Fantasy
The Last Druid

The Last Druid

Kiery Courtree was the last living druid, and that was why the sorcerers came to her. They found her in her garden, where she spent most afternoons. She strolled through the flowers, as vines followed at her fingertips. It was the vines that alerted her to the visitors’ presence on her land. 

She made her way to the sorcerers and dipped her head in greeting. Those with fey ancestry were well-respected in Evairin, even more so than the fey-blessed druids.

“Good afternoon, Kiery. We have come to seek your aid,” one of the sorcerers said, not wasting time with pleasantries.

“Come, sit with me.” She led them to a garden table. 

The vines followed her, weaving around the chair protectively when she sat. Two of the sorcerers sat, but one stood back, eyes scanning the area. He was tall and lean with dark unkempt hair. He was younger than the other two, probably not much older than Kiery, but with fey-kind it was hard to tell.

“After much exploration and research, we have found the source of the dark magic that plagues our land,” one of the sorcerers said.

Kiery leaned forward, eyes widening for a moment. Black magic had been sweeping through Evairin since Kiery was a small child. There were many legends of how it began, but no one had yet determined the truth, except for those corrupted by the warlocks. 

“We have traced the magic to a particular area, to a specific tree that grows in the Misty Thicket. We need you to destroy-”

“I won’t kill a tree,” Kiery snapped.

“You would choose the life of a plant over that of a person?”

“Depends on the person,” she said with a smirk.

“I know you live under a tree, but you cannot be blind to the suffering around you,” the standing sorcerer spoke up.

Kiery’s smirk faded. 

“No, I’m not not blind to it.” A look crossed her face that the sorcerers couldn’t read, but she was clearly remembering something painful. “You’re certain it’s this tree that the warlocks are using to fuel their black magic?”

“The tree is in the middle of a warlock camp, but I was able to get close enough to sense its power,” the young sorcerer replied. “I saw them crushing up its dried leaves and burning its fallen branches as they danced among the smoke.”

“The tree gives of itself to the warlocks,” Kiery said solemnly.

“You see our problem now, why it must be destroyed?” one of the seated sorcerers asked. 

Kiery hung her head, but she nodded. 

The sorcerer gestured to the younger one behind him. “This is Daelen Hollowind. He will ensure that you reach the tree safely.”

Daelen bowed and tapped his forehead in a pledge of service. If needed, he would give his life to get her to that tree.

Branches loomed overhead, hiding Kiery and Daelen in their shadows. They didn’t make a sound as they crept through the thicket; the trees parted for them where needed. The forest was on their side. 

Daelen led the way to the outskirts of the warlock camp by moonlight. Tents formed a circle around an enormous blackened tree. Though the tree was black as night, it wasn’t withered or dead. It simply bloomed with darkness.

They watched the warlocks for a while, trying to figure out a way to get to the tree. Four warlocks guarded each side of the tree, while others came and went, gathering up the fallen leaves and branches. A bonfire raged to the left of the encampment, and the branches were tossed into it. The fire emitted a dense black smoke, and the warlocks breathed it in as the wove through it in a ritualistic dance. 

It seemed clear that the warlocks thrived in the darkness. Their ritual would likely continue until dawn. They would sleep, and then awake with immense power. Kiery and Daelen would need to strike in the early hours of the morning, without waking anyone. They backed away from the camp and agreed to rest until dawn.

“We need a safe place to camp,” Daelen said.

“I can take care of that,” Kiery replied.

She walked a short way until she came to a large oak tree. She placed her hand upon the trunk and it opened before them, forming a wooden cave. Daelen smiled and followed her inside. The tree closed off the entrance, hiding them inside its trunk.

“We’ll be safe here,” Kiery said. “The tree will alert me if anyone approaches and has promised to wake us when the sun warms its bark.”

As they laid down to sleep, Kiery was restless. The thought of killing a tree, even one so obviously corrupted, didn’t sit well with her. The fey had blessed her ancestors as keepers of the forest. They did not give her this power to harm their beloved trees.

And yet…no tree had ever yielded itself for humans to use in black magic. They rarely bestowed magic upon humans at all, with the exception of the druids. The forest belonged to the fey, and the fey would never condone evil.

As Kiery rolled over again, Daelen whispered, “You should sleep. You’ll need your strength.”

“That’s easier said than done.”

He was quiet for a moment. “It’s the right thing to do. You know that right?” he replied.

Kiery let out a sigh. “I know. It just goes against my very nature, against my blood. None of my ancestors has ever harmed a living plant. Druids are blessed by the fey and sworn to protect the forest.”

“Well, I have the blood of a fey, and I can tell you my ancestors wouldn’t want their forest used by warlocks to practice black magic. So many have been harmed by their curses, and many more will unless you stop them.” He paused. “But I know it’s not easy for you. What you’re doing is incredibly brave and selfless.”

“Thank you,” Kiery replied. And she fell asleep to the sound of Daelen’s steady breathing, nestled against the tree trunk.

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