suppress a giggle.
“I’m going below! Cook’ll want to get at the meat before it sits too long,” he said, exasperated. He clumsily tried to manage his wings through the small door to below decks, so unaccustomed to having them out, muttering the whole way.
Logan and Tora shared a quick laugh, a rare occurrence, and then turned their attention to the Dryads who had arrived. Captain Briar was already speaking with them.
“Welcome aboard, Tall Ones,” he said as they set foot on the deck. “I’m sure you’ve heard by now.”
“There were songs from the west, talk of attacks. Is it true an Olympian has been in the area?” the lead Dryad asked.
“I’m afraid so, he attacked the Dendron Valley, and… the Throne,” Briar said.
The three Dryads looked shocked at this news. It seemed that something as secret and sacred as the Throne of Grace was not spoken about through the traveling songs, in case outsider ears may hear.
“Is it safe?” the Dryad breathed.
“Yes,” Tora said, stepping forward, “It is damaged, but safe.”
Relief washed over them, but they did not seem relaxed. “The Dogwood Grove sent a song saying Ares was rampaging the land. A bay of Naiads said the same.”
“It is he,” Tora answered.
“But he was defeated at the Throne,” the captain added.
“So he is dead?” one of the other Dryads asked, incredulously.
Tora skirted a look at Briar, and said flatly, “We don’t know.”
“So why have you summoned us?” the lead Dryad asked, “This news would have reached us sooner or later.”
Captain Briar crossed his arms, “Things are getting dangerous. There’s something evil moving. Ares attacked a Man’s village.” The envoy looked surprised at such a notion.
“And destroyed an entire Centaur village,” Tora added. The envoy looked confused.
“Why should we be concerned about the Centaurs? The less of them, the better,” the lead Dryad said, his companions muttering agreement. Behind them came a snort.
When they turned, they found Priam standing on the gangway, as still as stone save for his twitching tail. “They were loyal Centaurs. Innocent.”
The envoy backed away as he passed by them, his hooves noisily clacking as he crossed the deck without speaking to anyone. He went below using a cargo hold at the bow, the only way he and Samara could enter. When he had gone the Dryads looked from Briar to Tancred to Tora searching for any explanation of a Centaur onboard.
Briar did not oblige, “Strange things have been happening. We are on our way to Atlantis to investigate… and to warn them. If an Olympian is willing to go around and make a spectacle, especially in front of Men… it may prove…”
“Precarious,” Tora finished.
“Atlantis?” a Dryad asked, “Why there?”
“It stands to chance an Olympian will have better insight to the workings of another Olympian. And Poseidon is the only Olympian we know where to locate,” the captain replied.
“I suppose that’s true,” he agreed.
“What do you suggest we do?” one of them asked.
Tora stepped closer. “You should head for the Dendron Valley. It is safer there, more reinforced. We should be gathering together, ‘two roots are stronger than one’.”
“But we have Rooted among us! They will not be able to move. We can’t just leave them behind if it is as dangerous as you say.”
“Tell the Rooted to sleep. Hide themselves away in their trees. Leave someone behind to watch over them, but send the rest of your grove to the Valley. You won’t be able to keep them safe out here in the open Wilds.”
The Dryads exchanged looks, fear creeping in their eyes.
“Please,” Tora implored, “You are the largest and most influential grove in the area. The others around will follow your lead.” They still looked unconvinced so she added, “The Hama have advised it.”
At the mention of the oldest elders, the Hamadryad who were one with their trees, and whose roots touched the very Wellspring, their demeanor changed.
“We will discuss it with the grove. Thank you for contacting us.” They bowed to them and made their way down the gangway. Hopping easily up onto their tall moose mounts, they headed off into the trees.
Briar turned to Tora, “Did the Hama advise it?”
“I’m sure they would,” she said, bothered.
Tancred, the first mate, was still watching the spot in the trees where the envoy had disappeared. “Do you think they’ll listen?” he asked.
“Hard to say,” she said, “Do you think Poseidon will listen?”
The three of them spoke through silent glances, all sharing the same concern.
What would happen when they reached Atlantis?