stefanie_bean: (anton smiling)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 4: The Grey Sisters
Pairing: Anton/Original Female Character
Characters: Anton the Giant, Leroy/Grumpy, Astrid/Nova, Original Male & Female Characters, Regina Mills
Rating: T
Length: 2823 words
Notes: Set in Season 2, in Storybrooke, Complete

Summary: Anton the Giant is growing a new crop of magic beans, but what he really needs is a happy ending.


Chapter 4: The Grey Sisters

Sunday brunch at the Bread Basket was almost over. Alex and her friends had left, and Brigid surveyed the remains: a few casseroles, a basket of barley rolls, a pot of creamed goat cheese, as well as some cut fruit. When the doorbell tinkled, she wore a broad smile to welcome the three older women filed in. "Ladies, I've never been happier to see you."

Amanda Grey, and her sisters Amaltheia, and Ambergris (Amber for short) were the last remnants of an old hippie commune perched in the western hills right above Storybrooke. Old Father and Mother Grey had bought the rocky old place for a song on the eve of the Second World War, when Mother Grey was but a bride of twenty.

Father Grey had inherited some money, and his new wife had a bit of the shine. She kept seeing a cloud, a dark cloud creeping over the land. Soon after, Father Grey enlisted in the war, and all Mother Grey would say was, "I told you so."

But Father Grey came back safe and sound three years later. To make up for lost time, Mother Grey birthed three girls one after another, one a year for three years after the war's end.

"Irish triplets all born in the caul," Amanda would say in her deep gruff voice. "You can't beat that for luck."

Father Grey died in 1971, “worn out by a houseful of women," as Mother Grey joked at his wake. Actually, heart trouble had just finally caught up with him. It didn't help, either, that the spring mud was so deep that year, that the ambulance heading up to Grey Hill Farm couldn't get to him fast enough.

Mother Grey stayed on, and with her grown daughters worked the land. The winds of change gusting over the country blew into eastern Maine as well. Like scattering leaves, young people drifted to Grey Hill Farm, drawn by the mist-covered hills and the air of magic which hung over the place. Mother Grey served as matriarch to the wandering seekers, the mages and shamans, the burnouts and occasional con artists who landed at Grey Hill Farm.

One wanderer married Amanda, and another took Amaltheia to wife in gorgeous springtime ceremonies, the brides crowned with garlands of wildflowers. These drifters left children on them, then moved on.

Presiding over all of them was Mother Grey. To her, all the young people were grandchildren, no matter what their origins. They mucked out the chickens, milked the goats, did carpentry repairs, kept the ancient pick-up trucks and station wagons running. They even added a few babies of their own to the mix, delivered by Amaltheia's skilled hands.

Over the years this amorphous band changed shape and faces like an amoeba as people came and went, but the Greys always managed to cough up enough money to pay the taxes and buy heating oil for their twelve-room barn of a house. If those at Grey Hill Farm didn't exactly flourish, they got by.

Then came the day when the Dark Curse was cast, almost three decades ago.

The Grey Sisters woke that morning to find themselves changed. Amanda now knew the lore of every herb and root, and how to doctor with them. She knew the ways of secret things and the workings of the thin places, those where the worlds lay next to one another and sometimes touched.

Amaltheia could cozen and comfort any living creature. If a horse got stuck in the foaling, or a cow in her calving, Amaltheia had only to lay her hands across the creature's flank to bring on the birth. No goat ever kicked or butted her during the milking.

To Amber was given the gift of the cards. That very same night of the Dark Curse, she took from the battered roll-top desk a pack of ordinary playing cards, and laid them out in intricate geometric patterns. Later she got hold of a tarot deck, the ordinary one with colorful cartoons in garish blues and oranges and yellows. More often than not, what Amber saw in the cards came to pass.

Nothing much happened to Mother Grey, it seemed, except that her eye got a little sharper, her judgment a bit more discerning.

Regina Mills, mayor of Storybrooke and the sorceress who had cast the Dark Curse, could never figure out why it didn't seem to affect the Greys in any way, or why they could come and go in and out of Storybrooke as they pleased.

Mr. Gold finally solved the puzzle. He concluded that by some strange coincidence, Grey Hill Farm rested right on the very edge of the boundary where the Curse had taken effect. It was, Gold had said, just like putting a glass dome down over a spider, squashing it halfway between the edge and the outside. But while the hapless spider would be cut in half and alive in neither world, the magic of the Curse had favored the Greys and all who lived on that gentle hillside. That strange, sharp-edged margin had awakened something in both the land and people, a green magic held latent for centuries.

Time passed, for Grey Hill Farm at least, if not for Storybrooke under the Dark Curse. Mother Grey died at eighty-one, taken in her sleep during the winter snows. Shortly after, Amanda came up with the idea to rent out the spare rooms of their big gabled house to travelers drawn by the lore of odd creatures and sightings in the neighboring woods.

"An East Coast Roswell," Amanda had said with a smirk. "Only ours are real."

Oddly, the Greys' curious visitors never saw Storybrooke, no matter how far they wandered into the woods. However, the curtain which separated the town from the outside world had frayed a bit in places. Visitors might see thin, translucent images of Storybrooke people walking about. Those with a strong case of the “shine” might might even hear David, Mary Margaret or Regina talking, like a radio turned down low.

These were the “walk-ins” Grey Hill visitors came to see, and they weren't often disappointed.

The sloped fields grew thick with herbs whose sweet scents filled the drying-barn. Restaurateurs from Boston bought Grey Hill Farm vegetables at obscene prices, earning enough to finance the manure-fueled greenhouse, which provided a steady supply of produce all year long. The Greys gave Brigid a steep discount, though, because Anton's fields weren't the first in the region Brigid had ever blessed. Not by a long shot.

Once Brigid had asked Amanda, "Now that the economy's tanked, aren't you worried that the Boston Brahmins won't be able to afford your prices?" The older woman said in solemn ministerial tones, "My dear, as the Good Book says, the rich will always be with us."

Soon they wouldn't even have to do that, when a few of the grandsons got the methane heater for the house finished. They'd already gotten one up and running for the chicken coops.

"The chickens keep warm by virtue of their own shit," Amanda liked to say. "Wish we could do the same, but no chance. Regina Mills would be down on us like a ton of bricks." Then all three of the sisters would hold their stomachs and howl with laughter. Regina would no more set foot on Grey Hill Farm than she would fly to the moon. Yes, the Greys got by.

Brigid showed the Grey sisters to a table, then hovered a bit, not wanting to sit down unless invited.

"We haven't seen you around," said Amanda.

"As you can see, I'm pretty busy here."

“So take a load off, Brigid. We can help ourselves.”

"We could send some of the grand-kids down to help you out,” Amaltheia said. To the Grey sisters, anyone under the age of forty was "a kid."

"That'd give Alexis a break," Amber added.

Brigid sat down, grateful to be off her feet. "I'm good, but thanks. The nuns help during the week, and I'm managing.”

“They're still nuns, eh?” Amanda said.

“Well, not quite.”

“So, how are you all, um, adjusting down here in town?” Amaltheia's tone had a conspiratorial edge.

“Adjusting?”

"You know, the Change. When everyone woke up to who they really were, back in the Enchanted Forest."

“Not everyone,” Brigid said. “I didn't. No secret life in a magical kingdom for me.”

Amanda rolled her eyes and said, “Green magic isn't like this tom-fool sorcery. It gives the rest of us a bad name.”

Brigid mused, “You know, Regina and the rest of the town are kind of like summer people.”

“Rude and entitled,” Amanda remarked. “Waltz in, take over, and after the locusts have fed, whoosh, out they go. Onto newer pastures.”

“I like Regina,” Amber protested. “She keeps this place nice.”

“Until a wraith or dragon or werewolf busts out of nowhere and breaks up the joint,” said Amaltheia. She then fixed Brigid with a naughty expression. “Or a giant.”

Brigid flushed. “He's not giant-sized anymore.”

“At least not till Regina's dear mother Cora decides to break the spell.”

Amber reached out and took Brigid's hand, frowning at her sister. “Amanda, that's a terrible thing to say. Brigid, sweetie, let me ask the cards about it, at least.”

“I'll pass,” Brigid said. “You know I'm always afraid I'll hear something bad.”

“There are no bad readings,” Amber said in a gentle voice.

“Cora's not going to do squat,” Amaltheia broke in. “She needs those beans. In fact, everybody here has a stake in that crop.”

“The summer people, you mean. They're welcome to leave, and good riddance,” Amanda said.

Amaltheia remarked, “You know, there was never any drama around here till they showed up. Now we're as bad as Castle Rock, or even Derry.”

Amanda rolled her eyes. “We are not anywhere near as bad as Derry. I swear, Amie, you exaggerate everything.” She leaned over to Brigid like a conspirator. "We're having a barn dance this Saturday. You should come.”

“Carl's already asked Alexis,” said Amaltheia in an overly helpful voice. “She already said yes.”

“First I've heard of it.”

“Oh, come on, Brigid,” said Amanda. “You know you'd let her go, anyway.”

“Look, leave me a few remaining shreds of dignity, and let me handle my daughter myself, OK?”

Amaltheia grinned at Amanda. “Brigid could bring that new feller, too. The big one with all that hair.”

“Tiny,” said Amber.

Brigid frowned. “I hate that name.”

Now the three women looked at Brigid with the sideways glances women give one another when some unspoken question has been answered, and something conclusive has been understood.

"Oh, I think Brigid here could persuade him to come,” Amaltheia said, finally.

Amanda added, “Bet he's a pert dancer.”

"There might not be any water in that well, ladies," Brigid said. "He hasn't been by today at all. Heard he was with the dwarves down at Ruby's."

"Grandma Lucas wouldn't want to hear you call her place that," Amaltheia said with a wicked grin.

Brigid grinned right back. "Well, it's going to be, sooner or later. Mostly is, for all practical purposes now."

“By the way,” Amaltheia went on, “You know, ever since Old Man Johnson died back in November, Father Jarlais has been without a sexton.”

“Really.” Brigid gave a slight frown at the mention of the priest's name.

Amaltheia continued, as if spelling something out to a particularly slow child. “The sexton lives in the rectory.”

Amanda chimed in, "In the carriage house, if you want to get technical."

“No one but you wants to get technical, sister dear,” Amaltheia shot back.

Amber looked up and said in a faraway tone, “I can't decide if Anton's the King of Pentacles or the Nine of Cups.”

“Pentacles, definitely,” said Amanda.

“Hm,” Amber said with a little pout. “Maybe he has a twin somewhere who's the Nine of Cups.”

Brigid was genuinely flustered now. "Well, far as I know, Anton's settled in with Leroy and the rest of them."

“Have you ever been over there, sweetheart?” Amaltheia asked. “One of 'em, Grunty, I don't know, hurt his hand and didn't want to go to Doc Whale.”

“I don't blame him,” Amanda said. “Whale's a drunk.”

Amber said, “That's not fair. He's going to AA now.”

“Once a drunk, always a drunk. At least Whale admits it,” Amanda replied.

Amber still wasn't satisfied. “That's the point of AA, Amanda.”

Amaltheia tried to wrest control of the conversation. “Anyway, I sat on the front porch and taped up his hand. Only got a glimpse through the picture window. No curtains, of course. It wasn't pretty.”

Brigid suppressed a shudder. “Well, there are six men living in one ranch house. Seven now. And no housekeeper.”

“You know, Amaltheia's got a point,” Amanda said. “Talk to Fr. Jarlais, Brigid. See if he can work something out.”

Amaltheia pulled three twenties from her beaded purse, which seventy or eighty years ago, had probably been carried to the Boston Opera by some doyenne, and laid the money on the table. “Thank you, Amanda dear, for acknowledging that I do have ideas once in awhile.”

“Oh, come off your high horse,” Amanda said. “Of course you do.”

“Brigid, keep the change. Amber and me, we're going over to the feed store. Got to get some bag balm.”

"I'll meet you over there in a while," said Amanda. “Wait for me.” To Brigid she said, "This cool, damp weather makes the goats' udders kind of chapped.”

"Hasn't been a problem for my goats," Brigid said, but it was too late, as the two women were already halfway out the door.

Amanda poured herself some more coffee before saying, "You and I, Brigid, we're kind of in different worlds. There are things you know that I don't. But there's a lot I know that you don't, either. So what exactly is it that you wanted to ask me?"

The coffee sippers had mostly left, and none of the few hangers-on sat within earshot, but Brigid looked around anyway before speaking. "As you know, ever since I left home, I've done what I can. Moved from town to town, helped with the sowing and the reaping, blessed the corn and the vine. And when I found one of those few special places, I'd stay awhile. But sooner or later, it was always time to move on. I can't shake this sense, though, that maybe my time to bless the fields has come to an end."

"That's the usual way of women," Amanda said in a dry tone. “Even those who serve the Lady.”

"But I don't want to break the rules. Problem is, I don't know what the rules are anymore. That's why I need your help."

"There aren't any rules," Amanda said. "Not like that. There are just the ways in which things work. So what if Anton's field was the last one you blessed?"

"I've never done anything else," Brigid whispered.

Amanda said, "Well, well. And Alexis is probably going to be your last baby."

"First, last, and only."

"There's a last time for everything, Brigid. Look, as long as you laid in the fields, you couldn't tie yourself to any one man. But once you go through the change of life, you don't lie in the fields any longer. Maybe now it's time for something else. The change isn't the end, even though a lot of women think so. It's a beginning.

“Look, you've told me your story, where you came from. By anyone's standards, it's crazy. But I've lived up at Grey Hill my whole life, and seen a lot of things you'd call crazy. This place has been odd from the get-go. My mother knew it. That's why she picked it out. It's not complicated, Brigid. If you want him, try for him."

Brigid sighed. “It's just that I haven't felt this unsure in a very long time.”

“You probably haven't felt this way about a man in a very long time. If ever.”

“That's true. And what's more, the magic's wearing off. I can feel it.”

Amanda gave Brigid a look full of sympathy. “What, you want my permission? You know what's going to happen now. You've known since the start.”

“I'm free, aren't I?”

“Yes,” Amanda said. “You are.” She pinned her shawl with a scrolled silver brooch, and picked up her purse to leave. Only the Grey sisters could pull off that look, as if they'd raided the parlor of a Victorian mansion and walked out decked in antimacassars, velvets and piano shawls.

As if Amanda couldn't resist delivering one more missive, she leaned over to Brigid and said in a soft voice, "There are no guarantees."

"That's exactly what another old woman said to me, a very long time ago.”

Amanda laughed too, young and bright despite her years. "Us old women, we stick together. Remember, barn dance. Saturday.”

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-22 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inlaterdays.livejournal.com
Oh, I like the Grey sisters and their farm/commune. The explanation about how they got their talents was really clever. And I like the description of the Storybrookers as "summer people".

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens at that barn dance.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-23 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Yeah, I don't know where the Grey sisters came from. I just really like to write groups of women sitting around gabbing. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-02 04:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] earthspirits.livejournal.com
Another excellent chapter - love all the detail of your original characters and back stories. It's quite perfect.

Looking forward to your next installment. : )

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-02 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Thanks: I love back-story (and OCs.)

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