“How much further is it?” the Young Man called out, dodging the blur of green and brown branches and leaves that rushed past his face.
His sweat soaked linen shirt stuck to his chest as the young farm boy just a few steps in front of him led him through the mountains. He envied the boy, and the others like him. He could still remember when he could dash through the woods like the elves in fairy tales, bounding over fallen trees and whipping through the tall Fairy TaleFairy Talegrass. Now it only seemed like a hindrance, the grass cut into his exposed shins and leaves occasionally whipped him back in the face.
“Its just over there!” the Farm Boy shouted back at him, his eager voice filled with excitement.
Of course, the young man would have been lying to himself if he tried to deny the gut feeling of excitement that made his heart
race, apart from the fact he just ran up a mountain.
He looked up, sweat stinging his eyes as he saw the crest with the young farm boy already there, pointing and jumping up and down with a gleeful expression.
“There it is! I told you it was here!”
The Young Man huffed and trudged the finale few steps up the mountain as he too reached the top, wiping away the sweat form his forehead before palming the Farm Boy his and giving his hair a quick tussle.
“Aye, you did. Now go and join the others now, your mother’s waiting for you I bet.”
“But I wanna go too! I can help!” The young Farm Boy, still only a child, began to tug on his wrist.
“No,” he half shouted back, “Go and join your mother now!” he said annoyed.
He pushed the boy’s head away, enough to cause him to stumble a bit before he could regain his balance and run off giggling and screaming to where the other villagers were.
The Young Man took in the sight, as most of the village had congregated here. A large sparse area in the mountains that wasn’t as steep as the rest, with few trees and soft soil. The men had gathered in a large circle on one end, and even from here, he could hear them conversing with each other; the women and children, were on the other side of the clearing, obviously not supposed to be here, but yet still eager to see what was happening.
He began to carefully make his way down the mountain, careful where he put his footing lest he fall and tumble downwards like a fool. He always liked going down mountains, it was much easier on him. Thankfully, the climb down was much shorter. Before he could reach the bottom, a voice called out to him. An Older Farmer, his wooden shovel partially rotted and propped against his shoulder, held out his arm in a friendly greeting as the young man took it in his own.
“What happened?” The Young Man asked, joining the crowd of other village men as the two conversed.
The Older Farmer shook his head.
“One of them came down into the villages last night and caused such a mess. But they were able to stop it, and they caught it too.”
“They killed it?” The young man exclaimed surprised.
“No. They fed it as much alcohol as they could before it passed out.” The older farmer said, taking his dirt covered shirt and wiping his forehead as the two of them made their way through the crowd of men.
“So where is it now?” The Young Man asked intrigued.
The two of them pushed their way through the other villagers. Dodging the shovels and hoes the other men had with them. It was then that the young man noticed that most, if not all the men has some sort of digging tool with them. He didn’t have to wonder why, for long. The men were all gathered in a circle, looking down a pit that had been dug deep into the earth, wide enough for several men to fit inside of it. At the very bottom of it was it.
A red oni, with yellow horns and animal skins for clothing. It was bound and gagged its arms tied behind its back with thick rope, writhing like a worm pulled from the ground in protest to its treatment, its pale blue hair getting mussed and caked with dirt.
“We held a trail for it.” The Older Farmer proclaimed. “The village elders found it guilty.”
“The problem is now though…” the Older Farmer sighed, placing his hand on his bony hip, “…does the creature get to say its words.”
Now the Young Man understood. No one wanted to go down and remove the gag from its mouth. He could guess many reasons why, but village custom declared that the guilty would have the chance to speak for itself. The Young Man pondered, scratching the stubble on his chin. His eyes scanned around the crowd of men. He could spot no ladders or sharp poles for which to cut the gag from its mouth. And the last thing anyone wanted to be in a pit with a creature.
The Young Man then smiled, as an idea popped into his head. He held up his arms for the crowd of men, getting their attention
“Everyone! Everyone, please, I wish to hear its say its words to us!” the Young Man spoke loudly enough, even for the red oni to hear.
“Creature! As our villages custom dictates, you may have your say on your crimes! Do you have anything you wish to confess!” he crouched down, making sure to speak into the pit so that the creature could hear him.
The red oni seemed to pause of a moment, its piercing yellow eyes peering intenly the young man. It seemed to mumble and groan, biting into its gag as it dug into its cheeks. It continued for a while, gnashing and half screaming into the gag before going silent, seemingly finished with its conversation. Still, it leered back at the men, looking down at her, confused as to what she as trying to convey.
The Young Man simply nodded, pushing himself back upright. Once again, he spoke back to the crowd of villagers.
“Alright. We have all heard the creature’s words.” The Young Man exclaimed.
The villagers all looked at him for a moment unsure of what to do next.
A tense moment passed, the Young Man waiting for a reaction from the crowd, and yet none came.
Wordlessly, he turned to the Old Farmer, and motioned for his wooden shovel. The Older Farmer, seemed to hesitate for a moment before handing the shovel over to him. The Young Man, with shovel in hand, immediately drove its head into the earth and began to shovel the contents into the pit. It wasn’t long before another villager followed suit, plunging his own shovel into the dirt and helping him to fill the pit. Soon, more and more villagers followed, burying their tools into the earth to re-fill the pit.
The creature’s gagged screaming could be heard loudly now as the men began to work faster and faster, intent upon silencing the sound as fast as possible. Soon her red body was drowned out by black earth, her writing body disappearing underneath the soil as the sound of moving shovels and hoes working soon filled the air. Villagers pushed wooden wheelbarrows filled with earth, stopping at just as the edge to dump the contents into the pit. Soon the pit turned into a large hole, and from a large hole turned into just a hole, and from a hole there was nothing. The villagers were so efficient that where the hole once was, was now a mound of earth. The screaming had long gone silent, as the villagers began to pat down the earth with their shovels. The villagers all silently congratulated each other, slapping each other’s shoulders or nodding to each other. The Young Man returned the rotted wooden shovel back to the Older Farmer, who simply gave a single nod. The villagers finished with their work, so turned back to walk to their own respective homes.
The Young man began to make his way back up the mountain once more, but luckily the climb up was much shorter, for now he was going down the mountain. He always like going down mountains, it was much easier on him.