It was glorious, the water lapped against her skin, removing dirt, grime, and days of fatigue. She dunked her head beneath the surface. Holding her breath, she waited. The world around her was quiet and calm. The peace there was indescribable. She had never felt so at one with everything around her.
Her eyes suddenly shot open. What was the noise she just heard? It sounded like laughter, but it must be just the bubbles from the waterfall. She dashed to the shore in a sudden fit of uneasiness.
Naked, she suddenly felt vulnerable. Was that a noise in the bushes? Were there eyes watching her from the cover of the trees? No, of course not. She had just been spending far too much time alone in the wilderness. She was hearing things, that was all. There wasn’t another human for miles.
In the back of her mind, however, pricked a memory. It was a story her Gran had told her when she was a child to make her sleep at night. A story about magical creatures who make their homes in the wild places. Not like a bear or a fox, but creatures from another realm, another place outside this world.
Her Gran had called this fantastical place the Far Shoals and had talked endlessly about the wonders there. She said magic came from the Far Shoals through gates, but they had been closed a long time ago. That’s why there wasn’t any magic left in the world. Eaglette really didn’t share her Gran’s obsession with fairy tales, but she remembered the stories well enough. She had heard them many times.
While she paced the shore, mulling and reluctant to reapply her clothes, she spotted a silver flash dart among the rocks at the bottom of the lake.
It took some creative knot work, but she managed a cloth net from her unwanted clothing. The only thing left when she was done was her grubby shirt. A few pieces of dried fruit served as bait. It was the last of her scarce provisions, but it netted her three fat fish. She was elated. Eaglette had no way to cook her dinner, but the fresh fish flesh was succulent, even raw.
She gobbled all three fish, leaving a pile of guts, bones, and scales. When she was done, she settled back against the smooth stones. Her eyes were heavy, and her belly full. It wasn’t long before she fell into a deep sleep.
Eaglette didn’t know how long she slept, but she woke to the sound of laughter, a peal of deep rippling laughter. Strangely, the sound held an ounce of cruelty in it. She opened her eyes, groggy and sleep weary. The remnants of her dreams clung to her mind, and at first, she wasn’t sure if she was still dreaming. The sight in front of her did nothing to convince her she wasn’t still walking the plains of the dream world.
Before her, frowning a deep perplexed frown, was a green woman. Not a woman dressed in green, but a woman that seemed to embody everything Eaglette had ever thought of as green. Her face was olive like a walnut, her the lips tender green of spring buds. Her body was surrounded in vines with bright foliage, and her hair was the dark green of murky seaweed. The strange woman’s breasts were bare, and each one of her nipples stood out the gray-green color of moss on a fallen log. She wasn’t very tall, just rising to a sitting position brought Eaglette’s face flush with her smooth belly.