The Road that Appeared from Nowhere
It was a strange day when the three women appeared, walking along a long road into the village. Indeed, the road itself was perhaps the most curious affair, for it had appeared overnight where before there had been only a green meadow. Along each side grew tall, gnarled trees, jagged shrubs, and strewn wildflowers—all of an ancient feel that looked as though they had been growing since time immemorial. Of course, no one saw how it was made, nor who put it there, nor how it appeared, or even when. But it could not be denied that the entirety of the village saw the road itself, and, coming down it, the three women.
The first woman had the grace of a dancer, the second the stance of a fighter, and the third was bent and wrinkled like an old crone. But all three had a fearsome Fae stare that struck terror into the hearts of the humans who looked on them.
It was made all the stranger for it was the day after a village woman had given birth to a child, although she had had no suitor. Ostracized, she had given birth alone in a broken shed, for there were none who would offer her aid.
‘Give us the child!’ was the demand that came from the lips of the three women to the circle of every villager, save two.
The villagers stared wide-eyed for only a moment before debate began. Slow and murmuring came initial tones among the leaders, but it wasn’t long before the volume shifted and sides began to form with swift cutting words and double-sided cries until finally all sound subsided. For consensus had been reached.
‘You can have the child, but you must take the mother too,’ came the trembling voice of the village magistrate. At this proclamation few saw the eyebrow of the old crone twitch, for the debate had not been about whether the village would give up the child, but rather how to go about getting the strange women to take the mother as well.
‘She may come,’ said the old crone, her tone of steel causing the very ground to tremble and several villagers to look at their shoes in shame for their quick verdict.
Even so, most went and brought out the woman, still weak from birth, and her child and pushed them toward the new and ancient road.
It was only the mother and her child who saw the women smile warmly. Only the mother and her child who felt the arms of the women around them. Only the mother and the child who walked along the enchanted path. For it was when they set foot along the strange road that the entrance to it vanished.
The village dined on the tale for many years. And when the day came that a hundred years had passed, a strange man came to visit the village. He was well dressed, well spoken, and had a Fae look in his eye. He asked for little, listened greatly, and when the famous tale was told, no one noticed the hint of a smile that played around his lips. Just as no one noticed him slip down a path that wasn’t always there. For he had an appointment with three grandmothers, and it would not do to disappoint them.