AShellfishLover t1_j6iydy5 wrote


AShellfishLover t1_j6fykfl wrote

Notes: This story is told about a surviving Maenad, the mad women of Dionysus. It also makes reference to the Leanan Sidhe of Celtic myth.

Having spent time in a few church halls I wanted to tell a story similar to qualifications without taking any particular story. While some can be funny and others frankly a bit boring, everyone who comes to meetings has heard stories that have a mix of the themes here. It is part of the human condition and, so, felt like one that would be fitting for the tale.

If you are or anyone you know is having issues with substances reach out to available resources in your area. here's a good link for substance abuse assistance in the US. I swear that, while it may seem dire, it can get better, and you are worth taking the time to help yourself, even if you don't feel that way right now.


AShellfishLover t1_j6fwzpg wrote

I looked out at the gathered masses and saw their faces. Men and women, old and young, in shades that spanned the lands I had known in my youth.

And in each of their eyes there was something different. Some wept, openly, while others stared beyond me, lost in thought. Still others seemed relieved, knowing that the bottom I had reached was deeper than they had dug before arriving here.

Then I saw Michail, standing to my side. And I broke. A century of tears, pouring from me, and I felt the love of this man who had waited, knowing I was hurting.

In my homeland we had many loves. Eros, for lovers, or philia for friends. As I was held and felt the hands of others gather around me I felt the greatest of them: agape, the love of mankind.

Your people are strange, but they are kind.


AShellfishLover t1_j6fvvlx wrote

In those days there was not the convenience of swallowing pills to keep one away from children. Perhaps some witch who lived in a bog far from the city I stayed in knew a way, but all I knew was death, to quicken the life within me and take it from the world. I was the last of my kind; how could I do such a thing?

His name was Colin. To this day, I remember the look on his face as I told him the news. The way he would hold me close and wrap his hands over my belly, to feel it swell and then kick to his touch. The gentleness of a lamb, my Colin, but he was a man deep in his Faith, and a good one for that time. A good one for this time, I would say, considering your stories.

He never raised a voice nor hand to me. Never took what was not given. He was kind, and loved horses though we were far too poor to have one. He had learned to shoe them, to take care of their soft brittle feet, and for that I loved him. Loved him as I had never loved another, for his kindness.

For such a man I would bring a child into the world.

I do not feel pain, as you understand it. Hunger? It pangs within me. The desire to drink? It still calls, deep in my mind and makes me shake. But the physical ills of man were abandoned long ago. And so in my birthing bed the midwife prayed, as flesh tore and blood gouted, and I smiled knowing I was giving birth to a miracle.

Her name was Dóra. Gift. And she was beautiful. And cursed, as surely as a child born of my thirst would be. That is not to say I didn't love her; she was precious, and as the midwife begged me to leave her aside and claim to my beautiful Colin that she had been born still? I cursed the bitch's name. She was perfect, even for her faults, and I would raise my beautiful gift as a testament to our love.

They call it fetal alcohol syndrome, now. There have been crueler names, but the cruelest was the one the old women would say of her. Changeling. A child stolen from the crib, perfect, and replaced with a broken thing. My gift was not broken; she was mine, and though she cried in a bray and was clumsy and foolish? She was her mother's child. She would be strong.

I drank as I tended to her, and she grew. Like a vine she wrapped up my legs as I worked in the kitchen, or sat playing with my toes as I shucked peas or peeled potatoes. This was after the Great War, and food was scarce, but my Colin had connections, and my little Dóra grew and grew. I loved her as I could, not feeling pain but not truly feeling joy. I felt empty; a vessel filled then poured from, the dregs of her leaving my body held onto me clinging, and that darkness hung on through her infancy.

I was drunk. I was drunk, and foolish, and may the gods forgive me. I had warmed a basin, the one I used to bathe her, mixing lye and cleaning salts to whiten the walls after a long sooty winter of burning peat.

She leapt in. I was slow to react. I heard her crying in the other room but I thought it was hunger... I thought she was begging. Begging for me.

And she was.

By the time I got to her... she was gone. I reached into the near boiling liquid and... I couldn't grip her. Couldn't pull my child from the mess. I keened then, as I hadn't since those days by His side with my sisters. I held her blistered body and screamed until my throat gave out.

The women came. Then the constable. They claimed it an accident, but in my heart I knew it murder. They could not look at me, or stand the smell of the house where she had been. My baby was taken, wrapped in a quilt that was her winding sheet as I barked mutely for my punishment.

I took the beating that Colin gave me, and the tears as he screamed and called me every name in his kind souled heart. I have seen broken men, and he had reason to break. I may have died, if I was not what I was, and I begged for it. I begged between bloody teeth and torn lips. End me. End this life, and set me free from the pain I feel.

It was that day that I gave it up. That day, when I held my gift, the smell of her, the... I gave it all away.

I teach now. A hundred lifetimes of wisdom and I tend to your children. The fathers, and these days even some mothers, remark on my beauty. I do not care; I have taught thousands of children, in hopes of paying back the foolishness of that day, bright in the morning, where I lost my soul.

And that is my story. Judge me as you must, but judge me now.


AShellfishLover t1_j6fsm6q wrote

I was born in a place called Thêbai, to a mother who died on the birthing bed and a father who cursed my name. He gave me the name of Madia, a cursed name, calling me the judgment for his foolishness.

It was not a happy home. After a wandering wet nurse stopped giving me suck and became my stepmother I was chattel in my father's eyes. No better than a ewe lamb, fattening myself on the largess of his household and serving as a reminder of what he had lost on that bed years ago.

I came into my womanhood and gained a body that would make Eros pause, and the anger of my father softened to a sickening cloy of glances and soft touches of my arm as I served at his table. Then... it is a tale I have heard before, and one I do not wish to repeat, but it is one that is older even than my story, and so you have heard those words before.

It happened in the vineyard, and He heard my cries. Knew my pain and He called to me. I was lucky, as the beast that replaced my father was slow, and I was quick. Quick as the winged sandals I ran into those vines, and found a place of women singing, and dancing, bare to the sky in a darkness not like the bright sun I had left.

They took my rended clothes and gave me fawn skins. They made me drink of His bounty, in a place where no man's hands could touch me, and I reveled with them. I became one of them, shedding the curse of my name, becoming as they were: the mad women, the wine women, and I was glad for it.

I learned to eat my meat rare and bloody, to rend my skins and draw wine from water and honey from the rocks. Claw milk from dust and lay beasts low with a glance and a touch. We reveled there for years until the feather helmed men came, and then came the Shepherd's flock behind them. By then I was more than a woman and less than a goddess, and as long as I drank my wine and danced I was happy.

I fell in love with a priest, and was cast out of his home in infamy. I ran from my home for the first time then, to an island where snakes did not tread and fire-haired men sang songs of longing and freedom. I loved that place, across the water from here. I dyed my hair using old magics, and became amongst them like one of the Sisters. I would run and revel with them, the binding of my maidenhood lost when He left us to die amongst the Flock, and in return they would write and sing and create until they fell panting and heartstruck... and I would do it again.

But then it happened, and for it I weep still.


AShellfishLover t1_j6fq4gb wrote

They gather outside of the hall and I am reminded of the good days. The days before my trip across the bitter water, the days when I was someone.

They burn offerings between cold, shaking fingers, and I love to stand with them and inhale it all. The angst, the gnawing hunger of their inner demons, the bitter acidic breath of those who have fallen since I last saw them.

But most of all I love the smoke. What a brilliant creature humanity has been. A blessed herb of the tribes who had dwelt here long before my People came across the seas, and my own turn it into a possessive entertainment. They yellow their teeth and rot their lungs, but for those here a demon who kills slowly is preferable to one who coos in their ears and begs for swift death from a crush of steel or the sickness of choked vomit.

Mike always goes in first. He's been here ever since I began coming to these things, as I sit on the edges and watch them. Sometimes, like tonight, I go in to help him. The old hall is almost as dingy as his skin; the yellow ashiness of late stage liver failure, and still he fills the pots and puts out the cheap crumbly cookies that dust in your mouth and make you drink more of the bitter hot muck that the old-timer call mud.

Heh. Old-timers. I was there when first the Stoics claimed sto krasí vrísketai i alítheias, as foolish addicts died in the gutters of Athens. Then I had been one of His favorites; beautiful and bare-breasted and feral. I had been one of many, and my curse was hidden behind my mask as I reveled in wine and flesh and death.

Now I sit in the ashes of His making. Microbreweries on the corners of posh places, rotgut bottles for pennies on street corners in the poor places. I watch the walking dead trudge into their seats as Mike tries to start conversation.

"How's tricks, Mae?" He grins, wincing and grabbing his side. He teased me when he was still healthy, claiming I was a common harlot, seeking money from wounded men. Still he makes the joke, even though he is one of the few in your kind's memory to know my name and my secret. "Too expensive for dying men. What did they say about your procedure?" I asked, taking the cup of mud I was given and sweetening it with cream and sugar.

"There's not a liver for a failure. I already fucked up my last chance, why I got this chip." He smiles, playing with his one year chip and showing the nimbleness of his youth for a moment. "Maybe your friend will take it when it's time?"

I smiled, a rare thing in this place, and patted his shoulder. "I make no promises, Michail. Perhaps you will be met by angels in a chorus."

Mike coughed then, the handkerchief dotted with tarry spittle. "Ain't met an angel yet, Mae. But I've met you, so maybe you can put in a good word."

He followed me to my seat in the shadows, where I sat and listened to their stories. Mike had given up on trying to get me to go forward, but never truly gave up the idea.

That kid up there? She's lonely. Hurt. Afraid. She feels she is less than human, that somehow she is broken. If only she knew that this thing we suffer could lay anybody low.

I sat with the walking specter and when I rested my hand he took it. His eyes were already turning, and I feared that it may be out last time to spend together.

"Well, we're just about wrapped for the night. Is there anyone new here that needs to speak, or a regular who hasn't given qualification and wishes to?" The speaker, a beautiful woman whose ancestors hailed from the place the blind poet called the land of burnt faces, looked across the old timers in the back row.

I felt Michail's hand squeeze gently, and felt the need to do a kindness.

As I walked to the small table at the front of the room I felt their eyes on me. The mysterious woman, the quiet one, who had been at meetings as long as most of them could remember. The lurker, coming up to speak to them. It had been long since I saw awe on the faces of the faithful; the followers of the Shepherd, once, or when those men had walked in the tranquil gardens of Artemis high in the sky.

And in myself I felt fear. And it was not unwelcome. A tingle in the pit of my stomach, a flush of heat over my skin like being seen by a lover in an unflattering pose. I took in a deep breath as Naomi gave the stage to me, and prayed to the Sisters that I was ready.

"Hello. My name is Mae. And I am an alcoholic. This is my testimony."


AShellfishLover t1_j6f04x0 wrote

I really hate subversion as it has been used as a cudgel in contemporary urban/modern fantasy. I like the rules, and when we start into a point where you slap an old name on your creature because ours are different? Ugh, it's infuriating.

What I like to do is work within the 'rules' set forward by the specific creature, and then try to delve into the why. There's no real deep lore on why they drown their prey, or the reason for later redemption necessarily. Having a little base to build on and then make my own reasons? More fun.


AShellfishLover t1_j6e9yjf wrote


  • Apologies for the Swedish, but it felt right to the story. Any errors in translation are mine, and I would welcome corrections as my general Scandi knowledge combined with Google Translate paved my way.

  • Fossegrim, or grim, also known as Nacken are a fascinating little bit of folklore, and I've tried a few stories with them, but this was the first that felt right.

  • If you want to know what the Hell I am quoting as the song Anders sings, it is a traditional Swedish song (the Nack and the Maiden). A version on pipes can be found here though there is more than likely one with a fiddle somewhere. The translation i ripped the lyrics from can be found here, so you can see how the texts work together

I'm glad people liked the story enough for me to come back to. I usually give a story an hour and then try to tie it up, but the prompt was too good to not finish. I hope you enjoyed, and have a great day!


AShellfishLover t1_j6e8b7y wrote

The tall, thin man I had fallen for looked beaten as he came back into the sitting room, his fiddle in his hands. I saw tears down his face, and his normal composure had left those wonderful eyes, their edges red and irises dull.

"Hon är lik henne, vet du." Anders finally said, his hair hanging limply in his face as he bent over his instrument.

"Hon är inte hennes, dåraktiga fe, dåraktiga troll." my grandmother replied, her gleeful expression marring her face. "Now, spelman, play us the song. It is a simple one, one all maidens learn young. I want to hear it, play us Näcken och Jungfrun."

My fiddler went to it, playing a song I had heard before but in a way I had never heard it. The song, a jaunty folk piece, stretched with pathos, longing, and hurt. And as he played the melody, his voice sang like a dirge.

Det bodde en greve högt upp i land/Han hade tre döttrar och nätta voro de-emed all äran

I saw a mill race, where a young woman sat with a handful of wildflowers. Anders, my magic man, looked at the maiden through the trees. The girl's face was one I was familiar with; paler, with blonde instead of brown hair, but it was mine.

det spordes över rike, det spordes över land det spordes till näcken vid älvablåa strand emed all äran

the memories saw each other, and then sat together. My fiddler was kind, the maiden hungry. The two did as lovers did, and in her face I saw mine, and as they lay there I begged to not see the ending.

han rider så fram till sköna jungfrun in dej giver jag ring om du vill bliva min emed all äran

she gathered flowers for him, brought him cakes and treats. They talked of a life together, of beautiful things, and I begged to not see the ending.

väl vill jag äga dig näckeman väl vill jag komma till tusen älvars land väl vill jag äga dig näckeman väl vill jag komma till tusen älvars strand Tral…

the swelling of her belly showed when they were undressed. Then a girl, a younger casting from the same kiln, dark hair like mine, peeked through the rushes at the race. She saw everything, and knew and I begged not to see the ending.

lyster sköna jungfrun till kyrkan att gå du godast drottning vore över tusen älvar blå emed all äran

the girl tagged along with him, smitten as her sister was, and he showed her his fiddle as she tried to learn the fingerings. She would fuss at that instrument as they lay together, plucking and bowing and making a racket, and still I begged not to see the ending.

lyster sköna jungfrun till kyrkan att gå du godast drottning vore över tusen älvar blå emed all äran

She was full then, and begging for his hand. To make her an honest woman, her face bruised from her father's hand. He had called her a whore, and they fought. He could not go into those holy places, by pacts made before she was born, and so she ran into the race, her sister screaming behind her.

så körde han jungfrun om älvenom fram och jorden hon dundrade och hällebergen sprang emed all äran

He fought into his Mother's arms to reclaim his woman, the woman he had fallen for as they lay beside his Mother. Foolish troll, damned fossegrim, clutching at his love. To a little girl it would appear he was trying to drown her, as his Mother clogged her lungs, reclaiming the life within her, to take it to the circles where Her children danced and played, to keep her grandson safe from the prying of the iron bearers, the cheats who took their land away

väl vill jag äga dig näckeman väl vill jag komma till tusen älvars land väl vill jag äga dig näckeman väl vill jag styra till tusen älvars strand Tral…

It was a poor repayment. The little girl crying. He took her hands to his fiddle, running her fingers over them as they both wept for what had happened. The blood of their secret pouring from her hands. His one gift, the thing he could give freely, the music of his heart that made them fall for him, to desire him, to never truly have him lest his Mother take them away.

She returned to him once more, before going across the water. The little one, who had seen him murder her sister. The constable had declared it hysteria, but they each knew their secret. She played for him there, as they sat one last time, and as he tried to hug her he felt the searing at his chest, that white birthmark he had claimed, the imprint of the trollkors she had worn.

The women wept, and even Mormor was teary, though nothing could change a lifetime of hate. There is no magic, troll or god, that can reverse that pain so quickly.


AShellfishLover t1_j6e1p67 wrote

The 'bord had been picked over thoroughly by this time, and a bottle of akvavit swam in a bucket of salted ice on the small table where my aunts and mother had gathered, a small jury awaiting the condemned. We came into their sight and the questions started to fall.

"Maja! You glow!" said plump aunt Ella, looking the two of us over with from her seat on the couch. She had always been the kindest aunt, and her eyes begged forgiveness for what would come tonight.

"Who is this man you bring?" asked aunt Ebba, giving Anders a long hungry glance. Anders smiled to her, and the normally cruel set of her lips turned soft, and she got up from her stiff backed chair to hug me.

"This is my bo- I mean, this is my boyfriend, Anders. Anders, Ella's and Ebba, my aunts."

The three greeted each other and set to talking, my mother's intelligence network of old busybodies at her social club seemed to have found out a bit. While mother and mormor mulled wine in the kitchen they picked at my man, asking questions about his family, their home, his prospects, and why he had taken such interest in their poor, innocent Maja. To his credit Anders was perfect, deflecting the more bawdy questions with a smirk and a wink, and doing his best to walk the tightrope laid in front of him. Yes, he was serious. No, he did not want for money. Dead, unfortunately, soon after crossing, and he an orphan.

Finally, when the dust settled my man, a little worse for wear, had satisfied his first challengers, and as if on cue my mother and mormor came from the kitchen, mugs of mulled wine for all. My mother served the glasses as her elder settled back into the soft chair that was only used when she came over, sipping her own mug and looking at Anders strangely.

"I am sorry, my dear, but your father and uncles are away collecting some last things. It would seem that it is just us tonight, but god jul!" my mother handed me my mug, then set Anders own in front of him, waiting for comment.

"Thank you, dear, but you have a guest in your home! We must not bother him with such details. Now, Anders is it?"

"Yes, mother. That is my name. And yours?" My man quipped, and Mormor's eyes lit up with interest and a bit of anger.

"I am called grandmother, or mormor in our tongue. pratar du svenska? kan du de gamla sångerna, spelman?" my grandmother countered, switching to her native tongue. "kan du spela för oss i kväll?"

I rarely heard my grandmother speak Swedish, but I heard the bitter in her voice, and felt Anders hand tighten in mine. She had been quite the musician herself, playing violin in the Orchestra and helping to pay for her children's needs after their father passed with her bow.

"Känner jag dig? innan?" Anders replied, releasing my hand and standing up. "I must go Maja. My stomach, it is unsettled."

"Oh, no, stay spelman. Just a little while? Play us a song, then." My grandmother leaned forward, her wine-darkened teeth looking like a cat halfway through finishing a mouse.

"I cannot impose, and if I am sick I do not wish for you to catch."

"It is always a man's worry, if a woman would catch. Stay, spelman. Just a little while? Play us a song."

Anders fidgeted in place, then stood from his chair. I saw his eyes looking between mormor and I, and his face begged me for an excuse, any way out of this.

"I want to leave, häxa. varför måste du vara grym?" Anders moved towards the foyer, not even looking at me as he stumbled towards freedom.

"Stay, spelman. Just a little while. Play us a song."

The tension in Anders' body left him at mormor's words, and he walked in soft steps to the door. I heard him opening the case, and heard him sobbing. My grandmother looked pleased, and sat back into her throne delighted with herself.

"What are you doing, mormor? " I demanded, standing up and getting ready to take my man home.

"Just greeting an old friend", she said with bitter words, and awaited my fiddler's return.


AShellfishLover t1_j6c9mda wrote

"It will be alright. I have met a few mothers before, dear."

Damn, my fiddler looked good. A natty suit and new white shirt had turned a ruggedly handsome hipster boy into a sharply angled man before my eyes in a wonderful whirlwind of dress up in my small flat. If we wouldn't have been late... but Wilma Eklund-Sanford didn't believe in tardiness.

I worried because of how easily my mother read me, and knew that I had a new man. Not much slipped by Wilma, a skill that paid off in her role as a contract lawyer. The house we stood in front of after a short walk from the El was beautiful, and paid for by the patronage of dozens of major clients who saw me grow up in a little office in Oldtown.

She had caught me humming while rolling Drömmar for Christmas dinner. A few pointed questions, a peck on the cheek, and five minutes later I was out the door and the invitation that wasn't negotiable had been set.

"I know, but this is my first time." I felt ready to run then, right until Anders grasped my freezing hands in his even colder ones.

"Do not worry. I will be gentle."

The words were warm honey, sweetening my path up the steps to the big wood and wrought iron door of the house. I opened the door and let Anders slink by me into the foyer, never touching the frame.

I had been that girl and asked him to bring her with him. Even then, we had been almost a throuple, me and my man and his fiddle. I loved listening to him play, even when he humored me by practicing on Sunday mornings. He didn't need to practice; Anders may have had some strange habits, but with his fiddle he was meticulous, never missing a note on even the hardest songs he played. Those fingers, long and thin and delicate, would press and pluck and draw on her, and he would get lost in his practice in a way he never was on the street.

The songs he played the were art, beauty in a way that was almost indescribable. Dirgelike sadness effortlessly blending to pastoral softness, then into driving thunder to patter out into smooth sensual peaks and valleys. I would find myself humming and dancing in my flat, and see that slow knowing smile and finally make him quit practicing... ahh, there is something to dating a musician.

We were met by the sounds of chatting in the living room, the voices of my aunts and grandmother. The men had been sent off, which was not a good sign. I felt like a doe that had been led into a trap, though my buck just smiled and slipped off his shoes at the door, taking off his jacket and hanging it on a peg then setting her down and stretching a bit.

"It will be a long night, but we will have fun, yes?" He squeezed my hand, and I knew everything was going to be alright. He handed me a small flask kept in his hip pocket and I took a shot of whiskey, the burn helping me to settle my nerves and brace myself for the coming night.

"Alright. I think I'm ready."