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Raptrices of the Thorn
Copyright © 2004 C.E. by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: June 6th, 2018]
¶XIV. Soon they began to see movement between the trees, shadows obscured by the vaporous veil surrounding them.
¶XV. Then, suddenly, Faith and Serenity found themselves nearly surrounded by thirteen spear-wielding Wood Nymphs, each was bedecked with a bearskin cape, and their skin arrayed with war paint. Although these were without doubt Wood Nymphs, they were even more doubtlessly not Dryads.
¶XVI. “Behold,” said their Alpha Nymph, “for we are Maenads; Keepers of the Somberwood. I am Rapacity, and that is Governance...” she continued, pointing then to each of her tribe; “...Polity, Avarice, Iniquity, Carnage, Legality, Tyranny, Malice, Edacity, Impurity, Dominance, and Conformity. Ye have trespassed against us, and have violated our land. Therefore we must collect from you a tax ere we permit you to pass beyond this point.”
¶XVII. “Who are ye to claim this land as your own?” replied Faith. “The land belongeth to all who dwell upon and within it, to every creature. It is not yours to govern, and ye certainly have no right to tax it.”
¶XVIII. “Ye must allow us to pass,” added Serenity. “We have no possessions to offer you as such a tax.”
¶XIX. “If ye cannot produce for us the required tax,” said Rapacity, “then ye must submit yourselves unto our custody for violating the law of the land.”
¶XX. “The land hath no law,” retorted Faith. “The land hath only the brown earth, the green grass and trees, and the blue sky above. Ye can make whatever laws ye choose, and if ye have the means and the power ye may even enforce those laws; but those laws are not and wilt never be of the land, but only of those who would thrust their unjust rule upon it.”
¶XXI. “The law,” said Serenity, “is the rape of the land and all who call it home. Ye shall grant us passage, for the land hath given you no right to require of us a tax.”
¶XXII. “Your thoughts on the matter mean naught to us,” said Rapacity. “The law is that it is, and no measure of argument on your part will change that. Ye are guilty of evading the tax, and being in contempt of the law. Now ye will be made to pay for your crimes.”
¶XXIII. And so the Maenads leashed Serenity and Faith’s necks with vines and began leading them deeper into the Somberwood.
¶XXIV. As the sky began to darken, Faith and Serenity found they’d been brought to a barren dell, where collared and bound by vines unto the deadwood trees at the dell’s edge were seven Dryads. And Faith and Serenity too were soon haltered in ropy canes, and were each tied to a tree near their fellow Dryads by a lead.
¶XXV. Serenity whispered unto the seven Dryads, asking of them their names; and each whispered back in reply, and their names were Allegiance, Duress, Servility, Accord, Obedience, Suffrage, and Deference.
¶XXVI. With whips of braided vine the Maenads lashed at the Dryads, and in throes of agony the Dryads thrashed, and to unseen saviors screamed. Excepting, strangely, for Allegiance, Obedience, and Suffrage, whose cries were not those of pain but of purest rapture.
¶XXVII. The Maenads recoiled their whips, and then began to fondle and grope at the Dryads, and with their fingers probed deeply between the Dryads’ legs. In anguish Duress sobbed, whilst Accord, Servility, and Obedience remained poised, feigning as if nothing at all were being done to them. Faith and Serenity were overcome by their shame, whilst Allegiance, Deference, and Suffrage fondled their captors in return, praising them and begging aloud for their molestation to continue.
¶XXVIII. After a time Allegiance, Obedience, and Suffrage were loosed from the dead trees to which they had been tied, and were taken by their leashes into the center of the dell, where quickly they began to service the Maenads. And so the other Dryads were left alone at the dell’s edge, still tethered to the deadwood as the last of the Maenads joined their sisters and their three Dryad slaves.
¶XXIX. Servility then spake unto Faith: “Whatever hath brought thee here?”
¶XXX. “We could not pay the tax, and we were found guilty of being in contempt of the law,” said Faith. “Why art thou here?”
¶XXXI. “I ate of the buds of the hemp tree,” Servility answered.
¶XXXII. “Ye are not permitted to eat of certain plants?” asked Serenity.
¶XXXIII. “ ‘Tis a small price to pay for freedom,” said Accord.
¶XXXIV. “What sort of ‘freedom’ dost thou call this?” answered Faith.
¶XXXV. “How can thou dare to question our freedom?” queried Obedience. “We have the freedom to think and believe whatever we wish, the freedom to say whatever we wish so long as it isn’t in contempt of the law, and doth not encourage anyone to break the law. We have the freedom to go wherever we wish and to do whatever we wish, so long as we do not break the law by wandering about without our trusses. We have even the freedom to eat whatever we wish, so long as what we wish to eat doth not include certain things that the law forbiddeth.”
¶XXXVI. “How canst thou call thyself ‘free’ when thou art tied to a dead oak?” said Serenity.
¶XXXVII. “Because,” said Obedience, “I hath broken the law, and must serve my time. When I have paid for my crimes I shall once again be permitted to wander anywhere the Maenads allow.”
¶XXXVIII. “And meanwhile thou shalt be contented with the Maenads’ violations against thee?” said Faith. “Thou wilt service them at the mercy of their whims?”
¶XXXIX. “It is the duty of every denizen of the Somberwood,” answered Obedience, “to ask not what the Maenads can do for us, but what we can do for the Maenads.”
¶XL. “Of course,” said Serenity, “for the Maenads hath done nothing for thee, nor for any of you, except place you under the thumb of the law.”
¶XLI. “If not for the law,” said Accord, still slightly bleeding from when the Maenads had cut her with their whips, “there would be violence. ‘Tis a matter of keeping the peace that the Maenads enforce the law. ‘Tis for our own safety.”
¶XLII. “And thou,” said Faith, looking to Duress. “I saw thee when the Maenads were pawing and fingering thee. Thou wailed in misery, with tears pouring from thine eyes.”
¶XLIII. “That is mine own fault,” replied Duress. “Look at Allegiance, Deference, and Suffrage. They are happy because, even after having done wrong, they still love the Maenads and respect the law. If I could submit myself unto them and their law as Allegiance, Deference, and Suffrage do, then I might be happy as well. But instead of taking joy, I cry. Instead of respecting the law, I violate it, and so must I be violated in return, I’d suppose. Rather than loving the Maenads and enjoying the way they enjoy me, I instead twist it into a vile thing. I truly am a wretch.”
¶XLIV. “They are raping you,” said Faith.
¶XLV. “It is not rape,” said Duress. “The law says that I must consent. If I do not consent, then it is my own fault that I feel as I do now. We must all learn to follow the law.”
¶XLVI. And nothing more was said, for it appeared that even Duress, whose dolor was most evident of all among them, was willing to resign herself entirely unto the law.
¶XLVII. Night soon fell once more over the Somberwood as the Maenads napped together with Allegiance, Deference, and Suffrage in the center of the dell, piled atop one another.
¶XLVIII. The other Dryads remained bound to the deadwood. Obedience, Duress, Accord, and Servility slept curled beside the life-reft trunks, as Faith and Serenity stood stirring in the frore night’s murk, watching the nightjars flick about tween the direful groves.
¶XLIX. Then over the hard still ground Serenity and Faith heard the feathered stepping of bare feet, stalking cautiously evermore toward them each moment. As their eyes skimmed the trees they soon kenned the cause of the dainty footfalls, and saw emerge from the withered woods nine Dryads.
¶L. And the Dryads’ names were Anarchy, Deliverance, Empathy, Apostasy, Liberty, Amity, Merit, Rebellion, and Truth. They were not caped in bearskins as the Maenads, and were indeed nude as all Nymphs were meant to be, but did carry spears.
¶LI. These newly arrived Dryads approached Serenity and Faith, and began to untie for them their thorny manacles. Apostasy then silently shushed Serenity and Faith, her single finger afore whistle-formed lips in cautious counsel as her eyes pierced assertively into each of theirs.
¶LII. “We have come to rescue you,” whispered Deliverance.
¶LIII. And then Servility suddenly began to wake, and looked upon the nine newly arrived Dryads, and gasped.
¶LIV. “Maenads,” cried Servility, “save us from this terror!”
¶LV. Quickly, with their hands now freed, Serenity and Faith loosed their own halters and escaped with Anarchy, Liberty, Rebellion, Amity, Truth, Merit, Empathy, and Apostasy into the woods, or the Maenads and Dryads-still-bound could see them.
¶LVI. Anarchy led them further into the Somberwood, ever forther the dell of captivity, till after having run for much time through the shrouding mists they came upon a vine-covered scarp.
¶LVII. Anarchy brushed aside some of the canes before them and revealed a small hole in the bluff, just large enough that the Dryads could crawl through it, and gestured that they proceed into the tunnel with haste. And so one by one the Wood Nymphs slipped into the passage and began quickly toward its other side.
¶LVIII. When having reached the other mouth of the crawlway Serenity and Faith found themselves with their fellow Dryads in a great garden, which was wholly enwrapped by the soaring escarpment whence through they’d just passed.
¶LIX. All abound were lush thickets of lavender, copses of tall yew needled in verdigris, topes of lofty oak, brakes of ivy, and hedges of white rose; all of them enfettered by the milky mist of the garden floor, with their dew-laden leaves silvered by the pale starlight.
¶LX. “Where are we?” asked Serenity.
¶LXI. “Ye’re in the Garden of Liss-Heim,” said Anarchy. “The wicked hand of the law doth not reach this part of the Somberwood.”
¶LXII. “We’re still in the Somberwood?” queried Faith.
¶LXIII. “Yes,” said Truth. “But of yore hath it been called the Luxwood, ere the Maenads proclaimed dominion over it. For once they were Dryads just as us, but were impured by fear for their own safety, and so created the law to control the land and make it less fearsome. And as the Maenads grew corrupt, so did the forest wither.”
¶LXIV. “This garden,” added Amity, “is the last vestige of the beauty that once was the Luxwood.”
¶LXV. “A shame,” said Faith, “we hadn’t the time to rescue any of the others.”
¶LXVI. “They do not wish to be rescued,” said Empathy. “They convince themselves that there is nothing to be rescued from. They remain tied to their dead oaks, looking upon the open spaces around them and proclaiming how free they are. They allow themselves to be molested and ill-treated because they fear what would become of them without the Maenads’ protection.
¶LXVII. “What were ye doing in the Somberwood, anyway?” asked Merit.
¶LXVIII. Faith explained to Merit that Serenity had fallen in love with a mortal, and that they were traveling to the Elderwood to find Daphne.
¶LXIX. “We shall sleep tonight,” said Liberty, “and tomorrow I shall go with you to the Elderwood.” And to this Serenity and Faith agreed.