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Cross posted from Madrona

Title: The Tale of the Gravedigger and his Lover…
Author: kira
Word Count: 2597
World: Small village called Dhublaine (in what was once Ireland)
Main Characters: Liam Michael MacSorley, Leannán
Borrow: no
Summary: Liam meets the love of his life…
Author’s Note: This is loosely based on the old stories & legends of the leannán sídhe or Fairy Mistress, who’s said to take as her lover those well versed in the arts. She like a Muse to them and while they live a short life after being with her, they are said to produce the most fantastic works.

For n0t-chan, whose Halloween tales inspired this…



Liam Michael MacSorley grabbed his shovel from where it rested against the side of the small rough hewn cottage he lived in. Balancing it on his shoulder, he whistled tunelessly as he walked to the nearby graveyard, his dog trotting along with him. The moss covered ruins of what the locals believed was an old cathedral rose up out of the early morning mist and just like he did every time he passed it, Liam made the sign of the cross. The Devil alone knew what sorts of folk wandered the old graveyard and Liam, whose mother did not raise a fool, wanted to have the might of the Lord and the Angels on his side every time he went in there.

The people in the small village of Dhublaine were afraid to venture into the graveyard, for fear of meeting something unworldly and only went there when they had to, but not Liam. Most folks said that was because he touched in the head, others claimed it was because he had The Sight and could see a myriad of Angels dancing on the head of a pin. If anyone was brave enough to ask, Liam would simply tell him it was on account of him being well versed in the Lore, having grown up listening to tales of the Wee Folk and the Land of the Aos sí. And so whenever he came across a fairy ring amongst the crumbling remains of the headstones, or a birch tree, or a small mound of earth, he respectfully left it alone; this being the reason why Mrs. O’Connor was buried in the far side of graveyard, while her husband of some thirty years was buried closer to the remains of the old cathedral. Everyone knew you never disturbed a fairy ring under any circumstances, especially not one that had sprung up where an old oak had fallen.

Liam was nearly to the spot where he was supposed to dig a fresh grave and putting his thumb and finger to his lips, he whistled for his dog. The little black and white dog quickly bounded over to him. No use chasing rabbits you’ll never catch… Liam thought with a snort of amusement. Looking back at the path he was taking through the tombstones, Liam got a bit of a fright when a pretty young girl dressed in white waved at him. When he waved shyly back at her, the girl giggled as she approached him. So graceful was she that Liam was willing to bet the Devil himself, the wager being his soul; that she floated like a feather in the air. And so fair of face too that Liam was sure he was gazing upon one of the Lord’s own Angels. He sighed softly.

“Good morning, my fine young sir,” the vision of loveliness said with a smile as bright as the noon day sun.

“Uh…” Liam began.

She giggled. “What? The cat got your tongue?”

“Uh, no” Liam said, blushing profusely. Suddenly shy; he could not believe such a pretty girl was actually paying attention to him and in a good way, never mind talking to him. Most folks shunned the gravedigger, not wanting the taint of death on them.

“So what’s your name, my good sir?”

“Uh, Liam.”

“Uhleeham, hunh? What an unusual name, but then you appear to be an unusual young man,” she said, meaning every word of it. Very few people could see her and of those, it was always the very old, or the very young, or those in the throes of a terrible fever, but every once in a while a gentle soul would stumble upon her and it was male, all the better for her.

Liam felt his cheeks heating up again. “My name’s Liam Michael MacSorley.”

“Oh…” she said; her voice as soft and silky as a whisper. A sly little smiled tugged at the corners of her mouth. “I’m called Leannán,” she said, the rest of her name lost to the echoes of the wind.

“What a pretty name.”

“Thank you, my good… my dear Liam.” Leannán reached out and cupped his cheek.

Liam shivered. Her hand was as cold as ice, but her green eyes held the warmth of a meadow in spring time and he relaxed into her touch. Besides, it was not everyday a girl as pretty as this paid him any mind and Liam never wanted this moment to end. Somehow, without him even being aware of it, the shovel, he was carrying, had fallen to the ground and Leannán was in his arms. They kissed, gently at first until the hunger for a pretty girl overcame him. But instead of pushing him away with an angry slap to his cheek, she was kissing him back just as hungrily. Before things could get really heated between them, Liam heard his dog barking as if from far away and the sound of someone angrily calling his name.

“Liam Michael MacSorley, what in Lord’s name do you think you’re doing there, hugging the very air itself?” Father Francis Maguire called out, drawing Liam’s attention.

Just like dew evaporating on warm summer’s morning, the fair Leannán seemed to vanish into nothingness. Feeling a bit foolish, Liam bent over and picked up his shovel. “Morning, Father Francis.” He smiled at the old priest.

Father Francis blew out an angry breath and shook his head. “Morning,” he said curtly as he approached the young gravedigger. “Have you finished digging the hole yet? Mr. Fitzgerald doesn’t have all day.”

Liam sighed. It was not Mr. Fitzgerald who did not have all day; it was his family and Father Francis who did not have all day. “I was on my way there, Father.”

“That’s a good lad.” Father Francis gave him a smile that did not reach his eyes. Without another word, the old priest turned on his heel and stalked off.

Loam watched him go, thinking he looked like a giant crow, the way his vestments flapped as he hurried off to console the bereaved. Slinging the shovel over his shoulder again, Liam made his way to the plot where the late Mr. Fitzgerald would soon be laid to rest. When he got there, Liam stuck his shovel into the earth. It was hard work loosening it, even after he had removed a layer of grass. It took him most of the morning to dig a hole big enough and as he worked, Liam’s thoughts drifted back towards the fair Leannán. It helped to pass the time during his heavy backbreaking work. Throwing the shovel out of the grave, Liam reached up and pulled himself out of the hole.

As he dusted himself off, the crowd of mourners came, bearing the remains of Mr. Fitzgerald. Liam tried hard to appear interested and upset at the same time as another soul was laid to rest, but he had seen it all before. When the time came and everyone had left, Liam shoveled the dirt back in. A wooden cross would mark the spot where the late Mr. Fitzgerald rested. Then the stone mason would come and erect a tombstone as soon as he finished carving it. He wiped the sweat from his brow, and calling his dog, Liam made his way through the graveyard. His work was done and the loneliness he felt as he headed towards home threatened to overwhelm him.

I wonder if I’ll ever see her again…

You want to see me again…? He could hear the dulcet sound of her voice in his head, soft and sweet like the gentle touch of the late afternoon sun on his face.

Yes…

Very well then… “Liam…” she said.

Feeling his heartbeat quicken in anticipation, he stopped and turned around. She stood there, holding her hand out for him to take, so Liam took it. Hand in hand, they walked the country path leading to his home. Once there, they paused long enough for Liam to wash up and put on a clean shirt, before continuing down the path to the meadow. Leannán danced like a feather in the wind, much to his delight and when they lay together, Liam ignored the chill he felt, telling himself it was just the dew starting to form in the grass. Shivering, he closed his eyes when she kissed his cheek.

They must have fallen asleep because when Liam got to his feet to look for her, he felt terribly cold and stiff. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you turned me into an old man over night… Like that could happen… he mentally chided himself. When he called out to her, “Leannán, where are you?” he thought his voice much older too. Liam looked around for her, thinking she could not have gone far, but when he could not find any trace of her, he sadly headed for home.


Since no one had died and was in need of a burial, he took a bucket with him when he headed to the graveyard the next morning. More backbreaking work lay ahead of him in the form of pulling weeds and picking up the detritus that the living had left behind while visiting the dead. Just like they had when he was digging a grave yesterday, Liam’s thoughts strayed to Leannán. I wish you were here with me, Leannán…

“You called for me, Liam?”

“I-I…” he trailed off at a loss for words. While Liam certainly longed for the brief moment of happiness he had felt with her, he knew he had not opened his mouth to say a word. He knew that was the surest way to get everyone to think one was crazy. Bad enough most folks rightly guessed he was lonely,; no need to remind them how true that was by going around talking to himself like he was talking to a pretty girl. And while he had been too young to remember the incident, every once in a while someone would mention old man Dermott, who had also been a gravedigger, and how he liked to talk to a woman no one could see. Sometimes that talk would take the form of a cautionary tale and they recall that the old man was found dead in the remains of the old cathedral and some would say he had the look of groom waiting patiently for his bride at the altar. Liam had no desire to be talked about for doing the same thing. “But I didn’t say anything…”

“No matter,” Leannán said with a dismissive wave of her hand, “I’m here. So what are you doing?”

“Weeding…” Liam wiped his dirty hand on pants, before reaching up to scratch the back of his neck. He could feel the color rising in his cheeks again as she stared intently at him.

“Oh…” Leannán smiled and Liam nodded; a dopey smile on his face in answer to hers. “I bet you could use some help.”

“Well, ummm…” he began as it was a tempting offer, until common sense won out, “but you’ll get dirty.”

“So? It’s just soil and it does wash off.” She giggled.

“Yeah…”

With Leannán by his side, the work seemed easier, especially when one threw in the odd stolen kiss or two. And when they were finished, they walked hand in hand out of the graveyard and to his little cottage. There, they washed up and had a quick cup of tea, before heading out for another walk in the woods. It soon became the pattern of their lives; she would come and keep him company at work and afterwards they would spend the night out under the stars.

On those days when she did not appear, Liam wrote her some poetry to ease the aching loneliness in his soul. When he saw her again, he would read it to her and she would weep at the sheer beauty of it, all the while covering his face with little kisses. Liam felt his heart bursting with happiness at such times.

Today, he made them tea to go with the fairy cakes she had brought along. And as usual, they decided to go for a walk in the woods, but this time, instead of sleeping out under the stars, now that the weather had gone colder, they lay together in his bed.

Night after night, she lay with him and even though she was always gone by first light, Liam found himself falling in love with her. It was after a particularly trying day, when the cold and damp settled in his bones like they never had before, and the loneliness was just too great, that he decided to make her his wife. He would ask her today if he saw her.

Just like all the other times, he had but to think of her and she would be there, her smiling face peeking in his window. Liam walked over to the door and let her in. “My dear sweet Leannán! Come in, come in! Here, let me take your cloak and make you some tea,” he said as she entered his cottage. He never gave it a second thought that a pretty woman would be out and about by herself at night, so great was his joy at seeing her again.

“Thank you, Liam.” Leannán made herself comfortable by the fire as she watched him bustle about. She held out her hands, warming them. She sighed softly, knowing she would have to take his life tonight. She had let him live far longer than any of her other lovers as she held genuine affection for this sad and lonely man, who only had a dog for company. And while he wrote the most beautiful love poetry to her, others had and most likely will write her the same. Besides, that was no excuse for keeping him alive this long. So steeling her heart against him, while all the while feigning the love she truly felt for him, Leannán listened intently to his latest ramblings.

“So I was thinking… we love each other, right?” Liam began.

Leannán nodded in reply. She loved him terribly the way, she knew he loved her.

“So let’s get married.”

That took her by surprise, but it was nothing new; others down through the years had asked the same. Throwing her arms around him, Leannán peppered his face with little kisses. And when he captured her lips with his own, she sucked the life right out of him. “Oh, my sweet little Liam, you were the tastiest of morsels. I did so love you above all else,” Leannán said as she kissed his cheek. Getting up, she eased his corpse onto the floor. She stared at him for a minute, before she slowly began to dissolve into nothingness as she headed back to the Land of the Aos sí.

Liam’s dog got up from his spot near the fire. The strange being was gone and now his master lay dead on the floor. He sat down next to him and let out a mournful howl at his passing. They found poor Liam the next day, drawn by the dog’s howling. All who saw him said he seemed to have aged a hundred years since Mr. Fitzgerald’s passing and they wondered if he had missed the old man so terribly he took his life, others wondered if he died from the same madness that took old man Dermott, who also seemed to age a lot in a very short time…

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
cheshirejin
Nov. 2nd, 2014 04:52 am (UTC)
Lovely, reads like one of those creepy ole Irish fairy tales
kiramaru7
Nov. 2nd, 2014 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jen! That's exactly what I was going for! :D
n0t_again
Nov. 2nd, 2014 02:39 pm (UTC)
Oh my,, I loved it - gave it real crit on the comm... :D

Thanks again, Kira! :D
kiramaru7
Nov. 2nd, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
YAy! Thanks you, I'm g;lad you liked it! And I saw it! Again, thanks! <3

It was my pleasure, n0t-chan! :D
ranuel
Nov. 30th, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
/shudder/ Poor Liam
kiramaru7
Nov. 30th, 2014 09:12 pm (UTC)
Yeah... XD
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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