I don't have an aesthetic. I am an aesthetic.
I don't have an aesthetic. I am an aesthetic.
I still contend that this is, in fact, the best video on the internet, period. The sheer comedic timing. The knowledge that it cannot possibly have been constructed. The very human expression Pallas cats’ round pupils give them. And the backstory that this was literally the first footage captured by this camera in this placement, that this is the cat immediately noticing his environment has been changed and investigating with all the suspicion of a grumpy old gardener whose gnomes have been moved again…. *chef’s kiss*
Every year, a superstitious village abandons a human child in a nearby forest in exchange for divine protection. In actuality, an old hermit adopts the children and teaches them to ward off intruders. This year, the hermit’s best apprentice happens to locate and escort the abandoned child.
Stupidity that no-one knows is stupidity, that’s repeated often enough to become a habit… that’s what tradition is.
At least, that’s what tradition is here.
The first time was different. The first time was an accident. A child not abandoned, but lost, wandering into the forest on sturdy little legs, too young to be wary. He wandered far enough to be found by… well, he calls them ‘teachers’. What they were, I don’t know. Spirits, perhaps, or beings from another plane, or sorcerers, or mystics. He won’t say. But he swears it was chance that ended the drought after he disappeared. The teachers didn’t do it.
When they brought him back, they found the little bones scattered in the dark wood. Found the lost spirits still calling for mothers and fathers who had abandoned them.
The first, the Hermit, has been here ever since. When his teachers could not make the people stop what they were doing, when children returned to the village were taken out into the woods again, the Hermit settled in the heart of the forest, and began what has become his life’s work.
Every year, another child is abandoned in the woods, left as a sacrifice by superstitious people who think it pleases whatever gods or powers they worship.
Every year, that child does not die.
We know when it will happen – Midsummer’s Day, every year. So it’s not difficult to set watchers in the trees around the village, to see who creeps out and follow. I sit watching, concealed by skill and by spells, as the grey light slowly brightens and Midsummer Day’s dawn approaches. There are other watchers at other gates – it’s almost a small town, this village, big enough to need more than one gate.
I was an infant, I’m told, when I was abandoned. Newly born, and the death of my mother, from the whispers the Hermit’s spies heard during the Choosing Time. Whether my father hated me for killing her, or simply didn’t want the burden of an infant with no woman to tend it, he offered me readily. He was the one to carry me out, leaving me on the outskirts of the Deep Forest, where the sun still showed between the trees and the trees did not move of their own accord, because a babe could hardly find its way back.
The Hermit took me up, of course, and carried me home. Back then, he was still strong enough to be the one who watched and waited. He carried me into the heart of the Deep Forest, and gave me to two of the others who had come before me… Elsa and Rolf, who had grown up in the Heart, and had a babe of their own. They raised me as their own child, brother to their daughter, and so I feel no particular anger toward my father. He did not love me, but he found me parents who would, even if he didn’t know it.
Only the ones who aren’t angry can watch. The ones who don’t remember the village. No-one talks about why, not openly, but I’ve heard whispers of blood on the leaves and brother turning blade against brother for a grudge held too long.
A trio of witches who live on the outskirts of town as outcasts befriend a neighbor child. They are annoyed at first by them but after their persistence realize they are genuine. One day they don’t show up as usual so the witches look for them and learn the town has been taken over by soldiers.
Very few people came to the hut in the woods, unless they needed to. They knew too well that the three women in the forest, who live as sisters but share no blood, were witches. We live out of sight of the village, though within walking distance, and were rarely troubled by the villagers… except for the goatherd, who took our goats every day to graze with the others. There were times when he was the only other person we saw for weeks on end.
As the oldest child of a poor family, he went to work as soon as he was old enough to help to feed his family. Every day, he came to our door to lead our four goats away. The last goatherd had been too afraid to take our goats. Antoniu took them all, even the two black goats that half the village was scared to even look at. Poor things – we only took them to save them from the superstitious idiots who would have killed them. Two good nannies, placid by goat standards, but their black hair and yellow eyes frightened people. But he was a kind boy, and never harmed even them.
Constanta is the youngest, and the softest-hearted. She started giving little Antoniu bread, or goat cheese, or a few vegetables, when times were hard. He was the only child who didn’t run from us. The only one who ran to us, not away. He was special. And he needed feeding up.
Antoniu was a good goatherd. Ecaterina, neither oldest nor youngest, taught him the tricks that would help him, how to understand the goats and teach them to respect him. When he came to us in tears because a goat had been lost, she made him a charm that would help him to find it again, so he wouldn’t be beaten. He never told anyone that he had had proof that we were witches in truth, but he brought Ecaterina flowers and herbs from the goat’s grazing grounds all that summer.
I am Minodora, the oldest, and even I must admit, I grew fond of the child. He was kind-hearted, and good with animals. He never did harm if he could help it, which is a rare trait. And rarer still, he was one of those who are born with wisdom, which is to say that he kept his eyes open, saw what was there, not what he expected to see, and thought about it afterwards. Some people take a lifetime to learn that skill, and most never learn it at all. He had it from the beginning.