I met Baba Yaga in the woods last night, and escaped with my life.
It was the bridge, hung on either side with chandeliers, at the edge of the forest that drew me in.
The chandeliers tinkled with revolving layers of brass keys. Keys to what? I should have asked.
Once through the gate, two sisters appeared on the path to set me on a perilous journey to find their stepsister Vasilissa the Beautiful. Two years ago, they had sent her deep into the woods to find Baba Yaga to get a candle for their fire. Vasilissa, alas, never returned. They told me it was up to me to find Baba Yaga’s hut and bring back the candle.
It was a journey that took me deep into the night woods. I was warned I would meet three horsemen on the way. Each would have words I must abide.
When I thought the stars had abandoned the sky and darkness was complete, I met a white knight who sang to me of courage.
I took heart and carried on with the light of a late-rising moon.
The forest began to change and open up a little. I heard wings rush overhead. There I met a red horseman who warned me to stay the path.
I drank some water and resolutely stayed the path, even as it turned down into a valley filled with underbrush that scratched my face and caught my hair. Late into the night as I stumbled over fallen trees, the black horseman appeared. He offered me a choice of paths - one seemed dark and straight and one light and arching.
So I chose. At first all was quiet. Then it began to look treacherous as the crust of snow cracked behind and ahead of me. Dire warnings hung from the trees, threatening dangers ahead.
Strange shadows of forest creatures danced on the wall of the far cliff. I could hear a flute in tremolo in the distance.
The forest began to glow. The branches began to brush against each other at the tree tops.
I pushed on. The flute rose again and a hut that seemed to be made of glass appeared in a small clearing.
I went closer.
It was perched on chicken legs and the snow was freshly disturbed all around it.
All was quiet. The flute had stopped. I peered inside the door. Vasilissa the Beautiful was there, holding a light. She smiled at me. She said it was a light for the true of heart that she had won from Baba Yaga.
As I turned away, my skin prickled. Baba Yaga stood off to the side of the hut, her eyes gleamed in the dark. Although she was old and cracked and bent, there was a fierceness in her glare. I swallowed and then asked her if I could bring a candle back to Vasilissa's stepsisters.
Baba Yaga contineud to stare. Finally, she said that while I had showed courage in coming this far to seek a candle, alas, it would only burn for those who were pure of heart. Therefore the cruel stepsisters would remain in darkness.
I turned to go and the path illuminated before me. I hurried as fast as I could. As I passed the place on the path where the stepsisters waited, I explained to them what Baba Yaga said. They screeched and ran to their hut with red eyes. I hurried on.
As I left the forest I saw a golden light dancing up ahead. I went closer. Kind strangers offered a me a heated chocolate drink to warm my hands and heart.
Their light looked both old and new. I asked them what it was. They told me, it was a Winterlight. They are always here at this time of year, we just have to brave the cold to find them.
If you want to experience a winter adventure, I am sure your city has many offerings to take the chill away. Who knows what treats you will find once you are out there. :-)