Baba Rougjia and the Babice (Baa-Beets-eh)

Libertine was lost in thought gnawing on two turnips and a nymph, when she heard a magnificently peculiar sound emanating from deep in the forest. With a full mouth she mumbled some version of What is that magnificently peculiar sound emanating from the forest?


Her gummed query drew the delicious nymph out of her own out-of-this-world experience and into awareness of a terrifying, wing-cracking wail in the not so distant distance. She bolted upright, a spot of hot lettuce in the summer. No nymph sticks around for what comes of that sound! The terrified flitty-nibblet snatched what was left of the turnips and disappeared into the verdant canopy, without so much as a ciao.


In the blink of a blue buzzard’s lashes Libertine’s lunch was gone and she was left consumed with curiosity. Ripe for adventure and with piqued attention, she followed this organic yet unearthly sound until it started to surround her. She became enveloped in its primal tune. Waves of grinding harmonic resonance, peppered with dissonant syncopations menacingly closed in. The mutable macabre music slowly became visible volatile voices, each connected to one of five circling forest women.


The handful of crooning crones had gnarled vines tangled about their limbs and long branchlike claws, possibly claw-like branches, protruding to provide finger function.


The handful of crooning crones were dressed in lichen with gnarled vines tangled about their limbs. Long branchlike claws, possibly claw-like branches, protruded to provide finger function. They had burly faces of rottey knots and knobbley bark contortions. Their breath, an aggressive breeze of loamy soil and leaf decay. Oh my they were grotesquely breathtaking and beautiful, or beautiful and breathtakingly grotesque.


And then there was this sound, this wretched, resplendent racket... this chant so powerful and filled with intention, it bordered on discord if not for the dulcet euphonics. This was the truest sound Libertine had heard southwest of the Tutu Nebula.

Libertine stood still centered in this brouhaha of a Baba ballad, receiving and seeming to enjoy, a cacophonic symphony of shrieks that would shatter the drums of most creatures not woodland in nature. The circle came to silence and all worlds seemed to take a deep breath of pause. At the silent invitation, Libertine launched into applause. Her shouts of Encore echoed through the trees and shocked the sphere of singers.


What had they done wrong? This song was written to drive terror into the hearts and bodies of fae and men. It was to boil the blood of one’s first born… seriously is it clapping right now?


Seriously, is it clapping right now? The tiniest of the brambled timbers interrupted the accolades with clear annoyance.


Libertine recognized the scrapping and gnawing of splinters for intelligible words and responded by gnashing her teeth and sawing her tongue with a new tasting timber.

Of course, Gorgeous! That was just spellbinding. I behold the majesty of this unnamable sound. I’ll name it Clamorous Gnashing Screech in B Minor.

First she cheers for more and doesn't even have the decency to be terrified. Then she eavesdrops on a private conversation between a sinister of sisters, in a vernacular she shouldn’t even be able to understand, let alone reproduce. Then to add insult to uninvited injury - this beast names our unnamable song? OUR song? I’ve had it.


The smallest of the forest furies lunges, and in an instant unwinds her vines. Using her overgrown twisting tendrils she binds Libertine’s limbs, then tosses her all battywats and upendey over one shoulder.


Alright Sisters, let’s eat!

Mmmmm, Let’s roast it.

With gall stones.

And putrid potatoes.

And wormy fig treacle glaze for the braising.


Each of the sisters tossed their favorite flavors into the talk of the upcoming feast. In her absentminded, recipe-reeling excitement Libertine yelled out, "Don't forget capers. I love capers." Oh this all sounded terribly delicious if only she were not the main dish to be glazed. As Libertine imagined how a sweet wormy fig would perfectly compliment her typically tartness, the noisy, gnashing crew bandied about their boodle, carting her off to an elaborate makeshift outdoor kitchen. Centered was a hag-forged cauldron-like stew pot with a spitfire by its side, surrounded by every conceivable flavor enhancement hung, strung, and stacked haphazardly on crooked shrub-like shelves.


Circling the kitchen area was an enchanted encampment; 5 rickety shacks, each balancing precariously on a different pair of bird feet - a chicken, a duck, a crane, a crow and a screech owl.

Circling the kitchen area was an enchanted encampment; 5 rickety shacks, each balancing on a different pair of bird feet - those of a chicken, a duck, a crane, a crow and a screech owl. Each abode clearly reflected one of the twisted forest creatures in style, stature, and personality right down the claws. Libertine tried to offer compliments on creativity and cloaking, but her voice was drowned out by the ravenous rants of the gnarled and irate.


Before Libertine could finish pondering how odd it was to have her voice be drowned out by any one, she found herself tied to a spit, being slathered with a fresh array of herbs and seasonings. The sisters set her aside so the savory could soak into what appeared to be a rather thick hide. The tallest and most rotted-out trunk of a beast sent the others back into the forest to gather tree fungus, belladonna, poison ivy, and buttercups. The only apparent items the over-stocked pantry clearly lacked.

Rougjia, she said once the others were safely out of range. I’m Baba Rougjia, of The Sisters Babice. Tell me the truth… did you really like our song?

Rougjia, she said once the others were safely out of range. I’m Baba Rougjia, of The Sisters Babice. Tell me the truth… did you really like our song?


Libertine, now given permission to profusely behold properly, began gushing. Baba Rougjia, I don’t possess an untrue sound. Believe me when I say, I loved your song. And this is precisely why! My superpular favorite part was that all your sounds were true. Hard for ear hearing, yeah, but so beautifully, brutifully true. I want to sing them too. Teach me.


With one humble request, Libertine earned her freedom. Baba Rougjia removed her binding vines and pointed Libertine to the nearest creek to wash off her marinade. Libertine politely declined, finding the mix of barks, moss, and boiled hunter bone broth to both compliment her complexion and help her feel more one with her former captor turned voice teacher. That, and she was anxious to get along with the lesson.

Baba Rougjia led Libertine through a series of splintered tongue trills with coordinate trunk thumps. The eager learner did her best. Libertine handled the lyrics rather adeptly given the supple nature of her skin sac's tongue, but her tones were not nearly as hollowed and haunting. The other babas heard echoes of choral catastrophe and turned toward home.


The sisters arrived to find tables had not only turned, but were toppled over and partially tossed down the hill. Libertine was hunched over some snacks, transcribing a loose translation of her Ode to Woebegone Wives for a rapt Baba Rougjia. It really was a masterpiece! Rougjia sprinkled in just the right level of wrought tension to complement the already wretched tune.


The littlest sister was the fastest to her tongue.
Rougjitsa, why are you singing with the meat?

The littlest sister was the fastest to her tongue.

Rougjitsa, why are you singing with the meat?


Libertine leapt to her feet and quickly apologized for her overly enthusiastic faux pax earlier. She reiterated her deep appreciation for their awful enchanted artistry and deliciously noxious combinations of sound. The babas were semi swayed. Even the little one softened slightly to the tone deaf attempts of appreciation from her seemingly lost lunch.


Baba Rougjia, who had been waiting for her sisters’ return, attempted to explain:


Stara Babice, she wasn’t joking. Libertine has a discerning ear for other worldly shriekings and shrillery. She shared her own lyrics with me. They are just wretched and honest enough to be perfect for us.


Baba Rougjia avoided her littlest songwriter sister’s glare and instead shifted her focus to Libertine. These are my sisters from sprout: Sume Peva, Dalmata, Zadra, and Vilka. Together we are The Sisters Babice. You've found us rehearsing new songs for a gathering of Baba Yagas from far the corners of every realm.


That’s why we were way too loud, said Baba Vikla, in the softest tangled wisp of a sound a yaga can make.

We weren’t even at full voice, added Baba Zadra.

You were at full voice! Baba Dalmata snottily shot to her sister.

Nevermind! Interrupted Baba Suma Peva, the smallest of the sisters, and the first to snatch Libertine from the ground and carry her off for lunch.

Sume Peva had been writing for this group since day one, and now this. Once again, she twisted her vines about Libertine’s shoulders, neck, face, and the rest of her, this time in a coaxing, gently menacing way. Sure, let’s hear it… Great. Maybe your lyrics would be just the bit of biting originality we need. Sume Peva squeezed a little too hard. Libertine liked it.

The problem is the title, offered Zadra to Libertine though no one had asked. Your title was perfect and it pissed her right off. Simple and concise. Pevasha was calling it: Song-that-kills-all-smelly-flacid-woodsmen-in-a-5-mile-radius-and-sounds-really-spiffy-when-the-acoustics-are-just-right.


Her musical compositions are interstellar but lyrically something is... missing.


Missing? Her writing is as boring, flavorless, and unimaginative as her elf, barley, and surly teenager soup.


The sisters Zadra, Vikla, and Dalmata spoke almost in unison, collectively offering some level of lyrical critique. To each statement, the Baba Sume Peva held her tongue though it threatened to saw right through her teeth.


Baba Rougjia, the most concerned with the stability of her sisters’ ecosystem, hesitated, then offered this thought. Maybe Sume Peva is a bit too restrained in her expression. Too much restraint makes a Baba, well, saccharin and tender. We told her we don’t care and will sing our share of sweetness if that’s how it’s written, but she grumbles it unnatural for a yaga.

Not if it’s true! Libertine was starting to snit. Any noise you make would have to be natural, if it’s in your nature. Who gives a snot dipped screaming banshee if it’s hard to hear or doesn’t fit some flitty-body's storyline?

Not if it’s true! Libertine was starting to snit. Any noise you make would have to be natural, if it’s in your nature. Who gives a snot dipped screaming banshee if it’s hard to hear or doesn’t fit some flitty-body's storyline?


Baba Sume Peva’s expression softened. Seizing any opportunity to leap upon a sparkling soapbox, Libertine continued.


You can’t really do it wrong, if you do it right. Boldly sing all the things, Sisters. Don’t hold back the honest bite of your bark, be it bitter blood, honey shroom, or sassafras spice. What I witnessed here today was the truest sound I’ve located in this atmosphere to date.


She stopped momentarily for a breath, a smoke, and a swig. Everyone paused so she continued.


Let yourself go. Then do it again even more so! Shrill your true to the highest hill. You write for the Sisters of Baba Baba babadasserasery.. you write for your sisters. Thems that can really hear you will love it and thems that don’t… well, you know, the sound should kill them really, so that’s what.

Just make sure to eat what’s left. Don’t litter.


... well, you know, the sound should kill them really., so that's what. Just make sure to eat what’s left. Don’t litter.

Libertine’s pep talks could use some refining, but all in all it was a fair exchange. The sisters spent a bit more time with Libertine exchanging ideas for lyrics and savory soup recipes. They bonded over their distaste for children, dried dill, and false sound.

Baba Rougjia and The Babice went on to become renowned in all the Yaga singing circles and to a small handful of very progressive woodland musicians. Libertine was their biggest interstellar fan and never missed a chance to sing along, adding her voice to their glorious cacophony. They avoided telling her about upcoming shows for just that reason.


Sume Peva wrote truly blood curdling, if not inspired truths to some really catchy tunes. Her sisters love to torture her with the tale of Libertine, the Lost Lunch. They take turns cackling and offering a shifting list of lessons learned depending on the circumstance at hand.


Sing your truest tune at all times.

Collaboration can be delicious

but takes courage and humility.


Be careful to catch only what you can immediately eat,

or you may learn a long-winded lesson from your lunch.


No matter what anyone says, capers and treacle don’t work.



And with the last word, Sume Peva brings the story to Libertine’s favorite conclusion:


Never, ever sing with the meat.




Art by Yason Stoilov

https://images.app.goo.gl/5F8SfFDmsQC7zhUk8

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