Blog Tour 4.
H.N. Janzen’s “The Prize of the Willow” is an exquisitely written and ultimately haunting story that combines mythology, traditional fairy tale tropes, and characters you can love. I had asked writers to be original, creative, showing me things I hadn’t seen before, and this piece blew me away.
The author is a Canadian writer who says that she typically does her best work when she’s supposed to be doing something else. Her favorite mythical creature is the succubus, but there’s no succubus in this story. She currently manages a live-action roleplaying group in Kelowna and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s also the author of “No Man is a Promontory,” a short story in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse, and if you come across any more of her work, don’t miss a chance to read it.
Here’s an excerpt from fairly near the beginning of the story:
One warm summer night, after she had finished in the fields, Agatha decided that she had time to wander the woods. Past the birch with the crow’s nest and through the shortawn meadow foxtails grew what Agatha estimated to be the oldest tree in the forest. The weeping willow sat in the center, long branches hanging like a veil. On the edge of its perimeter was a large rock that stretched from the earth like a giant’s thumb, and it was behind this that Agatha was seated when she saw the dryad.
First a foot emerged, then a leg, then hips. A woman’s hips. Agatha was transfixed as the dryad materialized out of the tree as easily as if she were stepping through a waterfall. Her skin was a deep brown, like the bark, but as smooth as a petal, and instead of hair, she had long, hanging branches just like the willow itself. As she lit on the roots of the tree, her full breasts bounced, and Agatha felt something stir within her that had never awoken before. She gasped, the sensation searing her, and immediately the dryad turned to the rock. Before Agatha could react, the dryad had closed the distance between them. The moment her eyes set on Agatha, she drew back.
“Wait!” Agatha cried out.
The dryad paused.
“My parents told me stories of the fair folk. By what manner do I keep your company? Is there a riddle or a quest? I will do whatever it takes, for I am all alone on my farm,” Agatha said.
The dryad stepped back tentatively.
“You are all alone?” she asked.
The dryad smiled. “I am also alone,” she said.
The dryad claimed to not have a name, so Agatha called her Willow. She said that she did not remember the fire, but it had devastated the forest, killing the previous dryad and leaving only a handful of sprouting trees alive. As such, Willow, too, was alone. All she had learned about herself and her situation, she had learned from a nymph passing along the small creek that flowed through the copse. The nymph had advised her to avoid the violent humans, too, but like Agatha, she was lonely, young, and eager. Against any reservations she may have had, Willow agreed to see Agatha again, then again, and by the end of summer, Agatha had worn a path to her favorite tree in the middle of the woods.
Willow asked the question when the air had just ripened with the sweet, full smell of autumn. She and Agatha both sat with their feet in the creek, for Agatha’s were tired after her day in the field. As they conversed, Agatha gradually removed all of her garments until she was naked as a forest animal. Willow’s eyes strayed in fascination at the similarities between them whenever Agatha turned away, and finally, when Agatha lay back on the moss, Willow could not remain reserved any longer.
“Agatha, does humankind do as the other animals do in the springtime?”
Agatha sat up. “Pardon? ”Willow shifted on the rocks, and the moss grew further to cushion her. “To make young,” she said.
For a moment, Agatha was startled. This was a topic her parents had told her about in detail so that she could not be fooled by anyone who might try to prey on her innocence in town. “Yes,” she said finally, “But we do not always do it to make young.”
Willow’s leaves perked up with confusion. “Why else would you suffer a man?”
Agatha searched the dryad’s face. “I would not suffer a man,” she admitted, “But some women find it pleasurable.”
“What could be pleasurable about it?” Willow asked.
Agatha’s heart sped up. Slowly, so that Willow might pull away if she wished, Agatha put her right hand on Willow’s jaw and leaned forward. Tenderly, almost chastely, Agatha pressed her red lips to Willow’s deep brown ones and kissed. Only the hot breath that ghosted across Willow’s mouth before Agatha pulled away indicated that the touch had been one of desire and not tutorial.
Would you like to read the rest? Well there’s always this:
But here’s information on entering a drawing for a free copy.
THE GIVEAWAY and LINKS
Anyone who comments on any of these blog posts will be entered in a drawing for a paperback copy (in North America) or an ebook (elsewhere) of Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms. Each blog you comment on gives you one more entry.
Here’s the lineup of blog posts—the links may be adjusted as we go along, so check back here every now and then.
June 14th: Sacchi Green-“Trollwise” (plus the Introduction)
June 15th: Cara Patterson-“Steel”
June 16th: Michael M. Jones-“The Miller’s Daughter”
June 19th: H.N. Janzen-“The Prize of the Willow”
June 20th: Annabeth Leong-“The Mark and the Caul”
June 21st: Brey Willows-“Penthouse 31”
June 22nd: Salome Wilde-“The Princess’s Princess”
June 23nd: Emily L. Byrne-“Toads, Diamonds and the Occasional Pearl”
June 26th: A.D.R. Forte-“Warrior’s Choice”
June 27th: M. Birds-“Woodwitch”
June 28th: Madeleine Shade-“Robber Girl”
June 29th: Lea Daley-“The Sorceress of Solisterre”
June 30th: Allison Wonderland-“SWF Seeks FGM”