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l'amour de la forêt est une lame à double tranchant

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There are two types of people in Villefranche, those that love the forest, or perhaps more properly those that have the love of the forest, and those that fear it. Some feign indifference. They brush off the intuition gifted by the forest as having good hunches and take shortcuts on rough tracks that no one else in town will use; they just like the fresh air. Others tell themselves that they close the blinds at night merely to prevent their neighbors looking in, that they are just in a hurry as they speed up while driving the forest road. But nobody is truly indifferent to the forest.




Sabine was loved by the forest.

Like most children born in Villefranche, her mother introduced her to the forest shortly after birth, taking her into the forest and dipping her in a stream in a rite thousands of years old. Even those who no longer remember the reason for it, even those who fear the forest, still perform the ritual. But Sabine’s mother had not forgotten the reason, had not forgotten the ancient rituals that had allowed the residents of Villefranche to live there for thousands of years, and so she taught her daughter. Which plants were safe to eat, how to hunt and how to thank the forest for the bounty she reaped. How to listen to the forest’s needs and desires. How to call the god.

Her Veillée was the seal of her bond with the forest. Not for her the bonfires and parties that even then were becoming popular. She went in alone, with nothing but the clothes she was wearing, and offered herself to the forest. And the forest had taken her.

Her mother had told her it was the greatest honor for a girl of Villefranche, to be taken by the forest on her Veillée. She thought she had been prepared, thought she would feel the honor, the love of the forest that her mother had described with longing and wonder in her voice. But as Sabine had stumbled out of the forest the morning after her Veillée she had felt nothing but pain and confusion.

Her mother had been dead for six months by then, and so she left Villefranche. She got a job in a café and tried to understand life not surrounded by the forest. But no matter how much she tried to give it color, life without the forest felt dull, like she was living in black and white. The forest belonged to her just as much as she belonged to the forest.

Nine months later she returned to Villefranche. She never left again.




The love of the forest does not always make one’s life easy. Forests can be dangerous places, and the forest is not human. It’s justice is not a human justice and its love is not a human love. For many, even for most, the love of the forest is a two edged blade.

There was no one in Villefranche more loved by the forest than Laurène, though she did not know it and would not have believed it if someone had told her.

Her mother had been from Villefranche, from a family that practiced the old traditions and still remembered the reasons why. But by the time Laurène was old enough to learn the traditions herself, her mother was sick and unable to teach her. What lingered were vague childhood stories, easily dismissed.

Her father was not from Villefranche, and though the mythology fascinated him, his interest was academic. He never understood her mother’s relationship with the forest, was faintly jealous of the something that Laurène and her mother shared that he could never quite define or understand.

And so Laurène never learned where she was from or the meaning of what she had seen. Even among others loved by the forest, she was different, her connection stronger. Despite her fear there was a peace in the forest, a comfort that she found nowhere else.

Marked as different from her peers by her connection and her trauma both, she married an outsider that she met in Chaumont training for the gendarmerie. Someone who, at least at the beginning, did not understand that she would be forever claimed by the forest around her. That lasted until she took her newborn daughter into the forest and dipped her in an icy stream.

She had come back into the house as the sun rose, soaking wet under her coat, Cora sleeping contentedly against her chest. Her husband had been livid with a fear Laurène could not understand. He took her to the doctor, convinced that Laurène had tried to kill their daughter. But the doctor was from Villefranche.

Her husband began talking about leaving Villefranche after that. Moving somewhere larger, better for their careers. Unspoken, somewhere less backwards, where there were not strange traditions he did not understand and a forest that terrified him.

He left when Cora was five, after he had woken one night to an empty house and waited with vying fear and rage for his wife and daughter to come out of the forest the night of the full moon. Laurène had, once again, failed to understand his fear, had seen only his anger and attempt to control her. After a week of fighting he packed up his things and left. Cora only remembered that he left because of the forest.




Bertrand loved the forest, but the forest did not love him.

He looked on the connections of those around him with longing and envy, but no matter what he did, there was always an undercurrent of fear. He was drawn to those around him that were loved by the forest. His father, Léa, Laurène. He was drawn to them as a moth to a flame.

As a child he had been terrified of the forest, something for which his father had considered him weak. And so he had gravitated towards what he was taught was strength. Laurène was beautiful and smart and had a stronger connection to the forest than anyone else in town. After her Veillée, before Laurène had fully recovered, he had left for college.

The world without the ever present shadow of the forest felt open and free. Sometimes during those years Bertrand thought he would never go back. He would make his own way in the world, where the name Steiner didn’t come with any expectations and he didn’t feel like he was half blind to an unspoken sight.

But then his father would call and the expectations of his family would pull him back. When he returned to Villefranche Laurène was in Chaumont completing her course. His father arranged a reintroduction to Léa, something that seemed happenstance at the time, but was clearly purposeful in hindsight.

Léa was at home in the forest, but unlike Laurène, her comfort didn’t feel otherworldly or mystical. She was practical, and her practicality made Bertrand feel that his fear of the forest was a choice instead of an essential spirit that he lacked. By the time Laurène returned to Villefranche they were married, and soon their only interactions were at play dates chaperoned by their small daughters.

Until his daughter disappeared and Laurène was drawn into the forest, able to search for her in a way he never could.




There are two types of people in Villefranche, those that love the forest, and those that fear it. Neither path is easy, for the forest is not human and the god has an agenda of its own.