This had me deeply worried. For several reasons. If the Masters of Light really had done something this extreme, it would mean they were doing things far beyond simple research. Part of me couldn't even believe that they would do something as extreme as this. Even in the war they... I stopped my own thoughts. I had no idea what horrible things may or may not have been done in the war. I knew that both sides did a lot of things that weren't immediately obvious to the observer.
It was simple. I hadn't been part of it, so I didn't know. Of course I was very glad that I hadn't been part of it. I should try and realize that people are capable of terrible things, beyond imagining, when they are pressed. Yet...
The most important question was: 'why?'
But the second most important question was asked first: "Are you sure it was the Masters of Light?"
Deirdre looked at me and nodded. Happy that I was thinking clearly. The Satyr smiled and half-turned away. "Follow."
He led us to where the horses were standing, where a dryad girl was talking to them. She was quite... A lot less... That is to say...
It was hard to explain. She was still incredibly beautiful. Even though she wasn't a nymph. But there was a lot less charm flowing from her. She felt as if she hardly took up any space at all, compared to the nymphs we'd met. But I didn't want to say something as crude as that to someone so frail and pretty. She looked like a human child of age twelve. Naked and skin the soft green of a young sapling tree. Her hair wasn't really separate, it was more like dark moss growing on her head and continuing down to her shoulders.
She spoke first, her deep green eyes turned to us. "Why do you tie them?"
Deirdre giggled. "So they won't walk away."
The girl shrugged. "But they like you, they wouldn't walk away if you let them eat."
I added. "And to slow down thieves."
She smiled. "Oh, they wouldn't allow that." She turned to the horse, caressing its nose. "Wouldn't you?"
"We'll think about it. Did you see them burn this house?"
She looked at us with a face that was suddenly filled with so much sadness. "We liked the people here. They still respected the forest a little. But men came and started a fire. They made the fire grow with their powers. Thick robes, not like the city people, thick robes that hid their faces." She took a deep breath. "Flames everywhere but only on the building. It collapsed, it fell. The men stayed until it was all over. A few servants escaped, they were killed by swords. I shouldn't have been there that night... But they'd set out honey-milk in the evening."
Deirdre asked sharply, trying to keep a hold of herself. "How many?"
The dryad girl held up one hand, all fingers extended.
Then Deirdre asked me something I hadn't thought of. "All men?"
The girl appeared to think for a moment. "No, two were women. Their voices different, hair from underneath the robes."
Now this was strange. While women were definitely allowed to study the arts, they were rarely allowed a position of Master. In fact, I hadn't remembered a single woman that was officially a Master. Just teachers that taught a specific trade, a position granted by the Masters of the Castle.
Deirdre looked at me. "Were there any female Masters in your castle?"
I shook my head. "None."
Deirdre looked back at the girl. "But they were making the fire stronger?"
The girl nodded. "Yes, flames roared into the house."
Deirdre smiled. "Thank you."
The girl wanted to say something but stopped herself. I'm not sure if Deirdre saw it, but it made me curious. "You can speak freely."
She looked at the Satyr, who simply nodded. "I wish to thank sun and moon for their help. They hurt me at the castle. Made me tired, made me wither."
I smiled. "You're free now."
She shook her head. "You don't understand. I wish to thank you." She walked to me and surprised me by touching my forehead lightly with a finger. It was strange. Something filled me, sweeter than honey, lighter than air. It was a dream and it was real. I could feel the Light dancing through my body, touching my nerves and warming my heart. It was like being drunk on a sweet honey drink, without losing coherence of thought.
As the sensation faded, I saw Deirdre with a look of bliss on her face. The girl was standing a step backwards again with a cute smile on her face. The Satyr grinned widely and spoke shortly after Deirdre opened her eyes again.
"A touch of life."