The hunter saw her pale body drifting like smoke through the dark woods. She was far more beautiful than moonlight or snowflakes. To capture one was nearly impossible, buf if one did, there were untold surprises and rewards, as the old legends reported. It had been some centuries since one had been captured. Quietly, the hunter moved among the blue and black shapes of the spruce, among the silver and gold of the birch. She was leaning down to drink from a partially frozen stream when he threw the halter around her. Though the blue-green eyes were startled, she made no sound or protest. Instead she bared her midriff and beckoned to him, speaking softly in her ancient language. It only took a few minutes to learn the ancient words, for they lie dormant in the minds of most men. Bewildered and enchanted, the hunter immediately removed the halter, and asked her if it was indeed allowed. She nodded in assent, a gentle and inviting smile on her lips. She whispered that he would require no blade. And so the hunter knelt down beside her, and dipped his fingers into the pale skin of her abdomen. She moaned or sighed. Gelatinous streams of lapis lazuli poured out, and his fingertips quickly found the brilliant gems. He ate them carefully, watching her watch him. The gems tasted sweet like cold, fresh cream. When he thanked her, she said there was more, and pushed his head back down so that he could gulp more of the liquid sapphire and eat the pomegranate-colored gems. Afterwards, the skin closed over the wound as if it had never opened, and she rinsed herself in the stream. The hunter felt like a completely other being, euphoric and slightly afraid, but throbbing with energy, his body electrified. Lost in his trance, he barely noticed her lay him down to take her turn and discover the gems of his abdomen. Staring into the rising stars, he felt nothing but the slow leaking away of his life. She had no legends, or did not remember them. She was not aware that he had no gems, and would later be sad and puzzled by the wound that would not close and the lifeless eyes icing over.
Once upon a time, there was a magic physic garden. Within the garden, weeds became herbs. Sometimes, herbs left the circle of the garden to become weeds. Sometimes, weeds asked for shelter, and were allowed into the garden if they became herbs. It all depended on a variety of factors–the way the sun was shining, the way the wind was blowing, the work of the garden nymphs and the temperament of the herb or weed. All of these things were regulated by the laws of nature, the laws of the garden, and the laws of the nymphs. As time passed, the nymphs forgot about their work. They spent all of their time playing with the sundials, gazing into the crystal ponds, or collecting shiny things. They added many rules to the law, and forgot many laws. At the same time, there were some weeds who began to feel that the physic garden was unfriendly for keeping out the weeds. Some weeds tried to erase the magic circle. Others were more clever; they enchanted the nymphs with cunning myths. Before long, the nymphs began to think of their own law as nothing more than a myth. They agreed to let more and more weeds in. Some nymphs and herbs still remembered the law, but these were divided into two camps—those who wanted all weeds to disappear and those who respected weeds but wished to follow their own laws and keep the garden intact. As time wore on, the forgetful nymphs and the hateful nymphs divided the ruined, chaotic garden between themselves, and all of the original nymphs and herbs were pushed out into the dark woods. It was not an easy life in the dark woods, but here weeds and herbs grew where they could. Some were chewed by silvery electric deer and others succumbed to radioactive moths and lichens, but the world did not end, medicine continued, and the mindful and lawful nymphs learned to fight mineral bears and robotic ferns. One of them reminded the living things that nature would rebuild the physic gardens, for of these had grown the first woods, the first gardens, and the first meadows. She looked forward to seeing a real bear someday.