Even as often as she went out to the woods, Amiril had never seen a creature like this one. Whatever it was seemed born out of the earth, a tree come to life. She stood still, and so did the forest.
The dryad shifted its weight, though it didn’t seem to notice her. Instinct made her back away, and she stayed hidden in the underbrush. She crawled across the dirt, staining her dress. When the creature was out of sight, she returned to her feet and sped through the woods, calling, “Mom, I think I saw something, come quick!”
Her mother grabbed the axe and followed. The tree man was where he had been. He turned to them and bowed magnanimously. Amiril watched her mother’s grip tighten and relax along the hilt of the axe. The creature moved slowly, so slowly that he could never be a threat, and they waited for any excuse to attack in self-defense. The creature straightened its back and stood tall, which wasn’t enough.
Back home, they made the dryad comfortable. They let it sit in a basin of water, and shone sunlamps on it. Amiril read it poetry. Usually, they lit a fire in the evenings, but that seemed insulting to their guest. They sipped soup quietly.
A few days later, more tree people were standing outside their door, and while they seemed to have come in peace, one of them seemed interested in the axe.
“Oh, that’s not for anything,” Amiril’s mother said. The trees conferred.
“Did we upset them?” Amiril asked.
“Not yet, my darling, but we will.”
The trees dispersed from the house and ventured to the village, where they were honored guests in various homes. One of them had taken the axe; as a gift, of course.