I should have known better than to go running in the woods after dark like that. Maybe that’s why the storm came—why I found the wood nymph huddled in the wreckage of our barn the next morning. My wife had been fading fast; I could hardly recognize whatever was looking out of her eyes these days, and it was just the wrong time for painful old memories to come knocking at our door. I let the darkness into the house—into my thoughts—and before I knew it, I was losing not just Molly but the spark that made us come alive.
And there she was: the spirit of the trees, summoning me to recover what she’d lost—and what I’d lost? She wasn’t quite so clear about that part. But just her touch sent me plummeting down into a world I’d never dared to really believe in: the world of the dryads, a world under siege by a dark, foreign power that cares nothing for the trees. And was I supposed to drive it out, to take back what it had stolen? All I really wanted was just to get Molly through these last fews days with dignity, without pain—or that’s what I told myself. What she wanted—I just couldn’t figure out how to give her that.