• Jabe Stafford

One Page Worlds - Dryads And Lead

A whole world on a single page!

The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.

Sharing the fun and geekery is the best part of writing! Please tweet or comment with your guesses on what genre, character, and job is central to each tale. Enjoy touring new universes each week with One Page Worlds!

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To get to the shot tower, she’ll invade our grove.

To get to me, she’ll commit atrocities with every lead ball the tower at the grove’s heart makes.

Vicena’s men hide behind paper-white birch trunks, giving away their positions in the dusky light. Shadows twitch, then flit into the woods on either side of them, sprinting south-to-north toward the tower. As though my sisters and I would not notice her shadesmen. We feel every footstep as though they are insects slinking along the skin of the forest floor.

I am the lone willow, closest to the base of the shot tower. Let the Hundred-Birch and the Bitter-Maples go humanoid and drag those men into the soil with root and boot.

I will bond to my Earthen sisters and bring the damned woman down as myself.

Vicena leaps from behind one of her men. She breaks for a burr oak’s trunk.

Through the bond, I lash her feet and that man’s with thick, mud-clotted oak roots.

She tumbles, rolls upright, and bellows over the man’s screams. “Winslow! I’m taking that tower after what you did.”

I waver and go humanoid at the sound of my name. Shouted in anger. Instead of pleasure.

Vicena raises a musket from behind the oak trunk fifty yards away from me. She fires uphill. Powder flashes, illuminating her dirt-caked uniform and buzzed hair.

The musket ball does not curve the way plain lead shot does. It smacks into my hip and I wail, the bond to my Earthen sisters slashed to tatters. Bark has given way to skin without my noticing. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to go humanoid by reflex.

I gasp, staggering into the pine-paneled steel frame of the tower’s base. Pain ignites both hip and leg. Vicena’s features swim into view, aquiline and breathtaking. “Even for you, Winslow, I would never abandon my people.”

“You did not want me,” I choke out. “Only the Bondshot my sisters create.”

Two shadesmen in darkened uniforms emerge from behind me, where the tower’s shadow looms. They pass her lead shot balls that pulse like coals on a campfire. Flameshot.

She rams one ball into her musket, then turns her back on me and takes aim at the grove’s still-bonded Earthen. My sisters.

“You forced me to do this when you didn’t trust me with your Bondshot.”

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