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Woman of the Red Hood
I am the Woman of the Red Hood, but you know me as Little Red Riding Hood. My story has been told by many cultures around the world. Everyone knows the story of the girl who was tricked by a wolf that devoured her grandmother. It has been interrupted as the journey of a girl into womanhood. It has also been told as a story of rebirth and sexual desire, but none who have told this story were present. It was the day a deep hatred, the first death by my hand and the desire for revenge began.
My village was set deep in a dark forest where bizarre creatures inhabited those trees. Danger was always around us.
Each member of the village was given a gift at birth by the Creator. Each gift was different, reflecting the individual’s personality. Some became great hunters, others could find objects no one else could, while others had such dexterous fingers, that they could weave the finest garments from the worst materials. At each birth, the head of our village would bestow a red hooded cape to each infant. This hood was designed to suppress the use of our innate gifts even as adults. My gift was incredibly rare for a female. I had the gift of stealth.
We had been told that the cloaks were to protect us from the dangers of the magic within us. If used uncontrolled, it would destroy not only our bodies, but our souls as well. We blindly accepted this as truth, and lived our lives as dictated by our leader. Well, everyone except me and my grandmother that is. I was the rebel in the village, and she was the outcast. Unlike the other hoods of our village, hers was lined with wolf’s fur, rather than wool. She possessed the gift of kindred. She could use the attributes of any animal she chose. She of course chose her favorite animal, the wolf. She was feared by the village because of the power of her hood. Rather than dampening her magic like the other villager’s hoods, hers amplified it. By turning it inside out, so that the fur was on the exterior, she became a wolf.
Because of the villager’s fears, the leader had my grandmother banished to the dark forest. I know this because my parents took me to visit her about once per moon cycle, and she often told me about the day she was banished. She ranted many times, “I don’t mind that I had to leave my old home, I rather like it here, but what I can’t stand is the fact that that man thinks himself so superior to everyone else that he thinks that everyone will follow blindly. Not this old wolf!”
Some of my fondest memories were in Grandmother’s small cottage. Many times I would walk into her home and find a wolf curled up in front of the fire place. It was an interesting experience having a wolf for a grandmother.
As I said before I was a rebel in my village. Every rule I encountered, I broke. Our leader even threatened to banish me as he did my Grandmother. Unfortunately, he never did. I would have rather lived with my Grandmother. When I reached the age of sixteen, I snuck out in the middle of the night to pay my grandmother a surprise visit. I am grateful that I decided to tuck my cloak into the pack I always carried. Even with my gift of stealth, I would have been seen immediately by the patrols that protect our borders.
I slipped from house to house, keeping to the shadows until I reached the edge of the forest. Once I was in the concealment of the trees, I ran. I ran for the simple purpose of running. I ran until a dark shadow by the blocked my path. It was a Troll.
“And where do you think you are going at such a late hour?” the Troll asked in a deep baritone voice. His elongated bottom teeth jutted from under his lip in a friendly wicked smile. I was about to break the biggest rule of our village, the only one I had yet to; never talk to any of the creatures that live in the forest.
“I’m visiting my grandmother,” I replied eagerly to this massive brute before me, thinking perhaps I could make a new, forbidden, friend.
“I see,” he mused. “And from where do you hail?”
“From the village, just over there,” I answered as I pointed.
“Thank you very much,” the Troll said as he melted back into the shadows. “I shall have to visit you at some point.”
“Wait!” I hollered after him, but he had already departed and was not going to return. So, I continued on to my grandmother’s house. I had resolved not to tell her about my encounter with the Troll because I was satisfied that I had made a friend of a creature that I was not supposed to have even talked to. As I had reached the steps of my grandmother’s cottage, stillness settled over the forest; all life seemed to have fled. Even the lone owl, who had been calling just moments before, seemed to be hiding form something horrible.
Dread flooded my heart. Something felt wrong. I didn’t know what it was, but something was not right. The calm was shattered by frightened shrieks from the direction of my village. Using the bottom step as a launch pad I darted back into the trees, and ran as fast as my legs would carry me back to my village.
* * *
As I neared edge of the forest, I tripped and landed face first in something wet. As I regained my feet, my gaze fell to the object that threw me to the ground. A drop of the liquid rolled down my lip and into my mouth. It was blood, and I was standing over the mutilated body of one of our patrols. I will never forget that sight or the bitter metallic taste in my mouth. Completely horrified, I heard large footsteps crashing through the trees just to my left. I ducked into the shadow of the tree on my right and prayed that my gift would protect me.
I held my breath as ten Trolls lumbered by; fortunately none of them looked my way. I however, saw the Troll I encountered earlier leading the group, and for several minutes after they passed I waited too terrified to move. Finally, I emerged from my hiding place and cautiously slunk into my village.
What I saw there still haunts me today. There was blood splattered on every wall of every building. Heads were missing bodies, and no one had survived. Not even the smallest child. I found my father’s body missing an arm and a leg. Every one of his ribs was broken and his skull was completely collapsed. My mother at least wasn’t mutilated as my father was. Her throat was simply slit. But the look of horror on her face just can’t be described in words.
Not knowing what else to do, I ran back to my grandmother’s cottage. The tree branches scratched and tore at my face as I tried to reach her as quickly as I could.
This time when I reached her steps, the body of nine Trolls littered the ground. Each one had its throat torn out, and had several bit marks that appeared to be canine. From inside, I heard the yelp of a dog and the baritone laugh of the Troll I had met earlier. I grabbed a dagger off the belt of the troll nearest me, but in my sixteen year old hands, it was more like a long sword.
Now please understand I had never used, let alone held a weapon before. I stepped over the shattered door, and into my grandmother’s cottage sword extended before me with my elbows locked. In the far corner, I saw the Troll. It had pinned my Grandmother, as a wolf, in the corner. The wolf’s eyes left the Troll for a brief moment to see who had entered. My grandmother’s momentary distraction was all the Troll needed.
In one fluid motion, he thrust his axe between the wolf’s legs, lifted up and pulled toward himself, cutting the wolf from hip to sternum. The Troll dropped his axe, reached forward, grabbed the exposed edges of flesh and pulled them apart; peeling the hood my grandmother wore from her body.
The Troll retrieved his axe from the ground, and turned to face me.
“Don’t blink,” he grinned.
He spun around and brought his axe down on my grandmother’s exposed head, splitting it in two. A dark pool spread along the floor underneath his feet.
“No!” I wailed. “Grandmother!”
“No use screaming,” the Troll scolded. “She can’t hear you.”
I lunged forward arms extended, sword in hand; aiming for the beast’s heart. The Troll slipped in my grandmother’s landing hard on his back. Momentum carried me and the sword I had taken from the dead troll toward the beast before me, severing his head from his body.
Shaking from everything that had just happened, I kneeled in front of my grandmother’s body and wept. I don’t know how long I wept but I wept until I could weep no more. When all my grief was spent, I turned my attention to the Troll. I tried to pry its fingers from my grandmother’s hood, but its body had already begun to stiffen. After several minutes of prying, I finally managed to remove my grandmother’s hood from its clutch.
There was no way to tell grandmother’s blood had been spilled on the dark crimson hood. I wrapped it around my shoulders- the weight of the wolf fur protecting me.
I turned to leave, but noticed my pack lying on the floor. My hood had fallen from my open pack, in a crumpled heap. I gathered my red hood into my arms and gently placed it over my grandmother’s body, protecting her from the cold that began to seep into her house.
Now, I hire my services to any who need them. I will kill any person for the right price. I’ll kill a queen, a king, or simply your neighbor, but if any one hires me to kill a Troll I do so free of charge. Never again will Trolls trick me. Each and every one will forever regret the day he crossed my path.
I am the Woman of the Red Hood.