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The spirits of the woodland felt the pain of their holy places dwindling under the assault of the human machines, but they were patient beings who bided their time and watched. They saw the rise of the arrogant ones with their fat bellies and careless cruelty, and they also foresaw the fall from grace engendered by such greed and stupidity.
Knowing that the end game was afoot and with the feeling in their souls that their children had a part to play in the plans of Mother Earth, they sent one of their own precious young ones to the place where the wealthiest of the humans raised their own younglings. Flora cast down her eyes and did as the spirits commanded, even knowing her own chance of motherhood was taken from her by the needs of of the forest beneath her feet.
She was ‘welcomed’ at the place and given the dirtiest and most menial of tasks to do. Working only for her bed and board she became the most trusted of all those whose destiny was to care for the young whose parents found those tasks beneath their greatness. She was a quiet creature, but one who listened and understood more than the untroubled brown eyes ever showed. She heard the pontifications of the ‘doctors’ and the priests as the fertility of the human race fell away. She kept her face calm when the silverbacks in their expensive suits declared this to be a punishment of god on women who no longer knew their place. She smiled inwardly when the scientists explained that this could not be the case, citing the deformity of the male seed as the primary cause. But she could not hold back the tears of pity when the soldiers came and took the foremost scientist of all from his office in the nursery. They burned that venerable old man alive, and his screams sounded to Flora like the first death cries of the human race.
Some days, when she looked at the innocent younglings in her care and she saw how sickly they were becoming, she cursed those who sent her to witness the end. Of course, she didn’t live long enough to see the game through (even forest folk do not live that long), and when she became too old to work her place was taken by a sturdy youngster with broad shoulders and a plain face. The humans named this person Bessie – thinking Salicis Arbore far too fanciful a name for a servant.
Bessie wasn’t as amenable as Flora and the humans feared her a little so that when she announced that she was taking Flora home to die nobody argued. Only the oldest among the matrons even daring to ask if she would return.
“I will. If you will get out of my way now.”