Mistress of the Forest
A story often repeated by working class people is the legend of the cold-hearted Mistress of the Forest. It is mostly told after working hours in taverns and bars as a testament to the cruelty of nobility.
The Lady Meadren was a particularly vain woman, demanding nothing less than perfection from her servants and finding only fault with even the most dedicated and hard-working people. Her husband had died years before, leaving her with full control over his massive wealth and impressive, fertile swaths of land surrounded by dense expanses of forest. Farmers settled here and braved the Lady’s scathing wrath only because the lands yielded miraculously plump vegetables in amazing numbers. While the men worked the fields, the Lady Meadren employed many of the wives and daughters of the farmsteads. Under her watch, they performed punishing amounts of work. Some left the manor in tears, unable to handle the constant physical and verbal abuse. Stronger women quickly became worn down, numb to the Lady’s abuse and even to her jealous assaults that left ugly marks on the faces of the more beautiful women.
One day, the Lady Meadren was riding through the countryside when a beaten and bloodied guard came stumbling out from the treeline, shouting for help. He fumbled his way through the fields before collapsing at the hooves of the Lady’s horse, begging for her aid. He explained that his caravan was attacked by a Bellvie. He alone had escaped and was in desperate need of first aid. The Lady whisked him away to her manor, set her servants to treat his wounds, and became engrossed in listening to his tale of the Bellvie. Her curiosity was sparked by the legend of the Forest Guardian, a supposed spirit that could be plied with the right scent to take and protect a woman as its own treasure. A woman as vain as the Lady Meadren could not pass an opportunity to attain what she believed was a transcendent place as a maiden of the forest. She believed she deserved to be protected by her own guardian, a spirit that would defend her like the treasure she was.
After gleaning all possible information from the man, she sent him on his way and began a wave of hirings, offering jobs to maidens in even the farthest farmsteads, offering quarters in the manor and generous pay. It was enough to tempt many women into taking a maid job in the manor. Many thought that maybe her act of goodwill towards the caravan guard had started a new chapter of generosity and possibly good will towards her people. Weeks passed before word spread that some of the women were not answering their letters. The farmers tried to visit their daughters and wives at the manor, but were turned away at the gate. Suspicious of what the Lady may be doing, the farmers laid in wait until late in the night when a lonely carriage pulled out of the manor and streaked off into the darkness towards the forest. The farmers quickly lost track of it in the dark.
At the first light of day, the men followed the tracks left by the carriage into the forest. It entered the treeline in a roughly chopped path for only a few hundred feet before suddenly opening into a clearing. The men coughed and choked as a great smell of decay rolled over them. They broke into the clearing to the sight of hundreds of bodies. The noxious smell of perfume and death suffocated everything. The men looked into the glassy eyes of their daughters and wives, shredded, sliced into pieces so small, some were unrecognizable. On the other side of the clearing stood Lady Meadren. She faced the Bellvie. Her perfume loomed even over the smell of death. The Bellvie circled her, the leaves dancing, flashing emerald in the light. It fluttered around her in what seemed to be celebration, making the air buzz with a warm note.
The farmers’ disbelief and grief was interrupted suddenly by an earth shattering crack. The heavens above seemed to open through a jagged rent in the clouds and rain thundered down into the clearing. Water soon soaked the Lady Meadren. Her perfectly made face quickly began to run in huge streams of color, revealing the expression of horror beneath. The buzz of the Bellvie soured into a single violent note. The Lady Meadren opened her mouth to scream, but the Bellvie had already flooded it with tiny leaves of rending precision. Larger leaves scored her skin, slicing it loose from the bone. Her entire being convulsed before she disintegrated in a spectacular mist of blood and terror. The farmers scattered, returning to their homes and gathering what was left of their families. Together, they left those cursed lands fed by the blood of its people. They never looked back, and they never returned to the land of the Lady Meadren, the Mistress of the Forest.