Aster was cut off from her tree in a weird turn of events that had her planting her tree in sacred soil and waking a forest god with the power of her oak. Her life was in a static spiral from there.
She joined the human world, started a business, and enjoyed spending her time with trees that grew at her slightest request. Life was good until the fiancée of the fey king contacted her and asked her to join the queen’s court.
Aster thought about joining the fey, and she agreed to do it, on one condition. She wanted to visit her tree.
A flurry of arrangements brings her to the Crossroads, and she confronts the being who had possession of her tree and asks him to let her visit. He says yes on one condition. She has to visit as his mate or the barrier will remain.
She has to think about this.
Aster parked the truck, and she hopped out of the cab, walking around to the back, unlatching the lock and shoving the door upward.
She climbed into the back and smiled as she heard the approaching forklift.
The landscaper walked up. “Do you have my twenty-foot trees?”
She waved at the contents of the truck. He climbed up and slowly looked at the trees she was offering. “I don’t know where you find these.”
“I grow them from cuttings when I can, from seed when I can’t.”
She grabbed the strapping from the side of the truck and looped it around the first root ball. When the tines of the forklift were even with the edge of the truck, she looped the straps around them and hauled the tree into the embrace of the steel struts. When the tree was fixed, she waved for the driver to back out straight. The tree was at a fifteen-degree angle, and when it finally cleared the truck, she gave the double thumb’s up. The driver lowered his tines and drove his giant spear through the site with precision and care.
Aster looked at the landscaper. “You might want to be there to choose the placement. I just supply the trees; you have to pick the spot.”
He nodded and scrambled out of the truck, sprinting across the site.
Aster Winding of Aster’s Tree Nursery was happy to have these trees off her lot. They would thrive, but she needed the space. She may just have used some of her skills to coax a little more height out of the trees.
She spent the next two hours unloading the trees and sipping tea out of her thermos.
When she finished unloading, she grabbed the landscaper and got him to sign the receipt for the twenty trees. It had taken her a decade to get used to selling plants, but now, she was good at making sure she got paid.
She closed up the truck, locked it down, and got back on the road to the nursery. She had two orders to coax into bloom for the morning, but then, she was free to go out to the movies.
If she were lucky, there would be room for dinner before the show.
The bride of the fey king had invited her for an evening of light entertainment. She was willing to listen to what was said as long as there were snacks on offer.
Aster sat back with a destroyed nacho platter in front of her. “So, mistress, what do you want of me?”
The young shifter smiled, the guard beside her groaned and covered her eyes. “I wish you to join the queen’s court.”
“Why? You are not queen yet.”
“Fair enough, but that is by my choice.”
Aster looked at the woman, and she began to see the power that was kept under wraps. “Why me?”
“You are the only one of your branch of the fey who interacts and blends in with humans, as one of them.”
“Most of my kind can’t be bothered. They live with their trees and defend them against hikers.” Aster shrugged. “My tree is fine on its own, and our connection has been severed for centuries.”
The bride frowned. “Severed?”
Aster looked at the fey on the bride’s left. “You didn’t tell her.”
Sebreel sipped at her soda and shrugged. “She said she wanted a dryad, and you are the only one who actually walks in the world.”
Aster sighed. “I came here with the first wave of immigration, and I headed as far west as I could, looking for the perfect place to plant the sapling that I carried with me. I planted it, but I planted it in the soil saved for one of the local gods. He accepted my offering of a healthy and strong tree and locked it away from me. My link to my tree was gone.” She grimaced. “It was a bit of a shock.”
The bride whispered, “When was this?”
Aster squinted. “Four hundred years ago. I went to the court, but there was no place for me, so I set about wandering the new world. I learned to walk and look like a human, and this century, I came out of the woods and set up my business.”
The bride nodded. “I am upset for your loss, but if you are interested, I would like to offer you a place in the fey court.”
“Do you have authorization to do so?”
“I do. King Larion is aware of my plans for the court. I wish for a more representational population. The high elves are wise, graceful, and powerful, but they are only five percent of the fey population. You, as a dryad who has actually walked in the world, have a unique perspective.” The bride smiled. “I want to have that perspective represented.”
“Why me, why now? I have been out in the world for years, and your guards have been garnering a reputation for their peculiar skills and genetic mixes.”
“Now, I am closing in on setting a date with Larion. I want my court set before I sit my ass in that throne.”
The bride gave her a slow smile. “If I can get you in contact with the god who has possession of your tree, will you join the queen’s court?”
Aster paused. “If you can get me in contact with the one who holds my tree, I will join you.”
The bride clapped her hands. “Excellent. Now, let’s go see the movie.”
Their little group of strangers got up, and by the time they had all sobbed through the romantic comedy together, the friendship had begun to bloom.