It was the dryad who warned Travis that there were Confederate soldiers already on this side of the Chickhominy. She was trying—unsuccessfully—to pry Miníe balls from the trunk of her gnarled black oak with her fingers. After recovering from her initial shock at his appearance, and at his ability to see her, she willing accepted his offer of assistance. Especially of the steel knife she could not herself handle.
“It is rare for one of your race to still be able to see clearly,” she commented, wincing as he dug out another lump of lead.
Travis paused, peered closer at the bark, then frowned thoughtfully. “Mum says it’s our Irish blood. There you go, ma’am. I think that’s the last of them.”
She ran a hand lightly over the wood and smiled, body already melting back into the tree. “Yes. My thanks, bluecoat.”
“My pleasure, ma’am.”
Her nut-brown face faded from sight. Travis turned to remount Meg. Then a pair of leaf-green eyes blinked from the trunk. “I would not continue down this road—there are many grey men ahead.” She closed her eyes as if listening. “They are crossing the river even now. The blue riders and the men with deer tails have already retreated towards the city.”
Oh blast, Travis thought, one foot in the stirrup. She’s talking about the 4th and the Bucktails. If they’re back in Mechanicsville, that means we’re cut off.
A slim arm pointed back the way he’d come. “There are more of your kind that way, down the road that enters at the grove of beeches, near to what you would call the Totopotomoy.” The eyes opened again, looking puzzled. “There is something else, but I can’t place it…” Her voice dissipated as she vanished completely. Travis turned to Meg with a grimace.
“That’s not exactly what I wanted to hear,” he said, hauling himself into the saddle.