When the deed was done, the boy fastened his britches and listened to the South Hag as she curled a ring of silver into his palm.
"This to ward against dark terrors and the fear of strange shadows. It is not courage, but nor is it recklessness either. Take it, in memory of this night."
Then the South Hag turned once more to face her direction, and the boy bid her goodbye with a kiss and a clutch, and continued on down the mountain.
The Elves of Green Hollow had grown old and apart since the great wood had thinned with farms, and bred among themselves grew stunted and strange, almost like men, and of time they sat in the Hollow by the still, whiling away the hours and the corn liquor. The boy greeted them as one neighbor does to another on the mountain, and so long were their faces he asked what he could do to help - for all that they were like men, they were not.
"We lost a song," the Elves said. "We can hear it no more. It was for ripening corn, and worked a treat on the mash as well." The Elf looked sorrowly at the jug in its hand, and patted its wispy grey beard. "So soon, we will have drunk it all, with nothing left even to plant."
The boy drank with the Elves late into the night, as they sought to remember their lost song, bits and pieces of verse and melody together, and by dawn he found himself humming a strange tune, as he staggered along the road, which caused the flowers to open their blossoms before the sun rose, and continued down the mountain.
A minotaur-maid lingered in one of the high meadows, and they tarried together awhile, the boy sharing his earthenware jug of Elf-shine. Before too many hours there was a lowing in those fields, and any that stopped by around noon would have seen hand in paw curled up in a bed of grass. The boy dreamed that afternoon of a great labyrinth, and followed the swaying spotted tail through it three times to the center and back, 'til he knew it by heart, and could always find his way back there. He awoke as she hurried to her chores, for their were udders to milk, and he continued down the mountain.
Down the mountain, he was headed, toward the plains and the forests and the sea, which called to him from far away.
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