Ida sat on a branch of her willow tree, her feet dangling down. She had climbed pretty high up in the tree, she wasn’t afraid though, she knew the branch wouldn’t break. She trusted it, for many years, no branch ever broke underneath her weight. It had kept her save and hold her company. Even if the tree was just a shadow, a memory of the man just once loved dearly. The girl started singing a song. Different from what you might expect the girl didn’t sing in the old language of her home but, in an older variant of the language the humans leaving nearby still used.
Strong and steady
A place to hide
A place to cry
And place to laugh
My willow tree, My willow tree
A memory of better times
A place to call home,
far from home
My willow tree, My willow tree
As she song, the sun went down, taking away the bright colours of the forest.
Henry cursed under his breath as he crossed the threshold into the woods. He was tired of their incessant nagging or bragging. His brothers thought themselves so haughty simply since they could swing a hammer better than he. He’d show them.
He’d show them.
He had to keep repeating it to himself, for he had no idea what he’d show them. He’d show them his… skill! Yes. His skill, with a hammer or sword, or anything really. He just had to show them something. Something that would prove his worth in these regards. Anything.
Henry had traveled the Fairy Wood before, against the wishes of every person within his forest. It was a protected wood by the Nymphs they said. He was not to go inside it, for he would never return. He always did, but there was no proof in that. There was nothing tangible. Taking a few leaves? Could have come from anywhere. A few animals? Berries? Anywhere. Nothing he did, proved his passage through the unknown.
He’d long given up trying for their recognition based on his passage through the wood.
Each time he entered, he went a new way. Looking — he did not know what he was looking for in truth — for anything. He liked exploring it, and thought himself Great due to his expeditions. They would call him Henry The Great. Perhaps he could be a knight. Perhaps he could be anything he so wanted… as long as he had proof. He had none.
His hopes shattered much like the twigs he walked across through the wood. He had little a thought to how much time he had spent exploring, when he noted the change in the lighting. It would soon be dark. All he had on him was his quiver, a few arrows, and his bow. The animals would be out soon, and he had to be ready. Gripping his bow he prepared to turn back when he heard the faintest melody through the leaves.
A woman singing? He wanted to believe it true but was unsure. For who would be out here? No human would be daring enough, especially no woman. Unless… Unless she wasn’t human at all. Some may say he was a fool for believing in fae, but he knew he could prove their existence.
Heart beating rapidly, Henry decided to advance towards the voice against his better judgement to return home. If this were a Nymph, truly a magic being, then he had found his proof. His proof of fae. His proof of traversing the Fairy Wood. His proof of skill. It would solve all his problems.
Carefully and bow drawn Henry approached a more open part of the wood, where a single willow tree stood rooted. It had perhaps been that way for hundreds of years. Within it’s branches was a woman. No, not a woman: a Nymph. Her features were too sharp, her hair too vibrant, and she was practically ethereal. Henry had seen many a maiden, many a woman in his young life but none came close to her beauty. A strong thirst of desire turned within him.
Not wanting to scare her, or to let her know that he knew what she was, he spoke softly, “I have not heard of a woman so daring enough to enter these woods. It is a shame, for anyone with such fierceness should be known through all the land.”
He lowered his bow, hoping the flattery worked. He’d seen his brothers use it all the time. Henry, himself, had far more experiences with failure than success and he hoped that this time it would be different.
Ida heard the human before, she saw him. Although she never expected a human to show up in her forest again. As he walked onto the open place, she stopped singing and looked down at the man. The sight of a human being in her forest both interested her and scared her.
She smiled at the flattering words of the man and jumped down, landing right in front of him. ”Fear not, I am protected by my willow tree. No one could hurt me as long as it is standing,” she spoke. As to warn the man he shouldn’t try to hurt her. She didn’t know it was true though. Even though she knew the tree would do anything to protect her, she doubted if there was anything it could actually do to protect her.
The wise thing to do was probably to hide for the man and wait till he left. She could do that, but she liked talking to someone else than her willow tree. After so many years he knew everything that was to know of her and most subjects were already discussed a thousand times. Talking about the world gets boring when there is nothing changing.
As the man asked for her name she burst into laughter. “O, brave man. I am no longer a maiden.” She confessed at the man. “However I can share the secret of my name if you will give me the honour of knowing the name of the brave soul that dares to visit my wonderful forest?” She said smiling. She shouldn't be flirting right in front of her beloved willow tree but, she had missed the game of words. The man was handsome, cute even but, she wouldn't actually start anything with the man. First and foremost her heart was with her tree and there was no one in the world that she would leave him for.
She came down from the tree to see him, causing his heart to leap for joy. It was true, her grace was beyond the measure of any human maiden he had ever see. The smile that graced her lips had his heart in agony, or perhaps it was beating in excitement? The only thing he knew for certain was that the woman before him was more beautiful than he had believed her to be upon first glance.
“O, brave man. I am no longer a maiden.” Henry was confused for the slightest of moments before he understood the insinuation of her words. She was not a maiden? Then where was her husband? Assuming that was, at least, that Nymphs followed the same social order as civilized human beings and she was not a harlot. “However I can share the secret of my name if you will give me the honour of knowing the name of the brave soul that dares to visit my wonderful forest?”
"Henry Blackflame. Beauty of this Forest, my name is Henry Blackflame. I am but a mere blacksmith's son from the town on the edge of this woodland you call a home." He wondered what he could do to flatter her more. Getting a powerful Nymph from her forest would require an expert silver tongue and he was not so proud to call himself an expert in the craft of words. Henry swung his bow around his torso, placing the arrow in his hand back in his quiver and approached her hoping he could get close enough. Henry did not move quickly, nor abruptly in an effort not to scare her.
For who knew what a Nymph would do to him. Magic was against the natural order of the world, after all.
"Your elegance dwarfs all others I have ever laid my eyes on. Your family lives within these woods? I have heard naught of any humans living in the thicket due to the animals that it does hold. You must be from a very strong family with a powerful husband, like yourself, to have survived for so long." He hoped that she would admit to her un-human status, and provide him with the words that ensured that he was correct. He needed her to prove his own might, and perhaps sedate the desire that turned within him to touch her skin that looked ever so much more radiant and soft in the changing light.
“Well the great Henry Blackflame sounds like a fitting name for a strong man like you,’ Ida said smiling at the young man. “I am flattered by your compliments but, the suggestion I am human offends me,” she said doing a step back in the direction of her willow tree. She knew perfectly well what the man tried to do. She might only talk with her willow tree for years but, that didn’t take away she had a life before that.
“I am part of the proud family of Nymphs. The only family I have left is here right in front of you,” she said as she pointed at the trees around her. “My great willow tree is the only family I need and the only protection that is required,” she added, leaving out the fact her family had pushed her away. The man didn’t have to know the whole truth.
“Now tell me, Henry the Great, what is it that a mere human like you, is seeking in this dangerous forest?” she asked the man. She looked at the young man waiting patiently for the reason of his visit. Hopefully, the story would be good, it was a long time ago she heard a story she didn’t know yet. Carefully she looked over at her willow tree. She loved him truly she did and she would never want to separate with him but, she was desperate in a conversation with someone else. In need of someone with a human body. Someone that could hold her in his arms. Someone she could kiss. The boy in front of her might not be the most handsome or attractive man she ever saw but, he was the only one.
“I am part of the proud family of Nymphs. The only family I have left is here right in front of you. My great willow tree is the only family I need and the only protection that is required,” With the words, all of Henry's previous assumptions were made true. As were other ideas he had on this Nymph. His first thought was: She's an idiot. Henry had grown up hearing of how Fae were dangerous and masters of trickery. Yet here was this Fae speaking to him so plainly as to admit her truth. Was she perhaps powerful with magic, and able to utilize her Willow as a weapon? She had brought up the Willow twice thus far, so he could only assume it had to do something with her magic. He didn't want to press the matter for the idea of magic left him with a bit of fear. Perhaps she was lying and her family was far greater than she admitted and one bad move would result in his death from behind. His thoughts went from being that she was an idiot to that she was too crafty. he would not be able to tell if there were other Nymphs in the forest ready to attack him -- not if they were using magic.
He couldn't take that risk.
“Now tell me, Henry the Great, what is it that a mere human like you, is seeking in this dangerous forest?” He had to think for a moment. Which story would he give her? That he was hunting in the forest? As a Nymph would that offend her? He was unsure whether or not she would hate him as the stories said. The myths of the Fae said all Fae hated human for what humans did to nature, no? He was not sure. He did know that Fae were demons and had to be dealt specially by the Church. He was not about to giver her up to the Church.
"I came to these woods to escape." He began with a truth. "They call to me with their mystery and splendor, as many a human wood do not. I came to explore them as I have since I was a child." Then he went with a half-lie. "I was hoping to explore them in order to deeper understand them. I wish to be able to tell my people that this Wood is not as dangerous as they believe it to be."
He hoped that his answer was enough, as he sat down in the grass ready to converse deep into the night. He wanted to know more about this Nymph so that persuading her to come with him would be easy.
Ida smiled at the man, she apricated the man shared her love for the forest. As much as she wanted to talk with him something inside her told her it was a bad idea. It was wrong flirting with him, she knew that especially standing right in front of her willow tree. But she needed someone to talk, to flirt, to be with him. It wasn’t going to work that out, it was foolish to think otherwise. She tried so many years ago and look what happened. She didn’t want to think about the future right now. She didn’t care, just one night wouldn’t hurt anyone. Just this night, they could talk nothing happened anyway, he was just being nice. It meant nothing, they could be just friends. The warmth that rushed through her body when he looked at her, told her that those were lies.
“Ow but, the forest is dangerous, my brave hero,” she spoke giving him a naughty smile and walked closer to the man. “Only those that are worthy of walking its paths are allowed to stay,” she said. The nymph looked around the forest and smiled, “seems like the forest has found you worthy, congrats. In my long life, there aren’t many humans that walked into this forest and could walk out of it all intact. You must be very special,” she told him. Technically it wasn’t really a lie, there weren’t that many human walking into the forest. However many of them did leave unharmed but, he didn’t have to know that. It was better the humans thought the forest was a dangerous place. She wasn’t completely clueless her willow tree had told her about the nature of humans and everyone had always warned her about the greedy humans, that couldn’t just look at something beautiful but needed to have it. She was in need of some company but, she didn’t want the human to come and destroy her forest.
“Well my great adventurer, can you tell me about where you are so desperately flying from, that you dare to set foot in this forest?” she asked as she sat down right in front of the man. Ready to listen to the stories of a land so close by but, at the same time so far away. Curious if after all those years the world would have changed whilst her world stayed the same.
Hearing that he was special filled Henry with a pride that he knew was better not seen. Of course he was special and accepted by the wood. He had to be. It only made sense, after all. No other humans made it in and out of the wood as easily as he did. He was meant to be in that wood talking to her. He was special. It was so very clear, and confirmed all the thoughts he had for himself, but he had to remain humble.
“Well my great adventurer, can you tell me about where you are so desperately flying from, that you dare to set foot in this forest?” He watched as she sat before him. They were close enough to touch but he did not dare.
"I came to this forest to get away from home, and my family that only believes in their set ways unable to see other options and possibilities. It is one of the few ways for me to get away. I wish to travel the world, but have not the money to do so. Coming to this wood felt like going to another world, at least." It was not a lie. All he said was true. However, his biggest motivation for entering the forest was to prove himself, and he had done that. He had to get her out of the wood to show that he had done it. In that moment he decided to tell her about his village, and the world that he lived in. He told her of the kings that ruled their land, and the way that no one believed in magic -- but him of course. He told her stories and legends, and that his family were blacksmiths. He spoke for so long that he forgot to let her speak and ask questions.
Mentally he cursed at himself for speaking for so long. He feared that she would hate him, so he changed the conversation. He looked up to the night sky, "It is getting late..." He looked back to her. "Come with me and I can show you. All of it. Boats, the ocean. We can travel the world together, you and I." He offered her his hand hoping she would take it, but knowing that she probably wouldn't. He hoped his incessant talking would not put her off, but he feared for the worst. Hand out, he prayed that maybe she would take it.
Ida smiled as the man clearly beamed with proud by the words she had said. It felt good to see that her words were still able to move another human being other than her willow tree. Who couldn’t smile at her any more, nor could she see his eyes lit up when she sang for him like she used to do so many years ago. Even though the man had never left, the truth was, she missed him, more than ever. The presence of the other man filled her need to see another Nymph/human-like creature but he wasn’t Erion.
Still, he was a new person, with new stories and Ida listened in awe at the stories the man told her. It was surprising how much the stories looked like the ones Erion had told her so long ago but, still were completely different. Like history had turned a full circle and had started again but, this time with new people and slightly different rules. She was so happy to hear another voice that of herself and the willow tree if you could call that a voice, she didn’t mind the man kept talking and talking. In fact, when the man stopped with talking she wanted more and she wanted to return the favour sing her songs for someone else than her tree. See the emotion on someone’s face when she song, sadness when she sang a sad song, happiness when she sang a happy song.
But, when the man had told her to come with me, she turned grim and shook her head. As she stood up and walked backwards in the direction of her willow tree she spoke, “No, my brave hero, I cannot come with you. I can speak with you as often as you want and sing for you every night until the sun comes up but, I cannot leave my willow tree, please don’t ask me to follow you to your world.”
“No, my brave hero, I cannot come with you. I can speak with you as often as you want and sing for you every night until the sun comes up but, I cannot leave my willow tree, please don’t ask me to follow you to your world.” He had feared for a moment that he had messed up but Henry decided not to press. Instead he dropped his hand and gave her the best smile he could.
"I understand." He didn't but he figured the lie was what she wanted to hear. He wanted to pull her away from the wood, but Fae had magic. He feared magic more than the disappointment and ridicule from his family. He decided to back off for the day. Instead he would figure out the best way to speak to her again. "I shall come again. Until then, I wish you the best."
Taking the opportunity, he picked up his bow and bowed to her. He began out the opposite side from her willow, glancing back to her to take in her figure once more. Under the night sky she looked ethereal and like a goddess upon the earth. He said his goodbyes once more and then walked into the woods, darkness enveloped him but he did not fear. He knew he could get home and believed in his strength. If he could find a Nymph of the forest what deadly beast could stand in his way? The answer was none, yet he kept his bow drawn just in case.
When Henry got home, he snuck inside the house. Making his way to his room he thought about the story he could tell his family in the coming day, but decided against it all. He knew that they would not believe him and so in that moment he decided to keep it a secret until he brought his beautiful Nymph from the wood. It was only as he laid in bed thinking of the encounter that he realized, I never got her name.
The world seemed to sway around him as it listened to her haunting voice.
A voice that filled the void in the forest that quickly darkened with the setting sun. The birds, the nearby trees, the damn dead leaves that decorated the forest floor and the worms that gnawed at it -- all of them listened to her in awe.
Strong and steady A place to hide A place to cry And place to laugh
My willow tree, My willow tree
There was a hint of nostalgia mixed with yearning in it.
She was singing to him.
73 human days and counting. That was how long Ida had not spoken to him.
Rion knew Ida, his beloved Fae, was craving for a contact. For a person, sharing space with only other living being...that time might feel too long but for a Fae that had lived centuries, it was as if she was taking an hour to herself.
Ida's loneliness wasn't new to Rion. Every few decades he would feel her detachment and boredom.
The first time it had happened, it hurt him. He felt guilty and helpless at the same time. The second time, he understood her.
Since then he had patiently been there for her, in her time of need and otherwise, waiting for her to return to both body and soul.
For you see, even when Ida needed her space, she was always connected to him, through her feelings.
Her fears, her delights, her boredom and her passion -- he felt it all. It was emancipating and cruel at the same time.
In fact, even when she felt nothing, he felt that too. They were bound by something that was beyond the comprehension of the mortal being.
And that is why her curiosity in the mortal that had ventured into their abode hardly phased him.
Nor when the man propositioned her to follow him out of the woods.
As if she would.
If anything, Ida's fluctuating heartbeats only amused and excited him. When she jumped out his arms and landed softly before the boy, the vibrations that her footstep created rippled through his own green veins.
Rion also sensed fear -- not from Ida, of-course. But from the mortal. he picked it up from his quick breathing that altered the air around them.
Around them, the flora and fauna listened in attention to the Fae's exchange with the mortal. After all it was unusual for the Fae to speak to anyone that didn't belong to the forest, in the first place.
What? Take her out to the world of mortals? Was the man alright in the head? Did he know who he spoke to? She was the force of the forest, its beating heart. The forest was her sanctuary...and the Willow Tree her...
But Rion knew this was not unusual. Ida loved to break her own pattern. And thus when the two made promise to meet again, under his shade, Rion could only wait in silent amusement. He neither anticipated nor looked forward to it, but simply observed.
Ida watched the man as he walked away, out of her world, to the place he calls home. The place that he belongs but, she will never be able or want to go. Sure, seeing other world sounds exciting and she enjoyed listening to his story but, hearing about a different world and going to different worlds were two different things. The thought alone, to leave the forest and her willow tree filled her with fear.
Ida jumped up and as easy as someone else would walk up a staircase she climbed back into the tree. The place she had felt the safest, the most loved but, also the most lonely she had ever felt at any other place. So close to the one she loved, the one that had given everything up for her but yet so frustratedly far away.
“Ri?” she whispered so softly a person who would stand in front of her wouldn’t have understood. It was loud enough for her Willow tree. They were one, but, still apart, two spirits bounds so closely it was difficult to tell where the one stopped and the other start. “I miss you,” she said words that she had spoken many times. Words to describe a feeling she had managed to control for decades but, had come back in all its strength when the boy had appeared. It sounded foolish, maybe for some, since she was as close to him as anyone could be and most wouldn’t understand. The willow tree would she knew, shared her feeling likely, it wasn’t his soul, his spirit that she missed, it was his body. His arms wrapped around her, the beating of his heart, his breath against her ear when he whispers to her he loves her, his mouth kissing her. She sighed as she let her legs dangle.
Henry awoke early, before the sunrise and left out of bed so fast that he almost felt dizzy. Steadying himself he forced clothes upon his body and hurried to the kitchen to see a bit of bread. Settling his stomach with the quick meal, he hurried towards the smithy to prepare for the morning. It was only as he was cleaning for the morning and preparing for the day that he saw his quiver and bow and remembered her.
The thought came almost too suddenly. Had she been real? He wasn’t sure. Every bit of the memory seemed vivid and almost too magical to be real. A rush of pride swept through his body. For yes, she had been real. She was as real as he was, and he was the only one who knew.
So how would he get her from the forest? He couldn’t very well bring his family to the wood in order to meet her. Then what would his brothers do? No. He had to seduce her. He would seduce her. She would be his and then she would take her from the forest — after all the forest was no place for civilized beings to live.
“Henry!” He heard the voice of his brother Martin. “How was the hunt last night? I saw you sneaking out again.”
“Fruitless as ever,” Henry did not lie for he had caught nothing. His brothers seemed to find it funny and began to laugh.
“And how are we supposed to eat that? At least come back with a boar.” George slapped him on the back of the head. “Put some more muscle on and maybe you’ll be able to catch one.”
“Sorry, but I won’t take advce from someone who has potatoes for hands.” Henry bit back.
“Let him be George. Henry is our sweet little brother.” Martin hurried to start the furnaces. As he did Henry raced along them to grab a knife from Martin’s back pocket, his bow, quiver, and a few coins from George’s hands. “Nimble and swift just like a snake.”
“At least I’m silver tongued.” Henry smiled to his brothers as he raced out. “I’ll be back with meat in a bit.”
“I'd like rabbit!" Martin called after him.
"Get the fat chickens! Don’t let Alexander talk you out of it!” George yelled to him.
“When has he ever?” Henry called back and as he ran he heard the slight laughter of his brother. It was only when he was far enough away that his smile dropped.
It wasn’t like Henry was jealous of his brothers it was just that he couldn’t talk to them. They always ended up making fun of him and he knew it was because they saw themselves as better. George was the heir and gifted with a large body and the ability to fight. Martin was the handsome and charming one with an infinite amount of girls at his feet. How could either of them know what it means to be the youngest and the one that everyone saw a worthless. Henry was not strong. He was not the most handsome in the family. He was constantly berated by his father, and made fun of by the towns people. How could his brothers ever understand?
Reaching the traditional forest and hunting grounds of their village Henry began his hunt. His goal was a good bit of meat to trade for the chickens and meat for his family. Ears open and eyes wide he began.
The words pierced through his green veins and echoed through every branch of his. His drooping leaves felt as if they were at attention for a split second...or was it the breeze? One could never tell.
But Rion had heard her loud and clear, and Rion was hurt.
Miss me? It is the same as saying as if I am not here...
He was hurt, but he didn't blame her. He could feel why she missed him...or rather, she missed Erion Dafner, the blue eyed Knight she had encountered one fateful night in this very forest, centuries ago.
The Knight who was both brave and kind, strong and gentle.
The Knight who was not only mesmerized by her beauty but also pained by her agony.
The Knight who had not only saved the Kingdom's prince from rebel bandits, but also saved a beautiful Fae.
Funny thing was, if not for Ida's memory of his former self, Erion would have had long forgotten what it meant to exist as a human. Compared to his existence as The Willow Tree, he had far lived too short a life as a human. Did he have a family? Possibly. A reputation? Travelers passing under him often said so. Was he handsome?
"Hey Ida, was I handsome?" The words resonated from him before he could stop himself. He hadn't expected his 'voice' to be back, for he had thought Ida was only musing to herself.
So when she had said she missed him...she was actually talking to him. After 73 days...and 17 hours...Ida and I are talking again.
Nonetheless,he was embarrassed he could even have a silly thought like that.
Did the square faced human actually bother him?
He waited for Ida to react, for there was no way she had not heard his inner thoughts.
The question echoed through her head. Ida smiled at the sound of his voice. “Of course you were,” she said as she stared in front of her trying to remember his face. But, as she thought she saw the face in front of her it faded away again. But, she remembered he was. “Not as handsome as my brothers or the other nymphs but, still handsome,” she said, “for a human,’ she added after a second. Once she would have watched her words not to hurt him but, there was no need in lying to him. He would know, he would feel.
She turns around on the branch she was sitting on, facing the trunk of the tree. “But, you had something different.” she continued. She stared at the bark as she ran her fingers over the lines as to feel anything of the man she loved. Any other person would just feel the cold bark but, Ida felt more than that. She could feel the spirit hidden inside of it. Being so close to it, it felt she could almost touch him but, even though they were one it felt like she couldn’t really touch him. Still closer than all the other people.
“Something that made me fall in love,” she continued softly. “If only the rest would have seen it as well,” she added as she looked down at the ground. They didn’t, of course, they didn’t he was human. Not good enough, an animal with a lifespan as long as a heartbeat. They all didn’t understand she was supposed to be with him. She just felt it, that was how it went with Nymphs if they found their true one they promise them forever. A promise they will never break no matter what. Ida had promised him forever so she would never leave him. She would talk to the other man even flirt but, she will not leave her willow tree.
Henry dragged the body of the deer to where he typically hid his hunts. Two rabbits, a fox, and a deer. The fox’s pelt itself would sell well and the deer would too. However their family was a big one and his brother’s future family in law would be visiting within the next few days to talk on final agreements for the lady marrying Martin and joining their family. If he brought back the deer for their family for the dinner, would it stop his future scoldings? He could use it as a wedding gift and maybe make his family look better. Would it make his father proud?
Henry pulled out his knife and quickly got to work biding the animals for transport. He would go to the butcher first to get the animals appraised, skinned, cut, and deboned. The bones could be used in the forge and for the weapons, while the pelts could be sold at Alexander’s trading post. He’d see if he could sell the fox meat to the butcher, if not his family would eat it. Henry didn’t particularly like the taste of fox. He moved into town hiding his catches and saw the wide eye amazement of the butcher when he saw the deer.
“This will take some time you know.”
“Can you skin the creature and the others so that I can sell the fur while you work?” Henry leaned against the counter. “I’ll pay you extra.”
“You’ll pay me none. I know you Henry Blackflame.” The butcher laughed and went to take the bodies to the back. “Pay up front.”
“Now why would I trust you?”
“I’ll sell you the fox meat.”
“We can negotiate that after.”
“Alright then.” Henry placed the coins on the counter, saw the man’s eyes twitch and said nothing. Henry never heckled him. Instead he paid the man what he would pay the man regardless and always gave him a discount on sharpening and new tools. It was their unspoken agreement, one that his father disapproved of.
His wait began.
“If it isn’t Henry Blackflame.” Intonation and voice? Harvy Hunt. At one time the two boys had been best friends, but that had been when they were a hunter’s boy and a blacksmiths boy. That had been before the blacksmith’s boy out shot the hunter’s boy on a hunt. Ever since then their relationship had been strained to say the least.
“Henry Hunt.” Henry looked to the door to see Harvy and his gang with their own catches.
“Hunting rabbits?” Harvy saw that Henry was empty handed.
“I heard someone saw you take down a deer.”
“Now why would I ever be able to take down a deer? I’m no huntsman.” Henry could almost hear the Butcher in the back laugh at the comment.
“No, but you have better materials than one.” Harvy glared at Henry’s bow. It was what the whole town thought, that Henry had better equipment as being the blacksmith’s son and that was why he could out shoot a huntsman’s boy. Henry’s father had made the boy for Henry after months of begging, but Henry didn’t think it was any better than the boys they sold the other villagers and knights who came knocking. His father was the best blacksmith in the country, some said. Why would he ever sell anyone a improper weapon? It was against their blacksmith code and Henry resented Harvy for it. “So what did you catch if not a deer?”
“Rabbits and a fox.” Henry had to be confident when facing them. He didn’t want to seem weak, not to them. Not after everything they already thought of him.
“The master hunter Henry Blackflame.” Harvy laughed slapped Henry’s shoulder and gave a wide grin. The group walked inside. “Mister Garison we are here.”
“I heard.” The Butcher, Alexander Garison, walked in from the back. Taking the boys hunt with a grimace. “It’ll be a bit to get this all done.”
“We have time.” Harvy answered. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Your’s? Nothing. As expected of a Huntman’s boy, but the others? They aren’t bled fully, and shot in a way that made the death long and painful. The meat will be tough. You know this Harvy,” Henry appraised the bodies from afar. “Are they new?”
“That they are.” Harvy’s eyes narrowed as if he had forgotten such simple things. Henry hadn’t, but Henry had also spent time with many of the men within the village to try to prove his worth to his family. He’d spent the most time with Harvy’s father, Mister Garison, and Alexander from the Trading post, so he knew a few things at least.
“Fifteen.” Mister Garison gave the number and took the kills from the boys after determining that they simply wanted to sell the animals and buy some other meat instead. The did want their pelts to sell.
“So Henry. I hear Martin is getting married.” Harvy turned his attention to Henry once more after placing the money on the counter.
“What’s her name?”
Honestly Henry had no memory of her name so he just shrugged and the guys laughed.
“Is she beautiful?”
“I do not know. She is my brother’s to be wife.”
“And you can not tell if she is beautiful?”
“Why should I care? She is not my wife.” This roused laughter within the group.
“Traditional Henry Blackflame, caring for himself and not the beauty of others. Your standards are too high my brother, how will you ever find a wife like that?”
“I met a girl in the forest.” Henry had no idea what had over come him.
“Hunting?” Harvy exclaimed, “But girls do not hunt.”
“She was not hunting. She was singing.” And she was the most beautiful creature Henry had ever seen.
“What is her name?” Henry was unable answer. Harvy pressed on, “Don’t tell me you scared her off and did not get her name.”
“We agreed to meet again tonight.” Henry lied. “She was very scared.”
“Why was a girl out in the woods alone?”
“She is a great and powerful fae.” Henry smiled knowing that none would take his words seriously. Their laughter proved that.
“Boy!” Mister Garrison called to Henry. Henry took his bag. “be back in a few hours.”
“Understood.” And then Henry said his goodbyes before leaving to head to Alexander’s trading post, where he could trade his pelts for the chickens his brother requested.
The words were soothing to him, as was Ida's touch. It wasn't something physical. Reon just felt it. He also felt Ida's guilt and self-reprimand. Ida was reprimanding herself subconsciously for showing interest on another man other than Reon. Moreover, he knew she was anticipating his return. It excited her...this wait,the uncertainty, the chance of fulfillment.
The complete opposite of her equation with Reon.
She no longer had to wait for Reon. He was there, always. There was no chance of uncertainty either. He was hers, for sure. And there was no room for failure. They had crossed that bridge the night Reon swore to be her Willow Tree, and gave up his life has a human. In exchange she had chosen a life by his side, giving up up the camaraderie of her friends and family
Reon was no longer a man, and hence, could he even be capable of jealousy?
Should he even? Theirs was a bond that no other mortal could break, after all.
Isn't it fine? Reon tried to convince himself. It's been centuries since she has had a heart to heart with another mortal. She had exchanged a few words with monks and other folks of higher learning who passed the forest, people who could sense her...but an actual normal mortal, not in the last few centuries as far as Reon's memory served.
So, isn't it fine if she talks to the blond boy?
Reon knew he would return. He had noted the curiosity in him that was only fuelled by the fear of unknown. He looked amateure but didn't pose any immediate danger, Reon observed. If the boy entertained Ida from time to time so...
"Isn't it fine? Ida..." Reon's thoughts resonated through his entire being to Ida, through her finger tips that still touched his rough but warm surface.
"Don't be sorry....love. It is fine."
They weren't words. One couldn't possibly break his sentiments down to words. They were stream of emotions that he sent her way. To reassure her. And himself.
Ida looked back in the direction of the trunk of her beloved Willow tree. The answer off the tree made her eyes water. They were no words but, yet they said her so much more the words ever could. The deep love Reon showed was so intense, so true. There would be no living creature being able to come even close to that. A love most Nymphs would never thought a human would be able to. A love that had grown in thousands of years and became so strong. The sole idea that he would be fine watching her talk to another man showed just how much he cared about her. “it is fine,’ she said softly reassuring.
But that wasn’t true, he wasn’t fine, she could feel it. He wanted it to be fine desperately. For her, for him for them. She liked talking with the other boy, yes, and she was excited to meet him again. She also wanted it to be fine needed it to be fine, but she could feel his doubt. His desire to give her what she graved. But, he couldn’t, she would lie if she would she didn’t mind. She wished he was enough as well. Yet, he gave her something no living creature ever could. Others could protect her but, no one would her feel as safe as her willow tree. They could die for her and they still won’t make as big as an offer as Reon had done for her.
“I will never leave you,” she said repeating the promise she made so many years ago. She moved a bit closer to the trunk and wrapped both her arms around the trunk. The closest she would come to a hug. She felt the rough surface of the bark against her face, as she tried to be as close to the human he was once was. “I promise you, you be my only true love and you will always be,” she whispered as she let her forehead rest against the bark, sitting there hugging the tree tightly. “You think he comes back?” she whispered.
Upon arriving at home Henry saw the familiar line of people ready to pick up orders and heard the familiar chime of metal and anvil.
“Henry.” his mother gasped as he dropped his bag to the kitchen. She hurried to appraise the meat and chickens before starring at him in shock. “A deer?”
“For Martin’s celebration dinner. We want to show off our wealth to the girl’s family, no?”
“Outside hurry.” His mother urged him to hurry and bring the items down to their cellar where they had hopes of keeping the meat fresh for a few days. “You were gone all day hunting?”
“I have to do something around here mother.”
“We make enough money,” His mother tossed the meat into the coldest place. “to buy the meat. Your hands are needed in the smithy.”
“You and I both know that father will not let me anywhere near the tools. He does not want me to be a blacksmith.”
“Then why suggest it? I already help enough. I want to be a blacksmith and he will not allow me. I would rather not be tormented. I will prove myself to him.”
“I will go back to the smithy now.” Henry rolled his eyes leaving the cellar and his mother’s call. The moment he entered the smithy he saw his father who gave him the side eye and his brothers who shook their heads.
“Did you get the chickens at least?” George asked trying to lighten the mood.
“And more.” Henry began his duties in the smithy: checking tools, the fire, the materials, the finished works, orders, and customers in line.
“Hunting again?” His father was pissed. “You know what I have said.”
“Father he has a talent.” George defended him.
“A talent? Being able to catch a few rabbits is no talent.” The conversation was over without their father saying it. They all knew it, because to push the conversation would mean a lecture that they had all heard before: that Henry was no huntsman boy and didn’t need to be working as such. Only, Henry didn’t feel like a Blacksmith’s boy either. No matter what he did he was a failure, but that would end soon… For he would prove himself to them, and then he’d leave. He’d leave and become a knight and say goodbye to this terror of a family. After all the good he had done for them…
He had the best way to prove himself too. All he had to do was seduce her out of the woods. He could do that. He had to be able to do that at least.
“I promise you, you be my only true love and you will always be."
To the centuries old tree, the words that left his lover's lips sounded as if she wanted to convince. She didn't need to though. He was already hers, heart and soul. Body, too, perhaps.
But then a thought crossed his mind: Was she trying to convince herself? It was a sad thought but, again, she didn't need to. The one that he loved was beautiful when she was free. He loved her when she was a wild spirit of the woods, and loved her when she was standing alone, yet determined. And he loved her brutal honesty and innocent demands. When he could love her when all she needed was him, he could also love her otherwise. Rion was confident of his love.
"Of-course," Rion answered her. There was no way a mortal who had laid his eyes upon this beautiful fae wouldn't return to it, even if it was to reconfirm his fantastical vision.
In fact, Rion could already feel the man's presence near the woods. The fauna within the woods whispered the news to him. They also cautioned him: he returns with a purpose in mind. The trees could sense it.
But there was little Rion could do. He couldn't stop him and he wouldn't stop Ida.
He din't want to alert Ida and wake her from the sweet mid summer day's dream that she was in. He wouldn't put his guard down however.
He may not have his existence as a knight, but he had once sworn upon his name that he would protect Ida, and that promise he would never break.
Here he comes.. He thought to himself, and to Ida.
The air was thick and despite his best efforts, Henry found himself struggling to breathe as he moved through the forest. The day had gone, much as he had figured it would. There were scoldings, he had written the contracts for commissions, dealt with money, and made plans for his brother's wedding dinner. I have to find her.
It was difficult for him, because in all of his wakefulness, he had yet to remember the path towards her. he refused to believe it had been blind luck that had led him to and away from her the night before.
"No. The woods are alive." He reminded himself thinking of the Willow Tree she was so attached to upon their first meeting. She was a Nymph of the woods, and this was the Fairy Wood one of the most magical places in the kingdom. For it to change over the course of a night... no for it to be changing as he moved through it? How could it not? But he knew these woods and they had watched him. He turned to the trees, "Please, help me meet her once more. I must know her name."
It was a stupid request at best, and he felt silly even muttering the words aloud. For how could the woods ever hear him. Magic changed them but they were not alive. He, however, needed her. He needed her name and to take her from the woods that night. He would not stand for the ridicule of his family any longer. The rustling in the trees sent his senses up on over drive. Turning, arrow drawn he turned to see the smallest of mouses stare at him and then scurry down a path in the moonlight. Magic, Henry reminded himself that this place was magic and that simple moment perhaps was a sign. He hoped it was a sign or else he'd be the biggest fool of them all.
Briskly, Henry moved to follow the mouse, loosing track of the small animal but feeling the way that the gravel moved under his feet. The texture changed, and all at once he recognized landforms he'd beat into his memory the night before. Slowing his pace, and breathing Henry starred out through the trees to find the clearing coming into view with every step. Her name. Her name. Her name. The thought rang in his head.
Stepping into the clearing he saw her under the moonlight cradled by the willow tree and glowing in the night air. He was unsure if she noticed him, and was equally unsure of whether he truly wanted to bother her. That was, for a second at least. All too suddenly his motivations came back to the forefront of his mind.
“How soft you look bathed in the light of the world.” He whispered knowing that his words would reach her ears, “Sweet maiden I wish not to startle you from your peace, but I also wish naught to frighten you by my presence.”
He walked from the tree line, letting the moonlight hit him as well, “I have returned.”
Ida didn’t know how long she sat there her arms wrapped around her willow tree. Waiting for the human to return worried he might not be able to find her back. Softly without using words, she asked the forest to lead him the way back to her. There was no guarantee the forest would obey, it was not a thing that could be told to do something. It had a mind of its own, multiple minds. Thousands of spirits including her own intertwined together not as close as she and her willow tree but still.
There he was, she sensed his presence just as she heard or to describe it better felt the words of Reon. Thrilled and nervous at the same time she moved both her legs to the same side of the branch she was sitting on, eager to see the man again. She didn't had to wait long before she caught a glimpse of the man in in between the trees. followed by his voice, soft but, still clearly hearable. “I have told you before the days I was a maiden are long gone,” she said giggling.
“fear not to startle me, I have been waiting for you, my brave hero,” she said her voice soft but, the wind carried the words to the man anyway, she knew.
As the male appeared from the treeline she jumped down from the tree. “Welcome back to my willow tree,” she greeted him giving him a bright smile. “You came with more stories over the world so nearby but, yet so far away,” she asked, as she stood there in front of her mighty willow tree. Confident of the words she spoke Reon would protect no matter what happened and she would do the same for him.
My brave hero. She had called him it again. To say it wasn't getting to his head was a lie, but he knew it as a compliment. Besides, she had no true understanding of the world and the stories he told her. Hesitantly he pulled his quiver over his head and left it on the ground along with his bow, approaching her slowly. First he needed to get her name. He had to. How else could he face the others back in his village if he did not have her name. It was, perhaps, one of the most important parts for the continuation of this relationship.
"I am but a storyteller." He decided to go the humble route figuring women loved the sound of the words. "My dear... I can spin you the stories of the amazing world around us, and the adventures I have gone on, worry naught. I will never take you into that danger. For a maiden-- a beautiful woman such as yourself, should never see such horror."
He did not reach her and instead sat under the moonlight and shade of the Willow Tree. "Come sit with me under the grace of the night sky. Ask me and I shall speak. Which story would you like to hear tonight?"
This was how he would do it. Get her to ask him for a story for a world and then ask her for her name. It was brilliant! Plus he could then say that they were close enough to speak so closely. Most other girls he knew would never approach a man so closely. He hoped that the young Nymph would not nave the same reservations. Being close would be a better way for him to connect to her. He remembered what his brother said. There was a technique to looking into the maiden's eyes to know if she wanted advances or not. He wasn't sure what that technique was, but he hoped that by being closer, he would figure it out.
"Come sit with me..." pause just enough to seem contemplative, as if he hadn't been furious about not knowing her name all day, "I'm sorry my dear, it seems I never got your name? May I have the pleasure of knowing it?"
“A great storyteller,” Ida said as she stepped closer to the man. She didn’t fear him, not here, not near her tree. There was nothing that would fear her, here. She didn’t have to the forest would protect her, her willow tree would protect her.
Ida smiled as the man had corrected himself. “That is really brave of you but, I have seen horror, I have felt it, heard it. Horror you can’t even image, my brave hero,’ she spoke softly as she smiled at the boy, “If you tell you about the destruction I have witnessed you wouldn’t sleep at night,” she said. The memory of what humanity could do made her nauseous. Not all humans were like that she knew, her brave Reon proved her that. Some were different, Henry was too, why else would the forest had led him to her.
“I would like to hear a more happy story this evening, my story weaver, can you tell me about your family, I have lost sight of mine a long time ago,” she said as she sat down underneath her willow tree.
Ida looked up at the man, ‘my name?’ she asked, “I guess it is only fair, I tell you,” she said as she smiled at the man. She purposely left a long silence as she thought it over. Would she give him the name, could she trust him with it? Should she give it up that easily?
“They say they can read someone’s name in their eyes. And can you read my name in mine?” she asked. Honestly, she completely made it up. She will tell her name eventually she just wanted to see how badly he wanted to get to know it. She had missed games like this. She used to play them with Reon a long time ago. She wasn’t a fool, she knew the man was flirting with her.