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The Wrath of the Fairy Master

Centuries ago and not far from where Hereford Castle stood on the banks of the River Wye, the city’s washer women would meet to launder clothes. It was hard work, long hours and as you can imagine not that rewarding. But they had families to feed and do what they must. Day after day the women would kneel in the cold water of the river, their hands raw and bodies aching sharing not only the news of the city but salacious gossip too. There wasn’t much that got passed these women, the grapevine was always buzzing with tales about the characters that they worked for. But these conversations kept their spirits high.

One of the women, we’ll call her Mary was busy finishing up her work for the day, it was early evening and she had noticed that she was the last to leave the riverside. In a hurry to get home she inadvertently lost hold of her soap block and it took over floating down the river. Panicked that she was going to lose it, something that she could not afford to do as soap was expensive, she waded into the river in an attempt to retrieve it. But as she stepped forward she soon realised that she was out of her depth and was quickly swept down river.

She cried out but to no avail, everyone had gone for the evening. Afraid and panicking she began waving her arms in a bid to attract attention but found that she was drifting further and further away from where she had stepped in. All of a sudden she felt the arms of a strong man grab her and a sense of relief swept through her body until she realised that she was being taken further away from the bank. That was the last she remembered for a while.

When Mary came to she found herself in a very unfamiliar place. It appeared to be an underground cavern. As she focused her eyes she saw people moving around but they did not look human. They were much taller and thinner, was this a dream? Before her now stood the man that had saved her from the river, he explained to Mary that he was the Lord of the place. He proceeded to tell her that his wife had recently given birth and they needed a human nurse. He saw her fear but promised that she would be well taken care of and returned home once the child had been weaned. He informed her that the only thing she must not do is eat the food that his people ate and that she would be provided with her own food.

Immediately Mary set about her work, no more cold wet knees and aching bones. In truth she quite enjoyed being nurse to a fairy child. Her mistress was fair and Mary settled in quickly. One day as she was returning dinner plates to the kitchen, something went into her eye. Even though her hands were a little dirty from the plates. her instinct was to rub the eye and as she did so some of the grease from the eel pie that she was on the plate went into her eye.

A year quickly passed and as promised Mary was returned back to the river bank. The fairies thanked her for her work and wished her well. Little did Mary know that she had actually been missing for seven years. Local people were shocked and unnerved to see her reappear, they had assumed she had drowned. Who was this ghost that stood before them? Even Mary’s husband had remarried after losing hope that he would ever see her again. Mary became quite a celebrity and the local gentry were keen to have a fairy nurse do their washing.

Every week Mary would frequent the local market in Hereford, her notoriety had also brought her prosperity and she enjoyed deciding what spend her money on. But as she gazed at the stalls, her heart missed a beat. She was sure that she had just seen her fairy master. He was moving from stall to stall picking up items and putting them into a sack. No-one challenged him for payment, it was as if they could not see him. Excited to see him again, she approached him and asked after the baby. Startled to see her and shocked that she could see him, he asked which of her eyes she could see him with. Mary responded by pointing to the eye that the grease from the pie had gone in. In an instant and before she could defend herself, the man blinded her eye.

From that moment forward Mary never ever saw any fairies again, her encounter with the fairies had been one of great joy and pain. But it never stopped her wondering each week as she went about her business in the market if her fairy master was there somewhere too.

These stories are curated from many sources and retold in our fun ESL style, in the true spirit of Folklore.

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