Something wasn’t right.
The man slept propped up on a bit of wood. To the left stood a tall tree of a species I’d not seen before. Behind him were a thinner pair of the same.
The grass twisted beneath my feet as though trying to gain purchase on my boots.
I took out my pipe, packed the bowl, and retrieved my matches from a pocket.
The branches of the trees rustled, and the grasses’ efforts to take hold of the leather quickened.
I struck the match, and the world went still.
Bringing the flame to the bowl, I let the fire flicker for a moment before I drew down and let the tobacco burn. As the smoke curled up, the grasses fell back, and the trees ceased their movement.
“You know,” I observed, “it’s a damned shame that you’ve tried to snare me.”
The large tree on the left shook, creaked and twisted toward me.
“Who are you?” it asked, his voice a harsh, hollow sound that battered my ears.
“Duncan Blood,” I answered, and the grass pressed itself to the earth.
The younger trees leaned closer to the elder.
The elder tree chuckled. “Is that so?”
“Spit on the ground, youngling,” the elder tree stated, “and I’ll know the truth. I’ve seen many a man with pistols like yours and claims to the same. The spit tells the truth, though.”
I took the pipe stem from my mouth and obliged the tree.
Blades of grass dipped into the saliva and then pulled away.
The elder tree straightened up. “Damn my bark. You are a Blood. And pure at that. We are well met, Blood.”
I nodded, then pointed to the sleeping man. “He looks alive.”
“He was,” the elder tree chuckled. “Thirty or forty years ago. Our sap keeps him preserved. More than a few have stopped by. Most to see if they could rob him. All get too close.”
“I imagine that works well for you.”
The elder tree laughed, its branches shaking. “That it does. We felt the vibrations of a battle this morning. I take it that was you?”
“Aye, it was.”
“And who did you kill, youngling?”
“Demigods and priests,” I answered.
In a soft voice, it said, “Oh, you’re as pure as they come.”
The tree laughed. “Not your morals, Blood. Your skills. Go and finish your chores.”
With a nod, I went on my way.