Heather felt herself hit the earth like an apple, bruised to a sickeningly sweet brown mush. There seemed to be no end to the horrors that happened that day. Heather curled herself into a fetal position and cried. Her sobs were silent, but the tears that fell down the sides of her fleshy cheeks and crawled along the valleys of her nose were louder than the cries of the forest. They were real human tears; tears that tasted like salt.
From the corner of her eye, Heather could see the formidable darkness return and then vanish. Heather closed her eyes. She hoped that darkness would be gone forever. As she wept, the wood nymph felt the vibrations of the earth underneath her fragile human body quicker ever so slightly. Heather opened her eyes again to see the man called Engle approaching her slowly. His steps were cautious, and his weapon was nowhere to be seen.
Heather knew he meant no harm, but her rage and sorrow were untamable. She closed her eyes again, and as Engle took one step nearer, Heather tapped into the lives of the plants that surrounded her. Heather stood up, watching with pleasure as her roots once again tangled and grasped at the man's legs. They coiled around his body in a tight trap, constricting him once more into a rigid position. She wanted to kill him. She wanted to see the life drain out of his eyes and fall lifeless just like the daffodils had.
"You did this!" Heather screamed through her tears. "You sick murderer, you brought this all here!"
Engle did not move. He did not yelp, he did not shout, and he did not protest. Engle simply stood there with a pleading look in his eyes. Heather tried to look away, but his eyes caught her fixated. In them she saw determination and a little bit of fear, but also sadness. Suddenly Heather found herself empathizing with the man that had destroyed her forest. For some reason this man felt hurt too.
Heather led the roots retract back into the ground. "Go," she said as she also sank into the ground. "Just leave my forest."
"Heather, I'm really sorry," Engle said in a gentle voice. Heather looked back up to stare at his eyes. She did not expect apologies from the man that tried to punch her in the face. "I really didn't mean to crush your daffodils."
Heather felt her rage flare up again inside her chest but managed to controlled it. Instead of seeking vengeance, the young nymph absentmindedly reached up and picked a blueberry out of her hair. She didn't know what to do. She had already tried to befriend the stranger and it almost killed her. She didn't dare open her mouth for fear of saying something terribly bitter in return.
Suddenly Engle's armored hand appeared in her vision. Heather took it with hesitation and let the man pull her up into standing position. Heather wiped her eyes and stared at the ground. She could still hear the lamenting wails from the injured plants.
"Look, if there's any way I can make it up to you..." Engle started. Heather's ears perked up.
"You can help me! Help me fill this crater and replant the grass and daffodils!"
Engle shook his head and stood straight, the light of determination returning to his eyes. "I can't stay that long," he said in a hard voice. "I've got a job to do and I've got to go home as soon as possible."
"Home?" Heather asked, unsure of what he meant. The forest was home. "What home?"
The man glanced back to the crater. "A far off place where I'm needed," he answered in a somewhat distant voice. He suddenly looked back to Heather who still had puffy red eyes. "But I can't go back until I complete my mission."
"So you have to stay here until you do?" Heather asked, suddenly impatient for his departure. "What's your mission? When can you complete it?"
Engle shook his head. "I need to find someone," he answered vaguely. "But I don't know who yet."
Heather frowned. Her day seemed to be getting worse and worse. "How can you find out? When will you find out? Can I help?"
Engle cocked his head to the side. "You want to help me?" he asked, confused. "If you do, I'll be out of your way as soon as possible. I won't harm the forest ever again."
Heather's face lit up with a smile. She brushed aside a lock of stray hair, revealing her one of her naked breasts. Engle shifted to another foot. "It's a deal then," she answered. "I'll help you find your person in return for your leaving."
Engle forced a smile in return. "Alright, deal, but let's get you into some clothes first," he said as he looked at the trees in the distance. "I'm not very comfortable with your... comfortableness."
Heather looked down at her pale human flesh and blushed. She supposed he was right. Heather really did outdo herself. Without even thinking, vines and leaves wrapped around her body, and she was instantly clothed in a leafy garment, covering the dark bruises that spotted her fair skin. She wasn't normally accustomed to wearing clothes, but it was more comfortable than dressing up completely in human.
Engle smiled genuinely then. "There," he said. "Now I don't have to feel bad looking at you." Engle shifted from foot to foot again. The awkwardness was beginning to escalate.
Heather stopped it instantly. "So where is this person you have to find?"
"I'm not really sure yet," Engle sighed. "I was supposed to get the message after I got here."
"So you have no idea?"
"No," the man admitted.
Heather looked up at the sun. It was beginning to fall towards the distant mountains. They didn't have much time before nightfall. "Follow me," Heather ordered as she began to walk away and into the thick of the forest. "I know someone who might be able to help us."
"Just whatever you do, don't step on the bog laurel."