tagSci-Fi & FantasyKindred of the Wood

Kindred of the Wood

byLesLumens©

This is an entry in the '10 Literotica Summer Lovin' Contest. If found anywhere except Literotica.Com with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission.

I hope fans and visitors of the BWCA will forgive me the indulgence of creative license. The locations used in the story are entirely fictional and idealized. I suppose that Nymph Lake would be the most appropriate setting, though ~_^

Likewise those who recognize a verse or so of a certain trail song.

Try not to let the page count scare you. The final page is just the last few lines of my closing note.


****

Wearing a half-hearted smile, Mara looked out over the lake, trying to enjoy the beauty of the Minnesota morning. The laughter of a loon in the distance accompanied an earthy smelling breeze that rustled her golden blonde hair.

Mara's arm whipped, and the flat stone she held skipped out across the water, surpassing her earlier toss by several hops. Just around the bend of the shore, she heard her younger brother whoop, heralding the launch of the canoes on the morning fishing expedition.

The summer trip to the Boundary Waters had been a tradition for as long as she could remember. Her father had uncles and cousins aplenty in the area, and it was a time for catching up with the family, far away from the cares and responsibilities of home. Those very cares and responsibilities had kept them away for the last five years, and Mara was glad to be back.

Footsteps rustled through the leaves and undergrowth behind Mara, and she looked over her shoulder to see her mother approaching. Standing close together, it would be easy for one to mistake the pair for sisters, rather than mother and daughter — one of the more noticeable benefits from the dryad part of their heritage.

To most of the world, nymphs were mystical creatures of legend, created by superstitious peoples of the past to explain the unknown. Mara and her mother were living proof that the legends were true, though the family kept the secret close out of necessity. Now in the fourth generation springing from the love of an eternal dryad and a mortal man, they straddled two worlds, protecting the remaining pockets of nature from encroaching civilization.

It was that very secret that stung Mara's heart, keeping her from fully appreciating the return to this place of such happy memories from her childhood.

"Hey," Kia greeted her daughter.

Mara responded, "Hey, Mom," as she turned back to the lake. "I thought you were going out with everyone else."

"I was, but I decided that I'd rather get some sun instead. Care to join me?"

Mara fought down the sigh that tried to escape her. She knew that sunbathing was far down on the list of what her mother actually had in mind. There was little hope of avoiding this conversation for much longer. She'd already dodged it for more than two months, and so she resigned herself to getting it out of the way.

"Sure."

Kia gestured for her daughter to follow, and started back to the camp. Once there, she turned onto what was little more than an animal trail leading uphill toward a golden glow at the top.

The sunbathed hilltop, covered in soft grasses and moss, was the reason that the family chose this campsite on every trip. Firs and shrubs concealed it from view at lake level, providing complete privacy — barring a passing ranger float plane.

Mara couldn't resist looking up to feel the sun on her face. By the time she looked back down, her mother had already tossed aside her shorts. Mother and daughter undressed with a complete lack of shame or discomfort. Xantina, the ultimate dryad mother of the family, had a strong prejudice against clothing, and everyone indulged that whim. Nudity was as natural as breathing to those who spent their time around Xantina's pool.

Kia sat down and leaned back on her hands, lifting her firm breasts to the warmth of the sun. A contented sigh passed her lips as Mara sat down as well.

The elder woman wasted no time in broaching the subject that had brought them both to the hilltop. "So, how are you doing?"

Mara shrugged and frowned.

"You know that you can talk to me about anything. It might make you feel better."

"I know." Mara sighed as she watched a ragged V of geese pass overhead. "I just really don't want to think about it any more."

Kia scooted a little closer and covered her daughter's hand with hers. "Well, you obviously are. You haven't been yourself since you broke up."

"We didn't break up. He dumped me."

"What happened, anyway? You were so upset that night that I couldn't really understand."

"He thought I was cheating on him."

Kia scoffed. "What on earth would make him think that?"

"This bitch at school..."

"Mara."

"Well, she is. Anyway, she started a rumor that I was sleeping with Johnny Forsythe. Alan already knew that I was keeping secrets from him, so he believed all the stories going around."

"Oh, Xanmara," Kia said, using her daughter's real name, only known amongst family. "You blame yourself, don't you?"

"No. Well, sort of. I don't know. How am I supposed to be with anyone when I have to lie about who I am?"

"You aren't," Kia adamantly responded, knowing all too well how difficult it was to keep the secret of her dryad parentage. "You may not be able to tell everyone certain things about us, but I've never known you to pretend to be someone you're not."

"It's the same thing," Mara disagreed, and rolled over onto her side, facing away from her mother.

"It isn't, and deep down, you know it. If he didn't trust you, then he wasn't the one. Did he even ask you if the rumors were true?"

Mara tensed, the painful memory of him calling her a slut and demanding his class ring back making her eyes fill with tears. "No," she answered in a small voice.

"How could anyone who loves you do that? Believe you would do something so awful? Judge you that way?"

"I don't know," Mara murmured, her voice cracking with sobs trying to emerge.

"Neither do I." Kia stroked her daughter's hair. "It isn't your fault, sweetheart. He's the one that gave up what you had for a lie."

Mara finally broke, the wall she'd erected after crying herself to sleep that night crumbling. "I loved him so much."

"I know, and he obviously didn't deserve it."

"That bastard."

Kia sniffled, her eyes misting up as well. "I'm going to let that one go, because I agree with you. Come here."

Need of the love and protection of her mother's arms welled up in Mara. She sat up, leaned into the embrace, and let her tears flow.

****

Though she'd resisted it with all her might, Mara felt a great deal better after a long cry in her mother's arms, followed by actually taking advantage of the hilltop to soak up the sun for an hour.

Since the plan was to take a swim after giving their early lunch a little time to settle, both women wore their bikinis beneath shorts and t-shirts. Even in the shade of the rustling trees, the air was hot and humid. With each passing minute, the thought of the cool water grew more inviting.

"Ho the camp!"

Mara's brow furrowed when she heard the call from the lake, as the voice seemed familiar. She and her mother shared a glance before rising from where they sat in front of the tent, to see a canoe down on the lake.

Kia waved as she walked toward the shore and called out, "Paul!"

Upon hearing the name, recognition fully dawned on Mara. Paul could almost be called a resident, and acted as an unofficial deputy to the park rangers during his frequent sojourns. His bushy black beard and wooden canoe served to make him look like a fur trapper of old, though his smile was anything but the sort of gruff expression one would expect from such a character.

"Kia? Good to see you back. You haven't changed a bit. Is that Mara?"

"All grown up," Kia answered as she reached the edge of the water, careful of her footing on the uneven stone.

"That she is. Dara's going to be heartbroken when she finds out she missed you, Mara. You two were always as thick as thieves." He drew himself up, his face filling with pride. "She's in medical school — top of her class."

Mara smiled, knowing that the older girl had always dreamed of being a doctor. "Tell her I'm sorry I missed her too."

"What about Wade?" Her mother asked.

Paul hiked a thumb behind him, even as the tip of a canoe pulled into view from around the bend where Mara had stood earlier in the morning.

"Hey! Look who it is," Wade called out as he paddled up to join his father.

Mara's eyes widened when she saw him. Though he had proved a nuisance sometimes, Wade was just as much a friend to her as his sister. When she'd last seen him, he was all skinned knees and elbows.

He was anything but, now.

"All grown up," Kia whispered, leaning over to bump into her daughter.

Mara's face burned when she realized she was staring at him, muscles bulging beneath his t-shirt as he propelled the canoe with powerful strokes. His pale blond hair stood up in spikes, looking artfully mussed as it always had, a sharp contrast to his father. She waved and smiled to cover her embarrassment, calling out her old nickname for him. "Hey, Fishbait!"

"I hardly ever fall out of a boat any more, thank you," he said as he sat down his paddle and drifted up next to his father's canoe. "There's a camp set up at forty-two, but nobody's there."

"Probably kin of yours?" Paul asked, his smile fading.

Kia nodded. "They're off fishing. Something wrong?"

"Happen to see a couple of blond boys in a red fiberglass? They were supposed to be back to the portage this morning, and they haven't showed."

"No, but I'll call Steve and the others. Mara, can you go get the radio?"

"Yeah, Mom," Mara answered, glad to have the chance to recover from her shock at the change in her old friend. When she returned, Wade and his father had paddled up to shore.

Kia pressed the button on the two-way radio. "Steve?"

"Yeah, honey," his voice answered.

"Paul and Wade are here. Have you seen two boys in a red fiberglass canoe?"

"No. Missing?"

"Mmm hmm."

"We aren't having much luck with the fish anyway. We'll help look."

His last sentence echoed in stereo from two radios. "Channel three, Wade," Paul said to his son.

"Got it, Dad."

"Whereabouts are you?" Wade asked into his own radio.

"Up off the point. Come on up here and we'll come up with a plan to spread out."

"You girls want to come along?" Paul asked.

Kia turned to her daughter and lifted her eyebrows.

Regardless of the inner turmoil she was dealing with, Mara couldn't ignore the possibility that someone was lost or hurt, and that she could help. "Sure."

Wade picked up a paddle from within his canoe and held it out to Mara. "All aboard the S.S. Fishbait."

Mara laughed, snatched away the paddle, and soon they were off.

****

Her paddle leaned over her shoulder, Mara dangled her fingers in the water, waiting for her father and brother to make their way across the sparkling surface of the lake.

Though the search was tedious, the company was good. Wade was as full of good humor as ever, joking and singing as he paddled along in the seat behind her. Everyone had stories to tell, many of which were new to Mara by virtue of her being too young to actually remember the incidents at the time. Despite the camaraderie, none forgot the task at hand, and kept their eyes open as they fanned out from arranged meeting spots.

Mara's father shook his head as his canoe drifted between the two waiting boats. "No sign. Ran into a group of scouts at the portage. They haven't seen them, and they've been up on the other side all week."

Paul eyed the sun and said, "We only have about an hour before we'll need to head back." He sighed.

"We've got an hour, so we'll use it," Mara's father declared. "I'll head up toward fifty-five."

Paul nodded. "Fifty-three and fifty-eight are about the same distance. That will put us all back here at about the same time, and back to camp right at dark."

"We'll take fifty-three," Wade piped up.

Kia looked a little dubious, as she and her daughter had stayed within sight throughout the search. The look vanished a moment later and she agreed, "That leaves us fifty-eight. Don't dally."

Wade dipped his paddle in the water. Mara followed his example, and the little flotilla disbanded.

"Arrr! Off to Blood Island, Lass!"

Mara groaned and shook her head at Wade's pirate imitation. The island where campsite fifty-three was located looked especially inviting from the water. It had a sand and pebble beach that stretched far out into a shallow spot of the lake, perfect for swimming. The trees formed a semi-circle around the campsite, offering shade and protection from the wind.

The problem was the native inhabitants.

Swarms of biting black flies called the island home — thus the name — and voraciously attacked anyone who was damp from swimming or sweat. The trick was to jump in the canoes as soon as you finished swimming and paddle away as quickly as possible until you dried, but few stayed on Blood Island long enough to learn that secret.

Though she had a closer bond with her family than most girls her age, Mara still felt a surge of freedom when her mother and father both passed out of view. Wade immediately took up a shanty, the lyrics deviously suggestive of things that had nothing to do with sailing. Mara kept paddling, pretending that she didn't hear him, though she did find herself smiling and stifling chuckles throughout.

"For all the sailors love her — and flock to where she's moored. Each man hoping that he might — go down all hands on board!"

"Are you quite done?" Mara asked over her shoulder as he punctuated the song with a loud Yo Ho!

"Ah, don't be a party pooper. Let's pick it up a bit. I need to drain the bilges."

Though she blew a raspberry at him, Mara did match the increased speed of his paddling. He wasn't the only one who needed a pit stop. As they passed a narrow, tree-shrouded inlet, movement caught Mara's eye, and she turned to see two men fishing.

"Wade."

"I see them. Let's make this quick." His j-stroke turned the canoe with ease.

"Hey there," Wade called out as they approached, staying back far enough to avoid any chance of fouling the men's lines. "Have you seen two guys in a red fiberglass canoe?"

"Day before yesterday, up by the falls. Saw them fighting with some other boys and calling the girls with them..." He trailed off, his eyes darting to Mara, and cleared his throat. "Anyway, we steered clear."

"Thanks. They've gone missing and we're trying to find them. Luck to you."

"We'll keep a weather eye out," the fisherman answered.

Wade dipped his paddle back in the water. "Let's get to Blood Island before I pee all over myself."

The speed at which Wade paddled bespoke no small amount of urgency, and Mara was beginning to feel that way as well. The canoe skimmed across the water, propelled by the pair's coordinated strokes toward the island in the distance. By the time Wade pointed the bow at the beach, Mara was fidgeting in her seat.

The canoe crunched up on the sand and smooth-worn stones, the speed of the beaching fast enough that Mara could step out without getting her feet wet when the momentum finally halted. Wade climbed to the middle of the canoe and leapt for the shore, muttering, "Gotta go. Gotta go. Gotta go."

"I'm going up to the latrine," she called after him.

"Okay," he yelled back as he ran into the trees.

When she returned from the latrine, Mara found Wade on the beach with a pair of binoculars. He was looking toward the far side of the lake in the direction of the waterfall.

"See anything?"

"Not on the right," he answered as he scanned left, toward the other campsite there. "Bingo. Red canoe."

Wade handed Mara the binoculars and unhooked the radio from his belt while she zeroed in on the campsite he'd spoken of.

Wade called, "Hey Dad. We may have something."

When no answer came, he tried again. This time, there was an answer, but not from his father.

"Hello? Can you hear me?"

Mara heard the panicky call and turned around, slinging the binoculars around her neck.

"Whoever that was, I can hear you," Wade answered.

"Thank god," the unfamiliar voice responded. "We're lost, and I think Terry broke his leg."

"Were you in a red canoe by the falls?"

"Yeah. We were fucking around in the woods and can't find our way back to camp."

"Okay, try to calm down. We were looking for you. We're on an island out in the lake, and we can see your canoe." Wade searched his memory for the other young man's name. "Ryan — right?"

"Yeah. Terry looks bad. We haven't had anything to eat since yesterday."

"We've got some food, and we know where you are. We're coming, so don't move, and don't panic. Keep your radio on this channel, and we'll call you every so often."

"Okay."

Wade nodded toward the canoe and said, "Let's go. Those guys are freaking, and Dad's out of range. We may have to go try to track them down until Dad heads this way to find out what happened to us."

Mara argued, "What if we get lost?"

"I've got a GPS. As soon as we don't show up where they expect us, our folks will come looking for us to tan our hides. They'll probably find us long before we find those two numbskulls." He broke out in a broad smile. "It's an excuse for us to get out from under the parental thumbs for a little while without getting in trouble for it. Adventure, Lass!"

Mara shook her head and let out a sarcastic-sounding sigh. "Okay, you're right. One condition."

"What's that?"

"Talk like a pirate day is over."

"Spoilsport," Wade grumbled, and then climbed into the canoe.

On the water again, it dawned on Mara that she wasn't thinking about the end of her relationship. Even acknowledging that didn't bring the memories crashing back down on her, and the sound of Wade whistling the tune of his earlier shanty brought a smile to her lips.

About halfway between the island and their destination, Wade's radio sounded out, "You still there?"

"On our way across the lake now. Give us a couple of minutes. I'll let you know when we're at your camp."

"He sounds really scared," Mara observed.

"Yeah. Let's hope we can find them before he completely freaks."

Steady paddling brought the canoe up to shore, and Mara hopped out with the tie rope while Wade kept the boat steady. Once the canoe was safely tied off to a birch clinging to land near the edge of the water, Wade climbed out and grabbed his pack.

Handing Mara the radio, he said, "Give them a call while I get something out of here."

Mara keyed up the radio and said, "Ryan, we're at your campsite."

"Hurry. Terry's real pale and he's starting to say weird shit."

"Tell them to listen for this," Wade instructed, holding up an air horn. When Mara gave him a puzzled look, he explained, "They let us bend the rules because we're sort of the advance rescue party out here."

"Ryan, we're going to sound a horn. Listen for it."

"Okay."

Mara covered her ears, and Wade gave a long blast. When the sound died away, save for the echoes returning from far shores, she called again. "Did you hear that? Can you tell what direction it's coming from."

"In front of us, I think. It's not very loud," the young man answered.

Wade groaned, shook his head, and held out his hand for the radio. "Look at the shadows. I'm going to blow it again, and you tell me what direction it's coming from by the shadows."

Again the horn shattered the peace of the wilderness, and Wade waited for the answer.

"It kinda seems like it's coming from the same way that the shadows are going."

"That's close enough," Wade responded. "Stay there and we'll head your way. We can narrow it down when we're closer."

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