December 12, 2017

Geas by Amanda Dier

/ɡeSH/noun:(in Irish folklore) 
an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person

You are too curious a bootmaker. You looked too closely when we creep in at night, when we were too wrapped up in our geas to work to be overly careful. We are small but filled with the need to help, wrapped in the ties that bound us when we sold our names to those under the hills. They were mightier than us, and we needed a place to go, and all we had of worth was our names. So we sold those, and with them came the need to work. When those who had our names were lost when Men dug in the hills looking for iron and bronze, so too were our names. We would never earn them back, never regain them by another means, and so would never be able to give up the need to work.

We first drifted to farmwork, small harmless men who give our all in the planting and harvest and yet were held apart by our differences. Too small, too different, too hard-working. And so we scattered in small groups, to the winds, seeking what little fortune we could find in the wide world outside of the hills.

Some of us resorted to taking the offerings left for brownies in the night, and in return helping with the housework, assisting with some small trade work if we knew what we were doing.

And that’s how we ended up in your house, bootmaker. You are one of the faithful, one of the men who still leaves offerings to the trees in the winter and who still leaves milk and bread at the door for the wee folk. You left out your boots, your very last scraps of leather, and we drank the milk and ate the bread and worked our fingers sore putting the finest stitches we could in the leather. The next day you sold the boots to someone rich, and he gave you enough money to buy leather for two sets of boots.

That night, you again laid out your leather and went to bed, now looking forward to your work the next day. I am sorry to say we took it from you. We made four pairs of boots this time, embellishing them as we could with the simple accoutrements in your shop, and the next day new people came, sent by the man who bought your last pair of boots.

Your bread was full of love and your milk was rich, so we stayed, hidden in the undergrowth that surrounded your home. We made more shoes the next night, and again you got enough money to make twice of what you sold.

It went on until you were no longer poor, and the bread came in larger chunks and the milk in larger saucers, for you shared your largesse with us.

And then one night you got too curious, wanted to know who was helping you, and we got sloppy. We missed the food left out in the kitchen, and we didn’t realize that the door had been left unlocked for a reason.

We did not miss when you placed yourself between us and the workbench and smiled.

“Come eat,” you say. “Come take of my larder and drink of my stores, for your are my greatest friends and I can never thank you enough.”

We partake of the meal you have set out, eating such meats and cheeses that we haven’t gotten in what seems like years, but the urge to work is itching in our hands and eyes and we raise before you are finished eating.

“Why do you stand?”

“We must, bootmaker. We have work to complete.”

“At least tell me your names,” you beseech.

I must answer truthfully. “I cannot for we have no names.”

“I shall name you, for you are my friends,” you say.

“Rannoch and Cannich and Quaich and Affric and Shiel.” You go on, and in each of us a glow builds, and the burn to clean, the impending pain if we don’t work recedes.

It is dizzying, this feeling, and before I realize it, I am staring at you.

You look right at me. “Rannoch, be you well?”

“I’m free.”

Amanda Dier's fiction has appeared in Strange Shores, Digressions, Subtext, and the anthologies Halloween Haiku II, Lupine Lunes, Accessible Love Stories, Powerless Against You, and Zen of the Dead.

STORY Art by Amanda Bergloff


AMOffenwanger said...

I love this! It's my other favourite (I said on Heather Talty's "Etsy and the Elves" it was my favourite, but that was before I read this one - now I think it's a toss-up). I'm honoured to be part of such a great writers group.

Kathleen Jowitt said...

Oh, what a lovely, optimistic story!

Maxine said...

A lovely twist. I really enjoyed your tale

Katew said...

I did too!