by Alethea Kontis
Sasha was fourteen when the villagers threw her to the wolves.
She was mute: a quirk that eventually unnerved enough people to justify her banishment to
the Wild Wood. She surprised them all by emerging from the Wood many months later without a
scratch and heavy with child. This time it was the villagers who were struck speechless,
but--enchanted or cursed--no one challenged Sasha's right to be there. Upon her daughter's
birth, Sasha caught the midwife with her haunting gray eyes and said, "Mara," clear as a bell. The
rest of her secrets she kept. By the next full moon, Sasha was gone.
Mara was raised by the midwife, embraced by the villagers, and ended up earning her keep
as a huntress. Her tracking skills were unmatched and she had a sixth sense about her
prey--virtues which kept the food stores well-stocked through the cold winters. When Fate found
the man to tame her wild nature, Mara had one daughter, Rose. Rose "had a nose," and grew to
become one of the most sought-after cooks in five counties. The man who sought out her heart
instead of her pies was a humble woodcutter, and together they had a daughter named Aurelia,
with a voice that could sing the sun down from the sky. When she was of age, Aurelia took up
with a band of wandering minstrels, and so was the first since her great-grandmother to leave the
village. She and her beloved fiddle player were also the first to bear a son, Bane.
Bane had a shy smile, a quick wit, and a heart of gold. From his grandfather, Bane learned
how to cleave a piece of wood in two with one stroke. From his grandmother (and from
experience), he learned to tell the difference between good mushrooms and bad. From his father
he learned to play a variety of instruments well enough to coax out a melody for every occasion,
but he preferred the fiddle. From his mother, Bane learned how to sing the sun down from the
sky. Every evening they would trek to the edge of the village, to the top of the hill that looked
down over the Wild Wood, and they would farewell the day. The selections varied with their
moods and the seasons, but the last song was always the same lullaby Aurelia had sung to her son
every night since his birth.