Vila

Vila Yerina, Vila Angelina and Vila Raviyoyla dropped down from the large cumulus cloud that they had ridden over the mountain. The cloud was commandeered by Yerina, for she was the fairy of the sky and rain. Yerina had pale white hair that looked silvery in the light and wore a white gossamer dress that hid her cloven feet. Her face was lovely and young, though she was as old as the earth itself.

Next to her sat Vila Angelina, who was the fairy of the waters. Her hair was black but shone blue like her sea blue eyes, and the dress she wore was layered and flowed like water, cerulean, azure and turquoise. The other Vila, Raviyoyla lived in the mountain forest. Her blond hair shone green, she was tall and proud and her dress cascaded like leaves from darkest to palest green. She played the harp to entertain them as they rode over the land and sang in dulcet tones that were sweeter than any other.

The three Vile jumped off the cloud and flew through the air to the place where they were to meet their leader, Yerisavlya, who commanded the great waters of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Yerisavlja was the eldest and at times her hair and eyes appeared green and sometimes blue or gray, and were as changeable as her mood. Her dress was liquid silk, and she walked so rapidly as to seem to be floating.

Yerina saw that their sacred circle contained rubbish and tins, left over from some careless humans’ picnic. She clicked her tongue, annoyed and said, ‘In the olden days, humans knew to respect our sacred circles.’

The other Vile nodded in agreement. The land had changed since they had been created in a shower of rain by their father the Wind and their mother the Sea. At first they had been alone in the forests and the mountains along with the animals who were right in all things.

The people had come slowly and had been so helpless that the Vile had taken pity on them and taught them to domesticate animals and plow, to sow crops and harvest them, to plant orchards and build dwellings. They prophesied and healed the sick, but most of all they taught the people to respect the forests, the land, the mountains and waters that nourished them. The people had listened, and all had been well.

The Vile heard from their father the Wind that there were places to the West where the people had forgotten about the great cycles of nature and how to live in harmony with the land and creatures on it. They had built great factories that belched smoke into the air and polluted the rivers. The Wind said there the people had been driven off the land by their lords and herded into towns where they were poor and sad since they had lost their place on earth.

But the Vile lived in a small country that was beautiful and far removed from all that strife, where people still farmed, and the forests and rivers teemed with abundant life. Sometimes the humans that lived there were naughty, especially the young men, and did harm to nature, and so the Vile would band together to teach them lessons they would never forget.

The Vile were beautiful, and when they appeared to a man and sang to him in their sweet voices, he would follow them wherever they led. And so the Vile would take him to their scared groves where their festivities were underway, and they would drink and dance for years at a time. But then tiring of their games, they would disappear, and the man, awakening, would realize that so much time had passed that he had lost everything he valued in life. Sometimes they would curse humans and make them ill, and rarely, they would shoot their poisoned arrows at the worst transgressors. But mostly, the people were good, and the Vile were good to them in turn.

 

The Vile heard that the people of the West had fanned out to all corners of the Earth and conquered the people of distant lands. They mined those lands for ore and jewels and chopped down trees, tampering with the order of things, the cycles of life and death, until there were too many people on Earth and nature was out of balance.

‘Man lives better, in big houses, with plenty of food and leisure time,’ the people of the West said.

But the Wind said, ‘The people have forgotten the land is alive, forgotten the feel of the breeze in the trees, forgotten to appreciate simple things. Some eat well, while others go hungry. Some want more than they could ever use or desire.’

The people of the West let their leaders claim new lands. They had pride in the riches their countries acquired.

One day, the Northern tribes became envious of of the West. They claimed that they too were entitled to strangers’ lands. And so a great war broke out and engulfed the land of the Vilas. The Vilas watched the men of their country go off to the battlefield where they met a prepotent force. The Vilas saw that their men had only rifles and bayonets while the army of the North had heavy guns and vast numbers.

The Vilas remembered their warrior past when they had helped their people rise and repel a mighty invader who had conquered and ruled their land for five hundred years, and so they marshaled their forces. Vila Yerina appeared as an eagle in the sky and calling the clouds, threw thunderbolts on the Northern Army until they were mired in the mud and rain. Then Raviyoyla appeared on a winged stag accompanied by her army of wolves, shooting arrows into the enemy number. Yerisavlya turned into a great water snake and raised the level of the rivers so the enemy could not cross. But the enemy was stronger, and half the men of their country perished.

The Wind blew from the West and said it was worse there, the best young men had fought for years and years, and millions had died in the trenches and the mud, driven to madness by the horrors they had witnessed.

‘Kuku lele,’ the Vile lamented. But surely, they thought, after this terrible time there will be no more wars. They helped the women of the county bury the dead and resume the rhythms of life, the sowing, and tending, and harvest of good things. A new generation of people sprang to life. All was well in their country, and they prospered and remembered to take good care of the land which they had been given.

Then one day the Wind came and announced the terrible news, the Northern armies were amassing again, and this time they would wreak vengeance such as had never been seen across the earth. Vila Angelina looked into her crystal waters and saw a great pestilence was going to come upon the land. She saw the armies of the North move south and east and decimate the people, stealing from them and despoiling their lands. And then she saw the black oil in the desert lands which the Northern army desired to wrest from the West, which had claimed it first. And Angelina shuddered because she knew that greed had no boundaries, and that all values were lost.

The Vile saw the weapons of the Northern Force and knew their arrows were nothing, and their armies of wolves were fragile, and so they hid their animals deep in the forest, and readied themselves to help their people with sage advice. But the people grew foolish and fought each other instead. The Vile could not help them, and so they turned into eagles, and swans, and deer, and waited for the few to call them, the few to whom they would appear with consoling dreams and visions of light.

When the war was finished, and the land were devastated, and the people had lost many of their number, there came a group of men who promised a bright future, and the Vile readied themselves for service. But the men did not believe in Vile and taught the young to despise their magic, and their own land, and all the customs that had defined them. There was no place for the Vile, and so they withdrew to their mountains and pools where humans saw them no more.

The Vile were happy, their land was beautiful, their springs clean, their mountains forested. They had their own life, their amusements, and their pets: the wolves, and bears, and deer, and all went on as before. They had reconciled themselves to exile when the Wind appeared and said he had seen that the armies of the North and of the West had united and were going to fall up their land.

‘Yoy, yoy,’ the Vile lamented, ‘but what for?’

Then the Wind explained that the West and North had gown greedier and wanted to rule the desert lands of oil, and chop down the trees of all the great forests in the New World, and Africa, and Siberia and extract minerals from those lands, as well. They sought to expand their markets, and their businesses, and their banks around the world. The Vilas climbed off their mountaintops and listened to their people, and heard their people were reluctant to join the North and West because they did not want others to decide their fate, and work for nothing, and allow their lands to be occupied and exploited. And so they were to be punished, and the West and North came and caused so much trouble that the people turned on each other. Then the West and North pretended the people were to blame, and rained down bombs on the land for months. At the end, the people were divided and the West ruled their lands and built a military base on them which they would use to invade the lands of oil and beyond.

The Vile thought that life would return to its old cycles like it always had, but something had happened, and they saw that all was not well, and that the bombs contained a poison that made the land, and the waters, and the animals and people ill. The Vile tried to clean the poison up with their magic spells but saw they were weak against it and that eons would pass before it disappeared.

One day Vila Katarina, who lived on the Adriatic Shore came to their parts and called the Vile to a meeting. Angelina, Raviyoyla, Yerina and Yerisavlja called the other Vile in turn, and they assembeld in the sacred grove.

‘Sisters,’ Katerina said, ‘There are men from the West on my coast. I have heard them say they have come to buy our land and our mineral waters. They will charge silver for the water and ducats for the use of the coast.’

The Vile muttered to themselves until Yerisavlja came up with a plan. ‘Sisters, we are beautiful still. We will capture these men with our lovely charms and see what they intend for our land.’

And so Yerina called the clouds and they rode to the coast where they saw a contingent of fat, sunburnt men eating, and drinking, and laughing loudly. The Vile shuddered in disgust but descended and gathered themselves on the stone terrace of the hotel which overlooked the sea. They cast a spell over the staff and guests and sent them into a deep and pleasant sleep. Then they sat at a table next to the men and Vila Yerina brought them food and wine from the kitchen. The Vile spoke in their dulcet tones and soon the men were mesmerized for they had never seen such lovely women before. They texted their friends and some put photos on facebook and then they asked the Vile over for a drink.

The men introduced themselves, there was Hans -Dieter, Horst, Scott, Mike, Steve and Jeff. An older man named Bob seemed to be their leader. ‘And what are your names?’ Bob asked.

‘Irene,’ said Yerina for she suddenly found she had the ability to speak English.

‘Katherine,’ said Katerina. ‘Angelina,’ said the Vila by the same name. Ravijojla said her name was Sunshine and Yerisavlja thought her name might have something to do with a river in spring, so she called herself, Lynne.

‘Well, well,’ said Bob, pouring wine for the Vile. The Vile waited for the strangers to sing to them and to dance their manly dances. They waited for compliments and poetry to begin, but the men did not know the customs of the land. They took out their i-phones and texted, they talked about business and tried to impress the Vile by mentioning their sports cars (‘Pooh, we can fly,’ the Vile thought,) and their yachts ( but the Vile could swim underwater) and their job descriptions: venture capitalist, CFO, CEO, investment banker ( which meant nothing to the Vile).

‘But what are you doing here?’ the Vile asked.

And the men told them they were looking for investment opportunities; that they would buy the springs and bottle water for the West. And the Vile asked, ‘But will our people be able to drink the water? ‘ and the men replied, ‘Sure, if they can pay for it.’ Then the men said they would build private condominiums along the shore, and the Vile asked who would live there, and the men replied, whoever was rich enough. But the Vile worried that the people would not be able to come to the beach, and the men said, ‘We’ll allocate a small public beach for them.’ Then they talked about the abundant cheap labor to be found in the country, and the Vile looked at each other and said, ‘Kuku.’

So the Vile got out their harps and sang their ancient songs of the land and of the forest, and of the animals and the crops, but the men were bored and began texting and surfing the net. And then the Vile did their harvest dances, and their wedding dances, and their dances which would bring rain, but the men yawned and started talking amongst themselves.

And the Vile looked at each other and thought, these men of the West are hopeless. And so they cast a spell over them which lasted a hundred years and when they woke up, the Vile said, no one would know them.

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Baba Roga

Baba Roga was an old woman who lived deep in the forest. Her hut was made of twigs and leaves and stood on chickens legs. Baba Roga had no trouble finding it in the dark since it glowed bright, lit up with burning human skulls. On moonlit nights the hut would rotate this way and that and glow in the dark, because it lived in between worlds, ours and the one that had passed into the mist.

Baba Roga lived with her one eyed cat, who was huge and black and menacing. She had invisible hands to serve her and rats and roaches which did her bidding. Once in a while a human would get lost in the forest and come upon Baba Roga’s house, and Baba Roga would keep him there, trapped, until he could answer the riddles she gave him.

Baba Roga was ugly, with scraggly white hair, a bent back, one tooth in her mouth and watery eyes. She had one striped sock and one polka-dot one. On her head she wore a pointy wizard’s hat and in her knobby hand she carried a gnarled walking stick which emitted lightning when she got angry. Sometimes her cat, who was named Ivan the One Eyed, would jump out of the way when she aimed it at him, but sometimes he caught the lightning bolt and glowed blue for a week afterward.

Life was always the same for Baba Roga, she gathered acorns for her mush, she gathered firewood for her fire. No one remembered her nor cared about her. The squirrels ran up trees and hid when she came around, and the birds stopped singing. Winter was coming again, and she felt tired, and sore, and out of sorts.

One day, a handsome young man arrived on her doorstep, and she was going to ask him the usual riddles to amuse herself but soon realized he could neither hear nor speak. She pointed to the fire since he had no cloak and was thoroughly chilled. Baba Roga made acorn mush and poured some honey on it for the young man. She took a chair opposite, while Ivan jumped onto her lap, and purring, made star-fish paws. Soon the young man fell asleep and so did Baba Roga.

That night Baba Roga dreamt of the great forest, but the trees were not thin and sparse, and the sky was not cloudy, and she could not hear the incessant buzzing which had lately and persistently begun to bother her. Instead the great forest was dark and thick with trees, and she heard the rustling of animals, large and small. When she came to a clearing, she looked up at the sky and saw it was white with sparkling stars, and at the tree line she saw the yellow eyes of wolves peering at her.

In the morning the young man was gone, but Baba Roga, fit and spry, felt better than she had in years and went to the forest to collect acorns. When she got back, there was hot porridge on the stove. Baba Roga looked around, but no one was there. She clapped for the invisible hands that served her, but they had seen nothing and knew even less. Baba Roga swung a pendulum she had hanging on her mantle above the pot. It rotated clockwise, and she realized the porridge was not poisoned, though she knew no one had cause to do her in. She sat down to eat and decided that it was tasty. Afterward she fell into a deep sleep and dreamt the deer of the forest had returned. There were entire herds led by a white buck with huge antlers. In the morning, she cleaned her house for the first time in centuries with the help of the hands. When she got home from composting the trash and spiderwebs, she found a pan full of hot mushrooms, ready for her dinner.

The third day, Roga got up on her roof and patched it, and in the evening ate the vegetable soup she found on the stove. The fourth, fifth and sixth day, she tended to her garden and ate roast gourds, hazelnuts and beets. In her dreams, huge bears sat on her veranda, wolves and deer stood on her front lawn, mice and voles and rabbits burrowed in the piles of fallen leaves. Bats hung upside down from trees, birds sang all night long. Otters and beavers swam in the stream behind her house and martens, sables, mink fished in the waters.

On the seventh day, Roga, walked out of her house, and when her eyes adjusted to the bright summer light, she saw a white horse waiting for her. She lept on his back and rode through the forest, which was rich and teeming with life. Roga rode until she heard the sound of rushing water and, dismounting, ran to a clearing in the forest where a clear waterfall plunged into a deep blue pool. She dove into the water and swam to her heart’s content. The day was warm and the water cool and refreshing.

When Roga stepped out of the water, she found a robe of many colors placed on a rock. She slipped the robe over her head, and looking down into the water, saw her own refection. She stood tall and straight, her chestnut hair cascading about her shoulders. Her skin was smooth and her limbs, powerful.

The mute young man was waiting, holding the bridle of the white horse. When she got closer, she saw he was no longer a slim youth but a mature man who held a crown of antlers in his hands.

‘Rogana, horned goddess, you had the power to call the forest back to life and end all the world’s strife, all this you did in a dream, until nature was redeemed, and so I will take you for my wife and honor you with my life,’ he said, placing the crown upon her head.

Rogana took him by the hand and replied, ‘Your belief gave me the power, you fed me and now you shall wed me. But this time, man shall not be led by greed for power until all of nature is dead. And man’s bold soul will not be sold for gold but will shine, illuminated by light, before we fall asleep folding into velvet night, and join the stars so very bright.’