So, on this day before Mother's Day, I offer you all the first part of this work, now called, Forgiveness. I am rewriting the other story, but didn't want to completely lose this one.
Lumbering through the brush, I held my muzzle close to the earth, tracking the burrowing mammal through its den. I knew I was near as drool fell in strands to the ground. It had been too many days since my last real meal. The berries, shoots, and beetles had staved off starvation, but I was craving the fullness of meat in my stomach. My small ears twitched at the sound of tiny nails scrabbling on dirt and rock as the weasel tried to scamper to safety. It had been as startled, as I was, when I stumbled upon it gorging itself on a fallen nest of eggs. The smell of the rotting yolks had drawn us both to the find. Unlucky for him, he got there first: now he was on the menu.
Suddenly a new scent drifted through my nostrils and I paused in my pursuit. Man. I lifted my head to the odor and tried to gauge the direction. I could tell, he was nearby; his sweat reeked, allowing it to drift in the mid-spring breeze. Swinging my heavy head from side to side, I listened for movement. A thicket of brambles blocked a large gap between two old pines. He was there, hiding. I was too large to try to escape unnoticed—if he hadn’t already seen me and was now waiting for his perfect shot—so I swung my pendulous body around to face the man. Hauling myself to my hind legs, I raised up fully. I jutted my jaws forward and roared loudly. Threads of saliva coated my sharp teeth. My warm breath was rank with decomposition. Stumbling forward, rocking side to side on my trunk like legs, I did my best to terrify the man. I didn’t want to attack him, but I would if he threatened me. He wouldn’t be the first. The smell of his sweat now mixed with the slight bitterness of urine.
I heard the man fall back and scramble, not unlike the weasel, away from me. Had I still been able to laugh, I would have. In my previous form, though just as deadly to man, no man would have ever moved so quickly from my presence. Now he could think of nothing else except flight. I fell heavily to the ground as the man sprang to his feet. He grasped a javelin in his shaking hand. The tip of it caught the setting sun and shot a line of fire into my eyes. I roared again, my front feet leaving the earth to pound down hard. He froze. The javelin hung uselessly, the tip piercing the dirt at his feet. I staggered closer still, the light brown fur of my body moved in waves with my steps. His eyes widened and his mouth gaped open. As I moved around the thicket, I saw this man more clearly. I was mistaken. This was not a man: it was a boy. A tall boy, to be sure - he hadn’t yet filled out in his shoulders and only a downy brush of hair covered his cheeks.
Stopping, I titled my head at the boy. He looked familiar. His eyes were a dull green, like the color of moss in the fall. His hair was fair, long, and wavy. However, his nose struck me. Thin and straight, it bulged at the tip. Like my mother’s. Like my own had once appeared to me—back then so hated for its perceived ugliness—when I looked in the polished silver. Sniffing heavily, letting my nostrils flare, I raised my head to get a better whiff of this boy. Familiarity tugged at my consciousness. I closed my eyes. For a brief moment the image of an infant flashed before me; the same fair hair and green eyes, the same nose. My son, Arcas.
“Go away,” he said. His voice shook and squeaked. I opened my eyes at the sound. He had raised the javelin and now hefted it on his shoulder. Though poised like a practiced hunter, I did not fear him. His voice echoed in my head. I had difficulty accepting reality with my epiphany. This was my son, Arcas. My eyes began to mist. I thought I had lost him all those years ago…
“Go away!” his voice broke my thoughts as I stumbled back into the present.
My son. He was my son. I stood up and walked toward him. Raising my front legs, I moved to embrace him. Arcas pulled back his arm and bounced the javelin in his grip. Though sweat ran as rivulets down his forehead, he had made the choice to hold his ground. I opened my maw.
Arcas. All that came out was a grunting roar, but my ears only registered my heartfelt plea. He tilted the javelin up. Hesitating, he readied it to thrust into my beating heart. I took one step too close. The javelin arched with impressive force and speed.
A blinding flare of lightning struck the earth in the exact moment I felt the tip of the javelin part the thick fur of my hide. My world stopped. My Arcas was gone.
The lengthening shadows of dusk cast the forest floor into darkness. With the waning sunlight came a cold, whipping wind. Had I been any less than I was, I would have prayed to the gods for salvation. Since I was a nymph of the woodlands and huntress of Artemis, I did no such thing. However, the suggestion did cross my mind. For I was lost.
When the stag had appeared across the stream from our resting stop, it was I who first noticed. He was a magnificent creature. My bow had been lying on the soft grass at my feet, my arrows still resting on my back. Moving slowly so as not to startle him, I reached for my bow. It was a practiced move. The stag never noticed. Taking confident steps closer, he had lowered his head to lap at the cool, fresh water. As I raised my bow and reached back over my shoulder to pull an arrow free, his ears flicked at the slight noise of the bowstring flexing under my expertise. Fully drawn, I sighted the stag but before I could release my arrow, one of the sisters had sneezed. I spared a moment to send her a hate-filled glare then took off after the fleeing stag.
No one followed. It was the stag versus I: prey versus hunter. Until I lost his trail and ended up here, lost myself. Failure did not sit well with me. Nor would it sit well with Artemis. Above all, I wished I hadn’t lost the stag for her sake. When any of us nymphs managed to bring down an animal, she was always been there to embrace us as equals. She rejoiced in our successes, for they were her successes as well. She had been our teacher, our mother, and our goddess and we were her students, her children, and her maidens.
Just the thought of her brought a flush to my cheeks. I loved her. She was my comfort in the darkness, my inner voice encouraging me to greatness, my confidant, and of course my friend. I wished, but did not pray, for her presence now.
“Callisto?” Her voice, though not sweet or gentle, hummed with life and femininity. I turned at my name. My heart stopped beating at the vision before me. Dressed in a sheer tunic, her thighs bare above the knee and her hair lying unbound across her shoulders, Artemis was a sight to behold. I felt my skin heat.
“Why are you so far from the others? You know you are walking in the wrong direction,” her voice lilted with suppressed laughter. I dropped my head with a shy smile playing at my lips. “You always were too headstrong to ask for help.”
“Enough of that,” she whispered. Draping a muscular and tanned arm over my shoulders, she leaned close and ran her lips across my temple. I shivered at the sensation. My knees weakened and I fought to maintain my balance. Her voice fell an octave and slid across my skin setting my nerves aflame. “Let us get back to the others.”
“No.” The word came unbidden from my lips. “Not yet.”
I turned in my goddess’ embrace. “My dear Callisto.” A wave of desire swept through me, settling in my breasts and then moving to pool lower at the crux of my thighs. “My brave Callisto.” Her hand flowed along the curve of my shoulder and up the arch of my neck. Cupping my chin in her palm, she continued. “My strong Callisto.” My eyes drooped as she brought her lips close to mine, breathing her wild breath as a caress on my cheeks. “My beautiful Callisto.” Our first kiss sent sparks of passion racing in my blood. I could feel both our hearts beating in the rush.
She stepped closer to me, wrapping her arms around my waist, holding me flush. Our breasts pressed together. I squirmed with the pressure, using her already peaked nipples to tease and harden my own. She deepened the kiss; licking the seam of my lips before easing the tip inside to sweep through my warm, wet heat. The rising moan in my chest burst free, vibrating through the cavern of my mouth. Artemis echoed my moan with a hum of her own. The hand holding my chin moved up to tangle in my hair. Gripping the back of my head, she pulled her mouth from mine and began trailing kisses down my throat. My body bucked under her onslaught. She used the momentum to grab my ass and grind my pelvis into hers. Keening, I filled the dark forest with my urgency. I needed to feel the goddess against my bare skin.
I started to wrench at the brooch holding up her tunic. My nails dug at the unwieldy clasp. She laughed, a rumbling low sound of mirth. Had I been anywhere else, feeling anything less, I would have questioned the oddity of that noise. As it was, I too far gone under her spell to notice. Keeping my pelvis tilted up and pressed against her, she still managed to step back enough to tear her tunic away. Naturally, mine followed.
Nude within the goddess’ arms, I sighed as the sensation of her warm and heated flesh sliding along my own. She lifted me by the hips and urged me to wrap my legs around her waist. I did as she commanded. Taking two steps, she backed me into the cool and slick trunk of a cherry tree. I reached up into the branches and grasped two to support myself. Locking my thighs around her ass, I began to move like a snake against her. Undulating my hips and pelvis, I rubbed my delicate nub of flesh against her pelvic bone. Her lips spread and arched into a leer at my wantonness.
“Never would I have imagined…” she mumbled. Her voice flowed through me like the growling of storm clouds.
Artemis placed a palm on my breast as my head fell back and hair swung free. I couldn’t stop now even if I had wanted to. I rolled my nub into her erratically, the passion within me building until I no longer had control of my actions. Her hand massaged my globe, fingers tickling my nipple, teasing, and pinching it until it reddened with desire. She brought her lips to it then and licked, letting me feel the entire length of her tongue as it aroused me even further. Puckering, she pulled my nipple deep into her mouth and sucked. Like a cub feeding from its mother, she suckled my breast strong. Wave upon wave of ecstasy coursed from my breast to the nub.
Exploding, I screamed.