The Green Children and other Tales
'In a land far from here-', began the storyteller.
'Where? Where?' interrupted the small boy. The old man peered over his large beaked nose at the child. His hands came together and his long bony thumbs began to dance around each other.
'Don't Jeremy, let him tell the story.' The young girl sat, still interested. The boy glared at her, but then let the old man continue.
'In a land far from here, once called Eire, something strange happened. Something very strange...'
The Green Children
William thought it was a normal day. As normal as any other. The mist had rolled in and covered the countryside. He could feel the rain coming. He wasn't sure exactly when. He just knew it would be soon. The thickness of the mist and the eerie silence was suddenly broken by a hunter's horn, a long shrill blast that hurt his ears. He knew that somewhere a fox would be hiding, trying to escape the men and their hounds. He grimaced as the horn sounded again. Then he saw the group of men, some on horseback. The dogs were barking and racing around. William watched as the mass of men came closer, charging down the hill towards him.
Then William saw what they were chasing. Two small children ran before the hunters, dodging and weaving between trees and bushes. A girl, with long flowing hair, and a particularly tall boy. William stared, because the children were fast, very fast, and he kept losing sight of them. He wondered at this and, as the children grew nearer, he saw that they were dressed entirely in green. Then, as they passed over the rise, he could see that both were not actually dressed in green; they were green! Entirely green. Green children.
He admired their colour as they sped past, trying to escape the hounds, but before his very eyes the girl child was brought down by a large Irish setter. The boy tried to beat it off but, by now, half a dozen of the dogs had surrounded them. The boy wailed, a high-pitched screaming and the girl joined him as the huntsmen came closer and tied them, like any other animal they may have been chasing.
William followed the hunters and their captives back into town. The children had stopped their wailing and he could hear them talking, a language like no other he had heard before. There were high sounds then long low sounds that he guessed came from deep in the throat, all mixing together to form different sounds or words.
He started to hear many of the same sounds, but had no more of a chance to listen as the children were soon penned in a large cage in the centre of the village. The whole town was brought forth and people prodded and poked the children. The two small creatures cowered in the corners of the cage. A decision was to be made as to what should be done with them. William watched the proceedings with interest. Many of the townspeople agreed that the green children should remain locked in the cage, for all to see. A few of the mothers, however, said that the children should be taken in and cared for, as they were obviously lost and in need of a good home. William saw a small woman come forward out of the crowd. He knew her as Mary Croft. Her husband had died two months ago and she had recently lost her only son to a fever. She expressed concern for the children and said she would care for them. The whole village went quiet. William knew that if there was no man in her home, then she would be seen unfit to look after the children. He stepped forward.
'I will help Goodwife Croft care for these children.' Mary smiled at him and he made his way to the cage. The children cowered, but he offered them his hand. The boy snarled, but the girl slowly brought her own hand to his. He took it softly between his own and murmured some of the sounds he had heard from them. Something he said must have been right, for the girl came closer and the boy relaxed also.
'They seem to trust me, so I think it is in best interests for us all if I and Mary care for the children.' The townsfolk mumbled in agreement.
'As long as you keep the creatures out of sight, they're too ugly to be seen!' cried one man. William span in the direction of the voice;
'You would only know ugly every morning when you shave your face!' A cackle of laughter interrupted him. He motioned for quiet, 'These children are beautiful. Mary,' He called the young woman over. 'Let's take them home.'
The children were unsure at first, but with coaxing William and Mary were able to convince them that they were safe. William concentrated his efforts on learning the language of the green children, while Mary tried various foods to see what the children ate. As William squeaked and groaned at the children, Mary brought in a meal. Bread, meat, potatoes and beans. There was plenty to go around. The children smelled the food and looked at it. The boy took up the meat and potatoes and threw them to the ground. The girl poked warily at her bread, then saw the green beans. She cooed and motioned to the boy. He, too, saw the beans and they both began to eat. William smiled at Mary.
'I guess they only like the green beans.'
Weeks passed and William learnt the language of the green children and they learnt the language of the people. The boy and girl ventured forth their names. The girl seemed the most adept at learning, she was quick and decisive. However, the boy seemed a little lost. Sad and dejected. He had not been eating, and the girl looked healthier. William and Mary sat as the girl was the first to speak.
'I am Trynth.' She pointed toward the boy, whose head had dropped to his chest in fatigue. 'He is Drask.' William interrupted.
'You know our names, I dare say. But I am William Dancer and this,' he pulled Mary to his side, 'is Mary Croft.'
'You have... two names?' The girl tilted her head, questioning.
'Yes. You don't?'
'No. We are of the same... family?' William nodded. He thought it was time he asked where they came from, how they got here, why they were what they were.
'Trynth.' The girl looked up at him with large, deep, green eyes. She absent-mindedly twisted a curl of her hair on one long finger.
'How did you come here?'
Trynth took a deep breath, concentrating. 'I am not sure. This land is not ours. We come from a place where there is darkness, there is no sun. All my family is green, not your colour.'
William put a hand out to the girl, and she took it, holding it tight. William urged her again. 'How did you get here?'
Trynth became distant. She glanced at Drask, who seemed ill. 'We were taking our flocks to another... meadow. They passed into a cavern. There were bells and much light. The flock disappeared. Drask saw a bright light and he walked towards it. I followed him. We couldn't see, so we walked. We came out of the cavern on a hill. These men were there and they began to chase us. Another man ran away and then came back with horses and dogs and more men. We tried to get back to the cavern, but it was gone. You know the rest of the story, William.' Trynth looked tired.
'Thank you. Why don't you sleep.' William took them both from the table to the room that had become their own after the past weeks. He closed the door as the children fell into a deep slumber. Mary beckoned William to her.
'Will, the boy is ill. I don't know what to do.'
'I've noticed. Trynth will help him. I hope so. Have you noticed though, she seems to be paling. Her hair is becoming red and she seems to be eating not just the green foods.'
Mary put her fingers to her lips, Trynth had come from the bedroom. Tears specked her face. Drask was nowhere to be seen.
'Drask. He won't get up.' Trynth ran to Mary. William left them to see on the boy. He lay on the bed, not moving.
'Drask?' The boy opened his eyes and looked at William. In those eyes was sadness, the deepest sadness. The boy spoke for the first time.
'I am dieing.' His voice was stilted, but beautiful. Entrancing.
'What can we do?' William lay his hand on the boys arm.
'Nothing. Just care for Trynth.' Drask closed his eyes. William left the room. Mary and Trynth were sitting in the kitchen at the table. Mary looked up. William shook his head.
'He's gone.' Mary held her tears.
As the years passed, Trynth thrived. She lost any sign of her greenness and had seemed to have forgotten her family member Drask. The village, too, had simply forgotten the green children. Trynth became the orphaned daughter of William and Mary Dancer. And the tale of the Green Children became no more than myth.
Next Week: BullBeggar