In 1840s Ireland, the encroachment of humans has driven most Fae creatures to the isolated West, except for M'Rith. Half fairie, half elf, never fully accepted by either, she has been left in the green East by her Queen Mother with only the promise of a mortal lover to console her. Yet years have gone by without her mother's prophecy being fulfilled, until M'Rith has simply learned to live unseen, in an uneasy truce with her human neighbors.
Kieran, the village blacksmith, has lost his wife and unborn child to an untimely death. He alone, of all the humans, appears able to see M'Rith, yet he is a worker of iron which can mortally injure the Fae. Can this be the lover her mother promised?
There were touches of her everywhere, like ghostly fingerprints: jellies and jams neatly put by in the larder, sheets and clothes smelling of her scented soap, pine floors scrubbed nearly white, simple furniture made rich with a polish of bees’ wax and fragrant oils. In his house, Kieran had every comfort but her presence. Eventually, he had to leave.
His feet took him by rote to the pub. The only other choice was his forge, where there was not another cobweb to sweep or a thing to put away. Like his house, it was in perfect order. But without his wife to broaden the focus of his life, rapidly narrowing to a thin tunnel of possibilities, Kieran saw no other choices. House, pub or forge. Forge. Pub. House. It all came down to the same thing in the end. She wasn’t there.
Silas, the owner, looked from behind his bar as the creaking door announced his now-frequent patron. “Ale?”
“If you please.” It was all Kieran drank, even in his grief. Silas came round the bar to one of the boards spread across empty barrels where Kieran had taken a bench. Crinkled pork rinds sat in a crock, beckoning customers to increase their thirst, but Kieran didn’t touch them.
“I cannot believe the weather has held fair an entire fortnight,” the older man remarked, putting down a mug of rich, creamy ale. It was a thing to remark in Ireland, where it always rained.
“Aye.” No one had gotten much more than that out of Kieran in two weeks, but Silas had enough steam for both of them.
“’Tis the work of the Fair Folk.”
Kieran smiled sourly. “Don’t let Father Donnelly hear.” Silas only lay one finger alongside his nose, aconspiratorial grin shining through his handlebar mustache. “He won’t from me if he doesn’t from you.”
“No chance of that.” No, no chance at all. His wife had believed in the faeries, even if he did not. Kieran stared moodily into his drink while dust motes sparkled in sunlight streaming through two high windows above Silas’s stout door.
Raised in their village, never more than ten miles from it, Brighid had been a simple woman. She had believed in the Fair Folk, even going so far as to allege they were responsible for her conceiving their long awaited child—the child that killed her. Kieran knew that was nonsense. It was only that such things had been important to her, so in her honor he put out food from her funeral feast. Everyone did. Surely it was no business of the priest’s if an extra bit of milk was set down for the cat that day or a couple of cakes were behind the privy. And although Kieran was sure it only resulted in a few fat dogs, it was true that the days had stretched cloudless and balmy. He was beginning to feel lonely for a spot of rain.
“I think we have their protection,” Silas went on. “D’ye know how many trees came down on buildings in Loughderry during that last storm? And here nothing more than branches. They’ll be weeks cleaning the muddy mess from their flood. We’re no farther from the river than they are. I tell you, it’s uncanny. They lost most of their sheep to the bloat and we weren’t out a single one. Good Lord, even our vegetables are twice the size of theirs! They say you could club a man with our carrots.”
“Or take his head off with a cabbage.” Kieran nodded. “I’ve heard it, too. The truth is their soil is leached out.”
“Well, there may be something to that. I wouldn’t like to be planting taties all the time. At least we have cabbages to clout with.” Kieran didn’t respond. To someone who knew him well, as Silas did, it was obvious that he had lost weight and was looking poorly. “You might work a little less,” Silas counseled gently.
Kieran gave him a startled look. “And do what?”
“Go and fish, man! The days are getting longer. The boys and I are about to set up some bowls on the green of an evening—for practice, like—and then take it on the road with those Loughderry lads. See if they can keep up with their blarney, free ale to the winners. Which will be us.” As if thoughts of ale prompted him, Silas took Kieran’s mug to refill. “You can be our score keeper if you’re not of a mind to bowl.” Rounding the bar, he lowered it on the boards. “Don’t stay in your cottage with her ghost.”
Silas blanched. “Aye. ‘Tis what I meant to say, Kieran. Sorry.”
Kieran waved a dismissive hand. The villagers had not known the babe nine months in his wife’s womb. She had been a stranger to them, but not to him though she had never drawn a breath. Fair as a rose she would have been, if she had breathed. But how could she, when her mother could not? And so his baby daughter rested now in her mother’s arms. In the ground. Silently, he put down two coins and stood.
“Don’t you want the rest of your ale?”
Kieran just shook his head. “Put it out for the faeries. We could use some rain.”
* * * *
For more of this story, join me here at the Celtic Rose for additional installments of "Legend of M'Rith." This and two other short stories by Lynn Hubbard and Jae El Foster are available for purchase in "Enchanted Fairy Tales." Purchase it here at: