Once upon a time, in a medieval land, there lived a young boy. He wasn't an extraordinary boy, just the younger son of the local baker. His name was Joram, and he felt his life was dull. There was no great future for him, he wouldn't even have a chance to inherit the bakery at some point. Life seemed to be closing in on him, with nothing but drudgery, poverty and hardships ahead. And now that he was 15, his parents were talking about arranging a marriage with the brewer's daughter. She was 13, loud, boisterous and held Joram in contempt, but since they both had elder siblings, this seemed a good match in the eyes of the brewer and the baker.
"She isn't even pretty", Joram thought to himself. "What can I do to escape this fate?"
Desperation is a dangerous thing, as Joram would soon discover.
After a hard days work stoking the fires of the ovens, and cleaning the tools in the kitchen, Joram was tired, and in no mood to endure jibes from his elder brothers. So, he decided to take a walk in the forest. It was his favorite retreat, away from the constant demands of his family. But this night seemed different. The trees glowed softly in the light of the full moon, and the air was still, brooding, watchful. The deeper he ventured along the forest path, the more nervous Joram became. "Perhaps it would be best to go home now," he thought. Running there isn't out of the question either.
At that moment, he caught a glimpse of movement through the trees. A whole troop was gliding virtually silently amongst the giant beech trees. But who were they? Joram dropped to the ground and crawled through the ferns and low bushes, trying to catch a closer look. After pushing through some thick branches, Joram finally got that clear look...they weren't human. Most of the creatures looked like a cross between men and goats, with cloven hooves and horns. They walked upright like men, but with a chillingly alien gait.
Then another type appeared. Several looked like men, though very tall, and golden skinned. Amongst them was one woman, and Joram couldn't catch his breath while watching her. Such beauty and grace he had never seen, nor even imagined. While watching the golden beauty, Joram had lost track of the goat-men. They now stood behind him, and one kicked his foot, to let him know that he was no longer watching in secret. Now truly frightened, Joram jumped to his feet to run, but the goat-men seized him and called to all the others in the troop.
The golden skinned men soon arrived, the lady amongst them. Joram was crying and struggling, but to no avail, as the goat-men were much stronger. Finally the lady spoke: "Do not be afraid youngling, we mean you no harm. We wish only to pass through the forest while the moon is high"
"My name is Kila, and we are the spirits of the forest. It is time for us to take the paths to the otherworld, for this place is soon to be too dangerous for us to survive."
"It will be dangerous for you as well young human" "Perhaps it would be best for you to come with us?"
Then Joram asked, "What danger do you speak of lady?"
"An army approaches this valley. They will destroy everything in their path. Humans kill and maim without thought, without realizing the damage that they do to their own souls. We will not stay to witness this."
"My lady Kila, I cannot run. I must warn my family and friends."
"It will do little good young one. Where will they go? There isn't enough time. They cannot fight this, and they cannot hide. But I will make a bargain with you. What is your name?" asked Kila.
"I am Joram, the baker's son."
"Joram, take this urn. Inside is darkness, the very essence of darkness. Pour the contents in a circle around your village. It will hide them. But be careful not to be caught within the circle. Return and join us again."
"But be aware, there is a price for everything, and the price for this is high."
"I must do what I can, regardless of price lady Kila." Joram takes the urn and sprints back along the path.
Reaching the edge of the village, Joram takes the lid off the urn, and darkness creeps out over the lip. It is repellent, and smells of sulfur, and so black it seems that light itself is afraid to touch it. Coughing at the fumes, Joram pours the substance in a thin line all around the boundaries of the village. When he comes back to the start, he finds himself tempted to close the circle with himself inside, and never return to the strange creatures in the forest.
"But what if that keeps it from working?" he thinks. "I have to go back." He completes the circle and the village disappears from sight. Reluctantly, he returns to the forest where the golden skinned spirits await him. Somehow he knows this will not end well. How he wishes his life was the same as it had been only a few hours previously. Even marrying the brewer's daughter seems like a fate worth having.
Kila watches him approach, dread in his eyes. "I told you before, Joram, we mean no harm to you."
"But time is running very short for us now and we must be away. Here is the price you must pay."
"You must forgo your life as you knew it. You must take our place as keeper of the forest. We will teach you what this means for a short time in the otherworld, but when you return, men will think you mad. And perhaps, you will be mad, by their reckoning. But you will be content."
And so, Joram walked willingly with the spirits, into the unknown, pleased that he had saved his family, even though they would never know what he had done.