The Geas

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Nora gazed down at the sweet face of her first grandchild and blinked back tears. She wanted nothing more than to spend the day with her daughter-in-law and this precious baby, but she knew it wasn't possible. She traced the features of the baby's face and handed her back to her mother.

"I would stay..." she began, then shrugged. Everyone knew she couldn't, but that didn't stop the guilt.

"It is well, mother." Her son's wife held the baby to her breast and smiled tiredly. "You will be welcome this evening."

Nora gazed down at the young mother and her new child and sighed. Already she could feel the compulsion, her feet turning toward the forest despite her will.

"I will return as soon as I am able."

She left the cottage, drawn forward at such a rate that she barely had time to collect her shawl on the way. It was early in summer and the air under the forest branches would feel cold to her old bones.

When this had started she had been only a young girl with simple hopes and dreams. She had wanted very little, just a good man to love and babes to fill their home with laughter and noise.

Then the geas had come and even those simple dreams had been set aside for many years. It wasn't until she had met Tomas, the woodcutter, that she had married, and then only because he was so often in the forest. She had borne him only the one child, Soren, before Tomas lost his life and she was left to raise the babe on her own.

She had tried to take Soren with her into the forest each day, but the geas had prevented even that. Her son had to be handed off to another, to spend his days running wild with the village children. She did all she could to be a mother to him during the evening hours, but it was never enough. Now she would miss her granddaughter's life in the same way. Would this never end?

She arrived at her destination without conscious thought. There was the stump, so hard and unyielding to her aged backside. After the many years of her service, she thought it might have reshaped itself to her form, but it was just as it had been when this had started, never changing even while she grew old.

She settled herself on the spot chosen for her and waited. Some days there were many travelers, others only one or two. The worst were the days when she sat waiting, alone with nothing but her thoughts, and no one came. She had tried to bring handwork to occupy her long, endless hours, but anything she tried to carry would be lost on the path, never to be seen again. In the same way, she was prevented from bringing food or water, making her days long indeed.

Forced to sit in the shade of the trees, unable to move far from her station, forbidden to occupy herself, and separated from her family day after day, Nora often wondered what she had done to earn such punishment. The wise women and elders of the village had no answers. It was just the way of things. The geas took whom it chose and its form differed for each person. There was one man who spent his days chopping the same tree, a tree that never fell no matter how long he chopped.

At least Nora was expected to do little but sit here, day after day. She was free to dream and make up stories and songs, and so that is what she did. Today she thought of nothing but her own newborn granddaughter, praying for her deliverance from the geas. Not all villagers were taken, neither Soren nor his wife, Sasha, were free. As Soren grew, Nora had tried to get him to leave the village, to travel far beyond this land, hoping he would escape. He had loved Sasha from early childhood and he would not leave her and she would not leave her parents, so he had stayed. The geas passed him over, to Nora's relief, and he was free to choose his own work and life. If only the geas would not take his daughter, Nora would be able to end her days in happiness.

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