Originally published on October 15th, 2013 on Kickstarter.
There is an old saying “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” That may have been true prior to the coming of the Veilstorms, but nowadays the more accurate phrasing would be “That which does not kill us, may transform us!” Once there was a young woman named Babdhbh whose dancing was renowned throughout her county. She had a lithe and graceful form. It was said that when she danced all women wanted to be her and any unclaimed men wished her for their wife. Before the Piercing of the Veil, people would travel from many miles around to watch her perform. The people’s passion for her dancing was so great that a riot once broke out when she was unable to make the journey for a promised performance. Despite all the attention and adoration shown her, Babdhbh had eyes for only one man, a man of advanced years named Donn. Unfortunately, he was not a good man and he was unworthy of her love and devotion. He was exceedingly jealous of the attention shown Babdhbh, even though she’d never done anything to earn his mistrust. Donn was also a violent man, prone to fierce anger; a dangerous combination. Yet Babdhbh had loved him ever since the time Donn had saved her life when she was a child. He was her one true love. In her eyes, he was a warrior of the old epic tales and no matter the offers from other men, she was never tempted and she never strayed. She was for him alone.
When Babdhbh came of age they were wed in an intimate, flower-strewn, woodland ceremony, and together they danced the night away, musing on how bright their future together looked. Yet as the years passed, their relationship soured and became ever more volatile, poisoned by Donn’s jealous nature. Babdhbh’s fame and skill grew with each passing year while Donn simply grew older and more bitter. Their fights became as infamous as her dancing was famous, for she could hold her own, up to the point of violence. Many among their friends grew concerned about their future and Babdhbh’s safety, especially as she began to cover her face with heavier layers of makeup to hide the damage that Donn inflicted upon her. Sadly, her friend’s concern was not misplaced, but not one among them could have predicted how completely Donn’s anger would one day consume him.
Babdhbh’s undoing began with a planned journey to a neighboring village for a performance at a wealthy couple’s wedding. Her husband forbade her to go. He was suspicious that this trip was a ruse, a cover for some illicit activities. He accused of her of unfaithfulness, claiming that he knew she had a lover in that village and that she was intending to meet with him. Donn uttered such vile phrases that she could not believe this was the same man that she had loved since childhood. At first she wept, and vehemently denied all of his accusations, yet in truth she knew that their marriage had reached the breaking point. She then told him that this was going to be a one-way trip. She’d had enough of the marriage, of his jealousy and abuse and she was going to start a new life without him. He flew into a rage, struck her hard across the face and sent her reeling backwards against a wall in their home. He reasoned that if he beat her badly enough, she could not possibly leave. He advanced to strike her again, his rage not fully spent. Before he could strike her, Babdhbh picked up a statuette, and bashed his head, instantly knocking him out. Starting at his fallen body, the head wound bleeding profusely, as they oft do, Babdhbh thought she had killed him. Confused, and not a little terrified, she fled their home and ran to the house of a mutual friend. Though looking for his wife, she found the husband’s shoulder to cry on and she let loose a torrent of emotions, her tears soaking his tunic as thoroughly as a rainstorm. He comforted her with words and embraces and tried to calm her.
As fate would have it, Donn was not dead. He awoke from the blow even angrier than he had been before; his head wound acting as an accelerator to his fury. He was a man possessed. He grabbed the ceremonial sword that hung over the fireplace and ran screaming into the night, calling out her name. He rushed from house to house searching for her. Unfortunately, he knew her habits well and his second guess was the right one. He burst into the room to find his wife being comforted by a man. He raged at them, accused them of treachery and before either of them could respond, he attacked. The unfortunate friend was much younger than Donn, yet despite his youth, he could not overpower the passion burning within Donn’s heart. The younger man placed himself between Babdhbh and Donn and reached for something to defend them. Before he could even raise his arm, the crazed man struck him viciously over the head, mocking him as he fell unconscious to the floor. Babdhbh, shrieked at her husband, screaming that he had no reason to kill their friend. She told Donn how much she still loved him and pleaded for him to stop, “I will never leave you my love!” she wailed. Yet Donn could not hear her pleading above the internal din of his fury. Knocking her out with a single blow, he then dragged both Babdhbh and the man out into the woods.
The captives awoke to discover themselves spread-eagle between two trees, gagged and bound. Donn’s face, now visible in the glow of a small, hastily constructed fire, was contorted into a perfect mask of rage. When he saw that they were awake he repeated his accusations. With a patronizing sneer he assured them that it wasn’t their fault. It was the fault of Babdhbh’s beauty and especially that of her shapely dancer’s legs. He blamed too the honeyed tongue and chiseled features of the younger man. He would take care of all of that he declared as he placed the ceremonial sword’s blade into the fire. Guessing what was to come, the pair began thrashing violently attempting, without success, to break their bonds. Their efforts made Donn grin and as the sword’s edge began to glow almost white hot, he drew the blade from the fire and approached Babdhbh. “Do not worry my wife, it will be over soon and then we will be happy again. This blade has been heated well, your wounds will cauterize instantly and you will live,” he said in a calm, emotionless tone that held no echo of the insanity in his soul. Fortunately for Babdhbh, she passed out before he began his foul work but the other man did not and he screamed in pain as Donn exhausted his jealous rage upon him.
When Babdhbh awoke she was in a neighbor’s bed, being treated by a local doctor. She could still feel her legs and excitedly tore off the covers, only to discover that her husband had truly done his evil. She let out an ear-rending scream that was heard throughout the village. Her anger turned to sobs when she was told that her husband had fled at the approach of other villagers and had escaped. As she was crying, she prayed for death but none was forthcoming for Donn had been correct, the sword had cauterized the wounds where he had removed her legs, just below her knees. The madman had also cut out her tongue and carved a razor-thin wound that encircled her throat like a necklace.
For one full year afterward the woman remained in her village, relying on her savings and the kindness of her friends and neighbors. Her friend had survived as well, though he and his wife had immediately moved far away from Babdhbh and the terrible memories of that gruesome night. Over time her mood grew ever darker and an intense anger and a profound lust for revenge began to fill her heart. Her husband remained free and she was trapped in her home, unable to dance or even speak properly. Yet she could still scream and scream she did, especially when the first Veilstorm arrived and besieged her village.
Chaos swirling all around her, Babdhbh actually began to pray for survival. Not to enjoy the beauty of life, no. She desired to live only to enjoy the sweetness of revenge. As the roof was torn from her home she was confronted by a Veilstorm whose fury she understood, for it matched her own. When the storm finally abated, Babdhbh had mysteriously vanished from her village along with it.
Meanwhile, Donn had moved on to a remote village, seeking to start a new life, and had succeeded to some degree in doing so. His world had changed too as a result of the Veilstorms, yet he had survived. e considered himself fortunate. That is, until one evening when he was sitting at home reading a book by the fire’s warm glow and heard a strange knock at his door. It didn’t sound like a knock that one would make by rapping knuckles against wood. It sounded odd somehow but Donn could not find the words to describe it. With some curiosity, he pulled open the door. There was nothing there, yet he did feel a slight breeze that quickly diminished when the door was opened. Deciding that this was just some childish prank, he ignored it and went back to reading his book.
The next night brought a repeat of the same experience and again the man assumed it was a prank and went to bed without fear or worry. This continued each night, the knocking getting ever louder. After a week Donn sought to enlist a neighbor’s aid, but it appeared that no one, save himself, could hear the strange knocking. This unsettled him some. Over the coming weeks the knocking became more intense, as did his disquietude. One evening he decided he could take it no longer and he armed himself with the same sword that he’d used on his wife, and then took up vigil, hoping to catch the prankster. As dusk turned to night, he finally discovered the source of the knocking. Standing outside the front door he watched with disbelief as the disembodied head of his wife came floating through the early evening mist, her forehead slowly striking his door! Her once beautiful face was twisted by pain and rage into the very image of horror. The man, knowing that she had of course come to seek revenge, screamed, confessed his sorrows and his crimes, and dashed from house to house pleading for help. Seeing nothing but the mist, his neighbors thought his sanity had been claimed by the storms and they locked him up in a cell and set a watch to ensure that he was safe from himself. Night after night he complained of continued knocking on the cell’s walls but just like the first night, he was the only one who heard anything at all.
For one full year the man’s life was centered on these haunting episodes. Eventually his neighbors grew tired of his raving and released him from his cell to face his fate. On that night, the anniversary of Babdhbh’s death and rebirth, he returned home. Locking the door behind him he sat down by the fireplace, the ceremonial sword resting on his lap. He heard a sound behind him. He was now a rather jumpy man, and he quickly whipped his head around. What he saw seemed impossible. It was his wife, swaying and moving like the dancer she was, appearing legless in her tattered dress as she glided toward him. He stared at her in shocked silence. She then removed her head, at the wound he had carved in her neck, and it began to float in his direction. Her head was screaming an unearthly, ear piercing sound. It was an awful combination of screeching and shrieking. He clawed at his ears to make it stop, but to no avail. Her head neared him, and her mouth grew wide as if to devour him. Then the scream hit him, it hit him like a wall of sound, and drove him back into the fireplace. The head continued to shriek, the sound struck him as if it had form and substance and it drove him backward into the fire. He was fully conscious when the flames began to consume his flesh and his screams joined hers in a cacophony of suffering.
When morning came to the village, his few remaining friends thought to look in on him. Getting no response to their insistent knocks and calls, they opened his door. They found his crumpled and singed corpse in an impossible posture in the fireplace, his face frozen in a final scream. Some were truly saddened at his passing but the rest felt that he was better off. As they left the home no one noticed the absence of the sword that had once hung above the mantle place.
Thus ends the tale of the first Bean Sidhe. She was the first of her kind, though certainly not the last.