Creative Writing · Short Story

Mariah’s Husband

The following was inspired by a text post that went up on Tumblr, which in turn someone made fantastic art for. The art didn’t influence my story. But I’m linking it because it’s BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, click this link to go look at the art.

Here’s a screen capture of the original text post:

And the silly fairytale I wrote in response:

Everyone said that Mariah was a clever girl, a kind girl, a good girl. She could think her way into and out of trouble equally quickly, and cared deeply for her family. 

When her mother fell ill, she sat and thought, and then made a decision.

Everyone said that the woods were dangerous. It was a Fae place, and the Lord of the Forest himself walked there, summertimes. If a human went in, then they were likely to have an encounter. And everyone knew those didn’t end well for the man or woman involved. 

But Mariah was a clever lass, so she went walking on Midsummer’s eve. She went out wearing her finest dress, with ribbons wound in her hair. She carried a basket, which smelled of fresh bread, and she sang a tune in a fine strong voice, which echoed against the trees.

“Will you make me a bargain my lord, my lord,
“will you make me a bargain my lord?
“though you’ve no need to buy,
“and I’ve nothing to sell,
“will you make me a bargain my lord?”

All at once, a path appeared before her, and she followed it, light-footed, to a clearing that looked like it was untouched by man. There, seated on a rock in the golden rays of evening, was as beautiful a creature as she had ever seen. He was tall, had a proud face, and hair as black as midnight. He wore robes of a deep green hue, embroidered all over with silver. Mariah made a deep courtesy to him, and he bowed his head slightly, acknowledging her.

“What kind of bargain would you make with me, bold woman?”

“First, my lord, I offer you bread and milk and honey, in thanks for the beauty of your woods.” With these words, she walked a few steps toward him, put down her basket, and then backed away. 

He nodded his thanks to her, then asked, “what else? Surely you didn’t come just to give me this.”

“No, my lord,” she replied. “I came to ask a boon. My mother is very ill, and I have heard that you have the power to make her well. Will you tell me the price for that gift?”

He stood then, and walked slowly around her, studying, surveying. When he finished, he was much closer. Close enough to touch. He put a finger under her chin, and raised her face to look at him. 

“For a life,” he said, “I ask a life. The price is your firstborn child.” He released her chin, and looked at her, half a smirk on his face. Mortals were always like this. So full of demands. Shocked by the request. However, Mariah had known what she was getting into; had heard whispers for years, and had considered well before coming.

“Deal,” she said. “How do we seal the bargain?”

“It is done. When you return home tonight, your mother will be in pristine health again. It will be like she never fell ill at all. Even the memory of her suffering will fade.”

“Thank you. She means everything to me.” She added another courtesy for good measure.

The Lord of the Forest was not impressed. What fools these mortals be; never thinking of the weight of their promises. “Let’s hope the price wasn’t too much for you after all… Only time will tell.” He turned as if to go, and she reached out to gently catch his wrist.

“So, when do we start?” He paused, startled by the audacity of her touch, and confused by her question.

“If I may ask you to elaborate?”

“You said you wanted my firstborn.”

“Yes? And you agreed.”

Stepping closer than he would have expected her to dare, she smiled up at him through her lashes. “Yes, I did. So when do we start?” Her voice was a little husky, her cheeks were flushing pink.

He took a deep breath, finding his own cheeks coloring. “Ah…”

In the years that came after, no one spoke of Mariah, or her husband, or the way he seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, and sometimes vanished for months at a time. They certainly never spoke of their child, a very quiet and clever boy, who watched with too-knowing eyes. But when the family disappeared one day, people were relieved.

Yet, forever onwards, it was said that they could be seen riding stags on the mountainside, watching and guarding. Travelers spoke of strange encounters, and from time to time, a young man or woman would still go into the woods, and come back, changed. But it was always for the better. For Mariah had magic of her own in her cleverness and kindness. And she wielded it well.

Note: Made a few updates to the ending on suggestions from a friend. 🙂

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