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Twice and twice alone did I encounter the rarest and fairest of forest
maidens. Though in truth it was only on later review I could
attribute them with earthly origin, for on beholding them I was certain
the heavens had opened and goddesses fallen from the skies.
They rode into a dew-covered spring morning, stealing through the
forest as gently and silently as twilight. Startled though I was by their
approach, so very different from the Hunt, my alarm swiftly faded
to be replaced with awe. As they advanced, the forests themselves
seemed to reach for those celestial beings; new buds appeared and
bloomed, grasses sprouted from bare earth and tree limbs thickened
and writhed as if in ecstasy.
I found myself held fast by plant and root, yet it was a playful captivity
with none of the hostility of my first such experience. As I struggled
to free myself and they drifted away again as mysteriously as they had
arrived, one flashed a look over her shoulder. A more mischievous and
alluring smile I have never witnessed – were I to write for a thousand
years, I could not do it justice in words.
Filled with desire, I attempted to learn more of these beguiling fairies.
The responses to my queries ranged from dismissal to stern warning,
which I could not comprehend. Fear was not an emotion I could associate
with the vision in the spring wood. I resolved to see again for
myself. It was autumn before I had my second and last opportunity,
pursuing a half glimpsed apparition as quietly as I could through the
falling red-gold leaves.
Only when they turned did I realise my mistake. Only when they
ringed me tight with eyes that flashed like the gathering autumn
storms and the tips of their thorny spears pressed in close did I understand
the danger. Terror gripped me: those beautiful faces were
filled with an alien temper, one that told me I was as easily snapped
as a brittle twig. My eyes closed, expecting to never open again. Next
I knew I had fallen to my knees in an empty clearing, trembling with
uncontrolled relief. Beware, traveller beneath the trees, and know
that beauty and danger oft entwine.
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