Lammas, first harvest and the whole village helped one another to bring in the crops. Sybil stood rubbing her back. Stooping to cut the sheaves was always hard work, and she was exhausted.
“Sybil, Set a bit.” Vivien handed her a bottle of thin ale.
Sybil sat down and took a long drink. “Oh that tastes good.” She dug into her pocket and pulled out a wedge of cheese and a piece of bread wrapped in a cloth. She ate while they rested.
“That lover. He helpin’ at harvest?”
“Not sure. Said he must keep forest ways in the day.”
Vivien gave her a odd look. “Ye mean ye never seen him afore supper?”
Sybil thought about it. “I have. You’ve seen him. He bought my spoon. As for time o’ day, he comes when he wants.”
“Are ye sure he ain’t ‘themins’ or the like?”
Sybil laughed. “He’s a man. Else how this babe be made? Probably a forester or shephard.”
Vivien gave up and they helped each other up and got back to harvesting. When it was all in, each would get a share of the crops. This way no one person had to sow, grow and harvest all the grains.
That night, they gathered in the barn and the fiddlers played John Barleycorn, and those gathered sang along.
John Barelycorn is cut down dead,
It is his time to die,
The sun that warmed our summer days no longer is so high,
We praise him and our goddess faire, we thank him for the corn,
We gather in the harvest now, and leave the fields forlorn.*
As Sybil swayed with the music, she felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her. Turning, she saw her lover, his skin turning a fine nut brown and smelling of the forest and the fields. “Be ye hungry?”
“Aye. For you.” He turned her around and kissed her. She melted into his arms. They slowly moved to the edge of the gathering. She found mugs of fresh cider for both of them and apple tarts. They ate as the people danced and the music played.
“Sybil, can we go off to Yew Cottage?” He swayed with the music and held her waist gently.
“Aye.” They walked out into the dark and headed for her cottage. From the barn, Vivien watched Sybil leave. She smiled and yet worried about the lover, wondering if he’d stay the winter.
Sybil sponged the sweat and dirt of the harvest from her body as Cern watched. He gathered her in his arms as she tried to dry herself off. “Cern.”
“Let me dry off.”
“Nay. Let me drink the moisture off of your sweet body.” He picked her up and placed her on the bed. Then he began to kiss and touch her until she cried out with need. Cern moved between her legs and first kissed her until sweet juices poured. Then he slid in gentle, not wanting to hurt the round of her belly. She sighed as he moved in and out of her. As she began to orgasm, he knelt back and pulled her into his lap, letting her straddle him.
“Oh Cern!” she gasped.
He laughed a deep throaty laugh as she came and came until she almost passed out. As he held her close, listening to her small gasps, he came and poured his essence deep inside.
Later, as the moon rose, Sybil turned to look at Cern in the moonlight. She stroked his brow. She swore his face was thinner than it had been the first time he’d come to her. His skin was tan and sunburned and she wondered what he did in the forest all day long. She touched his face once more and he opened his eyes.
“What ye be thinkin?” He cupped her breast and kissed her soft skin.
“Wonderin’ what you do out in the forest.”
“I take care of the forest and the beasts what live there. That be all ye need know.” It was matter-a-fact, but not dismissive. Then he began to kiss her until she forgot any thought she might have had.
When Sybil woke, Cern was gone, as was his habit. She looked over to the fireplace and was surprised to see something covered with a cloth sitting near. She got up and pulled off the cloth. Underneath was a fine cradle made of willow withes and a deep pad of rushes in the bottom. She was so surprised, that she sat down on the floor, letting the tears flow.