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Berchta This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   There are legends from long ago of an old woman, wild, uncontrollable, who rode agray horse. Both were scraggly and ugly, but fast and unstoppable. With hair,mane and tail flying behind them, they gallop through the frozen winter nights ofnorthern Europe. There are stories told of her cruelty and harshness. Cursescast on people who chance to see her, on those whose houses are not clean andneat, on those who do not leave food for her - plagues, accidents, andmutilations. However other stories were told as well, of a softer side ...



The world was black and gray, snow lay in patches, frozengrass crackled under her feet. No breeze stirred, the moon hung low. She wasaware of the cold, yet her shawl hung low, limp on her arm. Her feet dragged,leaving strange dark trails in the grass, her breath streamed out, leavingstrange white patterns in the air. She thought of her mother: had she walked likethis, up in the middle of the night, to talk to the moon? To walk to the grave,aching for the child buried there; never to be held, never to feel the comfort ofa mother's arms, lying there so cold and alone. She had so much love for thechild - she would have kept it warm, loved it, fed it, comforted it, sang to it,died for it. But she never had the chance.

Her dreams, full of a child'sfeeble cry, lost in the dark earth, its weak limbs fluttering in the dark, beingbruised by the wooden walls of its little coffin, waking up crying, needing tocomfort it. This night she leaves her husband, to walk to the grave, needing toreassure herself that there is not even a whisper of a cry, or the smallestvibration of life.

He watched her - he felt pain too. He had longed forthe child, loved it and dreamed of who it might grow to be. As much as he wantedthe baby to have lived, he wanted his wife back more. He wanted to take theemptiness out her eyes, the hollowness out of her voice. He wanted to protecther, shelter her from the pain, touch and comfort her. But she shied away, as ifhe had beaten her, as if his touch were painful. It had always been hard for herto express her emotions, to talk to him and share the parts of herself that madeher who she was. He needed to talk about it and he knew if she would only talk,they could get through this together. But she was as hard to reach as the frozenearth. Though she blocked him out he followed her, watched for her, and wanted toscream for all three of them.

She knelt by the grave and placed a smallpackage, wrapped in bright yellow paper topped with a sprig of gaudy plasticholly. She thought how pitifully small the mound looked and began to sing. It wasa lullaby her mother used to sing to her at Christmas ...



Hearthgoddess

Lady of soot and coals

protect my dear child

andcradle its soul

Bless us who still live

curse us not

forwe've cleaned and scrubbed

every tile, brick and pot



We'veleft you some food,

some wine for your trip

to nourish and warmyou

as you visit the crypt



Take all the dear children

unbaptised, lost to God

take them and love them

as usleft cannot



From somewhere deep inside her another verse was born.She whispered it - as a plea, as a prayer.



On this glorious day

when the Christ-child was born

take this guilt from my heart

allow me to mourn.



As she sang images of her childhoodflooded her mind. Christmases past, sitting in Mumma's lap, hearing stories ofBerchta, the hearth goddess, riding through the clouds, followed by a train ofelves and faeries, cradling the infant dead. The soft voice, tinted by an accentof her own childhood. Eyes far away, lost in a world of snow and holly, longcoats of fur, forests of pine, heated brandy and chilled wine. There was sadnessin her eyes as she told the stories.

She had held her daughter, butthought of her son. It was only many years later that she told her daughter ofthe brother she had never known.

Later that night the young woman slept -dreaming of feeble cries and bloody limbs. Her husband rolled over and stared inthe dark, hearing her murmur, feeling her struggle against the air. He knewbetter than to wake her or touch her and wondered how long she would hold

it all in.

The child whimpered and cried - then strangely, grewquiet. A pair of old gentle hands reached through the wood and stroked thechild's chest, then slipped under it, picking it up, taking it away. The handspulled the child to a soft, if ragged, breast, and they flew away laughing andgiggling to the sound of thunder.

The young woman sighed, turned andsnuggled close to the man beside her. She cried gentle tears and began to speak.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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dancer13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm
Wow...this is sad. I want to know what happened! It's so mysterious.
 
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