NSFW Warning: Scenes of nudity and other suggestive material.
Disclaimer: I do not own the cover image.
*Here follows part six of the Forest Mother Saga. Please go back and read parts one through five located under the “Forest Mother Saga” tab on the right sidebar, or at the bottom of the page if you’re reading on the mobile version. Otherwise, though I hope you still enjoy this part, it will most likely make little sense. Also, I have placed a link to my Buy Me A Coffee page on the main page as well as here: buymeacoff.ee/FireSideTales. If you are able to make an offering to this fevered mind of mine it would be greatly appreciated. Enjoy!*
On unsteady feet, Leeria pressed onward, winding ever deeper into the labyrinth of twisted boughs and knotted trunks. Never had she as a Ranger felt more out of step with the natural world. It was as though the forest around her had become detached from what was natural, what was real, transforming more and more into a world of its own the deeper she delved. Her world.
The realization hit her just as a cavernous opening appeared in the encircling trees before her, a dim, green light pulsating in its depths. This was all of the Forest Mother’s making, she saw then and if this be her realm then the opening before the Ranger could only be the entrance to her sanctum.
Leeria paused at its threshold, her wits returning to her once more.
‘How long have I been wandering?’ She questioned herself, glancing behind her. The woods had grown very dark. Dense humidity assaulted her, beads of sweat running freely down the expanse of her naked body. The moss was soft and cool beneath her bare feet. Glancing down, she saw streaks of blood upon her soft flesh, mingling with smears of mud and droplets of perspiration.
‘At least I had the presence of mind not to throw this away,’ she thought, hefting her shortsword. The weight of it in her hand was comforting but she couldn’t help but wonder how much good it would actually do against a being such as the Mother.
‘Killed her daughters well enough, if I can get in quick and resist her cursed influences…’
She stiffened. As soon as her mind had turned to thoughts of the Forest Mother’s intrusions she was assaulted by reverberations of desire.
Clenching her fist more tightly about the hilt of her sword, she steeled herself and, without a backwards glance, she stepped boldly through the entrance of the cavern before her.
To her great surprise, the air within the cave was cool. Given how densely vegetation covered its walls, she had expected even heavier humidity than without. She also saw, now that she was within its confines, that the cave’s walls were made of neither stone nor wood but rather a hard, fleshy plant material not dissimilar to the appendage that had grown from the Sapphire Sister’s stump when Leeria had relieved her of her arm. From its surface sprouted a multitude of iridescent fungi, as well as strange, twisted flowers of many different shapes, sizes and hues.
Though smooth like the walls and descending at a gradual incline, the floor offered sure footing for the Ranger. Looking down, she saw that wherever she stepped her bloody footprint would linger for but a moment before being absorbed into the surface by a multitude of tiny stomata, opening like thirsty maws for the briefest of instants before closing once more, returning the floor to its smooth facade.
Grimacing at the unnaturalness of it all, the Ranger continued onward, passing ever further into the cave’s depths.
In time, the passage leveled off and then widened to such an extent that the Ranger now found herself in an open cavern, low ceilinged and thick with vegitation growing from both above and below. The same pale, green light that had lead her to the cave in the first place permeated the area, as well as a light, misty haze, making it difficult for the Ranger to see too far ahead of herself.
Wading through the foliage, Leeria tried her best to keep to a forward trajectory. As the passage that had lead her to the cavern disappeared into the mists behind her, however, this became more and more difficult and she soon found her sense of direction completely befuddled. Desperate to keep any panic at bay, the Ranger held her blade confidently before her and affected a lower stance, preparing as best she could for any possible incoming attack.
Just as she was beginning to feel the dreaded caress of concern along her spine, a soft reverberation hummed through the cavern. It felt like an earthquake’s tremor, it sounded like the purring of a contented cat. A soft trill of desire ran through her and she shivered. Turning slowly in place, she scanned her surroundings.
A soft, girlish giggle echoed softly behind her, distant and yet impossibly close.
Gasping, she spun. As she did, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye and felt something solid connect with the flat of her blade. Twisting her face back ‘round, her vision filled with the image of the Forest Mother looming over her.
“Come to me, my child,” the spirit cooed, her face the definition of a kindly, maternal figure, the rosebuds that made up her hair oozing thick, succulent nectar, the hefty curves of her bosoms lifting to offer the Ranger a taste of her inviting teat.
Leeria found herself frozen, her limbs refusing to obey her command, not that she offered any, so transfixed was she on the majestically erotic creature before her.
“That’s a good girl,” the Forest Mother smiled, somehow managing to exude metherly warmth and raw seduction at the same time.
A long-fingered hand was extended towards the Ranger’s face.
“Do not fight me any longer. Part your lips. Drink.”
The spirit’s fingertips hovered beside Leeria’s cheek, heat radiating between their skin. Gazing up into the Forest Mother’s eyes, the Ranger found her head lowering as a nipple was raised. For the briefest of moments she swore she felt the hard flesh of the papilla brush against her lips, before the screaming voice of reason came rushing back to fill her skull and she lashed out, swinging her blade wildly at the apparition before her.
Her sudden action hit naught but air and, just as quickly as it had appeared, the image of the Forest Mother vanished, though Leeria was sure she saw a fleeting glimpse of a predatory smirk, not unlike those exhibited by the spirit’s daughters, before she was once more alone in the cavern.
Gasping for breath, the Ranger cast her gaze about, desperate to spot the creature again before it made a second appearance.
“Come to me, come…,” the Forest Mother’s voice echoed from the deeper recesses of the cavern.
Steeling herself, Leeria pursued the receding murmurs, knowing full well that if she were to stop and consider too long she would surely flee.
‘I have come too far,’ she told herself firmly. ‘I cannot turn back now.’
This too she did not dwell upon for too long lest she convince herself that turning back was indeed the better option by this point. She was, after all, naked and armed only with a single blade. She had struggled against the daughters, how could she ever hope to beat the mother?
‘One good strike, that’s all I need,’ she insisted, refusing to think of the likelihood such an opening would present itself.
As she delved deeper, the green haze seemed to lift before her eyes and she spied before her a hunched figure that seemed at first to hover at the very edges of her vision before solidifying into a more discernible shape.
Continuing bullishly onward, she kept her eyes trained on the figure that slowly but surely morphed from what appeared at first to be a wide stump. As she neared, however, she saw that it was indeed a man with broad shoulders, hunched somewhat over a wide-bladed sword that protruded from the ground before him.
Recalling the ruins in the clearing of the Forest Mother’s Daughters, Leeria thought him a statue until she drew closer and saw that, though his skin was ashen and his clothes rotted, he was indeed a man. Vines and moss clung to him and live branches sprouted from his mantle leading her next to think him a corpse. This idea too was disproven when, as she stepped within a handful of paces from him, his eyes flickered open and his head lifted to level his gaze upon her.
He was old, she saw, but not elderly. His face was weathered and lined with creases, as well as old scars, and his beard, what of it wasn’t obscured by lichen, was grey. In the depths of his golden-flecked, grey eyes, however, there yet dwelt a spark of youthful vigor, though one dampened considerably by his current condition.
“You come unbidden to an cursed place,” he said, his voice a gravelly wheeze. “I would bid you turn back but it is not in my command to do so.”
“Who are you?” Leeria questioned, her gaze cautious, her steps measured.
The man hesitated, his face slightly cocked as if hoping the mists would give him the information he could not readily grasp himself.
“I am a man,” he struggled. “A knight…a knight no longer. Sent to wander by deeds unforgivable. I have failed so many, my greatest condemning me to my current fate…”
He trailed off, his eyes lowering.
“You’re Bregansworth,” she gasped, recalling the tale Drugan had told her seemingly a lifetime ago.
The man’s head lifted anew, a small smile gracing his lips.
“Bregansworth,” he murmured, seemingly enjoying the sound of the name. “Yes, that was my name…”
As quickly as his spirits had lifted, his visage darkened once more.
“Bregansworth no longer,” he grimaced. “Now only Guardian-Consort of the Forest Mother.”
“Consort?” Leeria arched a brow. “So she ensorcelled you, as she seeks to ensorcell me…”
Caught with a sudden inspiration, the Ranger stepped forward, lowering her blade, and extending her hand to the disgraced knight.
“Join me, Bregansworth,” she said. “Join me in slaying the creature and freeing this wood of her influence.”
“Free?” He smiled again, though no warm emotion could be attached to the action this time. “There is no free…”
“There is!” She insisted, not lowering her hand. “I have slain her daughters, if they can die so can she!”
His voice was like the cracking of a whip and Leeria immediately retracted her hand.
“The Nymphs in the glade,” she clarified to his fierce expression, wondering if perhaps his old chivalric code had kicked in at the mention of the possibility of slain children.
“Her daughters…my daughters…my children…my sins.”
The wrenching pain in his voice twisted her gut, but that didn’t stop her from adopting a defensive stance once more.
“They were evil,” she insisted, “twisted creatures aiding the Forest Mother in her occupation of this forest.”
His fingers gripping the handle of his blade tighter beneath the rotting facade of his leather gloves, Bregansworth glared at her. She saw, however, within the depths of his eyes, that a war waged within him. That same, dim spark of youth she had detected earlier was now warring with what had twisted him, she saw.
She knew it was a long shot, knew that she should just lunge at him then before he could fully draw his blade, but she couldn’t bring herself to give up on him just yet. There was honor in this man, as well as a knowledge of right and wrong, however perverted it may have become. How could she slay him when there was still a chance she could turn him back to who he had once been?
“Bregansworth,” she said in calming, even tones. “Sir. Bregansworth. My name is Leeria, I am a Ranger with the Sisterhood of the Rising Moon. I took an oath when I joined the Order that no innocent creature would die by by hand. You took much the same oath when you became a knight. Who was it that knighted you? Do you remember their name? Do you remember your oath?”
Bregansworth blinked at her questions, the battle within him stalled by her inquiry.
“Knight-Commander Krevord Von Destrill,” he said as if rattling off his rank. “Lord Protector of Amien Fork.”
“To what order of knights were you sworn into?”
“The Order of the Blessed Crest, due to my service in the defense of the city.”
Leeria nodded. She knew the order, though she had had precious few dealings with them. They were one of the lesser Paladin orders of the Vast and Verdent Vales. She knew not if Bregansworth had been a Paladin himself, or merely a Knight-Protector of the order, but either way he would prove a dangerous opponent should their discourse come to blows.
“What manner of oath did you swear?” She pressed.
“Oath? I failed. Lost sight of my oath, went astray..” He mumbled, his gaze casting about desperately as he sought to recall what past had led him there.
“You came here for redemption,” she corrected him firmly. “Redemption that may yet be yours should you side with me.”
It was clear that he was no longer listening to her though. His eyes continued to wander, his hands gripping ever tighter to his blade, so much so that his gloves began to flake from his fingers.
“My oath…my oath was disgraced. Fled…came to this land…helped the farmers…heard her call, the call of The Mother. Sought her out…sought to slay her…drive her from this wood…too powerful, her draw too great…succumbed…”
“Your name is Bregansworth!” She called out to him, trying desperately to bring him back to their conversation.
“I lay with her…many a time,” he continued unabated. “Children three she bore for me. Twisted creatures, reminiscent of my sin…”
Suddenly his gaze snapped to her once more, his features twisting with spite.
“Their stench I smell upon you!” He cried, wrenching his blade from the cavern floor.
“Their blood!” He swung his blade wildly at her, an attack she easily dodged.
“My sin!” He swung anew and again she dodged, though less easily this time.
‘He’s quick,’ she realized, grimly readying her blade. ‘And too far gone for me to aid.’
This time Leeria was forced to bring her own blade to bear to deflect his attack. As their swords collided, the shock of the blow reverberated through her arms, causing her to cry aloud in pain as well as defiance.
Retracting his sword, he lifted it high to smite her. Seeing her opening, the Ranger dove in, spinning past him and drawing her blade harshly across his midriff. Regaining her footing behind him, she readied herself for a continuation of his assault, but it did not come.
He stood there, frozen, his blade held high before, ever so slowly, like the felling of a great tree, he toppled soundlessly forward, disappearing among the foliage of the cavern floor with a resounding crash.
Breathing heavily, Leeria lowered her blade. She took a cautious step towards the fallen knight before quickly recoiling when, with a great thrashing, the stems and vines surrounding his body began wrapping themselves about him, rapidly encasing him in a cocoon of their appendages.
“Come to me…” the Forest Mother’s voice beckoned.
Turning from the macabre scene, the Ranger obediently followed the voice, her footsteps carrying her ever deeper into the Forest Mother’s domain.