Rosepetal and the Hunter


Joe Vadalma

In the deepest part of the Blue Mountain forest, Rosepetal fluttered her colorful wings and settled down on a toadstool to talk to Father Toad, the oldest and wisest toad in that part of the woods. "Hello, Father Toad. Isn't it simply a beautiful day?" Sunshine streamed through the leafy roof to warm Rosepetal's naked back.

"Ribit, Rosepetal." Its tongue flicked out to catch a passing fly. "It certainly is. Summer is finally here. At my age, one appreciates such comforts."

"And yet I feel vaguely discontented as though there should be more to life than flitting among the flowers sucking honey, dancing on leaves and playing tricks on the elves."

"How old are you, child?"

"Let's see now." She stuck her thumb into her mouth, a habit she indulged in while thinking. "It must be one hundred and twenty-two summers now."

Toad croaked heartily. "Ribit. You've reached the age of fairy puberty. What you need to do is find yourself a nice fairy boy to love."

Rosepetal sucked her thumb hard. This was something to ponder. She had watched adult fairies making love, and it did seem interesting, but then she thought about all the fairy boys she knew and could not imagine doing that with them.

A shadow passed over her.

Toad said, "Quick. Hide. A human." He hopped away.

Rosepetal leaped off the toadstool and hid behind a tree. She peeked out at the human.

He was a tall man twelve times her height of six inches. He wore blue jeans stuffed into boots, a red checkered shirt, a leather vest and a hunting cap. He carried a rifle. His face was ruggedly handsome; a short thick beard added to his maleness. His cool blue eyes darted hither and thither in a search pattern as he tromped through the woods. Once he paused to wipe perspiration from his forehead.

As he passed her, his musky odor stirred something inside Rosepetal. She followed him, fluttering around to his side and back.

A few times he must have sensed her presence for he turned quickly to catch sight of her. Each time she quickly hid among the leaves.

It became a fun game to see how close she could come to him without him spotting her. One time she touched him on the ear.

His hand came up fast and almost smacked her. "Darn mosquitoes," he cried.

Rosepetal giggled.

He must've heard her, because he turned his head in her direction.

She quickly flew high into a tree. She heard him say in a deep baritone voice that she found pleasing, "I'll be damned. A butterfly."

A magnificent buck deer with a full rack appeared ten yards away. It stared in the direction of the man as though not sure what he was. He raised his rifle to his cheek and took careful aim.

Rosepetal, seeing his intention, flew under the weapon and pushed it upward with all her strength as he pulled the trigger. The sound of the round going off almost deafened her. She dropped to the ground holding her ears.

The hunter cursed as the deer scampered away. Once his anger was vented, he scratched his head and stared at his gun. "What the hell happened? It's as though my rifle had a mind of its own."

He happened to glance at his feet. Before Rosepetal could fly away, he spotted her. "That butterfly. Somehow it pushed my gun." He stooped down for a closer look.

Feeling brazen, Rosepetal stood her ground.

"Holy crap. You're not a butterfly. You're a ... a ... I can't believe it."

Rosepetal giggled. "Yes, I'm a fairy. You shouldn't go around killing helpless animals with that awful thingamabob of yours. You almost made me deaf."

Now that his face was close to hers, she found that she was more attracted to him than before. Also, she knew that it was against the law of the fairy queen to allow him to see her. She took pixie dust from the little pouch she wore -- her only garment -- and threw it into his face. He immediately keeled over, fast asleep. She cast a spell on him.

"Hunter, so handsome and cruel,

Have a dream of me by a pool,

When you awake, all will seem

Part of your beautiful dream."



Karlman Bruin strolled through the woods humming softly to himself. It was a beautiful summer day, warm with a slight breeze. Although he recalled that he had somehow missed bagging a handsome buck, he felt lucky. He came upon a gurgling stream by a waterfall and stooped down to take a drink of crystal clear water.

A doe appeared on the other bank of the stream. She chewed on the weedy grass for a while and waded into the brook to drink. From a kneeling position, he raised his rifle and aimed at her breast. But as he peered through the lens of his sights, the doe became a fuzzy blur. He raised his head, thinking that something had happened to the lens.

Where the doe had stood was a beautiful naked woman. She strolled toward the waterfall and began to play and frolic under it. Absolutely enthralled, Bruin laid down his rifle and stared at her.

She looked his way and beckoned him with her hand. "C'mon, take off those sweaty clothes and join the fun. The water's fine."

Bruin did not need a second invitation. He swiftly ripped away his clothes and waded into the stream. As he approached, she backed away playfully so that he had to go under the falls to join her. She splashed him and made him chase her. She ran downstream away and suddenly turned so that he ran into her before he could stop himself. Slipping on the pebbles in the stream, they fell tangled in each other’s arms. They kissed and petted and in the end did the other thing right there in midstream.

At the most intense moment, he awoke lying on a pile of old leaves. He thought, It was simply a wet dream. Shooting at the buck. A fairy making me miss. Seeing a doe by a stream. The doe changing into a beautiful naked woman. Frolicking with her. Kissing her and petting. He sighed, "If only she was real. She was certainly a hot number."

He glanced at his watch. It was late. Since he did not want to be in the woods after dark, he headed back to his cabin.


Tiny eyes watched him from a branch of a tree. Rosepetal grinned as he picked up his rifle and tramped off. Her plan had worked. The dream she sent him had made him think that what transpired earlier was part of the dream. And it was a lovely dream. She especially liked the part at the end where he held her, kissed her and caressed her body parts. It felt wonderful. She would like it to happen for real. She sighed. It was not possible. He was twelve times her size.

She followed him to his a building made from rough wood. She perched on the window and watched everything he did. First he checked and cleaned his rifle and hung it on a rack. He opened some containers, mixed the contents together and fried them in a pan. He took a bottle of amber liquid from the refrigerator and ate his dinner. After he cleaned up the dishes, he yawned, removed his clothes and went into a smaller room. Rosepetal thought his body was as handsome as his face. It was hard and muscular, the body of someone who exercises vigorously. She longed to press herself against it.

He returned wearing a robe, selected a book from a shelf and began to read. Since he did not move much, except once to open another bottle of the amber liquid, she became bored and returned to her home in the woods.

She went to the toadstool she had sat on earlier and waited for Father Toad. When he hopped up, she said, "Good afternoon, Father Toad."

"Ribit. I see you escaped that human all right."

"Not quite. He saw me once, but I placed a spell on him so that he thought I was a figment of his dream."

"You must be more careful. I have it on good authority that if a human captures a fairy, she must grant him a wish."

"Really. What do humans wish for?"

"All sorts of things. Mainly for gold."

"Gold? That's silly. It's only shiny metal. I would've thought they would wish for love."

"Ribit. Sometimes they do, but not with fairies. Usually they wish for the love of someone they already know."

Rosepetal pouted. "Why not a fairy?"

"Well, for one thing, fairies are too small to be loved by humans. You seem quite interested in the subject of what humans would wish for. I sense there is something behind it. Tell me what's bothering you."

"Suppose a fairy liked a human man very much. Isn't there some way that she could become the right size to have him love her outside of dreams?"

If Father Toad had shoulders, he would've shrugged them. Instead he croaked, "I'm afraid I wouldn't know anything about that. It strikes me that she would need magic to do that. I know nothing about magic. You must ask the witch, Mother Acorn. Say, this doesn't have anything to do with that human who was in the woods earlier, does it?"

"Yes. I find him attractive. I would like him to love me."

"Ribit, ribit. Don't be ridiculous, girl! Love between a human and a fairy could only end in tragedy. Forget him. Find yourself a nice fairy boy or an elf."

"Pooh. What do you know? You're only a warty old toad."

Father Toad shook his head, caught a fly with his tongue and hopped away. He turned once to call over his shoulder, "You're making a big mistake, falling in love with a human man. They are nasty, troublesome and liars."

By this time night had fallen. A wind rose from the east and clouds covered the sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

I must find Mother Acorn and have her make me big so that the human man will love me, thought Rosepetal. A raindrop the size of her fist splashed on her head, almost sending her tumbling to the ground. Nonetheless, she flew towards the big oak where Mother Acorn made her home.

The rain came down fiercely, the wind ripped through the forest and lightning crackled. One bolt struck a tree and cracked it in two. The falling tree almost struck Rosepetal.

Finally, because Rosepetal's wings were as delicate as a moth's, the rain and wind drove her to the ground. But still the hunter's face floated before her mind's eye. She recalled the taste of his lips in the dream world. It gave her the will to go on despite the pain and chill.

Mother Acorn was ancient. Some said that she was as old as the hills. Some said that she was the first fairy queen. She had so many wrinkles that her face resembled a dried up riverbed. She was toothless, and her wings had turned black. They sagged around her like a cloak, which was a good thing because like all fairies she went around nude.

The fairies, elves and woodland creatures feared her, for she could do powerful magic and had a nasty temper. If one went to her for a favor, it was with trepidation. She always demanded a payment of something that was painful for her customer to give up.

Gasping for breath and shivering, Rosepetal knocked on Mother Acorn's door. At first there was no answer, so she pounded harder until her fists hurt.

Finally, Mother Acorn opened the door a crack and stared Rosepetal up and down with her fierce eyes. "What are you doing at my door on such a terrible night, girl?"

In a low trembling voice, Rosepetal whispered, "I wish to ask you to perform an act of magic, Mother Acorn."

"Eh? Speak up."

Rosepetal cleared her throat and repeated her request in a louder tone.

"Magic, is it? Well, come in."

Although Acorn's home was under an oak tree, the interior was spacious, yet cozy. Through an enchantment the interior was larger than the space it occupied under the tree roots. A cheery fire crackled in fireplace, and a delicious odor wafted from whatever was cooking in the enormous iron pot.

"Sit down girl. I'll brew tea."

Rosepetal sat at the bench before a crude wooden table. Acorn brought out cups, pinched tea leaves into the bottom of each one and poured from a tea kettle.

As the tea brewed, its luscious aroma wafted into Rosepetal's nostrils. After Acorn sat across from her, she warmed her hands on the cup and took a sip. It was the richest, most wonderful tea she had ever tasted. "I want ..."

"Hush, child. Finish your tea and get yourself together before we talk business."

Rosepetal cringed and sipped the tea. It did warm her after the chill of the outdoor storm and seemed to clear her head.

When their tea was down to the dregs, Acorn said, "Now. What do you want of me?"

"I want to be the size of a human."

"Really? Why would you want such a thing?"

The whole story about her encounter with the hunter spilled out of her, including everything she felt about him.

Acorn cackled. "You foolish girl. Suppose I did make you human size. What makes you believe that this hunter would love you?"

"I told you. He wanted to kiss and caress me in his dream."

"Yes, that was his desire, my dear. But desire is not necessarily love."

Rosepetal's anger got the better of her good judgment. "Why is everyone is telling me that this man will not fall in love with me the moment he sees me? I think it's because you're old and ugly, and Father Toad is warty. Both of you are jealous of the man."

Acorn squinted at her. "I see. You're at an age where love is everywhere, and everything speaks of love. Passion rules good sense. It's the curse of the young. Well, I'll do as you ask. But the price is high, higher than you may want to pay."

"I will pay it, whatever it is." Rosepetal gazed at the witch eagerly.

"Well, in the first place, I cannot make you human size without turning you into a human being. Do you understand the significance of that?"

"Yes. I will have to live in the human world and wear clothes. I won't be able to spend my time flitting around and teasing elves. I'm ready to make those sacrifices. It will be worth it to have the man love me."

"You're so foolish. You don't even know his name. Also, there's more that you will have to give up than the things you mentioned. Those were trivial. In addition, you will no longer be able to perform magic except the kind that human women work on men."

"That's no loss. I never did anything important with my magic anyway."

"You will not live for centuries as a fairy does. A hundred years is the limit. Not only that, as you grow older you'll become as I am, wrinkled and ugly."

"I understand. That's the fate of human women. But that's many summers away."

Acorn sighed and shook her head in wonder at the foolish passion of youth. "And of course, there's my price."

"I'm willing to pay anything."

"You're lucky. I'm only going to ask for something you must give up as a human being anyway. Your wings."

Rosepetal was taken aback. It hadn't occurred to her up until this point that she would have to part with her beautiful wings, never to soar way above the forest and dive headlong to avoid being swallowed by a bird. She would never again flutter around the woods spying on animals and elves. Nonetheless, she realized the necessity of giving them up. Before agreeing to this payment, she shed a tear for their loss.

She bowed her head. "Take them."

Acorn retrieved a meat cleaver from her rack of cooking utensils. "Close your eyes. This will hurt a little. Spread them to their full length."

Rosepetal spread her wings, took one last fond look at the great beauty that would no longer be hers, closed her eyes and clasped her hands together tightly. She felt pain so excruciating that she almost fainted, and a second blow. She heard a flop as each of her wings fell to the floor. She went to her knees in sorrow and suffering.

Mother Acorn covered the wounds with a poultice that eased the hurt somewhat. "Rest now." She led Rosepetal to her bed, covered her and gave her a potion to drink. "In the morning you will wake as a human woman."


The first light of the day came into Bruin's window. He stretched and yawned. "My last day out here in the woods, then back to the office," he sighed. "May as well take advantage of it. I may spot that buck today. I'll never figure out how I missed it. Or did I only dream about such a magnificent creature? Never mind. I feel lucky as though something marvelous was going to happen."

He rose, quickly showered, donned his hunting garments, and gulped down a cup of coffee. He decided to return to cabin later for a full breakfast. As he headed out the door, he stuffed a box of cartridges in his vest and grabbed his rifle. He hadn't taken a dozen steps when a women in a T-shirt and jeans stepped out of the woods. She looked lost. She waved to him.

He waved back and approached her. As he neared, he couldn't believe his eyes. She was the woman in his strange dream, the one who had changed from a doe. No. That's impossible. I'm simply projecting.

"May I help you?" he asked.

"Yes, please. I'm afraid I've lost my way. I started to follow this trail, you see. Soon I was going in circles." Her smile lit up the world, and her big doe eyes stared unflinchingly into his.

"Sure. Where you headed?"

"Well, back to Woodstock now, I guess." Woodstock was the village at the base of the mountain.

"It's a long way to walk. I'll give you a lift. Oh, my name is Karlman Bruin. Most people call me Karl."

She put out her hand. "I'm Rose Petal. I wouldn't want to put you out."

"No problem. I was headed back today or tomorrow anyway. Say, how long have you been wandering around in the woods?"

She blushed. "Most of the night I'm afraid. It was foolish of me to go out so close to evening. I didn't realize how dark and scary the woods were at night."

"You must be tired and hungry after your ordeal. I haven't had breakfast myself yet. I'll whip up a batch of pancakes."

"I shouldn't take advantage ... but I am hungry."

They ate breakfast together and became so engrossed in conversation that hours passed. They had a lot in common, especially a love for the outdoors and nature, although she disapproved of hunting. Soon it was noon, and Petal stayed for lunch. Afterwards they went for a walk. She was so beautiful that Bruin impulsively stole a kiss. Instead of slapping him or becoming indignant, she responded passionately. Bruin's mind whirled. It was though the woman was a witch who had cast a spell on him. He had always poo-pooed love at first sight. But strangely this day it struck him like lightning.

They watched the sunset and necked on the porch. When Venus appeared in the sky, they both made secret wishes that the other would love them ardently. The air became chill, and they went inside. Bruin cooked the last of the fish he had caught, but Petal only ate salad. After they shared a bottle of Merlot and spoke more about their plans for the future. Hers were to be a stay-at-home mom and raise lots of children. This was just the sort of woman he had been hoping to meet. He asked her to stay the night.

"Absolutely, Karl. I think I'm falling for you," was her reply.

During the night Bruin awoke. Moonlight streamed through the window on Petal's naked back. He noticed that she had two long scars on her shoulder blades. He wondered how she had received them. He made a mental note to ask her someday.


She went back to the city with him. They were married two weeks later – the ‘papers’ she needed having appeared in her purse when the city clerk asked for them. A gift from Mother Acorn, she thought, and regretted the harsh words she had aimed at the old witch.

Although she loved Bruin, and he loved her, the marriage was not always a happy one. She also loved their children when they came along and was a good mother. But she missed the woods, Father Toad and the fairy folk. She especially missed her wings. She often dreamed of fluttering about, free as the breeze, flitting among the flowers sucking honey, dancing on leafs and playing tricks on the elves.

She hated the city. Sometimes Bruin would come home to find her weeping. The only cure was to take her back to his cabin in the Catskills, where she spent hours wandering through the woods with the children trailing behind her. She, and they, seemed to find butterflies especially captivating.


© 2006 by Joe Vadalma

Bio: Papa Joe says: "I'm a former technical writer retired from a major computer manufacturer. I've loved science fiction and fantasy from the time I learned to read. I've had several short stories published in E-zines. My hobbies, besides writing, are adventure game playing and do-it-yourself projects. I've also sold a series of dark fantasy novels to Renaissance E Books. The series is called The Morgaine Chronicles. Renaissance has also published a collection of my short stories, The Sands of Time, and two SF novels, Star Tower and The Bagod. Delingers Publishing has published my science fiction novel, The Isaac Project. The Book of Retslu, a humorous fantasy, has been accepted by Mundania, but has not been published yet. My web site, The Fantastic World of Papa Joe, contains SF, fantasy and horror stories, serials and art." Joe's stories have appeared a number of times in Aphelion, most recently A Box on the Seashore, June 2006.

E-mail: Joe Vadalma

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