When the humans first started to fear us, they avoided our realm. When they realized that they could use our magic and our land, they began negotiating. Caravans of ambassadors and gifts swarmed our forests. They offered us food we did not eat, cloth we did not wear, and tools we did not use. They were flustered. They offered us their daughters, to be bound to our king in marriage. We have no king. We do not marry.
Then they were angry. We had offended them, denied their hospitality and goodwill, and so we were now their enemies. They flung themselves at us, and when they went through us, directed their anger at our homes. They cut down our trees, burned our hills, stole our herbs and our water.
They upset our Mothers. So we retaliated. For the first time in centuries, Wists pulled their forms in close, and we made ourselves sharp. We cut them down like they did our trees, burned their homes as they did ours. They did not stop, and their blood tainted our land.
It was a subtle change, at first. A shift in the soil, a vague scent in the air. But as the battle waged, we felt our homes reject it, and then reject us. So we ceased our raging and retreated into our most hidden homes, hoping that the humans would take what they wanted and leave, the target of their anger now gone.
But they did not leave. They sought us out, searching for ways to harm us further. Their failure to discover anything only fueled their fervor. Eventually, they found our source, and we fell.
We became good at hiding. So good that some of us began hiding from each other. The humans were convinced they knew our number, and so they believed that we were nearly eradicated. We hoped that after they were done hunting us, after their anger had settled, we could reemerge a safe distance from them, perhaps when their sons and daughters had forgotten us.
It was then that she came, singing in the language of the wind a ballad of one who approached a wounded animal caught in a hunter’s trap, entreating the creature to trust them enough to let them help. Many thought it a trap, as the humans were clever and without honor. But she continued her song for days, walking barefoot and unarmed through the trees.
When at last we approached her, she told us that she wished to help our kind, and that she had an idea that would prevent the other humans hunting us to extinction. She offered herself as a vessel, for us to use her body as our own and share her form. In a human body, our magic would be a lesser threat, and she would weave a story of how she tamed and conquered us, sharing the secret only to those we deemed worthy to continue her work. We would be tethered to the world as we had not been before, but we would be safer.
We were fearful, worried that we would need to shed her blood and taint ourselves once more. We spent many nights arguing how the bond would be forged, and who would forge it with her. The human waited patiently for our verdict.
When at last we had made our decision, we set about preparing her to hold our magic within herself. The biggest risk, we realized, was that entering her form would tear her apart and destroy both parties.
The time finally came, and she knelt before us as we gathered ourselves around her like armor. The chosen Wist began the forging of the bond, and we held her fast as her body loosened to accept the newcomer, pulled ourselves tighter to bring her back.
We had not known what to expect, but still we were shocked when, once finished, the two had fully intertwined into a single being, neither human nor Wist.
We asked who she was, and she said, “I am both and neither. The individuals are no more than memories. I am tethered.”
When she returned to the humans, their hunt for our extinction became a hunt for our power. We revealed ourselves only to those who sang her song. A strange new peace was reached, and though few humans truly understood us, it was a great deal more than there had been.
The tethered ones were claimed as human, and were hailed as wise and talented beings. The legend spread that these people had conquered us, and when those who were tethered would hear it, they would share a hidden smile. Best not to let the humans see how little they truly know.