Figures flit from shadow to shadow as you brush aside the leafy tendrils that drop from overhanging branches to brush your cheeks.
The air here is sweet and rich. It also seems to pulsate with inner life. Musk, incense and night-flowering herbs tease your nostrils as you step cautiously in between the embracing trees. Above you the branches weave an arch, creating a sylvan corridor of green as well as a light golden glow that suffuses everything.
Your heart seems lodged in your throat. Something tells you you are being followed. This unseen stalker is a presence so immediate it causes the hair on the back of your neck to rise. You shiver as the air, like many roving hands casts goosebumps on exposed skin. The grass rustles as you step on it, while the wind seems to whisper its secrets.
Somewhere beyond the edge of consciousness you fancy you hear voices speaking in different tongues. Some are high and lilting while others guttural and harsh. And then the music begins. It is elusive and insiduous, like the trill of a bashful celesta.
The soft murmur of woodwinds is interspersed with the plaintive melody of a Stradivari violin. The concerto seeps through your flesh and takes root deep within your bones.
Perhaps a frisson of fear and unbearable sadness will seep through your skin now, as you listen. Perhaps you will be aroused by memories or evocative images. Perhaps you will even cry.
You sway from side to side and find yourself taking off your shoes.
Almost shy, you tentatively step through the trees.
You step into a clearing lit by the golden glow of an overripe moon. Nasturtium, frangipani, hibiscuses, white orchids run rampant here. There are also hydrangeas, rugosa roses, foxgloves, ivy and flowering herbs that seem to have been scavenged from different continents and different climates. You gape for a while and then you will see them. Some are dressed in red and green and gold. Some are in virginal white while others prance about in black slashed with deep violet. Some drip with sparklies and gold, while others have flowers and ivy woven into their hair. There are lovely maidens dressed in a motley assortment of patch-worked rags and crones garbed in diaphanous veils. As you watch, a misshapen face jumps out at you and leers at you. You shriek and step away from the goblin, just before he makes away with your purse.
A neighing sound heralds the approach of a quartet of kelpies. They step out of the river, magnificent black stallions with fiery eyes. As you watch unbelievingly, a livid orange glow envelopes them. As the glow slowly disappears, three tall, muscular men donning velvet suits join the circle of dance. An unusual pageant slowly unfolds in front of you. Both the lovely and the grotesque dance with animal grace round and round the circle, as the light of an eerie moon shines down on the tableau.
They seem to be having too much fun, you think, as a cluster of nymphs fall down in a tangle of exposed limbs, shrieks and inebriated giggles. The music pulses through your brain and enters your bloodstream. You step closer, filled with an unbearable longing to join the fun. Just as you step forward something (or someone) maliciously trips you. You land on your face.
You have no idea how long it has been since you lost consciousness, but it is darker now, and the dancing pageantry has disappeared. In front of you sits a gnome with kind eyes and a rather battered red cap. He offers to lead you out of the Grove before you get into deeper trouble. He lectures you on the temptations of faerie excess. You stare at him. He shrugs, and ambles off, warning you to stay away from faerie fruits and the Bower of Marip, Steward of the Forests.
A buzz of sound and a faint shimmer takes you by surprise as a lovely, seemingly shy and slightly out of breath faerie jumps out of thin air to land in front of you. Now, here is a faerie who looks more like what you have always imagined.
But then, a glint of mischief enters her eyes as it curtsies with exaggerated courtesy. A grin betrays needle sharp teeth as it fishes a scroll out of the air and begins to read it with importance. It appears that the Steward of the Forests has noted your presence and is summoning you to his Bower.
Curious and fearful, you follow the creature who weaves with a peculiar drunken grace in the air before you, her diaphanous wings fluttering in an erratic fashion.
(c) Nin Harris 1997 –.
All text are the copyright of (c) Nin Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Feeling pixy-led? Check back soon to be led into the Steward of the Forest’s Bower.
Or, you might want to read this story featuring him here.
The featured photograph was taken by (c) Nin Harris, and the digital art page divider was made by her. All Rights Reserved.