Amberlou of the Forest

This is the tale, as it is told.

Once upon a time – for how else ought we to begin – all folk lived in the forest. They tilled and sowed and raised meat for the table. They ate hearty of the things that grew; they baked bread and made love. They read stories to their children and listened to the counsel of their elders. They were happy, in their way, for they lived in the forest, and the forest was good.

There was a king, of course – for there always is – though he lived far away and was no bother.

Her name – in this tale – was Amberlou, and she was a Fey. Her tiny house was made of stone, which was a wonder to the folk of the forest, not least that it was made of stone – a wonder to their eyes – but that it appeared one morning where there had before been only an overgrown patch of weeds and flowers in the shade of an old old tree. She would start every day with a cup of herb tea, which she would drink in infinite sips as she walked in what was now her garden, and she sang to herself. Have you ever heard the small tinkle of water as it drips onto tin; have you heard the far-off ululation of a robin’s song, filtered and batted through the leaves of a hundred trees; have you heard the purr of a contented cat as it lies careless in the sun’s caress? If so, if you can imagine those things all together in one place, then you have heard Amberlou sing as she sipped her dark green tea and walked her garden on the edge of the forest where the sun rose high and the moon dipped low.

Now, you may say, this is not a tale, and you would be correct. Usually, in tales such as these, a soul such as Amberlou would be shunned or reviled. She would take vengeance on her aggressors and battle with curses and magicks. That would be a tale.

But Amberlou was not like that at all.

She waited until the folk of the forest had outgrown their fear of her; she waited until she had overcome their distrust; she waited until she had their acceptance, and then she fished for the heart of the most beautiful boy she could find among them.

His name was Thom, and her told her “No.”

“But I ask only to dance with you, sweet Thom of the forest,” she whispered to his ear. “Just one dance.”

“No,” said Thom. “I will not dance with you, Amberlou. I mistrust you and your ways. You sing too sweetly for me, I fear.”

Amberlou stepped back from him. She raised her arms for him to take her in a dance. “Dance with me, sweet Thom, and you’ll never have another care in the world.”

Thom stepped back from her. He raised his arms against her. “I fear you, Amberlou. I fear that you will take me and never give me back. I would lose myself in you.”

“Then,” said Amberlou, “I will stay here and await your love. I will stay and await the dance I wish with you.”

Thom of the forest walked away. He wanted very much to feel the cool dry skin of fey Amberlou, wanted to taste the hint of herb tea upon her lips and smell the honeysuckle tangle of her hair. But Thom was of the forest, and the forest people fear.

And Amberlou did not speak again, and she did not move. And she stands there still in the eternal stance of the lovelorn dancer. In time, she took on stone and moss. She became cool grey and summer green, and she is still the most beautiful thing in the forest where the folk once dwelt.

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Andrew Cheverton
Andrew Cheverton is currently the writer of the western comic West (drawn by Tim Keable) and the science fiction comic The End (drawn by FH Navarro), and the writer - and soon-to-be illustrator - of horror comic The Whale House. Thank you for reading.
Andrew Cheverton

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