Challenge #01843-E019: Reminded of the Babe?steemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  2 years ago 


Don't do something permanently stupid just because you're temporarily upset. -- Anon Guest

My mother said/ I never should/ play with the faeries in the wood... - nursery rhyme.

The fae folk had her baby. Toddler. Even though her child could walk and talk after a fashion and perform simple tasks, Esa was still her baby and would be so until the day Risso died. Which might be soon, considering that she was marching into Fae territory with naught but her apron and her rolling pin to protect her and her Esa. Well. That, and one secret weapon that she had in a sack on her back.

They let her get in. They always let you get in. It's getting out again that's the worry. The fae like to have sport with mortals, and making you think you've won is their favourite game. So it was no surprise to find herself faced with three identical Esa's and a smug Fae making her guess which one was her Esa.

Risso hit the smug fae with her rolling pin. "I said give me my child, not fart me about," she snapped. "You give me back my Esa and I will keep my sack tied shut."

The Fae blinked at her. No mortal had been so bold in a thousand years. Perhaps more. "This is not the way we do things, here," it protested. The world swirled, and there was a gigantic maze with a castle at the center. "You can win your Esa if you--"

Risso hit it with the rolling pin again. Harder. "I said 'give me my child'. Are you going to do that, or am I going to untie my sack?"

The world spun again, and the entire place became a nightmare of architecture such as Escher might put together. If it was made with the bones of those who failed such trials in the past. "A competition. All you have to do is catch--"

Risso gave it a solid clout around the ear-hole. "That's it," she announced, and put the sack solidly down from her back. Untying the knots that had kept it shut and turned it into something of a backpack. "Out you come, Fluff."

Fluff was the farmhouse cat. Death on mice. A plague on rats. Anything small and scurrying was her meat and milk. And more than once, she had brought in rabbits for the family and got her fair share of rabbit stew. And since she was a cat and technically a dumb animal, she was immune to the Faeries and their glamours.

She was also the most malevolent and deadliest cat in Christian lands.

It was like... well... it was like setting a cat amongst the pigeons. Like loosing a terrier upon a barrel full of rats. The world spun and whirled and shattered and finally dissolved into the foul cesspit that was the truth of Faerieland. Fluff was running about like a mad thing, chasing down the tiny, insectoid Faeries with every evidence of feline glee.

Risso made herself comfortable, counting the Pater Nosters as she waited, and working on her spinning. She had a full spindle of flax by the time the Fae came to beg her.

"Take that creature away! Take it away from us. We beseech thee. We will give thee gold and jewels. We will grant the wishes."

"All I want is my Esa returned to me, just as she left the mortal realm."

There was a pop, and Esa rushed into Risso's arms. She looked like Esa. Smelled like Esa. And even had Esa's strange little words as she spoke.

"If you have deceived me," warned Risso, "I shall return with the cat."

They heaped her with superlatives and flowery language, but they swore on all that was holy that this was indeed her child, born of her womb and please, please, take the angry furry thing away.

"Clear me a path to my home, then," said Risso. Picking up her Esa. "And I shall take the cat with me."

Fluff was lured to her side with a saucer and some milk, and then returned to the sack.

Faerie-kind was keen to see her and Esa leave. And the instant she got home, she got Esa baptised, lest the Fae folk be stupid enough to try again. They would not take a child welcomed into any house of God.

She was glad that she hadn't followed her first impulse and demanded the town guard help her. Their iron would not be tolerated, nor allowed to enter the realms of the Fae. Better to have a well-thought plan and a secret weapon, than to rush in with all emotions bare and no thought to what happens next.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / 3quarks]

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