"In the dense woods of the imagination stand two trees. Both tall and dark brown, they tell a story few may hear if one wishes to listen to the whispering wind."
The battle was long and hard, yet for some reason he continued to walk on. In the distance he could hear the swords strike and shields block the unfortunate blows before many lost warriors fell to the ground. Yet this fighter strode away from the clearing in the woods, letting the agonizing cries of the battle echo in his ears. At this moment he was more concerned with the arrow that pierced his breastplate, and with the wounds that covered his legs. Using the light of the full moon above, he entered a nearby forest.
His horse had fallen and after his encounter with the arrow he felt no need to fight anymore. "All in the name of a king." He grunted, a king who had no mercy for his own people. Visions of straw thatched houses burning under relentless flame entered his mind as blood continued to pour from his chest. While his past called to him, the screams of his family entered his mind and mingled with the present shouts of his soon to be fallen comrades. He winced his eyes closed; it was no longer worth it.
The blood continued to flow from his weary form and taking a shallow breath he plummeted to the ground. His slow footsteps led him farther into the forest until his body met the earth with a loud thud. "Just take me death." He muttered as the sharp pain began to dull his senses, "Take me…for now there is nothing….there is no life."
Yet there was life, life all around him in various green hues. Even though his voice held a low tone, the leaves upon the trees seemed to rustle as if they heard him and for a moment, he even swore he felt the grass slightly shift in reaction to his solemn words. He paid little attention to what he thought was going to be the last few minutes of his life until he believed he heard footsteps.
It was only a light, thudding sound but for some reason the noise caused him to focus in the distance. His mind was delirious and for a moment he felt madness, until the sound grew closer and before him he beheld a fantastic vision.
She was a woman, one of moderate height with a pale face holding compassion that would rival the most gracious of any godlike creature. Her eyes watched him curiously, then began to extend concern as she kneeled beside them. They were brown and flickered for a moment until they stared at him as if to say, "I bring hope."
In reaction he looked at her closer. The more he watched her, the more comfortable he felt despite the intense pain in his chest. She was indeed beautiful with angular cheeks and long, brown hair that framed her fair face. Her lips were round and twitched slightly as she spoke. It was then he heard the most beautiful sound ever to fall upon his ears.
"I have watched you fight from a very long distance, yet death is no reward for your persistence" She informed him in a soothing tone.
He winced as he tried to sit up and greet her. The pain was still too intense and with a weak voice he asked, "Who are you?"
"One of the ladies of the wood, and I have a gift for you. Because your courage and honor are true."
He watched her again to take in more of her appearance and noticed the dress that adorned her form was long and white. He was able to see that it trailed down from her shoulders and was tied with brown cord around her slender waist. Though her body was lovely, his eyes were unable to
linger long as he tried to focus on his breathing. While her presence provided comfort, he was too weak to hang on much longer.
Yet the lady knew this and from the folds of her dress produced a small vial of green liquid. She brought it to his lips and forced him to drink. As death was near, he was not completely aware of what she was doing until he felt the warm liquid flow down his throat. Yet the pain in his chest began to lessen and the wounds on his legs seemed less severe. It was then she grabbed hold of the arrow and pulled it from his breastplate with strength that seemed unusual for a mere woman.
He blinked again and felt no pain as she ripped the arrow from his chest. A little more time passed and his wounds began to heal and his breath grew stronger. More strength was returning to him and he looked at her in admiration.
"What did you give me M'lady?"
"A cordial from the sap of a sacred tree, one quite tall, yet few manage to see. The blood of health and healing flows inside there, yet I can only grant it, it one whose heart is fair."
He was amazed at how she spoke in rhyme but again asked, "How did you heal me? I mean, how did you know it would save me?"
She stood up and looked at the moon above then looked at him again, "I know the power of healing of my tree, and already you honor me with what you see. But I must go now for I've only one night. Then I must go away when the moon's no longer bright."
She then began to walk away but he tried to stand up to follow. He was still weak though and found himself on the ground once more. Though his wounds were healed, he still needed to rest but called out, "When will I see you again?"
In the distance the lady of the wood called out after a melody of laughter trailed from her lips, "You can see me here the next time the orb above shines, but I warn you fate can be unkind. I am a lady, but not the lady I seem. And you should know there are only three moons to this dream."
"Three moons to this dream." He muttered as she walked away. Was it all a dream? He could not tell for sure but knew he would journey again to the same forest the next month.
And that was just what he did. The days were long as he waited and each time the sun set and rose, all he could think of was of her. Love at first sight was a foreign sensation to him, but he remembered each detail of her beautiful face and compassionate eyes. Eyes that seemed too long to reach out to him and hold him in solace that he never experienced before. Yet he clung to the vision as it replaced the horrible images of the battles that rarely left his mind. In this vision he had hope, the hope he would see her again.
The moon above greeted him just as well as it did the previous month. Yet this time he was completely healed and felt a great strength flow within his veins. Using this strength, he called out in a loud voice, "Lady of the wood! I have come for you again!"
A few seconds passed and then he heard the same footsteps as he heard before. He turned in the direction of the steps as they became louder and in a short time, she appeared before him with the same beautiful smile.
Upon seeing her he quickly bowed, "I missed you more than words can say M'lady. I still know little of you, but it seems you have entrapped my heart."
A soft giggle escaped her lips as she approached closer. There was a large object in her arms, one he didn't bother to notice at first since he was overwhelmed by her presence. As she made the object known she replied, "The less you know of me, the more your heart will ache. Yet I have something I want you to take. Inside my arms is a wooden shield. Yet it's magical and stronger than any steel. Use it for protection and you'll live another day." She handed it to him and he stood up to take it in his strong arms. It was about two feet across and oval shaped. Though it was wooden, it looked very strong and sturdy. As she watched him examine it, she asked, "Now is there anything else you wanted to say?"
"Yes M'lady." He replied, "Each day and night I have thought of you and I ask you, would you lay beside me tonight. I will do nothing to offend your honor, I merely ask for your presence."
She gave him another smile and responded, "Tonight is the second night of the dream, yet I warn you things are not as they seem. You may wish to stay all night beside me, but you are weary and will only find yourself by a tree."
He put the shield aside and kneeled before her. He was confused, but didn't want to ask too many questions yet. Instead, he gestured for her to sit beside him. She did so and with a gentle embrace, he pulled her closer to his heart. "I'm not sure exactly who you are, but you saved my life. My heart almost stopped beating, but now I feel it beat for you."
She laughed gleefully in response to his words and wrapped her own arms around his. The night was inviting, and she knew he would sleep soon, but before he did she said, "I am a lady, but not the lady I seem. And you should know this is the second moon to this dream."
Sure enough he fell asleep holding her and woke up to a brand new day. Yet just as she said, he ended up near a tree. His arms were slightly wrapped around it and as he pulled his hands back, he began to wonder how the tree got there. Yet the question left his mind as he thought again of the third full moon when he would see his beloved again.
The days passed slowly yet he watched each phase of the moon eagerly. Though the shield was a prized possession, he didn't even venture forth on the battlefield as he thought of nothing but her. During his thoughts he began to think of questions to ask about her, especially since this was the third moon. But what did it mean by third moon? How did she figure out to heal him with the liquid in the vial? How did she know he had great courage and a great heart? So many questions, so little time but the night of the next full moon came upon him.
"Lady of the wood!" he called out, "I have come for you again!"
The same gentle footsteps were heard and she appeared before him. With a smile she said, "I'm glad you have because our time ends tonight. I wish it was eternal, for my heart's delight."
It was then he reached out for her and with an intense sound of urgency asked, "No more rhymes, no more mysteries. You have stolen my heart fair lady and I must know who you are and why I can never see you again after tonight."
The lady finally sighed and looked back at him, "I am a nymph of sorts, if you must know. And I'll try to explain why I have to go. My soul resides within a tall tree, but only by brave hearts can I be seen. So I saw you that night, on the field of blood. As silly as it sounds, I fell in love. Then used my magic to save your life, and I hoped you could avoid all woe and strife."
Wood nymphs..he had heard of them in various legends but never thought he would find one. According to the stories told to him as a child, they could appear to a mortal they favored only three times in three months. This was the only time they could appear human and after that, they must return to live inside their tree forever.
He realized then that it was true. This woman saved his life and stole his heart, but he could never see her again. Yet he asked, "Is there no way that we can be together?"
She sighed and shook her head, "Nay there is no way for you to be beside me, the only thing that could stand near me, would be a tree."
It was then he realized what other things that the legends said. Not only did wood nymphs have the ability to change forms, but they could change others with a kiss. He thought about his human form and how it meant little to him, save for his heart that now only beat for her. At that thought he reached forward and strongly embraced her. His grasp was tight and he told her, "Make me what you wish, so I can stand beside you." Then with strength, he pressed his lips against hers.
She met his lips with equal strength and her arms around him also grew tighter. The kiss grew warmer and invited warmth and love to flow between them, yet she parted from it to say, "You have chosen your fate as I want you above all. Now with long leaves and bark you will stand tall. Age will not harm you, yet you will not move. But your wisdom and love will greatly improve. For now our hearts are as one and now all will see, our love as eternal, in the form of two trees."
And that was how they remained. The wood nymph returned to her natural form and the warrior found himself standing beside his lover. His feet turned into roots that stretched deeply into the ground and his limbs grew long and reached out to surround her, showing he could now rest with her forever.