The lady of the woodMature

A group of knights are overcome by a horde of marauders. The knights leader is mortally wounded and escapes, eventually coming into contact with a mysterious woman. He is taken in by this strange woman and his wounds are healed. He falls in love with her, but his love become spurned when he finds that she has left him alone in the woods where they had first met...

 

 

A steady drizzle passed through the canopy of the forest above, to drop audibly onto the steel armour plating of a group of knights below as they made their way down a narrow dirt path. No one spoke. The only sound was the creaking of their armour and the patter of rain. The small cavalry, twenty men in all, knew the enemy was nearby. They had chased them in this direction a few days prior and had scout report that there were sightings of encampments within the forests of Murrowdeep. The group of knights were known as  the White Hammer Brigade, a small regiment of professional fighters and swordsmen hired by kingdoms across the lands as mercenary soldiers. They assisted in ridding whatever problems that required their expertise. Whether it was destroying troublesome creatures that were threatening a tiny hamlet or guarding private estates and kingdoms, the White Hammer brigade were versatile as they were efficient in their profession. Simus the Thunder, as he is known amongst his people, was the captain and leader.

  The Brigade continued following a narrow dirt path that led throughout the massive forest in silence. Their eyes scouted their surroundings, looking for any sign of their enemies. Eventually they came to an opening where the dirt road disappeared and was replaced by an open field of knee high grass. Simus raised his hand, motioning his men to stop in their tracks. He was getting a particular feeling that something wasn’t quite right. After years of honing his skills as a proficient warrior he was endowed with particular abilities the average man did not possess. There was more silence, except for the light patter of rain. Simus’ piercing eyes narrowed as he scanned the outer edges of the open field; but he only saw thick brush and lush green foliage. His hand motioned for them to continue forward—but with caution. The brigade slowly moved ahead, their hands cautiously hovering above their sword hilts and their eyes scanning the wall of foliage surrounding them. As they inched towards the middle of the sprawling field, an arrow suddenly pierced the air and whizzed past Simus’ head.

“Take cover!”  He bellowed. With liquid ease he brandished his gold handled Kitana blade, and got down low enough so that he was nearly hidden amongst the tall grass. His men reacted with the same razor sharp speed. Immediately, they took their positions with their glinting swords unsheathed and held posed to strike. A war cry resounded from somewhere beyond the wall of forest. Instantly dozens of men flooded the open field, weapons clutched in ready arms, faces furrowed in intense glares of hatred and death.Simus’ pulse pounded in his ears, and his heart thundered away in his chest; but a rueful smile crossed his face, for this is what he was born for.

 A volley of arrows sprayed through the cover of the forest, but they were either deflected by shields or swiped from the air with swords. A flood of more armed men with their mouths twisted in snarls came forth; their swords, maces and daggers swinging in death blows. Simus stood as still as a statue, both hands gripping his swords handle with the blade held above his shoulder ready to deal death. The first of them came forward, a burly man dressed in studded leather and filthy animal skins. He had a double headed axe gripped in his left hand; he swung forward, but as his axe completed its arc Simus had ducked forward and with lightning speed swiped his blade across his attackers mid-section, instantly severing him in half. He didn’t stop there, as his second attacker was already charging forward. Simus was already in motion as he rolled forward away from his first attacker who collapsed to the ground in a bloody mess. The second attacker—armed with a long sword—attempted a quick jab with his blade as Simus rolled out of position. His enemy was too slow—as the long blade thrust forward Simus was already deflecting it away with his own blade. With uncanny speed and precision Simus flicked the blades edge across his enemy’s neck, severing main arteries. He dropped to his knees spurting a geyser of blood from his wound. A third and forth attacker rushed forward, weapons posed to strike. Simus greeted them by charging forward with unmatched speed; this confused his attackers and they momentarily hesitated. Simus predicted their confusion—hesitation is always a weakness—and before they had a chance to raise their weapons in defence they were cut down, their blood sprayed the grass as they fell. Within moments the entire field was engulfed in fighting and bleeding and dying corpses.

Simus paused in his warpath to take in the situation. His men were holding ground but the enemy kept coming. More armed soldiers poured out from the wall of shrubbery, and occasional swarms of arrows came raining down. A few of Simus’ men had fallen and he ran to their support. “Don’t fall back men! We can do this! These mere--” he stopped in mid sentence as a three enemies armed with spiked maces came barrelling towards him; their faces were snarling with murderous intent. Immediately Simus leapt into the air above the heads of his attackers with marvellous grace. One of Simus' men, Attila, sprung forward dispatching one of the enemies. While the other two attackers were fixated on Attila, Simus had already landed behind them and with a single swipe of his sword they were stricken dead.

 A sudden burst of fiery pain ripped through Simus' lower right shoulder blade. He screamed in agony and spun around to see a plumed back end of an arrow jutting from beneath his left shoulder blade. “Captain!” screamed Attila rushing forward. More enemies came, and they blocked Attila from reaching his Captains aid. Maluk, the oldest member of the brigade quickly came to Simus and dragged him off to the side while battle still raged. The pain was horrific—right away Simus knew that the arrow was barbed and that its tip had pierced his right lung. “Lie still” Maluk ordered in a soothing voice. He removed the Captains chest plate with quick hands, revealing a sweat stained leather vest underneath. Blood had already seeped through and was oozing down his side. Maluk looked grim. As this was going on, Simus watched as his comrades became overwhelmed by the enemy watching a few more of them fell. His jaw clenched and his anger began to flare. The remaining brigade formed a protective circle around their mortally wounded Captain, but one by one they began to fall.

  Enough!” Simus the Lightening roared. He arose with trembling fury, his life blood already beginning to drain but he was infused with the fire of vengeance and it filled him with great strength. With the last of his comrades already faltering, Simus charged ahead arching his faithful sword to and fro as he went. Bodies of his foes dropped after each stroke as he danced and weaved, never breaking his fluid movement, his wound burning ferociously as he did. At last he cut a bloody swath through the middle, but his strength was quickly draining away. It was at this point he decided to do something he thought he’d never do—he retreated. It was the core philosophy of the Hammer Brigade to never retreat from battle, but only if it were down to the last warrior—and he realized that he was the last.

 With the remaining energy he could muster Simus broke through the thick wall of brush and ran as fast as possible. Branches and stray limbs snapped and broke as he ran forward with some stabbing painfully into his face and arms, yet he never broke stride. Simus ran and ran until the fire that burned beneath his right shoulder soon spread throughout his entire back and it became too much to bear. His breathing came out in soggy wheezes and he knew he was dying. Blood was already entering his lungs.

 The murmur of a nearby brook stopped Simus in his tracks. With his vision slowly going fuzzy, he stumbled forward towards the sound, hoping that maybe a drink of ice cold water would revitalize him. He came to a clearing, and before him there was a small lake. Staggering towards the edge of the lake, Simus’ legs eventually gave out from beneath him and he fell forward into the water. The jolt of ice cold water shocked him from the growing fuzziness that threatened to take hold. But it soon proved short lived, as he began to slip out of consciousness. Floating on his back, Simus fought with every cell to resist the darkness that was closing in, but it was futile; he floated on as the current of the lake carried him away, his body too weak to resist and the blackness was ready to claim him. But just as his vision began to go, he heard a soft voice. It came from above, and soon a blurred figure stood over him, looking down at his dying body floating dreamily upon the lakes surface. “Man?” came a soft voice, and his eyes—damn you don’t fail me!—he strained to look up, and a face came down close. It was a woman—that was the last thing he saw before the darkness claimed him.

  His eyes opened, and he was surrounded by a dim light and an unfamiliar environment. Instinctively Simus reached to his side for his sword—but clasped only empty air. “Your weapon is over in the corner” said a gentle yet firm voice. Simus glanced in the direction of the voice, but his vision was blurred. The room he was in appeared to be wooden, and off to the side of the room there was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was short and slender, her oval face had sharp and defined features; her eyes were large and gray, and she looked upon him with subtle curiosity. She had a mane of auburn hair, wild and untamed, which grew past her waist. The room was lit with strange orbs that casted a deep, sensual light. Simus laid up in his bed, which was a mattress made of milk grass and mellow weed. His eyes took in the woman before him and he was instantly taken by her beauty. It wasn’t any specific physical characteristic that he found alluring, but rather something much deeper that he could not put into words. “Who are you?” he croaked, his voice sounded ancient, and the inside of his mouth felt like a desert. The woman came forward, carrying a stone cup in her hand “I am Elu, lady of the wood” she replied. As she neared him, he got a better view of her features. Despite her subtle beauty, he discovered other things—such as her ears, which were abnormally long and pointed; her eyes were large orbs, beautiful and enchanting. “Take this, it is water” she said gently, handing him the cup.

 

Simus drank its contents greedily, gulping it down like vintage wine. “More” he said, handing back the cup. She turned and walked to a small stone fountain nearby, returning with a filled cup. Simus drained this one as well, the cool soothing liquid easing the fiery dryness of his throat and mouth. He suddenly began getting some of his strength back. He reached a tentative hand beneath his right shoulder blade, and it was tender, but no opened wound of any sort. Simus was shocked. “What did you do?” he demanded, bewildered that he was almost completely healed of a wound that should have killed him. The strange woman, beautiful and mysterious came to him and her face a mix of sorrow yet tenderness; he was momentarily taken, and forgot his query, and the woman was suddenly behind him, her soft and delicate hands caressing his broad shoulders and naked chest. “Sleep, sleep and heal” her breath was feather-like soft, her soft lips gracing his ear. Simus felt his strength wan, and his eye lids grew heavy. He laid back and he fell into a deep sleep.

 Simus awoke again to find that he was naked and disoriented, surrounded by darkness; he called out, his voice sounding shrill. Then suddenly a warm body pressed up against his that was naked and soft and a soothing voice shushed him as small warm hands gently pushed on his rippling shoulders, easing him onto his back. The wood room was then filled with the same soft, intimate light and Simus discovered that the woman was lying naked atop of him. It was then that he became aware of the sensual odours of mellow dew and honeysuckle, combined with her small supple form and her naked flesh against his and all these things stirred within him, and he became aroused. Elu's face came into his view, her eyes were sensual and they peered deeply into his. She looked almost sorrowful, a mix of melancholy and yet something else, something deep and mysterious. “O man, child of earth begotten. Thou once knew and now forgotten” she said in a magical tone, full of sadness and yet a yearning. It was then that Simus was immersed in a passionate flame, her scent, her eyes and her warm naked body filled him with a glowing desire, and the sensations became overwhelming. His hands, guided by a fiery passion, reached down and cupped her buttocks. Her mouth fell to his, and the kiss was sealed by an electrifying fire that immersed them both in its flame. In all his life, as a warrior and as a lover—Simus had never felt passion like this; it was something both real and yet unreal at the same time. As she took him inside her, their bodies intertwined and enmeshed, Simus plunged himself into her and to him it felt as if he had immersed himself within a burst of star fire; a sensation that was both mystical as it was primordial. The immediacy of the act only spurned his heart as it did his passion, her flesh becoming his sustenance in that very moment—their bodies responded to one another, his body flexing and thrusting while hers quivered and waned, the flow of time seemed to end and there was only the instant that passed between them. Their passion built to a beautiful crescendo, as their bodies rocked together faster and with more urgency; it had felt as if their bodies became a single organism, working in unison, one depending on the other. As they reached the peak of their passion, Elu put her beautiful mouth to his ear and whispered “D’ana l’vahanu” and then he erupted into her, and it had felt he had released his very soul into her—and at that very instant he thought in his head with absolute conviction—I love her—and then he then collapsed beside her, and everything faded into darkness.

 Simus awoke to sunlight glowing behind his eyelids and the musical chirp of birds. Upon opening his eyes he realized that he was in a forest and not the ghostly lit room where the mysterious woman lived. Confused he stood up and took in his surroundings. It appeared he was near some dirt road within Murrowood forest. With the experiences of the night before still fresh in his mind, he continued to gaze around his immediate environment, an utter look of bewilderment etched upon his face. How did I get here? What happened to Elu? He asked himself these questions, his mind reeling as he collected his memories from the night before. Immediately he recalled the sensual experience, and tried to pin point a moment where he may have left the house of the mysterious woman. Simus looked around for any cave dwelling, or a tree house, but could not find either. All the while he kept thinking why and what is going on? He wandered around the forest for quite some time, looking intently for any sort of thing that may help him grasp what occurred. As time went by his heart began to fill with despair; as well as frustration.

  Was this some sort of trickery? It dawned on him that this was indeed some kind of deception. It even crossed his mind that maybe the experience with this Elu woman was nothing more than some sort of dream, or perhaps a delusion. Maybe his brush with death had evoked some sort of powerful hallucination where he made love to a beautiful woman? For a moment Simus was strongly overwhelmed by this possibility, and yet one thing remained to be answered—and that was the fatal wound he had received. He reached his hand behind to feel the place where the arrow had pierced; it came to touch nothing but smooth skin. The feeling of anguish returned to replace frustration and confusion. He was now totally convinced that he did in fact meet the lady of the forest, she had called herself, and that their passionate interaction did take place. This realization filled him with despair, and not only because he felt he was made a fool—but because he had felt cheated. Deep down inside he was in absolute love with this woman, this mysterious creature who had saved his life and had treated him with such compassion— and he just needed to find her, he needed her. The urgency to find her overrode everything else, and Simus continued to search out the entire forest, and he walked for innumerable hours seeking out Elu. Indeed time was of no consequence, however eventually the search was taking its toll for Simus grew impatient and desperate. He even came to the lake where he had first met her but there was no sign of her anywhere. Simus called out her name and he called to the water of the lake and the trees of the forest but to no avail. Eventually he arrived at the road again, covered in sweat and tears pouring down his face. Simus collapsed in a heap of grief and wariness; delirious in exhaustion he began to mumble a phrase over and over again. It was the last thing she had said to him before he had drifted off to sleep—D’ana l’vahanu; he recalled the feel of her warm breath tickling his ear causing goose bumps to rise on his back. He repeated this over and over, the memory vivid and coming to him as he drifted in and out of consciousness while spread out on the middle of the road. Just then a man appeared standing over him, gazing into his face with obvious concern. “Are you okay, friend?” he asked.

 

“D’ana l’vahanu” Simus replied in a dreamy tone.

 

The stranger frowned. “Why do you say this?” he asked.

 

“This is what the lady of the wood said to me” came Simus’ response, as he began to collect himself.

 

The stranger smiled broadly, “Ah” he said, “you have met her?”

 

Simus stared at him with puzzlement. “Why yes” said he, “I had met her and she saved my life”

 

“I see” replied the stranger, “and for this, what did she ask in return?”

 

Simus paused to think about the man’s query. Ask? She had asked for nothing. Nothing but... “We did make love” he finally said.

 

“Ah” he replied again with the same air of understanding, “so in giving you your life, in return you gave her your heart”

 

Simus nodded at the strangers’ seemingly wise presumption. It was that, wasn’t it? To give and to take, such is the context of all interactions and experiences.

The man assisted Simus in getting up, until he was standing before him. “I thank you friend” replied Simus, “but I have one last question”

The man gave him a look which meant for Simus to continue on.

 

“What does D’ana l’vahanu mean?”

 

The stranger looked into his eyes and replied, “it means to love is to let go”

 

Simus took a moment to absorb what he just said. “How do you know this?” he asked.

 

The man merely smiled, and it was quite a beautiful smile. “Because I also have met the lady of the wood” and at that he turned to walk away, leaving Simus behind to stand on the empty dirt road.

 

The End

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