We trudged single file through the dark forest, trudging deeper and deeper, until I lost all sense of direction. The band of travellers I was with had invited me to join them. They told me it was a special place they were going to. One that only they knew about. A place of mystery and dark rituals. Of magic and omens. And because I was now one of them, having travelled with them for many moons, they trusted me, their leader told me. It was time to bring me closer into their fold.

Shy by nature, softly spoken and few of words, I had simply nodded as we set off at the setting of the sun. I knew better than to let my feelings show. Or to deny the honour of joining them. However, for me, it had been a reluctant joining to their band.  I had been alone, lost and frightened when they happened upon me. They took me in, provided shelter, food and companionship.  Over time I had come to realise that not all was as it seemed. There was an air of forboding, danger, always imminent and lurking in the shadows.

Never once did they give me an open cause for concern. A deep sense of survival and cunning had served me well till now. I had grown up as a street urchin in the slums. It had given me strength and skills not possessed by many. So I quietly watched, waited, prepared possible escapes. I had left it too late. Now, as we trudged through the darkening forest only lit by the roundness of the full moon, my senses were on high alert. Owls hooted eerily in the treetops. The occasional fluttering of wings announced their swoop on scuttering prey. A squeal laced with terror. Then silence. Another death. Another meal.

We reached a clearing. In its centre was an outcropping of flattened rocks. They seemed to have been formed into a circle with a raised centre. Cold fingers of dread flicked up and down my spine. Keeping my eyes downcast, I waited as the band huddled in conversation. Occasionally they would point and smile at me. The leader of the band walked to the centre of what I now ascertained to be some     sort of magic circle with signs and symbols carved in stones all around its periphery. I had seen such signs before but did not know their meaning. Only that they made me feel very, very scared.

Raising his hands to the heavens, he chanted in a language unknown to me. Words rising in volume to a crescendo, he flicked his wrist towards me, beckoning me to join him. There was nothing else I could do. Quietly in my head I called on all the Saints and Angels of Heaven to protect and help me in my hour of darkest need. That would be my only salvation. For in his hand, the leader now held what I knew to be a sacrificial knife. The band of followers, softly chanting, had closed around me, stepping forward, pushing me closer and closer to the middle.

I had heard snatches of whispered conversations in the streets of bands who lured young virgins into their fold. They would disappear, never to be found again. But rumour had it they were sacrified on the fullness of the moon to the Dark Lord. How could I have been so naive, I chided myself. Too late.

You, my Beautiful One, he said to me, are special. I knew it the moment I saw  you. You have the Seers eyes and heart. AS we feast upon your heart and drink your blood, our strength will multiply beyond our wildest dreams! We will be STRONG! We will rule the WORLD! All will fall at our feet and sing our praises! Come! It is time.

With those words he handed me a chalice filled with a pungent drink of herbs. Drink it, he commanded. It will make you fearless. Daring not to look into his eyes lest he saw within them more than he should, I reached for the chalice with trembling hands.


It was at this moment that the sky was  torn apart with forked lightning that filled it from end to end. Blinded by its brilliance and the echoes of it’s accompanying thunder, the band cried out in fear, covering their eyes. I had dropped the chalice. It spilt onto the rock and split it in twain. I do not know how I was not swallowed up by the earth like all the others. All I know is I had been flung into the mosses beyond the circle of stones.

I sat a while, dazed. The forest was no longer gloomy. It was lit by millions of glow -worms. As I rose, wondering how I was to find a path back to the village I had left, they formed a ring around me, guiding me out.

Ah, there you are, she said. I was afeard you had been taken by them wicked people.Thank the Lord you are safe. Come with me. I have shelter, food and drink for you. I followed the kindly nun to the Community of Sisters, grateful for my salvation.

© Raili Tanska

Reposted from July 2016

Steps for Peace

“Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.”

the irreverent comedian and social critic George Carlin

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