The man could shoot.
I had to give him credit for that.
I was out in a new patch of woodland, tending to some young trees. A bit of blight had been making its way through the white birch, and the dryads were worried about them. Normally, I’d not concern myself with the fears of dryads, but Willow asked it of me, and so there I was.
I was examining the base of a birch tree, and a dryad was peeking over my shoulder, occasionally resting her hand on my shoulder. A heartbeat later, a wall of roots snapped up and shoved me to one side as a bullet slammed into the wood. The crack of the rifle rolled through the forest as I leapt to my feet, drawing the Colts and looking for the shooter.
As my eyes scanned the woods, I saw the hole in the root wall. The damned thing was right where my head would have been.
I’ve recovered from headshots before, but if the bastard knew what he was doing, I doubt I would have had the chance.
None of the dryads were visible, but I knew they were there, and a moment later, they confirmed it.
The woods around me parted with the ease of dune grass before a sharp wind.
The root wall separated, and the roots returned to the earth.
Ahead of me, sitting in the fork of a pair of trees, was a pleasant-looking man. He was dressed in a uniform and held a shotgun and his walking stick in one hand.
“Herr Blood!” he called out cheerfully in German. “It seems you have some luck.”
I kept the Colts at my side and thumbed the hammers back.
“Sometimes,” I replied.
“You know,” he continued, “I owed your mother a favor.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I tightened my grip on the revolvers.
“As was I. I told her I would give her one shot and only one.”
“It was a fine shot.”
“Thank you. I took that shot, Herr Blood, and you are alive.”
He stood up, broke the gun open and laid it over his shoulder. “I have paid my debt to your mother.”
“She’ll be angry.”
His smile broadened. “And my gun will be loaded.”
He tipped his hat and went on his way.
I lowered the hammers back into position, holstered the Colts, and turned my attention to the young birch.
There was still the blight to deal with.