Wood Nymph queen Trewana leads Nathan Clood around a circle of her subjects. As she starts to say something, readers voted she is shot in the back with an arrow.
Trewana threw herself into my arms, her slight body crashing into mine and leaning heavily against me. I knew instantly something was wrong.
A flash of shocked agony had tainted her perfect face just before she crashed into me and I wrapped my arms around her, stopping her from sliding to the floor.
A high pitched scream cut into my ears, followed by shouts, cries and calls to arms. Some of the beings who had formed the circle rushed towards me and Trewana while others darted into the trees and surrounding bushes.
Nymphs and dryads tried to lift their queen from my arms but I could feel her gripping me with her failing strength. Her breath came in pained little gasps and all I could hear was her broken whisper.
“Nathan…Clood!” she repeated over and over. An old, female dryad with kind eyes told me to bring her to her home.
Trewana’s home turned out to be inside a living oak, probably made with her unique magic. I had little time to study the place, though, because all my attention was on her.
“On her side, man,” the old dryad ordered me shortly. I lay the suddenly fragile queen on a wooden table and the dryad pushed me rudely aside.
Some nasty, alien feeling grew in my chest when she was rolled over and I saw the length of wood jutting from her back. Black feathers had been attached to the end and it was moving!
I realized, with growing horror, I could see her heartbeat. Behind my sternum something the size of a big orange grew, pushing my heart, lungs and stomach aside in its vile attempt to exist.
My mouth worked, jaw flailing around uselessly, but no words came out. My throat had slammed shut, even to my breath and I stumbled backwards as if distance could make this not real.
Some of them must have brought me outside because I found myself sitting on a stump looking at grass like I just woke from an awful nightmare. The cramp-like ache in my throat and chest told me it hadn’t been a dream.
Weeping nymphs and dryads with shocked faces littered the clearing and I watched as they came back from the forest with dejected expressions.
A group of three, including my burly hater, dragged a limp form across to the middle of the clearing and dropped him. They had taken his bow and black-feathered arrows.
Rage burned through me, incinerating the lump in my chest as I crossed to his body, flinging him over to look at the face of this assassin.
It was a woman. She had mousey hair and a round face although she was thin. And she was still alive, her eyes fluttered open to stare at me triumphantly.
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