River Mist Tales: The Letter

Come in, come in. The mist has settled, you may as well sit, sip a cup of tea, read a few tales. No introductions are needed, river folk know what needs to be known.

There’s apple spice cake and cheddar if you’re hungry. Milk and sugar for the tea, unless you brought a flask of your own.

Don’t open the window if the crows tap and call, nor heed those gossiping tabbies.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door. Don’t want to keep her waiting.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with the truth, too revealing with the magic.

Until you visit again may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

theletter_cwm

 The Letter

She had found the first letter quite by accident, during a game of hide and seek in the wood, waiting silently for hours, believing in her cousins who told her to hide, unknowing they would not bother to seek her out, except when it pleased the pair to steal into the secret lives of others.

Maxi had never been alone in a wood before, there was so much to explore, to hear, to spy upon and in turn, learned she was spied upon by unknown others, she liked that best of all.

The letter was in the remains of an ancient tree trunk, resting upon the softest pile of vibrant green moss as if on a velvet pillow, as if it were being presented at a royal court.

During that day of discovery, Maxi sat and watched the weather smoothed trunk, the still letter, for hours, at a distance in case someone showed up, but finally acknowledging her cousins cruelty and surrendering to her own hunger she abandoned her vigil, taking the letter home, hidden inside her jacket.

The paper was roughly textured, embedded with violet petals, covered in an indigo colored ink, a flowing cursive hand, a short introduction, a request for a response, the asking for a pen pal.

Maxi had always wanted a pen pal, someone from Scotland or Ireland or Wales, someone who lived in a castle or near a castle or within sight of a castle, or a crumbling old keep, someone living with history and magic all around.

Here was an opportunity, so she began a correspondence with an unknown writer of the wood, someone who knew the wood, who spoke with trees and foxes and owls, someone who would not reveal their name.

Maxi spend many days composing her weekly letter which she left on the moss pillow inside the old tree trunk, sharing adventures and stories, hers seeming gray and shallow, lacking excitement, knowledge, lacking magic when compared with the missives she received.

She was certain her pen pal was full of magic, for the letters revealed gossip from crows, gossip about Maxi’s cousins, and revealed transgressions voiced be the trees, the river, the meadow flowers, transgressions committed by villagers, and there were questions too, such as why horses were imprisoned by fences, some dogs chained and some cats never allowed to roam outside even though all asked for their freedom.

Maxi began to wonder too, wonder about fences, about the possibility of trees having conversations, about crows chiding, about time expanding in directions not understood and how could she learn to hear and speak to the wood and all those who lived within it.

Keeping the correspondence secret had taught Maxi how to walk softer in the world, to know the differences between the sound of paw and human footfall, the song of bird, the rustle of short and long leaf, for it was the one condition from her unnamed pen pal, no one must ever see the letters but Maxi herself.

Finding the cousins at the trunk, Maxi hid from the raucous pair, she could hear their voices rising, daring each other towards the stump, daring to pluck the letter hiding there, laughing satisfied they had discovered Maxi’s secret, stealing something belonging to her, and as Maxi watched, her heart beating quickly, her stomach growing tight, the elder cousin reached for the letter, only to have it catch fire, cinders floating away into the the tangling branches overhead, then reaching into her pocket, fingers protecting the letter hidden there, Maxi touched not her own smooth stationery but a roughly textured, violet embedded envelope.

River Mist Tales: The Book

Welcome traveler, no need for names here. River folk have a way of knowing what needs to be known.

There’s tea in the pot, slices of spice cake, fresh apples and cheddar.

Don’t open the window when the crow taps, nor let the cats out, no matter what they tell you.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door with her basket of tales.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with her truths.

Please come again. You’ll always find comfort, refreshment and a bit of magic.

Until next time, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

theHbook

The Book

“It’s not here,” whispered Isabella to herself climbing back down the anchored wooden ladder, repeating the words softly into Orla’s ears.

“It is here, I know it is here, all the clues, everything brings us here,” said Orla, shuffling pages of notes, pushing back into the deep shadow of the black windowed spaces between the towering bookcases.

“We’ve been here hours, we can try again tomorrow,” said Isabella glancing out into the unlit library, sighing, continuing, “fine, but tell my why this book, why here,” becoming more unsettled, spiraling her fingers around the embossed edges of her backpack.

“You know I can’t, so if you want to go, go, but I’m not leaving here without that book,” said Orla, grateful the dark hid her face, her fear, her worry and her growing despair.

Isabella shook her head, stepped onto the fading carpet, ran her hand upwards along the intricately carved decorations climbing up the sides of the bookcase, and slipped back beside her sister-in-law.

“This is about Brian, isn’t it, you think he left his notes don’t you,” asked Isabella, focusing her full attention upon Orla’s face, straining to see whatever the moonlight would reveal.

“Yeah I do, but not just notes, the book, a book once belonging to his uncle, and before you say anything, I know he followed the instructions, found the map, I believed both brothers followed him.”

“Seriously, that old fool who worked with, with, I can’t believe this, I could lose my job if we’re caught, and all so you can read about fairies and magic and other realms, because you think your husband…”

“And yours, don’t kid yourself, you want answers too, and we won’t be discovered if we’re calm, quiet and think before we begin searching again, I know what you are risking, I know, but I also know that book will lead me to Brian, he’s not dead, I know that too,” said Orla slumping back against the cold glass.

Orla slid to the floor, turned into the corner, switching on a pen light she reexamined the last page of her notes, the page with her husband’s map, a floor plan of this very library with notations about secrets, about hiding places, about an archaic form of cataloging employed to organize a hidden, but vast collection of books.

Breathe, she told herself, see what’s on the page, see what you missed before, and between the breaths she saw it, a symbol drawn as an afterthought on the outside margin of the page, but no mistaking it, although on the page it was upside down from the original she had felt, carved onto the side of the bookcase.

Turning the page, showing it to Isabella in silence, pointing, Orla smiled as Isabella took one step up the polished ladder, running her fingers along the back of the shelved books, feeling, for what, she wasn’t sure, then pushing on a carving, a carving matching the drawing, pushing as the outside of the bookcase opened revealing a book nestled inside a very secret hiding place.

River Mist Tales: The Notebook

Come in, come in. The mist has settled, you may as well sit, sip a cup of tea, read a few tales.

No introductions are needed, river folk know what needs to be known.

There’s apple spice cake and cheddar if you’re hungry. Milk and sugar for the tea, unless you brought a flask of your own.

Don’t open the window if the crows tap and call, nor heed those gossiping tabbies.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door. Don’t want to keep her waiting.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with the truth, too revealing with the magic.

Until you visit again may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

notebookleaf_cwm

The Notebook

It was 2 am when Bronwyn sneaked out of the long closed library, walking home to the studio apartment she shared with fellow student, Deidre, a quiet and slow walk, hoping she might meet one of the woods folks as they were called by the locals.

Not wanting to wake her roommate, Bronwyn slowly opened the door, stepping inside without turning on the light before remembering Deidre was away for the weekend.

Flicking the light switch, Bronwyn took a step forward and stumbled, books, clothes and dishes were strewn about the floor.

She dropped her knapsack, every muscle tightening as she looked around the room, moving backwards, bumping into the front door, slamming it shut, rushing back against it.

Cupboard doors lay open, drawers were hanging empty, the beds were piles of sheets, blankets and pillows, from the closet, jeans, skirts, shirts and shoes spilled out like the insides of one of the road killed foxes she mourned earlier in the day as she returned from the forest trails.

Instinctively Bronwyn reached for her cell, began punching in the emergency numbers, stopped when she saw her desk, the chair in place, her notepads piled neatly, her pens arranged in a row side by side, reference books stacked by size, it was an oasis of tidiness, calmness among the chaos of the rest of the apartment.

Instead of calling the police, she called Ryan, waking him up, demanding he come immediately, there was something he needed to see.

While waiting for Ryan, Bronwyn checked the windows, all were closed, all were locked and she looked for any sign of who might have tossed the place, most thoroughly she examined her desk, the organization, what remained upon it, what might be missing.

Three of her favorite writing notebooks, hard covered, heavy smooth pages, had been placed in precise positions, side by side, on the short end of the desk, a pen placed upon each one, dead center, with a space on the desk for a fourth notebook left empty.

Bronwyn glanced towards her backpack where she had dropped it by the door, wondering if this invasion had anything to do with what she had found, what she had taken from the wood that very morning.

She had found it on a moss covered rock, tucked under a leaf, hand tooled designs filling the four quadrants of the front, back and even running along the spine of the leather cover, a filigreed fountain pen lay uncapped beside the notebook, its pages unwritten to her eyes.

As Ryan opened the door, pushing against the backpack, Bronwyn smiled, she had made the right decision, for Ryan believed the tales, and he would help return the notebook before any other mischief invaded her life, before something would be demanded in return, something not as easily returned as a blank notebook.

River Mist Tales: The Teacup

Welcome traveler, no need for names here. River folk have a way of knowing what needs to be known.

There’s tea in the pot, slices of spice cake, fresh apples and cheddar.

Don’t open the window when the crow taps, nor let the cats out, no matter what they tell you.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door with her basket of tales.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with her truths.

Please come again. You’ll always find comfort, refreshment and a bit of magic.

Until next time, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

teacuprasp_cwm

The Teacup

Arabella jumped out of bed and ran to the arching bedroom window.

It was there, the mist moving with the river as if the river itself had flowed into the sky and was continuing on its way meandering through tree tops and along cloud canyons.

Knowing she must hurry, Arabella pulled up the blankets over the pillows, dressed with haste, being as silent as a swiftly moving cloud.

She had already packed the teacups, the forks and spoons, the rose flowered plates, her grandmother’s blue trimmed linen napkins into the old woven picnic basket.

The tiny tea sandwiches she made fresh each night were hidden from her brothers at the back of the refrigerator, along with two small applesauce cakes she had baked alongside her mother.

Arabella had been watching the signs like the old woman had taught her, the change in the night temperature, the return of the stellar jays from their summer roosts, the changing colors of the elm, maple and oak leaves, all these signs of the coming autumn gathering.

And most importantly, the mist on the river, not a static melting mist, but a rising floating mist following the course of the river below it.

She had found the remains of the gathering last year, and the year before, and the year before that, she had tried to join in the festivities, especially what she considered tea time, arriving without treats to share, without tea or cups, without being invited.

Obtaining an invitation, the old woman said, requires a bit of bravery, them folk don’t allow just any daughter to sit with them, and they won’t ask ya, ya got to find them, be as if you’d already been invited, and they’d be expectin’ you, and don’t forget treats and tea.

Today would be Arabella’s third attempt in joining the tea time revels with the woods folk as the old woman called them, as she said they called themselves, not caring for any other of the human names, not revealing the sparkling language of their own.

Arabella slipped out the kitchen door, the picnic basket heavy with delights both sweet and savory, a flask of tea, a pot for serving, teacups for drinking, and walked quickly, confidently towards the river.

The mist changed the world, hiding, revealing river, tree and footpath, changing what is seen, pulling Arabella further from home, further from what was known, until she found the sign she was looking for, a teacup turned on its side into its saucer, keeping a few feet away Arabella set her tree trunk table with cloth and napkins, cups and saucers, plates and piles of sandwiches, scones and cakes, and waited, knowing today they would come, for she heard the soft foot fall, the tinkling laughter flowing out of the mist.

River Mist Tales: The Rose Invitation

Don’t be shy. Come in, the mist is settling over the river, the dark will be upon the forest any time now.

Here you’ll find some small comforts, a pot of tea, some spice cookies, a soft pillowed chair tucked between the window and the fire.

Ignore the cats, gossip mongers all of them.

I’ll be working at the desk tucked into the far corner if your any needs or she knocks upon the door.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales. She’s a bit loose with the truth, a bit too revealing with her magic.

Until you come again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

roseinvite_cwm

The Rose Invitation

Glancing out her office window towards the older campus buildings, the older paths overgrown and shadowed, Evelyn paused, looked back towards her desk, then shaking her head she retraced her steps, reaching down into the trash retrieving the silver linen envelope.

This is crazy she thought, an invite to join the legendary Society of Fey at a moonlight party with a rose for entry.

But the envelope was not in the trash basket, puzzled Evelyn stood up, reassuring herself she had crumpled up the unsigned invitation and tossed it away.

Then she saw it, only it wasn’t the same envelope, it was larger, longer, her name, written out in an enviable cursive hand with more flourish, more urgency, more beauty.

This envelope was propped up against her computer, not a crease or a crumple, sitting tall in perfect condition, luminous as a full moon on a cloudless night.

Hesitating Evelyn stared at the envelope, finally reaching out, picking it up, turning it over.

The seal, round, pale as starlight, imprinted with a three phase moon surrounded by intricate knotwork was unbroken.

It lay heavy in her hand, this new invitation, not so easy to ignore, nor crumple, nor toss.

She slowly slid her fingers under the seal dislodging it from the envelope, not wanting to destroy the waxy bit of bas relief.

The card inside was a deep midnight blue paling in hue as Evelyn drew it out, letters rising upon it, as if someone was writing the words as she watched.

The request for attendance was kinder, less formal, full of hope and compassion even as the requirement of a single rose was made explicit and nonnegotiable.

At midnight with the invitation in her pocket, a rose in her hand picked from her neighbor’s garden, Evelyn knocked upon the arching door flanked by silvered birch trees, a door with phases of the moon carved upon it, intricate knotwork flowing around it, a door she had never seen before though she had passed through these older paths of the campus almost daily, watching, waiting from her office window.

River Mist Tales: A young dragon

Welcome traveler, no need for names here. River folk have a way of knowing what needs to be known. And soon you will too.

There’s tea in the pot, slices of spice cake, fresh apples and cheddar.

Don’t open the window when the crow taps, nor let the cats out, no matter what they tell you.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door with her basket of tales.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with her truths.

Please come again. Here, you’ll always find comfort, refreshment and a bit of magic.

Until next time, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

dragonmug_cwm

 

 A young dragon

“You can wait in here for Lady Morgan, but don’t touch anything. Do you hear?” commanded Mrs. McCurdle wagging a short sausage like finger.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Lauren sitting down on the hard couch pushing aside several layers of coverlets, the ivy and leaf designs fading, some threadbare, barely more than a collection of strings themselves, lowering her eyes until she heard the click of the door latch, certain the scowling Mrs. McCurdle has stormed into another part of the house.

Standing, Lauren turned slowly around in a full circle, taking a memorizing glance at the layout of the room, before deciding the small desk at the far end would be as good a place as any to begin her search.

Remember she told herself, it’s a notebook or a bundle of stationery, or loose papers in a file folder, not a book, not a book.

Usually Lauren ignored dares but this particular dare could not be ignored, besides, she convinced herself, knowledge should be shared, and she was only taking a peek.

The desk was a clutter of odd wooden animal figures, ancient leather covered books, stacks of loose sheets of sketch paper, vases of dried flowers, half folded maps, small travel guides for places Lauren had never studied in school, candles, stones, shells knotted onto braided ropes, a crystal ball atop dolphin fins, and one oversized blue glazed ceramic mug.

She picked up the empty mug, turned it around, taking a closer look at the brown raised design when a sudden flutter of wings startled her and something flew close, wing tips brushing her cheek.

Dropping the mug onto the unstable pile of notebooks, Lauren turned away from the chaos of papers, pens, small books and maps sliding from the desk unto the carpet below, instead she looked for the small winged creature flying about the room, landing here, landing there.

Entranced, Lauren gave no heed to lamps falling over, pillows being knocked onto the floor, paintings tilting on the wall, her eyes were on the petite creature soaring around the room.

Following first with eyes only, Lauren found her courage and began scrambling, awkward and stuttering like a baby’s first steps, stumbling over fallen objects, bumping into chairs, eager for a glimpse, a touch, of the creature that had been hidden on the desk, wondering how it could be.

With her attention flying about the room, Lauren did not hear the carved oak door open, nor the demanding quick steps, nor, at first, the commanding voice speaking words unfamiliar and unknown, as a glinting blue and brown winged beast flew over her head returning to his home aside the oversized ceramic mug.

As Lauren spun around once more, her gaze following the rush of blue and brown, she faced a tall plain woman, who was smiling, holding the ceramic mug and speaking, “After you straighten this mess, you can explain to me why you were chasing a very young Welsh dragon around my library.”

River Mist Tales: Jack in the Green

Hurry, this way, before the river mist settles upon the dooryard. It may be a while before your path home is revealed.

The seat by the window is most comfortable and there’s tea in the pot, if you haven’t brought a wee dram of your own. And please, ignore the cats, don’t open the window when the crows come calling.

I’ll be working in the darkened alcove across the room if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door.

She doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales. Though she is a bit loose with the truth and a bit too revealing with magic, as your kind calls it.

Until your next visit, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

jackgreen_cwm

 Jack in the Green

Come, come out of your houses

Come, come out into the green wood

Come, tis time for Jack in the Green

The voices flowed along the cobbled streets, perching upon door steps, tapping on windows, moving above the reach of passersby.

Snuggling in blankets, knees pulled up tight, Sophia sat alone, tucked into the curving window seat of her second floor bedroom.

Disobeying her mother, Sophia had opened the window, allowing the gathering voices entry, as well as the rush of cool May air.

Spring was taking her time coming to the northern woods, but Jack in the Green would lure her, dancing her into the fields and meadows, along the streams, and across the lake, or so the village children had told Sophia.

“And if Jack stops at your house, smiles upon your garden, a small gift must be offered or he will curse your home and all you grow,” said the village children.

Nonsense, Sophia’s father had said when she told him about the celebrations, about the village traditions, about the visiting forest sprite Jack in the Green.

The old ways were of no importance to our modern lives, Sophia was told, and having a cold, she was ordered to stay in bed away from the cool May air and the raucous wanderings of Jack in the Green.

Tall, a walking collection of green leaves resembling a tree often seen on the north side of the village green, Jack was surrounded by dancing children and vibrantly dressed adults brandishing flowering branches of apple and pear, voices rising and falling as the ever growing parade moved closer and closer, finally stopping below Sophia’s high stone-framed window.

Turning a leaf clad, green face skyward, smiling, Jack gathered the braided ribbons tethered to a single silver oak leaf Sophia lowered from her towered perch, allowing a silent exchange of gift and blessing.

River Mist Tales: Tree Face

Come in, come in, the mist is rising from the river, but here you’ll find some warmth, some tales, so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

The chairs by the window give the best view, allow the best hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

treeface_cwm

Tree Face

“Where are you taking those?”

The voice was deep, resin filled, slow, full of the east wind and short sunlit days.

Connra placed her willow basket on the ground, stood tall and looked around.

She saw no one, only the pine, spruce, and western hemlock, her gaze moving along a patch of cedars leading toward the river.

Shrugging her shoulders, taking one more glance around her, Connra bent over and resumed picking up the fallen cones scattered about the ground.

“Where are you taking those which are not yours?” came the resonant voice, again slow, filled with patience and understanding.

Connra stood, again looked around, moved so she could see along the narrow woods path before saying, “Home, taking them home. Who’s there?”

“What will you do with them?” asked the voice speaking with rooted strength.

With a slow turn Connra answered, “I use them in the hearth, and for the arrangements we sell at the next Yule markets.”

“I would like to see those arrangements, can you bring one to me?”

Bewildered, Connra stared at a tall pine a few feet away, stared at the barked face returning her gaze.

She had heard many old tales about the creatures who live in the forests, in the trees, creatures who can bless and curse, creatures who can teach and destroy, now, finally, Connra had met just such a creature, and she was eager to befriend the inquisitive tree spirit.

River Mist Tales: The Unicorn Trophy

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

unicornb_cwm

The Unicorn Trophy

It wasn’t Miss Plumworth’s first visit to Maine, but this was the first time an object was being offered, and only her second visit in her own time.

Before her, centered upon a slight rise, stood a plan rectangular, white clapboard farmhouse, extending out back towards the barn, until house and barn merged into a single structure.

Small single-step porches held court outside both the front and side doors, both looked unused, lonely without any bush or flower, the side door catching a small bit of shade from the single elm which stood in the side yard just beyond the end of the dirt driveway.

Before Miss Plumworth stepped into the kitchen dooryard, the creaking wooden kitchen door opened wide revealing a petite fair haired girl who couldn’t be more than ten years old, hesitating, keeping her eyes toward the ground.

Miss Plumworth smiled, raised her face sniffing the air, a jumble of lavender, lilac and rose, and fresh baked rhubarb cake full of cinnamon and, surprisingly, cardamon.

A few quick steps and she was in the kitchen, the wide wooden planks scrubbed smooth, and the petite fair haired girl said, “This way please, miss.”

Settling into the living room whose only visual reprieve from a vast collection of objects, were two sets of windows, one pair looking out towards the street which ran parallel to the short end of the house, the other pair looking out toward the dirt driveway, the solitary elm tree, across spotty grass towards the neighbors fenced garden, Miss Plumworth wondered how any object, magical or otherwise, once brought into this overflowing house would be noticed at all.

The answer arrived when Tilda Miller sauntered into the room, wearing a bright floral dress, a plaid scarf wrapped around her shoulders, purple shoes matched by large purple and silver earrings, her curly hair a rising mass around her angular, eager face.

The gregarious woman answered another question as well, why her daughter chose simple, plain and quiet.

As Tilda raised eyebrows, inclined her head, visually instructing her daughter, the girl sat down beside Miss Plumworth on the couch, pulling a small silver unicorn from her pocket, offering it on her upraised palm.

“I found it, hidden in a tree out back, in a small broken box, well, the lady showed me where to look, told me she couldn’t touch it, told me I needed to give it to you, so you could return it, and then she could go home too,” said the fair haired daughter, all in one breath.

“Jilly is it, why don’t you hold the unicorn while you describe the lady to me,” said Miss Plumworth, slow and calm, replacing her notebook into her bag, pulling out an scarred black leather bound book with a tiny silver unicorn embossed in the lower front corner.

River Mist Tales: Tree Shade

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

treeshade_cwm

Tree Shade

Not very long ago, before the time of your grandmother, lived two sisters.

The sisters, one with hair as red as the flame of burning oak, the other with hair as the shimmering silver of twinkling stars, lived in a cottage at the meeting place of a sunlit plain and a darkening forest, a few steps beyond the reach of the shade cast by the guardian trees of the forest.

Living with a woman they called grandmother, the sisters learned spinning and weaving, their threads as gossamer and as strong as a spider’s web filled with longing, filled with dream.

The sisters learned songs calling the sweet rains which rode with the west wind, and the sisters learned to be wary of the deep knowledge hidden within the shade of trees.

Blessed with even temperaments, happy and hard working, the sisters learned all the grandmother could teach them, never challenging nor causing worry or concern.

When the grandmother heard the time song, she sent the sisters into the forest, telling them they must learn from those who wear feathers, learn from those who wear fur.

During the day the sisters ventured into the forest returning to the small cottage each night, sharing their conversations, their adventures among furred and feathered friends with the grandmother as she sat by the hearth listening, never speaking a word.

Eager and enthusiastic, the sisters asked many questions of the creatures living in the forest, but the sisters never asked the questions which the two spoke when they thought no one could hear.

The questions the sisters hid from the grandmother, from the feathered and furred, were few: where is our mother, why must we protect ourselves from the shade at the edge of the forest?

What the sisters had not learned, could not ask, was how deep into a heart a forest can penetrate, how dark the shade can truly be, how far from home curiosity can lead.

The long shadows of early morning began calling the sisters, soon the growing afternoon shadows of the forest edge also began whispering as the sisters passed, tempting their untempered hearts, telling where the woman with red flame hair streaked with silver starlight was living, was waiting for her daughters.

Then the day came, lit by a bright clear sun, long shadows almost touching the cottage door, the grandmother inviting a young woman, her belly swollen, into the cottage, smiling with a kindness the young woman had never known, all the while beyond the dooryard as the tree shade deepened, two sisters hearing a sonorous voice calling, calling, calling, stepped into the shade of the trees and disappeared.