“It still seems strange though,” said Marie, walking slowly by the river, “that we couldn’t find it.”
“Well, it was quite a large graveyard,” said Sir John just behind her, “maybe we just missed it. Or maybe she is buried somewhere else.”
“I don’t think so,” said Marie. “It is the only one for miles. Unless she moved. Maybe she moved.”
Marie went quiet and walked on. Her head tilted down a little.
“Yes,” said Sir John, looking concerned at the back of his wife’s head, “that’s probably what happened. Maybe we can…”
“It’s here,” interrupted Marie. “Here where it all started.”
Sir John looked at the grassy bank rolling back from the river to a wood. It seemed such an ordinary place.
“So this is where you saw this… faun?” said Sir John.
Marie looked back at him. Here eyes were a little red. She pointed to the the treeline.
“There,” she said.
They both looked expectantly at the spot. Nothing happened.
“Perhaps,” said Sir John, “you could call it or something.”
Marie looked all around.
“No one else here,” she shrugged. “O Faun, come out, we want to see you.”
Immediately a creature burst out of the wood. It spun around and made angry sounds and looked straight at Sir John and Marie. It had the legs of a goat, a wiry human torso and a long thin face surmounted by two spiky horns. It radiated malice.
“What?” it said.
Sir John looked stunned at the creature while Marie looked on impassively.
“What?” it repeated. “I don’t have all day.”
The creature had a flute that it was clutching in dirty long fingers with needle-like nails. The fingers were moving reflexively as the creature rocked back and forth.
“How?” said Marie. “How did you know?”
“Know what?” it spat. “I don’t know nothing, I ain’t seen nothing.”
“How did you know I was… a witch,” said Marie.
“How did I…? I just met you,” said the faun.
“Years ago,” said Marie. “Before I even knew, before I’d… cast a spell or… anything. You knew.”
The faun’s thin eyes widened.
“Bugger me,” it said, “you’re the little miss from way back, ain’t you. The one that froze them kiddies.”
Sir John could see Marie was shaking but whether it was from fear or rage, he wasn’t sure.
“Yes,” said Marie, “that’s me. So you know what I can do.”
“Alright, alright,” said the faun, “no need to be unpleasant.”
Sir John noticed the faun had shrunk back a bit now, noticed the fingers around the flute moving quicker. Marie just stared at the creature.
“Well,” said the faun, “it’s kind of obvious to us.”
“Us?” said Marie.
“The woodland folk,” said the faun, “The ones that run in the wild. People like me.”
“Why,” said Marie.
“Well,” said the faun, “it’s obvious, innit. It’s what your born to do. Way back when, when we was all living cheek by jowl, it was your lot that kept us lot in line. Telling us what to do, bossing us about. Keeping your crops and your kiddies safe from the things in the wood. That was when all the human people thought you were wonderful. But, some of you have leakage, that’s where it went wrong for you lot.”
“My lot?” said Marie.
“Witches. Some of you got powers not just over the woodland folk but some of the humans too. You have that, don’t you? That’s what happened that day. It made me laugh and laugh,” said the Faun. “Laugh and laugh.”
“Silence!” yelled Marie. The faun stood stock still. It’s mouth clamped shut and its eyes flicked about.
“These woodland folk?” said Sir John. “Does that include pookahs?”
The faun nodded its head vigorously.
“All pookahs?” said Marie.
The faun nodded again. It started to breathe heavily through its nose.
“Marie,” said Sir John, “if that’s true then…”
“We have to go back to Paris,” said Marie. “Then I can stop this with one word.”
The faun was making noises and jumping up and down a bit.
“You’re free to go,” said Marie.
The faun gasped for air and bent over double. He looked up at Marie.
“I met some in my time,” he said, “but you, you’re… the most dangerous one I ever met.”
He ran into the wood without looking back.
Faun image (modified) from Recueil d’Emblêmes ou tableau des sciences et des vertus morales by Jean Baudoin