A Place in the Forest, Part III

“That settles it,” Mava said decisively, concluding a dialogue she’d been having with herself. “We’ve got to go swimming.”

Ivan smiled weakly. “I think I’ll just put my feet in,” he ventured. “I’m really not that hot.”  A drop of sweat chose that moment to roll off the tip of his nose, undermining him.  Mava squinted her third eye at him judgmentally.

“Look, this shame about having a body is so adorably human, it really is,” she told him, already unfastening the belt that held her knife sheath and tossing it unceremoniously down onto the moss. “But it’s got to go.  Besides, it’s nothing either of us haven’t seen before.”

“You’ve seen a naked man before?” Ivan asked unhappily.

“Pey delights in us,” she recited automatically.  Ivan was obviously left unsatisfied by this response. “How about this,” she went on, untroubled. “We’ll both turn our backs and not look at each other until we’re in the water.  Deal?”

Ivan looked down at the pool, carved out of solid rock by the little waterfall. “That water’s pretty clear,” he said. “Crystal clear, almost.”

“Well I’m going in,” she declared, tossing her silver hair. “You can either come in, or you can leave.  You can’t just crouch weirdly in the trees.”

“Alright!” Ivan cried, mostly to keep her from bringing up the humiliating circumstances of their first meeting. “If it’s so important to you I’ll go swimming with you.  Just turn around.”

“You first,” Mava said with a mischievous gleam in her eyes. “Only one of us has so far proven to be a peeping tom and it is not me.”

“Mava!” Ivan groaned, obediently turning around nonetheless. “I told you, I wasn’t–”

“Fine, fine, you were spying on deer,” Mava continued mercilessly. “The fact that I was also within eyesight swimming naked was incidental.”  She watched his posture communicate his annoyance, but he didn’t argue.  He pulled his shirt off with angry jerking motions, getting it momentarily caught around his head and inducing a flash of frustrated struggling.  His brown shoulders worked furiously, fine muscles sliding over one another in a way that fascinated her.  His hair was chaotic when he emerged.  Mava couldn’t hold in a laugh.  He looked over his shoulder wrathfully. “Now who’s peeping?” he demanded. “You made the rules.  Turn around before I throw you in.” 

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” she relented quickly, turning away.

“Are you looking?” he asked after a moment.

“No,” she replied, peeling off her sweaty tunic.

“Are you sure?” he asked petulantly.

“Yes,” she said with a laugh. “And I’m going to beat you to the water.”

There was a pause, then the rustle of clothing, the clink of a belt buckle scraping on stone.  Mava smiled to herself and dropped her breeches, then sidestepped toward the brook. 

“I’m getting in,” she heard him call over the sound of the rushing water. “You better not be looking.” There was a splash nearby, and Mava slipped into the pool.  She turned around.  Ivan was determinedly facing away from her still, his ears bright red.  With a gentle push she propelled herself away from the edge of the smooth stone basin and into the center of the pool, where the water was too deep to touch the bottom.  Looking down, she could see a collection of smooth pebbles gathered in the belly of the stone bowl, red and green and yellow.  Some of them glittered.  Tiny iridescent fish swam in small schools, changing direction as one, curiously investigating her legs.  Her magenta skin was even pinker in the cold mountain stream. “It’s alright,” she called, watching a long-legged insect skate by on the surface of the water. “You can turn around now.”

Ivan turned around, pointedly roaming his eyes anywhere but onto Mava. “It’s freezing,” he said plaintively.  In response, Mava submerged fully, losing his voice to the heartbeat of the water in her ears.  When she broke the surface again he had moved a little closer, treading water. “Come under the fall,” she called, cutting her body in that direction “It takes your breath away.”  

If he protested, she couldn’t hear it over the pounding of the cascading water.  Even a modest waterfall was a forceful entity.  Her hands found the smooth stone, feeling her way up its ancient face as she pulled herself beneath the deluge the way she had hundreds of times before.  When she turned to face the pool, the water hammering at her head and shoulders, she saw Ivan close beside her.  He hesitated for a moment, then entered the waterfall.  She watched him take the shock of it, and saw his mouth form words she couldn’t hear. “What?” she screamed back.  He tried again.  Whatever he was saying was lost in the roar of water.  She shook her head and laughed, and he laughed, and they sat giggling and gasping for a minute, surrendered to the force of the fall.  

When they emerged, Mava could see that he had changed.  His light was pink, coming in gentle waves.  His eyes looked like dark stars, the sunlight on the water reflected dazzlingly there.  His smile transformed his whole face, which minutes ago had been sullen, resistant.  He was glowing, open, panting.  “That was really something,” he marveled, grinning.  His awkwardness seemed to have dispersed, and he looked at Mava happily, forgetting his embarrassment.  The waterfall had washed it away. 

The two of them drifted toward the opposite side of the pool, where they were able to speak without shouting.  For a while they took turns pointing out different aspects of life in the water and studying them with rapture.  Mava knew this pool and its inhabitants better than she knew her own mind, but sharing it with another, seeing it loved and enjoyed by her friend, lifted the pleasure of her favorite place to dizzying heights.  She found herself lying back against the stone, the sunshine like warm syrup on her face, smiling with eyes almost closed, seeing nothing but the sparkle and glow of this perfect experience.  

“Tell me something.” Ivan’s voice floated to her through the long tunnels of a dream. She opened her eyes slightly and saw his face quite close to hers, drops of water beading his skin, his dark eyelashes clinging together in wet clumps.  His pupils were dilated, drawing her into their infinite depths.  For once, he did not seem abashed by the way she studied him.  He gazed back at her, shifting in a slow triangle to meet each of her three eyes in turn. “You’re very beautiful,” she told him.  He snorted and splashed a little water on her, breaking the spell somewhat. “Who is Pey?” he asked her. “You keep mentioning them.”

Mava tipped her head to one side and thought about this.  “Pey is…well, Pey is sort of a what more than a who…” she shook her head and laughed lightly, impressed by the absurdity of trying to explain something that had always simply been. “Sometimes I really wish you had nodes, Ivan,” she told him. “Some things are really hard to describe with words.  Plus it would be nice to rub mine on yours sometimes.”

Ivan blushed crimson at this, his eyes moving automatically to the small, sensitive horns on Mava’s brow.  She twitched one of them at him, very much like a wink. “Can I touch them?” he asked after a moment.  Mava raised her eyebrows, causing a crinkle beneath her third eye. “Alright,” she said.  Tentatively, Ivan extended a hand toward her face.  She watched his expression.  He was rapt and yet cautious, as if approaching a fallen meteorite that was still smoking.  Then his fingers brushed against the tips of her nodes, and the two of them shivered in tandem.  Mava felt something pass through her body, from the point of touch down through the center of her.  It was something she had never felt before.  Staring at Ivan, she sensed that he felt it too.  They shared a look of twin astonishment.  Ivan drew back his hand and splashed it into the water as if he had been burned after all, and they both laughed breathlessly.

“So what is Pey?” he asked, picking the conversation back up a moment later as if nothing had happened.  Mava paused, feeling the new sensation lingering in her body.  She liked it.  Ivan was looking out across the pool at a finch that had landed at the water’s edge, and she examined the edge of his face, the steady pulse of hot pink light that emanated from him.

“Pey is what I am,” she said at last. “Next time you come, I can show you.”

“So tomorrow then,” he said, turning to look at her again.  His eyes were intense, unwavering.  Mava suddenly understood why he sometimes squirmed when she stared at him.  

“Tomorrow,” she agreed.  For a while they lay quietly half-in, half-out of the water, the tiny sparkling fish nibbling at their toes, the blazing afternoon sun redoubling its efforts to put them both to sleep.  If they both fell asleep here, Mava wondered, would they dream the same dream?  

“Are we dreaming now?” Ivan murmured.  

By queenofelves

Writer, artist, and magic-user. Lover of fantasy and romantic poetry. Always exploring!


  1. 🥲💘 ….. I honestly don’t know what to say Miss Queenofelves 🥰, except that I will be sleepless until the next chapter is written 😳


  2. Your imagination is so incredibly alive. Sorry I don’t know how else to describe it. I want this story to go on and on. Your details make it so easy to see this story as I read it. I look forward to the chapters ❤️❤️❤️❤️


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