It was beautiful land.
Whether the person seeing it was a local or a visitor, distant kin or lost tourist, whether they loved or hated the people, the small town sins and virtues, the space and the quiet, the winding and slender roads, whether they were born with good earth under their feet, or whether the humming electric heart of the city beat in their chest, they would always say that it was beautiful land.
It was a land of high ridges and mountains cut through with rivers, creeks, and brooks that formed fertile valleys and lowlands. There were wide, clear patches of green and gold where corn, wheat, and soybeans grew or where cattle and horses were out to pasture, dotted with lines of fences and gates. Forests blossomed up here and there, as if sprung up between the fields though in truth they were far older than the cleared, tamed spaces. Some were small groves, others thin lines, others vast and deep swathes of green that hid secrets in their hills and dells. Thin ribbons of roads wound around hills and property lines in a haphazard seeming way that all in the area knew by heart; most were even paved though that had been done long ago and in many places the road was in need of repair. Houses, barns, and garages rose up against the landscape as though part of it, not intruding but as natural and normal as if they had grown instead of been built. The flowing waters cut deep enough and were small enough that only their channels could be seen but the flow could be heard as part of the steady background soundtrack of the natural world. The rest was wind and birdsong, the stirring of branches of newly sprouted leaves, and the occasional distant bark of a dog or far off lowing of livestock. Now and then a car would pass along the road; the thrum of its’ engine almost disruptive but seeming to be cut off and coming as if from another world overlapping this one, rather than a mere few hundred yards or handful of miles distant.
It had always been that way to him, Don thought as he climbed up the tallest hill in the valley and adjusted the heavy pack on his back, a wicker basket older than himself swinging in one hand. As though this whole area were some other world; separate and apart from the ugliness and dirtiness of the city where he lived and the town he’d grown up in. He was no fool and knew that this world had its own ugliness and sin…but there was no stain on the land in the same way as there was in other places. It was not built into the place and part of its structure and organization as it could be in the city. The wickedness here was all of men and when man passed, it would be fully pure without them.
Don was not a local but not a stranger either, depending on who you asked. His father had grown up here on the farm before going to college. The family had spent some time here when he was just a child but his father’s career had ended up taking them far away. But they always returned. Christmas, Easter, long weeks and even months in the summer, they came back. And so he’d grown up in a suburb in a small college town but still on the farm. He’d fed calves, mucked barns, bedded beasts down, helped with haying, cleared stumps, and while also going to school in the heart of town, having his first job at a shop on Main street, hanging out in the mall. He learned how to drive on an old International tractor though his first car was a tan colored 1990 Cavalier. He loved to read and study, enjoyed fantasy and science fiction, watched cartoons like a true geek but also walked lonely roads and trod forest paths, chopped wood, lifted and heaved, knowing how to use his body’s might as well as that of his mind. The town and the country were both part of him and he’d always felt part of both in return, a foot in two close but vastly different worlds. But this was the world that always called to him when he was away from it. This was the one he always wanted to come back to.
He had left the town for college and gone away to the city. Don went back to the town to visit his family, but he did not miss it. College, the city, was home now really and the town felt strange and small. But here…he felt welcome, he felt right, and he loved to turn into the driveway of his grandparents farmhouse and hear the gravel crunch under his tires and then get out and feel the land under his feet; alive and pure and real in a way the city simply was not for him.
It was Spring Break and he was off from his classes. While many of his friends were heading off to Florida or California, he had come back here to visit his grandparents and uncle, to see and work on the farm, and to spend some time just being in this beautiful land. Normally, he’d be staying in the farm house and waking up to do work, but he’d begged off to camp out for a day or two and really get away from the rest of the world.
And so he was coming to the one place in the county, barring some of the property of a few families that his didn’t know well or weren’t on good terms with, that he had never been to. The tallest hill in the valley could be seen from his grandparents’ house, as it could from many places though other hills and trees sometimes cut off the view. It was part of the land his family owned and was mostly cleared of any trees or large bushes, covered in green grass, clover, small violets and other wild flowers. All except the apex where the slope turned into a more or less flat sward that was dominated by a single large, many branched tree. The tree was old and massive; even from afar it looked bigger around at the base than a man was tall and many of its sky reaching branches were as thick as the trunks of lesser trees.
Don had looked out the windows and up at that ancient tree his whole life, wondering what the view would be like from the top of the hill, whether the old tree could be climbed, and had thought about going up there many times. But something had always come up or pushed the thought aside. As he got older, he noticed odd things about the tree and its hill. The tree never flowered or put forth new leaves. The cattle, nor the hands, nor his grandparents or uncles or any of the people who lived thereabouts ever went up there. No one said anything bad about it or seemed to really pay it any mind at all. But they never went up there, never spoke of it, and when he brought up going to the hill or asked about the tree, the topic was always brushed aside.
It was when he’d come down the road towards the farmhouse and looked to the west to see the hill and the tree that Don had made up his mind to finally go up there and see that ancient survivor of the long years of the world. When he told his relatives about wanting to camp, he’d said it’d be on the farm properly but not specifically where in case they would try to discourage him. And so it was now that he toiled up the sharp incline of the hill towards the flattened crown with a well laden and packed hiking frame pack on his shoulders. The slope had been gradual at first but increased dramatically over the last hundred feet or so, which explained why the cattle never ventured up here, at least.
Leaning forward against the slope and the backward pull of gravity, he struggled up to the top and felt a palpable relief as his right foot stepped onto the flat. Smiling, he heaved himself up and then sighed as he straightened up and took a few strides ahead before he turned to look out from the high hilltop. “Now that is a view worth a little climb,” he said in a soft, solid baritone.
He could see for miles, for forever it almost felt like. The surrounding farmland was all in his sight and even the other hills and ridges that cut through the area did little to shield anything from his gaze. He could see old Rocky Top to the east where the McDermott’s lived, all of his family’s land and that of their neighbors, the Ellis farmland and their matriarch’s white Plantation style house with its carefully manicured grounds and appearance were close enough that he felt he could almost reach out and touch the roof, and the small figures of their horses could be seen running in the fields. In the far distance he could make out the outskirts of the nearest town lurking against the hills and past that the power plant reared above it all and sent plumes of white, puffy steam into the air from the cooling towers. Further still, off away from it all were the blue rising ridges and mountains that rose to meet the rosy color of the sunset streaked sky.
The warm spring wind whirled and the top of the hill and over him, bearing the scent of fresh leaves and grass, the sweetness of wildflowers, and a faint hint of the stink of manure. He laughed and unbuckled the straps of his pack and then swung it to the ground; even that bit of stink was nice in the air. It was smell of the beasts of the land and of men working it and that was a fine thing in and of itself. The wind ruffled loose, short cut hair the color of drying hay; not so short as to be a buzz or crop cut but a professional length that just fell to his ears. Don’s face was handsome and strong, his features neither fine nor rough but nonetheless clear and distinct. His eyes were a deep and rich brown; the color of fertile earth if a lamp could shine through it. He was a tall man, a few inches over six feet in height and he had a powerful, broad shouldered build with his light skin taut over his strong body. Were it not for the glasses perched on his nose and the t-shirt with the original Avengers on it, he would have looked far more like a linebacker than a science major with a lifelong minor in geek.
Don rolled his shoulders and stretched and then pushed his glasses back up his nose with his right hand before turning back and approaching the tree. “My God, look at you,” he murmured as he drew near. It was huge and gnarled and magnificent; with smooth bark that was only jarred up around the places where branches had once sprouted that were now lost and grown over with the protective skin of the tree. It was unmarred by the usual graffiti one found on large, old trees; there were no initials in hearts, dates, or names scratched into the bark. There was a nest high up, though whatever bird had made it appeared to currently be out and there was a bole up, up well over his head that would have served a squirrel or owl well as a home.
He had half thought that once he got up here, he would find the tree dead and slowly rotting. Why else had it never put forth leaves or flowers? But it wasn’t. He wasn’t sure how he knew but he could. The trunk and the branches all looked healthy and on closer inspection…there were buds on the branches. So it could put forth buds, but why had he never seen them become leaves?
No leaves made it much harder to tell what kind of tree it was. Don had been in Scouts most of his life and spent a lot of time camping and learning about the plants and trees in the outdoors; he liked to think he was a solid forester. But even with his knowledge and familiarity with this area in particular, he couldn’t tell what kind of tree the massive thing was. Its bark wasn’t craggy, knobbled, or scale-like which discounted most of the kinds of trees that grew around here. The smoothness made him think of a beech, but the texture wasn’t right, or a young maple or pine but this was clearly not a young tree.
Standing next to it and underneath the spread of those long, towering branches made him aware of the vast age of the tree before him. How many centuries had it stood here and looked out as the world around it changed until it alone of the old growth stood atop this place? There was an odd scent under it as well that he found hard to describe. It was a woodsy, green smell that was alive and vibrant. It made him feel both peaceful and restive and he thought ruefully that it was too bad he didn’t have a girlfriend to bring along for this. The thought of making love in the shadow of this tree, with the world spread out below and around sprang into his mind and made him shiver, his manhood twitching in his jeans. God, that’d be incredible…even if the whole neighborhood could hear what you were up to if they were outside at the time.
Don reached out a hand and rested it against the trunk of the great plant. “Well, old man, I’m not sure what kind of tree you are, but you are magnificent. The stories you could tell if you could speak would be amazing.” He sighed and then shrugged apologetically, “You won’t get too much of a show though, I’m afraid; it’s just me this trip. Maybe next time I can bring a girl and give you something to see.” He patted the trunk and grinned up at the tree, feeling a bit foolish at talking to it, but also that it deserved being addressed and given its due.
With homage given to the great tree, Don set about preparing his camp. He had a small tent in case it got cold, rained, or there was heavy dew but he set up his raised camp bed and sleeping bag outside of it. Spring here was a fine thing; with the river so near it was warm and balmy even at night and with the few scattered clouds in the sky it promised to be a night with a remarkable sky. He hung the wicker basket on a branch that was as high up as he could reach, “Hold on to this for me for a little while, would you? Thanks.” Then he went off and gathered rocks first, taking care to make sure he didn’t get any sandstone, and returned to place them in a circle in one of the spots that was not so grassy to form a fire ring. Once he was sure of its soundness, he set off to find fodder for the flame with a pair of his older flannel shirts slung over a shoulder and a hatchet tucked into his belt. He went further afield now, down the hill into the valley and then up into the narrow copse of trees halfway up the nearest low ridge. Don found plenty of dead and fallen wood there to load up both shirts as make shift bags; he broke some of the longer pieces up into smaller bits but he neither broke nor cut nothing that lived.
The sun had been starting its descent when he first climbed the hill and as he returned to the summit with the night’s firewood the fiery orb was sinking below the far off mountains. Don set the wood down by the fire ring and stretched again, then paused and looked around. Things were…off, just a little. The stones of the fire ring looked like some of them had been shifted about. The basket still hung on the branch he’d set it on but the angle was different, though that could just be from the wind, and his sleeping bag was partly unrolled. Had he done that? He didn’t remember doing so but it was such a small thing that he could have well done so without really thinking. A quick inspection showed nothing missing from the basket or his pack in the tent. Still, it left him feeling a bit unsettled as he set to work on getting a fire going as the last light of the sun faded and died around him.
The incident had faded to the back of his mind an hour later as he sat on the ground by the small fire dancing merrily in the stone ring, looking up at the stars and drinking from one of the bottles of Danny Ellis’ homebrewed blackberry stout that his grandmother had packed in a small travel cooler for the wicker basket. He was a year short of legal but out here he’d probably be all right. The night sky was stupendous here; the best he’d ever seen. In the town he’d grown up in, and even more so in the city he lived in now, you just couldn’t see that many stars because of all the lights. Here the night was darker than dark and the tiniest pinprick of light in the endless canopy of the sky above could be seen. It always reminded him of the expression that the night sky was like “a sea of stars” and he wondered if whoever had first spoken or written that description had ever seen a sky like this. If not, it was mere hyperbole. But here, it was the best metaphor. The cold, bright lights soared overhead and gleamed and glowed, broad and fainter swathes of the Milky Way passing through and behind them. Looking up too long, you almost felt as if you were falling up towards them, head swimming in optical illusion vertigo.
The moon was a waxing half that night, casting enough silvery light to give some illumination but not to significantly shroud the stars. But beyond the little bit of light cast by his fire, though he knew it was visible for probably ten miles or more, the night was still staggeringly dark. The sun had taken some warmth with it but not a great amount, the night air was still warm and pleasant. Don was glad for the fire all the same; both for the heat and the light it gave him. He still felt very relaxed but that same restive, well, horniness that he’d felt earlier but beneath that there was a tingle of eerie awareness that there was something unusual about earlier.
It was likely just his active imagination and the nature of a darker and more silent night than he was used to. Outside of the sounds of the wind and the insects, the most profound sound of the night in this country was the silence. It was deafening at times in absolute stillness and quiet and any sound that broke it, even that of your own breathing, sounded as loud as a gunshot. It could make for a very scary environment if you let it get to you.
But Don knew this land and he knew that it was like this. It had never bothered him before. So why was it bothering him now? He looked up not at the stars but at the branches of the great tree that seemed to reach out to try and pick them out of the sky. Time passed and he nursed the bottle of booze and the feeling of strangeness grew in the back of his mind. There was an odd itch between his shoulder blades and he felt as it eyes were boring into him from somewhere out in the dark.
Finally, he felt like he had to say or do something. Don stood abruptly and picked up his flashlight from where it lay beside the camp bed. He clicked it on and shone it about the top of the hill, “All right, if someone’s out there, let’s get this axe murdering or whatever over with already. Otherwise, fuck off and let me enjoy the night in peace.”
“But I don’t have an axe,” said a confused, silvery feminine voice directly above him, “and I wasn’t thinking of murdering you, not that you didn’t tempt me with that fire. So let’s start “or whatever” then, okay?”
“GAH!” Don jumped back in shock, almost stepping into the fire as he did so, stumbling as a result, arms windmilling as he regained his balance just short of falling onto his back and down the hill. The voice laughed; a sound that was amused without malice and was like the rapid rustling of leafy branches but at a higher pitch. “Who’s there?” He shone his light up and then gaped as it fell across the unseen speaker.
She made no attempt to shield her eyes from the beam of his flashlight or showed any indication that it bothered her at all as it passed over her figure or even over her face. She, for that shape was most certainly female, was perched with her pert heart-shaped jewel of an ass sitting on a branch about twenty feet up, her long, bare legs kicking in the air as she looked down at him. Her skin was dark but not like an African-American or a Hispanic or an Indian or any shade of skin he’d ever seen before; it was the color of the outside of an acorn from a healthy oak and it seemed to gleam and reflect the light shone on her a little. Her hair, what he could make out of it, was dark and long enough to reach just past her shoulders and she appeared to have an uncountable number of beads woven into her tresses. Her face was young and beautiful, with fine features that made her almost look like a lovingly carved and polished wooden statue of a young woman. Her lips were the light pink of apple blossoms and her eyes were large and expressive, her corneas the light tan color of freshly exposed pine and her irises a startlingly vibrant green. He could see no pupil in them as they looked down on him with merry curiosity.
She wore a very old looking angora sweater that was stretched over an athletic, lithe body with modest but pleasing curves and a pair of worn looking Daisy Dukes. Those apple blossom lips smiled, “You should introduce yourself first, you’re the visitor, you know. But it’s okay, I know your name and where you’re from.” She shrugged and then slid off of the branch and plummeted towards the ground.
Don let out a strangled cry and dove to catch her; she’d break something falling from that height! The mysterious girl made no move to arrest her fall or roll with the impact but landed on her feet as if she’d hopped off a two foot stepstool, leaving Don to crash into the ground at her feet, her arms held up as if to catch her or in supplication. “Oh! That’s not necessary, though I like the thought,” her green eyes seemed to grow more vibrant and there was a flattered, pleased note to her voice. “You can get up though. Now, let’s see…you’re the oldest son of the second son of the man whose house is over there,” she said pointing out into the darkness. “The wind says your name is Don, which is good because I like the dawn.”
“Thank you,” he said as he rose, brushing himself off. He’d said it more because he didn’t know what else to really say to that. “May I ask your name, Miss?”
“Yay manners! They’re very important, you know. And yes, you may. I’m Dendra.” She held out a hand to him and smiled, “Pleased to meet you.”
“The pleasure’s all mine,” he answered, feeling a bit bemused and utterly at a loss as to what the hell was happening. He took her hand and shook it, blinking at the force of her grip; it was almost painful! Her skin was warm, very warm, and quite smooth but not soft. It wasn’t hard either but more of some sort of unyielding middle of the road. “Are you all right, Dendra?”
She tilted her head to one side, “All right?” Then she looked up into the branches where she’d been sitting. “Oh. Oh, yes, I’m fine. See?” The strange girl threw herself backward into a flip and came up on one foot, “Ta daa!” She extended the raised foot towards him and wiggled her six long toes at him in the same manner one might give a little wave. “But aren’t you sweet for asking!”
He didn’t answer for a moment, merely staring. Partly because of the dexterity and flexibility she’d just shown, partly because she had six toes which looked like they might have an additional joint in them, and partly because she was lovely and had called him sweet. Plus her quick and dramatic movement had demonstrated very well that she probably was not wearing a bra under that sweater. Don felt himself flushing a little and shrugged, “I guess I’m just not used to pretty girls falling out of trees. But I’m glad you’re okay. Um, how long have you been watching me?”
The mysterious stranger was standing over the now open wicker basket and looking at the cooler with intense interest. “Do you mean overall or just today?” She didn’t wait for him to respond but looked up with another smile that made his heart lurch and his dick twitch in his jeans. It had been a long time. “I was kind of aware ever since you got into the…” She paused for a few moments, one hand making a vague, swirling gesture in the air, “I’m not sure of the word. But I really started paying attention when you touched Him.” She turned her head and gazed at the ancient and gnarled tree with luminous eyes and a worshipful expression. “You spoke to Him and praised Him, which is only fair, and that really was nice. Most people who come up here wouldn’t do that, even if they thought it.” Dendra turned her eyes back to Don, “That made you interesting, so I started to watch.”
“Oh. Well, the tree does deserve a lot of praise. He’s very impressive.” She beamed at him, which deepened the flush on his cheeks, and then went back to studying his food. Don licked his lips. This was ten kinds of strange. He should be freaking out, and he really wasn’t. Could this all be a put on? It didn’t seem likely. He was enough of a geek and read enough fiction and mythology that he had a sneaking suspicion that…well, it just wasn’t possible. Was it? “Would you like something to eat or drink? I have enough to share.”
“Why thank you! Yes, I would.” She reached down and held up the bottle he’d finished off a few minutes ago. “What’s this? I like the smell. Can I have one of these?”
“Sure.” Don walked around the fire and unzipped the cloth cooler to pull out the last bottle of the stout. “Here you are.” He reached into his pocket for his pocketknife, “My knife has a church key on it, one second here and-”
Dendra shook her head, “I got it.” She took hold of the edges of the cap and pulled with no apparent effort; there was a popping hiss as the cap bent and gave to let the pressurized gas within vent. Don stared at her again; those were not twist off caps. It shouldn’t have come off and the metal edges should have torn into her fingers and left them bleeding. There didn’t even seem to be a scratch on her. “Cheers!” She took a long drink and made a happy, yum sound in her throat. She swallowed and licked her lips, “Oh, how interesting! There are so many flavors!” She plopped down on his camp bed, taking another drink and then sighed, nodding as she spoke, “You people have the best things to drink. Rain water is always refreshing but it gets SO boring sometimes!”
“I bet it does. That must be hard to deal with,” he answered in a kind of daze. His brain was compiling and analyzing everything he’d seen and it added up to…well, it couldn’t add up to that.
“Yeah!” She took another long drink, “Ahhh! Can I see what else you have in here?”
“Please, go ahead,” he nodded. She grinned and giggled before digging into the wicker basket. She lifted the provided foodstuffs, lifting them and looking at them closely, sometimes sniffing and then either putting them back in the basket or on the camp bed next to her. “Um, Dendra, I have a question and I know this is going to sound crazy, but I have to ask.” The unusual young woman paused in her rummaging to look at him. “But…are you a dryad?” Don felt like an idiot as soon as he said it, “You know what, forget I asked.”
“No, it’s okay.” She unwrapped a half a sandwich, playing a few moments with the plastic wrap before taking a bite and chewing with an almost indecent moan. “Oh,” she groaned with her mouth full, “This is so good!” She attacked the sandwich with abandon, scarfing it down in a matter of moments. “Mm!” Dendra licked her lips and then smiled back at him, “I guess that’s what you’d call me. I’m not Greek, and my tree isn’t an oak, but it’s a pretty good idea for what’s going on here.”
Don felt his legs wobbling a little and slowly sank to the ground. A dryad? Impossible! But there she was. Dendra was still talking as he reached up to push his glasses back up his nose and then rub his forehead. “I mean, I’m not human certainly, and I am part of Him. It might be more accurate to call me a nature or fertility spirit…but dryad sounds nicer, so let’s go with that.”
He ran his hand through his hair, shaking his head and looking down at the ground. Couldn’t this still be a prank or something though? It didn’t seem likely. But then what did this all mean? It made no sense at all! But maybe it did. Was she why people never came up here? A chill ran down his spine. Did she…did she do something to those who came uninvited? God, or lit a fire near her precious tree? What was this all about? What was she going to do to him? She was so strong, tough, and quick, if he ran, could he get away? Or was everything all right and would trying to run make her angry?
“Hey.” He heard her voice and looked to find her crouching down in front of him, her face on level with his and just inches away. Those pupil-less green eyes were concerned and her beautiful face was a bit sad. “Are you okay? I mean, with me and everything.” There was something more in those eyes as they looked back into his earth brown orbs. “When I show up, I usually scare people, even before they really know what I am. Are you,” her voice got small and soft, “are you scared? Are you going to run away? I’m sorry if I came on too strong, I was just so excited…”
God. It might be a trick and he might be an idiot but she looked so sweet and so afraid of being rejected that it just broke his heart. Whether she was human or not, he couldn’t hurt a girl’s feelings like that. “No, you’re fine, Dendra. Really.” Don gave a faint shake of his head, “I’m not scared of you and I’m not running off. It’s just…you’re a lot to take in at once, that’s all. But in a good way.” Hoping he wasn’t about to get his head slapped clean off, he reached out and ran the back of his hand over one of her cheeks with gentle tenderness. “I mean, it’s not every day a girl as gorgeous as you comes around, human or not.”
Her lips slid upwards slowly into a grin and she then quirked her brow, though it was bare of any eyebrows, “Darn right! You should appreciate your luck!” Then her expression softened into a sweet smile. “Thank you for not running, and for the compliment. Not that I didn’t notice you looking.”
Don flushed and looked away, “Sorry about that.”
“I don’t mind.” Dendra stood up and danced back a few paces to strike a pose with her back arched, arms up to tousle her long, dark, thick hair…which he now noticed didn’t have beads in it but buds on it. “I’ve got the goods and I know it; look all you like, handsome. I like the attention.”
She was honest about it at least. Don chuckled, “Noted. Don’t mind if I do, you really look great.”
She gave an enthusiastic giggle and then bounced back over to his camp bed. The dryad sat back down and patted the space next to her. “Come on over. I don’t get much company. I’d love to just sit close and talk for a while before.”
He rose, “Before what?” Don came around and sat down on the cot about a foot away from the inhuman beauty.
She shook her head and then scooted over to press herself against him. He stiffened, in more ways than one, at the feel of her plushness against him, the warmth of her body, and the smell that drifted off of her and seemed to stir his desire. “So let’s talk. I want to hear all about the world away from here. I know you’re off at college in some city, and that’s some kind of really serious school. Tell me all about it!”
Don had never before had such an attentive audience. Dendra was fascinated by his description of the city and of college life and asked question after question. He answered them as best he could and was soon surprised to find he was enjoying this, enjoying talking with her, immensely. She outright laughed at his jokes and seemed to enjoy needling or teasing him about his life, his friends, and his lack of a girlfriend but it was never mean or cruel. It was light and silly and after a time, he realized it was flirtatious. She was flirting with him. With him! She wasn’t too subtle about it but it showed how little he knew about the romance game. She was even less subtle about their closeness. Fifteen minutes into their talk, she’d taken the bottle they were sharing out of his hand and pulled his arm around her shoulder before snugging up closer to him.
After a time, the conversation turned to her. Dendra talked about the things she’d seen in her long life, hundreds of years by human standards, or stories the wind told her. She talked about how things had gotten so much more interesting since humans showed up and even more so when the white people came here. Times weren’t always good and were often sad but there was so much going on and all these wonderful new inventions and creations. Don changed his mind a little about his earlier thoughts; the trees and the mountains might not miss man when he was gone, but Dendra would. That made him feel a little better about his species.
She spoke especially about the land and its fertility and her lovely face was sad and grim. “It’s getting harder for the people here, and the animals and even the plants too.” She looked up at him, “You’ve heard people talking about it, right?”
Don nodded, looking a bit surprised, “Yeah, though I thought it was just old people complaining. You mean…it is getting harder to grow things?”
“It is.” Dendra shook her head and then leaned it against his shoulder, “The fertility of the land is fading, and it fades from the soil, the beasts, the plants, even the water and the fish. More animals are born with defects or sickly and more crops die or get rot or parasites and the land itself just doesn’t have the strength to give them.”
“Good God,” he murmured. He gave her shoulders a consoling squeeze, already comfortable and familiar with her enough to do so. That should have bothered him but it didn’t. “That’s awful. Why is it happening?”
“Well, it’s because of Him.” She looked over at the tree whose branches loomed over the pair. “I’m not sure how to say it in human terms but he’s sort of…the boss spirit for this area in terms of nature. Its’ fertility flows from Him. And it’s been so long since he’s flowered…” Dendra shook her head again, the buds in her hair rustling as they rubbed against each other. Holding her this close, he’d noticed that her hair wasn’t actually hair but a series of very thin, flexible twigs or maybe vines, which made the buds on them more reasonable. “The last time was quite the flowering,” her lips quirked into a proud smirk at that and then she sighed, “but it was a long time ago and the power of it has almost all faded away.”
Don was looking at the ancient tree. “I always wondered why he never got new leaves or flowers.” He sighed and looked out over the darkened landscape, barely illuminated by the cold light of stars and moon and the fading embers of the fire. This beautiful land…would it fail entirely? What would happen to the farms and the families? Would some massive soulless farming conglomerate buy the land and squeeze the last from it? Would it be torn up in the search for coal or fracked into pieces? Or would it just get swallowed up in poverty and despair? That was already starting to happen. “It’s terrible. I don’t want that to happen. Is there any way to change it? Or some way to make the tree flower?”
Dendra looked down and a small, triumphant, and frankly naughty smile crossed her lips. When she looked back up, her eyes were warm and there was a shy, sly look on her pretty face. She nibbled her lower lip, “There is a way. I can do it, but I can’t do it alone.” One of her small hands slid to his thigh and started to rub along it. “I need someone’s help.”
He felt a rush of heat and was more aware of her and her body than he had been a moment ago. Was this what all this was about? Did she need him for some kind of ritual? “My help. Was that why you appeared to me?”
She shook her head, “Not at first. I really was just curious. But as I watched you…I thought you might be able to. Like I said, everyone else I’ve shown myself to for the longest time has gotten scared and run away. When you didn’t, I was hopeful, and then we talked and I decided that I liked you. And that I wanted your help but I wasn’t sure how to bring it up.”
Don believed her; he didn’t know that he should, but he did. God, she felt so good against him. Her smell was so…arousing. And the way she was touching him, rubbing his thigh like that. Fuck, he hoped she wasn’t going to kill him or something. He’d feel like such a fucking tool. “I want to help. Is it…some kind of ritual or something? It’s not a, uh, a human sacrifice thing, is it?”
“No,” she said, sniffing dismissively, her expression growing indignant “you know those stupid Aztecs and all the rest who were into that thing were totally missing the point! I mean,” she stopped and then shook her head, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. Then she looked back up at him with warm, hungry eyes that send a delighted shiver through him. “No, don’t be afraid. You don’t kill for fertility, silly human boy.”
Before he could speak again or move, Dendra had stood and then slid onto his lap, straddling him. He gasped as her plush breasts pillowed against his chest and he felt her press her crotch down and grind against his. “Fertility comes from this,” and her apple blossom lips pressed to his in a tender, eager kiss. He responded without hesitation or fear, and in some corner of his mind he realized he’d wanted this to happen even if he’d felt it wouldn’t. Her lips were soft and velvety and she tasted sweet. Her lips parted and they moaned together as his tongue entered her, tasting her deeply as it met her own. The kiss broke and she smiled, “Well, really it’s from what comes after that for humans, at least most humans, but I think you have the general idea.”
He laughed and kissed her again, bringing a happy squeal from the nature spirit. It became a purring groan as their tongues met and dueled again, lips sealed together. He parted them just enough to speak, lips brushing hers as he did so, “You’ve made it pretty clear and I’m glad. I wanted this with you.”
She giggled, “I know, and so do I.” Dendra leaned back on his lap and jerked her head back a bit, “On the ground, Don. We have to touch the earth.”
Don chuckled, “I just think you like being dirty.” He slid his hands beneath her and stood carefully, grunting with surprise at how much she weighed. The young man walked towards the trunk of the tree and then knelt, straining not to drop her, and set Dendra down on the soft grass.
The brown skinned girl stretched and gave him a languid smile, “Yes, and I think you do too.” She reached up and ran a hand down his cheek, his neck, to grab the neckline of his t-shirt. “Take it off, all of it. I want to see you. It’s been more than a hundred years since I’ve seen a man naked and you’re handsome and fit…”
He took a moment or two to slip his socks off his feet before he stood up blushing. “Haven’t you seen plenty?” Don didn’t wait for her to answer to obey her request, pulling his t-shirt up and over his head and tossing it aside.
“Mm, I can’t see into houses or anyplace people build unless I’m invited in,” she answered, those green alone eyes scanning his chest. Don’s body was hard and strong from his labors and swimming when he wasn’t at the farm; leaving him with a slightly defined, muscular form. There was a thin dusting of hair on his pecs and down the middle of his chest. “Ohhh, man pelt.”
Don blushed deeper, his hands pausing in unbuckling his belt. “Sorry, uh, I know it’s-”
“Shush,” she interrupted. “I like it. I like everything I see so far.” Dendra nibbled her lower lip and her hands deftly unbuttoned her cut off shorts and one slid into them. “Ohh, but I haven’t seen the best yet. Off with it all, baby.”
God damn, that was so fucking hot. He wasn’t sure if he meant her touching herself looking at him or this gorgeous woman calling him “baby” like that. Don grinned and pulled the leather binding on his waist open before his hands moved to his jeans. He was always nervous about this part; it wasn’t like he hadn’t had a good reception in the past but still, there was a certain tension in a girl seeing your dick for the first time. “As you wish.” He took a deep breath and pushed his jeans and boxers down his legs at once; his hard cock jumping free of the restraining fabric and then he straightened up to expose himself to her eyes.
“Oh. Oh, baby,” Dendra sighed happily and stared openly at his manhood. “You’ve got the biggest root I’ve ever seen; long, thick, ohh, modern times are just the best! Diet, health, you never got this kind of thing in the old days.” She licked her lips and sat up, “It’ll feel so good, reaching deep in me, where no one’s ever been before…” Then she twirled an upraised finger in a circle, “Turn around, I want to see your ass!”
Don obeyed with a smile; the nature spirit’s admiration of his body buoyed his spirits immensely and had caused his member to swell further towards full hardness. He should feel more nervous in any sexual encounter but in a situation as strange as this, even more so. Yet he didn’t. It felt natural. He stood facing away from her for a few moments, and on a whim, wiggled his ass at her. “What do you think?”
He could hear movement behind him and then a soft rustling, “Verrry nice! Oh, I just have to…sorry in advance!”
Before he could ask her what she meant there was a ‘crack’ that carried across the hilltop loudly and a stinging pain jumped from his ass right to his cock, making it throb and jump with excitement. “Yow!” Well, he hadn’t known that about himself. Don whirled, his expression shocked and his cheeks flushed, “What did you do that…uh…for.” His indignation fled and he stared openly as an appreciative, leonine smile spread over his lips.
The dryad was nude now, her clothes nowhere he could see, though they were actually tossed up into some of the lower branches. Her smooth, nut-like skin was flawless and taut, particularly over her flat stomach. Her breasts were lusciously round and high orange-sized mounds of flesh that jutted into the air with pride; each lovely tit presenting a hard, pointed nipple that was the same apple blossom pink as her lips. She was kneeling with her legs spread apart, sitting up on her knees to better show off the lips of her sex, the same brown as the rest of her skin but with a hint of pinkish white beneath, glistening with wetness. A sweet, flowery scent wafted from between her legs and there was no hair to be seen on her.
“I just couldn’t resist!” Dendra shrugged and grinned, “I’ve heard men talking about ‘slapping that ass’ and heard it in songs. It’s fun! And your butt feels really nice.” Her grin grew as she noticed his gaze and she lifted her arms up to lift her hair over her head, piling it on top and making a pouty expression as she arched her back and puffed out her chest. “And I don’t have to ask if you like what you see. But you’re not just going to watch, are you?”
Don all but pounced on her, drawing a happy laugh from the cheery woman before his lips found hers. She leaned back and let herself fall back onto her cute ass, legs unfolding and entangling with his own. Their hands wandered freely to explore and caress one another. Her warm, small fingers played over his chest and ran through the fine hair in delight, making him shudder. His own questing digits slid down her back, feeling along the lines of muscles and her spine, until he rubbed his palms over the globes of her butt and made her gasp. It became a whimper as he broke their hungry kiss and moved lower, his lips and tongue praising and following the curve of her neck and then lower still. Her head went back and she moaned softly as he kissed along her collarbones and then dipped down to plant fervent, firm kisses on her right breast.
He made a low, growling purr in his throat as he ran the edge of his tongue along the outer curve of her pert tit. God, she felt amazing. And she was so responsive! She was writhing beneath him as he teased her modest breasts, having shifted about to press her sex down against his thigh and grind into it, leaving a wet, sticky smear on his skin. “You’ve got such pretty tits, Dendra,” he purred, “I could grope and taste these sweets all night.”
She chuckled and one of those too strong hands ran through his hair, “Modern men love them, don’t they? I don’t mind; in the old days, most men would have already put it in me. I like this foreplay thing.” Her eyes half lidded as he licked over her nipple, “Ohhh, I like it a lot. Mmm.”
Don didn’t answer her, at least not in words. He ran the tip of his tongue over the raised texture of her areola clockwise and then back the other way. He kissed the pointed stiffness and then slid it into his mouth, wrapping his tongue about it and slithering it away before he began to suckle. Dendra cried out and arched her back, the hand in his hair gripping tightly, “Ahh! Oh!” She looked down at him and licked her lips, “Keep doing that,” she pressed in a breathy, happily surprised voice.
He pressed his face against her breast more firmly and suckled at her teat with gentle firmness. His hands moved to grope her breasts as he feasted on her nipple; he kneaded and massaged them, trying to coax more enjoyment out of the sensitive flesh for his inhuman lover. Don lifted his head only to move to her left breast and open wide, taking her nipple and as much of her tit as he could get into his mouth and sucking hard and eager at the plush flesh.
Dendra licked her lips, her head rolling from side to side, “Oh, that’s good. Never, nn, thought my tits could feel this way! I’d, hnn, have been playing with them all the time!” It looked hot too. She lifted her head up to watch him, his cheeks concave as he sucked, lips sealed around her flesh, eyes closed, paying worshipful homage to her breasts. “Suck me, Don baby, show me, ohh, what that talented mouth can do.”
He took her nipple between his teeth and lightly tugged, making her squeal, and then gave it a last lick before pulling his mouth of her breast with a slurping pop. “My pleasure, gorgeous. But you haven’t felt half of what a mouth can do yet, sweet thing. Lay back and spread your legs for me, please.”
She looked a bit disappointed but also curious. “Okay, sure.” The two former strangers disentangled and she scooted back a bit towards the trunk of the tree and laid back, propping herself up on her elbows to watch. Her legs opened and she smiled as she watched his eyes fall on her slick slit. Then she blinked as he lay down with his head between her legs. What was he doing? His hands ran up her legs to stroke and caress her thighs, “Ahh, Don, what are you doing?” He couldn’t be…was that something humans did together?
He just smirked and lowered his face to her sex; he could feel its heat beating on him and he breathed in deep and sighed, “God, you smell like an orchard in bloom.” Don heard her hissed intake of breath as she felt his on her wetness and then he let his wet, pink tongue out between his lips and drew it from the base of her slit all the way to the very top. Fuck, and she tasted like warmed apple juice.
“FUCK SHIT COCK STOMPING!” Dendra’s legs kicked and her head went back, whipping her twig-like hair through the air with a sound like a gale blowing through a willow grove. She moaned out loudly as she felt the warm, wet muscle slide back down again and then up once more, her heart seeming to almost stop in her chest, breath catching in her throat. She let out a high, strangled squeal as his tongue licked back down her slit and then up again before starting to lap at her wetness with short, quick licks. “Fuck! Oh, no one’s ever, ever-hnnahh,” she moaned loudly, sound carrying over and down the hillside.
Don lifted his head, licking lips that were glossy with her juice. “That’s a shame, you taste great.” She smiled at that, her pupil-less green eyes a bit glazed and vague. “I’d like to keep going. Is that all right?” Some women didn’t like it though, or thought it was dirty. That seemed crazy to him; just like those guys that said they’d never go down on a woman. How could they not want to taste that sweet sex or feel and hear her writhing and moaning like that?
“Uh, uh-huh,” she nodded. Then she sat up, “Oh, wait a second!” She reached down and pulled his glasses off of his face before sliding back on the ground to put her back against the trunk of the great tree. Dendra reached up to hang his glasses on a low branch and then spread her legs further apart. “This way I can watch you. Now, get that pretty face over here and lick me!”
He pushed up to his hands and knees and crawled over to her, “Yes, ma’am.” He stayed on his knees, leaving his ass up in the air, his own legs wide apart to expose his butt and his genitals, and brought his face down to her glorious snatch. One arm slid under her left leg and curled around to stroke her stomach, the other caressing her right leg. Don breathed in her aroma again before he pressed his lips to her lower ones in a sweet, firm kiss. Her groan cut off in a strangled gasp as his tongue slipped past both their lips and sank into the velvety tightness of her pussy.
Don fed his tongue into her pussy; wriggling as far as he could into the shockingly hot, slick channel. Her flavor changed deeper inside, becoming richer and thicker, almost like the hot fluid in an apple pie. He ran his tongue over her walls, trying to taste every inch of her insides that he could reach. Dendra whimpered and writhed as she felt his tongue squirming in her, “Oh, that’s so dirty! And it feels great! More!”
He pulled his tongue out and licked her slit again. His moan mingled with hers as he used every motion and trick he’d ever used or read about to tease and explore the beautiful vagina in front of him. His head bobbed and moved from side to side as he worked; slipping over her labia, pushing past them and up to briefly tease her clit, back down to dip into her passage. She grew wetter and wetter as he eagerly ate her, his face glistening with her readiness. One of her hands slid into his hair, taking hold and urging him on silently, her breath coming in feathery, fast pants that grew closer and closer together, high and higher in pitch.
Dendra trembled as she felt these new pleasures burst upon her. In all the centuries of her life, no one had ever done this to her before. The slippery, slick feeling of his probing, loving tongue brought more joy from her folds that her hand had ever done before and more than some lovers had ever drawn from her. His breath was cool on her wetness, sparks streaking through her as it reminded her exactly what he was doing. There was a faint scratching from his stubble, just enough to tease and add one more tingling sensation on top of the rest of it all. Every brush of those lips, every praising lick of his warm, wet muscle, and every rush of breath on her sex built and built and built her pleasure within her, higher and higher.
Her breath was coming so fast she was almost hyperventilating, her tits bouncing more than rising and falling, her eyes wild, and her mouth open and panting. Then his tongue hit her clit again and the charge of pleasure inside her exploded past her limits and blasted like lightning through her, “AHHAHHHgghk!” Her scream cut off with a strangled sound as it went past hearing but her mouth was still opened wide, eyes screwed so tightly shut it seemed her lids might crack, her legs kicked, toes curling, and it took all the will she could muster not to yank his scalp clean off. Instead she just jerked his head into her snatch harder as her cunt gushed what left like a flood onto his face.
The searing electric joy faded after a few moments, leaving her feeling giddy and deliciously weak. She could barely breathe and her whole being felt suffused with golden light. This made the second eruption of her pleasure all the more surprising and wonderful. Don didn’t stop as she came down but took the sweet, swollen nub of her clit in his mouth and licked with determined strokes over the sensitive flesh. She registered her attentions, felt the pleasure from them, but it rose and burst before she could truly get her orgasm addled mind to acknowledge it.
Dendra’s sex quivered against him a moment before her limbs tightened up again, body shaking, a helpless, happy wail rolling out and over and down the hill. God, he loved making any woman cum, but this! He’d never seen anyone react this strongly before! Her pussy was sopping wet, her hot, apple pie glory flowing freely not only over his face but onto the ground to soak into the dirt. The hand in his hair was pulling almost painfully now and he felt a vague note of concern that maybe he should stop; she wasn’t human and she seemed to be a lot stronger than she looked. Maybe he should let her ease down and relax a little, in case she hurt him by accident.
Don started to suck on her pearl hard, flicking his tongue madly over that sweet, tender, devastating button. Her wail became a quivering shriek that sharply rose and then cut off as a third climax roared through her body before the second had ended. Her hand left his hair before both of hers reached to grab the earth on either side of them, her fingers digging furrows into it without apparent effort. Her thighs closed on his head, starting to squeeze as he continued to tongue her clit, wanting her to cum more still, to remember this, to remember him and her first oral sex for the rest of her potentially endless days. It was getting harder to breathe and her thighs squeezed tighter. Don felt a sudden stab of fear, of worry that this would be the death of him, but he kept licking all the same.
“Ggh, duh, D-Don!” Dendra wrenched her legs apart. Fuck, she was burning down! Her whole body felt scorched with pleasure! “Saah, suh, stop,” she panted, a needy whine in her voice, “please, oh, it’s so good buh, but too much! Can’t breathe!”
He gave her swollen pearl a last kiss and then raised his head. From his nose down, his face practically shone with a coating of her pleasure. He licked his lips, savoring the taste of her a moment as he watched her weakly writhe against the trunk of the vast tree. His eyes were worried; had he taken it too far? “Did I overdo it? Are you okay, Dendra?”
“O…okay?” She laughed, the sound gaining strength as it went, a deliriously happy smile on those apple blossom lips. “Okay? No, no, noooo, I’m so much better than okay.” The dryad beamed down at him, her chest still rising and falling dramatically as she regained her breath. “I’ve never felt anything like that. So much pleasure, all at once, one after another…it was the best!”
Don grinned and sat up on his elbows. It was hard not to feel a swell of pride at that. Though in addition to pride and happiness at her pleasure, he also felt a renewed hunger. Seeing her thrash and hearing her wail, feeling her pussy gushing, all of it made him want to experience that again but with her wet walls quaking around him. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, Dendra, but hopefully it’ll just be second best.”
She giggled and then nibbled her lower lip, ducking her head artfully, “Mm, only one way to find out, isn’t there?” The slender spirit moved to plant her feet on a wide spread pair of roots and lifted herself up to a half standing position with her upper back pressed against the trunk. Don got to his feet, pumping his half hard cock and watching her intently. Her hair…it might have been his imagination but he buds looked a little bigger, as if they were starting to open. One of her delicate hands ran down her body to part the all but dripping lips of her sex and spread them, “I need you in me, Don. Join with me, seed me, give life to the land.”
He groaned and his cock rose to fullness once more, flooding him with refreshed desire. “I’ve never wanted anything more,” he said, and for all the triteness of the expression he fully meant it. Don strode up to her and then sank to his knees, leaning in to kiss her; their lips meeting in fierce anticipatory joy. He then shifted himself lower and forward, both of them gasping and then sighing as his manhood pressed against her hot pink treasure. “God, Dendra,” he murmured, “you feel amazing already.”
She smirked as he sank lower, her eyes hungry and proud, “Just wait.” Then she nodded and lowered herself down. The engorged head of his cock pressed to her entrance and they both shivered as she paused and held there, wiggling her hips just enough to rub her pussy over his cock, wetting and slicking him with her juices. He grunted, barely breathing, and then she let herself down and his breath burst out in a long, groaning, primal growl as he entered her. Her hot flesh spread around him, opening to his thick, long cock, tight and snug yet yielding. That scorching, sopping, silken heaven wrapped about him and engulfed more and more of his dick as she lowered herself down. The dryad moaned loudly as she impaled herself on his generous manhood, inch after inch, until at last her hips rested against his and she felt his balls against her ass.
Both sets of eyes fluttered open and met; wondering, delighting gazes that spoke volumes in silence. Her walls gripped and seemed almost to caress him, even unmoving, and his rod fit and filled her in ways she’d not felt in a century and never so fully. They stayed so, simply joined and raptured by it, for a long minute of tender bliss. Then he pulled his hips back and her lips parted, a moan staggering out of her as he withdrew almost half of his dick and then he groaned out as he pushed back in and sank into her perfect depths.
Don couldn’t believe how good she felt; hot and slippery and just the right kind of friction rippling through him from their slightest movement. He took another slow stroke, pulling more out this time, before sinking back into her, “Fuck, Dendra, you feel so good, best I’ve ever, nn, imagined, let alone had.”
She leaned against him, her soft tits pressing against his chest, moving to fully be sitting on his lap and straddling him. “You’re pretty damn good yourself; longest, thickest root I’ve ever had in me before.” The nature spirit rotated her hips and made them both groan before she lowered her head and kissed his neck, “Now let go and do it. No holding back, I can take it and I want it.”
He let out a throaty chuckle and drove hard into her, making her bounce up off his cock a bit, and let out a silvery, laughing shriek. Don’s arms took firm hold of her hips and he began to thrust up into her with wanton, lustful need. Fast and deep he drilled up into her welcoming flesh, Dendra throwing her head back and whooping as the slap of their bodies coming together made a steady, pounding rhythm in the starlit night. Again and again and again he launched into her wet channel, snug about his plunging prick, hugging and squeezing his as he fucked her.
His hips moved as he thrust up, the angle of his plundering cock just enough different each time to touch new parts of her and make pleasure blossom within her in hew ways. She crowed with delight, her legs working to bounce her on his lap and bring her down to meet his thrusts, trying to drive him yet deeper into her core. “Oh, that’s good! So good, keep, ahn! Keep it up, Don baby!” She bit her lip and her arms tightened around his shoulders, Dendra hugging herself to him. She let out a whine, pumping herself up and down faster yet. So close already!
Don grunted and groaned as he hammered up into her, the slurping slap of their coupling coming faster and faster, “Dendra,” he gasped, “so fucking great! Can’t, ugnn, God, fuck! Can’t believe it!” Over and over and over they came together, his cock hammering home, driving deep into the center of her being, plunging almost into her very core itself. “Baby, I’m-”
“I know, me too,” she yelped. “Don’t stop!”
He snarled his understanding, her head going back and his back arching as he pistoned in and out of her as hard and fast as he could muster. Fuck, fuck, he was getting so close! God! Not yet, hold on, just a little longer! The tension growing behind his balls grew and grew, a wild and desperate thrill building with it. She whimpered and bounced her hips frantically, her head shaking back and forth as she rushed towards her own joy. Fuck! Hold on, hold on, just…a little…guh, more!
She screamed and bent away from him, head flung with eyes staring wide upward before screwing shut, her back arching in a perfect curve, her limbs trembling. Her pussy went mad around him; spasming, clenching, spurting her joy onto his thighs as she creamed. Dendra rode him still, driving herself further in the midst of her orgasm, reaching out to grab his face and wrench his gaze to hers, “Cum in me now! NOW!”