Thoughts of Myrddin Emrys
by Jussi Melartin
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
Roger and Miriam
Naturally, Roger had heard the stories of the Wood, and like most he avoided going near it, although the air of mystery around the ancient forest intrigued him. One night he dreamt of a fox and a badger, walking along a forest stream. The fox jumped over the stream and the badger disappeared down his burrow behind a mossy old log. Roger awoke with tears in his eyes, he knew not why.
That day Roger had errands to run in town, and the road he chose took him past a part of the Wood. As he walked he spied something golden glinting in the weeds, and he leapt over the ditch for a closer look. To his astonishment the object that had caught his eye was a gold doubloon. Rising up he surveyed his surroundings, looking for other treasures hidden nearby. Something moved in the bushes by the trees; he thought a fox or a badger maybe. Despite himself Roger went over to investigate.
While peering into the wood, a blackbird called, thrice. As his eyes adjusted to the shade he thought he caught a glimpse of someone, a woman of great beauty, moving behind some trees. He called out a hullo, but she only fixed him with her strange eyes, and silently moved further into the trees. Overcome by a great longing he followed where she went.
Each time he thought surely he had lost her, Roger would glimpse her back, her hips, her arm or her hair, each time tantalizingly close yet out of reach. Thus it was our hero made his way ever deeper into the Wood. When a border is crossed, often each step is insignificant in itself, but when added one to another soon covers a great distance.
After some hours of walking, Roger came to a forest stream. Sunlight shone on the mossy rocks, allowed entry by a break in the forest canopy. Upstream the mysterious woman stood next to a tall lichen mottled boulder, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. He hesitated a moment, and then approached her. This time, she did not move off, instead the woman leant her back against the stone, her chest moving with her breath, her eyes fixing his.
As he drew near Roger noticed the woman was naked, but covered in fur. Her hair was like a flaming red mane; the short fur on her face was patterned with faint red and blue whorls. Her body was also covered in fur, a salt and pepper of browns and white. Yet she was no ordinary forest animal: her features, despite the cat whiskers on her cheeks, were the most beautiful he’d ever seen, more radiant even than the picture of the Queen Roger had once seen in town. Her body was voluptuously female; the swell of her breasts and hips caused a hungry flutter to descend from his throat to his belly.
“Who art thou?” Roger asked her, “What art thou?”
She pushed her shoulder off the boulder and with a whirring sort of voice replied, “Mrrrrrr... I am.” And these were the only words Roger would ever hear her utter.
As she took his hand in hers and drew him closer, Roger for the first time saw what was so strange about her eyes: yellow they were, flecked with gold, with pupils like those of a cat. This realization was like a moment’s cold breeze; Roger began to fear this creature, and was about to pull away and run, willy-nilly, into the forest and away from this sorcery. But something in her expression held him, and with a low murmur she took his hand to her breast, passing over the protruding nipple, and then downward to her ribs, where he felt her strong heart beat. And down, where he felt the button shapes of two other nipples on her stomach. The strangeness no longer mattered as she opened herself to him.
Trembling with lust he pressed against her and the rock, kissing and caressing her with abandon. Her animal nature was an aphrodisiac as she tore off his clothes with clawed fingers. There in the warm sun and the shelter of the boulder the two enjoyed each other all afternoon and into the night. The brook gurgled, the wind whispered, and their passion emptied the wells of lonely longing that collects in the cistern hollowed out in the center of each living being. In the midst of pleasure Roger cried out, “Miriam!” and the woman responded with ever-greater feline passion at that.
Having rested awhile beside the woman, Roger became thirsty and moved to a pool at the edge of the brook. As he dipped his hand to cup some water, he noticed it had grown hairier. He looked at the reflection in the pool and felt a strangeness, for the shape of a forest creature was on him. He recoiled from his reflection and felt all over his naked body. Short tufts of fur were sprouting everywhere on his skin, but his manhood — thank Gods! — was still intact.
Looking around the glade he noted everything had subtly shifted in color and shape. What had been darkness now seemed clearer to his glance. He became aware of layers and layers of sound and scent; it was as though Nature herself was disrobing for him, allowing him knowledge of her secrets. His senses grew so sharp as to be almost painful to him.
The woman — Miriam — still slept on the mossy ground of their lovemaking. His heart swelled with love as he perceived her to a greater degree than ever: her scent, the various scents of her being, the tiny twitches of her skin and fur, the shapes of her dreaming. Roger lay back down next to Miriam and soon fell into a deep sleep.
He awoke to motion. Miriam was stretching her long body and then she leapt to her feet. With a last caress of his cheek she bounded across the brook and ran silently into the forest. He felt lightning strike his body, his heart beat fast and hard caged in his chest, and with an alarmed voice, raspy from sleep, he called out after her, “Miriam!”
But she was gone. He leapt up to follow her, and ran like a forest beast through the bushes. But fast as he was, she was faster. He could scent her trail, hear noises of her passage, and understand the faint signs of her in the air itself. But he could not gain on her.
A year and a day he spent thus, wandering throughout the Wood, searching for Miriam. Her form haunted his dreams, at times calling him to her and making wild love wherever they were, and at other times seemingly oblivious to his presence. Roger found sustenance where he could: the hunting of rabbits, squirrels and forest mice, the foraging of wild berries and roots, and the discovering waters of stream and spring were his daily pursuits. He was without the comforts of fire, clothes, and bed. At night Roger would find a cave, a hollowed out log, or some dense bramble in which to sleep. Not once did he see another human, nor did he see anything of Miriam, although he would come upon signs of both, from time to time, there in the Wood.
A year and a day, at times pelted by rain or snow, at times panting in the heat of a sweltering day. There were parts of the forest where the trees grew gnarly and full of gloom, and a great sadness would take hold of him. Elsewhere glades full of fragrant flowers led past golden sunlit birches laughing in the breeze. Roger explored secret pathways worn by hoof and paw into the forest floor, and the scent trails of birds as they congregated for their fall gatherings. Here and there, a well or a hut or a chapel would appear, empty and silent, seemingly awaiting someone or something. Often, as he returned to the spot along his wanderings, there would be no sign of what had been there previously.
His dreams of Miriam began to change; she had put on the form of a human in his visions. He would see her, with one man or another, and he would suffer greatly with jealousy. Miriam would pause to look at him directly in his dreams, with her cat eyes, and then bend to kiss or fondle the man beside her. At these times Roger would tremble with rage, curse her cruelty, but yet he could not turn away from Miriam or his love of her. And for her part, she continued to show herself to him in dream, or permit him to find her.
A year and a day, when a stag trail he was following led him to the edge of the Wood. Roger had not seen or sensed an end to the Wood all his wandering. Somewhat alarmed and curious he crouched behind some bushes to see what lay beyond. Soon he heard the clip-clop of hooves and the sound of human voices.
Crouching deeper he saw a wedding party approach a small chapel situated near the edge of the Wood. Many magnificent mounted Knights rode in gleaming armor, and many Ladies in opulent dresses gathered at the chapel yard. A whole host of servants and ladies in waiting carried rich foods and drinks; musicians tuned up under a canopy. Then the Bride and Groom rode up on handsome horses, he with black plumes on his helmet, and she the most beautiful Lady in the land, her golden red hair framing her delicate pale features.
Roger’s nose caught her scent then, just as the Lady turned towards him. Instantly Roger recognized the Bride as Miriam! Briefly she held her finger to her lips, and then turned back to say something to her Knight.
Roger ran off into the forest, his eyes and his soul dark, hands tearing out clumps of fur from his body. In anguish he croaked the name, “Miriam!”
The spell was thus broken. Roger found himself face down in the mud of a ditch, with no sign of the Wood, the chapel, or the wedding party. He was wearing his old clothes over his skin — with no fur. And yes, his manhood was still intact.
Thus released from his enchantment, Roger still would think of Miriam and the Wood, with great sorrow and pain. Miriam became a great and powerful Lady of the Land, much adored for her beauty and fame. But Roger was the only one who knew her true nature under this form she wore for the sake of men. And when talk turned to stories of the Wood, and the others would make the sign of the horns to ward off evil, Roger would only sigh and smile. The gold doubloon did buy him a measure of contentment late into his life, in his own house.
Copyright © 2006 by Jussi Melartin