The Dryad and the WoodsmanbyMyhands316©
Author's notes. I want to thank Mercurylove31 for editing this story. I thought it was time for something a little different. Please remember this is a work of adult fiction and all legal disclaimers apply. As with all my stories, I welcome any constructive comments and please vote. It is how we writers get to know how you, our readers feel about our work.
Layn Wyman came from a long line of woodsmen. Actually they called themselves foresters, but it was all the same in the long run. His kind always tended the woods and glens of wherever they decided to live. Layn was no different. It was in his blood.
Now, to be clear, not all the descendants of his line became woodsmen. Layn's brothers for instance, settled in the cities and forswore their responsibilities. Lane couldn't abide himself in the city. When he was trapped in one, he always felt ill. It got to the point it almost killed him, before he freed himself from the soul sucking woman who betrayed him and the city she had trapped him in.
When he was finally free of her, he ran as far as he could. He found a patch of beautiful old-growth forest and settled in.
The first time Layn entered the little cottage in the middle of the clearing, he found peace. Unknown to him at the time, he also found a bit of the old magic too.
After setting a nice fire in the hearth that first night, Layn lay his head down and listened to the quiet. For the first time in more years than he cared to remember, he was able to relax without wondering where his wandering wife was, or how she would torment him next. Just as he was dozing, he was startled awake as a dark shadow crossed the front windows. Jumping up, his war hardened instincts kicked it. He rushed to the window to find the threat.
What met him were the golden eyes of a small pack of wolves. The first wild ones he had ever seen. The pack leader held Layn's gaze, his head held low and tail straight. Layn saw the intelligence and smiled.
"Harm none of mine and I'll harm none of yours, master of the woods." Layn said in a friendly voice. "Have a merry hunt." Layn laughed at himself as the wolf and his pack flicked their tails at him and bounded out of sight. "My God, they're wonderful. This is where they belong, not in some damn zoo." Layn whispered, as he tried to follow their path out of his yard with his eyes.
Shaking his head in wonder, he headed back to his sleeping bag next to the fire. As soon as his head hit the pillow, he fell fast asleep. That night he dreamed of a world where the demons of his past could never haunt him again.
Over the following weeks, after the moving company dropped off his few meager possessions, Layn started setting the neglected homestead back to rights. He cleaned and organized the cottage, the barn, and the shed. He mucked out the stalls where he hoped to place a couple of horses. He thought they would be better to explore the mountains and valleys, than the noisy motorcycle his brother wanted him to buy.
Smelling the air, he could smell the rich aroma of fall coming and knew he needed to lay in supplies for the coming winter. As he cleaned the barn, he found a sturdy ax. He spent the better part of a day cleaning it and sharpening the blade. Ax in hand, he started clearing out all the deadfall around his little clearing. Stacking it and setting it aside to age for winters to come.
Layn would stop at odd moments, knowing he was being watched. Looking up, he would laugh when all he would find was the deer or other woodland animals, watching him from a safe distance.
"Be careful, there are wolves who hunt here." He told a golden doe as she daintily stepped over the broken garden fence and nibbled at the few remaining berries that were left on the tangled vines.
Layn never missed the bustle of the city. It soothed his soul to hear the birds sing him awake in the mornings. He didn't even miss the sound of other human voices, always pestering him when he wanted privacy. The neighboring critters eventually became used to the sound of his eclectic taste in music, as he would put on the stereo. He pointed the speakers out the front windows, whistling along as he worked the days away.
As he cleared the woods around his cottage, he would often see signs of the pack that greeted him. He would smile and bury what was left when he came across a larger kill. He knew it was the way of things.
He often wondered what type of animal made a sound that almost sounded like giggling little girls. He heard it on many occasions while he worked and looked to see what was around. He figured the next time he had to go into town for supplies; he would buy a book on the local birds and animals of the area.
After a month, even the realtor who had helped Layn acquire the property didn't recognize the place, as she pulled in to give Layn the deed to his land.
"Well you've been busy." The stately woman said, as she watched Layn's six foot frame come in from the woods. She sighed as she watched him put down the ax and toss on the long sleeve shirt over the damp undershirt he wore to keep the evening chill off.
"My grandfather always said, 'it doesn't get done by looking at it'." He brushed his light brown hair out of his eyes. "Besides, it helps pass the time. I knew this place needed some work when I bought it." Layn smiled back. "I told you I would have come to your office the next time I came into town." He motioned her toward the cottage.
The lady stepped real close, straightening her spine, as she unconsciously preened for the ruggedly handsome Layn. "I wanted to see what you made of the place." She wanted to run her hands over the rippling muscles she saw under his shirt. Her thoughts of seduction were interrupted when both of them heard a sharp twang and a loud angry hiss coming from the woods.
"Something's wrong. Go in the cottage and wait for me." Layn ordered as his battle trained reactions pushed him.
Before the lady could turn, Layn had grabbed his ax and disappeared into the woods. His clothes blending in so well, she couldn't keep track of him. "It's a bit rustic for me, but he can man handle me any time he wants too." She sighed under her breath, shivering at the thought. She was about to step up onto the porch, when another loud hiss startled her, sending her back to her expensive car.
"God, I hate the wilds. He can come to me. Once I get him a bit more civilized, I'll see where we can take this." She muttered, as she started her car and drove off, her head filled with visions of undulating under him on her silk lined bed. She had convinced herself that she had found her newest distraction.
Moving through the woods, Layn listened to the unusual silence. He finally heard the scrapping of something fighting for life. Following the sound, he found a large buck rabbit, caught in a snare. Cussing, he ran up and tried to loosen the snare, but realized it was already too late. The damage was already done.
"I'm sorry my friend." Layn said as he brought his ax down, ending the struggle as peaceably as he could. "If you're going to hunt, then hunt!" He swore. "I can't abide snares and traps." He cursed the bloody wire.
Layn tossed the dead animal into the brush. "Well my friend, if you haven't been eaten by the morrow, I'll tend to it. Right now I need to find if there are other traps on my land." As soon as he dislodged the trap, the sounds of the forest started again, even if they did sound a bit melancholy and angry.
By the time he had found all the traps in the area, he finally remembered the lady from town. He had forgotten that she was waiting for him. Slinging the snares over his shoulder and dragging the snap traps behind him, he headed back to the cottage. When he came into the clearing, he noticed her car was gone and shrugged in indifference.
She reminded him too much of someone he wanted to forget. His wife had been the same way. She wanted to have the fancy clothes, the newest car, and have everyone think the best of her, as she followed her fickle heart at his expense.
A week and fifty traps later, Layn finally met the people responsible. They even had the audacity to come onto his land, without a by your leave. Layn was fixing the garden fence when they walked up. They marched right up to where he had laid the traps and called out.
"Why have you been stealing our traps? We've been trapping on this trace, next to fifteen years. It's our track and everyone around here knows it." The older bitter faced man stuck out his chin pugnaciously.
"Sir, I didn't steal anything." Layn leaned back on the shovel he had been using. "Your traps are right there and you are free to take them with you." He held his hand up as the younger man; almost a boy, went to get the traps. "You will not set them again on my land. If you do, I will destroy them."
"And who might you be? Who are your people?" The older man asked with distain.
"My name is Wyman. My people are the Wyman's and the Taylors. Great Gran was James Michael Taylor, a renowned fiddle player. My granddad was E.L. Wyman, if you must know. Not that it matters. I own this land and will keep it as I see fit." Layn refused to back down.
"And just how much of this track do you think belongs to you and yours?" He asked rudely.
"The clearing and the five hundred and fifty acres of woods surrounding it. I'll mark my border.... Just keep you traps off my land and we'll get along just fine. Tell those who might also trap here, the same. One warning is all I'll give. By spring, the border will be clearly marked, if not sooner."
"Papa, yous gonna let him talk to you like that?" The boy-man asked.
"Sonny boy, you're on my land." Layn told him tightly. "All things on my land, I protect. I can make a good neighbor, or a bad enemy. Makes no difference to me.... Gather up them traps and don't let me catch you on my land again, without my leave. I'll do the same." Layn nodded and held himself balanced on his feet.
"We'll see which we'll be. I thought you was one of them city fellers." The man's voice took a softer tone. "Names Cob... Cob Mason. What sign should I look out for, since you're closing this trace?" the older man asked, with a glint in his eye.
"It will look like this." Layn traced a capital T with a right handed L tailing off it. Layn saw the flash of recognition in the old man's eye.
"That's an old sign... you got the right to use it?" Cob asked, the bluster going out of him.
"If I don't, then no one does. It's my sign.... I got some work to get done. Have a good day." Layn said, wanting to be alone.
"You're right... daylight is burning. Jojo, get my traps, we got to get home." The older man shoved the shocked youngster into motion.
Layn watched them as they headed back the way they came. Jojo was festooned with traps and clanked with every step. Once he couldn't see or hear them anymore, he bent back to his labor, finishing the fence so he could plant a kitchen garden the next spring.
That night as he checked his phone machine, he heard the voice of the real-estate lady asking him to dinner the next time he came into town. The next message was from his brother, asking if he could come up and hunt on his property. He wanted to bring some of his friends and make a fun filled weekend of it.
Layn sighed and knew he had to nip that in the bud before it even got off the ground. The last thing he wanted was his brother and his drunken friends on his land, destroying everything in their path. Layn had moved as far away as he could to try and avoid these kinds of problems. Dreading it, he picked up the phone and punched in the number. After the third ring, he said without preamble.
"Mom, tell Tory and his friends that I have too much to do and not enough time to cater to their whims. They're not using my land as their private playground."
He expected the argument and he got it. He knew for a fact his mother would take his brothers side. Having enough of it, he finally told his mother.
"If Tory and his friends want a private reserve to hunt and play on, they can buy one themselves. They'll not be using my land for it. Besides, there isn't a hotel or place for them to stay, just my cottage. I know Tory would never survive a night in the rough. No place for his computer or other toys. I don't even have a box to watch. Just tell him no! I have to go." He hung up the phone and sighed.
That night he fought the old demons in his sleep. He kept seeing his brother and his ex-wife rutting like animals, laughing at him. He knew he couldn't ever prove they were involved, but with Tory, like everything else, once he touched it, he thought it belonged to him if you thought so or not.
The next day he set out with his ax and carving knife. Once he reached his border, he reached up, and at sightline height, carved his mark into the bark of the tree. He had finished his tenth mark, when he heard movement behind him.
"Why do you do that?" A rich sultry woman's voice asked him.
"To mark my border.... It will keep those out who don't belong." Layn answered automatically. He was taken in by the simple lush beauty of the woman standing there.
"So, there is magic in those marks then?" She asked interested, tilting her head and making her long auburn hair fan out in the breeze.
"Not as much. It tells those who pass, that I'm the caretaker of this land. According to the law, I own it." He made sure not to cut so deep that it would harm the young tree under the bark.
"How could one so young own something so old?" She asked confused.
"I said according to the law. In all rights, the land owns me. I never felt like I was home until I saw the little cottage I live in." He smiled at the woman. "Who might you be, by way of introduction? I'm Layn. Layn Wyman." Layn thought he heard the giggling call before she answered.
"You can call me Elmira, Elmira Greenbrier. I heard about it when you moved in." She smiled back at Layn. "I've heard you appear to be a true woodsman. You are said to be polite and courteous. That you have cleaned and gleaned your clearing as you should." She appraised him frankly.
"Hello Elmira, nice to make your acquaintance. My grandsire was a Jagger in the old black forest. My Granddad said his families were foresters. I've always loved the woods. So I try to take care of mine as best I can. Do you live around here?" Layn asked as he walked to the next tree.
"You might want to head back before the rain starts." Elmira said softly. "I live close by, to the north. I'm sure we will meet again, Layn the Woodsman." She smiled and just as soon as she showed up, she was gone.
"Well, there's a woman a man can keep his mind on." Layn shook his head and headed back to the cottage. As he sighted his home, the first soft sprinkles hit his face, reminding him of the soft sway of her hips.
His mind tried to capture the face of Elmira, as he put a pot of stew on, pulling out a round of bread, and sat looking into his fire. He could see the emerald green eyes, the pert little nose and soft full lips on the face that didn't need make-up to be beautiful.
That night he dreamt of being chased by a bunch of little children, girls mostly, through the forest. Their laughter would turn into bird calls, as they called him father. He would toss and turn as they tickled him, until Elmira shooed them away. She kissed his forehead and he fell into a peaceful sleep; wishing he could snuggle the full figured woman who quieted his slumber.
"None of that now... It's a bit early for those kinds of thoughts." Her soft husky voice lulled him into dreamlessness.
The next morning when he woke up, he found a young vine of Wisteria, loosely placed in a crockery pot, at his door. Smiling down, he took and found the perfect place to plant the vine. He looked forward to when the flowers would bloom, a breeze filling his cottage with their sweet fragrance. Sighing happily, he took up his ax and headed to the next section of the border.
He was taking a good look around when she appeared again. "It is not the north border you need to put your magic mark on. I will give you no trouble." She smiled at him demurely. "If it was me, I would tend to the south and east next." She said, like she knew he expected her to be there waiting.
"Would you care to join me?" He asked, not completely startled.
"Not yet my youngling, but soon." She chuckled warmly. "These things take time and I have it to take. I will watch for you. If we are close enough, I will speak to you again. Go now; I think the young Mason boy is trying to make a point." She smiled a peaceful smile and turned to walk away.
Layn watched the soft natural sway of her hips until she left his view. He whistled as he put his ax to his shoulder and headed south. By the time he returned home, he was no longer in a whistling mood.
He placed the twenty traps next to the shed and went in and grabbed a big set of cutters. One by one, he cut them right in the middle of the loop, making them useless.
After he put the broken traps in a bag, he got into his truck and drove to the Mason's land. With a simple note attached, he tossed them next to the mailbox and drove into town, since he was already halfway there.
It didn't matter to him that the traps were just barely on his land. The fact of the matter was they were where they shouldn't be. It also didn't surprise him that the first person he would see, when he went past the pub, was none other than Cob Mason. Squaring his shoulders, he went into the pub and faced the man.
"Mr. Mason, I just tossed twenty of your taps at the foot of your mailbox. I found them on my land. I've made them harmless. I thought you should know." He stood there waiting for a response.
"Well now, what part of your land were they on? I told my boy to pull that trace."
"On the south border, fifty feet my side of the creek." Layn waited to see how the older man would react.
"Damnit man...! I wish you wouldn't go ruining my traps. But at least, now I know you're a man of your word. If in the future you would be kind enough to just return them to me... I'll be having my boy tagging his equipment. Let me tear strips into him if I have to, but I can ill afford buying new traps for a few paces of border land." He held Layn's eye as he took a deep drink of his dark beer.
"One time only, since you've asked, and until I can get my border marked. After that..." He stopped, taking a deep breath. "Just keep them off my land and we can remain good neighbors." Layn said thoughtfully.
"Well, least ways honest ones. Good evening to you sir." Cob Mason said, and turned back to his beer and bread. Layn nodded to the people in the pub and headed out to his truck. After a quick stop at the butchers and the grocer, he headed back to his little cottage in the clearing.
Over the next couple of weeks, as he marked his southern and eastern border, he missed the infrequent visits from Elmira. Once most of his border was marked, he again set about putting his land to rights. He even broke down and bought a good draft horse and an all terrain vehicle that used a clean burning fuel.
It was hard for him to fathom just how much work needed to be done. On the day he made his last mark, closing in the three sides of his land, the first light dusting of snow fell. He stopped to listen to the complete quiet. Closing his eyes he envisioned the little valley, as it might look, all covered in white.
"It is easier to see if you keep your eyes open." Elmira chuckled from behind him.
"Yes, but harder to listen." Layn smiled back. "I wondered where you've been. I've missed our little chats." He added, looking past her auburn hair, into her emerald green eyes.