It was a fine night.
A summer night just after a light rain, the last of the season, it was beginning to chill and the color of the trees was beginning to change from light green and just a few leaves were at the feet.
The rains had been generous, The family did not have an ox, they had had to sell it to purchase their last hope, a sack of seeds, it was almost time for the harvest.
But now it was time to sleep.
It had been a happy family. A mother, A father and their treasured little girl.
But such happiness was not the same as it had been in the last year.
Last year the harvest wasn’t good, they lost money on autumn, and in winter, a man lost his wife, and a girl lost her mom.
She always read her stories before bedtime, since her father was tired from work and fell asleep almost always just after dinner.
She treasured stories and books.
Specially knight books, those in which the hero raised from humble origins to slay a giant, a dragon and all sort of monsters.
She was 10 years old now. But the last year had made her five years older, taking care of the house, the food, helping his father with the farm, the animals. All the duties her mom had, had been passed down to her. Mourning lasted until spring.
But her wife duties had fallen also over him.
He had taught her everything he knew, how to plow, how to fight, how to be a man. Because he knew next to nothing of how to be a woman; that saddened him, and made him proud at the same time.
He learnt to cook, to teach her to cook, he taught her how to mend clothes and sacks.
He told her stories just before bedtime.
He told her the stories he knew, stories of monsters kidnapping children, of thieves brought to justice, of thieves helping people, of epic battles, of epic horrors. The stories their brothers told him as a child, and the stories they brought from war.
They were different stories, scary stories, but she liked to spend that time with his dad.
And from him, his favorite were the love stories. Of them, of mom and dad. Those made her miss her, and made her cry, and dad drink when he left her room. But those stories made it feel like her mother was still alive, even if only was in memories, in stories from distant times and places she would never know.
The air was chilling with the breeze of rain, and her father left the room after another scary story. The candle light shone through the crack of the wooden door, his father still awake, or at least fell asleep mending sacks for the coming harvest. The wind started humming and grew stronger, until it howled fiercely, waking her up. She was no longer scared of monsters, those were stories from his dad and mom, thought once while cooking she pondered where did those stories come from, someone had to come up with them, were they scared of a wolf, or were the giants only big bears, were goblins only thieves raiding villages while wearing masks. That time the food was ready and the thought died out.
She watched the wind ravaging the trees, and yet the trees withstood the violence with which the wind blowed, making it as it passed through the woods.
She watched toward the small town in the distance, lights were still shining bright, very bright, it looked like a festival.
The lights got brighter and brighter, and smoke blackened and raised. The wind bellowed toward her house, toward the woods. Then the fire was visible from the house, it crept to the woods. Alarms rose, barely audible from where the house stood, the lamenting echo of bells from the church.
The girl rose and gathered herself, she did not want to wake her dad lying in a made up bed of half mended sacks. She ran to the hen house and the barn, taking his father’s tool belt on the way, they could not afford to lose anymore. She could barely see even with the light she was carrying. She could hear the animals scared and the trees hustle (bustle?); She calmed the animals and secured them, it took a while and by the time she was almost finished, her father ran out to help, when the uproar was loud enough.
A pig got away. towards the woods, she followed, it was fast, but she had played this game many times, she left her light to her father, she knew the wood well enough, and she had even placed a few traps, mostly for rabbits and rodents to eat, to know the pig was running toward one, she ran faster making sure it would fall on it.
But something else was already in the trap.
It wasn’t small, it was the slightly bigger than the pig she was chasing, she slowed down, carefully approaching, the animal was restlessly trying to escape, maybe it was a boar.
The pig got away, but maybe they could replace it with whatever was on the trap.
She walked in, slowly in the dark, the storm clouds hadn’t gone away but the wind was taking them to other lands, and little by little the light from a crescent moon was shining.
From his father’s tool belt she reached for his knife, she had to be swift and either as she tighted the ropes, tie it’s mouth so it would not bite her, of if she deemed it safer, release the animal from her suffering.
She went around the thick tree on which the trap was tied, the rope went around it twice, she untied the trap and pulled, knife in hand, bringing the animal closer to the trunk. Then, it screamed, or squealed, it wasnt either. It was a howl that crawled and echoed among the trees losing itself in the raging wind.
The girl got scared, it was a sound she had ever heard before. It wasn’t the sound an animal made. She tied the trap again, and aproached the beast in the dark, going around the tree.
It lied there, it was a creature. It had this… humanly inhuman shape, it had fur that wasn’t its own, it had horns, and big teeth like those between a wolf and a boar.
But what was more impresive were the dark red eyes, those shone even in the dark, it still tried to release itself. She fell to the mud, calling the attention of the beast.
It noticed her, and howled again. She followed the bouncing of the sound in the woods with her sight as it raised and lost itself inside the clearing skies.
Next the girls was surrounded. Dozens of pairs of the same reddened eyes among the trees, above the trees, beneath the trees, they all looked at her. All in different shapes, some were bigger, some climbed trees, some had animal skin, some had big ears, some had smaller eyes, very few resemblances. Like most wore animal fur, and had similar gear, she realized they were dressed.
Then they howled, so loud even her father must have heard, light was aproaching from the direction of the town, a fainter light was approaching from the direction of her house. After the howl ceased, there was a lot of crying, human crying, the cry of scared boys and girls.
The girl realized then, some of the creatures were carrying something, sacks, just like the ones his father mended, the sort of sack used in the harvest. They were the monsters from the stories, the ones that stole children in the night, the kind that raided and pillaged villages, and she was a girl. The lights drew closer. and a shadow fell from a tree next to her, it grabbed her by the waist and she was flying away, looking, as the moon shone below, to the face of her father weilding a pitchfork as a weapon, looking at her, exhausted, worried, but still in his eyes like it would not be the last time.
She saw guards arrive as she and bagged kids flew in the back of creatures that jumped as high as some trees; she saw her father face the creatures as they tried to rescue their trapped friend, she saw the creatures face the guard, altought still in retreat.
A moment ago she was within grasp of her father. Now she was gone; she joined the cry of a dozen of children, passing out of exhaustion as they got lost in the night, following the storm.