The Winter Satyr
By EM Malachi
The face on the cottage wall was a snarling beast. The mask had the curling horns of a ram and the teeth of a feral wolf. Its fur was mangy, but pale like snow. The small child hid behind the druid when she saw it.
Jaana patted Karelia on the head. “Don’t be afraid. It’s just a mask.” She took it down from the wall to help the little girl see it better.
Fear turning to fascination. Karelia patted the fur and poked at the teeth. “What’s it a mask of?”
“People call him the Winter Satyr or Krampus, but not even the druids know what he calls himself. He comes from the deepest forest, a place where no hunter or druid goes.”
“Have you ever seen the Krampus?”
“When I was a little older than you, lumberjacks from Britain came to cut trees for their city. They went deep into the old-growth, hoping to find timber that was rare and valuable. Only one of them managed to make it back, and his story was troubling.
The lumberjacks had ignored our warnings, wastefully slaughtering more animals than they could eat and cutting down young trees to rot. They had even burned down an ancient Birch grove that was in their way. They had angered the forest and the forest’s protector.
A storm had come in the night, and with it, the screams. A horned beast that stood tall on two legs rampaged through the camp. Those who tried to fight him were torn apart. The lone survivor had buried himself in the snow to hide. In the morning, finding no one else alive, he had fled back to Yew.
All of Yew stood watch that night with torches and bows. We caught glimpses of Krampus in the darkness, his winter fur still matted with dried blood. Warning arrows kept him from attacking the settlement, but no hunter could wander alone the rest of that winter.”
Karelia thought for a moment before asking, “Is the Krampus still out there?
“I don’t know. It was many years ago. The old woods hold many dangers, and there will always be conflict when human encroach on places so wild. But do not worry. Yew will always be safe. Now, let’s talk about happier things. I have a Yule present for you.”
Jaana handed the little girl a brightly wrapped package, which was promptly torn open. The child clapped in glee at the pixie mask carved from silverleaf. Jaana helped her put it on, and Karelia danced around the cottage, singing:
“Wassaile the trees, that they may bear
You many a Plum and many a Pear.
For more or less fruit they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.”
Jaana smiled. “A perfect Wassaile princess! Shall we head over to the orchard?”
As Karelia put on her cloak, Jaana put the Satyr mask back on the wall, next to a bow and quiver. “Krampus, I hope you stay away from Yew this winter.”