“Why have you come here, my child?”
Mab shifted on the uncomfortable wooden bench. It was weird sitting there inside this stuffy, newfangled box and hearing a disembodied voice from behind a curtain. The new priest had no idea who she was, what she looked like, or what she’d been up to. Old Father Finley had always taken confessions side by side on the cushioned pew near the altar. He used to put her at ease with a chuckle and a ‘not you again’, or ‘I know why you’re here today, Mab Thatcher’.
And now this new priest didn’t even seem to know what confession was for. It didn’t fill her with confidence.
“Because you’re meant to make me feel better,” she reminded him.
There was a silence, during which Mab wondered why the new priest sounded so huffy about her answer. Usually, she came to confession carrying a laden wheelbarrow-full of things she’d done, but maybe shouldn’t have done, and laid them out in front of old Father Finley. He would dismiss them all one by one and give her a few lines to say. And there would be nothing to worry about anymore.
“Well, yes,” she said. “That’s your job.”
Another silence, and then he said: “Interesting. Please carry on.”
Everyone told Mab not to be the new priest’s first confession in Blackwood, but had she listened? No. She wasn’t good at taking orders.
“I went to The ‘Tree That Weeps’ yesterday to make a wish.”
“And what, pray, is ‘The Tree That Weeps’?”
“It’s a tree.”
A small silence. “I guessed that much.”
“You take a trinket to hang in its branches, and then you can make a wish. If the tree decides to honour it, it claims the trinket by covering it in golden sap. Then you know your wish is going to come true. Honestly, did Father Finley not tell you anything?”
“It seems… it seems he left a few things out.” The young priest’s voice was strained. “And what did you wish for?”
“Well, I broke the rules, you see. That’s why I’m here. I wished for two things,” said Mab, who was only allowed one wish a year, as was everyone in Blackwood, to avoid stressing the tree. “So, my first wish was for a healthy baby.”
“You are with child?”
“Yes. I think so.” She nodded at the curtain. “I did all the right rituals, anyway. You know, the dance in the full moon, chicken’s egg under the pillow and all that.”
“Did you not think of praying?”
Mab smiled to herself at his naivety. “Everyone knows that never works.”
“And what was the other thing?” The priest sounded like he was being strangled now, his voice was so tight with disapproval.
Mab hesitated. She was not the quickest at picking up the emotions of others and was just starting to realise she may have said the wrong things to the new priest. As she had always lived in Blackwood and never been anywhere else, she wasn’t entirely sure what the wrong things were. She didn’t know that Blackwood was a little bit different to just about everywhere else.
“What was the other thing you wished for?” he repeated, urgently.
If she’d known what an impact her next words would have on Blackwood and all who lived there, she would have fled from confession straight away and never ever come back. But she didn’t.
So, poor Mab said: “I wished the faeries would come back.”
And life was never the same again.
To be continued…
Every so often, I take a little trip back into magical, medieval Blackwood – my favourite imaginary place – to spend thinking time with crazy Mab, kindhearted Silas, dropdeadgorgeous Otto and kickass Christina from book one (The Blackwood Crusade). This is the result of one of the little trips, and a suitable beginning to the next book. In which there will be witches!