The White and the Green

DISCLAIMER: This is in fact a piece of fanfic, though identifying the fandom might well prove a bit of a challenge. However, no infringement intended.

RATING: There is a mildly erotic scene somewhere, so let's say PG.

FEEDBACK: to the address given on my main page. E-mail addies may change, but whichever one you find on that page is always valid.

Written: 2015-09-08, 20.30


The White and the Green


by Eliann SleepingCat

The first time she sees him, she is thirteen years old. She is going in her father's cart, and the horses are spooked, because horses are cowardly creatures. Her brothers have difficulty calming them. They don't see him. Neither does her father; they all have eyes only for the horses.

She sees him only out of the corner of her eye, but the impression stays with her. Of a thin, sinewy man - gnarly, she thinks. Pale green, like the springtime plantlife around him. He doesn't appear to be wearing anything, save for a kind of hat she has sometimes seen on vagrants. Long fingers, tapering to a point, eyes examining a reed, as if he were contemplating what use he might put it to. But she is certain that he has seen her too.

The next time, she has just turned fifteen. She shouldn't be out in the woods alone, but she often is. She likes the silence. No voices. Just the song of birds, the buzz of insects and the occasional call of questing animals. Then a thin whistle, as from a tiny woodwind instrument. It's his reed, she sees, as her eyes grow accustomed to the greenery, and she can separate shades and shapes. He is sitting on a mossy stone, playing. He is still hard to see when looked at directly, but she sees him quite well out of the corner of her eye. He stops playing as she approaches. He waits for her, but she stops too, uncertain of her purpose. He rises then, as if impatient, and he reaches out to her. Not in supplication, but only to touch. His fingers are like pointed twigs, and yet elegant. She wonders what they will feel like, on her skin.

Her father's voice echoes through the woods, calling her name. She is startled, looks away, and she's alone. Bird song, the buzz of insects, but nothing playing. No reed, and no green man.

The third time is Midsummer Eve, her eighteenth. She has climbed all nine fences, gathered all nine flowers, and she has kept her silence throughout. Even when running from a bull, dodging a sheep or unsnagging her long, white gown from the eighth fence. She checks her flowers to make sure they are all different breeds. Tonight she will place them under her pillow, and she will dream of her future lover.

But perhaps she is already in a dream. Looking around, she finds herself in the woods. She must have wandered off from the fields, while checking her flowers. And without climbing a tenth fence, 'cause that would never do. And there he is, in front of her. The green man. Towering over her; she hadn't realized he is so tall. Perhaps he wasn't before. He looks neither young nor old, or perhaps both. She drops her flowers, afraid she has violated a trust by picking them. But he looks only at her. At her loose, black hair and her long, white gown. He doesn't speak; she doesn't know if he can. Neither does she, as she is under the Midsummer geas. He touches her gown, then gestures for her to take it off. And she does. It never occurs to her not to. His twig-like fingers scratch a little, as they tentatively travel along her body, from the pit of her throat to her crotch. He is fascinated by her nipples, as if he has never seen such things, or he has forgotten. Her reaction delights him, and he touches them again and again, to elicit more of the same.

He explores her, and she would return the favour, for she is as curious as he. But each time she tries, he stops her, and though she doesn't understand why, she accepts it. When he enters her, that too feels a little like being scratched by twigs, and she bleeds some. On her gown, she realizes later, as she has been lying on a part of it. When he's gone, melted back into the woods as before, she dresses again and gathers up her flowers to hide the spots. She goes to the stream and washes her gown, secretly in the white night.

Every summer after that, he comes for her. Each solstice, each equinox, and the four festivals in-between. She will hear his reed playing in the garden, and she will go to him. It is unthinkable not to. He never speaks, yet he teaches her about his world. In a few years, she has learnt all about plants, about water, about wind and stars and seasons. The people of the village are coming to her now, for cures, for help, for advice. First the women, the young and the old. Then all of them, anyone. They speak in reverent whispers, about her ties to the woods and the wild. But no young men court her. They say she is spoken for. There was one, at one time, who defied this rarely voiced understanding. The village half-wit, some say. He proclaimed loudly his intent to claim her. She never saw him. The miller found him, drowned in the stream. Some say he was held down by roots, couldn't get out.

Her father rarely talks about her special standing, but he knows. Sometimes he too can hear the reed in the garden, and he knows she has to go. He assumes she is happy. So do her brothers. In any event, they know better than to challenge the green man.

She knows when to expect him, and as soon as she hears the reed, she goes. Less eagerly now, than only a year ago. She knows he wants her to join him, to stay with him in the woods. She also knows that she's not the only one to receive this offer. Others have, long ago. Presumably, yet others will. Perhaps some are considering it even now. He is timeless. She is not. She is restless.

Late in the evening, she goes to see her father. She has packed a few things, not much, and she wears her long, white Midsummer gown. Her father is sitting at the kitchen table, reading. He looks up; she can see he understands she is leaving.

"Going for good this time?" he asks.

"Or for ill", she says. "But I'm not coming back."

"They will miss you", he says, "in the village. Do you think he will still let you help them?"

It has to be said. Now. "Father, I'm not going into the woods."

He looks surprised. "Now, I've never seen him", he says, slowly. "I only know what the deep-seeing ones say. But I always thought you were happy. And ..." he is suddenly hesitant, "... they say he can be vengeful."

"I shall go into the desert", she says. "I shall go where nothing lives, and he cannot follow."

The old man shakes his head. "Daughter, cacti grow in the desert."

"I shall go so far west that even the cacti are stunted, barely holding on."

"Then what of your knowledge? Of plants and all things growing? What will you do for a living, in such barren lands?"

"I shall learn new things. Things needed there. And I shall find someone who needs my art, and my help."

It rings like a prophesy. He knows she is not without power. He bows his head, not looking up as she leaves.

They do not speak her name in the village. For fear of the green vengeance, some say. And where she goes, no one knows it. Anywhere in the world, she is known only as the Woman in White.

* * * The End * * *