Dragon’s Ring — Snippet 03
The Lyr presiding over the grove had no idea where the celebrants had got the idea that the rites they performed should be done naked. Like so many of the things humans did it was something they had decided would please the lady of the trees — possibly because it would please them. The bodies of animal life had very little to interest her, except as fertilizer. They smelled vile — like the animals they were. They came, secretively, to the gatherings deep in the forest. At first the Lyr had struggled to grasp why they came. She had killed some of those who had infringed on her sleeping groves. That had made them respectful and yet more ardent. She had watched some of them rutting in the forest. There was some of the same heat about them when they came to worship. Their overlords had heard about it, and forbidden the gatherings. For those who came that seemed to make it more attractive.
It had not taken the Lyr long to realize that that these foolish worshipers would do anything she ordered them to, in her service. The reward she gave . . . well, it was in their heads really. The Lyr gave them meaningless ritual, sacrifice and sex. It seemed faintly ridiculous to the Lyr. But like the alvar, these humans were somehow besotted with the Lyr. It was a simple thing to encourage, and very useful.
For centuries now, in groves across the islands, the Lyr had allowed humans to recruit themselves by their own stupidity. They were more practical than slaves. A slave had to be bought and fed. These fed themselves, and gave their utmost to the tasks the Lyr set. Gave their heart and soul, they said — whatever that was.
Right now the high priest of Yenfar grovelled, his little bare buttocks quivering. “Lady of the Trees. She wasn’t there. Yes, some of the villagers fled. But the talismans you gave us led us to the sea. I swear it. And the Dragon, Lady. We were afraid for our lives. The slavers wanted to flee immediately . . . We only stopped them with difficulty.” He pointed to his bruised face. “Will you punish them, Lady?”
He remained on his hands and knees. Shivering. It may have been at her anger. Or it could have been the cold. They died, sometimes, if the Lyr forgot them.
She talked to the trees. The trees talked to other trees. It was not fast communication — vegetative life lacked that nasty animal quickness. But it was sure. It was an unlikely alliance, between the Lyr and the creatures of smokeless flame, but the energy beings had access to magics that the Lyr could not use. They also shared a common goal, at least up to a point. And, unlike animals, the beings of energy did not devour plants. The fire-beings were unable to pass over on the soil of Yenfar, and thus the worshippers of the Lyr had a role to play. The Lyr knew they were normally actually quite effective.
It took time, but she got word back from her contact, Haborym: The human with the gifts still lived.
She went back to the high priest. “Find out where the people of this village went. Search among them.”