The Old Forest Path

Once upon a time there was a deep and wide forest inhabited by an abundance of magical dancing fairies. The trees there were tall and wide-limbed and cast long shadows over the woods and glades around, sometimes obscuring the sky and sometimes creating inviting pools of light on the mossy earth. Through the centre of the forest ran an ancient path which described a clear and unmissable passage through the woods. It meandered and twisted in its timeworn course from one end of the forest to the other, never losing its way and never letting the many creatures who followed it lose theirs. Certain bends in its progress were covered by fallen leaves and in some places the occasional branch lay across it’s way, but its steady line was never hidden from sight and never, if one kept to it’s twisting and turning passage, would one find oneself lost in the shadows of the trees. All the fairies and sprites that inhabited those woods had been taught to stick to that path whenever they were out wandering and dancing among the glades. How they loved to leap and twirl. The music in the leaves, the rhythms of the breeze, drew them far from their homes in the hollows, yet as long as they stayed on the path, as their elders had taught them, they would be sure to return home safely every evening.

Among the fairies who so loved to dance in those woods was a young and pretty one with faint stripes on her wings which fluttered and purred as she flitted and flew about the shrubs and the flowers. Sometimes she would become so enraptured by the music of the forest that, in some of her movements and shapes, her toe would unknowingly step just off the path and the other Fairies would invariably gasp when they witnessed it. Hardly noticing, she would then draw it back in, and spin off again in her dance among the butterflies and buzzing bees.

The other Fairies and Sprites would always stay safely on the path, sensibly heeding their elders’ warnings, and when they were tired of leaping and cavorting around the woods, they would sit themselves down on stumps and mounds of leaves to watch their sister still dancing her endless dance, oblivious to their gazes, and untiring in her leaping and her twirling.

It happened one afternoon, when the sun was casting hypnotic patterns through the branches above, that from somewhere out of sight, a new and unheard music reached the delicate ears of those magical creatures. It began as a flute but then turned into a pipe. It moved like a drum but then pulsed like a stamp. The music reached high and yet still rumbled down low and it moved them all as it filtered to them so invitingly from its origin unknown.

The fairies and sprites glanced around for the source of this enchanted music. Their little feet were tapping and their shoulders swayed without them knowing. Some of them forgot their tiredness and drew themselves up again to dance one last time before heading back to their hollows and one or two lay still with their heads and ears to the ground, drinking in the rhythms and absorbing the vibrations through the roots and earth beneath them.

But there was one fairy there who had never stopped dancing that day. She had been weaving and gliding around the twists and the turns of the path all the while as her friends had lain resting in the leaves. And still she danced. The enchanted music had reached her moments before and imbued her steps and bounces with silvery trails and mystical shapes. And as the notes and rhythms found their way to her limbs and her toes she began to spin and whirl with ever increasing splendor, her breath meeting the pulses and the waves of the ecstatic melodies and her eyes closed yet still seeing colours and lights spinning in infinity around her.

Her friends couldn’t help but notice the new forms and shapes she described as the music became louder and fuller all around them. And yes, the occasional gasp from her magical companions was heard once more as she stepped off the path and on again more often than they’d known. The beats were intoxicating and the tunes were irresistible and the sprites and the fairies watched in awe as she flew around them all, oblivious to their witness.

Then, as the pipes blew more sweetly still, and the melodies invited them all to forget themselves utterly, the silhouette of the Piper became visible between two trees far from the ancient path. The music was now all around them and the mysterious figure was approaching, his instruments dancing around him as he came, and though she could feel his presence powerfully, she kept her eyes closed and listened only with her heart to the presence that was dancing within her.

As he came into the clearing in sight of them all, with his own eyes closed in deep and melodious surrender to his art, she stepped from the path with both feet dancing and gracefully pirouetted and shimmered around him, unaware of his presence yet spellbound and enthralled by his harmonies. The others held their breath, wide-eyed and alert. She had never been both feet from the path before. One or two scampered away to find an elder to tell, so concerned were they that she might be lost forever. But she heeded them not, unaware of the eyes upon her, and he too, without a notion of his audience, played only for her as they circled the glade together.

As the bewitching cadences built further and on and the sun itself now shed golden pools around them, her toes did so softly leave the earth that without a whisper of her knowing she began to rise up from the ground towards the spaces in the branches above. He too, with his tunes of love and eternity singing out from the deep longing in his heart, rose gently upwards with her, and together they turned around and around each other, the dancer and the music, the shapes and the sounds, all perfecting each other as they ascended steadily through the limbs of the trees.

There they rose in their union towards the very tops of the immense trees. They were unknowingly drawing closer and closer to each other. Their eyes were still closed, yet by some chance or charmed design, by the time they had reached the very canopy of the forest, they were barely a breath apart. The Piper’s tune ached with his stories of devotion and intimacy and as it reached it’s crescendo, in a paradise of harmony and supplication, their lips touched and they kissed, surrendered and dedicated to all the mysteries that had united them. The kiss was long and deep and unending and the music danced itself on as they merged, and down below where the others were gathered, the very path itself began to shift and change beneath their feet.

The magical creatures, spellbound and mystified, began to notice turns in the old path’s course becoming blurred and uneven. Edges that had been clear were now melting away. The fairies looked puzzled and a little uncertain as the once definite lines of the forest path were now becoming mistakable and vague. Their gazes searched one way along it’s course and then the other but suddenly no one could be sure where it’s boundaries were set. And before very long as the new lovers far above them still swooned in their embrace, the forest path disappeared entirely and gave way to the natural curves of the roots and the inviting shadows of the boundless woods all around.

Tentatively and step by tiny step the fairies and the sprites ventured out from their accustomed borders and explored the areas around them seeking out places that had only been looked upon before. Some of them explored further than others, luxuriating in the unaccustomed thrill of disappearing from sight for a moment. Hearts thudding and eyes wide they began to scamper and frolic from the edges of the woods to the middle, darting in and out of the trees, laughing and squealing and filling the forest with their excitement and newfound, precious liberty. The elders, upon hearing the commotion drew near, and were surprised to feel nothing but approval for their young ones’ dauntless progress. They themselves began to step gingerly out from the memory of the forest path and drift in soft nostalgic reverie through the unboundaried expanses that their ancient forest home now offered. There, old and young met in the untrodden wilderness and not a soul was lost in the shadows but guided invisibly home by moonlight, never to fear the unknown realms of their magical forest again.

And now very little is remembered of that old forest path, and those enchanted lovers never did descend from their summit. It was believed that they had dissolved utterly in their kiss just as the forest path below had vanished without trace beneath them. Yet, the branches and the trees still sway to that Piper’s music and the magical creatures that inhabit those glades still dance to the dance of that enchanted fairy, spinning through the woods, leaping over the shrubs and flowers and traversing every corner of that exquisite forest without a worry or a care to be lost within its inviting shadows.