FREE SHORT STORY from the Mab's Doll series- Out of Shadows
Here is another free short story written by Rebekah Jonesy as an origin tale for her Mab's Doll series. Mab's Doll starts with Moss and Clay available at https://threefuriespress.com/products/moss-and-clay
Enter the exciting world of the fae now (link at the end)!
In the beginning there was Danu. She was the land. She was the water, the light, the dark, and the very soil. Her breath was creation, and she breathed her children into existence. Mab, Maeve, Moira were her daughters. Achelous, their brother, followed soon after. While the three sisters explored their new land and watched creation flow from them, populating the lands, Achelous dove into the waters. He did not want to be like his sisters and rejected the creation and creativity that was their shared birthright.
From the sisters were created a new race, the Sidhe, and new creatures of every shape and size. They were called the Tuatha, the people of the goddess Danu. They created homes and filled the land till they reached the waters. Achelous, jealous and lonely, saw what they had created and wanted his own people too. He mated with the creations of his sisters and the Fomoire were born and lived with their father under the waters. Light and dark, they filled the land and seas. The Tuatha took joy in creation. The Fomoire took joy in destruction. Each of them acted based on their natures.
And then the humans came. The Tuatha played with them, as they did with each other, tricking them repeatedly until they tired of the repetitive antics of men and wan- dered away. The Fomoire, sick of watching the men come and go, rose up out of the water and destroyed the humans, again and again. Each time the humans came to their island and tried to make landfall, the Fomoire rose up against them. Until they, too, became bored having the same battles over again. Seeing that the humans destroyed as much as they created, the Fomoire were content to watch and only interact with the humans when it suited them. The Tuatha took the same approach, staying under their hills on the lands and watching.
The humans noticed the Tuatha and their powers. They feared the Tuatha and like humans do, they either hated or loved those they feared. That was their nature.
After generations of skirmishes with the humans constantly intruding onto sacred lands, the Tuatha agreed to a treaty with the humans, called The Creideamh Si. If the humans followed the treaty they would be treated fairly by any Sidhe that saw them. Knowing they could not be lied to, the humans readily accepted the treaty. For the Sidhe could not lie. They held the very breath of creation. In order for them to speak, they had to exhale that breath, and anything they said would become truth. The stronger Sidhe could force their words into reality. The weaker Sidhe could not speak words that weren’t already reality.
After years of dealing with humans, the Sidhe saw that the humans could lie. And they even seemed to enjoy it. Disgusted at the unnaturalness of their lies, the Sidhe pulled farther and farther away from the humans. Seeing their distress Danu offered them a new realm only loosely connected to the Earth where they had been created, where everything was true, unpolluted by the lies of man. One by one the queens accepted the offer and moved into the new realm that was called the Underhill. Their people moved with them and they created their own kingdoms where they could live peacefully. The Underhill was alive and aware. It welcomed its brethren, supplying them with everything they needed and most of what they wanted. The younger fey, Sidhe and Fomoire alike, still found amusement dealing with the humans and would often go out to play with them, granting wishes, let- ting themselves be seen, or just enjoying a snack of human flesh.
The Sidhe did not eat humans and they had warned the humans about their brethren that did so, but did not stop the play. If man abided by the fairy laws they would not be hurt. Only the foolish of men that broke the pact could become food for the fey. That was agreed to long ago by all parties. After a time, it was noticed that some fey did not come back. The lesser ones were not missed; after all, the humans could have killed some of the weaker ones. But once it was noted that even some of the older fey were missing, an investigation began. A slow inquiry, by human standards, as it took over a hundred years before the rulers of all the clans came to a conclusion. Some of their people had left the isle. Another new land had been found and the adventurous fey had followed the humans. Mab and Maeve sent their minions to track the fugitives down and learned the awful truth.
There were fey living in a new land, and they were not abiding by fairy law. The humans they lived with had come from other distant lands and had never been covered by the pact. As such, they should have been safe from the fey, but they were being hunted, tormented, and even killed—in defiance of the pact. With no Underhill in the new lands to travel to, only the soldiers could be sent out to enforce the law. But none ever came back.
In her isolated kingdom in the Underhill, Mab, Queen of the Shad- ows and Midwife of the Fae, stood still as a statue. Her eyes were focused on the full moon hovering above her while her thoughts roiled. As the matriarch of her kingdom, she was solely responsible for the safety of her people. And tonight that responsibility weighed heavily on her soul.
Soft breathing sounds from the faeries sleeping in the trees could just barely be heard over the small, gentle river that flowed down past her and disappeared into the wall of the chamber. Only the Underhill knew where it went from there. All were sleeping, except the one man that had come to stand this vigil with her. And he had been watching silently as she struggled with her thoughts in the echoing silence. No frogs or in- sects sang or chirped in the night air.
This was the land of the fae, mortal animals did not dwell here. All around, the feel of her people resting in their safe haven soothed her body. As their queen, their security was her top priority. But tonight, like many nights before, her mind was elsewhere. Alone in the dark she silently sought out the shadows that roamed in distant lands, searching for her people that were not safe or sound. The ones that had travelled and gotten lost.
“Our children weep.” The voice came from behind, startling her out of her morose and fruitless searching. It swept over her, making her body turn in involuntary recognition. She knew that voice, better than she knew her own. It was the voice that had called her into existence so many centuries past. And one she had not heard with her ears in far too long.
“Goddess-mother Danu.” Mab greeted her with a joyous smile as she knelt. The Queen of Shadows knew she was nothing without the light of her goddess, her very existence was tied to her. It was a bond that she relished with every fiber of her being. Though the voice and the light was there, Danu, wasn’t fully there. Only her presence was in the chamber of the full moon with her. It was exceedingly rare for Danu to bring herself into the realm of existence, even in the Underhill.
“Daughter-queen, I feel your pain.” The shared sorrow was obvious in Danu’s voice.
The joy in her voice from seeing her mother again leached away as she nodded sadly. “It is as you said. Our children weep. And I cannot reach them. I have tried. I have sent warriors and even my own shades that I have cast. My sisters have sent their people as well. None have re- turned. They are all trapped and lost now. I do not know how to save them. Help them Goddess-Mother, I pray to you.” Knowing there was no longer any reason to hold back, the queen’s voice broke with anguish. Her lips trembled, but her Seelie eyes could not produce a single tear. Pure Seelie Sidhe, the high elves as they were known to most humans, had no ability to pour out their pain in such an easy fashion. The pain beat at the backs of her eyes and in her chest, trying to burst free. Incapable of weeping and unable to hold it down any longer, the pain pushed up her throat instead, a long mourning wail that ran through the night and slid into the very shadows causing them to shake. Everyone in the Underhill was touched by those shadows and cried out with their Queen. “Now all of my children cry out. I must react.” Danu’s light took shape. Her body ripped space as she moved into reality fully, stepping lightly into the physical world. The walls of the chamber trembled and tore with her entrance, converging with two others that were in other parts of the land. Even though the room did not move it was suddenly connected to places that were far away. The heavy weight of Danu’s presence pulling and folding the fabric of reality so that all her daughters were with her in one place.
Mab stared at her sisters, each in their own chamber huddled down, alone, racked with grief and pain. Both women cried out in anguish and the voices of their people resounded through their chambers. All the voices of all of the three kingdoms of fey in the Underhills cried out, mourning for their lost brethren. “It is the pain of all mothers. Knowing your children are hurting and not being able to help them.” Danu’s voiced was filled with just as much pain as Mab’s own. As the Goddess-Mother to them all, she knew better than even the Queens how much it hurt to lose a child. She was the one that collected the souls of the fae, but even she wasn’t able to retrieve all of them. And some had become so corrupted they could not be returned to her at all.
“Help them, Goddess-Mother. I pray to you.” Maeve, Queen of Light, called out from her golden chamber. She was kneeling in her sun drenched field, wearing the rays of the sun like a robe that cascaded down her body. “I have tried to draw them home through the light, but I can- not reach them. And their sorrow tears at my heart.”
“Help them, Goddess-Mother, I pray to you.” Moira, Queen of the Dark, called out from her pitch dark chamber. Swathed in darkness, she was darker than the night around her where only the stars cast faint light. Her face and hands shivered where they clutched at her breast in pain. “I have searched the night for them, following their voices, but I cannot touch them or bring them home.”
“As you ache for your children, I ache for mine. I hear your cries and I will answer your prayers.” All three kneeling women gasped with relief at the goddess’s words. “But it will require something from each of you.”
“Of course.” The women said together. No blessing could be received without a price, they knew this.
Danu turned to face her radiant child, Maeve. “From you I will need clay. Your body’s weight of good clean clay from the riverbed in your chamber, touched by your hand and no other.”
“Right away, Mother.” Maeve leapt to her feet and ran to the riverbed where she began pulling up mounds of clay, smoothing it out by the handful to make sure there were no impurities.
Danu turned to her middle daughter, Moira. “Bring to me the strongest moss from your chamber. The kind that grows along your riverbed and never washes away. Harvest enough of it to craft a deep fine bed for yourself.”
“I will pull it free with my own hands, Mother.” Moira nodded and turned to run to the unseen river in her own dark chamber.
Mab waited expectantly as Danu turned to face her again. “And from you, my youngest daughter, as the midwife of the people, yours is the most painful ingredient.”
“Of course it is Mother. But I bear that pain happily if it means helping our children.” Mab never flinched, knowing that this was the nature of her life.
“From you I need blood.” With a simple thought Mab parted the intricately woven shadows that she wore as a gown, baring her left breast. “A full body’s worth?” She asked, forming the shadows around her hand into a sharp blade, readying to cut into her own heart.
Danu stopped Mab with a hand on hers. “Not so much as all that. And not just yours.” Danu turned her head and Mab followed her gaze.
Ardan Gilchrist, her dearest friend, had accompanied her tonight. He had known that Mab was in pain and wanted to be with her, to shed the tears that she could not shed herself. In the presence of Danu he had collapsed onto his face. As a human he was barely able to function so close to the Goddess of the Tuatha.
“He is not one of my people. I cannot compel him to give up his heart’s blood.”
“You took me in when I had nothing.” Ardan moaned out, turning his face to the side so he could talk. “Your people accepted me as one of their own. I have lived with you all these years and never once did I feel anything other than love and acceptance. You are my family. I will give my heart’s blood, every drop of it, to protect you and bring back our people.” With shaking arms, Ardan planted his hands flat on the ground and pushed himself up enough so he could look into the face of his queen. She was not the queen he had been born under, but she was the queen he had chosen to serve and had come to love in the way that all righteous rulers were loved by their people. As Ardan smiled, tears ran down his cheeks, following the paths of those that had streamed for the past few hours. His eyes dropped to the ground, unable to look at Danu as he addressed her. “I would happily give my life to help my clan.”
“Will you endure the pain for them?” “Yes, Majesty. She is my Queen, my liege. The leader and protector of our people. I would lay my life down to protect her.” Ardan’s Christian upbringing would never allow him to call Danu his goddess, even as the power of her presence pressed him to the ground. He fought against it, the strain showing on his face as he struggled to a kneeling position. It wasn’t that she tried to push him down, but the intensity of her existence which could so easily rip through the fabric of space and time had a heavy effect on any living creature around her. Only the strongest could stay upright when in her presence, and for all his strength of character Ardan was just a human.
“Will you endure the harshest pain?” “Any pain, I will endure.” “Will you accept the pain that only a father knows?” Danu asked again, for the third time to seal the promise to the Fae.
Ardan’s voice caught in his throat. “I- I don’t understand.” His voice trembled. “I have no child. I have never been a father.”
Danu smiled gently at him. “It’s true. You do not understand. This will be a pain that you have never felt before. And it will last until your final breath. The tears you have shed for my daughter’s pain will be like nothing compared to the tears you will shed for yourself if you agree to this. My daughter cannot compel you to do this. And I will not. You must choose to do this on your own.”
“For my clan I will endure anything.” Ardan vowed, his entire body trembling with resolve as he struggled to straighten up.
“You do your fathers proud.” A deep voice intoned, causing Ardan’s head to whip around.
“Father!” Ardan gasped out, staring at the man that suddenly stood next to him. Battle-scarred and rugged, the hulking man looked nothing like his father, but he had sounded exactly like him. The shock and the extra presence was too much and knocked him flat again. “You are not my father. Who are you?”
“I am father to all. You may call me father if you wish, as many have before you. I am a man who knows this pain.” He warned, the sure rumbling tone of Ardan’s long dead father coming from him. He leaned down and took Ardan by the arm, helping him up into a kneeling position. “It will choke you. It will weaken you. And it will remake you into a man stronger than you ever knew you could be. That is what it means to bear a father’s pain. Your child will do all these things to you, and fill you with a joy you have never imagined.”
The unnamed father stepped closer to Danu who smiled over at him with a nod. He took her hand and kissed it gently before turning to look at the two women who labored in their chambers. As if feeling his eyes on them they stood up and stared at him. All three of the queens gaped at the man, but did not say a word. He beamed with pride as his eyes rested on each of them in turn before he turned his focus back to Ardan.
“She will be a fine child. She will bring honor to your name. She will have her father’s eyes so he will not cry alone.” His blessing given, the man nodded to Danu, who smiled and nodded back. “Wife, I must get back to the children.” He said, then he disappeared.
“You have your father’s thrice blessing as well.” Danu told her amazed daughters.
With shocked eyes, Ardan turned to stare at Mab who was gaping in amazement for the first time since he had met her over two hundred years ago. “Majesty, who was that man?”
“That was my father. He is the sky as Danu is the firmament. He watches over and protects us all.” Mab stammered out, turning to stare at Danu. “He said he had to get back to the children.” The question was plain in her tone.
“Does that mean...” Moira gulped, a hopeful smile on her face. “Could he...” Maeve whispered. “Nothing stops your father.” Danu laughed. “You should know that.”
OUT OF SHADOWS 11
“He has been there? He has been watching over our people?” Maeve asked.
“He has been doing what he does. The sky touches all. Seldom does he interact but that does not mean he won’t. Or hasn’t. Your father loves all the children. He has done his part. Now you must do yours.” Danu turned to look at all of her daughters in turn.
“Goddess-Mother,” Mab interjected, “where are we?” At that Ardan broke free of his amazement and stared around them. When the burly man left the room they shifted into a new one. They were now in a different room. It was still obviously the Underhill, but the moon, river, and field were gone. Instead they were in a smaller chamber with smooth straight walls. In the center of the room was an altar with a basin. The basin had a channel that cut through the lip and led to another large basin on the floor next to the altar.
“Come daughters. Bring your offerings. It is time to welcome a new member into our family.” The three daughters dutifully gathered their offerings and followed Danu to the altar. Moira carried a roll of moss nearly three meters long and a meter thick. As she approached the basin in the floor it grew to match the size of the moss roll. Understanding what to do Moira dumped her offering into the basin. As she stepped around, her darkness covered the moss. As it passed over the moss spread open like a welcoming blanket.
Maeve followed, her sunlight tracking along with her, bringing a warm light to the room. Danu pointed to the bed of moss and Maeve carefully set the clay down on top of it. Danu gestured and the clay smoothed out, taking the shape of a woman. Runes were drawn into the skin of the clay, tracing up the body. As Moira’s light moved over the clay it hardened.
“Now it is your sister’s turn. You have done everything you need to do.” Danu told her light and dark daughter. “Go back to your homes. Your work is done.”
Nodding, both Queens turned and returned to their kingdoms. As they stepped into their own chambers, the rifts that had allowed them access sealed behind them. Danu turned to her youngest daughter and the human man that was struggling to his feet near the altar. Mab examined the clay body, reading the runes before she folded the moss around it, tucking it in gently.
“You are a strong and brave man.” Danu told him. “Your blood will strengthen this doll and allow her to go where no other Fey has been able to safely travel. But there is no guarantee she will come back. That will be up to her.” She pointed to the clay body lying in its bed of moss. “Once she has fully soaked up your blood, she will live. On the night of the equinox she will need to start her journey to the new lands.” With those final words Danu disappeared, leaving Ardan and Queen Mab alone in the chamber together.
With the exit of the goddess, reality settled back into place. The chamber that had been created by Danu became part of Mab’s kingdom in the Underhill. Voices could be heard as people gathered outside the chamber, drawn to the presence of their goddess. Seeing the new chamber with its altar, they began talking excitedly. A few of the braver ones even entered the chamber to see what was going on, moving around Ardan and their queen but not touching anything.
Ardan stared at the well in the altar, it seemed painfully large to him knowing that it was there to hold his blood. “I will give her my every- thing to ensure that she is strong enough to return to her family and home.” He swore. Finally able to stand now that there were no gods standing next to him, he held his arm out over the well and nodded to his queen who was still holding the knife made of shadows.
As Mab brought the knife close to his arm the well shrank drastically, becoming only slightly larger than a walnut. Arden chuckled with relief then grunted as the sharp blade was drawn across his wrist. Bright red blood trailed down and dripped off his fist. As the blood formed a dome, completely filling the well, a Sidhe warrior darted forward wrapping a cloth around the cut and tying it off tightly. Ardan nodded his appreciation to the woman and turned to smile at Mab.
“That wasn’t bad at all.” Queen Mab shook her head in amusement. “It never is for the man at this point. Don’t forget the father’s words. Your pain from this sacrifice will last the rest of your life. I will take your offering and make a child. But it will be up to you to train her and mold her into the person she needs to be. I cannot. For my very presence would overwhelm her and our magics would blend. She needs to be more human than fae. Only you can give her that.”
Ardan nodded briskly. Mab in her role as midwife had seen that same look on countless expectant parent’s faces. With the wisdom of the ages she knew that the human had no idea the turmoil he was about to endure.Turning she addressed the assembled Sidhe and other fey. “The god- dess and the father have given us a plan. My sisters have crafted a doll. I will use my blood and magic to bring her to life. She will be able to travel to the new lands and not succumb to the poisons there that have trapped our people for so long.” Cheers broke out at her words. Patiently she waited for them to end before she continued. “A newformed is about to be brought amongst us. She will need quiet and patience, for she will be very sensitive. Clear the path to my chamber of the full moon. Once she is born I will take her there so that she can come into her maturity as a warrior of the Sidhe.”
Mab let the cheers and celebration continue knowing that her people were getting it out of their systems so that they could be quiet and respectful once the time came. She turned to Ardan again. “You will stay with her there. To train her and teach her what she needs to know to live among the humans.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Ardan bowed low, honored to be chosen as teacher.
“You have three days to prepare.”
“So soon?” He asked, shocked. “I will have a daughter in three days. Of course, everything is done in threes. I’ll be a father in three days.” He whispered in amazement.
“Yes. But first, my part.” Mab took his place at the altar, still holding the blade. As she leaned over, the well grew back to its original size. Ardan choked in horror. With a smile Mab plunged the knife into her chest, piercing her heart. She released the magic that had formed the blade and the shadow mixed with the dark red blood that poured out of her chest and ran down her breast into the well. She shrieked with pain as her blood and magic tore out of her body mingling with Ardan’s blood in the altar. Mab gripped the altar tight with both hands, bracing herself against the racking pain. Her ladies rushed into the room to stand at her side and help hold her up.
The blood drained out of Ardan’s face and his knees went weak see- ing the amount of pain his beloved queen was in. He never even noticed when he dropped to the floor. Several men stepped forward, bracing him as he stared in shock at the crimson cascade that ran down the breast of the woman he loved above all others.
“Did you think bringing a new life into the world would be pain free or easy?” One of the men behind him asked.
“Just because she is bringing life through her blood and magic in- stead of from her womb doesn’t make it any less painful.” One of the men explained to him.
Ardan, happy to have an excuse to look away from the shrieking pain in front of his eyes, looked up at the man who had spoken. With under- standing eyes the Sidhe looked down at him and nodded. “I have four children. Four times I have watched my own beloved endure pain like this. Never this bad, but our Queen is strong. She will endure.”
Ardan wasn’t so sure as Mab’s guttural shrieks of pain filled the room and echoed down all the halls seeming to fill all of the Underhill.
“You have to be strong. Strong in the face of her pain.” Another man told him, forcing Ardan to stand again. “You cannot collapse while she struggles to stand. Appreciate the pain she willingly endures, and remem- ber it for all your life. This is what a mother looks like.”
Clenching his jaw, Ardan stiffened his resolve. With shaking legs he stepped away from the men that had helped him get back on his feet. Moving on his own he stood beside his Queen and offered his hand. Let- ting go of the altar she gripped his hand tight, squeezing it as she continued to howl in pain as her heart forced the blood out through the hole torn in her chest. With each contraction of her heart more blood gushed out, splashing thickly into the basin. Black tendrils ran through it, the physical embodiment of her magic that was draining out of her along with her heart’s blood.
A faceless, nameless man stood on top of a hill inside a ring of mush- rooms. It was twilight, with the sun and the moon both peeking out over the horizon on different sides of the sky. The shadows stretched long, trembling with the sounds of the birthing pains that came from below his feet. Tears ran down his face as he listened to his youngest daughter’s pain. Just as they had on the nights and days that her older sisters had shrieked the same way. The years and the joy that had followed those events were the only things that made it bearable.
That and knowing there was something he could do to help his newest granddaughter. He whistled once, sharply, then waited. From the west came the slow thunderous steps of a giant beast. A tall four legged figure ran up the hill where he was waiting. The claws of the front legs dug deep into the soil. The hooves of the back legs flung chunks of grass high into the air as the beast tore up the incline. A trail of red smoke flowed out of its eyes, blown about by the massive wings that beat the air as it ran. It reared up as it came to a stop in front of the man, its ebony beak clacking angrily as raptor eyes glared down at the man who stood there unconcerned with the display.
He calmly waited as the beast settled its wings along its sides. “Hello, old friend.”
The beast hissed a greeting, twisting its raptor head around and swishing its scaled tail around its body. “Yes, I know you were hunting, but I have a job for you. Surely you’ve heard,” he chuckled, his face changing into different appearances, all of them beaming with fatherly pride. His appearance settled into that of a dark skinned man with brown eyes and dark, tightly curled hair that framed his joyful face.
The massive animal cocked its head to the side, staring at the man with one eye then the other. It nodded slowly and clacked its beak again. “I’m going to be a grandfather again,” the man said joyfully. “She will fix this problem we’ve been having. But I would like for her to have some company, and some help, along the way.” With a knowing eye he turned and smirked at the beast who was now eyeing him warily. “I’m sure you know someone that would like to accompany my granddaughter and help her on her journey.”
The feathered head shook back and forth as it made low hissing and grumbling noises. “Yes, I am sure she will be very special. She is going to be the first of her kind. And will probably be the only one of her kind. You know what that is like, don’t you, old man?”
The beast sat down with a huff and rolled its eyes. The man laughed loudly as if in response to an amusing comment. “Yes, she is just now being born. But I told you she was special. She will be here before the fall. And she will know nothing about this strange land.” Throwing his arm over the beast’s back he leaned in. “She’ll need a big, strong, knowledgeable guide and hunter to help her. Know anyone that fits the bill?”
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