It was a warm night, unusually warm for the high country of Virginia, and there was no chance of rain, so I had chosen not to pitch my tent. I simply laid my groundcloth on a bed of pine needles, nailed it down, and unrolled my sleeping bag under the open air.
Truth is, I was too worn out to fool with the tent. I was not quite halfway toward achieving my dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I was beginning to despair that I wouldn't make it.
I have been a hiker all of my life, since I was in Boy Scouts as a youngster, and I thought I was someone who could tackle the Trail, some 2,100 miles of well-worn paths that wind from Georgia to Maine across the spine of the eastern United States.
Hell, I'd hiked the Cimarron Trail at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico when I was 15, and that's a difficult task that carries you above 11,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.
Since then, I've hiked all of the trails around my home state, done the Boundary Waters trip in northern Minnesota and Canada, backpacked in Yosemite and camped in hundreds of places across North America.
So I thought I was prepared for the Appalachian Trail, but the relentless terrain, mountains on top of mountains, had about sapped me.
I thought I'd passed a major hurdle by getting past Clingman's Dome in the Smoky Mountain National Park without it affecting me, only to discover more mountains through western Virginia.
Now I was in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I knew I still had a brush with the Poconos in Pennsylvania, the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the difficult landscape near the end in Maine.
I had gotten off the trail back at Roanoke, several days earlier, to rest and regather my strength, but after the second day back on the trail the fatigue and aching muscles returned with a vengeance. My feet were sore, and my back ached constantly.
I now realized that allowing myself two days of sleeping in a real bed, rather than on the ground, as I had been doing while on the trail, had been a mistake.
I had hardly slept the first night after I resumed my hike, tossing and turning from some little root that was sticking up from the ground, or from a ridge of earth itself.
That day's hike had been particularly arduous, with a lot of hilly, rocky climbs through some thick woods. It was still mid-afternoon when I saw the clearing off the side of the trail. I checked it out and decided it would be good for my campsite.
There was shade all around, but the clearing itself was open to the air. There was a small creek nearby where I could get water for cooking, plus the sound of the flowing stream over the rocks was quite soothing.
The area where I laid out my pallet was grassy, and I'd found plenty of pine straw to make a reasonably soft place to lay down. As the sun dipped into the west, I'd laid down for a nap, and had actually gotten a nice bit of rest.
As I lay back on top of my sleeping bag, my head on the small camp pillow, I had some intensely erotic thoughts.
When I was home, I had no trouble finding girlfriends, but I'd ended a potentially promising relationship right before I'd left for Georgia to start my hike. There was no sense keeping her on the line when I was going to be gone for several months.
I'd encountered a few women on the trail, but nothing had happened with them, and I had been too beat in Roanoke to try to pick up anybody. I had jacked off a couple of times while I was there, and that had helped me relax some, but I hadn't done anything since I'd been back out.
After getting back up, I'd built a small fire, then I'd gotten my small camp stove set up and fixed me something to eat.
I had some freeze-dried vegetables that I fixed in the small pot, and I boiled some water in my larger pot over the fire to cook some pasta. I had a small rack/grill that I could set the pot on to heat my water, once I got the fire banked down to hot coals.
Once my meal was finished, dusk was fast approaching, so I hurriedly went to the creek to draw some water to clean my things before complete darkness fell.
After I had everything cleaned and put away, I sat back and listened to the small radio I'd brought along. It was extra weight that I probably could have done without, but I felt like I needed some tenuous link to civilization, so I'd brought it along, and I was glad I did.
In this remote area, deep in the Shenandoah National Park, however, there wasn't much to choose from. The musical selections were mostly country or pop, neither of which I can stand, so I opted for a baseball game.
It wasn't until I heard the announcer talk about it that I realized that it was the first day of summer, and I also noticed that the moon had come up right at sunset. It rose over the nearby mountain fat and orange, a huge perfect circle.
As the cold orb slowly climbed in the sky, I thought about how odd it was that the summer solstice should also be the night of a full moon.
I've been around the outdoors enough to know the cycles of the sun, moon and earth, and I knew that it was only by a quirk of timing that the full moon and the solstice should fall on the same day.
I chuckled, then, when the intro to one of the innings in the baseball game, coming out of the commercial break, was Creedence's "Bad Moon Rising."
My fire had about played out, and I could feel weariness seeping into my bones, so I shut off the radio, turned out the small lantern and crawled into my sleeping bag.
Sleep was elusive, however, and I was kicking myself for not setting up the tent, because the bright light of the moon in the cloudless sky was making it hard to fall asleep. But it was too late for that, so I tried to will myself to sleep, and I guess I succeeded.
I'm not sure what woke me up. I just got a sense of ... not dread so much, but more a feeling of oddness. I looked up at the moon, and noticed that it was still not quite on top of me, so it was probably a little before midnight.
As my senses became more alert, I thought I heard sounds coming from the surrounding woods, almost like an insistent whispering. And even as I did, I saw a strange cloud pass over the moon, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
I quickly noticed that there seemed to be a weird fog surrounding my campsite. It wasn't a heavy fog, but it was almost wispy, like tendrils of smoke from a fire that was some distance away.
I felt a sense of panic, because the weather had been very dry in recent days, and there was the threat of forest fires. I had been very cognizant of that fact when I'd built my small fire, making sure I kept it small and kept it inside the ring of rocks I'd set up.
I looked over at the fire, but the coals were almost completely ashen, and I couldn't smell wood smoke, so I was puzzled at this strange vapor that seemed to have enveloped the area.
Suddenly, I got a real sense that I wasn't alone, and sure enough, out of the mist a figure emerged. My mouth went dry as it stepped into the clearing, just as the clouds dissipated and the moon shone brightly.
The figure was a woman, and not just any woman, either. She was tall and slender, with long raven hair that fell almost to her waist. She had piercing blue eyes, an unobtrusive nose and full, red lips, all set perfectly in the face that could have been looking out from a fashion magazine.
She was dressed in a thin white dress that fell almost to the ground, but it dipped quite low on her chest, giving just a hint of a perfect set of breasts. I could just see the darkness of a brown pair of nipples, and as she walked seductively toward me, I could also see the hint of darkness at the juncture of her legs.
Around one shoulder, she carried a small pouch made of a white material inlaid with silver beads in an arcane pattern. I'm sure my mouth was gaping, and I could see an enigmatic smile on her face as she stopped at the foot of my pallet. I sat up then, letting the sleeping bag fall off of me.
"Who ... Who are you?" I stammered. "How did you get here?"
"Oh, I've been ... around," she said in a voice that sounded like the tones of a dulcimer.
She had a rather unusual accent, not quite British, not quite Irish, not quite Southern, but a kind of a mélange of accents that was quite unlike anything I'd ever heard. And there was a twinkling laughter in her voice that seemed to put me at ease.
"But ... I mean, where are you staying?" I asked again. "Where did you come from?"
"You ask too many questions, Blake," she said. "I am from the night."
"But..." I started, but she put a finger to her lips and shushed me.
I felt a little trickle of fear that she was something dangerous, although I couldn't see danger in her sparkling eyes and laughing lips.
"Relax," she whispered. "I mean you no harm."
As she spoke, she pulled the pouch off and laid it aside, then reached to the front of her dress and untied a knot that I hadn't seen before. When it was open, and I could see the heaving swell of her bosom, she seemed to shrug her shoulders and the dress fell to the ground in a white pool.
I stared then, because the naked vision in front of me was that of a goddess. Her breasts were plump and round, but in direct proportion to the rest of her body, and capped by round areolas the approximate size of a quarter. Her waist was slim, her stomach flat, her legs long and tapered.
And at the place where those legs met was a thick tangle of dark hair from which sprouted a perfect set of fleshy labia. Her skin was perfect, the color of fine porcelain.
She slowly stepped forward, then knelt over me, and she seemed to hover as she offered me her mouth. I looked deep in her eyes and felt myself falling to a kind of blue void.
I shrank back for a moment in fear. This was way beyond the realm of the norm, and I actually had a vision of her sinking fangs into my neck. As if reading my mind, she smiled, baring her teeth, and they were perfect, with the canines blunt like the rest of her teeth.
"You have nothing to fear from me," she said.
I was in a daze as she deftly pulled the top of my sleeping bag away, exposing me to the night air. I was wearing a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt, and the shorts were tenting up with my hard cock.
"I have been following you for awhile," she said. "I can help you in your quest, if you will help me."
"Help you how?" I said.
"Let yourself go," she said softly. "Relax, and let me love you."
Truth be known, I was hard as a rock, and I jerked as her hand delved into my shorts and caressed my cock. She softly jacked my throbbing meat, as she again lowered her face, offering me her mouth, and this time we kissed.
As we did, I could hear a distinct sibilant sigh from the surrounding woods, as if we had an audience. Her mouth was warm and inviting, and her tongue insistent as it played in the inside of my mouth.
Breaking the kiss, she reached down and pulled my T-shirt off and tossed it aside, then she reached down further and pulled the strong on my shorts, tugged them down and slid them off my legs. They too joined my shirt on the ground by my pallet.
Her right hand resumed softly stroking my cock, and one of her fingers languidly circled the tip, spreading the flow of pre-cum over the crown.
I was completely lost in her spell as she straddled my hips. I stared in lust at the pink hole that now winked open between the forest of curls at her crotch. Then I gasped as I felt the head of my cock enter her wet canal.
She slowly slid her hot pussy down on my turgid cock until I was completely engulfed in her wetness.
Once I was securely slotted in her cunt, she lifted her hips slowly, then slid back down – up and down, up and down – she began to get into a slow, sensual rhythm that was like nothing I'd ever felt before.
I'd had a lot of women, but I'd never had a feeling like that, the way her vagina squeezed me powerfully, the way her wetness seemed to cocoon me in her grip.
Her eyes were closed in mounting passion, and her tongue worked at her lips. I could hear her mumbling something, but I couldn't understand what she was saying. However, it sounded like some kind of sexual chant, in a language I'd never heard before.
Suddenly, she threw her head back in rapture, and I was startled to see that her ears were pointed in an unnatural fashion. They were a little like Vulcan ears on Star Trek, though not as pronounced.
But I was too far-gone in lust to say or do anything about it. I was pumping my hips up into the woman's clenching cunt, happily fucking the best pussy of my life, straining to hold back the tide of cum that was ready to fill her up.
And I could tell that she was about ready for me to do it, because her motions were getting much jerkier and her cries of lust much more pronounced. Her hands were firmly attached to my sides as she worked herself up and down on my dick.
Her body – and mine – were covered in a fine sheen of sweat as we hurtled to the finish. I was so concentrating on my pleasure that I didn't react when I suddenly saw thin gossamer wings flutter out of her shoulder blades. They were twitching as her body was shaking in her climax.
The woman's chanting grew louder, and now there was no question that she was speaking in a language that was completely alien to mine or any other man's ears. I wasn't sure what manner of creature I was fucking, and at that point I really didn't care.
As her orgasmic cries grew more pronounced, I felt the crackle of my own climax as it ignited in my scrotum, and with a gasping grunt, I lurched up hard one final time and surrendered a tremendous cumload.
We jerked and thrashed together as we hurtled along on the flood of our mutual orgasm. I was laughing insanely at the beauty of what I'd just experienced, and in some dim recess of my mind, I was prepared to die, if she was in fact a vampiress. I figured, hey, what a way to go.
But she didn't do anything other than flutter her eyes, then smile broadly as she lay her sweaty body prone onto mine and we kissed with the hot smoldering passion of lovers in the afterglow of lust.
I just lay back and enveloped her in my arms, and softly ran my hands over her wings, then felt them as they folded in on themselves and seemed to disappear.
My cock finally deflated after I was finished firing afterbursts of cum deep into her womb, long after the initial rush had passed.
At last, she opened her eyes and seemed to come to herself, and she rolled off my body onto her side. She propped her head on her left hand and used the index finger of her right hand to trace intricate patterns on my chest.
"I am sure you have many questions," she said. "I will answer as truthfully as I can."
"OK, for starters, who ... what are you?" I asked. "It's pretty obvious that you aren't exactly human. Am I dreaming all of this, or what?"
"No, this is not a dream," she answered softly. "I am real, as real as you. You are very awake, very aware, and I am not a figment of your imagination."
Something was nagging at the back of my mind, something she'd said earlier, and then it hit me.
"How did you know my name?" I asked.
"Oh, I know all about you, Blake," the woman said. "Once you were spotted entering my realm, once it became obvious that you would be here at the appropriate time, I made it my business to find out all I could about you."
"But how?" I asked, trying to make sense of this.
"Oh, I have my ways," she said. "Let me explain what is happening."
"I wish you would," I said.
"My name is Maeve, and I am the faerie queen in this area," she said. "As you said, I am not exactly human, but I'm not exactly not human either."
"What in the hell does..." I started, but she silenced me sternly.
"Speak not of that place!" she said, in a suddenly commanding voice. "Not on this night."
"What?" I said.
"I am a faerie, half human and half elven," she said. "And we are purveyors of white magic. That ... other place, it is the home of wickedness and evil, and it is our constant duty to fight against it."
I was fascinated by the way she said the word, "faerie," not fairy.
"You call yourself a FAY-ree, rather than a fa-REE," I said, exaggerating the dominant syllable of the two words. "What's the difference?"
"I think you know," she said with a smile. "Faeries are beings like me, creatures of the wild, keepers of the woodland secrets. Fairies are ... well, they are what your world calls men who aren't men, if you catch my meaning."
I laughed then, at the knowledge that a little homophobia existed even in the spirit world. But that still didn't explain what Maeve was or why she was here. I was quickly enlightened.
"Faeries usually exist in another dimension, as you call it, what you might refer to as the fourth dimension," Maeve said. "We live, breathe, eat, drink, sleep, laugh, and cry all in a world you can't see. We don't measure time the way you do, but we do age. Slowly, yes, but we do grow old, and we do have the need to reproduce. The problem is that faeries are all female, so the only way we can be gotten with child is to mate with a suitable human, and the only way we can do that is to assume a human form. But it takes a certain particular set of circumstances for that to happen. I believe you were on the track of what those circumstances are before you retired."
"I don't understand," I said. I had a glimmering of an idea forming, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
"What is tonight?" Maeve said, and suddenly it hit me.
"The summer solstice!" I cried.
"And?" she continued.
"The full moon," I said softly.
"Precisely," she said. "Only when the moon, the sun and the earth are in perfect alignment are the conditions right for us to assume the form that allows us to mate. It is an event that we anticipate with great eagerness in the spirit realm, and all of my subjects, my helpers if you will, are in a state of high anticipation that I will be given an heir to my queendom."
"But why me?" I said. "What do I have that led you to select me."
"Why, you are here," Maeve said. "The mating of a faerie with a human is a thing of chance, of having a man of breeding age pass within their realm on the appointed night. Many of my friends in other parts of the world are having to settle for those who are much less than you. But they have no choice; they must take advantage of the opportunity where it exists. Those realms will be weaker and much more vulnerable to attacks from the dark side. Midsummer Night is our time. However, Midwinter Night? That is not a night you want to be caught outdoors in a wild place. That is when our alter egos, the valkyries – the spirits of death – find their mates and breed their kind. After tonight, you will resume your life, but those who mate with the valkyries never survive the encounter. They are the ones you find in the woods frozen to death."
I could swear I saw a brief shudder pass Maeve's body.
"What happens to you during the winter?" I asked.
"Oh, if we have prepared well, we are safely in hibernation," Maeve said. "Our time of undisputed rule begins on May Day and continues until the autumn equinox. From then until All Hallow's Eve, we prepare, and occasionally battle the awakening spirits of our foes. Faeries who are out after All Hallow's do not usually survive. After the spring equinox until May Day, the process works in reverse. That has been the cycle of life in our world for thousands of generations. And, with woodlands slowly disappearing, and fewer humans about in our realms, it becomes much more important to mate when we can, if we can, for there are many faeries who sit alone on this night, seeking one who does not come. Each time a full-moon solstice passes without a faerie mating, she becomes a little older and less able to reproduce."
"I'm rather overwhelmed," I said. "So, by a quirk of luck, I was in the right place at the right time to ... give you a baby?"