“Be careful, my child.” said the woman to the girl. “Be wary. Be sure. For tonight is the night of temptation. You will be lured. By wrong. By cruel. By harsh. By fool. Stay on the path. Hold your sword secure. Hold your head high. And by, my girl, by and by, you will return to me.”
“Do not fear, oh mother mine. I will be safe. I will be secure. I will not stray. And none shall tempt me away. And yes, dear mother, by and by, I will return to you.”
“Be safe, my girl. Be well.”
“And the same to you.”
The girl fastened her cape and she sheathed her sword. Her basket, she carried with a strong and sturdy grip outside and into the woods.
She walked down the path. Head high.
Blue fey lights danced in the woods, singing soft. Singing sweet. Singing words of flies and meat.
But the girl heeded them not. She stayed on the path. Safe.
A lean man, pale of face and certain of his own grace, came to her as she walked along. “Come, pretty one. There is a dance. Come. Come. Oh, pretty one. Come and join the dance.” His teeth were white and strong.
She ignored his words and walked on.
He dropped in front of her, forcing her to stop. “Pretty one. Why do you not heed me? Why do you leave? Stay a while. Stay with me.”
“I cannot. I must keep on. For my grandmother is weak.”
“Ahh, but you can make her strong. I know the way. I know. I know. I can tell you sweet words. Magic words. Inside your mind. Inside your throat. Pretty one. Oh, stay with me. Come and join the dance.”
She pulled out her sword and he backed away. “I must keep on. For though your words speak promises and hope, I dare not trust them.”
“Ahh, but that is a dangerous toy you wield.”
“It is no toy to me. Leave me to my task, sir. And I will leave you to your dance.”
“You choose sorrow and hardship. Oh, pretty one. I offer you more. Music and lights. Sweetness and delights.”
“If you will not leave, sir, I will offer you pain and death.”
“If you will not come with me, let me come with you. For dangers haunt these woods. They seek the weak and they seek the small. I will protect you from their wiles and their ways. I know them. I have seen them all.”
“Your offer is kind, but I fear there is none here to protect me from you.”
He smiled sorrow and regret. “The day will come, oh pretty one, when you will long for the dance. I will not offer it to you then. For you, there will be no sweet music.”
“I will face that regret unblemished and free. Fare well, sir. May the day be bright for you and brighter for me.”
She resumed her journey. Steady and secure. Temptations could not sway her. No false promises could win her heart.
She reached her grandmother’s house. Safe and sound. The journey home would be perilous, but she was unafraid. She opened the door and entered in. “Grandmother! I am here.”
“Oh, pretty one.” The man stood outside the open door. “Let me in.”
“Oh, but you can.” He looked at her face, at her eyes. “I can help you. I can help your grandmother become well and oh so strong. Pretty one. Say the words and let me in.”
She thought of her grandmother so often taken ill. So many visits had to be made. So many baskets had to be carried. So many perils had to be faced within the wild woods. “Are your words true?”
He smiled, a sharp white smile. “Oh, so very true, pretty one. All it will take is one touch, one small bit of magic.”
“My grandmother will be well?”
“Well and never ill again. It’s a powerful magic. Only a few special souls can wield it. I can wield it. For her. For you. Oh, think of it, pretty one. To be free from the curse of Adam. No pain. No sorrow. No sickness. No death. Nothing but life and the dance.”
Her resolve thinned and weakened. Oh, to never be sick again. thought she. What a pleasant life it would be. But something in his smile, something in his stare pulled her away from such desires. “I appreciate the offer, but I must decline. Fare well, sir.” She closed the door and locked it well.
“Oh, yes.” said the girl. “The journey home will be fraught with dangers.” She sheathed her sword. “But I will be strong. I must be strong.” She thought of the man on the other side of the door. She thought of his promises and yearned to hear more. “I hope I will stay strong.”