Not sure if this is the very beginning, but it’s definitely in the first chapter.
The rub of metal around her wrists was what bothered Shyra the most. Not the standing with the others, chained on the back deck, exposed to wind and cold. Or the catcalls of the sailors, appraising each Dryad in terms of beauty and body. Or the pull of her home grove, dwindling with each mile of river the boat achieved. She wouldn’t die of that, at least until she rooted and became vulnerable. THe lack of food didn’t’ bother her either, as long as there was plenty of sunshine and water.
They all managed to send their hair down along the boat’s side, down to the water line to drink there. But when the captain was cranky, he would shout that they might tangle the paddlewheel and would order one of the boys to clear it.
The boy would come with machete and apologies to hack away their hair. It didn’t hurt, any more than cutting his own hair would have hurt, but they pretended that it did, in order to use their reproachful cries to make him wince.
They had little enough to amuse them. The Dryads knew they were as good as dead. Dryads and Naiads captured and taken to Tabat never returned. If they wanted to escape, they all agreed in their whispered conversation, relying on the great engine’s noise to mask what they were saying, it would be best to get away before the boat reached the city.
She suspected that the Captain, if not all the crew, knew exactly what the Dryads chained there were plotting. They were not the first Dryads the Swan had carried. The railing was matted with fine, greenish root-hairs, layers upon layers of them in the spots where the boys were too lazy to scrub.
And all along the side of the boat, on the inside of the railing, were pictograms scratched by former prisoners. Some were easy to decipher: Six Flowers, Sun and Rain, Riverfern. Others were harder, lacking an established alphabet. A clamshell might be that, or some other concept, or food, or the sea, and coupled with what could have been a candle or eel or sprout, who was to know the precise name of the former prisoner, fate as unknown as Shyra’s, who had scratched that, in letters no more than a fingernail high, in the space beside the hasp to which Shyra had been secured for the duration of the journey?