Clymene was walking in a verdant meadow. At her feet were a riot of flowers, in all the colors of the rainbow: pink, her favorite; blue, gold, and red. She bent, picked a handful, and, as she strolled, smiling in the sunlight and inhaling deeply of their perfumes, wove them into a chaplet that she placed on her head, shining amid her golden curls. Far off—but not too far off—she saw a young satyr, muscular, dark-haired and bearded, sounding a horn made from a mountain-goat’s twisted horns: the sound echoed and re-echoed from hill to glen. He ceased, lowered the horn, and slowly surveyed the valley and hills. When his glance met hers, she cast down her eyes, as a modest nymph is taught to do, but peeped up slightly, to see if he was still looking in her direction—as he was.
She turned and ran, hearing his hoof beats gaining behind her, and suddenly fearful—they had not been introduced, and he seemed very large, and strong—she ran as fast as she could, but it did no good. Suddenly, she felt his rough hands on her silken scarf—why had she not pulled it in close, rather than let it trail behind?—and he cast her down to the ground.
Desperate, she covered her eyes, crossed her legs, and awaited the inevitable—from a distance, she heard the roar of a nearby waterfall, crackling and crashing against the springtime rocks, which had only lately been freed after the melting of the winter ice—crack—crash!—crack—crash!—crack….
She awoke: no satyr, no horn, no honor to protect; instead, she found herself covered with acorns, and saw Leatherstrap, the kobold, hovering outside her window. When he saw her eyes open, he grinned, and spoke: “Princess Clymene,” he said, and made a little mid-air bow, “I, Leatherstrap, thy humble kobold servant, do beg an audience with thee.”
Clutching the bedclothes to her bosom, Clymene sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes with her other hand: “And is this the way a kobold suitor awakens his mistress?” she asked, in mock- anger.
“Ah, no!” said Strap, “for among our people, the shadchan-kobold must examine the background, yichus-lineage, and appropriateness of both sides of each family. You must pardon me”—he said, glancing quickly at the ground beneath, and hopping over the windowsill, and into Clymene’s bedroom—“but I left a sage satyr beneath your window, empty wine-bottle at his side, snoring like the Demomnibus at a red-signal—I overheard him telling a faun that he must guard you like the apple of his eye, or answer to the anger of Lord Pan. Please, Mistress Clymene”—and Strap knelt down a respectable distance from the nymphic bed, out of modesty and respect—“I do not wish to overstep my bounds. I am a good and honest student at the Daemon Yeshiva, and wish only to state my—my—best intentions here. I—I—think that I lo—lo—y—y….”
“Don’t say it, Sir Kobold!” said Clymene, who had managed somehow to climb into her robe and tie it up to her neck, “I confess, I have f—f---feelings for y—you too, and we must be careful. That satyr you overflew is none other than Silenus, my great-uncle, and sworn officer and bailiff to my father My Lord Pan. If he hears that a Jewbold is in his daughter’s slumber-room, there will be Hades to pay.”
“Let us go, then,” said Strap, “to somewhere we can be alone. And I swear by our Law, that I will not lay a hand, no; not a pinion on you. I just want, Mistress Clymene, to talk—just talk. You are like the moon in its flight to me; and the stars, as well. Just to talk….”
“This is so, so bad, so evil,” said Clymene, “it has never happened before. And yet, I feel so much for you, as well.”
“If so, then may I just—“ said Strap.
“What?” asked Clymene.
“Touch—touch your hand,” said the little kobold, reaching out his left hand.
“Your hand is warm,” Clymene said, “and nothing like the hard claw that my nymphic tutors said it would feel like.”
“And I did not die!” said Strap, “The drabbis did not tell the truth!”
They sat together for a bit, quietly. The breeze blew in the window; they heard the sparrows chirping.
“I should go,” said Strap, “but I cannot leave you. I feel so close to you….”
“Is there no place for us to go?” asked Clymene.
Strap thought. “I have never been there myself—but, perhaps—“ he said slowly.
“Where?” asked Clymene, and she clutched his hand with both of hers.
“The Dismal Wood,” said Strap.
“No one goes to the Dismal Wood!” said Clymene.
“I have my conjuring wand,” said Strap, “not mine, that is; I took Old Drabbi Increase’s, from his desk in the Study Hall; he won’t miss it; poor eldern kobold; all he can do is sit and mumble charms from kabbalah. I know my charms from the Law—the bits that I’ve learned in Daemon Yeshiva. If I have you with me, Mistress Clymene, I would face even a dragon, or bugbear. Please come with me—I lo—lo—lo—you know.”
“And I you,” smiled Clymene, and blushed, “but how are we to get past my Cerberus at the gate, Uncle Silenus?”
“I have one of my vampire-friend’s Invisibility Cloaks, from the Yeshiva,” said Strap, and he whipped it out of his sidebag. “Wrap yourself in it, Clymene, my lo—my friend, and we will be off!”