The Nights Before Winter – by Pleasant Heinrich (Adult)

In the land of Sosen, children are told stories by their grandmothers as they lay to sleep. The grandmothers tell them of the young maidens, with hideous horns, noses that reach to their chins, and razor-like teeth. In groups of seven they travel throughout the country covered in rolling hills and interspersed homes.
The night before the cold decides to settle and replace the land, the maidens wake from their caverns to meander the expansive grounds and collect potions to welcome Winter, their lord, who will arrive in a month’s time. Because of the pending arrival, the groups must hurry in their preparations. The maidens pick pumpkins who have begun to scream and sigh, much like the sound of heavy wind that is heard on a silent night. These pumpkins are calmed as the maidens pick them up and feed them the plants and herbs, all important ingredients that the pumpkins will use to concoct the potions in their cavities. As the maidens travel through the night’s fog, trampling the moist ground, their footfalls leave decay in their wake.
Upon reaching the porches of the homes, which have by now turned off all their lights, and their inhabitants have fallen asleep, the maidens slowly feed the pumpkins the herbs that have been planted in small pots- rosemary, thyme, sage, and lavender. They then move collectively to pick the rising flowers of the land, which the Lord Winter particularly enjoys devouring upon his return. These flowers- the delicate May lilies-whose smell enchants and captures; the Lady’s slipper-beholden by all maidens as a sign of dignity and chastity, its purple shroud representing majestic heritage; the arctic star flower- a holy sight seen in the morning radiance; and the dianthus-whose frayed petals tell of a joyful sorrow.
These flowers the maidens collect, and the pumpkins fill in their cavities to feed the Lord Winter as he comes home to the land with decorous delight. And the humans lay sleeping, as they await the cold embrace of the Lord Winter.

Learn more about the contest which inspired this story:  Photo Flora 2019-02 – Scary

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