Theres an old
saying: be careful what you wish for.
What I wished for was to get my storytelling gro(o)ve back after a dry spell, and this story was the result, based as always on an idea thats been rattling around in my bonce for ages in search of a plot to connect with. No complicated plotting or dialogue this time, just a simple, straightforward and (I hope) charming little story.
According to ancient legend, the Enchanted Grove lay deep within the forest, tended by faerie sprites; a small piece of Paradise within the mortal world, a place where all fear and sadness was washed away and all wishes came true.
Indeed, there were legends of such Groves in many forests, yet it was often claimed that there was but one Grove, existing wherever - and whenever - it needed to be found.
Many had sought the Grove, hoping that their wishes for wealth, mastery and immortality might be granted there. Some indeed had spent their entire lives on such quests, and had died embittered and in vain.
There were admittedly many who claimed to have found the Grove. Crowds in market squares would hang upon their every word as they described in florid detail the mountains of gold they had climbed, the rivers of wine so wide that the opposite shores could not be seen, and the hordes of beautiful, naked nymphs and satyrs that had catered to their every desire.
- Why, then, had they ever left such an idyllic existence? the crowds would ask. And they would reply:
- Alas, alas! One day they had taken a wrong turn and become lost in the woods, and had sought in vain for the way back; but though long and bitter years had passed since that day they had never been able to find it again, which was why they were now brought to this wretched state. And if the crowd could find in its heart to show some generosity to a poor beggar....
In return for the entertainment such tales provided, the crowds were usually happy to comply.
But of all those who spoke of mountains of gold, it is hardy surprising that not one was able to produce a single nugget as proof. In any case, the legends spoke of the Grove as a place of need, not desire.
For all of these folk had failed to understand, or believe, the most important part of the legend: that such a magical place as the Grove could never be found by those who sought it with greed and ambition. Only those who were genuinely in need of its powers could ever find it.
And here and there one might find a man or woman, serene and content with life, who could be persuaded to talk, shyly and hesitantly, of an experience that almost seemed an elusive dream.
A dream, they said, of a peaceful glade deep within the woods where the cold of winter did not penetrate, where summer birds sang, bees and butterflies flitted from flower to flower, quiet streams ran through a sunlit meadow, deer grazed contentedly, and the very air seemed to glow with enchantment.
And when they had finished speaking they would smile and shake their heads, unable fully to believe that the experiences they described had really happened.
But dreams or no dreams, one thing became clear from their tales. All of them had previously suffered from hardship, poverty, disease or mistreatment. Some had been brought so low that they had wished to die, young and alone, rather than go on living as they did.
Until the dream...if dream it was.
And after the dream, they had all found happiness, fulfilment and love. And that, surely, was the best kind of magic, of far greater value than mere gold.
And deep within the forest, the Grove waited patiently for its next visitor.
The rain had stopped. That was one small mercy, at least. Shaveena trudged through the dark wood, praying that her husband would not find her.
Delvon had seemed so charming and witty when she first met him. But then came the drinking, and the insults, the demands for sex even when he was so drunk he could hardly perform, and then the beatings. Gingerly she raised a hand to her cheek and winced. Just one more bruise to add to her collection.
Shaveena was tired. She had been picking her way through the dense woods for hours, and her legs, sore from bruises of their own, were now even sorer from walking over uneven roots and boggy soil. Very soon she would need to find shelter, otherwise she would drop where she stood and very possibly die from cold overnight.
Maybe that would be the best thing. She had no strength left to hide or run. If he caught up with her now she would never escape again, and if he did not kill her he would make her life a living hell.
Suddenly she was surprised to see a distant light through the branches. For a moment Shaveena was afraid that it was Delvon, that he had somehow got ahead of her with a torch and was lying in wait. But the glow was too bright for torchlight. It looked more like sunlight breaking through the gloom. The light drew her like a beacon, and she was upon it much sooner than she had expected.
Walking into the sunlit clearing was like pushing aside a dark curtain, except that there was no physical obstruction. It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the brightness, and once they did she could scarcely believe what they were showing her.
At the heart of the gloomy, ragged woods there was a sunlit clearing filled with warmth and birdsong and the scent of spring and summer flowers. In the distance a shimmering stream ran out of a small copse. It was like something she had once read about in an old storybook, back in the days when she had believed in magic and romance. She was almost afraid to breathe, for fear that her presence might cause the vision to burst like a soap bubble.
Even so, the glade remained solid and whole as she gingerly stepped forward, accepting her muddy footsteps without complaint. But she was ashamed to be leaving such a mess on the pristine grass, so she sat down and pulled off her shoes. Beneath their thick coating of mud, they were almost falling apart. They certainly wouldnt have carried her much further through the forest.
The rest of her clothing was in an almost equally poor state. It was filthy and damp, and rent and torn in a hundred places by branches and rocks. In the warm privacy of the glade she had an irresistible urge to tear off her rags and wash in the stream.
Scarcely had the notion entered her head than she was stripping off her tattered garments, letting them lie where they fell, and running toward the stream.
Sparkling lights danced upon the water as Shaveena knelt down to drink. It was the sweetest water she had ever tasted, and when she lowered herself into it it felt marvellously cool and refreshing.
It was wonderful to be clean again. She felt as if she were washing away the past along with the dirt.
What was more, it seemed as if the water had healing properties. At any rate, her bruises ached less than they had before. As if the glades very existence were not miracle enough, it seemed to have other magical powers as well.
If theres magic here, she told herself, then I wish some of it would find its way to Delvon. I wish itd give him some wisdom and compassion and prevent him from harming others.
Unnoticed by her, some of the shimmering on the water coalesced into a tiny glowing sphere and darted away, out of the glade and back the way she had come.
Once she felt clean enough she climbed out of the water and stood in the sunlight, taking in her surroundings as her hair and body dried.
She had never heard of such a clearing as this within the forest, yet it was far too big to have been overlooked by travellers. It seemed to stretch for hundreds of paces in every direction. Looking back the way she had come, the edge of the tangled forest appeared distant, hazy and indistinct, although she could have sworn she had only walked a few paces into the clearing.
A small herd of speckled deer grazed contentedly in the distance, occasionally pausing to glance in her direction, alert but unconcerned. There was a quiet hum of bees, and Shaveena could have sworn that the air itself was shimmering.
It is magic, she whispered.
As if in reply, a gentle breeze played about her, making her gasp with pleasure.
She was clean and dry, and now she was beginning to feel sleepy. Unhurriedly she walked to the copse and sat beneath a tree, where she was serenaded by birdsong from the branches above.
Its like a dream, she muttered to herself. If it is a dream then I wish it could be real. I wish it could reach out and touch others who need it.
As she spoke her hands were moving as if of their own accord, stroking and pleasuring her womanhood. Her hands were soon joined by the breeze, which teased, stroked and kissed her in all the places that hungered for a lovers touch.
As her pleasure built she sighed quietly: Oh, I wish I could leave my past life behind forever. I wish I could heal and forget.
Soon she brought herself to the peak of ecstasy and sank into a languid euphoria.
I wish I could have a real lover, she sighed. One who was always kind and compassionate and knew just how to please me.
Birds sang, the trees rustled quietly, the stream burbled quietly in the distance.
And as she slowly drifted into blissful oblivion she murmured quietly:
Its so beautiful here. So peaceful. I wish - oh, how I wish - that I could just lie here quietly forever, with no more fears or anxieties.
And then she was asleep.
And while Shaveena slept, the faerie sprites that keep the Grove laboured to make her wishes come true.
They were especially impressed by the compassion and mercy she had shown toward her abusive lover. Instead of wishing him dead, her revenge upon him had been subtle. Thanks to her wish, his old violent self would perish and be reborn as a wiser and more caring Delvon.
As a reward for this, the sprites were determined to bring Shaveenas wishes to life in the best possible way.
Shaveena slept for an hour, or it might have been a thousand years. In the Enchanted Grove time has no meaning - nor, indeed, any fixed direction.
Marika didnt know how long she had been trudging through the tangled forest. It was so gloomy in the interior that it was difficult to tell day from night. She thought she must have been travelling through the gloom for at least two days.
Not that it mattered. The gloom of the forest reflected the gloom of her spirit. Her life was in ruins. She had been betrayed by those she had loved the most.
Her prospects had been good. She had good qualifications, supportive parents, and the prospect of a scholarship ahead of her.
And then she had met Lanthea, and had struggled to understand the kind of desire she felt for the other girl. Lanthea was comfortable with her sexuality, but coming as she did from a very conservative family it had taken Marika months of struggling with her conscience before she was finally able to admit what her friend already knew.
So at last they had become lovers, and for two years they had been happy together.
And then Marikas parents had found out, and demanded that Marika end her unnatural relationship at once to avoid bringing shame upon the family.
Marika had refused point blank, and been instantly disowned by her family. Cut off without a coin to her name, she had been forced to abandon her scholarship and take a menial job to support herself.
And while all this had been going on she was unaware that Lanthea had begun seeing another woman. Just three moons after losing her family she found Lanthea gone, leaving a brief note of explanation. She and her new lover had taken ship for a more liberal country.
Marika had sacrificed everything for her lover and now it was all in vain. Mad with grief, she had run from her small apartment, run out of town and into the woods. By the time she finally exhausted herself she was hopelessly lost in the forest, freezing cold and starving
What have I got left to live for? she asked herself.
She had no answer to her own question, and yet she continued to trudge on into the darkness.
But to her surprise the darkness soon yielded to a bright clearing.
This is crazy, she told herself. There cant possibly be a clearing in this neck of the woods. Especially not one where its summer while outside its winter. That kind of thing only happens in storybooks.
But the clearing remained before her eyes, challenging her to deny its reality.
All right, she muttered. Ive gone crazy. Im really dying of exposure in the middle of the forest and Im hallucinating all this.
Birds sang and trees rustled. Deer grazed. The sun shimmered off the nearby stream.
So what am I complaining about? Its a pleasant enough delusion, so I might as well enjoy it before I die.
And with that thought she stepped fully into the sunlit glade and took a deep breath of its sweet fresh air.
Shaveena woke from a pleasant dream to find herself still lying beneath the tree in the sunlit glade. All was as she remembered. The glade had not been a dream.
She vaguely remembered her past life, of Delvon and his constant abuse, but all that was fading like an old nightmare along with the pain of her bruises. In any case, something told her that Delvon would not be coming after her, nor hurting anyone else. She could safely forget about him.
And so she lay quietly beneath the tree, feeling healthier and happier than ever she had been, and presently she was surprised to see another girl enter the clearing.
The strangers clothes and hair were ragged and filthy, and for a moment Shaveena thought she might somehow be looking at an image of herself as she had appeared when she first arrived. But then the stranger turned to look around, and Shaveena saw that her face was unfamiliar. She seemed to be muttering to herself. She was probably telling herself that this place couldnt be real. Shaveena didnt blame her.
The newcomer did not see Shaveena because she was not looking directly at her, and Shaveena was lying in the shade.
After a while the newcomer stripped off her tatters and walked over to the stream, just as Shaveena had done. Shaveena found herself aroused at the sight of the strangers body. That was also a surprise but by no means an unpleasant one, and she watched contentedly as the girl lowered herself into the water.
Oh, thats better, the stranger said. Then, after she had spent a little while luxuriating in the rippling water, she said: Oh, I wish this werent just a dream. Id be content to just lie here forever.
Funny, thought Shaveena. Thats almost exactly what I said.
The stranger went on: And I wish that cheating so-called girlfriend of mine could understand the pain she caused me, if only so she wouldnt hurt anyone else like that.
There was clearly a story there, Shaveena thought. Maybe later the stranger would share it with her.
And I wish those strait-laced parents of mine and their strait-laced friends and the whole damn strait-laced world could understand that its who you love that counts, not how, or with what, or what sex they happen to be.
The girl sighed and rose to her feet, taking care to keep her balance against the current.
But what I really wish, she said quietly; What I really, really wish for...is a lover who wont leave. Who wont walk away. A lover wholl always be there, no matter what. Thats what I wish for, if ever a wish could be granted.
Then she stepped onto the bank and turned slowly to let the sun dry her out, while Shaveena watched in an increasing state of arousal, encouraged by the playful breeze.
She had a mind to walk over and introduce herself. The other girl didnt seem very shy about her nakedness, and nor for some reason did she. But when she tried to stand up her body did not respond. It seemed that her body was not properly awake yet.
The girl eventually strolled over to the copse, and realised for the first time that she was not alone.
Oh, um...hello. Didnt see you there, she muttered, apparently embarrassed at the thought of having undressed and bathed in front of a complete stranger, even if that stranger was also naked.
Shaveena wanted to reply, but she was beginning to realise that something strange had happened to her. When she tried to speak no sound emerged from her closed lips, and when she tried again to move her limbs remained perfectly still.
She was puzzled, but not afraid. She was no longer able to be afraid.
If the stranger was also puzzled by her lack of response she did not show it. She merely spent some time studying Shaveenas face and body, and then sat down beside her and said, Hello. My names Marika.
When Shaveena did not (and could not) reply, Marika simply said: Ah. You dont feel like talking? Its all right. I understand. If youve been through anything like I have I can understand why you wouldnt want to talk about it.
Marika lay down beside Shaveena, and when she did not (and could not) object, moved closer until her hip and her arm were just touching Shaveenas.
Shaveena didnt mind at all. It just felt nice to be close to someone.
Marika fell into a peaceful sleep for the first time in days and dreamt that she was in love. And when she woke up she was still lying in the impossible summer glade with the beautiful silent girl by her side.
Marika raised herself on one elbow and spent some time just looking at her motionless companion. Then she saw that the girl was looking at her.
Good morning, Marika said. If it is morning, that is. Its hard to tell in this place. Um, look, I hope you dont mind me looking at you, only...well, I like girls, you know. That way. I know that offends some people, and I really dont want to cause offence, but...well, youre so beautiful, I really cant help looking.
Marika paused for a moment as if she was not sure how to say what she wanted to. Shaveena had already guessed what she was going to say, so it came as no surprise when she finally spoke.
The truth is...Id really like to do more than look.
She moved closer, almost close enough to kiss Shaveena.
I want to make love to you, she whispered. If you dont want me to Ill understand. I know how a lot of people feel about that sort of thing, only...only you are beautiful.
Shaveena could not reply, at least not in words. But she found that she was able to smile, and look down at her body, then back at Marikas, and then to gaze deeply into Marikas eyes.
For a long moment Marika was held by the silent girls stare. Then, without another word, she pressed her lips against hers and began to trace slow, swirling patterns upon the girls body with her fingertips.
For Shaveena it was an amazing experience. No one had ever touched her in that way before. Marika was touching her in all the places where she wanted to be touched, more lovingly and tenderly than any man she had ever known.
Shaveena wished she could repay Marika by caressing her too, but she had finally come to understand what had happened to her.
She had wished to lie quietly forever, and her wish had been granted - in the most literal sense.
Try as she might, Shaveena could not move. She could not make a sound.
Thanks to her own wish she would never move...never make a sound...until the end of time.
And yet she was not dismayed by this realisation. In this magical glade unhappiness did not seem to exist, and if she was to remain frozen there was no more pleasant place to be frozen in.
And she had wished for a real, kind and considerate lover, and that wish had also been granted. Marikas fingers slowly glided over her thighs and buttocks, while her lips and tongue caressed her left nipple.
Marika could do anything she liked to Shaveena, anything at all, and Shaveena could do nothing to prevent it even if she wanted to. And that realisation pushed her to the brink of sexual excitement.
The silent girl had remained quiet and still while Marika played with her body. Marika realised that she was enjoying the ability to do whatever she wanted to the girl without argument or restraint. But she was still a long way from finishing when she felt a small shudder run through the still girls body.
She looked up to see the girls eyes screwed tightly shut as her face grew flushed, and a tiny sigh - the only sound Marika had heard her make - escaped her lips. Her eyes slowly opened and gazed dreamily at Marika as if to thank her, and a tear dripped slowly from the corner of each.
Marika gazed back smiling. You liked that? she said.
She leant down to kiss the girl, pressing her nipples against the girls as she did.
Well, that was just the beginning. I promise you were going to have a good time together.
The girl smiled. Then her eyes closed again as she drifted off to sleep once more.
Marika followed her by pleasuring herself to fulfilment, with a little assistance from the playful breeze.
And as she fell asleep, snuggled against her quiet lover, she muttered to herself: I wish I knew where you were from. I wish I knew why youre so quiet and still. I wish you could tell me.
The sprites considered Marikas wishes. Allowing Shaveena to speak would violate her wish to be quiet, yet they had to fulfil Marikas wish that Shaveena could talk to her.
It was a seemingly irreconcilable paradox, but to beings with such powerful magic nothing is impossible.
When Marika woke it was a bright moonlit night. That surprised her a little. She had assumed that the magical clearing existed in an eternal day. But the night was every bit as magical as the day. Owls hooted, crickets chirped, and the moon - although she wasnt sure it was the same moon she had known all her life - turned the grass to silver and gave their bare skin the appearance of porcelain.
Marika turned to the girl and smiled. The girls eyes fluttered open and gazed dreamily back at her.
My porcelain doll, said Marika, languidly caressing her breasts. Why do you lie so quiet and still?
The girls lips did not part, and yet Marika somehow heard a clear, quiet voice reply:
Im lying here because I wished for it. And so did you, Marika.
It only took Marika a moment to realise what was happening. I can hear your thoughts, she gasped. I wished you could tell me about yourself, and now you can, without even having to speak.
Yes. Im glad I can talk to you now. My name is Shaveena.
Shaveena. Thats a nice name. But what do you mean, you wished to lie here and so did I?
When I came here, not long before you, I was so enchanted by this glade that I wished I could lie here quietly forever. And my wish was granted.
Marika was astonished. You mean...just because you wished for peace and tranquillity, you cant move at all any more? You can only lie perfectly still...paralysed...forever? Oh, Shaveena!
Its all right, Marika, thought Shaveena, really it is. I do love it here. Theres nowhere in the world I want to be but here. Besides, now I have the lover I wished for, and so do you.
You wished me here? said Marika.
I wished for a kind and compassionate lover. I guess someone would have come sooner or later. It just happened to be you. But if I wished for you, you wished for me too - and even if my wish hadnt struck me to stillness, yours would have done. You wished for a lover who would always be there for you, who wouldnt walk away. Remember? Well, here I am, and I cant walk away.
Oh, my, Marika breathed.
And dont deny it, Marika, youre aroused by being able to do whatever you want to me while I cant do anything to stop you.
Marika couldnt deny it. All the while they had been conversing she had continued to stroke and fondle Shaveenas body and her own, and her caresses had become even more intimate and intense when she learned of Shaveenas immobilised state.
And Im just as aroused by being helpless while you make love to me. We were made for each other, Marika, so never stop loving me.
I wont, Shaveena. I wish....
Be careful what you wish for, thought Shaveena.
As their bodies were overcome by ecstasy, Marika gasped:
I wish...I could make...love to you...forever!
Venya staggered into the grove, blinking in the sunlight.
All right, she told herself, Im going nuts. Not surprising after what that cheating bastard did to me, I suppose. Huh. Wish he could understand the damage he caused.
She looked around. The grove might be impossible, but it certainly felt real. There was a stream, and a group of trees, straighter and healthier-looking than the straggly forest trees.
And so she washed in the stream and dried herself in the sun, and then strolled over to the copse without bothering to dress.
When she reached the shade of the trees she was surprised to hear somebody sighing and gasping quietly. It was only then that she saw the two girls making love in the shade - or rather, one girl making love to another who lay completely still and passive. Apparently unconcerned by Venyas arrival, the active girl continued to kiss and fondle her silent partner.
Aroused by the sight, Venya knelt down and began stroking the moving girls back. The girl did not object, so Venya moved her hands a little lower.
Hello, she said. Im Venya.
The active girl turned her head and smiled at Venya, who smiled back and said:
I wish I could join you.