The Stolen Shoes by Jacey Bedford
Never steal from the elves...
A poor shoemaker kissed his wife and went out one night to snare a brace of rabbits for the pot to feed his seven hungry sons. He walked from the edge of the town by the Silverwood, a haunted place often linked with strange stories. In the lee of a grassy hill he saw lights and heard music that captured his heart. Forgetting all thoughts of rabbits and the rumblings in his belly, he dropped to his knees and crawled forward. In the dell he saw a sight of such unearthly beauty that it stole his commonsense away.
Elven Lords and Ladies danced in the moonlight, dressed in diamond-dewed cobwebs finer than silk, and decorated with leaves, all the colours of spring, and sparkling brighter than emeralds. The graceful forms and figures of the dance were like nothing the shoemaker had ever seen before. The fairy folk danced so lightly that they left not one footprint on the dew-drenched grass.
The shoemaker watched in wonder, and as he watched he thought that if he could just steal a pair of elven shoes and take a pattern from them that he'd be able to fashion footwear that would make the finest dancer out of anyone who wore them. So with all thought for his wife or his sons flown out of his head, the shoemaker followed the elves back under the hill—and that was the last anyone saw of him.
His family searched, but found no sign of him and time passed.
Seven years later he returned home triumphantly, looking just as he had when he disappeared, and carrying a pair of the finest shoes ever seen. He thought he'd only been gone for seven hours, but to his amazement he found his sons all grown to men, and all in the cobbling trade; though, alas, his poor dear wife was three years in her grave.
What happened in his time in the elven glades he was never able to say, but making the best of what he couldn't change, he showed his sons the delicate elven shoes and there was great celebrating and much shoemaking. Sure enough, from that day, the shoes that the family firm crafted were not only the finest in the land, but also anyone who wore them could dance as graceful a measure as the Lords and Ladies themselves. Word spread, and soon all the proud mamas were buying new dancing shoes for their daughters, and the sons of dukes and earls queued up to have their feet measured and fitted for the next royal ball.
For seven good years the shoemaker and his sons prospered. His sons married and had, between them, seven sons of their own.
But at the end of seven years a strange mist settled on the town. Through that mist the Lords and Ladies appeared, processing to unearthly music, though there were no musicians. They stood outside the cobbler's shop, and one stepped forward, saying that the shoemaker had stolen from them, so now it was time to claim something of his in return. They took back the original elven shoes together with his patterns and lasts, then they demanded a payment that broke the cobbler's heart and the hearts of all his sons and daughters-in-law. They claimed his seven grandsons, and in an eye-blink spirited them from their beds, away back under the hill to make their dancing shoes.
Every seven years the mist descended again, and the shoemaker and his sons were permitted to visit the elven glades. The children never aged though they all became master cobblers, their tiny fingers working with tiny hammers and tiny awls to produce the finest work ever seen.
The shoemaker, whose shoes were no longer the best in the land, aged and died. His sons tried to carry on the business, but no one wanted to buy shoes from a family who had dealt with fairy folk. The sons' wives all ran away, maddened by sorrow and fear, and the sons drank away what little money remained from their good years. One by one they died before their time.
When the last son sickened and died of grief and drink, his coffin was carried as far as the churchyard gate, but no further, by seven infants with eyes as old as the hills, all wearing shoemakers' aprons around their waists.
Jacey Bedford is a British author published by DAW in the USA. She writes science fiction and fantasy. Her Psi-Tech SF trilogy began with Empire of Dust and Crossways and is concluded by Nimbus. There are two books out in her Rowankind trilogy---Winterwood and Silverwolf--and she's working on the third. She's agented by Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. STORY Art by Amanda Bergloff
Find out more about Jacey here:
Blog - Tales from the Typeface: https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/
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and Twitter: @jaceybedford
STORY Art by Amanda Bergloff