I walked slowly back through the fields, wondering what the farmer's wife had meant:
"Coedwig doesn't reveal herself without getting something in return."
The words churned round and round in my head. Coedwig had asked for nothing. She even said I have nothing to fear. I didn't fear her but who was she? Why did she instil such fear into the farmer's wife?
It seemed like no time at all had passed when I reached the cottage.
"Philip." I called, "I am back."
"Ok." He replied.
Philip didn't sound right, so I went to find him. He was in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a mug of tea held between his clasped hands.
"Are you ok?" I asked him, placing the milk and eggs on the table and putting my palm against his forehead. It was quite warm.
"Oh, you know. One of my bad days." His voice sounded worried, even though he was trying his best to be upbeat.
"Are you sure?" I was concerned. He had bad days but usually he was just exhausted. This was different. His breathing seemed laboured and his pulse was slow but strong. This was more than 'one of his bad days'.
"I told you," he snapped. "Oh, Sweetheart, I'm sorry. You know how it is. I am sick of always being ill when we are on holiday. It must be so annoying for you."
I put my arm around him.
"Philip, It's Ok. I understand. Look, why don't you put a lounger outside and rest a while. Let the sun warm you."
"But what about you? Your day will be spoiled." He looked so apologetic I could feel his pain.
"Don't worry about me." I squeezed his shoulders, "You know I will find something to do."
I put the lounger outside the door, facing the sun, ready for him when he wanted it.
It was almost midday when he finally sat down and reclined the backrest. I placed a pillow under his head.
"If you sleep and I am not here when you wake, I won't be far away. I may go for a walk along the river bank."
"I'll be fine," he replied, "you go and enjoy yourself."
I waited a while, sitting beside him on a folding chair until he fell asleep, and began to read a book... or tried to. I kept reading the same lines over and couldn't concentrate.
In the end, I closed the book and dropped it on the floor.
Suddenly, I saw a slight movement out of the corner of my eye, something flitting around.
I turned and looked. A dragonfly. Electric blue, hovering just out of reach.
As I looked it flew a little way and then hovered again, turning to face me as if waiting for me.
I stood up and walked towards it, stopping for a moment to look back at Philip. He was sleeping soundly so I walked again toward the dragonfly which turned and flew ahead of me, just out of reach and turning frequently as if checking that I was following, its gossamer wings fluttering and its beautiful blue body flashing in the sunlight as it turned to and fro.
After a while I realised it was leading me towards the coppice that I had discovered the day before and, as I approached, the dragonfly suddenly flew away, disappearing into the trees ahead.
I followed without thought. I wasn't at all apprehensive, just curious.
As I entered the trees, and left the open grassland behind me, I heard it, as I suspected I would. The laughter, a gentle giggle, more than one, in fact. I felt as though I was surrounded by laughter.
"Come out." I called, turning first one way and then the other. "You know me. I have seen you."
Still, the laughter continued from within the trees but no sprites appeared and soon, I found myself in the mossy clearing, alone and yet, not so.
I called out again.
"Coedwig, are you here?"
Nothing! Just more giggles.
"Where are you?" I shouted this time. I was getting frustrated now. The sprite had brought me here and now they were laughing at me... or were they? Had I imagined the whole thing?
I waited. I could feel the warm sun on my naked shoulders as I was wearing a strapless summer dress, tied with a bow at the front.
"Damn it!" I shouted and turned to leave.
"I am here, Anna." A soft Welsh accent behind me made me turn around suddenly.
"Who are you?" I asked but she didn't answer. She just raised her arms and not one but three sprites appeared from behind. The one in blue and the one in green were the ones I had seen the day before but the third, she was equally beautiful but had grey eyes and wore a dress of yellow and black.
As before, they danced lightly around us, brushing against me but so lightly I could feel just a faint tickle, like the brush of delicate wings.
Coedwig just stood, looking at me, searching deep into my soul. Her cloak of green and brown blending beautifully with the trees behind her. Her long brown hair hanging behind her like some kind of trailing plant and the circlet of flowers around her head making her look as though she belonged here and nowhere else. I couldn't speak any more. It was as though she was inside my head, reading my thoughts, examining my very soul and yet, again, I was not afraid.
After what seemed an eternity, she spoke.
"You are not afraid, Anna." It was a statement rather than a question.
I didn't speak but let my head move from side to side, slowly, uncertainly.
"I know what the farmer's wife told you," she continued, "and yet you have come back to find me. Why are you not afraid?"
"Because you said I have nothing to fear. I believe in you. I don't know you and yet I trust you."
"You are right, Anna, you have nothing to be afraid of. Your heart is pure and you are at one with nature."
I nodded, again slowly.
Coedwig reached out and pulled the cord that held my dress above my breasts, releasing it and allowing it to fall around my feet. I wore no underwear this time and I stood in front of her, naked as the day I was born, no embarrassment, no fear but trembling under her gaze. The sprites dances around us still, touching me lightly as they passed, finger tips grazing my breasts and nipples, hands brushing across my buttocks and stomach. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin as I stood, eyes closed and arms hanging loose at my sides. The sun warmed my skin and the feather-light touches of the sprites all heightened my sense of arousal.
I opened my eyes and saw that Coedwig was still standing before me, only now she was as naked as I was. Her nipples stood proud from her tiny breasts and her pale flesh almost shone in the light of the sun filtering through the leaves, but all of these things paled into insignificance as I looked into her beautiful dark brown eyes and saw centuries, nay, millennia of knowledge and wisdom. I heard her speak although no words were formed on her lips.
"The farmer's wife did not lie." the words seem to appear inside my head, "I do not reveal myself without taking something."
The words were not menacing, more a statement.
My mouth did not move but inside my head I formed the words:
"And what will you desire of me?"
"You have the right to refuse me, Anna. You have a free will. You may turn and leave this place and nothing will change. Will you leave, Anna?"
I felt no desire to leave. I felt no threat and no fear. My mind answered without the need to speak.
"You may take whatever is your desire. I trust you will not harm me."
"You choose wisely, Anna. I do take what I wish but I never do so without also giving something in return."
"I ask for nothing, My Queen." my thoughts passed through the ether.
"I see you are already endowed with the gift of wisdom, Anna. My gift to you will be revealed in good time but now I will tell you my desire."
"Make your wish. Whatever I have is yours."
"Then, Anna, I take your soul!"
I didn't flinch at the request. On the contrary, my mind was at peace as I answered.
"It is yours, My Lady."
I was mesmerised. Looking deep into her eyes I could see ancient oaks, forests, rivers flowing through them. Within the trees I could see mighty stags, fearsome wolves. I saw Butterflies, beautiful dragonflies and... What else? What was it? Could it be... a unicorn!
"Do not be afraid." her soft Welsh voice soothed away my incredulousness. "What you see is what once was, centuries ago, when nature was ruler of all things and all the creatures of the forest lived peacefully under its protection but man has taken away so much. The Unicorns are a distant memory. The stags are gone and the wolves have not been seen since the days of Llewellyn. Even the mighty forest, of which this was once a part, is dwindled to almost nothing. I take your soul, Anna, because I see in you the love of all things natural and I endow it with the power to protect the forest and all living things. I do not give you immortality for that is not in my power, but I give you wisdom and the sight to know how to give your protection where you can."
All the time she spoke, her lips remained motionless but her eyes danced and sparkled as the sounds of the forest filled my head.
"Finally," she continued, "I will take your body and in this way, you will become one with the trees and the earth and your fate will be sealed."
Slowly, the pictures in my head faded and once again I became aware of the warm air on my naked body and the feather-light touches of the sprites dancing around us.
"The Sprites are the last descendants of the elves who once roamed freely upon the earth. How long they will remain is impossible to see and only those they trust are privileged enough to see them. Only those who really appreciate the natural world we live in."
She stepped forward and placed a cold hand on my face then, leaning forwards, gently kissed my mouth.
"From this moment you will be the protector, and all sprites, wherever you are, will be visible to you and they will know you."
She kissed me again and I felt alive. I felt the life flowing through my veins and I was aware of every part of my body.
My breasts ached as my nipples got harder and harder. My stomach fluttered and the moisture began to build between my legs which were now beginning to tremble and then, as suddenly as she started, she stopped!
She had a half smile as she took my hand.
“Come.” she said, “It is time.”
I didn't dare ask but time for what?
We walked, hand in hand, naked, through the trees towards the river but we didn't stop when we reached it.
As the sprites danced and laughed, Coedwig led me along a narrow path beside the splashing water until the ground either side began to rise and I saw we were in a small valley. I could hear rushing water and soon, the place we were going appeared in front of us. We had entered a lagoon.
A cliff rose vertically on three sides and at the head of the stream was a water fall. Splashing over the sheer, grey slate and splashing on every ledge for at least fifty feet into the deep pond it had formed over the many years it had flowed.
I had no idea how deep the water would be but Coedwig lead me straight into the crystal clear pool and I was amazed to find that it reached to just below my breasts.
The water was cold but not unbearable as I waded in behind her. She led me under the waterfall and we finally stood, face to face, the water flowing over us.
No words were needed and I raised my arms to her shoulders and leant forward and pressed my lips to hers.
My whole body was buzzing now, muscles tight as piano strings and I felt her hands begin to move over my body, touching, caressing every inch of me.
She broke from the embrace and moved around behind me. I felt her body press against me and the soft curls between her legs against my buttocks.
Her left hand moved around and cupped my breast, holding my nipple between thumb and forefinger, turning, squeezing, pulling and massaging the soft mound of my aching flesh.
I put my head back against her shoulder and she kissed my neck. Soft gentle kisses on my ears and little nips with her teeth, pulling out my lobe and releasing it. Her soft warm tongue flicked quickly inside my ear making me shiver uncontrollably.
Her right hand moved snake-like down my front, below the water until it found the entrance to my grotto, her fingers moving between my wet petals and caressing the now solid nub nestling inside. Even though the water was cold, I could feel a heat building inside me and flowing out over her probing fingers.
I pushed my bottom back against her insistent mound and began to grind myself against her, my buttocks parting slightly with each movement, her curls tickling against my sensitive anus.
It was all becoming too much and my orgasm began to build, slowly rising from the pit of my stomach. My whole body began to convulse, trembling as the tension increased until a scream bust from my lungs uncontrollably.
Never before had I made such a noise but also, I had never had such an intense orgasm as her fingers pushed inside me and her arms held me tightly against her until, at long last, the avalanche of emotion began to subside and I again took control of my senses.
I stood still for a moment, my head bowed and my eyes closed. I could still hear my screams inside my head but now it sounded like laughter.
Slowly I lifted my head. It was laughter! I opened my eyes and I saw I was surrounded by sprites, all alike and yet each one different. Standing, sitting, some dancing around but there were dozens of them, all smiling and laughing, creating a sound of immense joy as if I had become one of them.
I turned to ask Coedwig where they came from but, to my amazement, I was alone.
I didn't call her name this time. Somehow, I knew I would never see her again.
I began to feel the cold water falling over me so I walked back to the bank and on through the trees to the clearing.
In the centre was my dress, exactly where I had left it. I stooped and lifted it over my head, letting it cover my now dry body once again and retied the bow.
For a moment I listened. I was completely alone now, no more laughter, just the rustling of the leaves and splashing water.
I walked slowly home.
Back at the cottage, Philip was still sleeping in the lounge chair. His head back against the pillow, just as I had left him.
I walked over to him and stroked his head and froze!
“Philip, Philip!” I shook his shoulders. “Philip, wake up!” I shook more urgently.
He opened his eyes.
“Come on, quickly!” I said, “I have to get you to hospital, you are about to have a stroke!”
“W... What do mean, a stroke? How could you possibly know that?”
“I don't know but come on!” I pulled him to his feet and got him quickly to the car and drove as fast as I could to the nearest hospital.
I dumped the car outside A and E and took him inside and straight to the reception desk.
“Quickly,” I exclaimed to the severe looking lady, “He is having a stroke!”
The woman raised an eyebrow.
“Really?” she said, disbelievingly, “He looks Ok to me. Take a seat and I will get you in as soon as I... Oh!” She stood suddenly as Philip grabbed his head and began mumbling incoherently. A button was pressed and almost immediately two nurses appeared and Philip was whisked away into the bowels of the department.
Two hours passed before I was allowed to see him again and when I did he was sitting up in bed with an oxygen mask over his mouth. I took his hand and he squeezed mine as though to say, 'I'm Ok'.
“He was very lucky, you know.” A voice behind me made me turn suddenly and I saw the doctor standing there with a smile on his face. “If you hadn't got him here so quickly he would have had a far more serious attack.”
He paused for a moment but I said nothing.
“A clot was moving across his brain. If it had lodged it would have caused serious and permanent paralysis but, as he was already here, a large quantity of Oxygen, and some aspirin, thinned his blood enough for the clot to keep moving and no lasting damage has been done.”
After another short pause during which he frowned and looked hard at me, he asked:
“How did you know? The receptionist said he was showing no signs when you brought him in.”
Again I didn't answer.
“Hmm...” he said. “All right. May I take your name for the paperwork?”
“Coedwig!” I replied, quietly
“I'm sorry,” he said, “I didn't quite catch that.”
“Oh, erm, Anna. My name is Anna.”
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