The wood so softly singing
In a language strange to hear
And the song it sings will find you
As the twilight draws you near


The Cunning Man of the Haunted Forest

Nicky Nicky Nye
He pulls you down
Underneath the water
To drown, drown, die.

Nicky was a water spirit of the malicious kind. He was notorious for grabbing children from the river bank and dragging them in. He had green teeth, green hair and green eyes. Like waterweed. But he could be as clear and transparent as the running waters when he wanted to be. In the past he had been feared by children and their mothers all along the river. But these days he tends to stay in the haunted wood, and that is what this story is about.

Few lived in the wood, or even dared to venture into it, especially after dark. Only two people lived right in the heart of the wood. One was an old wise woman. The other was her nephew, later known – after her time – as the Cunning Man of the Wood. They lived about a mile apart. He made his reputation while still a young man. But even before this folks marveled at the fact that he lived in a cottage right on Nicky’s river. But they knew his aunt and put it down to her magic: the placing of stones, the speaking of charms and the spaniel bitch, which she had given him as a puppy, and which had powers no doubt like those of the one who was said by those with a gossip’s tongue to be the old woman’s familiar.

One day a farmer from the forest edge came to the Wise Woman to ask her advice as his cows were dry and he suspected dark magic. She nodded and told him to go to her nephew who would know what to do. The farmer hesitated, then took the path to the river. He told his tale to the young man, who thought a while then turned aside and said, as if to the empty air,

“what thinks?”

As if from nowhere the spaniel was at his side with eager eyes.

“Yes, we’ll come”, he said. “At midnight”.

The farmer did not want to wait to accompany them and set off home before it was dark. They came in the gloom of the night and the spaniel sat in the meadow among the cows. A large hare comes lopping across the field and begins drinking from the udder of one of the cows. The spaniel sprang, the hare leaped, and away with them. The spaniel nipped at the hare’s heels and was all the time forcing the direction of the chase towards the river. As they arrive the spaniel barks and Nicky emerges and grabs the hare. Then a screech as the witch comes out of the hare form and struggles to get out of Nicky’s clutches. But she failed.

After that, the Wise Woman’s cottage began to fade a little, so that people sort of forgot it was there. But they know about her nephew and his spaniel. And about him there are many tales to tell of his life in the haunted wood. And maybe, soon, one or another of them will be told here if you care to call in to find out.

1 comment:

Hamadryad said...

Looking forward to reading more :)