image of radicchio, the fragrant pancake

The Mangroves and the Moon

The story of how an unattuned corner of the wilds gained their guardian, a TIDE HAG who dances with the moon.

Radicchio wasn't particularly remarkable. She was, after all, named after a leaf vegetable.

But then again, her whole village was pretty unremarkable, having nestled into an archipelago dense with mangroves too calm and predictable for SEERs and too barren of soil for HAGs.

The village chose this corner of the wilds precisely because it was forgotten by WITCHES. It was a peaceful place for the unattuned to live a salt-crusted life, wading through the tangles of roots to hunt fish, birds, and small deer, collecting crabs and kelp from tidepools and roots and leaves from the mangroves that made up the ten thousand island archipelago.

Radicchio spent her days in the tides. The mangroves flooded twice per day in a mirrored dance with the moon, and Radicchio watched with fascination as life carefully chose its place among the roots where it would neither suffocate nor drown.

Radicchio spent her nights with her grandmother. Her grandmother, a slight woman with white hair and golden brown skin leathered by a lifetime on the water, was old enough to remember the village before its move to the brackish water. They used to be, she would tell Radicchio, mountain people. And she, as a very young girl, would escape her mother's watchful eye to go learn the ways of the mountain's magic from a kind WITCH. Alas, the grandmother mused, the village didn't take kindly to the magically attuned, and chose to abandon the mountain and search for a quieter corner of the wilds.

Radicchio got her rebellious streak - and her golden brown complexion - from her grandmother. As a child, she was fascinated by the stories of mountain HAG magic her grandmother shared, and became intent on learning despite the fact that her grandmother assured her that the mountain magic wouldn't apply in the mangroves.

But Radicchio watched the tides, learned their ways, and coming to her grandmother with fists full of seaweed and mollusks, assured her grandmother that she would figure it out.

She started small, making tea from the mangroves’ roots and leaves, and gradually Radicchio learned to understand the equilibrium of the salt, sun, and breeze. Gradually she learned the language of the sea and became attuned to the tempo that the moon and tide danced to.

One day, about one moon before the summer solstice, Radicchio woke up and, stepping outside, sensed something was amiss. There a vacuous wind, a storm brewing offshore. The storm was a BEAST, and it had sucked up her mangroves' water leaving the tide weak. The storm chose this location to steal water because the village, entirely unattuned, had no protection and were no threat.

But Radicchio could feel the shift. The water that was gone had her doubled over in pain, feeling suffocation in her chest as though she could sense the strife of the mangrove creatures who were desiccating on the now bone-dry roots.

She knew she couldn't bargain with the storm, but she could, perhaps, call upon the moon.

The sun set on that dry day revealing a waning crescent moon, a tiny scratch against an ink black sky. Radicchio walked out towards the water, her back fully to her mangrove islands by the time she reached ankle deep water. She sat.

Radicchio closed her eyes. She felt the push and pull of the water lapping around her legs, from her toes to her seat, barely perceptible. She focused.

She focused on the movement of the water, moving back and forth and back again. She remained thus singularly focused for hours, as the night dripped on, her skin pruning from so much time submerged, focusing only on the push, pull of the moon and the water.

Gradually she felt the water gain strength, more push and more pull, in longer sweeps across her body. She sat, eyes closed, focused only on the water as it danced over her, now fully attuned to her breath, and getting stronger.

By the time Radicchio felt the first slice of warmth from the rising sun on her eyelids, the water had reached her chest. Exhausted, as the sun rose she felt the waves urge her to rise too, strength and gratitude washing across her. She opened her eyes to a clear horizon of wavy chop and calm clouds. She turned and saw her mangroves once again submerged to their roots, happily soaking up the salty water.

Proud, Radicchio walked back to her village to start her day of watching the tides and harvesting the pools.

She entered her grandmother's home as her grandmother was scraping meat out of a coconut to reduce into oil for frying fish. She looked up and gasped, coconut falling to the ground with a thud.

At that moment Radicchio saw herself in the mirror. Her hair had turned white, and a crescent moon, like a pearlescent scratch against her tanned skin, had appeared on her forehead.

The grandmother embraced her newly attuned granddaughter with tears in her eyes.

"They'll exile you from the village for this," she whispered.

"But I saved the mangroves," Radicchio replied. "I can't leave them unprotected again."

Her grandmother pulled away, observing this white-haired WITCH at arms length, a younger visage of herself.

"I know."

And so this small village of unattuned gained a new guardian, a TIDE HAG who stays hidden when the sun sparkles on the sea.

But every night Radicchio goes out to greet her mangroves and dance a pulsing tango with the moon as all ten thousand islands keep time.