Today, because my mind is simply not cooperating to put together another blog post this week, I’m going to share another short story with you. I hope you enjoy it. :)
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Flowers for a Priestess
Bael’s heart skipped a beat. “Thank you, my friend.”
The tawny sparrow who had announced the arrival of the Priestess chirped and flitted off.
Have courage, he told himself. He wove his way through the forest until he reached one of his oldest and dearest friends. The gnarled tree leaned across the narrow dirt road that ran straight through the forest from one end to the other. One of its branches hung low; the Priestess ducked under it every day, greeting the tree as she passed through.
He opened his throat and cawed, summoning his crow friend to him. The glossy black bird landed on the low-hanging branch with a flower caught in her beak. Bael took the vibrant blue flower from his friend, sliding a gentle hand along her feathers in thanks. With a piece of twine retrieved from his belt pouch, he tied the flower to the branch, its petals glittering in a ray of sunlight that pierced through the boughs above.
The sparrow returned, chittering in excitement. “She is nearly here!”
Bael retreated in haste, climbing a nearby tree. His perch gave him an unhindered view of the path below. He flattened against the trunk to hide himself.
His breath caught in his throat, for on the wind traveled a light floral scent mingled with the tantalizing scent of a woman. Erana… He peered through the leaves, and there he saw the Priestess. Her white, gossamer gown clung to her curving form as she walked. He watched, mesmerized, as she reached the low branch.
She cannot miss it… I hope she likes it.
When the Priestess noticed the flower, her head turned this way and that, eyes scanning the trees. The smile that bloomed on her supple lips rivaled the shimmering blue petals. Delicate fingers untied the twine.
Her voice touched his keen ears. “Good morning, fair flower. Are you meant for me?” Visible to Bael’s eagle eye, the flower’s petals shivered. The woman’s smile deepened in response. She brought the flower to her nose.
Continuing along her journey, the Priestess patted the branch and ducked underneath it. She held the flower before her, still smiling down upon it.
Snaking down the tree, Bael followed behind her. His footsteps were silent, even with dried leaves and branches beneath his boots. He trailed her to the opposite edge of the forest, where he could go no further. He gazed upon her shrinking form as she entered the city that resided within his view. She took with her a portion of his heart.
She liked my flower. He puffed up with pride.
Tomorrow morning, she would return, passing back through his forest. Thus was her routine – from town to city and back again.
When Bael returned to his tiny cottage that night, he lay awake in bed for a long while. A forgotten book draped over his heaving chest. Once he nodded off to sleep, his dreams were filled with visions of the most beautiful creature he had ever been blessed to behold.
The Priestess’ acceptance of Bael’s gift instilled him with bravery. Dawn arose as he searched for the perfect flower. His longing this morning had risen to an unbearable level; the first thing that entered his mind when he awoke was Erana’s glowing visage.
He looked upon his chosen flower in satisfaction, hoping she liked the color pink. He produced his ball of twine and tied the flower to the tree with a gentle hand. Bael lingered, his mind drifting off.
The Priestess’ scent filled his nostrils, shocking him out of his reverie.
“Bael!” The sparrow’s warning shrieked through his mind. “She is very near!”
In a panic, Bael darted behind the nearest bush, pleading with it to hide him. With a rustle of leaves, the shrub shifted its arms to better conceal his friend. She will surely see me… if she does not hear my heart pounding first.
Erana filled his vision, and he clung to the bush as he watched his Priestess. Her cheeks flushed when she caught sight of his gift. She untied the flower and brushed its petals across her lips. Bael held his breath when her searching eyes passed over his hiding place.
“Please, come out.” Her voice sang through the forest.
You must greet her. Bael willed himself to emerge from behind the helpful shrub. At the last moment, he transformed into a stag, the shape in which he felt his bravest. Timid hooves pressed into the dirt as he stepped into her view. He dipped his massive antlers into a respectful bow due a Priestess of Gaea. Her beauty… my heart aches to be near.
Erana’s lush lips spread into a warm smile. Putting a bare foot forward, she stretched out her hand.
Bael’s powerful body shuddered and he danced back a few steps, anticipating her touch. Her scent is intoxicating…
“Do not be afraid.” She met his eyes as she spoke. Her fingers reached toward his flaring nostrils.
Bael could endure no more. He reared and bolted straight into the forest. His antlers tore through leaves and branches, scraped across bark.
Why are you running? He wanted to scream at himself. Coward! His fear dominated his conviction, and his ears lay back onto his head as he fled to the cottage.
The fire from Bael’s lonely candle wavered in the darkness of the night. Its light flickered over the empty sheet of parchment sitting before him on a wooden table. He shoved his shame out of his mind and bent with quill in hand.
I see you day after day, traveling through my forest. Your beauty has stricken my soul so that I ache for your presence. I long for each morning when you pass beneath my friend’s low branch.
I am the one who has been gifting you with flowers. I am the stag who approached you and fled. I am the one whose heart belongs to the Priestess Erana.
Sleep came to him in short, fitful bursts.
Determination permeated Bael’s core. He sought a special gift this morning, the rarest of gleamflower colors. This time, his letter accompanied his offering as he tied it to the tree branch. His friend’s boughs creaked their encouragement. Bael slipped behind its thick trunk and waited.
When the Priestess rounded the bend, twittering birds followed her, fluttering along the tree line. She whistled and warbled along with them until she stopped in front of the low-hanging branch.
Bael had been proud of his find – a deep red flower, its layers of gleaming petals spiraling outward. He watched from behind his tree as she opened and read his note. Had he lifted his arm, he could have touched her. This close, he could see her cheeks redden.
“Bael!” she called out. “Please, do not be afraid. I wish to meet you.”
His hands shook and his heart hammered in his aching chest. With a deep breath, Bael stepped out onto the dirt road, standing just before her. The Priestess’ face glowed with a calming smile. Their eyes met; her gaze awakened in him a fiery passion that burned through his entire being. He lifted a shaking hand.
Steady and calm, Erana slipped her tiny hand into Bael’s where it hung in the air between them. Her touched soothed him; he savored her satin skin within his rough, calloused hand. The breeze stirred, sweeping her scent around him to create a whirlwind of churning need in his heart. Her voice pulled him away from his admiration of the way her dress hugged her body.
“You are the Tender of this forest?”
Though nervous, Bael nodded and swelled with pride; he knew how well he cared for his forest.
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Bael. Never before have I entered such a peaceful, healthy forest.”
Bael tried his hardest, but he could not suppress the grin that split his face in two. “My thanks, Priestess.”
“No, it is I who thank you, kind Tender. Your floral gifts have brightened my spirit at a time when I needed it most.” Erana lifted the ruby-red flower to her nose, pressing Bael’s letter to her chest. When she spoke once again, it seemed she addressed the flower. “Your gleamflowers speak very highly of you. Thank you, Tender.”
“You are most welcome.“ Bael bowed low, the movement reminding him that her petite fingers were still firmly in his grasp. When he straightened, he met her eyes. He found that he no longer felt afraid. “Please, call me Bael.”
The Priestess squeezed his hand. “And you may refer to me as ‘Erana.’” Her smile warmed his heart.
“Erana.” He beamed.
“I would… love to see your forest, if I may?” For the first time, her composure trembled.
Is she blushing? Bael felt a shift in the air and he became strong confidence, wanting so much to comfort her, to show her that she need not be anxious.
“I would be honored to introduce you to my forest and my friends.” He patted the low-hanging branch. “Of course, you have already met the Sycamore.”
Erana laid her hand against Bael’s, sharing in the communication with the old tree. She looked up at him, her eyes shining.
Bael took her hand and led her northward. He wanted to show her the patch of gleamflowers that grew in the cool, shaded corner of his forest.
The walk was long, yet pleasant; he made introductions as they winded deeper into the forest, pointing out the more prominent places. Birds followed them, twittering their excitement. Despite her bare feet, Erana showed no signs of discomfort. It seemed she glided along the brush and dried leaves.
When they came upon the gleamflower patch, Erana gasped and tightened her grip on his hand. Her captivating eyes widened in wonder. Even at midday, the only light in the area came from the flowers themselves. They released fluffs of pollen that glittered, drifting through the air to convey a hint of their heady scent.
With an expression full of child-like fascination, she tiptoed into the flowers. Careful steps brought her to the center of the patch without treading on a single leaf or petal. She twirled with glee amongst the gleamflowers. The pollen swirled around her dancing form, creating a shimmering spiral.
Bael watched her, enraptured. His Priestess… his Erana, dancing and laughing amongst his flowers. Needing to be closer, he made his own careful way toward her.
Erana stopped spinning and her lips curved upward in the warmest of smiles. She held her lithe arms out and he took her hands, letting her bring him down to sit with the gleamflowers. Blue eyes locked onto Bael’s and refused to let go. Her whisper carried a lonely longing to his ears.
“The life of a Priestess is a solitary one.”
Bael sensed a trace of invitation in her words. He cupped her cheek in his palm.
“Stay with me.” Bael’s thumb caressed her silken skin.
In answer, Erana rose up on her knees and touched gentle kisses to his jaw and cheeks. When she reached Bael’s lips, she leaned against him.
Bael embraced her, giving her the comfort she sought.
After their kiss had ended, they sat together in the patch of gleamflowers, Bael’s powerful arms wrapped around her dainty frame. In these long, blissful moments they eased one another’s loneliness.
Glittering pollen settled in Erana’s honey-colored hair. A few motes landed upon her cheeks and eyelashes, giving her an ethereal glow. Bael touched his forehead to hers and shut his eyes, their spirits intertwining. His whisper to her held all the love he felt deep within his heart.