A peasant for his daughter

Excerpt from an interview

"Thank you for having me here. Noone else believed us, we were starting to feel like we was the ones not in our right mind."   "Just keep it to the facts, please, Gretsor said. Tell us exactly what happened that day.   — Alright, alright, the peasant answered.   See, Berry here's my daughter, love of me life. I care for her like you couldn't imagine. And you see, about two dozes back, she got ill. Very ill. It was something like I'd never seen before. She had a fever, like you could fry an egg on her forehead! And yet she felt cold, she was shivering all the time.   I was scared, oh how scared I was! At first, I tried to get help from the village's herbalists. They tried givin' her some herbal mixtures, things to put on her head. They even used remedies they imported from Merinos over there. Nothing would do! The fever kept worsening, and there was nothing I could do about it.   As I lost my hopes, I finally turned toward new, more exotic methods. I know what you must think, the backhole villager bein' superstitious, all that! Well, usually, I'm not. But this disease, well... It made my head spin to think she could die." The peasant smiled at the child sitting next to him.   "We understand, we really do. Now, please, Keep going.   — Right. So, you see, the cliffs up north from here, they have a lot of caves on their sides. And, in our regions, folks often say that the caves are cursed. People say that dangerous spirits, and witches live in the cave. In any case, I figured: if witches and whatnot live over there, I might as well try and go ask them for help. Not like I could lose anything more than my poor little Berry!   So, I go there. To the nearest cave, closest to my house. It felt weird entering there, by the way. The cave was dark, but not dark like when you're in the shadow of a building or a mountain! No, I'll be damned if the entrance wasn't lit by the Circle, and yet as soon as I went in I was in the dark. Odd, Isn't it?   — What did you see in there?   — I was coming to it. I'm not sure of how to describe it. I didn't exactly see it. Well, me mind made a shape, but me eyes were still in the dark. It was a sort of spirit, I'd wager. A genie. In any case, it asked me what I was doing there. So, I told him! I explained about my poor Berry, her illness, and how hopeless I was.   To be frank with you, if I were all rationnal as I am now, I wouldn't say it was a good idea to act like that. But, well, I guess rationnal wasn't the good move that day anyway! I think the genie was moved by my story. It got emotionnal, or something, and told me it would protect my daughter. It said it only had one small condition, which was to give it a small bit of my mind in exchange.   — Did you accept?   — 'Course I did! I told you, anything for my daughter. Genie would've asked for my arm, my leg, or my guts that I still would've accepted. My mind's just an organ as another, and it only wanted a small room in it.   At first, I was afraid it wouldn't work. But as I got back, I saw Berry was already feeling a bit better. The doctors had stopped coming, told me she was a lost cause, but over the next few days, she actually started to get better! Then, the fire happened.   — Tell us about the fire.   Y'know, I don't think I could give you much more details 'bout that than what the rest of the village told you. I wasn't there at the time. I was out gathering some wood, yes. I mean, wi'the daughter ill as she was, the least I could do was to make sure she wouldn't freeze this winter! Anyway, as I was chopping, I smell some smoke and hear some screams from the house. I run back there, and I see my house aflame! Immediately, I rush inside, in spite of the smoke and the heat. And there I saw her. There I understood the genie had been true to their word. As the whole house was ablaze, my poor little Berry was sitting in her bed. She was... Glowing. But not in the same way as the flames around us, no. It was like some light was coming out of her, and protecting her from harm or something. In any case, I rushed toward her, and grabbed her. I then rushed back out to put her in safety.   — And that's it? Gretsor asked.   — That's it. After that, the others arrived to help estinguish the fire. A good thing they came fast, too. A good portion of the house could be saved."   The peasant paused for a while, like he had no more to say. There was a hint of something I couldn't quite identify in his eyes.   "Thank you for your time, sir, Gretsor said. We shall talk to you later.   — Do you think they'll get us out of jail later?" the peasant asked as we left the room.  
  After this interviewed, Gretsor decided to debrief with me.   "So, Nal'. What did you think of that?   — I couldn't really say, doctor. I mean, the peasant looked innocent to me. Why would he burn his own house?   — He didn't sound a bit odd to you, then? And, what did you think of this 'genie' story?   — Can't really tell, doctor." I stratched my head. "I mean, folks over here are superstitious. He could very well have imagined this, I suppose. Or, it could be one of the local minor gnats, don't you think?   — So to you, the whole genie episode just played out in the peasant's head? What about what he said about his daughter gets better?"   I shrugged: "A bout of luck, I suppose? Maybe the fever was curable?"   Gretsor seemed unsatisfied with my answer. They started sorting through some files to show me something. Suddenly, they noted something from my paper and stopped:   "Wait a minute, Nal'. Who did you draw next to the peasant?   — Why, the person next to him of course! His daughter, I suppose. What do you mean?   — You mean you saw his daughter sitting next to him?   — Well, I..."   Gretsor silenced me with a wave of their wing. Frowning, they took out the folder we had gathered on the subject of the fire.   "Read that. It's information we gathered on the fire, mostly from the village's herbalist."   I looked at the document. According to the document, the villagers didn't come to extinguish the fire: they were accompanying the herbalist who came to check on the peasant's daughter, Berry. As they got close to the house, they saw the flames and hastened their pace. The peasant came out of the house just as they came in, with what they thought was his daughter. He hid her in the bush nearby, and they quickly formed a chain from the well to calm the fire.   According to the herbalist, as the villagers came in to check on the damages, they discovered something horrible. In the bed was the partly burned corpse of a young girl.   "Wait, I said. Why didn't the peasant mention the corpse? And whose was it?   — That's what should be bugging you, Gretsor said. Now keep reading."   According to the herbalist, determining what had happened to the corpse was hard. I suppose it always is, after a burn. However, one thing was, in fact, certain. Whoever they were, they had actually been dead for a few days: the corpse didn't show any initial mark of bleeding or burn blisters.   "So wait. Did the peasant have two children? I asked, more and more confused.   — Apparently, he didn't. And he didn't have any guest, either. It isn't always easy to say with a burn victim, but the corpse was almost certainly his daughter."   Suddenly, I was much more disturbed by the innocent, brave-looking peasant we had just questionned.   "So you mean to tell me the peasant lied about everything... But he looked so honest, when speaking! And, and what about the child that was sitting next to him then?"   Gretsor looked back at me, with a look of concern.   "See Nal', here's the issue. There was no kid in the prison. Only the three of us."   That pause, and the gravity in my master's tone hit me like a brick. Was that an hallucination? That kid seemed perfectly real to me, perfectly normal. I was even able to draw it decently. Is that what a mental parasite is capable of?   Grestsor started again:   " According to the herbalist's notes, they confronted the peasant about the corpse. However, they say he just didn't understand. 'What do you mean? he asked. There's no corpse! And certainly not Berry's! Berry is right there!' As he pointed next to him, a small silhouette walked from behind him. Berry. She was dressed in the exact same way as the poor child in the bed.   — Then... Who-What did we see? I asked.   — I didn't see anything because I armoured my mind beforehand. You, however, most likely saw the same thing as the villagers: the result of the so-called genie.   — So, this story was true?   — To some extent, it probably was. That artificial darkness he mentionned at the beginning was a pretty good indication: it is not uncommon for predatory mental entities to surround an area with Ghostpowder, and make it so that people partly lose their sense of sight from going there: makes them afraid, and a scared mind is even easier to take control of.   — The genie lied, though. It didn't heal Berry.   — It didn't indeed. To be honest, it was unlikely that it could. There are very few entities that have actual general healing abilities, and they are not the type to trade with a random person for it. However, the entity probably could make it look like the daughter was alive, and that's what it did. It installed itself in the peasant's head, took some of his memory. Then, it created a lively hallucination. Something simple, just a nice little entity that would look, speak, maybe act, like Berry.   — I think I understand, I said. Through the hallucination, the genie probably made the peasant forget about his actual daughter. He didn't notice when she died." I shrugged with disgust. "There's still something I don't quite get. Why did it do that? Why would such a nasty, powerful go out of its way to trick a peasant into not dealing with the grief of his loved daughter?   — You tell me that, Nal", Gretsor replied.   I closed my eyes for a bit, thinking about the answer. I rubbed my forehead. As I opened my eyes, I noticed a small child in a night gown, peering from the side of the door. I looked back at Gretsor:   "Because... it wanted to spread."

This document was part of a folder found in Gretsor Barren's office. The document was written by one of Gretsor's students during an expedition to the Middish Plains conducted in 5538. The expedition was one of the last conducted by the specialist, as it was concluded by the death of an unusually high number of students. As for most documents owned by Gretsor and their director Glowstick Bluebottom, some fractions of the documents were lost during the unexplained destruction of their office.

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by Pouaseuille

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  Drawings:  
  • interview
  • Berry peeking
  • Folder representation (?)
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    Cover image: by Pouaseuille

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