Remus: Dreams Among the Trees.
Pain burst through his side, fear cut into his mind, and spots swam before his eyes as he ran. His breath came in ragged gulps, tearing into his lungs and spurring him into greater speed. He wasn't safe here, he had to keep moving. Sounds surrounded him, some friendly, some dangerous, and all mysterious. Where was he? He didn't know; he had been running too far now. Or had he? Time was confused in his mind, minutes running into hours, hours becoming seconds, and each moment his strength failing a little more.
Bandits, were they still behind him? No, they couldn't be, their horses wouldn't have made it through the first, tight line of trees. What about Dahlia? She had thrown him from the saddle after the attack began. Where had she gotten to, was she safe? Was he safe? The answers eluded him, blocked out by the fiery pain in his right side, where an arrow protruded from between his clenched fingers. Was he still bleeding?
That question was easily answered as he paused a brief moment in his flight to glance down. His side ran sticky with red blood, covering his hand and ruining both his shirt and his pants. How horrible, his aunt had given him these clothes quite some time ago. Handmade, just for him, and now they were ruined. Quite unacceptable.
Taking a deep breath that sent fire through his body, Remus kept running. He ran past sun-dappled clearings, through deep mossy glades, and across raging streams, sometimes slipping, sometimes falling, but always climbing back to his feet and moving on. Stopping meant death. He couldn't stop, not now. But as surely as the sun must go down at the end of the day, Remus felt his strength ebbing from the wound in his side, like water through a sieve. It poured out of him along with his blood, flowing freely and escaping into the wild forest surrounding him.
And then it was over; he couldn't run anymore and his breathing became shallow. He collapsed, landing facedown in the dirt by another wall of trees. Summoning all his will, all his meager strength left, Remus crawled forward, through the screening trees and into the space beyond.
It was a forest pool, lit brilliantly by the light coming through the leaves that draped like a roof over the whole scene. Rocks lined the pool, perpetually damp from the proximity to the water. Ferns grew at the water's edge, mingling with reeds and mud. It was a beautiful place, a place where Remus' cousin Irwin would have loved to sit for hours, writing those silly poems he so adored. It was the sort of place heroes went to die.
Crawling over to a wide tree near the bank of the pool, Remus wondered if he was a hero. Had he done anything heroic? He hadn't saved cities or countries, but he could see the faces of each person he had kept from harm. He felt them now, as though they watched him falter and lie down against the tree, his hand still holding fast to the arrow in his side. What would they think? Did they ever think of him? Or had be been like the mist, there for a moment, gone the next? Did it matter? Did anything he had ever done matter? He was a cartographer, not a hero, and though he may have saved some people from dangers, or fought against various forms of oppression, he had never woken up in the morning with the intention of being a hero. Did real heroes do that? Did they want to be heroes? He doubted it.
So what was he?
Tired, Remus thought to himself. So very tired.
And he felt his eyelids slipping closed. But before they fell, something rose in front of him. He tried to reach for his glasses, to adjust them and see the vague shape better, but it was too late. Whatever had come for him would meet no resistance. He fell into the black void that beckoned with its promise of relief from the pain and anguish of mortal existence.
Slowly, Remus opened his eyes, surprised to find he was able to do so. Was he dead? No, he knew that death would bring an end to his pain, and he still felt the wound in his side. But something was different. The pain was lesser now than before.
Remus glanced upwards, noting that the sun had moved very little from its earlier position. Then he looked down, noting the arrow lying beside him and the ragged hole in his shirt. Before he could ponder this mystery, he noticed he wasn't alone. His gray eyes snapped up and he stared at the woman in front of him.
She was unlike anything he had ever seen before. She stood only a foot taller than his three-foot frame, and she was as slender as the reeds waving gently in the breeze behind her. Her skin was a luminous green, like the color of the canopy above their heads. Her hair, parted just at her face, hung down like a blue silken cloth, covering the molded shape of her breasts. She was naked. But what color were he eyes? She looked curious and crouched only a few feet from Remus. What color were her eyes? She kept inching closer, as though eager to touch him but afraid of him as well, like a curious animal, kept at bay by its own mind. And her eyes, what color were they?
Blue, brown, black, green, gold, purple, orange, or even gray like his own. The girl's eyes changed every time he looked at them. His gaze refused to hold there, sliding off in one direction or another.
Slowly, ever so slowly, she moved closer. He watched her, wanting to speak but not knowing how. She reached out and gently touched his face, stroking it with her pale green fingertips. It chilled him, warmed him, made him feel strangely safe. She gazed at him with an intentness that would normally have frightened him, but Remus wasn't scared now; he knew she wouldn't harm him. He just knew.
And then he felt his eyes close again and the darkness well up around him.
This time, when he awoke, it was night. The shadows from the moonlight that slipped between the leaves made the forest pool seem unreal, like the fragment of a dream you could never remember. The water glowed a strange, iridescent green, the same color as the girl's skin. She knelt by him and Remus had no trouble picking out her face in the shadows surrounding the tree he still lay against.
"Do you hurt?" She spoke. Her soft voice, as soft as anything Remus had ever heard, softer than the clouds above, made his heart race. His blood felt hot, as though he would burn alive. He felt his breath cease for a moment and the pain in his side disappeared. They were alone, floating in a void of night, surrounded by untold mysteries, with the greatest mystery of all sitting across from him.
"No," Remus said truthfully. He was surprised at the strength his voice held.
The girl merely nodded. She gazed at him with her strange eyes and pointed, carefully, at the rapier sheathed at his side. "What is this?" Such an innocent question.
"What is it for?"
"Protecting me from harm."
Again, the girl nodded, as if that answer satisfied her curiosity. She pointed to a new object. "What is this?"
Remus looked down; it was the cylindrical case he kept his maps in. "Those are my maps."
"What are they for?"
Remus shrugged. "For helping me find my way when I'm lost."
"Are you lost now?" An unexpected question.
Remus paused, thinking. It was a good question, now what was the answer? "No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I'm not lost."
"Good," the girl said, reaching out once again to stroke his face, her fingers tickling his short beard. She gazed into his face, staring at him, absorbing his features.
"What's your name?" Remus asked in a whisper. Her eyes continued to avoid him, always on the edge of his vision and always too far away to matter.
Slowly, the girl leaned forward, her hands on Remus' chest. Her lips brushed his cheek and he felt his pulse quicken as she whispered a word into his ear. That word seemed to echo inside his head, manifesting itself in every form imaginable, and told him so much. One word, so many different meanings. It was not the Human tongue she spoke with that word, nor was it Elven, or Dwarven, or any of the many languages Remus knew. It was alien to him, and yet instantly recognizable. It was peace and love and power and strength all rolled into one, all consumed by this single word. It was beauty, and Remus understood this immediately.
She moved back, and her eyes finally found his and held them, revealing their true color to him. He gasped and felt tears slide down his face. The glorious magnificence of them was almost too much for Remus to bear, but he refused to look away. She lowered herself onto him, closing those amazing eyes, and then she pressed her lips to his.
What happened next would forever elude Remus, no matter how hard her tried to find those memories again.
The morning sun awoke Remus with a start, his eyes flying open and his hand dropping to the sword at his side. He was alone. The small forest pool was empty and there was no sign of anyone nearby. Sitting up, Remus listened carefully, hoping to hear his strange visitor, but the woods around him were silent. He glanced down at his side, noting that it was healed, with not even a scar to mark its passing. There was no pain as Remus climbed to his feet. He stretched and noticed something lying at his boots.
A single water lily lay in the dirt, as clean and pristine as it must have been floating in the pool ahead of him. He bent and picked it up. He looked around once more, trying and hoping to see something in the green forest wall surrounding the pool. Nothing. He was alone. All alone.
Remus made his way out of the forest, climbing up hills, going over rivers, and finally coming out onto a small dirt path. It was the same road he had been attacked on the previous day; the same road where Dahlia had thrown him, and the same road he had fled from to avoid the bandits. It was empty now, the only sign of life a sparrow sitting on a rock. A noise suddenly brought Remus around, his sword flashing out of its scabbard.
"There you are," he said with a smile, replacing his rapier as his pony, Dahlia trotted up to him. He patted her nose. "And where have you been? You decide to leave me in this forest to die, hmm?" He chuckled as she nudged him with her nose, whinnying slightly. "Okay, okay, I forgive you." Remus quickly mounted up after checking the saddle over. "Now let's hurry on to Asintha before Queen Josephine sends out a search party."
And Remus began the ride back to the Kingdom of Asintha, where he had been hired to map out the eastern border for the first time in twenty years. The Queen wanted a proper map made and her brother had recommended Remus at once.
As he rode, Remus wondered if he'd ever find that little forest pool again, and its wondrous occupant. He doubted it. That pool, he knew, was the sort that couldn't be located on a map or found if you searched. It was special, as was the girl who lived there.
Was it a dream? It all seemed so unreal now, a dream felt like the only possible explanation for it. But his side told another story. As did the feeling of her lips he remembered when he closed his eyes. The lily was more proof, he knew. But all of that he could dismiss if not for the eyes. Those eyes would stay with Remus for the rest of his life.
And for that he was thankful.
This was a short story that came to me one morning and so I acted upon it. Hopefully it turned out okay and enjoyable, even to people unfamiliar with the fantasy world I created for these characters. Remus Greenwillow is not my own creation but he is the creation of my sister and I have permission to use him thusly. If you enjoyed this story, or even if you didn't, I'd love to get a review or comment from you. Tell me what was good or what was bad, just be polite and coherent. Thank you for taking the time to read this.