1. Prologue.

The villagers look on in stony silence as the young boy is escorted out of the village gates. Torches illuminate expressionless faces, the only animation in the onlookers being the dancing shadows of the flames. Even the boy's mother, a woman of only 25, is silent; straight-backed and mouth set in a thin line as she watches her only son approach the gates.


With a groan, the doorway is pushed open by the guards and the boy prodded forward to the oak tree. The movements of the escort party are rushed as they knot a rope around the boy, securing him tightly to the trunk - they have some time, yet no one wants to leave it too late. The job finished, they move inside, closing and barring the gates behind them once again.


The faces of the onlookers turn to the sky and the wait begins. It cannot be judged when exactly the moment is, but generally there is a slight darkening of the clouds and a cease in wind. When this happens, the villagers turn back to face the boy; all except one, the mother, who keeps her eyes firmly fixed on the heavens. Thick silence penetrates the scene, as the young boy's face turns noticeably paler. He turns his head slowly, eyes flickering, and tries to find the comforting gaze of his mother.


All at once he stills, as if petrified, and is enveloped in a mass of black.

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