self-imposed

An old man from the village, standing on the far bank, hailed the Witch’s isle. The summer-dry stream was low in its banks, and she crossed over the stones to meet him. She did not let down the knotted-up kirtle, but one hand automatically rose to check the cowl and veil that were bound across her head, showing nothing but her eyes. In her other hand she bore a small bundle wrapped in a linen cloth.

The old man paid no heed. He was one of the fathers of the village, a man with wives and many children, cattle and a house built of stone in two levels. He was a man of wealth and influence. He had lost his cattle, which were wealth, to wolves; they were no friends to him. Such men did not come often the isle where those who fled found refuge. His eyes rested briefly on the motionless bundle in her arms, speculatively on the covered door of her hut, and returned to her shrouded face.

He said: “This forest is not for men. The ground does not yield to our plows. The trees turn upon us when we hew them. The ditches we dig run dry while the wild streams burst their banks to flood our fields. The boar drag down our fences, and the deer eat of our grain. We fear the wolf and the brown one. This forest is not for men. We are not wanted here nor welcome.”

The Witch stooped, and setting her tiny, gray-wrapped burden down, drew a knife from her girdle and dragged its point through the earth. She raised a handful of dirt and let it stream between her fingers. With her other hand she held the knife out, point-down.

The old man said, “We are not warriors. We fled from the open lands. We did not think to find unwelcome where no men were. We did not come here to fight. This forest is not made for men!”

The Witch flung her hands down, hurling the knife to the ground. She caught her left wrist with her right hand, circling it, turning it slowly.

The old man bowed his head and said, “Perhaps they will not chain us if we come back to them willingly.”

One thought on “self-imposed

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s