There is little known about the Highsummer Night when the sluagh suddenly lost their voices. Persistent rumor blames the influence of the Tuatha de Danaan who, displeased with the way the sluagh were conducting business, took discipline into their own hands.
This rumor, twisted and distorted, has made its way into the ears of the other kith, who regard the whole affair with a sort of self-satisfied smirk. After all, they've never been punished in such a way. It just proves to them that the sluagh are as degenerate as everyone said they were.
The old sluagh legend about a frightening that went horribly wrong is discounted by the majority of serious scholars. To quote the noted sidhe historian, Lord Enoch Brandywine, "Sounds too damned much like a fairy tale to me to believe a word of it."
The Legend Edit
Beginnings EditEveryone knows about the sluagh: skulkers in the dark, whisperers in the night, the clammy hands on a nightmare-fevered brow. Once upon a time they would prep out of the shadows into the homes of the fibbers and falsifiers, the candy-stealers and cookie-snatchers, the hair-pullers and tantrum-throwers. They'd slide in through the smallest cracks when parents had let the fire cool, tiptoe into rooms where bad children lay and, quicker than a spilled secret, steal the bad children away into the dark night, far from home and any grownups who might hear, and the frightenings would commence.
You see, the sluagh weren't interested in just punishing bad little boys and girls. No, they wanted to frighten the naughty children into being good... shocks that turned hair white and stayed with them for life. They'd bind children to branches with ropes of human hair and let spiders spin webs over their eyes, encourage nasty creepy things to crawl into ears and noses and mouths, and make shadows dance and stretch until even the wickedest kids were sobbing for their poor, maltreated mothers. Most of all, though, the sluagh would shout and scream and gibber and the sheer terror of their voices frightened many a recalcitrant child into obeying their parents. There wasn't a child from the Black Sea to the Isle of Skye whom the darklings couldn't creep, cajole, or frighten into being good.
This worked for many, many years. Why, even the parents made sort of an agreement with the sluagh... one no one talked about but everyone knew. Oh they would claim the sluagh would never come for their precious darlings, but late at night, after one to many cracked dishes or undone chores, a decision would be made. The candles would burn low and father would put a loaf of inedible bread, made with rocks or moldy flour or bugs, and a dish of sour milk out to let the sluagh know to come and do their duty for that night.
The Wickedest Boy in the World Edit
One day, there was born the wickedest boy who ever lived. At his birth, the ravens scattered from the eaves of the town and the rat king told his people to hide where tails could not be pulled. Even their worst fears, though, could not compare with Michael.
Micheal refused to eat what was given him then screamed like a bean sidhe from hunger. He tormented the pets and knocked over candles when he thought no one was looking. When he got older, he caught butterflies and pulled off their wings, leaving the remains on his mother's pillow to make her cry. He forced the paws of the loyal cat, who had moused for years, into the fire and laughed at the smell of singed fur. He smashed pots, spoiled food, and terrorized servants until one day his father could take no more. He threatened to call the sluagh but his wife convinced him not to; that their son would grow out of it and so he relented. The next day, Michael put out the fire, dunked the dog in the kettle, and dumped all the nails down the well. His father again decided to call the sluagh and mother nodded her head and baked the bread for the sluagh herself.
Of course, all the sluagh far and wide had heard of the boy. They spoke of him at High Tea the way knights spoke of famous dragons and how they might be slain. Aleksei of the 13 Toes said he needed spiders in his eyes and icicles in the ears. Owain ap Gwyn, accounted by some to be the fiercest child frightener of all, disagreed and thought he needed quicksand oozies scuttling up his legs. Agnes of the Grayteeth, though, disagreed with them all. "I fear," she said, shaking her head sorrowfully, "that ere we break Michael, something of us will be broken as well." there was the reek of prophecy in her words and the power of Soothsaying wound about the room. The sluagh drank their tea and shivered.
Taking Michael EditThe moon peeked out from behind the roofs of the village and cottage smoke strayed like prayers into the night sky. Michael's mother placed the loaf of bread (doused with water to make it soft) on the ground. Michael's father lowered a bowl (cracked of course) of curdled milk beside the loaf and they prayed for mercy on their souls before fleeing back to the cottage for safety.
If anyone else hear the prayer, I don't know, but the sluagh did. They came by 10s and 20s to sup on the bread and sip the milk. When all was devoured, they slipped into the house.
Michael heard the rustling of the sluagh coming for him. He saw the shadows pouring through the windows, heard spiders spinning webs to bind him. At the last moment, before the sluagh fell upon him to carry him to the wood and the hands of the scarers of children, he did something no other child, seized by the crawlers, had ever done.
Troubled, the sluagh took him away. When the sound of their feet finally faded, Michael's mother and father looked at each other, blew out their last candle, and smiled.
The Frighteningest Frightening in the World Edit
When Michael awoke, he was bound to the floorboards of an old mill with ropes of human hair and spider silk. The shadows around him rustled and jostled. Sluagh from far and near had come to see their greatest prey brought to heel and under the full moon, they went to work on the boy. They brought out their cloaks of live centipedes, gloves of live tarantulas, their slugs and scorpions, and set their tricks on Michael. And Michael just laughed.
Frustrated, Aleksei took Michael's shadow and bent it to his will like a marionette. A praying mantis of shadow, it loomed over him with razored claws of blackness. Michael smiled.
In rage, Owain summoned a storm, commanding lightening to dance around the boy; the bolts licking at his ears and burning his hair; Saitn Elmo's fire forming long-dead ghosts to terrify him. Michael spat in his scorn.
The roar of the sluagh grew louder until the sound solidified and poured across the moon as a cloud of bats which swooped around the town, beating at windows with thundering wings and shrill cries. The greatest of the sluagh looked for tricks that had put streaks of white into the hair of the wickedest children they'd seen: giant footsteps and beasts to lick the boys face. All for nothing as Michael shouted and raved his disdain.
You see, he knew the sluagh's secret: that they could never hurt any of the children they had taken away. It was a solemn compact made (so he thought) with the angels of the air that if they broke it, the angels would smite them. So he laughed and shouted because he knew their show was a sham.
While this was all going on, as the sluagh cacophony grew louder and the bats swirled higher, Michael's mother swore it was God's vengeance for what she did to her sweet boy. Michael's father went outside with a torch to drive the bats away but they grabbed him and carried him off, never to be seen again. The sluagh had only sworn not to harm children, you see. And Michael, well he tested his bonds and the will of his captors and figured their sport would end soon... and his would begin.
Or so he thought, until Agnes strode forward with a stone knife in hand and no pity in her eyes or mercy in the set of her mouth. Then Michael was afraid. Agnes raised her dagger. "The oath!" shouted Aleksei. "Is worthless," she responded, "if the boy spreads our secret and ruins us."
"We swore to the others!" cried Owain. "The others are not here," replied Agnes. And she brought the knife down, terrible and swift. Michael screamed! And the knife stopped, its point a tickle in the hollow of a screaming boy's throat. But Agnes' knife was to well sharpened and a single drop of blood welled out.
Endings EditWith that, there was a great tolling, as of bells beneath the sea. The knights of the Tuatha de Danaan knew the oath had been broken. they saddled their mounts and took to the air to punish the offenders. As they came across the swarming voices of the sluagh, the bats, they slew them and as each fell, pierced by a silvery blade, a sluagh grew silent... shouts crashing to whispers, until not a single voice was left aloft. The last, old Agnes' itself, tried to flee but was pierced by a black arrow with a silver head. The host almost rode against the sluagh themselves but the leader held up his fist and declared the oath avenged. His voice carried to the sluagh, gathered in terror in rage with their servants, ready for battle. As the knights rode off, the sluagh raised their voices in a cry of rage and hate... and it was only a whisper.
They tried again but all was silence.
They were still for a moment, then turned to Michael. It was for him they had lost their voices... for his pride and venom. The oath was already shattered and none would now gainsay their right to vengeance on him. The single drop of blood still glistened on his throat, fear in his eyes, his hair white as snow. Again, Agnes raised the knife. Again, she brought it down, but only cut the ropes that bound him. "Run home, little boy," she hissed. "Run as if all the devils ever born were after you and never make us come for you again."
Michael stumbled to his feet and ran as the sluagh raised a dirge for what they had lost. At daybreak, Michael found himself at his mother's door. Bruised and bloody, his hair shocked white, he fell into her arms the second she opened the door and from that day forward, was the perfect child. He had to be. The sluagh were watching.