Red Hair, Red Fur

The howls echoed in that dark night painting pictures of blood stained maws and sharp rows of teeth in the minds of the people in the ráth. All but one mind, anyway. It was a wolf moon, her father had said. It was wolf weather, the priest had intoned. Still, Aine ni Cathair was drawn to the hills and the cliffs and the open air. She donned a cloak and pinned it fast, pulling the hood up to hide her wild, red hair and her freckle-strewn face as she passed through the doors and into the night.
A steady rain fell and mist clung to the ground like man to a mystery, parting only slightly as Aine passed through. She carried no torch against the darkness and kept her steps light. The path to the cliff was a well-trod one and one she knew as she knew her own heart. That was why she was surprised to find something there she had never seen before: two torches, one to either side of the track.
Aine paused for only a moment before striding between them with determination and purpose. This was her place, her family’s land, and whoever was out here in the night would regret it if they were trespassing.
A lone figure stood beyond, a silhouette carved against the sky. They faced the sea and as Aine came closer, she could make out silver curls of hair.
“Gran? Is that you?”
The woman turned, a smile on her face as she looked at her granddaughter. Again, Aine hesitated. Her grandmother stood in the soaking rain beyond the torches with a knife in her hand, reflecting the light, and a fur over her shoulders.
“T’is, my dear. Come closer so I can see you.”
Aine took another step forward, hearing the howls echoing off the hillsides.
“Gran, why’re you out in the rain?”
The old woman chuckled softly.
“Why, the same reason as you, my dear.”
Another few steps brought Aine even closer before she paused.
“Gran, where’d you get that wolf skin?”
The woman reached to pat the fur of the skin thrown over her shoulders and smiled fondly, as though at a distant memory.
“Why, I’ve had it since I was your age, my dear.”
Aine stood only a single step away from her grandmother now and she could feel the fear warring with confusion in her gut.
“Gran, why’ve you got that dreadful big knife?”
The old woman flipped the blade in her hand and held out the hilt her to granddaughter.
“Why, so you can claim your own skin, my dear.”

The howls echoed in that dark night and the moon climbed further into the sky. The people in the ráth could hear the trembling call of a new wolf joining the hunt. Outside, a red wolf ran at the side of an old silver one, never as free before as she was now.


Humans – Part 1

“For the last time, Fáelán, there’s no such thing as humans.”
The small boy perched on the wooden bench kicked his heels, boots sounding against the wood.
“But Mam, I know what I saw! She was little like me, but her ears were all over round just like Kyran said they’d be.”
Fáelán reached up to touch his own pointed ears in remembered wonder. His mother sighed and ruffled his hair. There was no harm in letting her little lad believe for a few more summers. Someday, he’d be a man grown and have no more time for imagined humans in the endless plains of Tir na Nog. But Fáelán knew what he’d seen in the hazy light upon the moors and as he got up, he promised himself that some day he would catch a human and show everyone that they were as real as anything in the Land of the Ever Young.
Fáelán Mac Caiside walked through the moors and over the hills, his bow in his hands and his dreams in his head. At first, the sounds coming on the wind meant nothing to him. But soon they began to make a kind of sense. It was a song and not one he knew. Picking up his pace, he jogged over the rise. Scrambling, he nearly fell in the grass and a whoosh of air escaped from his lungs as he righted himself. The singing stopped and he heard uncertain footsteps.
“Is someone there?”
The voice was soft, almost scared sounding, and light.
“Just me,” he shouted, running full out now.
As he surged up over the top of the hill, he stopped short and spilled over, rolling a bit. Sitting in the grass, he stared up at the girl who leaned over him. She was his size, with bright curly red hair, and round ears. It was her ears that caught his attention. He sprang to his feet with a whoop.
“I knew it! I told her. You’re real! Humans are real!”
Her eyes were huge now.
“You’re…you’re a-”
Before she could finish, he grabbed her by the arm and started to tow her up the hill.
“Come on, you gotta see my Mam so she knows you’re real.”
The girl wrenched her arm free.
“I’m not going anywhere with you, Faerie Boy. I don’t want to end up in your stew or a pie or just stolen. I’ve gotta go home.”
Fáelán scowled at her.
“We don’t eat humans, ya daftie. Mam doesn’t even believe in ‘em. Now come on.”
But she stood stock still, arms crossed over her chest.
“I don’t believe you.”
He stomped one foot.
“I can’t make you believe.” Then he held up both hands, still holding his bow in one. “I swear on my honor that I, Fáelán Mac Caiside, won’t hurt you or let anyone else hurt you long as you’re in Tir na Nog. Better?”
She nodded once, sharply.
“Then come on, let’s go see my Mam.”