The Hunter and the Dryad

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story concerning the dryad, a duplicitous fey spirit that beguiles and charms others into ruin.

Submitted: January 01, 2012

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Submitted: January 01, 2012




The Hunter and the Dryad


It came to pass that the hunter Derrick was hunting in the woods bordering his house, tracking a deer. He had patiently followed it over the hills, through thick boughs and sustained only a few thorns pokes. After an hour of stealthy tracking, he was within bowshot of the deer close enough to land the fatal arrow. Derrick nocked his bow and honed his senses singularly onto the deer. He imagined that his arrow was simply an extension of himself that could pierce the dear as easily as he might pet it.


A sound of a branch falling from a tree startled the deer who whipped its head around, seeing Derrick from his advantageous position, and the bolted in the opposite direction. Following the deer with his arrow, it jumped into a bush before Derrick loosed the bowstring, though he knew that the shot was unlikely to hit anything but foliage.


He saw the deer bolt off beyond the bush his arrow disappeared into. Sighing, he walked over to the bush, hoping he might find a stain of blood on the arrow, demonstrating that he at least had nicked the dear. Instead, he saw something that held his breath in his throat. It was a gorgeous woman with exotic tanned skin, deep green eyes that were like gazing over rolling lush hills, and a figure that made even the most beautiful woman he had ever seen less attractive by leagues. His eyes glanced over her root-colored brown hair with twigs and branches braided into it as if they pliable as string. His eyes followed down her summer dress which seemed to be made only of thick autumn leaves with no visible seams. Finally, his gaze came down to the woman’s thigh which had his arrow embedded an inch deep with a sappy yellow fluid oozing out of the wound.


“Well, I was worried you weren’t coming to check on me,” said the beautiful woman with a smile that made him feel like he would do anything if it meant he could look at it forever. Derrick regained his composure and kneeled down to the wound, ignoring the woman’s comment.


“I apologize greatly,” said Derrick, “the deer ran into the bush—I didn’t see you—and…” his words trailed off as his guilt was overwhelmed by the kind smile of the woman. He paused for a moment before turning his eyes back to the arrow and saw that it was shallow enough to remove without opening the wound further. “I’m truly sorry, but the arrow didn’t go too deep. I can pull it out if you want me to.”


The woman laughed, and only for a moment it felt like the woman was laughing at him rather than the situation. “Don’t worry, I won’t be your game this day,” she added playfully. Derrick grabbed his arrow, choking up on it and smoothly yanked it out, pulling a string of sap with it. Derrick was confused as to why it seemed that this woman was oozing sap instead of blood out of her wound.


“Well, I think I am owed something Derrick,” said the woman as she popped up without any indication of pain from the wound, which was already scabbing in the viscous sap. Derrick had a gnawing suspicion that hid in his mind like a shy child too quiet to speak up.


“Have I met you before? Are you Johnie’s grown daughter…Alyssa? Is that how you know me?” said Derrick, assuming that was how the beauty knew his name.


“Of course not Derrick, but you owe me a favor for your recklessness,” she replied.


“Um, if you need help I don’t…” his voice trailed off as she leaned in close to him in a manner reserved for women seducing men. In a younger and more handsome time, Derrick would have excitedly received this gesture, but now it chilled him.


“I want your beating heart,” she whispered.


It came to him in a rush that nearly took his legs out from underneath him. This beautiful woman was a dryad, a capricious spirit of the forest whose guile and deception have robbed kingdoms and tricked men into a pointless death. Others might talk about them as if they were beings lost to time, but Derrick knew they existed. Far more than he should have.


The rule is simple: never barter with a dryad, you will only lose. Using trickery, they will make you believe that your survival water is poison, or a patch of deadly mushrooms taste as succulent as a roast pig. You can avoid pain and torture if you simply ignore whatever they say.


Derrick regained his composure and turned the other way, “You have no sway over me dryad,” he said walking away.


“Do you plan on going home?” asked the dryad. “Because it would certainly be easy for me to follow you there. Perhaps your wife would accidentally drink a seed that would sprout inside of her, eating away at her belly for weeks as it ate her food and drank her water, until she finally died from starvation with a stomach full of weeds.” she said with an innocent smile on her face. “Or perhaps crows might find your children’s eyes a fine delicacy and pluck them right out of their heads.”


Derrick’s voice trembled but found firm footing, “you—your words are just lies,” he said.


“Understand Derrick,” she continued, “that giving me your life in order to spare your wife and children from an untimely death might be greedy of me. I also see that you are a man not easily beguiled. So for that I will lessen my offer.” She held out her soft even-toned hand lacking the lines of a single day’s hard work, “give me your bow instead, and your home will be free of misfortune.”


Derrick’s bow was a legacy. He spent weeks carving the rare wood that was strong enough to fully utilize his strong bow-arm. It was a keepsake for the last time he spent with his father before consumption shackled him to the bed, and Derrick planned to pass it on to the man his son would become.


He valued the bow as his best earthly possession, but not more than his family. The fear crept into him and overrode his knowledge that you never barter with a dryad. However he also remembered that dryads were creatures of contracts. The word of a dryad was better than any document in the law of men. He pondered for a moment as sweat dropped from his brow. Wiping it off, he replied, “Spare my family for my bow. I know I shouldn’t but I will.”


Derrick reluctantly placed the well-carved and majestic bow into the dryad’s open palm, and mournfully took his fingers off of it. She looked at it with admiration before smiling—this time not hiding the cruelty of her smile—and breaking it over her knee with a crack. Derrick felt his heart sink to see something both exquisite and sentimental break. Simply finding the right wood to carve another would take weeks, and the emotional value of it could never be regained. The dryad giggled and skipped away into the forest. The leaves and weeds she skipped on were undisturbed as if she had ever been there. They said the dryads were malicious as well duplicitous, and Derrick never understood it completely before that moment.


Derrick walked toward his home, looking over his shoulder not sure what he might be looking for but still doing so. He walked by Johnie—tending his small garden with his daughter Alyssa—who greeted him and asked where his bow and game were. Derrick, lied and said he already brought them home, then said he was now taking a stroll through the woods. Derrick changed the subject and chatted about weather, the crop, and how they were preparing for winter. He left saying, “I’m going to go home to my family. You take care of yours now.” Derrick wasn’t sure, but he felt like Johnie gave him a confused look as Derrick walked away.


When he got home his wife and children were gone. In fact, Derrick realized that he could not even remember their faces, let alone their names. His house was disorderly, and far too small for anyone besides himself. He traced back his thoughts and realized he never had a family at all, though just an hour ago he would have given his own life to protect them. Lonely and heartbroken over a family that never existed, Derrick, sat down and realized he had given up the thing he loved most in exchange for nothing. He put his head into his hands and wept over something he never had.

© Copyright 2018 Christian Alexander. All rights reserved.

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