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Jun 4, 2020

May's Patron-funded episode (yes, I know it's late) is "Kentaurida" by Mason Hawthorne, narrated by Nobilis Reed.

In the grey predawn the dense, ancient forest pressing right up to the edge of the road looms over George, as he picks his way along, careful not to turn an ankle in the deep ruts left by farmers carts and post wagons. He’s heard that this forest is untouched since ancient times, the last virgin wild lands this side of the continent, powerfully haunted, according to the common folk, and a stronghold of the old gods.

It is cold, and the stars glitter in the sky, the husk of the setting moon is all the light George has to find the marker he was told of. It is an old thing, standing as tall as a man, the carved stone weathered by the centuries. The head on top is still well formed, and Hermes’ sly, gleeful smile beams from atop its square pillar. As George approaches he can make out, at the appropriate height, a carved penis standing at a jaunty angle from a stylised bush of pubic hair. He stops in front of it, and reaches out to touch the stone penis for good luck.

Turning from the herm, he tightens the straps of his pack and fords his way into the forest. It is black under the cover of the trees, even the moon’s feeble light lost, he strains to see the obstacles in his path, and more than once loses his footing on the slick leaf litter and uneven coils of roots. Soon, George is breathless with exertion, and sweating; his shirt clings to his skin. Clammy and chilled, he must pause for a moment to tug his collar away from his throat and adjust his pack.

It is so quiet, even the birds are silent; there’s not a sound aside from his laboured breathing and the crunch of dried leaves under his boots. George fits his fist against his side to ease the ache in his ribs, and a prickle crawls up the nape of his neck. What is that sense of hushed watchfulness that surrounds him? Why does it feel as though his every move is being scrutinised? George shakes himself off like a dog—isn’t it silly to believe all those folk superstitions—he squares his shoulders and carries on, labouring up the slope.

But then, he is here because he believes in the folk tales. Because they say that beyond the curses and malevolent spirits, there was the chance to gain a miraculous cure, or the power of divination, or a dozen other such boons. The cure is all he wants, some kind of treatment. If he has come all this way to find nothing, he thinks he may as well die.