I. Together the Dryad and Darkelf flirted about through the woodlands, dallying with one another amongst the ferns and horsetails of the forest floor as betwixt the ivy-clad oaks they trifled the day’s light. But when the twain had raught the road to Arlianor and Serenity parted with the Darkelf, she found herself again forlorn.
II. And so Serenity went anon unto Charity that eventide, the Beta Dryad and Shamaness of her tribe. Serenity came across the shaman slumbering above the ground on the side of a tall pine, and walked up the tree to lie with her. Once having lain herself there beside her sister, Serenity shook Charity gently awake, and said unto her:
III. “My Charity? I need to talk, I prithee wilt help me.”
IV. “What is it?” asked Charity, yawning as she woke. “Art thou unwell?”
V. Serenity shook her head. “Nay, I’m as hale as ever I was, though I fear I shan’t be an I stay this course. ‘Tis my very soul that acheth. This sorrow that plagueth mine heart: I feel I can endure it no longer.”
VI. “Thou knowest I love thee,” answered Charity. “Of course I’ll help thee, in any way I’m able. Now, tell me of whatever troubleth thee, and I’ll do my best to make it all right.”
VII. Serenity thought there silently for a moment, breathing through her nose with her lips held straight and tight as she reasoned how to tell Charity of her tryst with the Darkelf, and of what she believed she felt toward him. And Serenity nestled closer to Charity, and each held the other fondly as into each other’s eyes they both stared, and with a sigh Serenity spake unto her:
VIII. “Methinketh, I mean, I believe I’m in love. Not our sort of love; not the One Love of Nymphs, but one of the many sorts of love of the mortal wights. I’m not sure of how to say it precisely, but I believe I’ve ‘fallen in love’.”
IX. And Charity’s eyes shot widely open as she sprang herself up. Sitting there she looked upon Serenity blankly, and astonished she asked: “With what?”
X. “With a man,” said Serenity. “That is how ‘tis done, isn’t it?”
XI. “Not among Nymphs,” replied Charity. “That is how ‘tis done amongst the mortal wights; amongst Humans, Ogres, Dwarves, Hobs, Elves -- but nary among us Nymphs.”
XII. “And why not?” asked Serenity. “All our days we spend in the company of perytons, foxes, urchins, Crows, deer, rauracks, minks, pond bats, hares, and every other sort of creature that maketh its children by pairing together as man and woman. Why should we Nymphs lonely be different? Why han’t we the right to live as the other creatures do? Even the hemp-cane hath its male and female.”
XIII. “Serenity, we’ve discussed all of this before. For over a half-century thou hast dreamt of one day mating thyself unto a man, and having by him a child of thine own.”
XIV. “But now ‘tis to this very man of which I spake that in my mind I am mated, ‘tis him by whom I bear the child I dream of. Always doth he dwell in my thoughts and mine heart, and yet whensoever apart from him I find myself woe, and in sadness fraught. I can think of naught else but being always in his presence.”
XV. Charity gazed upon Serenity’s face, as innocent and unsure in that moment as when she was but a Nymphet. And Charity laid herself back with her sister, her eyes encroaching deeply into Serenity’s. “O Serenity, dost thou even know whereof thou speakest?”
XVI. “Yea,” replied Serenity. “I honestly, truly do.”
XVII. Charity held her sister’s face gently in her hand and with her thumb she softly coyed Serenity’s cheek, and tenderly she kissed her sister upon the lips, and with a smile said unto her: “Tell me more of this mortal thou hast found. What sort of man is he?”
XVIII. “He is a most beautiful man,” said Serenity. “An Elven man. His skin is as the snow atop the tallest mountain, his hair as the dark of night that lieth betwixt the brightest stars, his eyes as the most flawless ruby....”
XIX. “Meseemeth thou art speaking of a Darkelf,” said Charity.
XX. “But he’s like no Darkelf of fable,” said Serenity, rolling onto her back. “I was afraid of him when at first I came upon him in the clearing near the cherries, and I tried to hide away from him by casting a glamour. Then he called out, ‘art thou alright?’, and I ... I was too curious. I couldn’t help myself. Somewhit within me said he was good. So I cast away my glamour and went unto him, and the two Lightelves that guarded him.”
XXI. “Lightelves?” asked Charity. “How could that be?”
XXII. “I told thee, he is a good Darkelf,” answered Serenity, turning her face back to her sister. “He saith the Unseelie Court is preparing to overtake all of Faerya, and that he’s defected from the Unseelie Court unto a resistance cell. ‘Tis why the Lightelves were guarding him. They were escorting him unto Arlianor, where resideth the resistance. He saith he is the grandson of Lilithena .”
XXIII. “Who’s Lilithena ?”
XXIV. “The High Empress of the Unseelie Court,” said Serenity.
XXV. “What happened to the High Emperor?” asked Charity.
XXVI. “Emperor Lilithena? He was assassinated. ‘Twas only a short time agone, about seventy years, if I rightly recall. Some time last century, anyway.”
XXVII. “Well,” said Charity, “I certainly hope the Unseelie Court doth not succeed this time. But, how dost thou know this Darkelf isn’t lying to thee?”
XXVIII. Serenity smiled amusedly upon her sister, and unto her she said: “Thou knowest as well as I that no wight can lie to a Nymph, not whilst under her thrall.”
XXIX. “Serenity, Darkelves cannot be enthralled by Nymphs. If he seemed enchanted by thee, then he must’ve been glamouring, and thou hast been made victim of his device.”
XXX. “That, else he truly felt somewhit for me,” said Serenity. “He told me the most wondrous tales as I led him through the forest, and he agreed to rejoin me the very place we met in a sennight, which was this morrow.”
XXXI. “And did he come?” inquired Charity.
XXXII. “Yea!” quoth Serenity, “and ‘twas the most splendorous time I had with him! He told me tales of yet more unwonted deeds and awesome creatures, and in requital I did favor him with tombestry and chanson.”
XXXIII. And Charity asked: “Didst thou engage him in coition?”
XXXIV. “There was no need of it,” replied Serenity. “Simply being in each other’s presence was enough. O Charity, I han’t the slightest idea of what I should do. I fear that I might nary again be merry without him.”XXXV. Charity thought for a moment, and then said unto Serenity: “Tonight we shall wend unto the Hallowkells at the Emerald Forest’s edge, as this eve is the night of the full Moon. There shall I brew for thee a bain, a treacle in which to bathe that will quell for thee thy sorrow, alright?”
XXXVI. “Alright,” nodded Serenity.
XXXVII. And so Charity bid Serenity wait there for her, arose and strode adown the bole of the pine, and once on the ground began to search the forest for whatever ingredients she might make use of. Serenity meanwhile lay on the side of the tree, awaiting Charity’s return.
XXXVIII. Not yet an hour passed before Charity had come back whither by the tree whereupon her sister rested, holding in her right hand a tall staff whilst from her left shoulder hung a purse woven from hemp stalks, bracken fronds, and vines of ivy. Charity thence hailed Serenity adown from the tree, and they together that instant departed for the hot kells that beyond the Emerald Forest’s outest boundaries spumed.
XXXIX. And so that very eventide, eft the sisters of the tribe had dispersed from orgy and began to browse the forest, Serenity followed Charity, and went unto her, saying: “My Charity, please, I require of thee a favor.”
XL. “What troublest thou over now, my Serenity?” sighed Charity, her countenance worrisome. “Hath not my spellcraft worked for thee properly?”
XLI. Serenity shook her head. “I met with Lyrian this morrow. I’d felt so wonderful these last days -- I thought I might bid him well-faring, and thank him for our time together. But when I saw him, I couldn’t. I’m due to meet him again in a sennight. Please, my Charity, no longer can I stay this course of mine: of being forever and evermore suffered to endure this solitude of mine heart. By spelled rite, by sung rune, by liniment and by treacle hath my woes been for a stound ebb’d; yet always am I left still as discontent when such time hath passed. Surely there must be somewhit thou canst do for me, someway I might attain that which I desire.”
XLII. “Serenity, I can work for thee my seid and shall fain do so to help thee be more content,” said Charity, “but attaining that which thou desirest is impossible, for it is not the way of Nymphs.”
XLIII. “Then I shall have to break the way of Nymphs,” replied Serenity. And greatly did this disturb Charity, who never had heard a Nymph speak of such whits theretofore.
XLIV. Charity’s brow kirked as she looked upon her sister, and she considered the sadness she saw bridled within Serenity’s tear-sparkled eyes of jazel. And her heart quailed for her sister, for in that moment she knew she could not fend Serenity to stay such throe; and if damned must be the way of Nymphs to help her, then so mote it be.
XLV. “I shall take thee to Faith,” offered Charity, “who shall find a way to give thee thy desire.” Serenity wiped from her eye a tear and nodded unto Charity, who then wrapped her right arm round her sister, and with her went to implore of Faith a mend for Serenity’s dolent heart.
XLVI. But when the day had ended, and the Dark Elf had left, Serenity was again by her loneliness mired. Then a thought came unto her, more burdensome than all the thoughts that ever had come unto her before: she suffered not from an ailment to be cured by runecraft or lyblake, for always and anon would her heart cry out in despair for the desires it sought, yet never would attain. And so Serenity went unto Charity once more, and said unto her:
XLVII. “I cannot stay this course of mine, of being forever suffered to endure this solitude of mine heart. By spelled rite, by sung rune, by salve and by potion hath my woes been for a time quelled. Yet always am I left discontent when this time hath passed. Surely there must be somewhit thou can do for me, someway that I might attain that which I desire.”
XLVIII. “I shall take thee to Faith,” offered Charity, “who shall find a way to make thee more content.” And to this Serenity agreed.