Monday, April 30, 2012

The Dryad And The Hunter-Original Story

The Hunter and The Dryad
The hunter treads carefully as he aims his bow and arrow at the grazing deer. Tiny steps, he strolls forward for a better shot. Leaves shuffle and twigs snap as he edges closer, despite his efforts at discretion. Suddenly he topples over, tripping over a log. He curses in spite of himself as the deer looks up and prances away. His leather feathered cap falls off from a head sleek and shining golden hair, which is now covered in dirt and leaves. He reaches out a rought, yet slender hand to retrieve. He stands to his feet, digging his hard leather boots firmly in the ground. He bends down to retrieve his bow.

A soft and curious sound echoes from somewhere behind him. Was that a giggle? He looks around to find himself alone in the serene Gray’s Wood. All he hears now is the gentle song of many birds. All he can see as his eyes dart and his head turns to and fro is a canopy of intricately connected trees, and the beautiful beams of light shining through between their leaves. He continues forward. His heart pounds and he turns abruptly at the sound of another soft and subtle laugh.
“Who’s there?” he calls, but no one answers.
After some time he continues his stroll and finally stumbles upon another deer. A sly smirk crosses a young and smoothly shaven face and he retrieves another arrow.

“Please don’t shoot her!” a soft and feminine voice calls out from behind. The voice is kind and gentle in tone, filled with sweetness. The man feels a warm feeling somewhere in his chest inexplicably. The voice is filled with the sweetness of honey and sugar.

“Who are you?” the hunter asks.
“I am Tanysia. I help to watch these sweet little creatures.”
“Nice to meet you Tanysia, I am Raymos. My job is to hunt these creatures and feed the townspeople. Survival of the strong.” He places the arrow on the tip of is bowstrings, pulls it back with strength and precision, and releases it. The arrow flies straight and true and strikes it in the throat. The deer falls without a sound save for the thumping as its mass meets the earth. Raymos hears a soft, shuddering whimper behind him. He approaches the beast trying to ignore her. He retrieves a hunter’s knife from the small, black leather sheath.

“No, don’t!” she cries, reaching a soft and slender hand.
“If I don’t finish her off now, she will continue to suffer until she bleeds to death or chokes on her own blood.” He urges her gently. The bronze skinned beauty walks to the hunter, Raymos. As her jet black, silky hair shuffles slightly in the wind she kneels next to him. She looks at the deer with puffy dark brown eyes, watering with tears. The hunter sees the sad look and frowns himself as he finishes the deed and kills the deer.

“I’m sorry you had to see that.” He sighs.
“It’s ok. You did what you had to in order to provide for your people. I understand.” She shudders softly. He sighs again as he places a firm hand on her shoulder and speaks in a reassuring tone. “Don’t be so upset.” He urges her. She looks up at him with a smile that warms his heart and even brings a tear to the hunter’s eye.
“You know,” she says softly as she wipes her eyes. “You are a very handsome man.”
Raymos blushes in spite of himself and smirks from ear to ear.
“And you have such a nice smile.” She adds with a wink and a grin of her own.
“You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.” Raymos responds. “And your hair is like perfect shining silk.”
She smiles again, blushing now.
The hunter lies his head down to sleep that night. Restlessly, he tosses and turns in his bed. The thoughts and memories of the day flood his mind. He grows anxious. He can’t wait to see her again. Then suddenly a warm feeling washes over him and stills his pounding heart. Sweet relief flows and he rests at last. Slumber arrives and with it sweet dreams.

“Where are we?” Raymos asks. He finds himself surrounded by a forest, but shrouded in mysteriously sparkling fog. He sees a waterfall behind him, flowing like smoke and shimmering steam rather than water. He still hears the water running though, even in the stream of mist. The sun did not shine, but the sky was gray and the many leaves were changing colors. Yet last he checked it was still spring.
Tanysia smiles as she wraps her arms around him. “We are in the woods my silly hunter. Except they are the woods as they appear in the world of dreams.”
“Then I am asleep?” he asks.
“Yes, but don’t worry I’m real. As a spirit being I can travel in dreams just as easily as walking in the real world. Do you not know what I am?”
“What are you?” he asks.
“I am a dryad, the living spirit of an ancient oak tree. Every tree has a dryad, but most do not choose to appear in the mortal realm. They prefer this world, the world of dreams. Some are not even powerful enough to travel there. But for you my love, I will go anywhere.”
“How can you love me?” Raymos’ eyebrows raise in question. “You just met me.”
“Oh I have my ways.” She giggled gleefully stroking the hunter’s chin and winking. Raymos could barely breathe as he fell captive to her seduction. “But you know, sometimes love just has a way of happening. I don’t really know the answer. I just love you.”
Over the next few weeks the hunter visits the woods daily. He no longer hunts wild game, or does much of anything. Any time he has is spent with Tanysia. Together they talk and take strolls in the woods. She teaches him the many herbs and plants, and even about the creatures that dwell there.

As she walks with him one day she takes him to the falls that he saw in his dream. The mighty stream is not as it appeared in his dreams, but much like what he would expect from a real body of water in the world he is used to.
“It’s beautiful.” He says. “But not as beautiful as you, fair maiden.”
“Hmmm yes, but where were you yesterday?” she asks.
The hunter scratches his head nervously. It had been a busy day for the hunter who was cutting meat for friend who had a feast planned that week. “I fell asleep after a long day of work, and I awoke too late.”
“It’s ok…” she forces a smile. “I just missed you. I was afraid you would never return again. I feared you did not love me anymore.” She sheds a tear. He caresses her face, holding both cheeks and bringing her face closer to his.
“I will never stop loving you. Look how much joy you have brought me.” Their lips meet in a brief, but sweet kiss.
Raymos continues his stroll home alone as night approaches. He knows he cannot stay in the forest after dark, for the creatures will make the attempt to claim him, or he will be lost. He brushes through many overgrown trails, employing his knowledge of the woods to avoid poison, thorns, and beasts along with other hazards. He comes to a clearing and is free at last to exit the woods into the nearby meadow. Just as he approaches the forest exit, however, his legs fail to move. He feels something wrapping around them and squeezing tighter. He looks down to several green vines entangling him at the feet, growing and moving on their own.

A heavy fog ascends out of nowhere. He sees the mist seeping upward from the earth until he can see nothing else but the fog and few trees around him. The birds in the air suddenly grow silent as do the crickets that were just beginning their symphony. All is silent save for the whistle of a chilling wind. He struggles relentlessly to be free of this natural entanglement. The vines wrap him tighter and fight more fiercely with every move he makes. He can barely even feel his legs now as the circulation is forced from them.

Suddenly he sees a great bear approaching from the clearing of the trees. A certain mist exudes from white fur with a glowing tint of blue. Pale orbs of blinding light resound from otherwise empty eye sockets. A lion’s mane of glowing gold surrounds the head, adorned with the horns of a bull. The hunter draws his bow and retrieves an arrow. He fires at the beast, but the arrow passes through as it would a cloud of mist and dew.

“Such weapons will not prevail against the likes of me.” A deep growl of a booming echo resounds from the creature’s throat.
“What are you?” Raymos gasps in wonder and in terror.
“I am a spirit guardian, chief guardian of Gray’s Wood.” He says. “I watch over the creatures great and small and I guard the trees and many vines. I do not interfere with you human. I have never stopped you from slaying my many children. I recognize it is nature to kill and eat. However, my most sacred duty is to preserve the order of the woods. The balance of man and nature.” He explains.
“What do you speak of?”
“The most sacred law you would violate.” He answers. “Your time with the dryad, the spirit of the oak, has not gone unnoticed.”
“What has she to do with this? I’ll kill you if you hurt her!”
The bear laughs a low growl of a laugh. Even as he speaks in normal tone he speaks with the voice of more than one, it seems. Raymos realizes, as according to legend, he is the voice of the woods. “You would need great weapons of magic to fight me, even if you were a more capable warrior to stand against me. I have fell warriors and even armies greater than you. Yet there would be no purpose in such a battle. I have no desire to hurt one of my subjects.” He says. “Yet your actions would hurt not only her, but the very balance of nature. It would hurt her homeland; these woods. I come only to carry a warning. Stay away from her.”

“But I love her and she loves me. Who are you to force her to…?”
“Silence mortal! It is you who brings harm. Who are you to violate our sacred laws, to conflict with the order of this world? I give you one day to say your farewells, but if you return after I will set the woods against you.”
“I will fight them all.”
“Human, do you think even without me as an enemy you could survive here? There are insects and diseases that would devour you, and creatures that would make you their prey. Not to mention the winters, do you not understand how harsh they are? You cannot survive here.”
“Then I will bring her home.”
“And take a dryad from her tree? She belongs in the woods and among nature. You do not. It’s that simple. If you take her from her home she will die.”
“You have been warned.”

And with those words the beast crawls away on all fours, and vanishes into the fog, which quickly fades thereafter. The vines release him and the sun, though setting returns. The birds sing once more. It almost seems as if the beast was never there, but Raymos knows better. The event was very real.
Raymos meets with Tanysia a final time and kisses her on the forehead after he tells her the story. They join hands and she looks up at him with the familiar sad and puffed up eyes. He brushes her hair aside to reveal them. His heart sinks as he too chokes up with tears.

“Take me with you.” She says. “Wherever you go I will go.”
“But take you away from your home, where you belong? Your tree, your companions, your future will be taken away in exchange for me.”
“You are all I want.”
“I…did not know your love was so deep.” He says with a smile now. “Come then.”
For the first few days all is well. They enjoy a new life together; a life of bliss and perfect love. The former hunter is now only a butcher, cutting and preparing meat from either cattle or game caught by other hunters. He avoids the woods at all costs and enjoys his life in the city. Tanysia, his new love, also enjoys a new life with her handsome man. Yet as time progresses they both grow weaker.
He watches as the dryad grows sicker and weaker. She no longer smiles, except for those forced smiles he remembers all too well. Seldom do they speak. They simply stare blankly and try to force conversation, and speak words of love they once meant but mean no more. He watches sadly as once bronze skin grows pale, and once beautiful dark eyes grow lifeless and weary. Tanysia spends her days on a bed, staring out the window and longing to be among nature. When they visit the city park, she can only compare it to the beauty and freedom she once found in the wild woods. When she hears the call of a bird a sad and distant look comes to her eyes.
“Are you alright?” he often asks. She simply nods and smiles.

The day finally comes when he awakens in the morning and she does not. Raymos shakes her frantically.
“Wake up!” he begs. He has long feared this day will come. “Please!” he begs. He scoops her up in her arms and runs with her to the only place that comes to mind.
The large double doors slam open as he storms into the temple and sets her down at the altar. “Please help, she won’t wake up!” He calls to the priest standing before him. A tall but slim balding man stretches out his hands to welcome them and kneels by the dryad. He examines her, hands and feet and face. He forces her eyes open gently, and then examines her hair, nodding.
“It’s obvious what has occurred.” The white bearded man informs him. “She is a dryad. She belongs with her tree and among nature. City life can only sustain her for so long. You must return her home.”
“But if I do…” Raymos shudders, weeping desperately now. “I can’t leave her. I love her!”
“Your love is not enough, it’s killing her. Do you love her enough to let her go?”
Raymos kneels before the mighty oak tree, having entered the woods against his better judgment. Tears fall as he lays her down at its roots. The journey back feels like it has lasted a lifetime, but he here he stands ready to walk away with nothing to show for it. No love, no peace, nothing will leave with him, but love was not enough. Certainly not his love, he thinks to himself. Maybe if his love had been stronger he would have been able to sustain them both, but deep down inside he knows he did not love her the way that she loved him, otherwise perhaps it could’ve conquered all.

“Do not wait for me my love, I will not return. Please do not be in despair without me, but find happiness in your home among your people and among the denizens of the woods. Please do not wait for me. Find your happiness elsewhere.” He says with a tear. “I will not return.”
“See to it that you don’t.” he hears the deep, resounding voice of the guardian who watches from a distance. “You’ve done the right thing. I do not expect to see you again.”
When the dryad awakens she feels more alive, and free. Yet her heart aches inexplicably.
“Where has my love gone?” she demands. She gasps and looks around frantically. “Why would he leave me?”
“You would have died if he didn’t, and he would have died with you. Even with him you would have wandered alone. His love alone was not enough to sustain you.” The guardian answers her from nearby.
“No! You drove him away…” she gasps in a sudden realization. She puts her hand over her mouth in disbelief. “Maybe I drove him away. I was an undue burden.” Her eyes well once more with many tears and she returns to her knees, weeping.
“He loved you enough to release you.”
“If he loved me he would have kept me with him. If he loved me he could never live without me. He never loved me as I did him.”
“So he would have watched you live in misery, and bore the burden of knowing you would never be happy with him, no matter how much you loved one another? At least give him credit for this: he loved you enough to let you go.”

And he did indeed. For Raymos would never forget his first and only love. The dryad of his dreams, but he was sure he could never return to her. No matter what, however, he would always remember his sweet Tanysia. Even in tears he would remember…

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