Before the Sealing

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In the ages before the written word, when only memory sufficed to recall the stories and histories of the people, from the evils of the minds of the people was spawned a grotesque, unfathomably powerful Vear that caused unceasing scandal among the people whose own minds created the monster. Their children were never safe, their flocks of animals diminishing in numbers daily, and even their own reformed ways would not rid the world of his plague.

Until one day a young, beautiful maiden (her parents prayed thanksgiving daily for the continued life and health of their daughter) left her home unexpectedly. Drawn by a high-pitched whine (inaudible to any others except herself), she abandoned the safety of her village and wandered, entranced, for three days across the countryside to the cave where the monster slept. She did not stop to eat and only drank sips of water from the occasional cool mountain spring when her body could not continue without it.

Finally she arrived at the cave which was no more than a hole in the side of a mountain. The monster smelled her approach and walked outside just as he saw her beautiful (although now pale and emaciated) form nearing the cave. Instantly he cast a mysterious enchantment on himself that concealed his inhuman form and he became a seductive, handsome, red-eyed man with a sleek silk layer of clothing that shimmered in the mountain sunlight.

The woman was amazed but not fooled. The monster had made his mistake in letting her see his true form at all--for she was instantly brought out of her trance at the horrible sight. She allowed him to approach her and he traced the outline of a tangled whisp of her hair and brushed it out of the way of her face.

"I see your true form, and I see your fury," said the woman, "and I do not try to escape." With those words she folded into his embrace and sacrificed herself to him. While the whole time the monster was blind with the same fury that drove his relentless attacks on the local villages, the woman knew that it was her own sacrifice that would defeat his rage.

Not only was she the only person brave enough to approach the monster, but she was also the only person brave enough to love the monster. It was her love that drew her to his cave and her love that allowed her to submit to the monster's rage. Only by this act, after which she was discarded and left exposed to the elements on the side of the mountain, could humankind expect to recover their former way of life.

Her return home was not easy, for she was not guided by a magical trance nor was her body in the condition to make the trip in one piece. She was halfway through the forest back to her village when she collapsed on an overgrown, unused path. There her body lay until a forest stag drew her to a patch of soft loam next to a stream. He pulled some cool moss off a river rock and placed it gingerly across her forehead. As the day grew longer and the shadows began to drape lazily across the forest, the stag lay down next to the woman to protect her and keep her warm through the night.

The woman awoke the next morning with a mumble and her immediate fright at seeing the stag laying next to her was quickly put aside as she realized that the animal meant her no harm. Refreshed by the warming rays of the sun and the soft breathing of the stag, she scooped some water for herself out of the stream. It wasn't much, but it was enough to get her going on the rest of her way. As she turned and stood up from the cool water, she saw the stag awake and indicating that she should follow. He led her to a patch of ripe blackberries. She took only enough to put off the deep pain in her stomach and left the forest, finding her way back to the village.

When she arrived at her parents house, she was received with distressed and pained faces, although the relief was clear by the tears still drying from their faces. She was welcomed back into the village and was soon back to her former health. It seemed like the monster had given up its mindless rampage through the villages, also. Life returned to normal for a few months--until the woman could no longer hide the signs of her growing pregnancy. Rumor flew like the swift winds of a tornado--why had the woman left? Where had she gone, and who was the father of her children? Why had the attacks suddenly stopped when she returned?

The growing hatred and distrust reached a peak at nearly the same time as the woman's term came to full. Driven out of the village by an angry mob, her parents only had enough time to give her a collection of useful tools before she ran away into hiding in the forest. As she was walking through the forest in the cold of the evening she began to feel the pangs of labor and her voice cried out. But who would answer her? Abandoned by her family (in shame!) and ostracized from her village, she was doomed to death.

Until, appearing out of the shadows of the forest, was the familiar stag, followed by one other male and four females. The maternal sense, it seemed, was not limited by species. As her skin burned with the pain of childbirth, she was comforted by the strange scent of the deer and the skeins of water they used to keep her cool. As she began to give birth, it became clear that her burden was not typical. Four children were born that night, two male, two female, and each of the four does had come prepared with blankets of moss and soft leaves.

When the ordeal was finished, she fell asleep under the care of the two bucks and her children snuggled safely with the does. As much as the deer had seemed to be prepared for the events of the night before, they were all awoken with a screech of anger. The monster had followed the cries of his own children and reached the quiet stream where the party lay quietly.

"Give me my children," he cried.

"Never! They are mine!"

"You know as well as I--they cannot be said to be rightly yours or mine." And his words were true--she could not claim them to be her own, and he could not claim them to be his alone. She turned to face the monster, who had put on the same disguise that he had seduced her in nine months before.

"I cannot allow them to be raised by you."

"You have no choice," said the monster, as he slapped her across the face. The blow struck her to the ground and her breathing stopped. As he turned to collect his quarry, though, the forest was empty except for the cheerful rays of sun dancing across the water and the leaves. He whipped his cape around and flew off in a bout of anger.

The attacks that had stopped for nine months began once more--and with such intensity that any sign of human settlement was destroyed and any survivors had to abandon their cultivated way of life and become one with the forest again. Life adapted quickly and years began to pass. By the time the monster's attacks had ceased, the people were used to their reduced lifestyles--reliant on the produce of nature rather than the produce of their fields.