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The Five of Them

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Beware, boys and girls; beware Brie Woods!
It is no place for such young children;
Monsters are lurking in its shadows,
Big and small, wicked and kind.

There are brothers that roam those woods, five of them,
looking to either guide or slay its travelers.
Heed my warning, and you might survive;
Don't, and your death is almost certain.

At the threshold stands the oldest, the Harvester,
the wisest and meekest of the brothers;
Who towers over all manor of man or beast,
Yet is more gentle than the morning dew.

Perhaps you know of the Harvester,
Who breaches the woods at dusk;
Who tills the fields as we sleep,
And returns before the break of dawn.

Yes, the Harvester has brought good fortune to our land,
But do not be deceived, children, for he offers no protection.
He dares not cross his brothers, as not his brothers him;
A blood bond that must never be broken between them.

All he offers is his wisdom and guidance,
For that is all he can give before you part ways.
But, take his words to heart and never forget,
For the other four beasts are not as kind.

Beware your surroundings, little ones,
For the fiercest brother pursues you.
The Stalker, lurking in the trees and shrubs;
Hunting the prey that roams its woods.

Yes, beware the Stalker, for he shows no mercy,
Like the lioness that watches over her cubs,
Or the hornets and bees that protect their hives;
He thrives on an abominable aggression fiercer than hellfire.

When I was young, we knew little of these beasts;
Believing them to be just that; beasts.
To us, mindless and animalistic in their nature,
And our actions were in accordance as such.

My father gathered many of our men for the hunt;
Setting out to slay these monstrosities that plagued our people.
I am still haunted by their lamentations that faded into the night,
Embraced by my weeping mother, who sought to shield me.

By morning, our eyes were laid on the wake of the hunt;
The men's skins mended together into a gruesome banner,
Stretched out along the trees in the rising sun, displayed to all our people.
Their killer's title inscribed across the flesh of my father and his men.

It's true, survival cannot be guaranteed with this encounter,
But not incredible, for there is a way.
You must run, children, run fast and far;
Run and keep your sight forward, for behind is certain death!

This beast is bloodthirsty, and nearly relentless;
His pursuit will only end with one of two means:
The first, his hunt proves bountiful;
The second, his prey comes upon its other kin, the third beast.

Yes, bloodthirsty, but not the least bit foolish.
For once you are in the company of his younger brother;
You are no longer his prey, but the guest of the Sculptor;
The most vain of the five brutish siblings.

Unlike his brother before him, the Stalker,
The Sculptor is more cordial in the presence of strangers.
He even strikes many as a kind-hearted creature,
Appearing elegant and humble in nature.

But you are not beyond the realm of danger, children;
Although the Sculptor seems pure of heart,
He is truly self-obsessed, and easily offended.
From each guest, he demands nothing less than absolute glorification.

Once you're in his presence, there are no early departures;
You are his guest until he grows weary of your company.
All the while, amusing him with melodies of flattering words and praises,
Be either his appearance or his talents, or even his artistic gifts.

As his name implies, the Sculptor's most distinguishable trait is his sculpting;
Spending many countless hours molding, carving, and chiseling away.
And what of his materials, you ask, dear children?
Well, sometimes wood, other times clay, and few times unruly guests.

Which reminds me of this story of a huntsman from our village,
Who reeked with confidence, daring to accept any challenge.
To him, the five beasts of Brie Woods were just that;
A challenge that he sought to conquer.

At its threshold, he passed the Harvester,
Who sensed the determination of the huntsman.
He besought him to reconsider continuing forward;
"You will not make it far like that!" he warned.

The huntsman scoffed at the first beast's pleas,
Presuming his words were a means of intimidation.
He continued into the woods, where the next of the five waited,
Leaving the gentle Harvester in a daze.

Well, days passed, then weeks, and then months;
And there was no evidence of the huntsman's return.
Many wondered of his fate, but only I was determined to seek the truth.
In the dead of night, I slipped from my bed and hurried to the fields.

There, the lonesome Harvester tended the soil,
I anxiously asked, "What of the huntsman?"
The lofty creature looked down to me,
And with a somber note he answered;

"He was swift and spirited,
Eluding the Stalker's grasp,
But was far too assured;
And was ceased by the presence of the Sculptor.

The Sculptor gave to him a nod,
But the huntsman did not return it.
The Sculptor gave to him his charm,
But the huntsman only gave to him his tongue.

The Sculptor prepared them a pipe and puffed once,
But the huntsman puffed twice.
The Sculptor prepared them tea and took a spoonful of sugar,
But the huntsman took two spoonfuls.

The Sculptor prepared them a feast,
But the huntsman gave him no thanks.
The Sculptor offered him a gift,
But the huntsman demanded more.

And the Sculptor was rattled.
But the huntsman remained odious."
"But what became of him?" I persisted,
And the Harvester drew a small, crimson effigy from his hide.

"For the Sculptor, the company was excruciating;"
He sighed, bestowing upon me the sculpture,
"For the huntsman, his was dealt back tenfold."
And with that, we spoke no more of the matter.

Leave your confidence at home, children;
For that was the mistake the huntsman made!
You should be timid and respectful,
Or you will be modeled into his next piece.

If the evening is satisfactory, you'll be allowed to depart;
Only to continue deeper into the woods.
Confrontation with the fourth beast, however, is preventable;
Just fight shy of the scent of ginger and ash.

Though, like the Stalker, he may just find you instead;
The Brewer, the most debaunched of the five.
A stumbling, bumbling, drunken brute,
Seeking to indulge himself with a lavished feast.

He offers to all travelers of the woods his brew,
A deceptive concoction, contrived to tempt any mortal.
Enticing them with a heavenly scent that is nearly irresistible,
But you must resist, boys and girls!

Do not partake of the drink,
You cannot let it woo you!
With only a droplet of the repugnant ale,
You will fall into an eternal rest!

And when you are exposed and defenseless,
The Brewer lets his true intentions be known.
He devours his unsuspecting prey,
Slow and agonizingly, bit by bit.

Your will must be far greater to overcome this enticement,
It is the only thing that separates you from life and death.
The Brewer cannot force you to sip from his cup;
Neither drink, nor sip, or even taste the Brewer's brew!

Try as he might, you must not succumb;
Brace yourselves and persist,
For you must regain your bearings for what waits ahead.
The fifth and final son of Brie Woods, the Spoiled.

With laughter like sobs, and sobs like laughter,
He skitters along the forest floor, like vile vermin.
Driven by a tormentful desire for what others possess,
He will do anything imaginable to acquire them.

The brat of Brie Woods stalks its wanderers,
Knowing what is most precious to them at that moment.
He will give you only one chance to decide,
With only two options to choose from.

You can surrender what he demands willingly,
And he'll leave you to escape the woods;
Or, you can choose to refuse,
And he will relieve you of it in death.

You do not see many strangers to our village,
And that is owed to the Spoiled.
They are not as fortunate to first encounter the Harvester,
Who offers his guidance to ensure them safe passage.

No, for them, they travel with uncertainty,
With no understanding of what lurks in wait.
And when the Spoiled makes his presence known,
They attempt to resist him, and are met with a terrible fate.

A young outsider succeeded in escaping to the safety of our village,
Having eluded the beasts that would surely have stopped her.
And she recalled the chilling tale of how she survived,
And how truly horrific it was to have met with the Spoiled.

Her people had been wandering the land for much time,
Searching for a new home in times of famine.
Seeking what precious land waited for them on the other side,
They journeyed forth into the treacherous Brie Woods.

It wasn't long before they were met by the youngest brother of the woods,
Who knew of the many goods and valuables they brought on their travels.
From each, he demanded what he claimed as his, or they would travel no further.
But, they were far too naive to submit to him, and instead sought to kill him.

The beast held his own against their men,
But was soon overpowered by their great numbers.
The Spoiled desperately cried out, as he would surely have perished,
But then, there came a fierce thunder from the woods.

And ferociously from the woods, came his four brethren;
The Brewer, the Sculptor, the Stalker, and the Harvester.
With wrathful intentions, they struck fiercely,
Slaughtering those that harmed their helpless baby brother.

Only one escaped the onslaught, the young outsider;
Who hid away in the trunk of a Weeping Willow,
Watching as her people were killed, looted, and devoured.
Then, slipped away to our village while the five brothers basked in their victory.

But, you see, children, her tale does not end there,
For her arrival has brought more trouble than good.
The Harvester has not tilled the fields in much time,
And our crop have ceased to grow, leaving us to starve.

The brothers of Brie Woods are scorned,
And demand from us atonement.
What wrong have we done?
We have stolen that which belongs to the Spoiled.

Tonight, children, we will atone for our sins,
And we will return what we so foolishly have taken.
Tonight, sweet children, say us a prayer,
For tonight we must go into the woods.

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