This is a little Cornish Piskie story that got pretty dark pretty quickly, entirely by accident but i enjoy it, even if it’s gone rather sinister. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, and it was written for the Spoken Word night at the exhibition pub in York. Everybody likes bad faeries, but even the nicest of house spirits were never that kind. Folklore, eh? For those of you who don’t know, the Cornish Piskie is a bit like a Brownie or House Sprite, they’re supposed to help widows around the house in small ways, particularly the more vulnerable, but they’re still not entirely beneficent. Some of the legends surrounding them associate them with stealing children and making travelers lost forever on the Moors (in this case particularly in Dartmoor in Devon. They’ve also got a very long standing war with the faeries, though they’re not quite as sinister as their enemy. Obviously this particular Piskie would like to make out that the Faeries were to blame for all the bad things, but if there’s anything these sort of spirits have in common, is never, ever, trust them.
There are stories that tell of us, though they are of the folk. Not that we were dangerous, not always, we shared their rooms. They left us small offerings, and we in turn provided small blessings. We’d help a cider crop, bless their home in small ways. We made hard lives just a little bit easier. These were not kind times.
If they forgot, it could ruin them, it’s the little things that matter on long hard days and bitter cold nights. A trip, a spoilt brew or suddenly turned crop or milk – we didn’t ask for much, but we could be vengeful is refused, or forgotten. We needed it. As much as we fed on their belief in us, the ritual and sustenance kept us alive. It was.. Sybiotic, almost. In exchange for small gifts we made the hard slog of endless days labour somehow manageable., Company, of a sort, from the long night.
Better the Devil you Know, as they say these days.
We knew about the dangerous ones, both Human and Spirit, and though we could do little against human oppressors we kept the real nasties from our world away.
We could trip you, hurt you in small ways, hurt your income or storehouse, unless you paid our price. We kept the Barghests and the Faeries away. They stole children, mutilated livestock and left chaos worse for their passing. We taught them how to protect themselves, gave them small tricks to keep the bad ones away.
We were called Tricksters, but it’s better the Devil you know.
When the stern men came, with their new Gods, the Folk protected us in turn, though the great demons were cast out by this new, clean, white, purging, religion. They burned them, some of them. The weak, and the old, the lonely and the outsiders. They hurt and hunted us, wherever they found us. We became.. Rare.. Scared.
The Folk still remember, though often it’s just the habits – we don’t come out until it’s dark and you’re all asleep now. Our faces, never pretty to begin with, have contorted from years of hiding in the dark.
But they remember.
There’s still a Horseshoe above the farmhouse door, rusted silver to keep the otherworld away. Some of them even teach their children to leave milk out for us, though they don’t remember why. Or the real dangers it kept away.
But, it has kept a few of us here, a few of us survive, barely. We have survived on so little, for so long.
One day, we’ll come back to them. We remember, even if they don’t, and we still know our tricks. We know where the last of the Bad Things hide. And how few of the folk remember how to protect themselves against them. Where Mab lies, twisted and vengeful, and our oldest enemy.
The Great White Church is dying,
the faerie long to ride.
Better the Devil you know,
Hunted and left to die.
Those that still remember us
Might just stay Alive.