Curling chills of mist skulked through the village. Doors were double-locked against the bite, and also from the creatures that came with it. Only fools stayed outside after darkness fell.
One soul watched the shadows, huddled close by his bright fire, the only beacon of light in the desolate quiet. The man had looked out for the village for years. Tonight was no different.
Inside one of the houses, a woman was breaking the hand of the midwife beside her. Through the cracks of bone, the midwife managed to breathe out words of encouragement.
"Come on Maya, you can do it. The babe is ready." The woman on the bed let out a moan of pain, beads of sweat lining her forehead. Her eyes were closed, her lips contorted into a snarl.
"It's taking its time," she panted back, her body arching.
The midwife looked to the other woman down at the other end of the bed. To her relief, her apprentice nodded. This was a baby that was going to fight its way into the bleakness.
In the other room, Warren paced from wall to wall. He hadn't seen his wife since midday; at the first signs of labour, the women had banned him from entering the room. In the time he had been waiting, he had worn down the already threadbare rug.
A scream tore through the tiny cottage. Warren crashed through to the bedroom, startling everyone in there. The midwife rolled her eyes but did nothing to push the husband away. She had done this a thousand times and it was always the same. Men never listened. Unless they were drowning their sorrows in mead. Her hands were slick to her elbows, her face red with exertion, but the smile on her face made all this irrelevant.
"You have a daughter," she beamed. Taking a sharp knife from her assistant, she severed the cord in a clean sweep. Warren stared down at the mess of limbs, unable to believe that he and his wife had created this child. The midwife caught his stare and smirked. "You can hold her in a minute...just as soon as...."
She trailed of mid-sentence, the smile fading on her lips.
"What is it? Tell me woman." Warren stepped forward, his heart pounding in his mouth. The midwife had frozen, leaving the baby exposed. Before their eyes, a smudge of raspberry red covered the left side of the baby’s face. Softly, the baby mewled and kicked two feet in the air. One was perfectly formed, the other, a stump that seemed to curl back.
"Take it," the midwife snapped, trying to thrust the baby into the father's arms. He backed away, stumbling in his haste.
"What's wrong with my daughter?" Maya sobbed, trying to sit upright, her arms outstretched. Gratefully, the midwife all but threw the bundle back. Maya frowned then uttered a small noise in her throat.
Warren had been pressed into the corner, his eyes wide as the doe that roamed the forest. Now, he took a small step forward, then another, and another until he was above his wife. Gently, he took the bundle out of her arms, placing a tender kiss on his wife's forehead.
"What are you going to do?"
"Pretend this never happened..." Warren's voice was no longer his; someone else was staring out from behind the glassy eyes. Maya sobbed, making a half-hearted effort to reclaim the baby. Her hands reached out then fell back to her sides. With tears slowly trickling like molten jewels down her face, she turned her back and pulled the sheets over her.
With his lips pressed tightly together, the baby's father left the room and entered the freezing night, letting the door slam behind him. As he stormed through the village, he clutched the bundle close, praying that no one would see him. He would say his wife lost the child, the demons had taken it,
The watchman looked up from his fire as the shadow flitted by. Straining his eyes, he could make out the shape of a broad man, tightly pressing something against his chest. By the way he looked around, the watchman knew he was up to something. Then he heard a soft snuffling and a wail. He knew what that sound was; two children and a fertile wife had educated him.
For the first time in the six years the watchman had been at his post, he stood up and followed the smuggler. The village could be left to the malevolence of the otherworld for a short while. He flicked his fingers and a powder of fine light settled above the rooftops. Just for good measure. As for the weather, even he wasn't a god. He did a good job, but his powers didn't extend to divine rights.
The man vanished into the bleakness of trees. Pausing for a moment, the watchman stood on the borders. Not only had he heard some of the tales that had come from these woods, but he had also played a part in making sure some of them didn't reach the ears of the population. As for the bodies, he had sworn to secrecy never to reveal their secrets. The creatures in there wouldn't hurt him; he could sense their interest every time he went in, but he never felt malignancy directed towards him. That child however, who knew how they would react to it.
A deep breath and he ploughed in afterwards, trying to step lightly through the tangled mess on the ground. Up ahead, he could see the silhouette of the man growing smaller and smaller. The watchman put on a burst of speed and eventually came to a halt just a few meters away, using the thick trunk of a tree to hide himself. Hardly daring to breathe, he watched as the man placed the babe down in the roots then turn and thunder back. Shrinking to let him pass, the watchman waited until he was sure the man was gone, then he crept over to the baby.
An arm had punched free from the cloth as the baby gurgled. Even in the weak moonlight that filtered in patches through the foliage above, he could see the stain on her face.
Dusk was falling as I limped through the woods. I knew better than to stay out here once the sun had set. During the day, these soaring pillars were my playground but once darkness obliterated all…the hounds of hell could not make me move faster.
A still stream meandered its way through the woods, my path home. Its glassy surface caught the bold red and golds of the dying sun. Looking to the left, I could see the shadows lengthening. I tried to speed up but my foot dragged behind, slowing me down. Gritting my teeth, like always, I forced myself to walk that little harder and faster.
In sixteen years, I had only been caught out here once. The first time was when I disobeyed her, and came running out here to follow the whizzing lights. Within moments, I had been led away from the light and safety. A swarm of bats attacked, ripping at my hair and my face. When Ysymay found me, a bleeding, sobbing mess, she had taken me home. I later learned that these things were far worse than bats.
Ever since, I have never made the same mistake. Right now though, it looked like I was perilously close to repeating history. My foot was burning, trying to keep up with the other one. As much as I wanted to be an elegant deer bolting, I was more of a lopsided gremlin, with a rolling gait.
Finally, as the sky turned the rich blue that heralded the beginning of night, I could see the torches burning outside the cottage. Sweat beading on my brow despite the cool autumn air, I finally made my way towards the gate set in the fence. I placed my hand on the wood and whispered the words that would gain me safe entry. Knowing my touch, the gate swung open, and I was home.
“Do you want to maybe one day walk through that door?” Ysymay snapped as the door bounced off the stone wall. It was a sturdy door to still be standing after the treatment I gave it. I have her a look and slumped down on a stool by the fire. Grabbing a bowl off the ledge, I spooned some of the stew from the small pot bubbling over a warm fire. A hand pushed a horned cup of amber liquid into mine. I drank down the nectar in seconds.
“Who were you off with today? The fawns? The elders?”
I gave a shrug.
“Whoever wanted the pleasure of my company.” I flashed her a smile.
I savoured my stew, partly because rabbit was my favourite, partly because I knew what would happen as soon as I drained the last drip of liquid. Sure enough, as I slurped it down, the bowl was snatched away and a stool bought opposite. Chapped hands pushed back the skirts around my ankle and grasped it tightly. I glared at my antagonist but that look no longer phased her.
“Please Ysymay. You know this isn’t going to work.”
Ysymay ignored me and pulled out the crude splint that had bound my foot every night for the last three years. Twisting my foot till the tears came to my eyes, she locked it in place with the torture device she told me would ‘help’. In all that time, my foot had probably moved an inch and was still as painful each and every day. It was only after I had kicked her in the face with my good foot that Ysymay and I made a deal. I would wear the brace every night if it meant during the day, my foot could run – or stumble – free.
Taking a pot down from the shelf beside her, she unscrewed the lid to reveal a bright green slime. One I had made actually – a mix of herbs, animal fat and the sedative powers of plants that grew all around me. It stank to high heaven but it did help with the swelling and bruising.
Once my foot was caged behind bars, I stood up and hobbled over to my cot in the corner of the room. Animal hides separated my quarter from the rest of the room; as womanhood had first struck I had asked for the privacy a lady required. Ysymay had scoffed but granted my request. Sighing, I threw myself down on the bundle of blankets, pulling the hides closed behind me.
The next morning, I woke to the soft patter of rain. In some corner, I could hear it making its way through the thatched roof and dripping onto the floor. A bucket would sort that problem nicely. I yawned, stretched, and pulled on my dress. As I pulled back the hides, I ran my fingers through the knotted mess of waves. Ysymay had said I looked something like a disgruntled bear when I woke. I tried to bite her head off.
Ysymay had gone, as normal. Gone somewhere to fetch food and supplies. When I was younger, she had told me to stay put and not to follow. Obviously I ignored her and had followed her for some distance but was caught. I have never seen anger like that since.
With the rain hammering down, I pulled on my cloak and stepped outside. It felt like someone had thrown a bucket over me and I gasped. But this was nature’s way of cleansing and creating a sparkling new world. Each raindrop tremored with life – I could feel each and every drop. As I limped to the pool, my hood slipped off, heavy with damp, but there was no point in pulling it up. I turned my face upwards, letting the water wash away the sleep and tiredness from my face.
Dragon’s breath twisted round the trunks of trees which were silhouetted against the dove grey. Above, some rain was caught by the huge canopy. Underfoot, the earth was starting to get slippy. Mud squelched between my toes but I had always found that this connected me to the Earth. I seemed to feel it pulse beneath me.
I made it to the pool, brushing away some ferns that obscured it from any watching eyes. I stepped in, letting the water cleanse my skin. A pink flower grew on the banks of this pond, one I had discovered to release a gorgeous scent when crushed. I pressed the leaves into a ball and rubbed it over me, washing the slightly pink smears off with the water.
As I stepped out, I could feel every tendril of air brush over my damp skin. Slipping my dress back on quickly, I squeezed as much water as I could out of my waist length hair, leaving the rest to dry…or maybe not the case in this weather.
A flicker to my left caught my eye and I turned. A shape was moving through the branches and ferns that surrounded the pool. A giggle, a foot falling on the earth – I knew who this was.
“Annan, come out here!”
Silence descended and then a hand pushed away the ferns slowly. A pair of brilliant green eyes shone in a pointed face. Hair, the same colour as the grass in winter, was pulled tightly up – revealing pointed ears. Tiny veins, almost like the ones that shot through a growing leaf, snaked down her forehead and reached for the earth. Ferns, flowers, tree bark and ivy formed her garment. On one of her feet, she wore an anklet made from snowdrops.
“How have you been?”
She shrugged, twirling a strand of vine through her fingers. “The fawn were after me last night.” A light bubble of sound escaped from her lips. “But we tricked them, leading them right into the sleeping ring.”
I chuckled. Fawns were the bad boys of the forest – men, goats, a bit of both but definitely wanting one thing. Sometimes in bed, I could hear the faint squeals and the thuds of hooves as they played their nightly games of hide and seek. Annan was one of the cleverer ones, always thinking of something devious. That’s probably why when I had first found her at this pool, we had instantly found something of ourselves in the other. The sleeping ring was a ring of plants that were particularly potent under moonlight – when the lunar rays hit them, they released a scent so strong, that most of the night creatures would sleep through a night and two days.
“Yes, but did Naois catch you this time?”
A small blush crept across her face. “He wouldn’t have…if I had not let him. Come,” she said, quickly moving on. “Will you come with me to bless the waters?”
As we ran through the woods, the eyes of every creature were turned on us. Some, like the tree spirits, spun through the branches above, keeping pace. The occasional deer would bolt and be gone in a second. Every so often my feet would catch on a hidden log, a deep hole but I would not fall.
We slowed finally, my breath ragged, my throat dry. My skin was clammy and my hands slid from Annan’s. We had come to a halt in a small glade. A small waterfall crashed down onto the rocks beneath and flowed into a river swollen with heavy rainfall.
Annan shrieked and raced towards it. I followed, slower, catching up with her as she stood on the rocks. I tentatively placed my good foot on the flattest one, letting the other one lightly rest.
“Ready?” Annan asked, her eyes fierce.
In one motion, we both lifted our hands towards the fall of water. Powerful, fast, I let the spirit of the water infuse my being. Every silver fish that swam and leapt beneath the water shared their heartbeat with me. The roar of liquid gallons smashing onto rock drowned out anything else. My lips moved in a familiar rhythm as with Annan, I blessed this beautiful element.
The water started to glitter, as if sunlight had broken through. Glancing up, I still saw menacing clouds and felt unwelcome drizzle. The jewels on the water intensified and then merged into glittering chaos. I had to shield myself from being blinded by throwing an arm over my face.
Tentatively, I opened my eyes. The water was as before, babbling away oblivious. Now it would be protected and bring its sacred life across the land, beyond our vision.
I hadn’t always been able to use my gift. When I was thirteen, I had seen a crushed flower, clinging onto life by its bent stem. I had placed my hands on it and willed it to return fervently. It had obeyed. Lifting its head, I heard its unique song. Since then, I had asked the creatures of the forest to teach me their secrets. Each with their own magic, I doubted there was any being that knew the songs of the forest better than me.
My stomach grumbled, reminding me painfully that for all my gifts, I was still mortal. Ysymay would be back by now bringing back the spoils from wherever it was that she went.
I moved through the forest greeting the elves who were wandering the forest, the giant elders who moved their gnarled branches at me in greeting.
Sure enough, Ysymay had returned and as I came in through the door, a plate of fresh bread with a knob of butter and cheese was waiting. I tore into it ravenously.
“Here,” Ysymay pulled out a sharp looking combe from her satchel. “Since you refuse to let me cut that mess, this may make you look a little more like a lady.”
Intricate craftsmanship had gone into the making of this. The bone had been scratched and sharpened and a series of flowers delicately carved onto its head. I pushed it through my hair, hearing a snarl and a rip. But I gritted my teeth and kept working it until finally it performed its magic.
“Much better,” Ysymay said, holding me at arm’s length.
I looked into those large brown eyes, eyes that had been the only human ones I had ever seen. For all my life, those eyes, these hands, that heart had protected me.
“All right you, let me continue to teach you.”
These lessons varied from day to day and they formed around whatever Ysymay picked up on her travels. Some days, the afternoons skipped away into a haze of inky words and we travelled across the lands. I learnt of the last great drought; a witch's curse cast over the land for her lover spurning her, of the kings who once ruled the lands beyond the forest. Other times, she would come back with garments that needed mending. So many angry hours were spent drawing blood on the sharp needles. My favourite of all was harnessing the world around me. Flowers were ground to pastes, leaves boiled down to make energizing drinks and others used to dull pain. In these I excelled, possessing an innate understanding of simplicity.
Most of my days passed like this. I had read of women and men and their epic love stories but I only had one love and I was surrounded by it each and every day. I never even considered anything else - the trees were my home.
One brisk afternoon, I went for a stroll. My hands were stained with dark green and my head spinning from the herbs we had been working with. Breathing in, I hobbled along. I found myself staring down an overgrown thicket. Behind the tumble of leaves and branches, I spied an overgrown path leading to a ring of mighty trees. Bending over, I gently touched some of the branches, asking them to move. I felt the glue that bound them loosen and with a rustle, they parted. My foot stepped on to the forgotten path.
Even the air here was different; heavy, silent. Nothing else penetrated this place, older than time. Tremors ran through me and I could feel the strength of their roots digging into the Earth.
A shimmer of sound full upon me as the trees seemed to wake up at the intruder. Ahead of me, a great twisted oak creaked as its leaves lightly danced. I heard an exhalation, a sigh weary with age. Glancing around, I tried to see who else was with me. I was utterly alone.
I took a step closer to the tree as another sigh sounded but was halted. The twisted trunk seemed to expand, the bark twisting and writhing. Suddenly branches exploded outwards and a huge yawn sounded. Three dark rings appeared in the centre of the trunk and in a moment, I had found myself staring into a pair of what looked like eyes. A dark ring swirled with chestnuts and hazel stared back. I didn’t need to see an iris surrounded by lashes to know this thing was every bit as living and breathing as me.
No one spoke these words through lips or with the tongue. These were words seeping from the great tree and finding their way into my head.
“Who are you?”
You only need to know me as the mother of these woods, as old as they are, born when the first blade of grass grew. I’ve been watching you child and helping you grow.
Each friend I made, each words, each shoot of green magic from my fingertips had not come by chance. Ysymay had taught me that in this world, fate determined your path, and predestined, you could not change it. Fate had brought me to ‘the mother’.
I have seen your future too. Her voice had changed. It had become thick and slow, as if something was making her curl up inside. You must listen to what’s inside you.
Goosebumps ran up and down my fingertips. My heart was racing. What was my future? I was sure to grow tall like the trunks around me here in the forest.
There will be a day when only you can stop the darkness.
There was no other reason. This tree was sick. Years of rot and weathering had shattered its soul and left it cracked and clinging on to old stories. None of this mattered to me. I was young girl of sixteen years, with a crippled foot and beetroot stain on her face. This forest was my world. All I saw was that I would live in that cottage for the rest of my life, living off nature.
I had had enough. Turning my back, I began to stumble quickly away. My hands were sweating and the air had become too thick to breathe.
You will remember these words.
Those final words stuck with me as I plunged homewards, batting at the plants that sought to slow me down. Birds exploded as I crashed through their path and I could see the deer and the elves running alongside me. They were shouting in their sparking language but in that moment, I could not understand. My heart was pounding.
Sweating, panting, shaking, I exploded back into the cottage, missing the stool and crashing down onto the floor. I had no strength to pull myself back and huddled in a ball. What was this thing? What did they know about me? It was nonsense. Some of the potency of the plants we had been working with had addled my brain. But that sick feeling in my gut told me otherwise, told me that perhaps I shouldn’t shake this off so easily.
Everything that lived had a reason to live.
Ysymay found me in the same position when she returned later. Without a word, she hauled me up, pushed me into my bed, tucking the blankets around me. She wiped my forehead with a damp cloth and gently pushed water to my lips.
It was sometime before I came out of my haze.
“What happened out there Siofra?”
I gulped down the lump in my throat. Had I had a fever? No, this was all too real.
“Do you remember what you told me about fate?”
For days afterwards I skulked around the hut, not daring to go outside. Once I left the safety of these wooden walls, her eyes would be upon me. For the last two nights, I had woken sweating from dreams in which branches wrapped around me, choking.
I had swept the floor until there was not a crumb in sight. I had cleared the fireplace after every meal. I had shaken out my bedding and organised the paraphernalia of bottles and pots. The cottage was sparkling.
There’s only so much hiding one can do, a realisation I painfully made after a week inside four walls. I needed air upon my face, I needed to wash away everything in one of the pools. Steeling myself, I wrapped my cloak around me and placed a hand on the door.
A tunnel of wind rushed over me, invigorating and wild. I let it rush through my hair, tingle over my cheeks and flow into my dusty lungs. The shadow that had been stifling me lifted. Let her watch. I would prove that she was just a rambling rotting piece of the forest. I would live my own life the way I wanted to.
As I was approaching my pool, I heard a faint sound carried to me through the leaves and trees. Battling the fight or flight instinct, I hesitated. In that moment, two dark shapes lumbered towards me. I dashed sideways, tripping over my useless foot and crashing down. Hissing, I manipulated the tangle of roots and leaves around me to form a cover of foliage. My breathing was thick and heavy and all I could do was hope that my little fiasco hadn't attracted attention.
Thuds sounded as sturdy boots landed onto the dirt. From my hiding place, I wiggled to try and get a better vantage point.
These were beings like me. I searched for some tell - tale horns or wings, or a snout. Nothing. They could have been me except I didn't feel that small tingle I felt when around others with my abilities.
They were two males, one with dark eyes glinting in a face with a dark beard. His broad shoulders worked beneath a cloth jacket and shirt, stained and well-used. The other was younger, slimmer...his son maybe. He was clean shaven with a leaner face. I watched as they shifted two wicked looking axes from their shoulders and strode over to a strong young tree. Some muttered communication passed between them and then they made the first blow.
The screams of the soaring pillar reverberated around my head. Each blow I felt dig into my skin. I squirmed, unable to rush in front of the men. I had no doubt they would cut me down in an instant.
Placing the palms of my hands down on the earth, I willed the roots that dug underneath to move. Mud shook as they obeyed. I watched as they slowly inched under the men’s boots, curling around the tree in a defiant barrier.
With a cry, the older man dropped his axe and took a step back, his eyes wildly looking around. A slow smile formed on my lips. The younger one stood staring at the roots as they twisted around. Finally, I let go and the roots became just another part of the forest once more.
“Come on Caleb, there is witchcraft in these woods and it seems we ain’t welcome.” He picked up his axe, his eyes all the while darting to and fro. Caleb took one last look at the tree and the ground and shook his head slightly.
“Next time we stay closer to the village,” the older man muttered, striding back from the direction they had come - the direction of the village. My heart quickened as they walked away. So there were other people nearby. Actual humans like me.
I felt exuberant, tingles running up and down my spine. I no longer had to be alone. This was where Ysymay must have gone every day. It was so simple, I thought as I headed homewards, praying Ysymay was home. I would follow her next time and by her side would get to meet everyone.
Well, that was the idea.
“Ysymay, I have seen the others, people like me!” I yelled, hurling myself at her. She was in the garden, tending to one of the vegetable beds. As the words left my lips, she gasped, letting the basket in her hand crash to the floor. Freshly rooted potatoes and cabbages were flung in all directions. A hollow carved itself in my stomach, bringing me crashing down.
“Where? Where?”” she yelled, putting her hands on my shoulders and shaking me.
Her hands relaxed their vulture-like grip on me but firmly steered me back inside the four protective walls.
“I can come with you next time,” I piped up, my mind thinking of all the wonderful possibilities. “And I can talk to people, meet people my own age. I can -”
“No you will not.” Icy eyes were fixed on me, unblinking.
“You cannot come with me Siofra. I have hidden this world from you and you from them for sixteen years for a reason. You must stay here.”
“But they’re just like me….” I breathed, feeling the prickle of tears in my eyes. I felt like someone had punched a hole in my chest and was now trying to rip my heart out.
“Siofra,” Ysymay’s tone had become gentler now. She came to stand before me, pulling me into an embrace. I let her, but my arms hung by my sides. “These people...they don’t like anyone who is different. They hate magic, if they saw any of the nymphs you play with, they will kill.”
“But I don’t need to show my magic….I don’t have to use it. And I look no different from the rest of them!”
Ysymay’s shoulders moved up and down in a sigh. “Your foot….they see it as a mark of someone who is cursed. And your face…”
My face. As if the useless foot wasn’t enough, some god, in their infinite kindness has bestowed on me a smear of strawberry red. It dominated my left side, from underneath me eye and bleeding down to my jaw.
“Your face -” Ysymay continued, “your face is another sign the devils have chosen you. They will not tolerate your presence.”
Her jaw was steel, her eyes iron.
Gritting my jaw, I let her arms continue to hold me but I was numb, inside and out.
That night, as I listened to her snoring, I knew my innocence was gone. I couldn’t wander about in the forest knowing that Ysymay and I were the only ones of our kind. I would reach that village, one way or another. There was no following Ysymay. For all her sixty years, she was in the best of health, with eyes like an eagle and hearing like a fox.
For now, let her believe she had crushed the rebellious spirit. I would not let her know it was burning just as brightly.
The next few weeks passed by and all knowledge of the other world, of the other people seemed to fade. With time, Ysymay visibly relaxed. No attempts were made to plead or grovel, or follow her into the woods. Before she left each morning, she checked to make sure I was still sound asleep. For the most part, I didn’t need to fool her. It was only once or twice I was always and caught her peeking.
In truth, I was just as keen as ever to get there but without following Ysymay, I did not know the way. I could do what I always had done - keep walking and see where I ended. It was how I learnt the map of the forest but I had never found a way out.
Every day, I hobbled to the spot where I had first met the men, hoping someone would return. After a few days of sitting, waiting, with the occasional fawn or nymph coming to keep me company, I knew I had to try a new approach. Casting my mind back, I began to trudge in the direction the men had come. The trees remained the same as ever. I did not know what I was expecting but I would know when I saw it.
Another week passed, and I began to push the boundaries further and further. I had to make sure I was home before Ysymay, cool and calm, not sweating and panting. I began to leave only an hour or so after Ysymay left, the time slowly growing less and less.
Finally, I came to a spot where human hands had been at work. Stumps dotted the area like broken teeth pushing up through the ground. Foliage had been hacked at and a clear dirt path had been trodden into the forest where it was quickly lost.
My heart started pounding as I found my spot, calling on the forest as before to come and shield me. As I sat in my cocoon, I felt my heart soar. This was it. I sat listening to the birds around me, watched the squirrels dart around their playground of trees.
“Mother said we shouldn’t come out here!” I sat bolt upright. Two small figures merged out of the sunlight that backed them. Tiny. Much smaller than the two men who had come before. From their voices, they sounded like children. As they slowly edged deeper into the forest, I saw they couldn’t have been more than twelve. Brother and sister, evident from the same thick blonde hair. They passed within touching distance and I could see the glint in their blue eyes.
The young girl was skipping, oblivious to anything or anything. I knew there were creatures out here that would snap this girl up in an instant.
“Remember what Caleb was saying...mother said not…”
“Oh shush Skopora. Staying in the cottage all day is boring.”
Here was a girl after my own heart.
A loud crack sounded nearby and a flock of startled birds streamed upwards. Squinting, I could see a, small pair of yellow eyes staring back, hovering above a dark face with wicked fangs that appeared as the goblin saw me. They didn’t normally come out until dusk but the lure of fresh prey had brought this one crawling from his hole. A growl reverberated.
His greedy eyes flicked back to the children and a tongue ran around his teeth. The children were stood stock still, staring ahead, poised. The little girl started whimpering, burying her face in her brother’s shirt.
“Let’s go home,” he said, taking small steps backward.
Don’t turn your back, don't turn it boy.