by Midori M. Hirtzel-Church
So, little one, you wish to know why we of House Scathach are different from other Sidhe? You wish to know why we cannot call upon the Art of Sovereign, as do our Kithmates of the other Houses? And why we cannot turn away from a battle until we or all our foes are conquered?
"And why," you ask, "do we wear naught but white, and black, and grey?" That, too, you shall learn when this tale is done, so sit down and listen...
Long, long ago, when the world was new, there were three sister Goddesses, the Three who were also One: Kyré, the Maiden; Ginevra, the Mother; and Scathach, the Turner of the Wheel. They were the daughters of Kerridwen, the Great Goddess, who gave them charge of Her greatest treasure, the Cauldron of Rebirth.
In those days, we Fae did not often die, for we did not age as mortals do. But when we did die, it was Scathach who came to collect us when we reached the end of our roads, and she who guided us to the Cauldron, that we might be reborn. No one feared her then, for we knew that she was not the End, but the agent of a new beginning.
When the Tuatha de Danaan arrived, the Three welcomed them, and they swore oaths of undying friendship to one another. A prince of the Tuatha wed Ginevra, and from their union came the first Sidhe.
And for many, many turnings of the Wheel, all was well. But then, one day, Gwydion, the king of the Sidhe, determined that he, not Scathach, should have power over life and death. And to this end, he went to Scathach, and asked her to give him the Cauldron. "For such is my right, as King of all the Sidhe."
"No," said she, "for it was given to me by my Mother, Kerridwen, and I will not abandon my duty."
The king asked again, and again, she denied him. He offered her all the riches of his realm, if only she would give him the Cauldron. And still, she answered, "No."
Then Gwydion grew angry, and said, "If you will not give it to me willingly, then I shall take it from you." And he went to his sons and daughters, and told them to make war on the House of Scathach. And they did so.
Scathach gathered her children as well, and the two mighty armies clashed upon the field of battle. For many days, the battle raged on, and was joined by others, even some of the shapechangers, the children of Scathach's husband, the Hunter Gwyn ap Nudd. Yet, for all their might, neither side could prevail against the other.
Determined to win by any means, Gwydion went to his brothers and sisters and asked for their aid. In his tent, the five met: Gwydion himself, and his siblings his brothers, Dougal, the smith, and Liam, the wise sage; and his sisters, the beautiful and passionate Fiona, and Eiluned, whose sorcerous arts knew no equal.
Dougal and Eiluned agreed wholeheartedly to aid their brother, but Liam turned sorrowful eyes upon Gwydion and said, "I have foreseen that no good shall come of this, my brother. Please, put aside your wounded pride and have done with this battle." He spoke so eloquently that lovely Fiona was moved to tears, and she too pleaded for Gwydion to stop, but he would have none of it. Furious, he turned to gentle Liam and spoke words of baleful power: "As you have refused to honor your oath to me, so, too shall you and all your issue be marked as oathbreakers, for now and forever—now get you from my sight!"
Liam turned sorrowfully from his siblings and vanished into the night. Stricken by his pain, Fiona rushed out to console him. Thus it was that only three remained in the tent of Gwydion to devise a means by which the battle might be won.
Using all his skills as a smith, Dougal fashioned for his brother a mighty sword, greater than any he had ever made before. Eiluned wrought secret and powerful enchantments upon the blade, and then the two presented it to Gwydion: "With this, you shall surely conquer Scathach, and then the Cauldron shall be yours."
The next day, Gwydion called for Scathach to meet him upon the field in single combat. Armed with a blade of her own making, she accepted.
The battle raged for many days and nights, but finally Gwydion struck Scathach in the belly. The power of the ensorcelled blade ripped through her body, and the field shook with the force of her scream.
As the battle raged, Dougal, protected by Eiluned's mighty magicks, hurried to the chamber of the Cauldron, only to be confronted by the furious Gwyn ap Nudd. The Hunter and his pack attacked, and in the fray one of the Hounds bit off Dougal's hand. Terrified, the smith fled for his life.
Upon finding his wife sorely hurt, Gwyn brought her to her sister, Ginevra, for healing. Ginevra brought all her skills to bear, but even her healing powers could not restore all that had been lost—Scathach was left forever barren from Gwydion's blow.
Then did a terrible anger come upon Scathach, and she swore that she would have her revenge upon those who had wronged her. In her rage, she pronounced a terrible curse upon Gwydion and his brethren: "Even as you have taken my power to bring forth new life, so shall I curse your descendants. I shall not allow your children to return from the Lands of the Dead."
Ginevra and Kyré pleaded with their sister to retract her words, but Scathach turned away from her sisters and refused to listen. No longer the Turner of the Wheel, she became the Dark Lady, the Great Raven, the Death-Bringer.
Gwydion went to his parents, the Tuatha de Danaan, and asked them to remove Scathach's curse. Yet even the mighty Tuatha were powerless to revoke it, for even They could not gainsay Death herself. But Gwydion demanded that Scathach be punished for what she had done. Thus it was that the Tuatha called Scathach before Them and pronounced Their sentence:
"As you have taken something from Our children, so shall We take something from yours. From this day forward, they shall never have recourse to the Art of kings, the ability to command others. And as your rage and stubborness have led you to this, so too shall it be the undoing of your children in battle, frenzy shall take them, and they shall not leave the field until they or all their foes be conquered." Scathach heard the words of the Tuatha, and felt her heart grow cold. She left the great Hall of Audience and descended to the cavern where the Cauldron had been hidden. Her raiment became armor, colored black as the raven's wing, a cold shell of mourning for what she had lost.
All over the world, when they heard of what had happened to their mother, the members of House Scathach put on the colors of mourning: black, gray, and, in the farthest reaches of the East, white. And, as time went on, they began to wear those colors exclusively, symbolizing their sympathies with their wronged mother.
The children of Gwydion, Eiluned, and Dougal never forgave Scathach for barring them from her Cauldron, and so they turned from the children of Scathach, and said that we were less than they. And so it remains, even today.
So now you know, little one, why we wear no colors, and why we succumb to battle frenzy. The other Sidhe do not remember that our mother was once the Turner of the Wheel; they say that she was merely a mortal woman who taught other mortals how to do battle. But we remember...and so, now, must you.