Lust and Greed in the Woods

Lust and Greed in the Woods

A Story by Cuthbert Clabbermilque

Hoping to teach his grandson some of the dangers of "languid females" our hero tells him of his adventures in the haunted Goblin Woods where he falls under the sway of a group of water nymphs.






Lust and Greed in the Woods

By Cuthbert Clabbermilque  





                The summer sun was warm, so I dragged my chair to a spot under my cherry tree where its rays couldn't find me, while a cooling breeze could. Birds sang above, their songs mingling with the cries of my younger grandchildren playing a game of ogres and goblins nearby.  It was well into the afternoon and time for my nap.  I sank down into my chair and  dozed while my mind wandered down various paths of memory.

                "Grandfather."  A voice brought me back from a forgotten adventure. It was my oldest grandson, Xander, named after my own father, and for both those reasons a favorite of mine.

                "Yes, Xander, did you need something?"  I asked him?

                "I don't know," he answered.  "Mom said you would want to see me before I depart.”

                "Ah yes, now I recall.  Your mother spoke to me concerning you.  You are off to the University and she fears you are somewhat gullible where members of the fairer sex are concerned."

                He bridled at my words "Mom worries too much.  I understand girls.  I know their ways and I am not as easily taken in as she seems to think."

                I gestured to a nearby chair.  "Sit, sit."  He did so and I told him, "The female of the species is not as easily fathomed as you seem to think.  They are deep and in some cases dark creatures.  Their hold over men can be uncanny.  We are bigger, stronger, wiser, and yet they can bend us to their will with ease.  This is especially true of the pretty ones."

                "I do admit a weakness were the good-looking ones are concerned," he allowed.  "I get this funny feeling and just want to do whatever they ask."

                "I know the feeling well, you obey in hopes of a reward: a smile, a touch, a kiss, maybe even more."

                I got up and moved my chair close to his and went on in a conspiratorial tone.  "I will tell you a story, one not many in the family have heard, and certainly no other grandchild of mine.  But I think you may profit from it.

                "Now a man's stories, those he tells his children and grandchildren, must be more than, ‘I did thus and so, and this and that resulted.’  They must have a purpose.  They can be tales of triumph over adversity, they can tell of lessons learned, or they can be cautionary.  This tale would fall into the latter category.  It is the story of my second trip into Goblin Woods.”

                He looked surprised.  “I knew you had been there once.  It is where you acquired your wealth and that marvelous amulet you wear on your wrist.  But I did not know you had ventured into it depths more than just that one time.”

                I nodded.  “Yes, I have ventured into that haunted home of all man’s fears more than I care to remember.  It is a bad place.  In Goblin Woods each of the seven deadly sins reign supreme.  In this story I am about to tell you, you will learn of my experiences with two of them: lust and greed.

                “All of the family knows of my first time in that forest, and how I acquired both great wealth and my magic amulet.  You know how I got possession of a huge hoard of fairy gold and jewels.  I won’t bore you with a rehashing of those events.  However, what I usually fail to mention is the fairies wealth was so great that it was more than I could carry.  I brought out all I could, enough to make me rich and then some, but the rest I left behind, hidden in hopes I might come back for it one day.

                "This then is the story of my return, or to be more exact, of my attempted return.  I went back to the place I exited the forest all those years earlier and tried to follow the trail back in.  However the further I went into the woods the less familiar things looked.

                “Then I came to a fork in the road.  Thinking back, I seemed to remember from my last adventure in the forest that another trail had indeed joined the one I was on, but from which direction, that I couldn't recall.  I peered up the path that went off to the left and then the one that disappeared into the trees on my right.  I pondered a moment about which to take.  Right has always been my lucky direction, I reminded myself. "It won't fail me now."  But it did.  The path petered out to not even a game trail and before I knew it I couldn't tell from whence I came, let alone where I was going.

                “This was not supposed to happen.  I’d planned on entering Goblin Woods at dawn, by noon to have made my way to the meadow where the fairy castle had been located, find the treasure I'd buried there years before and most importantly be back out of the forest by evening.

                “I had very good reasons for wanting to avoid the woods at night.  They would include the ghosts and ghouls, trolls and goblins, as well as other assorted monsters that call that forest home.  Not the sort of creatures one wants to cross paths with anytime, but especially after dark.  To put things in their simplest and starkest terms, I did not want the next day's sun to find me reduced to a well-gnawed assortment of scattered bones.

                “Realizing I was lost, I looked this way and that, my frustration building.  Why couldn't things go as I'd wanted them to?  I had tried to avoid danger, but now I was up to eyeballs in it.

“I endeavored to console myself with the fact I was wearing my magic bracelet known as The Amulet of Miraculous Reversal.  It has protected me from danger since the first day I wore it.  What disconcerted me was, I did not know what sort of limits it might have.  I could only be sure that there was some level of protection it couldn't offer.  That was obvious since I had acquired it by removing it from the long dead and desiccated corpse of its previous owner.

                “Still the amulet’s powers are not negligible.”  I held up my wrist that my Grandson might admire the amulet before going on with my tale.  “This bracelet turned back the magic of a fairy king who sought to transform me into a dung beetle, changing the king and all the fairies subject to him into the noisome insects instead. 

                “You may also have heard of a minor magician, who has come to be known as Claractus the Climber, but you may not know how he came to be called such.  It seems he coveted my amulet.  However, he feared that any curse he put on me the amulet would make operable on himself instead, and so he sought to get it from me by indirect means. 

                “The fool attempted to use an enchantment called Dutwiller's Sticky Feet to transform the road in front of my home into what might be best described as a giant piece of flypaper.  I was later told he had hoped I would become hopelessly stuck and give him the amulet in return for rescue, or if I refused to part with it, that he might retrieve it from my body after I died of thirst or starvation.

                “Things did not work out as he envisioned, however.  It seems the amulet sensed his plans for me and when he activated the enchantment instead of the road changing to fly paper, his own legs transformed into those of a fly. 

                “This has not proven to be entirely to his detriment.  Having suction cups for feet, Claractus can now climb walls and walk across ceilings.  Whole new lines of employment have opened to him. 

“Nevertheless he is dissatisfied.  Prior to the change he was known as somewhat of a lady's man, but the transformation seems to have put his love life on hold.  The young women, who used to welcome him to their beds, now spurn him instead, finding his thin black chitin legs distasteful to view.  Those nearsighted enough to be able to overlook his appearance report that the stiff sharp bristles that now cover his legs abrade their thighs, and thus they, along with their more sharp-eyed friends, now avoid any conjugal activities with Claractus.

“But, I stray from the story.  Forgive me, going off on tangents. Happens more and more lately.  So then where was I?  Oh yes, I was lost and it was almost noon by then, with the sun directly overhead it proved no help in determining direction.

                Okay, I thought to myself as I looked up towards the sun, I'll just sit here until you move past your zenith.  Then you will show me which way is west, which also happens to be the direction of the forest's edge.  I can still be out by nightfall. 

                The air was warm, there was no breeze stirring, and a sheen of sweat covered my face and dampened my clothes.  Wiping my brow with my sleeve, I sought the comfort of the deep dark shade of a huge old knurled oak that stood nearby.  The tree looked foreboding, its twisted branches clawing at the sky.  However, the fallen leaves under it proved soft and comfortable, and once I’d settled down the forest seemed to come to life around me with bees buzzing amongst nearby flowers, while crawling insects busied themselves in the dry leaves on which I sat.  A dragon fly even came to light on my toe where it sat staring at me with large reddish eyes.  It was all quite idyllic until a strange mottled yellow squirrel with disproportionally long legs discovered my presence and came to sit on a branch above my head where it proceeded to scold me for I knew not what.  No normal squirrel this, I speculated that it might be another creature, that like myself that had fallen afoul of an enchantment by the fairies these woods were rife with.  In its case, however, the transformation had at least partially succeeded.  If the squirrel had previously been something else, it must have been a grouchy creature and had retained that foul disposition.  Irritated at its banter, I tossed a dead branch at the creature, sending it scampering up to the top of the tree.

                “The noisome little beast gone, things became so peaceful I was nodding off when a sound of crashing in the undergrowth brought me back to full wakefulness.  I looked towards the noise and saw a deer dash out of the trees and onto a nearby meadow.   The animal paused, breathing hard, its tongue lolling out.  I could see where a small arrow or dart of some kind had pierced its side and blood ran from the wound to stain its fur. The wounded animal didn't linger long before reentering the woods on the meadow's far side. 

                “Not a minute lapsed before more branches snapping and dead leaves crunching announced the coming of pair of trolls following the deer's trail.  They each wore hunter green outfits with yellow piping and a red hat with a huge white plume that stretched out behind at a jaunty angle.  Both carried tiny bows in one hand while with the other they held a leash at the end off which struggled a scaly and blackish purple goblin imp.  The imps were apparently being used to track the deer for they kept their noses to the ground, except when they occasionally paused to lick blood from the grass, after which they raised their heads high to let out ear piercing screams of excitement.

                “I froze, certain that a man would be preferable quarry to a deer, and frightened that the slightest movement on my part would attract their attention.  Fearing to even breathe, I watched the trolls, all the while praying that the shadows under the oak were deep enough to hide me from their sharp eyes.

                “The hunting party was just opposite me when the squirrel returned and set up a racket again.  It was almost as if it were trying to get the trolls' attention and say, ‘Look what's under my tree.  I don't want him here.  Do something about it.’

                “My heart froze in my breast as one of the trolls turned his head to the squirrel's sounds and squinted as if trying to see into the depths of shadow under the oak where I hid.

                “As if encouraged, the squirrel let out one more of what was going to, no doubt, be another series of barking grunts, but before it could emit a second sound its limp body tumbled from the branch on which it had sat and landed at my feet.

“The squirrel’s cries abated, the troll turned away, giving its attention back to its lunging and tugging imp.  That foul little beast, its green eyes glowing with avarice, had detected another blood stain, and it wished to get there and have the grass licked clean before second imp could arrive and share in the bounty.  At the same time all this was going on I felt a warmness at my wrist where I wore my amulet.  It had surely been the cause of the squirrel's timely demise.  I smiled, pleased that it had again protected me, but at the same time I shook my head in puzzlement, once more unable to fathom the magical rules that governed it.

                “I waited quietly under the tree another quarter hour, giving the trolls plenty of time to get far away.  Then feeling enough time had passed and seeing that the sun was definitely past the zenith so that I could tell in which direction west lay; I got to my feet and again attempted to exit the Goblin Woods

                “Having got my bearings I was glad to see that West was not the way the trolls had gone.  I had no desire to see their pretty green outfits and red caps again, and even less desire to be pulled down by their goblin imps.

                “Instead my direction of travel was almost the opposite of theirs.  Unhappily, my way led through heavy underbrush, and I had to force my way through tangle thorn and canker weeds, all the while hoping that I would soon find the trail again. 

                “After about an hour of very slow rough going, and not finding the path, I was running with sweat, my clothes forming a clammy embrace.  You can imagine my joy then, when I came to a large pool of water.  It was roughly circular and about sixty feet across.  A drink of its water and splashing some its coolness on my face and neck would be pure heaven.

                “The water was crystal clear and even though small waves rippled the water’s surface and distorted my view, I could easily see all the way to its bottom where dark stones lay strewn about interspersed here and there with white ones. 

                “A gurgling brook found its way from among a stand of huge old black oaks to feed the pool.  The water rushed over a large slab of rock that jutted out into the pool like a shelf, there, next to the brook I leaned out and reached down to cup some of the cool water. 

You can imagine my surprise as I looked into the pool and saw a beautiful young woman looking back at me.  She was about a foot under the surface and emerging from under the ledge I kneeled on for my drink.

                “She smiled up at me, her eyes a beautiful green, her teeth perfect, her flowing hair trailing over milky white shoulders.  She looked to be in her mid thirties, at the peak of her beauty and womanhood.  She was undoubtedly the loveliest female I had ever seen, and as more of her came into sight I was stunned to realized that she was not wearing a thing.

                This detail brought a smile to Xander’s face.  He hadn’t seemed to interested in my tale to this point, but suddenly I had his complete attention.

                I nodded to him a few times as if to say, “Yes, you heard me right.” Then I went on with my story.  “I gasped in... well, in shock.  But, I must confess the gasp had a bit of delight to it too.  As you know, women of our village, especially the pretty ones, keep themselves covered.  Our priest has taught them that such is proper, and they obey. 

                “Once she was out from under the ledge the lovely creature surfaced and swam to a rock in the pool's center.  There she climbed out of the water and reclined in the warm sun.

                “Beads of water glistened on her skin like diamonds and I was sure I had never seen a lovelier sight in all my life.  While I couldn't take my eyes off her, she paid me no heed.  Seeming to ignore me, she instead absorbed herself in squeezing the water from her long blonde hair.  However, I have always been sharp eyed, and I could see that while she feigned disinterest, she was often taking surreptitious glances my way. 

                What sort of woman is this? I found myself wondering, And how did she come to be swimming in this pool?

                “As if in answer to my thoughts, she finished with her hair and turning to me said, ‘I am Dryope, and this pool is my home.  I live here with my sisters.  Some call us dryads and others nymphs. As to the accuracy of these claims, I cannot say.  I just know that I love this pool, and never want to leave it.’  She stopped speaking and reached to pluck a water lily, which she put in her hair to lovely effect. 

                “Then looking coyly at me over her shoulder she spoke again, ‘My only regret is that there are no men here.  This part of Goblin Woods is wild and little traveled.   I grow so lonely, having only occasional visitors, like yourself.’  Then after another pause and with voice lowered an octave she went on, ‘I know you too will leave me, just like all the others have, for the forest is a place of danger to you.’  She paused, looked about, a pout on her lips, and then heaved a resigned sounding sigh before going on in a more happy tone, ‘Oh, you needn't be sorry for me, though.  I understand.  It is my lot in life.  But, first then, before you go would you come out here on my rock and hold me for a space.  Let me feel the touch of a man for just a little while before you leave?’  So saying she stretched herself like a cat, then lay on her side, an elbow propping her head and quietly watched me. 

                “Now I'd been warned by our village priest of the seductive powers of languid females. Such is, as you know, a favorite theme in many of his sermons.  Until this moment I had given little credence to his warnings.  Dryope was forcing a reassessment.  Conflicting emotions like panicked birds filled my head.

                “My heart pounded with desire to hop into the water and join her on the rock.  At the same time the rational part of me urged caution for the same reason: hoping into the water.

                “Now, I am not adverse to getting a little wet.  There are occasions when it is impossible to avoid, like being caught outdoors in a storm.  But as a person who watches their health, I know the human body is not meant for such abuse.  However, it is common knowledge that complete immersion in water is unhealthful, causing black bile to suffuse the liver and leading to night sweats, yellow jaundice, and in some cases even gout or worse.

                “This truth was brought home to me by the plight of a man I grew up with, one Menander the Fish Monger.   He claimed that the strong odors of the male body were avoidable, and could be cured by regular baths and the daily putting on of clean clothes.  He did smell better than I, and as a result the ladies were more apt to invite him to their chambers.  But I believe that while the libations of water may have led to Menander having more conjugal opportunities, they lowered his resistance to disease, for the poor man developed a large pustule in his private parts, which in turn poisoned his blood leading to brain fever and death at a young age.

                “Conflicted by a very strong desire to grant Dryope's request and my fear of getting wet, I told her, ‘Why don't you come over here instead?  This rock is bigger than the one you occupy.  See,’ I made an expansive guesture,  ‘Its space will allow greater scope to our hugging.  And look!  Yonder is a clump of grass,’ I pointed.  ‘It looks soft, and even more comfortable, and will be handy should our activities acquire an even more amorous bent.’

                “‘I can't come," she answered.  ‘I told you this pool is my home.  It is more.  It is my prison!  I live here under an enchantment.  I am not allowed to leave its confines.  So you must come to me.’  The pout was back on her lips.

                “For some reason I grew cautious at this point.  Did she want more than she intimated?  I couldn't be sure.  After all this beautiful sun dappled pool and this lovely woman were in the heart of Goblin Woods: a place of magic and danger.

                “Indecision racked me for a few moments, then I decided to err on the side of caution.  I would leave this grotto and this beauty and go my way.

                “I knew I would regret it.  I knew that visions of her would fill my nights with dreams of what might have been.  Nevertheless it was better to be safe than to be sorry. 

                “’I must leave now, Dryope,’ I told her.  ‘Thank you for the drink from your pool.’  Rising to leave I sincerely added, ‘And thank you for a vision of beauty I will cherish a long long while.’

                "’Wait,’ she cried and sat up on her rock.  ‘Don’t go away.  Not yet.  At least take a minute and meet my sisters before you go.  They would be angry with me if I did not call them before you left.’

                “How do you say no to something so pretty, so seductive?  I nodded acquiescence.

                “Dryope dove into the pool and disappeared.  For a while the water was empty, ripples and waves crisscrossing its surface, sun light dancing on the dark and light stones that covered it bottom.  Then a beautiful brown haired girl appeared above the surface to stare at me.  Like Dryope she seemed to be in her mid-thirties and at the peak of beauty and womanhood.  She wore the same outfit her sister did, which is to say nothing.  Soon more showed themselves around the pool.  Six in all I think.  Each looking to be about the same age and as pretty as Dryope, and yet each different to.  I hadn't known loveliness could take so many forms.

                “Then Dryope was back on the rock.  ‘These are my sisters,’ she said and proceeded to name them for me.  Chelsea, Geniver, and Morgana are the ones I remember.  While some of the names I may forget, the memory of those bodies I'll carry to my grave and beyond.  Every one the picture of female perfection.

                "’Sisters,’ Dryope said when she'd finished the introductions, ‘I called you to meet my friend before he leaves.  I invited him into our pool, but for some reason he won't get in.’

                "’What?’ said one, disbelief sounding in her voice.

                "’No,’ said another.  ‘He must join us all.  The pool is wonderful.  He will see.’

                “At that point Dryope dove from her rock, swam over to just in front of me and standing on a boulder, rose so she was half out of the water. Smile on her face, she reached to take my arm while her sisters gathered close around.

                “I was confronted by the imploring looks of the whole bevy of them, while Dryope, one of her hands holding my biceps and the other my wrist gently tugged me towards the water.  It was as she pulled me that the back of my hand brushed the softness that was her breast.  In that instant my inhibitions crumbled, my fears were set aside, and my desires flamed hot.

                “I've often wondered if that contact was accidental or Dryope planned it.  Regardless, it was fateful, for I found myself telling them all, ‘Okay.  Just let me get my clothes off and I will join you.’

                “That did not take long in the state of excitement I found myself in.  In a trice my garments lay in a heap and I was about to jump in when I noticed my amulet still on my wrist.

                “If anything it liked water even less than I do.  The few times it had been dunked completely it had made a sizzling and popping sound somewhat like meat on a hot skillet.  Prolonged submersion might destroy it.  While I was willing to put health concerns aside, and risk night sweats to be with these exquisite females, I was not going to needlessly risk my amulet too.  I took it off and laid it beside my pile of clothes.

                “Ready now to join the nymphs, I went to the edge of the rock, sat down and danged my feet in the water.  Dryope grabbed my arm again and at her touch any last misgivings or worries dissolved.  Night sweats be damned, I thought, I pushed off and into the water.

                “I'd sunk up to my waist when my feet encountered one of the large dark boulders.  That stopped my decent, but only momentarily, for the rock was slippery with moss, and my feet slid into deeper water.  I was about to go completely under when Dryope grabbed me and kept my head above the surface.

                “She held me a moment, until I could regain my balance then let me go.  Able to stand once again, I was surprised at how good the water felt.  I'd expected it to be somehow distasteful, but it wasn't.  I could feel the sweat that had encrusted me dissolve, while dirt and leaves that had clung to me floated away too.  Maybe Menander had been right.  What was a night sweat or two beside this wonderful sensation, and if that were not enough, there was Dryope too!

                “She took me by the hand and led me over to her rock, then helped me up on it.  ‘I call my stone bed Prometheus, because of the mighty acts that take place on it,’ she told me, lying on her back and gazing up to where I sat beside her.

                “Looking her I thought, This is wrong, just wrong.  No woman should make me feel so helpless.  I shouldn't be so befuddled by beauty.  Yet I was and despite its wrongness, I was happy about it too.  I was more than happy.  I was overjoyed at the prospect of what was soon to transpire between us. I wondered if she had she ensorcelled me in some manner that put me in her power?  I wondered this and I didn't care.  I was being carried along by a tide of lust. That she was to be mine was all that mattered.  So, I leaned over to kiss her.

                “The woman's beauty transformed me into something I'd never been before.  I felt so strong and powerful, so much in command, that I was amazed at myself when we finished.

                “As for Dryope, the experience must have been good for her too.  Her skin had a bright flush to it and she looked ten years younger.  She rose, gave me another passionate kiss and then rolled off the rock and into the pool.

                Where has she gone?  I wondered, but before I could worry about it one of her sisters crawled from the water and took Dryope's place on the rock.  ‘I am Geniver,’ she told me.  ‘I am lonely too.’

                “And so it went, a parade of female perfection.  All wanting me.  It was a dream come true.  No man could ask for more beautiful or willing companions.

                “After the fourth returned to the pool smiling and flushed with satisfaction and youth, I had to pause.  I didn't feel as strong as I had to start with.  I had some difficulty catching my breath.  But that is only to be expected, I told myself.  Regardless of the tales some men will tell you, there are limits to male endurance.  I must be approaching it, or so I reasoned until the next sister joined me on the rock.

                "’I'm Morgana, she said, and I felt my strength return at just the sight of her.   As I leaned to give her a first kiss, however, I noticed that my arm looked different.  The skin on it was not its usual taut self.  It was wrinkled and hung loosely.  Could this be caused by the water? I wondered. I'd heard that being wet for extended periods could cause the skin to crinkle up.

                “Wondering about the rest of me, I turned to look at my reflection in the water.  ‘Oh, no!’ I said aloud when saw it.  It was me there looking back, but an old wizened version of myself.  What had happened? It looked like I'd aged forty years.  I felt dizzy with shock and disbelief.  Momentarily disoriented, I tumbled from the rock and into the pool.  When I opened my eyes under the water’s surface I was in for an even worse shock than the one I just been dealt.  The bottom of the pool was scattered with bones, and what had looked to be white stones when viewed from the above the rippled surface turned out to be arms, ribs, and bleached human skulls, their empty eye sockets staring longingly up at the warm dry air above, air that they would never again breathe or feel on skin they no longer possessed.

                “Seeing the skulls I suddenly knew the fate that awaited me.  The nymphs were draining me of my

essence and youth.  When they had all of both, they would drown me and my bones would join the others scattered around the pool's bottom.

                “By the time I had put this all together Morgana was in the water with me and urging me back on to the rock.  Instead, I pushed her away and headed for the pool's edge where my clothes lay.

                “She grabbed me again, and I felt weak, like the old man I'd become, as I struggled in her grasp.  But desperation gave me strength, and I managed to kick her hard enough she let go.  I made another lunge towards the pool's edge and made it most of the way there before her arms went around me again.

                “I would not give up, however, and with my last reserve of strength I dragged her to the rock where I'd left my clothes.  I reached up attempting to get out of the water, but Morgana was stronger than my aged self. She was winning the battle.  With a yell of desperation I flailed my arms about trying to find something to hold on to.  It was then that my hand fell on my amulet. 

                “Instantly there is a flash of green light that illuminated the entire pool. Time seemed to reverse for me and I felt the years fall away, and yet elsewhere in the pool time rushed ahead at a dizzying pace.  In the space of a breath or two the nymphs aged fifty years, becoming gray, stooped and wrinkled old hags and crones.

                “They looked at one another in revulsion, and then each gazed down at her own reflection in the pool to even greater horror.  Cries of rage, despair, and desperation rang out.  Morgana, released her hold on me and ducked under the surface.  Others of the sisters, lead by Dryope surged across the water determined to pull me under and have their revenge.

                “Free of Morgana's grasp, however, and with my youth restored, I vaulted from the pool like a seal chased by sharks.  Safe again on the ledge I turned to face Dryope and her sisters.

                “‘Look what you have done to me,’ one cried.  ‘I was beautiful and now I am ugly.  The world was wonderful, but no more.  You have taken that all away.’

                “‘Yes,’ I told her. ‘Still I find difficulty in feeling any sympathy in light of the fate you planned for me.’

                “‘Bah,’ she answered.  ‘What is your life when it is hung in the balance with mine?’ and so saying she swam to the far side of the pool to brood over her loss.

                “Another, Geniver, tried to take a reasonable tone.  Hoping to talk me into undoing things, by getting back in the pool with them.  ‘Death will come to you sometime, it comes to all men, and there are ways to die and ways to die.  Is this not as good a time and place as any?  Surely there are worse spots and ways to cross over to the other side.’

                “‘Possibly,’ I agreed.  ‘But even so, death is something I wish to avoid as long as I can.’

                “‘Regardless, one day you must die, and graves are they not dark and lonely?  Is not our pool's sunny bottom a better place?  In its depths you will never lack for company,’ another told me. 

                “‘What you say has merit,’ I answered her.  ‘I do dread the grave's moldy dankness, its cold, and most of all its lack of light.  I may well return here when I feel death's bony hand on my shoulder.  For the present, however...’  I left the sentence unfinished.

                “‘Come back into the pool,’ pleaded another, ‘Give us back our youth, that we might entice others, jolly fellows like yourself, to join the happy band bellow.’

                “‘Sorry,’ I told her and the sisters.  ‘I am about to go my way now. Don't be discouraged, however, you still have your pool and will be free to lure the next traveler to pass this way into leaving his bones upon its bottom.’

                “‘But you have rendered us old and ugly,’ Dryope said.  ‘Without our beauty, without our seductive powers, how are we to accomplish that?  Would you have joined us in the pool if we appeared to you looking like this?’

                “‘I see your point,’ I said and ruminated a moment.  Then holding a finger aloft I offered a solution.  ‘I have it.  You must seduce a troll into your pool's depths.  The forest is full of them and they are notoriously horny, posses prodigious sexual appetites, and are not overly discriminating where human females are concerned,’

                ‘A troll?’ they cried out unison.

                ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures,’ I offered the old adage.

                “‘But trolls are notoriously strong.  Might he not kill us instead, were we to try to pull him under?’

                “I nodded, ‘How very true.  You must steal his youth and wear him out first, before attempting to drag him down to a watery grave.  This will not be easy; trolls are famous for their sexual vigor, due it is said to their consumption of vast quantities of river oysters.  But it is only when you have completely satiated him that it will be possible to drown the creature.’

                “‘We must satiate him?’

                “‘Yes, and in the same manner you attempted to do me, of course.’



                “‘Never!’ came the cries from around the pool. 

                “‘Trolls, their... Their tools are said to be...’  Dryope stammered, unable to voice her horrible fears.

                “‘I know, I know,’ I commiserated.  ‘The price women pay for beauty!  Still, what must be must be.  Elect one of your number to go first, another second, another third, and so on.  You may each have to take more than a single turn with it, but eventually the troll will become torpid, and then you may drowned it.’

                “With that said I put my clothes back on and left.  They were still busy arguing over which of them would first seduce the troll as their voices faded with distance.

                “About a hundred yards from the pool I found the trail I had been seeking.  The evening found me out of the forest and taking a good meal of stew and fresh crusty bread at the Inn of the Two Foxes. 

Having finished my tale, I looked at my grandson and said, ‘And that is the story of what happened to me that day in the forest.’

“I gave him a sly look, ‘As well you may guess, I think back to that adventure often and for obvious reasons.  When I do I try to forget the nymphs duplicity and just recall their soft warm beauty.’

                “‘And now why have I told you this tale?’  I asked him. 

“He thought a moment and shrugged.

                “‘Well, it is for this reason.  I have had years to relive the adventure, and have come realize that Dryope never put me under any spell of desire.  It was my own lust and greed that got me into that pool, over to that rock, and on to those nymphs.  It was my own lust and greed to posses such beauty that drove me.’

                I held up my wrist that he might again see my amulet.  "If Dryope had tried to use magic on me that day to get me into the water my amulet would have turned it against her.  The amulet protects me from outside forces, but doesn't protect me from myself."

                "This then would be my advice to you as you go off to the university.  Enjoy the lovely flowers life puts in your path, drink deep of their nectar, but watch for thorns," I finished.

                It took him a few moments to realize that I was done talking.  Then he looked at me strangely and asked, "Is that all?  Didn't you ever wonder or try to find out what happened to the nymphs?"

                I sighed.  He'd missed the point entirely.  Wisdom is wasted on youth.  They must learn for themselves.  However, he looked so perplexed I told him, "No, I never returned to their pool, nor enquired after them. For I had tricked them, and I suspect the are now the playthings of whatever troll they tempted into the water.  Trolls, you see, are notoriously insatiable, their sexual appetites know no bounds; nor do they age like we humans. So, try as they might the nymphs would never be able to use a troll in the manner they sought to use me.  Instead the troll would move into their pool and use them as often and in as many ways as he chooses.  Travelers like me, lost in Trantrevalles, are now safe from the Nymphs beguilements."

                My grandson took his leave of me then, and he went away at least satisfied that justice had been served.  However, I fear my story taught him little of the power of languid females.   Those are lessons he must learn for himself. 

As for me, finding myself alone again under the cherry tree, the warm air, gentle breeze, and sounds of children at play made me drowsy once more.   I closed my eyes and journeyed down a well traveled memory, one of my favorites.  A memory that took me to a pool in the forest and to women so beautiful that that even I have trouble believing that at least for a while that were mine. 


© 2013 Cuthbert Clabbermilque

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Author's Note

Cuthbert Clabbermilque
I am a great fan of Jack Vance and have tried to write a story such as he might come up with. What does anyone think of the piece.

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Added on June 8, 2013
Last Updated on June 8, 2013
Tags: Nymphs, Nymph, Dryads, troll, goblin imp, languid females, imp, Dryope, Jack Vance


Cuthbert Clabbermilque
Cuthbert Clabbermilque

Cedar City, UT

I am an author who would love to write well enough that I could make my living that way. I write fiction. more..