The Forest Through the Trees
Sonet stirred as the woods fell unnaturally quiet. She felt Donovan’s chest move with each soft breath of slumber as the dear rested on his fur. She looked over the soft blue glow of his energy, more calm and tranquil than he had been since they had met. He’d gone through so many emotional changes over the few days they had been together, and she knew he would go through many more. She felt him shift as she ran her fingers through the long thick fur of his cheeks and watched his eyes flutter open.
He looked down at her, his arm still around her shoulder from the evening before. For the first time the fact that he was completely nude with the deer girl cuddled close to him, he felt no shame or embarrassment. Sonet watched as the light blue shifted to a muddied brownish green as his mind shifted back to the reality of the situation he was now in.
“What is wrong Dawn?” Sonet asked as her paw moved to his bare chest. “What are you thinking about?”
“The same thing I was thinking about last night,” he answered as he looked into her brown eyes, “I know you think there is nothing wrong with what we did last night…”
Cutting him off mid thought she said, “What we did was wonderful.”
With a little smile as the sensations of their coupling meandered through his memory he returned, “I’m not going to argue with that, and I’m not going to say I don’t want to do it again. But, the thing is I still feel like I need to do something. Like I am skipping the most important thing for us.”
“You mean the…” The deer hybrid trailed off as she tried to recall the word he used the night before.
“Marriage,” he said finishing off her thought, “But, we’re too young to do that. you’re too young.”
“We are not too young for a handfasting,” She replied, “And we are in just the right place to have one.”
“I… um…” Donovan looked up toward the top of the canvas dwelling where the wooden poles met. “I don’t know. I don’t even really know what that is.”
Sonet rolled on top of the slightly older boy, straddling his abdomen to look into his eyes. “You said it last night. It is a ritual to affirm to the gods and those present that we are dedicating our lives to one another.”
He looked up into her eyes for a moment before his gaze drifted to her unclothed body, her small, perky breasts, the soft brown fur of her chest and belly. He was momentarily mesmerized by her hair as the brownish-red locks cascaded over her shoulders. He shook his head to drive out the thoughts of rolling her over and reliving their shared passion in more than just his mind.
“I…” the young lynx thought about what to say next as he closed his eyes to ward off the temptation of the girl that rested on top of him. his pecker slowly stiffening behind her. “I think we need to talk to someone about this first. This isn’t something you just jump into after knowing someone for only a few days.”
Sonet bounced to her hooves, Displaying her slightly spread nethers to Donovan as his eyes reopened at the sudden change of her position in relation to him. “Then let’s go talk to the priestess. She did Marks first handfasting, and I am sure she can set your soul at ease about this.” She reached her paw down to him as she spoke.
Donovan reached up and took the offered paw as he sat up. “I should put some cloths on first,” he said as he glanced down at the bright red tip that peeked out of this sheath. “And how do you even know this priestess is even here?”
Sonet reached down and tossed him the shorts he wore the day before as she said, “She is here, they are all here. The circle is being readied for tonight.”
“How long have you been up?” Donovan asked as he pulled the shorts on, not worrying about his briefs. “Did you already go out or something?”
“No,” She replied, “It’s just too quiet, they’ve been here for a while now, Many of the animals are still not used to many of the outsiders that come here.” Without much more warning or any attempt to clothe herself, Sonet pushed past the flap of the tent, followed closely by the lynx.
As Donovan stepped out into the open air he saw the quiet activity of the festival goers as they moved through the new grouping or peddlers and crafters. In the distance several furs had gathered around the altar stone with one older Bengal tiger directing their activities. Sonet swiftly took hold of Donovan’s paw and pulled him with her as she glided silently through the crowd, the only noise from the pair was that of the slightly off balance lynx snapping twigs and kicking rocks as they moved.
As they approached Sonet stopped short of the tiger and pressed her paws together as she spoke, “Merry Meet, Sister Sharleen.” As she spoke she bowed slightly. Donovan taking his cues from her mimicked the movements.
The tiger turned to meet the young couple as she returned the greeting, “Merry meet, Sister Sonet. What may I do for you?”
“Dawn and I have questions about a handfasting,” The young Doe said, the husky tail wagging behind her. “As I have never considered such a thing, Grandfather never fully explained it to me.”
A bit embarrassed by Sonet’s frankness Donovan chimed in, “Its... umm… well…” As he stumbled over his word the tigress smiled. “I really don’t know anything about this stuff, or how any of it works. Its… umm…” He trailed off as he tried to figure out how to put his thoughts into words without sounding like a pervert or lunatic. He thought about the fact that he had only known the girl for three days, yet could not picture not being at her side. Then the memories of his father rushed in to torment him over the lust he felt for the young doe, and how foolish it was to think that love could be found in such a short time. He looked down at the ground as he fought with his upbringing.
The priestess smiled as she placed a paw on the Lynx’s shoulder, “A proper handfasting is no small matter, and nothing to be taken lightly.” She looked at Sonet as she continued, “It is a binding of souls and an affirmation of love. It is a promise before the Goddess to be bound to each other in a union of spirits. As young Dawn is new to our ways we should follow the tradition of a year and a day.”
Donovan looked up at the tiger as he asked, “A year and a day?”
“It is tradition that an initiate, any new comer to our ways, Practice and study for a year and a day before being fully initiated into a coven or circle. This is done for several reasons. The first and most important of which is that you fully understand the basic principles of our beliefs. And for you two, it would be a time to follow your paths and be sure they run together.”
“Well, You see,” Donovan started to explain, “last night we… umm…” Donovan‘s voice trailed to a whisper as he felt the hot blush run into his cheeks and ears.
As her new lover ‘s arua shifted through colors of confusion and mixed emotions, Sonet turned to the Priestess and spoke, nearly without thinking of the words she used, “Bhí orainn gnéas, agus imní sé air mar gheall ar an mbealach sé ina chónaí.”
Sharleen looked at Sonet and her mind stumbled through translating what the young Doe has said. She dropped her head for a moment in slight dismay as her lack of practice in everyday use of the nearly forgotten language had caught up to her with the young forest dweller.
Sonet frowned slightly as she watched the muddied yellow glow swirl around her. The young doe took hold of Donovans paw as she reworded her comment, “We mated, He has claimed me as his own, and I have claimed him. He told me that it is his tradition to marry the mate you have chosen, but he says we are too young to do that. Years ago, you performed a handfasting for Brother Mark and the bunny girl. How is that different than what I’m asking?”
Considering the young doe’s question carefully, an odd look came to the priestess face. “Unless my memory has failed me, have you not seen fourteen summers sister Sonet?”
“Fourteen summers have passed, eight summers since I last left my grove to come here, ” The young doe said as Donovan’s comments about her age spun through her mind.
“Then I may understand his concerns,” she said as she looked to the lynx. “And what is your age, if I may ask Dawn?”
“Seventeen, ma’am,” the lynx said falling back to his proper educate when talking to elders.
“I see, and I would assume then that you are from somewhere other than the state of Colorado. By law, even as members of a faith that most consider… nonstandard,” the tigress said with a slight sigh in her voice, “we are still bound by the laws of marriage of this state. In this case young man, since she is of the age of fourteen, she can indeed choose to marry with parental consent, as long as her chosen mate is no more than three years her elder, So your age is not an issue, if this is truly what you both wish. The only obstacle would be that there is no one to give consent for her, as her mother and grandfather have both passed through the veil. Normally this would prevent her marrying anyone. However, Sonet does not adhere to the laws of anyone other than those of her beliefs. That would be of no comfort to you, but what may be is the fact that as she is the only living member of her family, another person not related to her could give their consent, if they are convinced that it is her true wish, and in her best interest to do so.”
As the tiger spoke Donovan's eyes widened in disbelief. Unsure of how to respond he looked to Sonet, her tail wagging as they listened. He looked back at the tiger as he asked, “But… who in their right mind would think it was a good Idea? I mean she’s fourteen and I am seventeen. Neither of us have a job, and she lives in a dirt hut in the woods. I understand that she knows how to live and survive in those conditions, but most people would think that by itself was crazy. Now you’re talking about the possibility of finding someone that would think her marrying a jobless drifter that she met only three days ago is in her best interest? It sounds like a bad plot twist in a poorly planned story. I’m not saying that I don’t want to stay with her or marry her or anything, it’s just that the odds of that are like…”
“Meeting someone in the woods that goes out of their way to help you when they don’t even understand your ways?” Sonet asked softly as she squeezed his paw in hers. She looked over at the priestess with a smile as she said, “The mother smiles on us already, she will bring what we need and bless the union herself.”
“As she always does sister Sonet,” the priestess said with a gentle smile on her lips. Looking the lynx squarely in the eyes she continued. “If a union with Sonet is what you seek, then consider this. You seek one that will accept her decision, regardless of their own thoughts. One that will put nothing above her best interests, and her happiness. Look to those among this community that know her, and would set aside their own prejudices and allow her to find the things she seeks. There are still a few that would do so willingly, even it goes against what they believe to be best for her.”
Donovan looked at sonet for a moment. “Well, the first person that comes to mind would just call me a stupid city slicker that doesn’t know shit, and shoot the idea down in a heartbeat before either of us could get it off our tongues.” Suddenly he dropped his face into his paw, “What the fuck am I thinking.” Then looked up again at the tiger, wide eyed, “Oh, I’m sorry ma’am I should pay more mind to my language.”
Not giving the Priestess time to react to the lynx apology, or even contemplate what he had said, the nude Doe hybrid took the half-dressed lynx by the paw as she began to pull him into the crowd again. “We should look for Brother Mark, He should understand.”
As the young recently married couple arrived at the meeting grove they were greeted by many offerings of congratulations. Each one met with a polite thank you despite the fact the pair were beginning to grow weary of the attention. After entering the common area of the grove Mark pulled his wife to the side, avoiding several of the less frequent visitors that always seemed to seek him out.
“Ariel honey, I was honestly tempted to let this festival pass, but with Sonet here… let’s just try to find her as quietly as possible so I can make sure she’s alright. Then we can do whatever you want, or slip out of here and go get something to eat instead.”
“Mark, if you’re so dead set on keeping your promise to her grandfather, tell me this. What is it you have against Donovan?”, Ariel asked giving him a wilting look as only a wife or mother can muster.
“It’s not that I have something against him exactly honey, It’s just that he’s in so far over his head without a clue of how much his life will change if he stays with Sonet. Honestly, I have my concerns whether the guy can tough it out or not,” the Bernese boy said shaking his head slowly. “I know many, even in this community, that would think me a fool to leave that doe where she is. But they don’t know or understand her upbringing and her ways. Taking her from that grove of hers would be like putting someone on the moon in a pup tent.”
“Maybe it would, but she seems so certain that Donovan has been sent to her to help her and be with her. What makes you think otherwise?” the collie asked.
“I’m not saying that he hasn’t, Sonet has always been far more connected to her beliefs and in truth to the old ways than anyone I’ve ever known, including her grandfather. She may be right about the lynx. I’m not worried about her nearly as much as I am about him. She is more than capable of taking care of herself, or both of them to be honest. But my main concern with Donovan is whether or not he thinks he can walk away from the world he’s known his whole life and accept hers openly and completely. If he can’t, or thinks he can meet her halfway….he’s only fooling himself, and setting her up for a hurt she should never have to know. I made a promise to watch over her, and I intend to keep that promise no matter what it takes. But even at that, I can’t put my own concerns above hers, she simply knows herself better than I can possibly know her.”
As the teen couple had been speaking, walking slowly around the outer edges of the grove Mark had paid little attention to the more central area of the circular grove. A noise off to his side catching his attention suddenly caused him to look to the side. His eyes widened slightly as he caught a glimpse of the doe hybrid and lynx near the altar area as the pair spoke to the priestess. Taking hold of his wife's arm Mark pulled her to a stop, pointing to the altar as he said, “and there they are now. Looks like everything is okay, and he hasn’t bolted on her.” After a few moments the Bernese boy began to chuckle softly, his mate beside him giving him a stern look as she asked, “what’s so funny?”
“Oh nothing, unless you consider that two days ago he would barely look at her, and she couldn’t get him out of his boots. Yet there they stand, him half nude and her so close to him that she’s nearly leaning against him.” The canine pair stood watching the doe and lynx silently as they spoke to the priestess.
“Wait,” Donovan started as he was helplessly led through the growing throng of furs, “Mark thinks I am the worst person for you to be with. I bet he even wishes I never set paw on his land.”
Sonet stopped cold in her tracks. The sounds of the gathering drowned out the natural sounds of the wildlife as she turned to him. Donovan instantly recognized the fire in her eyes as she started to speak, “His land? This is a forest of the mother, a living, breathing thing. It can’t be owned, one cannot own the life of another. We live with the land, through the land, not on it.” She looked him in the eyes as she continued, “You’ve learned to live a disconnected life. I see how weak the mothers touch is on you. I see it in Mark, Ariel, and all the others here. You all have a separation, a barrier. You’ve shut the natural flow of energy out. Those here are slowly learning to re-open that path, to accept what the Mother offers.” She broke eye contact as she looked at the ground. “You, Mark, even the priestess are missing so much, and you can’t even see that is is missing. But I know Mark will understand what we want to do. You may not like him, and he may not like what you represent, but he will… He will understand that I need you.”
Donovan wrapped his arms around the shorter girl and pulled her nude body against his bare chest as he rested his muzzle on her head, between the small nubs of horns. “Okay, We can at least ask him. The worst he can do is call me stupid and walk off, right?” He stood there, with her in his arms for a long moment in silence, his eyes closed. The feel of her breathing, and relaxed in his arms felt right, as if she was meant to be there. He was uncertain of how much time passed as they stood, other furs maneuvering around them, before the realization and images of her developing breasts pressed against him invaded his tranquility. He gently pushed her back to look her in the eyes as he felt the tightening of his shorts over his member. “Let go find the the mut before it gets too late to do anything.”
As Sonet looked back up at him with a smile she pointed to the side and said, “They’ve been over there watching since we left sister Sharleen.”
“Wait, what?” Donovan looked to the side in disbelief as he caught sight of the pair. “Then why have we been wandering around looking for them if you knew they were over there?”
The doe tilted her head to the side with a smile, “Because he is trying to watch us from a distance and its fun to let people think they have gone unnoticed.”
“Wait,” Donovan pause for a moment to think, “Did you know I was there when I first saw you and bolted?”
“No, you really surprised me,” she said, “No one’s ever been that close to the grove before.”
“Well it doesn’t really matter anyway, are you ready to talk to them? I’m ready for the tongue lashing I’m sure he has ready.”
“No, not yet, it’s time to have a little more fun,” The young doe smiled as she suddenly turned and bolted away from the crowded area and into the trees, almost immediately vanishing from sight.
Donovan took a deep breath and sighed knowing that he had no chance at all of following her or even finding her. Resigned to his task he turned and started to walk toward the Bernes boy and his wife as he thought through what he was going to say until Sonet returned for whatever fun she had planed. He looked at the ground as he meandered closer to the couple, bare pawed, wearing nothing more that the shorts he slipped on when he left the tent, and his paws in his pockets.
He looked up from his beeline path to the pair to be certain they hadn’t moved while he looked aways. He made eye contact as he gave a halfhearted wave of his fingers, “Hey Mark, Ariel, fancy meeting you here.”
“Donovan,” the Bernese boy said in return. “I see Sonet hasn’t scared you off yet, and from the looks of it either you forgot to do your laundry, or she’s gotten you to loosen up a little.”
“Nice to see you again Donovan,” the young collie said as she smiled at the young lynx.
Donovan shrugged weakly as he said, “It's kind of like going to the beach I guess, everyone's doing it so why bother fighting, go with the flow and all that jazz. Besides Sonet kind of rushed us out this morning. She gets a little excited about things.”
“Indeed she does, always has and likely always will. So…” Mark said, pausing for a moment to look the lynx over more carefully, “how long did she let me stand here like an ugly tree before she told you we were here?”
“I guess from the start,” the lynx answered, ”Back when we were talking to Ms. Sharleen. Which kind of brings me to a question.”
“A question?”, Mark responded, a hint of surprise in his voice. “I’ll admit you looked like a man on a mission as you walked this way. But to be honest I thought perhaps that was to tell me to fuck off and leave. After the ass chewing I gave you the other day.”
“Thats on my list of top phrases I would like to use, But this is for Sonet, not me,” he said still running things through his head as he wished the doe would reappear out of the thin air she went into. “Okay, so its kind of for both of use. And I am fully ready for the condescending rhetoric you surely have built up, and I already ran through everything my family would say. They’d disown me on the spot if I wasn’t already emancipated.” He looked up into the green canopy the blocked the view of the blue sky as if the words he was looking for would grow out of the trees. “Sonet and I… We kind of… Well, its like this….”
The trio all jumped with a start as the melodic voice spoke from only inches behind the canine couple, “We want to be handfasted, or married… or whatever its called. And did you really think I wouldn’t notice you watching us?”
“You want to be…” Mark began, stunned that the doe had been so brazen with the statement, though he knew he shouldn’t have expected less. Her question momentarily sidetracking his train of thought as the doe looked at him. “No Sonet, I did not think I could go unnoticed by you. I even asked Donovan how long you let me stand here like an ugly tree before you pointed us out to him. But this getting handfasted, I take it that was what you were speaking to sister Sharleen about?” he asked the young doe cocking an eyebrow at her.
“Yes,” she said confidently, “but everything seems so complicated. Why can’t it be simple? Your laws get in the way of everything. It makes me just want to go back to my grove where things work the way the Mother intended.”
“Well, I was thinking of a few things lasts night and just now as I was walking over here.” Donovan looked at Mark with a renewed confidence with the young doe close by. “See, I promised Sonet that I would stay with her, and I can do more to help her from a… um… real world standpoint?” He questioned his wording, knowing that Mark would disapprove or think it condescending of Sonet’s lifestyle. “See, I am emancipated so I can do just about anything I would need to from a legal standpoint. And if we were married…” He trailed off a moment, “Okay thats a stupid reason to consider it. I like sonet, I even think I love her. I want to be by her side and do everything I can for her and it… it just seems right. No matter where I look or what question I ask the past three days come to the same end in my heart. I don’t know much about the handfasting stuff, just that its something like marriage from a pagan perspective, but I was brought up that if you have feelings for someone like I have for Sonet...”
“From a real world perspective Donovan, it sounds to me like there is something you are trying very hard to not say to my face. A pagan handfasting is not like a marriage, it is a marriage. A very serious commitment to someone, which in this case you have known for only a few days.” Raising a paw to stay the lynx from speaking he continued, “I’m not saying that you can’t fall in love with someone so soon. I would be one of the first to tell you otherwise, I know personally how quickly it can happen. But in this case I wonder if it is truly love, or more of a case of guilt and regret for your actions.”
Donovan closed his eyes for a moment as he took a deep breath. As he let it go he looked the Barnes boy in the eyes, and started to speak, “I really could care less about what you think,or wonder, or your opinion of me. That has nothing to do with why we even came to you. I don't need your permission or insight on why I decide to do things. What I need YOU for is simple, and we could easily go to someone else, but you were the first fur to come to mind for both Sonet and I. Since she is only fourteen and has no living relatives we need someone to give consent for those stupid REAL WORLD rules and laws that she thinks are getting in the way, and right now I agree. Really I don’t give a damn about any of that right now, for all I care we can just walk off into the woods and vanish like she does so well. But I want to do this the right way. Both in the way I was raised and something at least close to her traditions. So I’m staying with Sonet, as my mate, with or without your help.” As he finished his rant, Donovan braced for the backlash from the dog boy as he started to prepare his retorts.
“Alright, you have had your say, and I will have mine. I only ask that you return the courtesy of not interrupting me as I did for you. Whether you realize it or not Donovan, my only concern in any of this is and has been Sonet and what is best for her. While I will give you your due for your tact, you have admitted more than you realize as far as your actions with her, and your intents towards her. I was unsure until just now whether you were being honest with her, and more importantly with yourself about your feelings for her. But I won’t harp on what I now know you have done. Regardless of my promise to her grandfather I do realize that other than her beliefs and upbringing she is a normal female with all that that entails. That is not my business to interfere with. Her happiness and her safety are what I was charged with protecting by the man that spent his years raising her. To hear you say that your intent is to stay with her as her mate, and to take on the very person that you’re convinced thinks you’re a fool proves that you are sincere. There are only two things that at this point I need to know to answer your request one way or the other. Those are if you and she can honestly look me in the eyes and say that you love each other. That and that this is without a doubt in her mind, that this is what she wants.” The Bernese boy said flatly, his voice steady and even as he spoke. “Now, can you do that Donovan? Or you Sonet, can you look me in the eyes and say that without reservation?”
Sonet looked at Donovan, then they both looked at the canine couple. Donovan started with, “Yes I love her, I can’t even imagine being without her.” The doe followed with, “I do not doubt my choices, as it is the Mother that guides me. Donovan and I are meant to be together. Do you intend to stand in her way?”
“What I intend Sonet, is to do exactly what I promised your grandfather I would do. To protect you as best I can. It now seems that the best way I can do that, is to grant your request and put you and Donovan in the paws of your chosen mate. I will not stand in the way of the Mother, or of the daughter that listens to her,” Mark replied as he looked Donovan squarely in the eyes. “Against my initial hopes Donovan, you have come to understand, at least to some degree, what it means to accept Sonet into your life. The only thing I will say is this, consider carefully how much of our world she truly has need of, or to be exposed to. You may find that you prefer her world far more than you can imagine. For as long as you wish it to be Sonet, I will continue to keep the promise of keeping the grove and the rest of the land the Mother has charged me with trying to keep it safe from the greed of my world. You and now Donovan will remain unhindered, and in peace by everyone and everything from my world that could intrude otherwise.” Having said all that he felt needed to be said the Bernese boy smiled broadly, looking to the young doe as he added, “so… I believe we should let sister Sharleen know that you have found the one to give their consent, and will be more than happy to do so.” Before anyone could move he turned to Donovan again, leaning near to the lynx, his voice low as he said, “may the Goddess, the Mother, and your God watch over you both, and give you strength Donovan, she’s in your paws now.”