Angel's Wood was still, with that curious stillness that precludes the dawn. This stillness had nothing to do with death, but was just a pause before the life and fecundity of the wood burst into a new day, as the nocturnal inhabitants settled into sleep, and the diurnal inhabitants awoke. As the sky got lighter, the wood was slowly filled with birdsong, and it was possible to see the mist that clung to the ground, hiding the underbrush, making the trees that rose above it look somehow disconnected from reality. If a person could have been there, they would have felt the tension of the magic that permeated the woods, but that same magic kept people away, and preserved the serenity of that special place. Today though, was a special day, the day of the Summer Solstice.
Angel's Wood formed a part of England's Ancient Woodland, woodland defined as, ' ... woodland that has existed continuously since 1600 AD or before... ', though Angel's Wood had been around a lot longer than that. When 1600 AD rolled around, Angel's wood had been there for much more than a thousand years, and by now much more than double that. Situated thirty miles to the east, and just a tad south, of Sherwood Forest, the wood sat in a rough triangle between Lincoln, Newark, and Newton-on-Trent. It was bounded on the west side by the River Trent, the south east side by the Fosse Way, the old Roman road, and to the north by what was now the A57 trunk road. The wood was approximately 6 kilometers on a side, so it covered something like eighteen square kilometres, eighteen hundred hectares if you will, or four and a half thousand acres, around seven square miles; take your pick. The wood was made up of mostly native deciduous trees, oak, birch chestnut, horse chestnut, alder, and so on, there were a few pines dotted here and there. Slap bang in the middle though, was a very large, very old, oak tree.
Now this oak tree, was a little different, quite apart from its size. Firstly, you could never find it on Google Earth, or any other satellite imagery for that matter. It couldn't be seen from the air either, though the wood had been overflown many times since human flight became possible. The fact that it was surrounded by old military airfields, including Scampton, home of the legendary Dam Busters of WWII, and Waddington, now home of the RAF's AWACS electronic surveillance fleet, made no difference. It should have been easy to spot, it sat in the exact centre of the wood, not only that, but also in the exact centre of a perfectly circular clearing that extended twenty-five metres beyond the canopy of the great tree. Large trees like this one often killed all the ground cover under the canopy just by dint of denying it sunlight, but in this case, the whole clearing right up to the base of the massive tree, was carpeted in a green sward that would have made an internationally renowned bowling green groundsman weep with pride. This tree was a direct connection with Mother Earth, and was the source of the magic of the wood. Then there was Gaia.
Gaia was a dryad, more specifically the hamadryad of The Tree. She was The Tree, and The Tree was Gaia, they lived, loved, and, should it ever come to pass, died, literally as one. Gaia had taken the name of the mother of all the gods when she was a couple of hundred years old, barely more than a sapling, when she first started studying the ancient Greek pantheon. She said being called Gaia, felt better than being called Mistress Oak, she reckoned that sounded pretty stodgy for a young hamadryad in the first flush of youth. Of course, when you were the Queen of the Wood, your ideas tended to catch on quite rapidly, and now she was universally known as Gaia, though 'mistress', and 'lady', sometimes got tagged on. She was chuffed as mintballs when James Lovelock re-introduced the Earth-mother concept in the nineteen seventies (by the Taker calendar; more about the Takers later), and tied her name to Environmentalism. The fact that she was now the personification of the Earth Goddess when it was needed, just made it more fitting.
Mortal or magic, it was easy to feel humble when you got close to her, when you felt the power of her magic, and the wisdom of her years. Power that seemed to radiate from her in some sort of faintly charged aura that set your skin tingling, and raised every tiny hair on your body. To say she was beautiful was like saying the sea was a bit wet, or the midsummer sun was a bit bright. Her hair was the green of new spring leaves, and fitted to her head almost as closely as a swim cap. Her eyes were faintly oriental in shape, and the dark blue of a summer sky, seeming large in her heart shaped, finely boned face. Her skin was the colour of the heart of her oak, and her body was slim, and undoubtedly womanly, though there was enough muscle rippling beneath the skin to show she had a whipcord strength. She was about seventy-five centimetres tall, and from her back sprouted the most beautiful, iridescent, gossamer wings. She was the corporeal embodiment of the spirit of The Great Oak, the face of the Goddess. Now The Great Oak felt the dawn light touching her leaves, rousing her from her night's slumber. She felt a lover's touch on her bark as she drew her mind into her hamadryad form, and got ready to greet the Solstice morning.
There was a stirring at the western edge of The Clearing, and an imposing figure strode confidently across the grassy sward. No more than sixty centimetres tall, a white beard, trimmed fairly short, covered the lower part of his face. It was definitely a he; the figure was unashamedly naked, and undoubtedly male. A closer look established that the beard was the only hair on the figure's head, his head was hairless, clean as an egg. His face was not exactly handsome, but there was a rugged strength to it, making it a suitable setting for his striking eyes, which were grey-blue at the moment, set either side of a slightly crooked nose. His thick set body was perfectly proportioned, wrapped in muscle, this wasn't the highly defined muscle of a bodybuilder, but the sleek, powerful muscle of an athletic man in the prime of his life. Relatively broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist, the stomach not exactly a six-pack, but nor was it overfleshed. His whole body exuded strength. Sturdy, powerful legs, drove him across the sward to The Tree, with the strength and smoothness of a jungle cat. He paused briefly to press his hand against the trunk, bowing his head slightly, then strode to the eastern edge of The Tree's canopy, raising his face, and his arms, to the rising sun.
Aloysius Jerimiah Arbuthnot, also known as AJ, was a Gnome, a practitioner of magic, and guardian of Angel's Wood, and now he prepared to greet the solstice dawn, and celebrate his six-hundred and sixty-seventh birthday. As the edge of the sun rose above the horizon, AJ raised his voice in song. His voice was surprisingly deep and tuneful, and though the words he sang would have been unfamiliar to mortal listeners, the meanings would have danced around the edge of their consciousness, words of greeting; words of praise; words of love. A line of sunlight appeared to strike from the horizon to light up AJ, and The Tree behind him, whilst the rest of the wood seemed to be bathed still in the crepuscular dawn light. As the shaft of sunlight struck The Tree, Gaia's voice rose above AJ's in a soaring soprano descant that danced around and above AJ's basso profundo in a coruscating shower of sound and light that encompassed Angel's Wood in magic, resonated with the very heart of everything living in The Wood, and restored the magic of The Wood for another year.
As the last notes of AJ and Gaia's magical song echoed to silence, the whole wood and all its inhabitants seemed to hold their collective breath. AJ, almost exhausted, sank to his knees, folded up with his belly against his thighs, and lay his forehead and arms against the soft grass in total submission to the Goddess. The final few bars of the song were almost orgasmic for AJ, indeed, it wasn't unknown for him to come explosively, and prematurely scatter the offering of his semen on the sward. As he gradually unfolded himself, he heard Gaia say behind him, 'The only trouble with Summer Solstice mornings, my love, is that I get presented with your fat, hairy, arse winking at me!' She walked towards him.
AJ stood on shaky legs, and turned, holding his arms out at his sides, hands at hip level, palms forward, 'Is this view any better My Queen?'
Gaia's eyes dropped to his impressive erection, which jutted proudly from his groin, and throbbed with the beat of his heart. With three more steps she pressed against him, trapping his engorged cock between their bellies, her hard nipples pressing into his chest. Following the age old ritual, she kissed his forehead, his cheeks, and then his lips as their arms closed about each other. 'Father of The Wood, we must offer The Mother her due.'
After a brief hug, Gaia stepped to AJ's right, maintaining her hold around his waist as he held onto her. Reaching down, she grasped his tumescent cock, and with a few skilful strokes brought him to a body wracking climax. He staggered as his semen burst from his cock in several strong pulses; it fell to the ground, and, rather than hanging on the blades of grass as would normally be the case, the precious liquid was rapidly absorbed into the earth. AJ sank to his knees again, closely followed by Gaia.
They spoke together, well practiced words that they uttered for all the inhabitants of The Wood, 'Mother Goddess, we offer this song, and this seed, in thanks for the past year, in hope for the next, and with hope for future years for our children, and our children's children.'
.... There is more of this story ...