This isn't a true story.

That's not to say it's fake, though. This story has existed in various forms around a camp I work at over the summer for at least the past ten years, and the people who have been around for long enough to know claim even longer. For my part, I think it was made up by a bored staffer to scare some campers.

Still, all traditions need a start point. Oral history has to be created before it can be passed on.

This version is far from being definitive. I recorded the story as well as I could remember it, and filled in what I couldn't. Some flourishes are mine, some are the story's own. I make no claims of racial sensitivity or other elements; while I'm sure the depictions of Native Americans is somewhat stereotyped, it wasn't my choice.

This here camp has been around for eighty-eight years. We were here back when almost everything but the Administration building up front was a forest, and we were here years later when the area that's now the Waterfront was dammed up to make the lake. We were established only fifty years after the mountain was cleared for pasture land. No one who was alive to see the mountain cleared is still around, but the story survives. The tale is of how this camp was both cursed and blessed with a guardian, and how that guardian came to be. The legend of Sagi lives on, and this is the tale we are here to tell.

When starting this story, it's always hard to know where to begin. It doesn't really even have a beginning. Some choose to start with the creation of the Sagi monster, some with the birth of the one who took on that role. Even earlier than that we can begin with the settlers coming to this area of New Hampshire and finding the fertile soil a perfect place to farm and establish themselves. Others begin when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, where they began to move across the nation in search for a different future. Still others start with the formation of the land, with the iceberg that slid across a ravine, carving patterns and at the same time separating the mountain from the area that is now the pond. I, however, prefer to start in the early 1800's, when the settlers had formed a town at the base of the mountain where the water ran down after a rain. I prefer to start when these settlers met the Native Americans.

The story goes as all the others do when the white man met the natives: after purchasing the land the white man destroyed it, with the natives not realizing what their deal had brought. The white man thought that one could own land, though the natives did not, and this, as always, led to fighting. A war broke out. The natives killed many of the men in this town. As the story always goes, the natives were eventually driven from the land where they had lived for generations, and the deaths on their side more than tripled those of the white men. Then came a disease, one which the white men were all but immune to that ravaged the natives. In the span of five years the tribe was decimated; in the span of ten there were only a handful left. These were the ones led by the shaman to the hilltop in the middle of what is today the lake, the area that today we know as Sagi Island. Of this handful of people only one dared go into town and walk among the white men, and as the son of the shaman he was given free passage. Though his true name may never be known, this is the one we have come to know as Sagi.

Sagi was in training to become shaman following his father, a training that became useless as slowly his tribe died off, leaving father and son standing alone on the peak which they claimed as their own. The father continued Sagi’s training, teaching him the wonder of the plants, of the natural world. Sagi learned all of the mystic ways of the shaman, and learned to listen to the forest, hearing all that was to come, given by Mother Earth.

It is said that one day a young Sagi turned to his father and asked how he knew that things would be alright in the end.

"I do not," his father replied. "But I can listen to the forest. The forest is saving something for us. The forest will ensure that we survive."

It was with this mysticism that Sagi often ventured into the town, leaving his father on the island so as to have his own adventures. As he grew older, he began to notice how people shifted around him; he made them uneasy. But not with the children. The children were never uneasy.

One day Sagi noticed how the men shifted around him, different from before. Instead of unease there was tension; instead of discontent there was worry. Concerned, Sagi asked the children what their fathers were doing.

"Haven't you heard?" one asked. "They're clearing the mountain! They think the wolves are going to come and eat us so they're clearing the mountain and making it pasture!"

Sagi didn't move, then. He just stared ahead for a moment, looking at the mountain the men were already advancing towards, the lush green mountain echoing with chirps and whistles even with twenty men descending on it.

Then, it is said, Sagi ran.

He didn't run to the men, for he did not intend to be ignored. Instead he ran to the village's mayor and pleaded his case, begging for the mountain and for the men to not do such a thing. When the mayor refused, he turned towards his peak instead and ran.

The peak Sagi and his father lived upon was not close; indeed, it was half an hour before Sagi reached where he slept and told his father what was about to happen. His father turned to make the journey with his son to the village to make one more case, but they were stopped by a flicker of red on the mountain lurching above the town. Within minutes the fire was raging; it would spread so far that the flames would take weeks to die. This fact was never known by Sagi's father, who collapsed onto the dirt at the sight of the forest burning.

There are some who say it is impossible to die from a broken heart. Then there are those who know this story.

Sagi gave his father a funeral in a manner deserving of a shaman, burning his body on a pillar and throwing the ashes, before sitting to watch the flames.

It is said that Sagi sat and watched the fire rage without blinking for the weeks it burned. It is said that he was so immobile that those passing his peak were unable to tell if he was man or wood. It is known that after the fire dimmed and went out, Sagi took the remnants of his father's ashes and spread them on himself as the shamans were traditionally marked.

Dressed as such Sagi began walking towards town and through the village, not stopping to greet his child friends or say anything to the men throwing apologies at him as he walked. He walked through the settlement, with a crowd growing close behind him, and onto the mountain, beginning the hike up the cliff. Along the way he came across the bones of a wolf, killed mercilessly by the flame and charred to pieces. Taking the corpse he continued until he found the body of an eagle plucked from the sky by the heat of the flames, and this mangled body he also brought with him. Further along the mountain he found a proud mountain lion, and this scorched body he began to carry as well. Like this he continued until he reached the corpse of a dog, left behind by its owner while he fled the blaze of his own creation. Upon this sight Sagi paused, standing with the crowd behind him for an hour until he finally picked up the dog as well and proceeded to the very summit of the mountain. Here he found branches untouched by the fire, and with these he built a pyre that he placed the corpses upon and lit with two rocks found by his feet. With this fire burning he began to chant, practicing a ritual long forgotten to all but the shamans, and he began to pace about the fire.

Sagi continued chanting for an hour, dancing about the fire while muttering in a language unknown to those observing him. As time drew on, one of those gathered cleared his throat, breaking a stupor those assembled had slipped into. Realizing the need to return before it became any darker, two men stood to grab Sagi and return to the village, but were frozen as he spun to see them. Staring at them with eyes of pure white, with no iris or pupil to be observed, Sagi dove into his fire.

Those not taken aback by the death had said to have seen a beast rush by them, one sleek as a lynx but with the wings of a hawk. Those not sleeping the night after were said to have seen the same thing on the peak of the mountain where Sagi's father died. Those approaching the peak were said to have the thing rush past them, and that was the last we have truly seen the creature.

And yet. The creature has been said to strike before. The first time anyone knew of this beast attacking was when a man climbed the mountain with his sons to attempt to find clues as to how Sagi had died. As the boys searched at the summit the man lay down and smoked a cigar, remembering his dog who he lost in the chaos of the fire years earlier. His sons came back to a creature looking like a "wolf with wings" standing over him before fleeing, his neck opened by two sharp teeth. A man who went onto the lake only fifty years ago was found dead the same way. And only ten years ago three teenagers were found in their car by the side of the road with an imprint matching no animal on the side of their car. The two in front had their throats open, the one in back with two pinpoints in his neck, just managing to sputter out "Wings" before he passed.

We may never know why Sagi attacks, or if he's real at all. In almost two hundred years no one has found him, though not for lack of trying. We try to appease him even without proof of his existence - we keep the land well, and we've left his peak as the island in our lake. We may always wonder about Sagi, and we may never find our answers. But for now, the tale lives on in us who tell it.

And meanwhile, the forest is growing back.

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