tagSci-Fi & FantasyEvergreen Forest Ch. 01

Evergreen Forest Ch. 01


There was no water.

This close to the heart of the mystical Evergreen Forest was a verdant paradise. The grass was tall and green, sprinkled with brightly-colored wildflowers. Every boulder and tree trunk was blanketed in jade moss. The canopies of the bigleaf maples and alders were thick and lush enough to keep the ground below in a perpetual twilight, though Snatch, as a former adventurer, didn't have much trouble with dim light.

So where was the water?

Snatch was not one for the outdoors, of course. He was sorely out of his element and here, and he was very sore about that. But he'd worked with a druidess once. It was very hard to spend several months fighting alongside a mystic of the World Base and not learn a few things about ecosystems. Forests needed water. And flowers needed sunlight.

Oh, and leaves needed to fall. So why the hell did the grass cover everything but the road?

He gave his waterskin a little shake, gauging its remaining contents. He didn't like the feel.

Snatch supposed he was lucky; at least the path was clear. He'd heard nasty things from those who were fool enough to stray in the Evergreen—or, more accurately, he'd heard absolute silence. The path was his only chance at survival. The Evergreen Forest was not a safe place for humans. Especially not lone humans.

As he was replacing the waterskin in his satchel, he heard a crunch from behind him. Hissing, he spun, reaching back for his scythe. Was it one of the Gray Wraiths? Had the guards followed him into the forest? Was it—

The rabbit looked up at him with eyes that were far calmer than any rabbit's eyes had any right to be. It turned and hopped away, vanishing into the forest gloom.

Snatch rubbed the back of his neck, sighing. I hate this place.

Still, it beat the noose. And after what he'd tried to pull off back in the barony, the noose and the forests were going to be his only options for a while. Once he was on the other side he'd be in Duke Horacio's territory. Horacio was an old friend. The Baron wouldn't be able to touch Snatch once he cleared the forest.

Snatch reached into his satchel. The little bag was packed full of various devices mundane and extraordinary, and it took him a minute to find what he sought.

He pulled out a glowing blue stone: a special sort of 'gift' from a water nymph. More accurately, a gift given to his druidess friend, but she wasn't exactly in a position to miss it now.

He gave a grim chuckle as he looked at the enchanted stone. The water purifier wouldn't be of much use if he couldn't find a water source to put it in. There were plenty of plants, but nothing he could drink. Not even fruit trees, which had been the one thing he'd been sure would be easy to find in the Evergreen. Usually, it seemed like you couldn't swing a satchel without hitting five different fruit trees, each with their own flirty dryad to try to convince you to spend the rest of her month in her arms letting her feed you from her hand while she fucked your brains out.

He put the purifier back with a tired groan. The forest was not his home. The city was. Failing that, the ancient world of abandoned underground passageways would do. As long as there was stone. He knew stone. His druidess friend had sworn he was part dwarf (though mostly to annoy him, since she'd known Snatch couldn't stand folklore). Out here in this world of green ... It had never been his specialty.

Still, he was pretty sure he was getting close to the center. The forest was supposed to take five days to pass through on foot, and he'd been traveling for about three days now. Snatch didn't walk very fast, so that got him about halfway.

At the center, according to a certain demolitions expert Snatch knew, was a cabin maintained by a veteran Ranger. He'd be able to resupply there, though it would probably be expensive. The Ranger Orders existed to help the common folk, but for adventurers, nobles and criminals, their rates could stretch exorbitantly. And common folk didn't travel alone through the Evergreen.

The forest was beginning to darken. Snatch knew he had to be close to the lodge, but he was tired. He had enough water to last the night, at any rate. His bones gave grateful snaps and sighs as he put down his satchel and sat down on an old boulder, and he took a moment to stretch before setting about making camp.

The chill reached this part of the Evergreen swiftly, readjusting Snatch's priorities. He had never been very good at erecting the tent, anyways. And so he was soon seated on his open bedroll, trying to get a fire started.

"Ahem." Giving a jolt at the unknown voice, Snatch whipped his head around. His world teetered for a moment, reminding him of how little he'd drunk that day, and he decided to avoid such sudden movements in the future.

There was no one to be seen.

"Who's there?" he called, frowning, as he turned back and— "Oh, huh. Good day."

Standing right off the path was a beautiful young woman. Her skin was pale—the pale of someone who didn't see the sun often—and she was dressed in loose-fitting green robe. Snatch could tell just by looking at her that the robes were all she was dressed in. She had long green hair and bright green eyes. Those eyes seemed utterly devoid of device or wiles, which made Snatch enormously suspicious.

She gave a charming smile. "Hi! Are you passing through this forest?"

Snatch stared at her. Something about the young woman unnerved him, and he was one to trust his instincts. She was almost definitely a fey or something. Still, there was no sense in making enemies in his current state. Besides, she obviously wasn't a Gray Wraith—not with hair so brightly-colored. "That's right."

He went back to his increasingly frustrating quest for fire. After a moment, he sensed a presence looming over him. He looked up and let out an involuntary yelp.

The woman was right in front of him now. She grinned, pointing at the two sticks he was rubbing together. "They're too green."

"Hm. No shit." Snatch glared at the sticks, then at her. Except she'd moved now—now she was digging through his backpack. His eyes widened—she hadn't made a sound. "Hey! Get out of there!"

She looked up and giggled. "Oh, sorry." She reached over, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm just really curious."

Snatch's eyes narrowed. "Are you a fey? You have to tell me if you're a fey if I ask. It's the law." He was pretty sure he'd heard that somewhere.

She patted his shoulder. "You're out of water, by the way."

Great. Another freak. Well, this one can fend for herself. I've learned my goddamn lesson, and I've got my neck on the line this time. "Yeah, I know." He brushed her hand off. "I'm going to restock at the ranger's cabin."

"Oh." She looked a little confused. She glanced between him and the pack, a little smile forming.

Snatch rolled his eyes. "And what's so funny?"

She shrugged, plainly struggling to contain a sudden fit of giggles. "Oh, n-nothing."

"It's something." Snatch's eye twitched in sudden unease. "Did you put something in my bag?" His hands flew to his scythe.

"Oh, no ..." She put her hands behind her back, still giggling. "It's nothing like that!"

Snatch stared, mind racing. "... did you take something out of the bag?"

"Nope!" She winked. "It's nothing to do with the bag."

"Hmph." Snatch crossed his arms. He wasn't totally convinced. "Then what is it?"

"Well, I mean, like..." She sat down cross-legged, giving him a clear view to see that she was definitely not wearing anything under the robes. She leaned over and grinned. "The ranger's cabin is in the middle of the Central Evergreen, silly boy!"

He blinked. "No dragonshit. I'm headed for the middle, you lunatic!"

"Nope!" She brushed her hair out of her eyes. "This road goes right past the middle! The ranger's cabin is a bit off the path."

"What? That's ludicrous. My friend—"

"Was wrong." She leaned closer. Uncomfortably close, in fact. "Or you misunderstood."

"Aw, you're crazy." Snatch waved a hand, leaning away. "I can't go off the path for my water."

"Why not?" She leaned even closer. "I can lead you there."

Doesn't she understand the idea of personal space? Snatch thought, lurching even further back. The rapid movement made his head swim. He was starting to lose his balance. And something about the woman ... smelled wrong. Sweet. That was never a good sign. "The ... the Gray Wraiths ..."

"Oh, they don't come around here." The woman's eyes seemed abnormally green, now that Snatch had such a good view of them. They glimmered with innocent amusement, though at what, Snatch could only guess. "This part of the forest is..." she took a deep breath, "... completely... safe."

She enunciated the last two words very, very slowly. Convincingly. Snatch caught himself about to repeat them back to her. He fought to keep his head, but everything in him felt dry and weak—his normally strong will felt brittler, somehow. Was she making a move? Or was he just imagining things?

She leaned closer. Snatch leaned back and fell over onto the dusty road.

Immediately, she was sitting beside him and leaning over again. This time he couldn't lean away, and she beamed down at him. "Careful."

Snatch squirmed. She was far too close. Snatch did not like people being so close to him. "You ... swear by the Reality that there'll be no danger."

She blinked down at him, her green eyes and innocent.

At first, it didn't seem like she was doing anything. She just stared at him, through half-lidded eyes, giving him a chance to breathe in what smelled like some exotic perfume. Snatch realized she was putting her hand over her chest, as was customary for the pledge.

The weird bit? She was doing it under her robe. On her most definitely naked breast.

Her eyes half-closed, and he could tell the hand was not just lying still under there as she spoke. "May the Reality... mm..." With that contented moan, it was plain her other hand wasn't lying still, either. Snatch noticed movement further down, between her legs.

... the Reality come bef—ooh—" She paused, losing focus as her fervent masturbation became faster. "Before me and show me ... meeee..." She took a deep, shuddering breath."... w-where our gods have gone, should I lead you ... oh... ooh!"

"Stop that!" But Snatch's eyes were glued to her form as she shook and writhed beside him. Her fingers were pistoning beneath that robe with the speed of a hummingbird's wings.

"... into! Oh! Into ... into da-a-a-anger. Oooh ..."

After a long moment, the woman's arms slipped back into the robe's sleeves. She gave him a weak smile. "Mmm... Are you satisfied by that?"

He didn't like the way she said that word.

"Fine," he muttered, getting to his feet. His every bone told him this was a bad idea, but nobody swore by the Reality unless they meant it. Even demons had gods they'd held dear, and to learn what had befallen them was regarded as the worst way to die. And besides, little as he liked to admit it, he really needed help. He'd just have to be... careful around this fey.

"Yay!" she whispered, getting to her feet.

He gave her a long look, already regretting his choice. But she didn't appear to possess any sort of deceptive instinct, and ... well, something about her felt trustworthy. And she had sworn. "Well, fine." He offered a hand. "But I'll need a name. I don't travel with anybody unless I have their real name."

She shook his hand eagerly, and he regretted giving it. Her fingers were still slick from her little blissful vow. "Esca," she said, beaming. "And you are?"

Snatch caught himself raising his fingers to his lips and quickly stopped himself. He instead wiped the hand on the right leg of his gray trousers, grumbling. What in the Continent's gotten into me?

Some part of him—the part that remained sober in spite of his dehydration and this woman's strange charms—suspected that the strange smell he detected had something to do with it. But Esca wasn't a Gray Wraith, and she didn't plan on letting him come to harm. Why worry?

"Snatch," he said. "It's not my real name, but it's not my job to be trusted. If you want to travel with a scythe-swinging asshole, that's your choice." Again, he felt a bit of disquiet. What woman obviously barely past twenty would travel with someone like him? Snatch wore patchy leather armor, had a notched scythe strapped to his back, and had—among other little trinkets—a deactivated Ring of Tears in his backpack which she'd almost certainly noticed while rooting around in there. Snatch was not a very trustworthy-looking man.

But the green-haired girl clearly wasn't all there. Maybe there was no sense in analyzing her reasoning. Snatch got up, grabbed his backpack and satchel, slung them over his shoulders and waved an arm. "Lead the way, Esca."

She grinned. "Okay, Snatch!"

She took him by the hand, to his dismay, and ran right off the path. He struggled to keep up—she was very quick in that robe of hers, and it was hard to avoid tripping over tree roots and brier patches.

As they ran, Snatch began to feel a strange tingling in the hand Esca was holding. At first, he shrugged it off as her just holding him too tight. She did seem to have an oddly firm grip. Then, when the tingling started to spread to his wrist, he tried to pass it off as nerves.

Then he realized he was rationalizing it. Minutes flew by as his mind dodged and twisted around the subject, as if unable to confront it directly. The exertion from running didn't help—it was so easy to just fall into thinking about the one-two of his falling feet, to concentrate solely on keeping pace. His heavy breathing formed a hypnotic rhythm.

What the fuck is this? he wondered. Snatch had never been especially quick—he wasn't dim, either—but he prided himself on being able to resist most compulsions. His will had been honed through years and years of struggle and toil. He remembered a particular time when he and the druidess had gotten in a 'fight' with an insane succubus ...

He blinked. He'd gotten distracted reminiscing, and hadn't registered the obvious.

Esca had stopped.

They'd been running for about ten minutes, to Snatch's scattered recollection. He looked around, panting for breath, and tugged his hand away. "Where's the cabin?"

They'd come to a dark meadow. The only light came from a sparkling pool at the center, and that only really gave enough light to make out silhouettes. There were three.

To be precise, he saw the silhouettes of two nubile female forms between them and the pool. They lay over a third.

"What the fuck is this?" he muttered.

Esca let out a laugh. It was a more worldly laugh than her giggles from before. No, not just worldly. Cruel. She turned to him, her innocent grin now tinged with just a hint of malice. Oh, and there was another light source now.

Esca's eyes had begun to glow.

She looked at him with shining green orbs. The whites and pupils were gone. Twin lakes of green fire burned into him as her grin widened to positively ecstatic proportions. "Oh, the cabin? I lied about that."

He stared at her. The eyes caught his gaze and made him look right at them. Something about them was ... drew the ...

... attention. He blinked. How long had he been staring? Definitely too long, because she was definitely too close. Her hands were almost touching his.

He leaped back with an incomprehensible shout, drawing his scythe. "Stay back, Wraith!" he snarled. "That is what you are, yeah?"

"Oh, no." Esca giggled. Snatch heard two identical giggles from the pond, but didn't look away from Esca's hands. He couldn't look at her face. He didn't dare. "No, I promised no harm would come to you!" She reached forward. "Even we Evergreen nymphs have to respect the Reality."

Snatch flinched away, swinging his scythe. She flinched back as well, letting out a slight hiss. "Nymph, eh?" His eyes narrowed. "I guess I forgot to mention this is a blessed blade, then."

"Hmph." She pouted. "We're Evergreen nymphs. Maybe that doesn't work on us. I bet that's not even a blessed blade."

"Maybe not." Snatch jabbed the scythe forward, and Esca leaped back. "But I'm thinking you touch this and you aren't moving for a long time."

Snatch was bluffing. Blessed weapons—one of the only two ways to easily injure one of the High Fey—were extraordinarily rare, given the current lack of gods to, well, bless them, and they were certainly well outside his ordinary price range. The scythe was silver, though, and fey had trouble telling the two apart.

Esca took another step back, biting her lip. Snatch took a step to the side, slowly circling so that she was between him and the dark meadow. He didn't want the other nymphs getting the jump on him.

To his surprise, though, the others were still by the pond. Indeed, they hadn't even moved. One was still lying in the tall grass and the other two were still lying over her. Except now the two on top were looking up at Snatch. All he could make out were their gleaming green eyes, which he tried not to look at too long. They had a predatory look.

He took a deep breath, allowing his heartrate to slow a little. For the moment, it appeared he was safe.

He lowered the scythe, though only a little. "What of that oath?" he snapped.

Esca grinned. "I meant it. We would never harm you." She spread her arms. "This is a place of sanctuary!"

"Is that right?"

"Oh, yes." She gestured behind her. "She can tell you as much."

He looked past Esca, confused. She appeared to be indicating the third nymph.

At that moment, the silhouette beneath the other two let out a loud, torturous moan. Snatch realized it was not a nymph at all, but a human—a human woman. The two nymphs above her appeared to be toying with her with their fingers. From the sounds of the woman's moans, she was being teased. And had been getting teased for a very long time.

He looked back at Esca, who gave him a disarming smile. "She's where she always wanted to be, deep down. You should join her. We... love... new arrivals." Her arms slipped out of her sleeves once again. Her eyes half-closed. Snatch was both horrified and—little as he liked it—incredibly aroused by the realization that she was masturbating. Again. "You can... mm... just lie under us... ooh... and screeeeam... for us... and... ooh... oh... mm..."

She let out a whimper. Her eyes became even brighter, then closed completely. Snatch could tell that, beneath her robes, Esca's fingers were driving furiously towards climax as she whimpered and squealed. In and out.

In and out.

In... and...

"... an' ... an' you'll be so so happy ... oh ... eeee ... 'cause everyone's ha ... ha ... happy ... 'cause we'll jus' hold you soooo tight an' ... oooooh... m-make you scream, s-silly boy—make you scream again an' again—just never—"

Her words became more and more slurred. At last, appearing to lose control completely, Esca yanked off her robe. Now her perfect, naked body was on full display, and he could see her fingers driving desperately into her cunt, assaulting a bare, dripping cunt with both hands.

Snatch could only watch, mesmerized. Some part of him realized he needed to stop looking, to get away. All he had to turn around. Turn around.

There was no hurry, though. No hurry. He could watch. Needed to watch, needed to ... keep an eye on her. Needed her. It just didn't seem ... just never ending, and he would ... he would beg ... "You'll just beg for us... touchin' you," she squeaked, "an' I'll—I'll be yours, an' you ... you—you'll—ooh, y-you'll be OURS!"

Her body started to thrash, and she let out a squeal of ecstasy as the orgasm took her. The nymph kept driving her fingers in as she swayed back and forth, nearly collapsing to the ground. Her eyes were screwed up in bliss, her mouth open in a high-pitched moan of pure pleasure.

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