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Chapter 7 - Enchanted

Various tiny stories using the 2019 prompt list, because I looked at all the things I have to do and decided this was a good opportunity to practice my flash fiction because I am profoundly stupid.

Wish me luck.

Chapter 7 - Enchanted

Chapter 7 - Enchanted
When the Mother Tree in the center of the Enchanted Forest turned black, it was the grimmest day any of us could remember, going back nearly a thousand years. Seemingly overnight, one of the oldest, most vibrant portions of the forest filled with roving monstrosities, twisted mockeries of the noble creatures who had once lived there. Centaurs carried off anybody they could find, male and female alike, subjecting their victims to affections from both ends of their bodies. Treants leaked fluids resembling sexual emissions more than sap, staining the flowers under them until their petals twisted into erotic shapes. Even the birds and beasts were not immune, focused only on mating with anything whose size and shape vaguely resembled one of their own. The black soil, protected from the sun by an omnipresent miasma of perversion, seemingly fed them on its own, consuming the pure land around it and spreading at an alarming pace.

Naturally we wanted to blame the humans. Or the dwarves, or the orcs, or any of the other races who thought themselves separate from our world. A spirited debate arose about who was responsible for the corruption, and it rumbled in the background long after we decided a solution was a more pressing need than an origin. Our focus revolved around what we could do to stop the black soil before it cast its pall over the entire forest.

The sprites tried to stop it. Armed with the most powerful weapons their tiny smiths could muster, they marched to the Mother Tree on foot, on gossamer wings, and on the backs of their frog mounts. They were gone for three days. When they returned, their mischievous laughter had been replaced by the manic cackling of mad witches. They turned their trickery against us, conjuring illusions of copulating individuals right next to the real things and sabotaging clothing so it fell apart at the least opportune times. The sprites were lost to us, and we herded them back onto the black soil, where the harm they could do was limited.

The nymphs tried to stop it. Protected by the magics of nature and attended by wolves and bears, they snuck toward the Mother Tree, hopping from tree to ebon tree. They were gone for three days. When they returned, their shapes had changed, resembling fertility goddesses more than a willowy dryad. They lured our fathers and brothers and sons toward them, promising all manner of delights and sensations, trapping them in never-ending couplings until their bodies and minds gave out. The nymphs were lost to us, and a contingent of males nobly sacrificed themselves, swearing to become the nymphs’ eternal love slaves as long as they never ventured from the black soil again.

The satyrs tried to stop it. With bodies as tough as iron and the wary intelligence conditioned by centuries of introspection, they girded their minds and trudged toward the Mother Tree, fully aware of their grim task. They were gone for three days. When they returned, they told us the forest was repairing itself, and we celebrated at the news. That night, they stole away our mothers and sisters and daughters, carrying them back to the black soil by the dozens, until the only sign of the women was the screams of torment and pleasure. The satyrs were lost to us, and we could only hope they did not return.

When we thought all was lost, a final hope arose. A princess of the elves, trained as a priestess since birth, as pure as the driven snow, offered herself as a sacrifice. We begged her not to try, and told her of those who had fallen before her, but she would have none of it. With only a small group of the mightiest defenders we could assemble, we accompanied her across the black soil, fending off the sprites and the nymphs and the satyrs along the way, until we reached the tainted Mother Tree at the center of it all.

It tried to destroy her. It forced us back, behind layers of ravaged bark and jagged thorns, and we could only watch as darkness flooded her body. We begged her to fight it, to cleanse the tree, to save us all by wielding the power of light against her evil foe. If she had, she too might have been lost to us, as all those who came before her. Instead she accepted the darkness, taking into herself. Her form contorted before our eyes, perverting itself to hold the energy, but no matter what it did to her, she held firm. When it tried to withdraw, she embraced it, holding it fast until it had all disappeared into her body. The bark and thorns fell away, freeing us, and we could only watch as our beloved princess turned to us with black eyes and an empty grin.

The Mother Tree is still black, as is the soil, but the miasma no longer spreads. The corrupted creatures still live within it, though they rarely venture from their lands. In the center of it all sits its queen, our fallen princess. We call her the Witch now, a title she accepts gladly. The Enchanted Forest is safe for the moment. But she looks upon her old home, and we see things in her eyes, loss and ache and lust. So we remain around her, we few warriors, defending her from heroes and wizards and thieves who wish her harm. But we also protect the world from her, providing pleasurable distractions to keep her happy with her tiny kingdom. Sometimes we ourselves are these distractions. Sometimes she finds us insufficient, and we must steal innocent lives from the edge of our lands to present to the Witch. We know what we do is evil, but our sacred vows bind us to the safety of the Enchanted Forest and the will of our queen. We do what we must, to the best of our ability.

The Forest must survive.

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