Once upon a time — you know these words, as if they were vital to your life’s blood, as if they were a spell that would free you from a curse. But words are only words, or so we are taught. We don’t think on the power of our words, especially the old ones that can cut as if they are sharp knives. We think our words fall flat to the ground as soon as we utter them, but instead they fly on stealthy wings, as straight as arrows to their marks. And, oh yes, they have their marks.

Rosetta Moorchild wouldn’t have sought the power of the woods that night if not for the poison words had afforded her. But I get ahead of myself — that is a tale I will share with you in due time.

Come, sit down around the fire. You look chilled to the bone, weary traveler.

Let me tell you a tale that will sink into your tired skin.


Rosetta Moorchild knew she shouldn’t have been born. She knew this with the instinct of those who know they will never wed or have offspring. Terrible things happened around her, you see — strange, dark things. The children who played in her proximity would fall suddenly, gravely, ill. One misspoken word could make anyone fall under her bidding for a time. The only ones immune were her parents — but they bore the brunt of the effects of her strange power. The three of them turned into pariahs in the village where they lived; it was a wonder no one tried to burn Rosetta for all the ill will she brought to different doorsteps.

It was the doing of fairies, of course — capricious, wily things they are. They like to grant “gifts” to the children they fancy. They’ll linger around the homes of new mothers, waiting for the right moment to sneak in and “bless” the unsuspecting child with some curse. It’s hard to say what the fairy who cursed Rosetta meant to do. Why not just leave a changeling to make havoc in her place? But fairies have never been the most bright or forthcoming.

True, it was only a matter of time before Rosetta sought them for the curse they had laid upon her. It was inevitable, as sure as the fact that the sun will rise and it will set.

The woods were always waiting for Rosetta; she just needed the will to act and step into them on her own.


Rosetta’s mother was having a second child — another girl, from what the midwife could tell. However much Rosetta’s parents tried to shelter her, she was still not immune to the whispers. “That girl is no good,” she would hear. “She’s a goblin in girl’s skin.”

Goblins were known to try and seduce young maidens with the promise of ripe fruit, grown on unearthly vines. It was Rosetta’s bad luck that she came from farmer stock, and her father went to the market each week to try and sell his produce. But then they would whisper that she was even bad for a goblin: after all, the fruit she sold tasted of soil and rot rather than the delight of sweetness that true goblin fruit was supposed to offer.

“What can we expect of the newborn to come?” one woman whispered. “More cursed blood, no doubt.”

The women cackled among themselves as Rosetta’s face burned with shame. If she could have willed herself from being, she would have. However much she hated the other villagers, she knew they could do far worse than talk. But words — ah, words can be daggers all their own if the wielders know how to use them.

That night, long after her parents had gone to bed, Rosetta packed up her few belongings and left her family’s home. It shouldn’t have been so easy, leaving, but by then it was a relief. Maybe by her leaving she could leave her sister untouched by the curse that had blighted her. Perhaps, if there was such a thing as God in the realm of cursed beings.

The woods were a beacon in the dark, dark night. She abandoned her shoes at the entrance, hoping the villagers would find them and believe she had been spirited away to some other realm. Barefoot, she tramped through the mud and the muck, the aftermath of a downpour that had assuaged the village days ago.

No one entered the woods if they could help it; that was the land of the Fair Children, the Blessed Ones, even though the people no longer viewed them as the gods they had once been believed to be. Because the fairies had been spurned, their offerings rescinded, they had turned to curses to show their wrath and power. But mortals — well, we’re stubborn as mules, and we rebelled even against their curses. Give us a child whose singing would enslave us? Then we would simply cut out his tongue. There is rarely such a thing as mercy when one’s own skin is on the line.

As I said before, it was a wonder Rosetta had survived, living in such a village. Rumor has it that a girl with a similar curse was dismembered, her body parts scattered in the woods to be found by the lone wandering fairy. The perpetrator? Her own father, hoping that his daughter’s blood would slake the hunger of the fairies.

Rosetta Moorchild was much more fortunate than she had ever believed herself to be.

She disappeared into the woods that night, never to be heard from again. Her sister was known to sing with the voice of an angel, yet none who hear it are enslaved to her voice. Some say Rosetta gave up her life to the fairies so that her sister wouldn’t be cursed; others say she still walks the village at night, a lone guardian to battle the fairies who lurk in a glimpse of shadows. Who’s to say, really, what happened?

Only the fairies know the truth.

Originally published at

just another writer with too many cats

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