A Place in the Forest, Part IV

A branch snapped loudly beneath Ivan’s foot, hidden by the carpeting of brown leaves that covered the forest floor.  He froze and held his breath, listening intently.  He was conducting an experiment; he wanted to find out how close he could get to Mava’s clearing without her sensing him.  Every time he went there she greeted him without surprise, as if she had invited him to arrive at precisely the moment he did.  It could be maddening, at times, how unruffled she was, her air of knowing–well, everything.  Inexplicably Ivan wanted to see her off-balance.  Like she had been when they first met. 

He was quite close.  He had been able to hear the stream for a while now, burbling in its familiar ceaseless rhythm.  He was counting on the water to drown out the sounds of his approach.  Even employing the utmost limits of his stealth, Ivan had a feeling Mava would be difficult, if not impossible, to surprise.  He could muffle his footfalls, conceal his body, stay downwind, but what could he do to veil his emotions, his motivations, the aspects of his being that Mava could sense without effort?  How far did the sphere of her awareness extend?  To avoid the fern grove, Ivan approached the clearing from a different direction than usual, heart pounding.  It was only in fun, he reminded himself, annoyed at how badly he wanted to succeed.  Silently, he crept up to a huge, gnarled oak tree that stood guard at the edge of the clearing.  Only a few days ago they had played a game of trying to toss the acorns into each other’s mouths from increasing distances, an activity they had called off after Mava threw hers a bit too enthusiastically and hit Ivan squarely in the eye.  Taking a deep, silent breath, Ivan peered around the trunk.

Mava was relaxing at the edge of the ferns, lying on the ground.  In astonishment, Ivan realized she was reclining against a whitetailed deer which was nestled in the ferns, apparently asleep.  A second deer was nibbling peacefully at some small shoots coming up out of the thick moss that blanketed most of the clearing.  The midday sun poured down over the three contented figures, illuminating them with a golden glow.  The  scene was idyllic.  As Ivan watched, a blue butterfly landed softly on Mava’s nose.  She was dressed differently, he noticed.  Instead of the usual shapeless gray tunic and trousers she was wearing a green dress which tied with a sash at the waist.  Her silvery hair was fanned out on the flank of the deer, catching the sunlight.  As he considered how he should wake her, her three eyes opened halfway, looking directly at him, sending a jolt through his body that made his stomach lurch.  The butterfly went spiraling upward. 

“I’m afraid they won’t stay when you come out from behind that tree,” she called.  As if taking her cue, both deer came alert and looked in his direction.  Moments later they were bounding off into the trees.  Too amazed to linger on the disappointment of his foiled ambush, Ivan stepped into the clearing. “I didn’t know you could do that,” he said, a bit accusingly. 

“Do what?” she asked, sitting up and blinking lazily in the sun, arms circling round her knees.  Ivan gestured in the direction of the retreating deer, widening his eyes. “That,” he said emphatically. “Commune with animals.”

Mava laughed, as she always did when she seemed to think he was being incredibly obvious. “You know, the strangest thing is that you can’t,” she returned flippantly. “Why do you humans insist on believing you are so different from everything else in the world?”

Ivan looked out into the trees, his hand going to his hunting bow slung across his back.  “You should call them back,” he told her. 

“They come when they feel like it,” she retorted. “And besides, even if I could call them, why should I?  So you can kill them?”

He looked at her in surprise.  “Does it bother you?” he asked. “I thought you said it was just the same as you.  Taking energy from the earth.”

“It is more or less the same,” Mava agreed. “But why should I intervene?  I don’t collect acorns for the deer.  I don’t gather insects to feed the frogs.  I don’t knock apples from the trees to give to the ants.  They see to themselves.” 

“Because I’m your friend,” Ivan said, unable to hide his annoyance. “I’m not an ant.  And I need to feed my family.”

Mava smiled warmly, opening her hands toward him. “And I’m sure you shall.  Or possibly, you won’t.  Either way I will be interested to observe.”

Ivan folded his arms and scowled, for once not trying to disguise what he was feeling. “Humans are nothing to you, aren’t they,” he remarked bitterly. “You think you’re so superior with your third eye and your nodes and your perception.  We’re like insects to you.  I am.  I’m like an insect to you.”

Mava remained undisturbed, watching him intently. “I do find you deeply fascinating,” she replied at length.  Ivan exhaled sharply through his nose and threw his bow down on the moss, hurling himself onto the ground sulkily after it, stretching out beside Mava.  He seethed quietly for a minute or two as she watched him, apparently unbothered. “What’s with the dress?” he asked at last, grumpily.  Mava beamed and sprang to her feet, turning in a little circle.  The green dress swirled around her, making her skin look even pinker. “Do you like it?” she inquired. “I thought you would.  We got this a long time ago.  A human caravan was passing through.  We thought it was interesting.”

The dress was nothing like the clothing worn by women in Ivan’s village.  The cloth looked slippery, shiny, and it moved like water.  It rippled and flowed against Mava’s body as she twirled, reflecting the sunlight.  The stream sparkled behind her like a cascade of diamonds.  In spite of himself, Ivan was transfixed, already forgetting he had been offended moments before.  That was how it always was with Mava; emotions and sensations moved quickly when he was around her.  He felt his face get hot as he looked at her. “I do like it,” he muttered.  She flung herself happily down on the moss next to him. “I wouldn’t wear it to make an ant happy,” she said, giving him a sly sideways look with all three of her eyes, her smile tucked into her cheek like a bit of good news she was waiting to tell.  Ivan’s stomach did a somersault. “Why tease me?” he demanded. “I wouldn’t do it if you didn’t like it so very much,” she said, poking his ribs to tickle him.  He tried to deflect her darting hands but she was too fast, and merciless.  Soon they were both giggling madly and struggling on the moss. “Stop!” he cried breathlessly between fits of laughter. “Never!” she shouted back.  

When he could take no more he caught her by the wrists and held her, looking seriously into her eyes. “You must promise not to tickle me if I let go of you,” he told her sternly.  In response she only squirmed, still laughing wildly. “Mava!” he insisted. “Promise me.  You must.”  She stopped fighting and lay panting, looking into his eyes. “Oh fine,” she said, rolling her twin eyes and keeping the third one staring into him in that disconcerting way of hers. “I promise.”

Hesitantly, Ivan relaxed his hold on her wrists and let her go.  They lay there breathing heavily, like two wild animals poised for flight, watching each other.  Mava’s eyes gleamed wickedly.  Suddenly she moved, knifing her hands toward him like a snake striking, making him yelp and flail but stopping just before she touched him. “Mava!” he bellowed over her laughter, catching her wrists again and pinning them to the moss. “I didn’t!” she protested, wheezing with mirth. “I didn’t tickle you!”

Ivan was leaning over her.  There was a twig in her hair and tears of laughter in her eyes.  Tiny star-shaped white flowers adorned the emerald green moss all around her head like a crown.  His heart was beating furiously.  She recovered from her giggling and caught her breath, looking up at him. “Let me go,” she said simply.  He let go of her wrists and planted his hands in the spongy moss on either side of her, not moving away.  She regarded him in her usual studious way.  Hardly able to believe his daring, Ivan leaned down and kissed her.

So, not impossible to surprise you, Ivan thought as he pulled away and watched an expression of amazement cross her face.  “Why did you do that?” she asked, bringing her fingers to her lips as if to see if they had changed.  Ivan’s heart sank. “What do you mean?” he said worriedly, sitting up. “Didn’t you like it?”

Mava raised herself onto her elbows, looking pensively at the waterfall, and didn’t answer right away.  Ivan had never wished more passionately that he could read her feelings the way she could read his. “I’m not sure,” she said finally. “There’s something about it I like.  But what is it?  Why did you do it?”

Ivan began wishing the earth would open and swallow him. “It’s called a kiss,” he explained wretchedly. “It’s…it means…well it just means I wanted to kiss you, that’s all.”

“Kiss,” Mava repeated thoughtfully.  Ivan looked at her, trying to remove the glow from around her that his fantasies created.  He let his eyes rove over her magenta skin, taking in her pointed ears, the gleaming third eye in the center of her forehead, the two small horns that twitched slightly at her hairline.  She’s not human, he reminded himself forcefully, trying to see her as the strange creature that she so clearly was, trying to remove the veil of his desire.

“Ivan,” Mava said softly. “Why are you so angry?”

“I have to go,” Ivan said abruptly, standing and snatching up his bow.  Mava scrambled to her feet as well. “Now?” she asked, brow furrowing, third eye widening, staring into him.  He turned away, slinging his bow over his shoulder and wishing there was somewhere to hide.  “But I was going to teach you about Pey,” she protested. “I was going to take you–” 

“I can’t spend every day playing with you,” Ivan snapped, turning to face her suddenly. “I have things I need to do.  People depending on me.  My father is already disappointed I haven’t gotten a deer in this long.  Not everything is about you and your forest and your precious Pey.”

Mava took a step back.  A cloud had crossed the sun, lessening the intensity of the colors in the clearing.  A wind picked up, as if a storm was coming; it suddenly felt cold, much colder than a summer day.  Her face looked paler, but impassive.  She watched him with a remote gaze, as if there was a glass wall between them and he couldn’t see her studying him.  Ivan turned away.  By the time he reached the edge of the clearing and strode into the trees, the first drops of rain were already beginning to fall.

By queenofelves

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


  1. As I finished part IV this evening, I’m getting a feeling that the real story is just beginning ☺️. As a writer and creator, you have reached out and snatched my attention 😳. My imagination is working overtime 🤔. I can’t wait to turn the page 📄 😊


  2. A storm brews as would be lovers quarrel. Perfect. I am curious, have you ever sketched these characters before. I would love to see your vision of them. ❤️❤️❤️❤️


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: