We knew each other, and we knew each other well.
The tree stood in the center of a small graveyard, and in the windless day, the branches bent toward me.
I stopped well out of reach, wary of the limbs and the roots I knew lay hidden beneath the earth. I took my pipe out, lit it, and waited.
I’d shaken off the pursuing Cossacks from the previous day, though it’d not been easy. Eventually, I’d left a trail of bodies behind me, ambushing those who wandered too far from the safety of the herd. I managed to put Amir’s rifle to good use.
I left the weapon slung over my shoulder and the Colts in their holsters. None of them would do well against the tree. Nor its brethren who I could see in the distance.
Finally, after several minutes of futile effort, the tree relaxed.
When it spoke, the ground rumbled.
“You’re smarter than some of your siblings,” it stated.
“At times,” I admitted.
The tree chuckled. “And it seems you’ve had dealings with my kind, Blood.”
“Of course, I’ve trees of my own. Apple trees, mind you, but they’re a finicky orchard, and they like their meat prepared a certain way.”
In the distance, the other trees stilled their branches as though they were listening to me.
“You’ve Trees?” it asked, a tone of surprise in its deep voice.
“Hm, you’re the first of your kind, I’ll give you that.”
It was my turn to be surprised. “No other Blood’s had trees?”
“Nay,” the tree stated. “In fact, the few times your mothers have passed through, they’ve spoken loudly of the damage you and yours have done to our kind.”
I snorted. “My mother lies as easily as she breathes and with as little control.”
The tree laughed. “It’s why we feast upon her when we can.”
“Glad to hear it,” I grinned.
“Have you any meat?” it asked.
“No, but ’bout five miles back, there’s a fair amount. Men and horses.”
“Lay you claim to them?”
“We’ll send saplings after them,” the tree murmured. Then in a louder voice, it added, “We are well met, Blood. Will you stay as we break our fast?”
“Why not?” I smiled. “Hell, I’ll even help bring the harvest in.”
With the tree’s laughter shaking the earth, I waited for the saplings to arrive.