(c) Nin Harris 1998-2007
Step gently here, for the inhabitants are shy. Would you like a glimpse of the Wild Maiden? Listen carefully as she steps on crackling brown leaves with bare, stained feet. The rustling sound it makes is like fresh paper crumpled within the fist of a frustrated writer. Watch her move from tree to tree, her being personifying silence. She wears an earth-brown tunic and her long dark hair is looped into a single coil at her neck before flowing down to her knees. Follow her to a clear languid pool of unknown depths that lies at the forest’s heart. This is where the creatures of the forest, seen and unseen, venture to drink of its healing waters. They pay her no heed as she kneels and cups her hands to drink deeply. Faeries and bogles, gnomes and elves, phoukas and djinns hover just beyond your line of vision. The waters will allow you to discern things of darkness and light , things that hover beyond the veil of clarity. You may also glimpse things only half suggested in your nightmares. Unless you learn to shut off those nightmarish sights, don’t even dream of sampling these waters. If you do wish to learn, there is an old medicine woman in Mykologosia who can teach you that spell (for a minimal fee, of course).
If you would go in search of her, be wary of the penunggu who live in every tree. They are nurtured within each seed and grow with it, dark creatures of no substance who feed on the blood of any unsuspecting creature and sometimes seep into other forms to cannibalize their lives. They are a part of Nemorosum Somnium, and lurk in every corner, as many of them as there are trees. They are not the same as the Dryads but are a kind of parasite who use the trees as hosts. They keep away from the Maiden, for she is no ordinary mortal, just as they keep away from Ackbroll of the Silver Spear, a half-wild hunter who can run like lightning and disappear as swiftly as any faerie.
She has also come across shades who have strayed from Silva Atra, creatures of shadow who have taken the shape and configuration of monkeys, owls or even hummingbirds, hungry for the taste of human flesh. The Maiden is well-versed in the dangers of this forest. A flick of her magical sling and its faithful moonstone – a gift from the Faerie Lord – sends the creatures scurrying back to Silva Atra. She recognizes them only by the faint miasma of green light that they give off.
The Maiden has taken it upon herself to chase as many shades and other things of horror out of the Forest of Dreams as she can. She shares this quest with Ackbroll of the Silver Spear. She never talks to him. Ignoring his wistful glances she will not even acknowledge his presence. For all his feyness, Ackbroll is still a mortal, and she is even less fond of mortals than she is of shades.
The night-time of the forest is a friend to the Maiden; the softly swaying lianas her trusty companions in her quest to reach the stars. She will climb, nimbly up the glorious old giants of the forest, to the very tops of the trees amongst an eldritch company of night-birds and wind-spirits. Up there is the rich silence of the night, where the night-winds blow cool and soft; the loving touch of an ethereal mate. There, her soul will leave her earth-bound casket to become one with the indigo sky with the millions of sand-strewed glimmering stars, with the lonely, lovely, silver moon, who travels across the sky hunting for her long-lost mate, the sun.
The indigo sky and its stars are the Maiden’s cloak as she traverses the hidden roads of the Universe. From sunset to sunrise, she is alive as no other human being can be, up in her fortress in the sky, on trees so high that at times a wispy cloud would get caught in its topmost branches. At times like these, the maiden, in her earthly form, runs her wondering fingers through its insubstantial form and feels, absorbs tiny pinpricks of energy that seep into her body. She may survey the rest of the island – the bustling night-market of Mykologosia, the dark shadow of Silva Atra, the livid glow of Camena Draconis as well as the magnificent shapes of the dragons who fly towards it, stopping on the way to chat with her or to carry her on their backs.
It is not easy to catch a glimpse of the Maiden. The day will find her asleep in the protective hollow of her beloved old Giant, on a mattress of crisp brown leaves. If you are very careful and make sure you are not seen, you can watch her pick berries, fruits and herbs for her sustenance in the late afternoon, or at the Pool of Dreams with the weretigers – if you dare venture so close.
The Maiden has not always been in the Forest. She entered this realm the hard way, swimming through Alta Exsilii to arrive dripping wet and shivering at Domus Exsulis, escaping the war that beleagured her nation and obliterated her home. She has tasted pain and has seen the cruelty that humans can inflict on each other. This is the world that she has renounced. Here has she found peace and the time for dreaming.
Dreams are precious yet ephemeral things. They are as light as pixie wings, and yet they can infuse the darkest dwelling with the soft glow of hope and beauty. There are many inhabitants of the Forest. All of them are seeking. Some of them remain. Perhaps you will be one of them. Perhaps you have wished for, or dreamt of this place. Perhaps you have wondered about the things that hover at the corners and the crevices of your thought. Perhaps you too, are a wild soul waiting to be set free.