Andy asked us to write a story involving our character. I suppose I have disqualified myself, because this isn’t directly related to James, but it’s the thing I decided during session that it would be cool to write.
Anyway. This is an origin story for the dryads. Like most things I write, it makes complete logical sense. I have attempted to write it in accordance with the conventions of, shall we say, a certain specific genre.
Should I actually post this? Is this a good idea?
Fukkit – let’s do it.
Long ago, sometime near the dawn of the world, a shepherd went on spirit quest.
His name is not important, and would only sound uncouth and strange to modern ears. He was shaggier than men today, not as tall, his jaw and brow more pronounced, and more heavily muscled – cords and cables across his back, chest, down his legs and arms. He walked upright and barefoot, scanning the land about him. He wore only a raw leather strap around his waist and between his buttocks, holding a pouch in front. He carried a sling, and spear tipped with bone. His weapons he knew well. Many times he had wielded them against wolf and other predator come for his flock, many times had he protected the new lamb. But he carried no fire nor any means for making one, for he was on spirit quest.
He had been walking since the dark of the moon. The weather was warm and mild, for it was spring, and as the the moon drew to fullness it lit his way long into the evening.
His path took him to the valleys of the deep forest, where such as he did not normally tread. The tall oaks, the silent places. As the trees grew closer around him, he felt fear – but it was a right-feeling fear. Had he known the word, he would have called it awe. For days he wandered beneath the oaks. He ate acorns and strange fungi unknown to him. He drank water dark with tannin, tasting of peat and oak. No wolf troubled him, nor did he see any animal, not even birds as he went deeper. The trees whispered in the wind, the hanging moss dripped water on him, the whole forest warm and humid. He began seeing visions – movement where there was none, the words of the whispering oaks almost understandable. They drew him onward, deeper.
On the fifth day, just after the sun set and the full moon began her circuit of that night’s sky, he found the clearing. The oaks had drawn back, and in the centre was a single she-apple tree. She was young and slim, but had flowered these past three seasons. A bird had dropped her seed far, far from the shores where apples grew, and she had grown alone this oak grove, and so she had never fruited. She was in full bloom now, for it was spring, and the clearing was sweet with the smell of apple blossom.
As he approached, the breeze rustled her new spring leaves, her mostly bare twigs. An odd, dry, woody sound
He set his sling and spear aside and approached. She was a little less than twice his height, her trunk perhaps a span and a half across. He began searching in the moonlight for a place about her roots to sleep for the night – he had long since ceased to worry about being attacked as he slept. His bare feet stepped lightly around her, his hands feeling for a suitable place. The moss about her was thick and soft. Her bark was fine, smooth, unblemished.
Curious in the moonlight, or perhaps for the tactile pleasure of it, he began to explore more of her trunk. He measured the span of her with his hands, he reached up to where her branches began, exploring the hollows and the joins of the shape of her. He lightly scratched her bark, and smelled her sap-smell, her apple smell. She swayed lightly in the breeze, her twigs whispered
He drew back, feeling somewhere a warning, a reminder. Here in this holy place he was close to transgressing a boundary. There was something forbidden here. He looked around him. Perhaps he should leave, transgress no further. Again the feeling of fear came to him, that we would name awe. But he quest called to him, or something did. The oaks all around silent, revealing nothing.
He explored her a little more. He felt down the length of her and found, perhaps three feet above the ground, a knothole – a place where she has shed a branch in previous seasons. It was small, oval, the edges of it curiously thickened. In the moonlight, he traced the shape of it with the pad of his thumb. As he did, the she-apple exuded an odd, thin resin. A thread of scent from it tickled somewhere in the roof of his nose – there was apple in it, the tang of resin, something earthier, darker, more demanding, more necessary. As he ran his thumb around the knothole more and more resin been to drip, his fingers coming away wet and sticky.
The breeze picked up, and now the apple tree began to creak lightly as she swayed. She whispered “Ssseeeeee, ssseeeeee”, and the shepherd felt himself begin to quicken. He pressed himself to the apple tree, then held her, arms around her trunk as she swayed in the breeze, warm animal to cool wood, her top branches beginning to whip in the wind. It was not enough. He freed himself and joined with her, heedless as resinous, fragrant sap ran down his thighs and matted his hair. He abandoned himself to his spirit quest. “Ssseeeeee, ssseeeeee!” the apple tree cried in the breeze, her limbs and trunk creaking and groaning. She swayed and yielded, she trembled in the wind, moonlight streaming down on all until, at last, he gave her his gift.
In the morning, the shepherd awoke among the roots of the apple tree. He was covered in apple blossom petals, as was the ground all around. The tree’s blossoms had shed their petals, every one. Her limbs were bare now, save for shy green buds at intervals. He rose and looked about him. All was still. The oak trees remained at a respectful distance, inscrutable as before. The apple tree stood mute in the warming morning sun. The knothole was still there, and some evidence that he had not imagined the previous night. He decided that his spirit quest was probably done, and that he should return to his tribe and never say a word. He retrieved his spear and his sling, and – why, I do not know – laid his hand against the belly of the apple tree, silently wishing it his blessing.
Then he turned and left.
The she-apple bore no fruit that year. Instead, in autumn from her trunk she bore a daughter. Her name was Orlene, and she was the first dryad.