This is a response to Vol 13 John 4 ("The Wedding Bell")...
[This is part six of "Dolphin & Melanie"]
Dolphin wandered deep into the forest of Love's End and was soon completely lost. When the night came he drew his cloak about him and thought bitterly of the warm fire now beyond his reach. He sat against a tree and fell asleep.
A few hours later he woke to the sound of footsteps. Dolphin looked up and saw a distant light flickering through the trees. For a moment there seemed to be an old man with a staff in one hand and a candle in the other and then the light was gone. Dolphin stood up and rubbed his eyes. The moon was full and cast a shadowy enchantment through the woods. At first there was no sound and he began to wonder if he had been dreaming. But soon there were more footsteps and the melody of a girl laughing. Dolphin quietly followed the sound.
For nearly an hour he felt his way through thickets and over fallen logs lost in shadows. He could hear the footsteps but could not see who he was following. At last he came to a place where the forest pressed against the mountain, and the stone face rose straight up like a great wall. The old man with the candle was nowhere to be seen, but the moon splashed against the cliff and revealed two tiny figures standing in a clearing before what appeared to be a door. Drawing closer, Dolphin saw the two quite clearly: a plump milkmaid with flowers in her hair and a pimply-faced stable boy. These were the very two who had been married just that day.
Dolphin watched in silence as the girl shyly pressed her hand to the door and withdrew it. The boy leaned against the door with no effect and his new wife giggled. But then the two pushed together and the door opened and a golden light streamed forth. It seemed more like sunlight than lantern light, and with it came an elusive fragrance that made Dolphin's heart leap. The two young lovers joined hands and walked through the door and it closed silently behind them.
The door had a small heart-shaped window cut into it, and a rose-colored light continued to flow out with the fragrance of heaven itself. Dolphin wanted to run to the door and throw it open, but before he could move a shadowy figure approached from the opposite direction and covered the light with her face. Dolphin froze in amazement. It was Melanie.
Her hands were curled into fists and her face was so tightly pressed against the tiny opening that not one ray of light escaped. But the moon illuminated her long brown hair and hinted at the long legs beneath her pale white nightgown. She seemed to be listening to something beyond the door. The night was still.
Suddenly Melanie fell back and threw up her arms. Thousands of black birds poured through the window like smoke and enveloped her. She cried out but the birds continued to peck at her face and fly into her ears. Dolphin shouted her name, but as he did so the birds vanished and Melanie fled into the forest. By the time he reached the clearing, she was gone.
Dolphin ran up to the door and threw his weight against it, but he might just as well have thrown himself against a mountain: the door did not budge. He could find no hinge or knob or knocker anywhere on its polished surface. Over the door was an inscription: "Two hearts or none at all."
Dolphin pressed his face against the opening but could see nothing except a kind of dawn. But when he put his ear to the window he heard an ocean. And in that ocean he heard a mermaid. And in the song of that mermaid he heard his own name. Dolphin fell to his knees and pounded the little door with his fists.
"It will do you no good."
Behind him stood the ugliest old man Dolphin had ever seen. He had a staff in one hand and a candle in the other. He wore a tattered white robe and a beard with mud and twigs lodged in it as if some bird had tried to build a nest there.
"Your trident heart cannot fit through that door."
Dolphin stared at him.
"Such a pity. The mermaid on the other side has been waiting for so long. Ah, well."
He turned and walked to an opening at the edge of the clearing.
"I suppose I could put you up for the night. My hermitage is not far."
And with that the old man trudged back into the trees.