“What, do you think all dryads have to be prissy little girls prancing around sprinkling fairy dust? I’m an androdryad for Pete’s sake!”

“Well, excuse me!” Jennie cried. “It’s not my fault that all the dryads in d’Aulaire’s are girls!”

“Yes, please do take others’ prejudices and perpetuate them,” the young man snapped back. “That’s going to heal the wounds of generations of androdryads who feel like chopped liver while their sisters are celebrated in melody and verse!”

Jennie opened her mouth to respond, but found herself preempted. “Syke!” Whelk screamed from the back. “Hurry up with those customers! I’ve boxes that need moving!”

“A fine fate for a son of Oxylus and Hamadryas, working as a stockboy for an ungrateful dried-out old bogey,” the androdryad–Syke, apparently–hissed under his breath.

Jennie needed to speak to the shopkeeper, not his assistant, but her curiosity was piqued. “How is it that he can boss you around like that? I thought dryads generally did their own thing. And aren’t you supposed to be tied to a tree or something? What are you doing inside?”

“Oh, so now the clay’s going to lecture me about my own nature, is that it?” Syke said. “d’Aulaires left that bit out, did they? For your information, clay, I am in fact the bound spirit of a fig sapling. The old bogey has it under a fluorescent lamp in the back, and if he doesn’t think my countenance is cheery enough, he holds the water for a few days or switches the light off. He-”

The young man suddenly staggered, looking quite pale. “You like that, do you?” Whelk shouted. “I’ll pull off another leaf if you don’t get rid of that clay and snap to this instant!”