Bubbles raced. Pebbles stirred. The water rushed in the brook, leaving a tumult of gurgling laughter behind it. The young naiad scrambled out of the water and the laughter stilled as she leaped over her bed of water and bounded nimbly to a nearby stream. “Come on, Rillis!” The naiad laughed as she plunged her slight hands into the water and tugged at the plants growing in the stream.
Another naiad slowly crawled out of her stream and flopped on the ground. “What now, Aster?” She inquired grumpily.
“It’s a new day!” Aster exclaimed, throwing her arms wide. “Come and play!” The mist that shrouded her slim form caught the sunlight in its intricate mesh.
“Oh, fine.” Rillis consented and stood up, brushing off her flowing tunic of green ferns as she stood up. “Where do we play today?”
“The dryads! We play among the dryads!” Aster responded exuberantly and dashed off into the woods, with Rillis following at a slower pace. The waterfall queen watched them go, smiling at their youth while she combed out her long frothy white tresses.
Aster giggled as she bent a willow maid’s bough to tickle Rillis’ arm. Rillis squealed and jumped back, then laughed. The dryads around the young water maidens stirred gently in the wind, still asleep. Aster darted up a tall sycamore lad and Rillis clambered after her.
Aster perched in the crook of a strong limb, swaying back and forth and humming an old naiad melody. Suddenly, the wood sounds hushed, and Aster froze. The waterfall queen slipped back into her bed and a human mother leading a child walked into the still clearing. They walked past Rillis’ stream, and the child splashed its feet in the water.
“Aren’t you glad I dragged you out of bed?” Aster whispered merrily. Rillis chortled.
The waterfall queen ascended her rock throne again as the humans left the glade, and the music of forest life thrummed once more.
Aster swung easily from branch to branch, her lustrous eyes wandering back and forth, then seized upon a bird’s nest held further up in the arms of the sycamore. “Rillis!” She shrieked, and shimmied up the limb. “A blue pebble!”
“No! Don’t touch it!” Rillis called out in alarm and climbed up after her. She reached Aster just as the naiad was about to pluck the egg from its nest. Rillis grabbed Aster’s outstretched arm and yanked it away from the nest.
Aster cried out and struggled to pull her arm from Rillis’ grasp. As soon as her hand was free, Aster slapped Rillis across the face.
Her hand dropped and Rillis stared at her friend in dumb astonishment. Two big tears welled up in the water maiden’s eyes and she hastily climbed down the tree and retreated to her stream. Aster stared after Rillis leaving, her chest still heaving with childish anger. The blue pebble lost its appeal and Aster glumly dropped from the sycamore’s grasp. She wandered silently in the woods for a while, venturing further into the dryad’s world.
She gazed about at the lordly maples and stately magnolias. A birch lad next to her stirred and looked upon the naiad. He smiled and held out his branches. The water maiden grasped his branches and they danced round and round. Around the dancing forest spirits the dryads awoke and swayed in the dryad dance. A silver birch maiden joined the naiad and birch boy in their joyful dance. They twirled and the pale and silvery green locks of the young dryads fluttered in the wind, combined with the translucent blue tresses of the naiad.
On and on they danced until Aster withdrew, laughing and panting. She leaned against a motherly laurel and watched the dryads leave their trees and dance off, the silver birch maiden waving a breezy farewell. Aster’s eyelids drooped and she dozed off peacefully.
“All dried up! Parched!” Aster cried out and sat up abruptly. The sinking sun shone through the trees, casting dappled light about her. She put a hand to her head, she had been dreaming of the death of the forest naiads. The lush greenery about her allayed her fears, until a horrid new thought entered her mind. “Rillis!” Aster leapt to her feet and looked about wildly. “I must make sure Rillis is safe!” The panicky lost feeling sunk into her as she realized she did not know how to get back to her home glade. She moaned in despair and burying her face in her hands, shed brilliant tears of sorrow.
“Fair naiad, why do you weep?” A lilting voice addressed the small water maiden.
Aster jerked her head up and stared at the origin of the voice. Her thoughts flew wildly until they wrapped around one cohesive concept. She knelt on the mossy turf, her eyes lowered.
Before her stood the beautiful Swanwhite, Queen of all Narnia. Her legendary loveliness irradiated her form and exuded a subtle glow. Her attendants stood silently behind her, all looking upon the weeping naiad. “Speak, water maiden.” The Queen urged gently.
“I am lost, oh Queen. And I am afraid my friend is angry with me, and I wish to make amends.” Aster replied humbly and looked up, the tears still shining on her face.
“Dear naiad, weep no more.” Swanwhite reached forth and carefully wiped the tears off Aster’s face. “Your home glade lies opposite of the setting sun.” She took her lovely white hands away from the naiad’s face and opened them. Lying in her hands lay a pile of tear-shaped translucent diamonds that caught the sunrays. “Take these and offer them to your friend as a peace offering, and humbly plead forgiveness.” The Queen smiled sweetly and kissed Aster on the forehead, then turned and departed. Aster stared at the crystalline tears cupped in her hands, then looked up and strode back towards her glade, following the shafts of sunlight spilled on the turf.
Rillis glanced towards the tree line, and her eye caught on Aster’s figure emerging from between the flowing forms of dryads. “Rillis,” Aster began gravely, her eyes turned on the ground as she approached. “Please forgive me, I beg.”
Rillis smiled gladly. “Of course.”
Aster looked up and her face glimmered. She reached out her hand and from her fingers dangled a string of diamond tears. Rillis’ eyes widened in wonder as Aster fastened the diamond tears around her waist. Aster stood back and critically admired the effect. “It sparkles nicely against your emerald tunic.” She praised.
Rillis enthusiastically hugged her friend. “It’s perfectly lovely.”
“It’s more than lovely.” Aster said somberly. “It’s a reminder to not squander our weeping on petty things, for tears are precious.”
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