“You are not allowed to go there, but I am if you need something,” bellowed his half-giant companion.
Messener shuddered at the sound of the thing’s voice. It had been fairly quiet up to this point, and he was grateful for that. “No, that’s okay,” he responded. He didn’t need anything brought back from the Great Hall, he just needed a closer look at it. That would have to wait until he completed his task, and gained his freedom.
Messener could see dryads laughing at him, as they witnessed his attempt to travel where he wasn’t allowed. Detestable creatures, he thought to himself. Like the half-giants, the dryads only consisted of one sex, in this case, women. As a result, Messener thought of them as nothing more than beasts, creatures. He didn’t even think you could call them women. After all, how can you determine a sex-type if there is no alternate? As a result he referred to them individually using the pronoun it, in the same way as the half-giants. Sometimes he thought perhaps they belonged together. Both monstrous races…one made up of all men, the other all women, or so they claimed to be.
The fact that the dryads were born of the trees didn’t help Messener’s opinion of them. It just showed more their beastly nature. At least they had a birth though. No one even knew where the half-giants came from. As for being half-giants, Messener felt they gave themselves this title to make them seem more like a race, and less like monsters. After all, the only giants anyone had ever heard of were legends, none had been seen in thousands of years. How could you be a half-giant if there were no giant to create you? And what is the other half? No, these were beasts, monsters, whom should not be trusted except when absolutely necessary. And now was one of those times.
“You think I’m going to sell my wares to a prisoner?” shrieked the dryad behind the counter.
Messener had made his way to the center of the city, to see if he could purchase a few more spells before heading out. Lothar was well enough equipped, but the dusty spell book the dryads had given him was hardly suitable of an apprentice fresh out of his mother's womb.
“I’ve been given a task to rid the Morden from the surrounding areas. Surely you’ll admit that there’s no harm in selling me a few better spells to aid in my task, a task given by your chieftain. After all, this slave ring will prevent me from using them on any dryads…” He hated trying to reason with these wenches. He knew that they would give him a hard time no matter what, he was a prisoner, but they could at least try to be helpful.
“Well, I suppose that’s true…” she responded coyly. “Tell you what, I’ll let you see a limited amount of my stock. I doubt you could afford much more anyway…”
He knew that it didn’t matter, it would inflate the prices extraordinarily anyway. He looked over the stock. It only showed him five spells, and a handful of potions. He could not afford any of it. The dryads had taken anything that appeared to have even the slightest bit of value from him upon his capture. “Never mind,” he told the merchant, “I don’t need any of this.”
He hated to walk away empty handed, but what else could he do? He wasn’t about to ask the half-giant for a loan, he couldn’t stand the beast. As he turned around he heard a soft voice that sounded almost like birds singing, whisper in his ear “I can offer some gold in exchange for some help…”
He turned to his left, and came face-to-face with another dryad. “She gave you a hard time, with her wares. Well, she’s like that to anyone she perceives as being below her – which is almost everyone – with prisoners being at the bottom of that list.”
“Yes, well, it seems that all dryads think they are above others,” he snorted back, not attempting in the least bit to hide the contempt in his voice.
Either she didn’t catch the hatred, or she simply ignored it, for she continued, “I feel it often enough myself. I’m her apprentice, studying to take over her job someday. She’s always treating me poorly, acting like I’m a child, giving me impossible tasks just to watch me fail…”
Messener wondered how long he would have to listen to this animal’s tirade.
“…which brings me to why I need your help. In another attempt to humiliate me, and slow my education, she has given me another task I cannot complete. She demands that I create a special potion, and present it to the elders. The recipe for the potion is nothing difficult, in fact it is quite elementary. This will lead to even bigger embarrassment when I fail to produce it to the elder council. Here is the difficulty: she refuses to let me use any of her stock of ingredients. I need to collect them all on my own. I have been able to get all but one, nettle clusters. I need four clumps of these, and unfortunately they grow far away in the depths of the jungle. The wild monsters that travel these lands, along with the Hak'u tribesmen, make it difficult enough to reach the plants, but with the added danger of the Morden occupation I fear I shall never make it that far. If you would be willing to collect some of these for me, I will be willing to pay you, not only with some gold, but also with a small collection of spells and potions I have made. Will you help me?”
Messener saw no reason not to say yes. After all, he was headed into the wilderness. It wouldn’t hurt him to grab the nettles if he happened to come across them. And she did offer him spells. He glanced down at the tattered spell book in his hands. “I will keep an eye out.”
“Thank you very much,” she responded, with a giant smile on her face. Messener was taken aback. This was the first time a dryad had ever had a non-negative reaction to him, let alone one that brought it joy. It made him feel sick inside.