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After a hearty lunch of kraken sushi, Story and Eirnin met up with Almera and Adair in the large main chamber of the massive, central Vevila shell. Dryads wandered through lazily, stopping to chat with each other, and always said goodbye with a hug and a kiss. On the lips. The first time a new cousin kissed Story goodbye, she’d turned brilliant red with embarrassment. That was until he then proceeded to bid Eirnin goodbye in the same manner. Story had never wished for a camera more in her life than at that moment; the look on Eirnin’s face was priceless. But he took it all in stride, easily adapting to the situation like he’d always done.

Dryad culture was completely different from the elves and gnomes—so very at ease and laid back. That wasn’t to say they didn’t do anything; fishing and, strangely enough, cloth production (both primarily for trade with the surface dwellers) took up much of the dryads’ free time. Even Queen Almera helped with the weaving and fishing as time allowed.

The difference was that while the gnomes seemed to run around constantly busy on the surface, working through every bit of daylight available, the dryads took things at a much more sedate pace. There was no sense of urgency under the sea. Nothing had to be done now, and the company of others should always be savored and enjoyed. Story didn’t necessarily see anything wrong with this ideology—it certainly seemed to work well for the dryads—it just wasn’t her at all; she liked to be busy, to always have something to do or accomplish. Vevila would be a nice place to visit, but she could never live here.

She was jarred out of her thoughts by a cold, wet, and whiskery nose sniffing her neck. She shrieked and jumped behind Eirnin, who was trying to stifle a laugh with a cough. Behind her were two of the largest seals she’d ever seen, both easily the size of a da’nan. They’d surfaced out of the water behind her and must have found her scent interesting because they were both still eagerly stretching their necks toward her while blowing air in and out of their nostrils loudly.

“Pinni! Ped! There you are.” Almera swept over to them and started to scratch one of them around its furry earflap—which was quite a stretch up for her. Adair pounced on the other seal and started scratching its back and neck vigorously with her single arm. The seal clearly approved and rolled on its back to allow for its belly to be rubbed. She nimbly moved around the seal as if this was a normal occurrence, and Story belatedly realized that it must be. There was still so much about this world she didn’t know.

“I’m guessing these are selkies?” She looked at Almera, who was currently getting a tongue bath on her face from the seal she was petting.

“Okay Pinni, that’s enough for now. Pinni!” The seal finally stopped licking the queen and instead thrust its head under her hand to encourage her to resume scratching its earflaps. “Yes, Daughter, these—as you have figured out—are selkies.” Pinni let out a loud bark of indignation and Almera absent-mindedly began scratching its head again. “They’re not the smartest creatures ever, but very good natured, fiercely loyal to their masters, and also the fastest things under the sea.”

Pinni’s tongue lolled out of its mouth, and it lay down happily at Almera’s feet, finally satisfied by the attention she’d given it. “They should be able to get you to the lake outside Morrigann’s garden in about two days.”

In two days? Story glanced at Eirnin, and even he looked surprised.

Adair looked up from petting Ped’s belly and grinned broadly. “Ma did say they were fast, after all.” She turned back to Ped. “Aren’t you boy? You’re the fastest selkie ever!” If Ped had had a tail, Story was certain he’d be wagging it.

“They’ll also accompany you once you get to the garden to afford you another layer of defense, such as it is. I’d send an entire army of dryads if I thought it would help, but I agree with Eirnin that a smaller party will most likely have greater success at sneaking in.”           

War of the Seasons, book one: The HumanWhere stories live. Discover now