Back to Cattail.Nu Index
Back to Story List

Summerheart's Bedtime Story by Winterheart
Copyright by Scarecrazy, my twin.
Author's Home Page
Permission required for copying or distribution.


Winterheart says: Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, in a country so
                  distant that even the oldest legend forgot it's directions

You lie down.

Winterheart says: There lived a woodcutter and his wife in a rickety hut in a
                  deep, deep forest.

You pull up a blankie and a pillow.

Winterheart says: It wasn't a dark forest, although legends like to call
                  forests 'dark'.

You snuggle in your blankie, and listen eagerly.

Winterheart says: It was simply a big forest, with lots of trees, and hidden
                  secret path ways, and nooks, and crannies, and dead trees,
                  and moss growing greenly everywhere, like nature's own

You ask: Were there flowers in the forest, too?

Winterheart says: There were pretty wildflowers in the forest clearings, and
                  spotted deer grazing in the glades....

You smile happily.

You get another pillow and blankie for Winterheart.

Winterheart thanks you.

Winterheart says: On the edge of this mighty old forest, (not a dark forest,
                  mind you) lived the woodcutter and his wife.

Winterheart says: The woodcutter was a kind, and gentle man, and his wife was

Winterheart says: Not the beauty of a princess in a castle, but the beauty of
                  worn hands, a ready smile, a warm heart, and loving

You smile happily.

Winterheart says: They were happy, or at least content, and lived poorly, but

You smile happily.

Winterheart says: each day the woodcutter would go into the wood, and cut
                  dead wood, (he didn't want to anger the Elves and Dryads,
                  you see) and go to sell it in the nearby town.

Winterheart says: And each day his wife would bustle and clean, and go pick
                  berries in the forest, or tend her small garden.

Winterheart says: Only one thing really marred their happiness, and that was
                  their childlessness.

You burst into tears.

You nod solemnly.

You say: That would make them very sad.

Winterheart says: But as time wore on, the bitter longing subsided, and they
                  learned to find happiness in other things, in the simplicy
                  of a spider's web (or the incredible complexity, as anyone
                  who had ever seen a spider build his web could tell you.)

Winterheart says: simplicity.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: She became somewhat of a hearthwitch, what with her and her
                  husband's intimate knowledge of the forest, and the herbs
                  that grew within its mysterious borders.

Winterheart says: When there was sickness in the town, or births, she would
                  be called, and help as much as she possibly could.

Winterheart says: The seasons wore on, and one dreary winter's night

Winterheart says: all their existence was suddenly changed in the blink of an

Winterheart says: Outside, it was snowing, a gentle, freezing cold, not a
                  night for any mortal soul to be out and about.

You ask: What happened?

Winterheart says: Inside, they had lit their fire, and supper was long since
                  a memory, and were cuddled together under a big patchwork
                  quilt in their mattress near the fireplace.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: They were drowsing, listening to the wind howl outside...
                  'A blizzard, ' the woodcutter said, and stood up to fasten
                  the shutters more firmly.

Winterheart says: Indeed, a storm seemed to have blown up out of nowhere, and
                  the door was rattling, the shutters clapping, and the wind
                  was finding every possible gap through which to blow into
                  the hut.

Winterheart says: A knock on the door came

Winterheart says: but at first they didn't hear it.

Winterheart says: Or at least, they mistook it for the wind's capricious

Winterheart says: But as the storm wore on, the knock was heard again,
                  louder, and more desperate.

You ask: Who was it?

Winterheart says: The woodcutter stood up, and opened the door.

Winterheart says: A lovely lady, beautiful beyond measure, stood upon their
                  doorstep, dressed in a simple white shift, and no woolens
                  to keep her warm.

Winterheart exclaims: She looked like a princess from a fairytale, and as
                   mysterious as one too!

Winterheart says: When the door opened, she collapsed into the woodcutter's
                  arms, and it was days before she regained consciousness.

Winterheart says: As they bedded her down before the fire, giving up their
                  own warm nest, the wind outside seemed to howl with renewed
                  fury, as if cheated that it's quarry had been taken from

You exclaim: Oh!

Winterheart says: It seemed that the elements of Air and Water and Forest had
                  all combined to rage around the small hut,

You pull your pillow in tighter.

Winterheart says: cheated of their prize.

Winterheart says: The lady slept the sleep of utter exhaustion, and nearly
                  died a time or two.

You ask: Was she sick?

Winterheart says: But the skills of the wife, untrained as they were,
                  succeeded in nursing her back to health.

Winterheart says: she had the worst case of pneumonia you ever saw, (what
                  would you expect, after her being caught out in that
                  blizzard, all naked-like, not even a cloak to keep her

You say: You know, I think you are magical. This is healing.

Winterheart says: She never spoke to them, not in a language that they could
                  understand, anyway.

Winterheart snuggles up to you.

Winterheart says: Fairytales heal all wounds.

Winterheart says: Basic truth of life.

You hug Winterheart.

Winterheart says: Her tongue was liquid, her words musical, her voice like a

Winterheart says: Her smile, like the sun shining, her hair golden and fine.

Winterheart says: Of course they wondered about her, but their curiosity,
                  alas, would never be satisfied.

You ask: What happened to her?

Winterheart says: When she was well, she thanked them - well,

Winterheart asks: they believed that it was thanks, and with such a beautiful
                  lady, could it have been ought else?

Winterheart says: and walked from their door again, one hot day in spring.

You nod solemnly.

You ask: Was it a spell she cast?

Winterheart says: She disappeared in the direction of the forest, light in
                  her step, and it was almost as if flowers started blooming
                  at her passing.

Winterheart shakes her head at you.

Winterheart says: One day, later that year, in late autumn, when the leaves
                  were turning golden, russet and brown, and the first
                  sniping cold of winter started frosting the air in the

Winterheart says: They heard a knock on the door, late at night

Winterheart says: And went to open it.

You ask: Oh?

You ask: Was it her again?

Winterheart says: Upon the doorstep they found a reed basket, woven from
                  golden reeds,

Winterheart says: lined with the softest fur - note, fur, and not 'furs'.
                  Just tufts of fur, making the warmest little nest.

Winterheart says: And in the nest they found they most perfect little child,
                  with tawny hair, and blue, blue eyes.

Winterheart says: All babies eyes are blue, of course.

You exclaim: Ohhh!!!

Winterheart says: They looked around, but whoever had brought them this
                  incredible - strange? - most wondrous gift, had

Winterheart says: There weren't even any footsteps in the dusty earth
                  surrounding their tiny little cottage.

You ask: How'd it get there. Was it a girl or a boy?

Winterheart says: They did not know what to do, and took the child into their
                  home, and as time went on, raised her as their own.

Winterheart says: Yes, it was a girlchild, tawny as the sun, and sunnily
                  cheerful - like most babies she fretted once in a while,
                  but she had the prettiest smile, and even her drool was

Winterheart says: She quickly succeeded in stealing their hearts.

You settle into your blankie.

Winterheart asks: Of course they worried excessively about her... who was her
                  parents? Why were *they* chosen to look after the child?

Winterheart says: But time didn't bring them any answers, and there were none
                  to be found in her tiny basket.

Winterheart says: She grew up with the old couple, and with the woodcutter,
                  she explored the forest.

Winterheart says: She quickly learned all about the forest.... and was as at
                  home in it as if she had been a native-born forest critter.

Winterheart says: With the old wife, she learned the compassion of the
                  healer's trade, - all round, my dear, she grew up into a
                  most charming and delightful young lady.

Winterheart says: She had an almost fey air about her, though, something

You exclaim: Oh!

Winterheart says: Perhaps, her affinity for the forest, and it's creatures,
                  wooden or fleshen, could have given a hint to her real

Winterheart says: One day

You ask: Was she the lady?

Winterheart says: when she was about 8 or 10, the woodcutter had a fatal
                  accident in the forest, and one of the townspeople, who had
                  been working with the woodcutter

Winterheart shakes her head at you.

You exclaim: Oh no!

Winterheart says: came to the small house, to bring the wife the sad, sad

Winterheart says: The wife, heartbroken, and although she had this little
                  girl to care for, died soon after, as nothing could stop
                  her grief at her husband's death.

You burst into tears.

Winterheart says: You may think this cruel, but think of the happiness they
                  had shared all their lives, and the special, golden joy
                  they had had in their last years.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: The little girl, hurt, confused and terrified, fled into
                  the forest, almost second home to her,

Winterheart says: and although the townspeople looked for her, they could
                  never find her.

You ask: What happened to her?

Winterheart says: Years later, however, there would be legends of a beautiful
                  lady of the forest, and some people remembered the fey
                  child and wondered....

Winterheart says: She was sheltered by the forest, strange as it may seem.

Winterheart asks: I had mentioned that she was strange, with an uncanny
                  affinity for the forest and its creatures?

You say: Yes.

Winterheart says: Yes, the forest protected her, the dryads watched over her,
                  the animals guarded her, the birds would feed her, and her
                  wild blood sang through her veins, rejoicing with nature.

Winterheart says: Now, in the kingdom that bordered on the southern edge of
                  the forest,

Winterheart says: and nominally, the townspeople here were subjects of this

You ask: So she was in the king's forest?

Winterheart says: The forest was north of the border, a wild, no-mans country

Winterheart says: armies that entered, never found their way out again.

Winterheart says: brigands were lost, and would die, starved.

You ask: In her forest?

Winterheart says: Yes, it wasn't a dark forest, but it was strange and
                  mysterious all the same.

Winterheart says: The forest had been like that since forever, since long
                  before her birth.

Winterheart says: Now, as kings and kingdoms go,

Winterheart says: the King of this country, south of the forest, had a wife
                  and a son, and a daughter.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: And the daughter was selfish and spoiled rotten, as
                  princesses always were

Winterheart says: (until they got kidnapped by their first dragons, but
                  that's a tale for another day)

Winterheart says: and the son was a young, handsome and upstanding young man
                  (as princes always are), although he was still a tad

Winterheart says: (Growing up in castles do that to you.)

You giggle merrily.

Winterheart says: The time came when the prince was of an age to marry (about
                  25, or thereabouts, kings and queens like holding out with
                  the princes and princesses, just to make ssure they make
                  the most advantageous marriages)

Winterheart says: (It's all about politics, you see....)

Winterheart says: and the prince had distinguished himself on the battlefield
                  with a neighbouring country.

Winterheart says: As part of the peace settlement (and boy, these settlements
                  always go like this)

You ask: Did he go into the forest?

Winterheart says: The prince of this country,

Winterheart says: and the princess of the enemy's country was supposed to get

Winterheart says: yes, dear, but that part of the story is still coming.

Winterheart says: Now the enemy country was situated somewhat to the north
                  east of this country, with the mysterious forest somewhat
                  like a wedge between the two.

Winterheart says: Everyone always avoided the forest (and with such a
                  bloodthirsty little forest, which army wouldn't?)

You ask: So the forest made peace, generally?

Winterheart says: Anyway... the time came that the prince rode out with 20
                  men, an honour guard, to travel to this newly allied
                  country, and he thought the

Winterheart says: Well, usually yes. It's very hard fighting a war when your
                  armies get lost along the way. And taking the long way
                  around (by sea) gets kinda irritating after a while.

You say: I suppose it would.

Winterheart says: Well, the prince was typically impatient (oh, the youth of
                  those days!)

Winterheart says: and thought to take a short cut through the forest.

Winterheart says: He had often gone hunting in the forest, and thought it
                  safe and great sport.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: But, where he had been hunting... had been the _safe_ part
                  of the forest. The... "dead" part... the "tame" part...

Winterheart says: this journey would take him deep through the heart of the
                  forest... and would forever after change his life.

You ask: How did he meet her?

Winterheart says: The young girl, a mere slip of a shadow in the forest, saw
                  the young prince by chance, and with curiosity followed
                  his party through the forest.

You bubble enthusiastically.

Winterheart says: They were the first humans she had seen in going on 10
                  years, and she was shy, painfully so, and wild.

Winterheart says: So, she didn't approach them, but followed like a panther,
                  quiet and unobserved.

Winterheart says: while all 20 honour guards were strapping young men, she
                  was drawn particularly to the handsome prince.

Winterheart says: (Princes naturally having the sort of magnetism that
                  excludes all other possibilities.)

You giggle merrily.

You say: Naturally.

Winterheart says: She followed them until they exited the forest on the other
                  side, for a good two, three weeks (it was a LARGE forest)

Winterheart says: (And besides, those Dryads really knew how to get people
                  going in circles without them ever realising it.)

Winterheart says: She never spoke to him, but it was clear to all the forest
                  that she was utterly fascinated by him.

You giggle merrily.

Winterheart says: Some months later, he came through the forest again, his
                  diplomatic mission to this other king completed.

Winterheart says: He'd sweet-talked da girl, woo'ed over her father, and
                  charmed the pants off all the ladies at court.

Winterheart says: (Well, nothing _that_ crude, really, he was still a perfect
                  virgin when he came back.)

Winterheart says: (Your storyteller should be fired for violating the Adult

You grin evilly.

Winterheart coughs noisily.

Winterheart says: Anyway.

Winterheart says: He returned through the forest, and caught glimpses again
                  of the pretty, pretty girl that he had glimpsed in the
                  forest before.

Winterheart says: Yes, she hadn't been quite as hidden as she had thought.

Winterheart says: He was fascinated, because for months she had haunted his
                  dreams, so much so that his wooing of the other king's
                  daughter (yes, it was a treaty, but still. if you're a
                  prince, you'd better woo a princess properly, or you'll
                  suffer your whole life as king.)

You say: Not wearing enough green.

Winterheart says: so much so that his wooing of the princess had been more a
                  wooing of this shadow, dream girl, than of the actual flesh
                  and royal blooded lady.

Winterheart says: If that makes any sort of sense (this is a fairytale, it
                  doesn't have to.)

You say: It makes sense. :)

Winterheart says: To make a long story short - yes, one day they met by
                  accident... they startled each other in an emerald green
                  forest glade, where rainbow hued flowers were growing

Winterheart says: and magically, inexplicably, they fell in love.

Winterheart says: There was no hope for them, of course, and the prince knew

You think carefully.

Winterheart says: The prince returned to his castle, with his good news for
                  his father... the treaties all signed, the wedding date all

Winterheart says: and as time wore on...

Winterheart says: he became more and more unhappy.

You say: Oath sworn to marry the wrong woman.

Winterheart says: The girl in the forest obsessed him

Winterheart agrees wholeheartedly with you.

Winterheart says: but he was oath sworn to marry the princess.

Winterheart ponders the situation.

You remind Winterheart that fairy tales always end happy.

Winterheart says: Time came, for the princess to make the long journey to the
                  Prince's country

Winterheart says: and for the wedding to take place.

Winterheart says: The princess, and her father, and her mother, and her aunt
                  and her cousin

Winterheart says: and the whole family, and all the courtiers invaded the
                  Prince's country.

Winterheart says: The Prince and his honour guard again met this party
                  halfway - through the forest.

Winterheart says: and of course, he saw agonizing glimpses of his love

You ask: Did anyone else see her?

Winterheart says: duty bound, he had to tell her, kiss her one last time,

Winterheart says: and never see her again.

Winterheart says: It was high summer, but the weather turned in an instant
                  when he betrayed his true love.

You ask: What happened?

Winterheart says: In the sudden wintry cold, the party hurried south, to
                  reach the castle as soon as they could.

Winterheart says: A freak storm, the princess' father said, not unknown, but

You say: The forest was angry.

Winterheart says: But it was not merely a wintry cold, it was the freezing,
                  the pain and anguish of a broken heart

Winterheart says: Summer truly turned to winter, and crops died in the

Winterheart says: The prince's father, who was a very good king, after all is
                  said and done, bled with his people.

You say: A good king, indeed.

Winterheart says: He was worried, and had wise men came from all over, to try
                  and find out what was happening, what curse had been sent
                  upon his land.

Winterheart says: When wise men could not tell him, he had the mages come, he
                  had rangers to advise him, he asked the clerics to ask for
                  intercedence from the gods.

Winterheart says: But to no avail, it remained winter in the forest, and
                  winter in the land.

Winterheart says: The prince knew what was wrong, and who had caused it, and
                  was powerless to speak.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: Afraid, perhaps, and terrified.

Winterheart says: For his word was promised to this princess, and the gods do
                  not take kindly to the forsworn - and should he break his
                  word, there was sure to be a bloody war, for years and
                  years to come.

You say: Through the forest that swallowed armies.

Winterheart says: As the land grew more desperate, an old, old woman knocked
                  upon the castle door.

Winterheart says: yes, but there was the ocean, and quite a wide strip of
                  coast land that was clear - the long way around.

Winterheart says: The princess' father was a very proud man, and such a
                  slight to his daughter he would never forget.

Winterheart says: The old woman was admitted to the King's presence, and her
                  blind eyes turned unerringly to the prince before she
                  addressed the king.

Winterheart snuggles up to you.

You hug Winterheart.

Winterheart says: In that moment, the prince thought she had seen right
                  through to his deepest soul.

Winterheart says: 'It is the winter of a broken heart, ' the old woman said,
                  'and there is nothing that can heal it, except time.'

Winterheart says: The kingdom did not have time.

You ask: Because there were no crops from the winter?

Winterheart says: The king asked the old woman whose broken heart it was, but
                  the old crone just said that there were other people, who
                  could better tell.

Winterheart says: Yes indeed. There were no crops, and precious livestock
                  were being eaten where hunters could not hunt enough to
                  feed the hungry villagers.

Winterheart says: 'Why would a broken heart bring us such misery?' The King
                  wanted to know.

Winterheart says: The prince was ashamed

Winterheart asks: but he simply could not tell his father about the wild girl
                  he had met in the forest. For one thing... she was... a

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: and his father would surely have a thing or three to say
                  about *that*.

You ask: Even though he was a good king?

Winterheart says: He took the old woman aside, later, when her audience with
                  the king was over.

Winterheart says: well, even good kings want to see the very best marriages
                  for their children?

Winterheart says: The old woman just looked at him piercingly, and the prince

You ask: A marriage with love is best, though, right?

Winterheart says: starting thinking deeply.

Winterheart says: The prince realised a few things, while he was thinking so

Winterheart says: It was not his father, who would have the objection to the
                  peasant girl.

Winterheart says: It was himself.

Winterheart says: Truly as he may love her... or be infatuated with her... he
                  was afraid of appearances.

Winterheart says: He was afraid of mockery... yes, even his word to the
                  princess was a convenient shield behind which to hide...

Winterheart says: In the bitter cold

Winterheart says: he rode out, heading towards the forest.

Winterheart says: he wandered for days through the forest, but found no sign
                  of her.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: The humblest, tiniest of birds hopped near him, one
                  evening, as he was eating his last bread crumbs

Winterheart says: cocking a bright eye towards him, hungry as all creatures
                  of the forest was.

Winterheart says: The old prince would have selfishly kept his crumbs, but
                  the new prince... cast a few crumbs to the drab little bird

Winterheart says: who gratefully ate them.

Winterheart says: Then hopped a few feet away.

Winterheart says: The meaning was clear... the bird wanted him to follow it.

Winterheart says: With nothing to loose, the prince followed the bird, and in
                  the deepest heart of the forest, came upon the body of the
                  forest girl, lying frozen upon a slab of rock.

Winterheart says: Now this immediately conjures up snow-white like visions,
                  but she wasn't lying dead, just curled up into herself, and

Winterheart says: Crying tearlessly, her eyes staring at nowhere.

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: Dressed scantily... in her green shift, and nothing else,
                  she should have been frozen to death, but it was like she
                  was untouched by the cold.

Winterheart says: The prince knelt by her, and took her hands, and kissed
                  them, begging for forgiveness.

Winterheart says: If you expected summer to return overnight, I am afraid you
                  were mistaken.

You say: Oh dear.

Winterheart says: Betrayal of a true love is not turned around in a second,
                  and is a wound that takes time to heal too.

You agree wholeheartedly.

Winterheart says: The prince tenderly stroked her face, until her staring
                  eyes returned to the present

Winterheart says: and saw him... truly saw him.

Winterheart says: the frosty blue of her eyes returned to their more
                  customary dark brown green, a foresty colour, a colour of

Winterheart says: With a word that has been forsworn, he swore to her that he
                  would not leave her

You nod solemnly.

Winterheart says: But her eyes remained muddy, like the slush of late winter,
                  until he enfolded her in his arms,

Winterheart says: and promised, heart to heart.

You smile happily.

Winterheart says: And, as the frozen bonds, the icy chains of her desolation
                  loosened about her heart, as she stood, and took the
                  prince's hands, as her heart warmed, and her mind lit with

Winterheart says: As her feet started to dance with their won rhythm, and as
                  she twirled and spun with him through the forest, green,
                  green grass started to peek through melted snow

Winterheart says: and a carpet of flowers sprang up beneath the touch of her
                  bare feet,

Winterheart says: the frost was lifted from the land, and the daughter of the
                  forest, foundling daughter of a goddess, was reunited with
                  her true love.

Winterheart sighs deeply.

Winterheart looks very happy.

You cheer enthusiastically.