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The Sister's Bargain

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I. Waves Crashing on Stony Shores

Janet awoke from strange dreams, the refrain of a ghostly lament echoing through her thoughts. She wrapped a shawl around her shoulders and stepped across the cold stone floor to the window. Water from the Annan's unexpected flood was only starting to recede from the fields, cold black tentacles reaching into her world. In the wake of her dream, the sight left her unsettled – the river's grasp was closing slowly now, having claimed its prize. The wind whispered to her, and she cast her gaze from the stream to the dark shadow of forest.

The sister drew her apron on and wandered to the water
And there she found the lovers wrecked and tangled all together
Margaret's eyes flew open wide and called "Oh, wretched wanting-
My life and love are lost and gone, but harken to my haunting.
I left my home with belly full, though now I am so empty
For, taken from the wild green wood, I left behind my baby
Sweet William came to rescue me, his mother now has claimed her
Who I bore beneath the rowan boughs, my lovely little daughter

And She would take her from me still
And She would take it all
Though you my sister heed my will
And hear my forlorn call

For She would take her all away
And take, and take it all
You must not let her
Oh you must save my daughter
Sister save me, save my daughter!

 

II. The Woods

There was power here, all around her – a terrible selfish thing. What call had Margaret answered, to find welcome on the foreboding trails wound by the wild? What peace had stilled her spirit that she could stay in such a place? The river had touched the wood as well, its own ravenous hunger echoing the malevolence of the atmosphere. Janet was not wanted here. She did not belong in this sanctuary, a mere mortal, and yet she came.

Oh cold taiga, cold wind blowing
Oh cruel needles, cruel stabbing trees
Oh how you hate me, hate and hurt me
I will not be turned, I will not be deterred

Oh black-winged raven, black-hearted bird
Oh deceiving paths, deceiving shadowed hazard
Oh how you betray me, betray and confuse me
I will not be turned, I will not be deterred

Oh whispering rowan, whispering secrets
Oh red tree, red with birthing blood
Oh how you show me, show me where she lay
I will not be turned, I will not be deterred

Oh Queen, oh, hear me, hear my calling
Come to me, oh majestic Queen
Your cruelty reveals you, majesty of light and shadow
In this hollow I wait, in your wood
I will not be turned, I will not be deterred
Come to me.

 

III. She Comes

A whispering of leaves, footfalls of shadow, creaking of branches, wavering of light. Soft steps brimming with dark will, and a coldness settling in Janet's heart. The earth in the grove was damp, the place smelled of musty leaves. A heavy weight settled around her, a fanfare of encroaching authority.

Who comes in to my dominion
Little mouse
Who comes seeking domination
Little rat
Who disturbs my autumn morning
Mortal louse
Who dares to draw me from my mourning
Human brat

I come and you, you will regret your call
Your saying, your braying, and begging
Your trespass, your foolish wander, your careless blunder
Into my domain
This is my domain
And your regret
You will regret your call

IV. The Sister's Bargain

Janet stood tall under the Queen's scrutiny. "I have come for the child," she said. The Queen drew her splendour around her. "Oh, have you."

You take all, your ravenous wanting
You are winter, all consuming
Your wood so dark was once inviting
Drew life to you with your luring

Now you stand so closed
Once your taking stood opposed
And all must suffer with your losing
Inflict this shadow of your choosing

But this child too, you cannot keep
Hidden in the forest deep
Lose her now, or lose her later
Your loss will be the only matter

As William left you, so shall she
For love, and wanting aught than thee
You teach them naught but hunger
Though you call yourself their mother

You cannot give, but you will take
And so a bargain I must make
If I can find sweet Margaret's child
I will take her from this wood so wild

 

V. The Queen's Response

The wood, already darkened by her mood, grew blacker still. A winter wind shook autumn leaves, and she laughed, a powerful, cruel and heavy sound.

Is it a challenge you would set
Foolish girl
Set rules to gain what you would get
Foolish tramp
I would not set you such a simple task
Sneaking churl
Your trick will not gain you what you ask
Deceiving scamp

I will set rules, you will regret your bargain
Your accusing, your seeking, and speaking
Your challenge, your lying banter, your trying chatter
This is my domain
You will stay in my domain
And you will regret
You will regret your bargain

Find the child, and fix a potion,
Transformation set in motion
Show to me her human form
As she was when she was born
Or you will never leave this place
For this is my domain
Fail, and stay in my domain

 

VI. Forest Magic

Janet nodded as the Queen described her terms, though her heart grew cold. Such forest magic lay beyond her ken. But the first was easy – she knew her sister's child, her blood, whatever her form. She knelt before the rowan, sheltering its seedling with her hands. "I will come for you child."

Oh wild wood
Though your mistress harsh may be
Drowning in her misery
Find the strength to pity me
And gentle Margaret's sweet baby
I will return to care for thee
When my days grow longer
Oh when my days grow longer

Oh wild wood
Sorrel leaves and mosses dry
Nightshade poison pass me by
Mistletoe hanging in the sky
Sap and cones from branches high
Lend me strength and will to try
To find my sister's daughter
Oh to save my sister's daughter

Oh wild wood
Speak to me your secret lore
To go from tree to girl once more
And make her as she was before
What to mix and what to pour
Aid me thus, I you implore
Come tell to me the answer
Oh, pray tell to me the answer

 

VII. Anger and Undoing

"Mix the potion, speak the verse
That will undo this faerie curse…"
Janet took the girl in her arms, turning to the face the Queen's raging fury.

Oh red thread and rowan tree
And so you think you've bested me
I call out my power here
Would that you all would disappear
The girl is mine, though you may keep her for a time

I will miss her company
But oh she will return to me
When her first blood is flowing
When the faerie touch is showing
And at that time, you shall forfeit your will to mine

The Queen drew herself off, and Janet felt the mark of the curse upon her. But she had promised the wood, and so was bound. Rowan cried softly, nestling against her breast, and Janet wrapped the girl in her shawl. She had her mother's eyes – Margaret's eyes. The wood parted for her now as she tread along damp paths towards her bower home. "This is not over," she promised the girl. "I will win your freedom yet."