American Fantasy Inspirational

Come away O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

-         W.B.Yeats

A small figure separated from the tree line, taking its form directly from the mist which shrouded the mountain bald. A young girl to any who witnessed, though most likely a trick of the light on the morning mist, drifted to the edge of the rocky cliff-face. The sun poked up enough to take away the gloom in the west end of valley below.  Barefooted and clad only in a simple linen shift, a tangled mop of pale red curls playing along her wan, sad face, she gazed down towards the advancing light, a bittersweet smile upon her pink lips.

The continuous rhythm of birdsong and the chattering of ground mammals filled the woods behind her. She lifted her arms towards the valley and complete silence fell. “Go gcoinneoidh an dúlra tú i log a láimhe,” she sang out, her blessing mimicking the muted birds. The edge of the forest was a solid, green wall, which now moved and waved as if blown by an unseen wind, alive with the susurration of a thousand chiming voices and the soft fluttering of feathery wings.

The sun rode higher with every moment and burned away the fog before it. The misty apparition glided back towards the forest, tilting her head briefly as if to listen and raised her hand slightly, which sent a response that was felt rather than heard. The branches and leaves ceased all movement, and the woods again came alive with the sounds of its beaked and toothy denizens. A few steps later, no trace of the girl remained.


Aine ran along the ridge, sand and leaves flying from her feet as she dodged roots and rotted tree trunks. Her brother was behind her, somewhere close by the sound.  Soon she would drop into the hollow and cross into the next valley.

She stopped suddenly. “What was that?” she asked. Directly underneath a large pine tree, she glanced up at a cardinal, perched in a low branch.

“Thank you,” she politely responded. The cardinal whistled its piercing, one-note call, and Aine plunged directly down the slope, heading south. “I’ll be careful,” she answered back.

Finbar trailed just a few yards behind, running hard to keep pace with his little sister. They nearly collided as she abruptly stopped, whistled and chirped to something unseen, and quickly changed direction.

“Come quick Finn. This way now,” she called back to him, her eyes wide with humor and alarm.

“But home is that way,” he pointed as he protested, still standing on the ridge.

“It’s not safe. They’re close,” she beckoned to him as she ran.  “We have to hide for a bit.”

“How do you know? We got out of there before anyone seen us.” Finn asked.

“Redbird told me, he seen them waiting, they laid a trap for us!” Aine answered. “We’re headed for that root bank along the cliff edge. We’ll tuck in there until night.”

“That place isn’t safe. Can’t we hide somewhere else?” pleaded Finn. “Last time I tried to get in there, I nearly fell over the edge.”

“Step exactly where I step. He’ll never find us in there,” Aine answered. “It’ll be ok…promise.”

Within minutes, Aine and Finbar had disappeared. The only one who spied them in their hidey-hole was a Red-Tailed Hawk who flew by to make sure they were safe. Aine politely thanked the hawk for his concern. The brother and sister chatted quietly until dusk. The slimy roots and poor footing almost proved their undoing, and they were on their last nerve when they finally made it back up to the ridge just before nightfall.

Aine could see the beads of sweat on her brother’s face in the gloaming light, she felt the heat coming off him, and she could feel his eyes staring. Finn didn’t say a word. 

“Alright, we won’t use that place again unless it’s bright daylight,” she said softly. “I’m sorry. Let’s get on home. Pa will be worried,” she added and took his hands in hers.


Mother and Pa emigrated from Ireland at the start of the century, bringing their hopes and traditions with them. Prohibition and the subsequent depression pushed them into the North Carolina mountains, and here they built their lives and raised a family. Two fine children graced their home and a talent to make whiskey helped build it. Mother died of dysentery three winters after the birth of her daughter, but the three of them managed to flourish through difficult times.

The daughter of Patrick O’Hearn was born with An Da Shealladh, the second sight. Children with this gift were considered precious, their abilities bestowed upon them by the faeries.  The girl was a blessing and a delight to her family. The few community elders who had survived the long journey from County Sligo believed the girl was far more. They recalled the tale of how the mother had died naming her child and recited the ancient legends of the Celtic goddess Aine, patron of wealth and summer.

The family survived on making grain alcohol. Their skills had followed them across an ocean, and when the fortunes of the new country had turned, Patrick taught his craft to his children. Any one of them could produce a quality batch of corn liquor. When grain was in short supply, Finn had a gift of his own, and would use whatever was at hand to keep producing fine spirits.  Despite the local sheriff’s considerable efforts to shut them down, he had consistently failed. The family knew they had Aine and her gifts to thank for keeping their secrets.


Aine arrived at the corner of the house as full dark fell, disturbing a masked intruder who was intent on rummaging through their trash pile. The lights through the windows slanted out just enough to see. 

“You won’t find much in there, but old bones and gristle,” she said, hands on her hips and feet planted wide. “I suppose you’ll leave a mess and I’ll get blamed.” 

The raccoon, caught red handed, dropped down from the edge of the trash, lowered his head and gave Aine a desultory, backwards glance as he slunk away. He’d come back later, bones and gristle were exactly what he had in mind.

“C’mere to me,” Patrick called to his daughter, as he stepped onto the porch. “Where’s your brother now?” Finn appeared in the yard a few moments later and ran to his father.

He hugged them both fiercely. “How you getting on?” he asked and looked closely into their faces.

The children described how the sheriff had pursued them, pushing them right into a trap, but because of a helpful feathered friend, the two were able to lead the lawman away in the wrong direction.

“Those are my hallions,” said Patrick, ruffling their hair and teasing them with tickling pokes of his knuckles.

“It seems we got this last batch bottled and set for delivery.” Patrick stated flatly. “It’ll be a soft day on the mountain, and both of you have earned it, so go off and have a grand time tomorrow.”

Aine and Finn broke into grins ear to ear, bouncing up and down and squealing with delight.

“Get washed, have your supper, and off to bed now,” Patrick instructed. “I’ll be at the still with the fellas, and then off to Canton to drop this load, and not a ruction from either of you,” he added, casting a sly smile over his shoulder as he walked away.

The children stayed up late into the night, talking and planning.


It was late May, and these mountains were a fine place to be in the late spring of the year. The first planting had come and gone, and the valley floor was as green as the jungle, or so Aine imagined, having never been. Both blossom and bloom had inevitably come to the higher elevations, and the soft, spring rains recharged the creeks and streams. 

Her father had predicted the day, he was always right about these things. It was warm but not hot, a light grey cloud cover but not gloomy, and in the air drifted a foggy mist but not rainy. A soft day if ever there was one. And it was all hers. Maybe later on she would go down to the town of Morning Star and lead the sheriff on another wild goose chase. She checked in on Finn. He was snoring and dead to the world. She was on her own.

Aine headed for the spring creek and had been walking for about an hour on a switchback trail, when she spied a small, mangy Red Fox, keeping pace and trotting along about twenty yards adjacent to her. She had never seem him before.

“Are you new to this mountain?” she called out. 

The fox stopped, turning and cocking its head sharply towards Aine, and issued a short, squeaking bark.

The girl stopped and returned its gaze. “That was rude,” she replied. “You are new here. Where are you from?” 

Just then, a small titmouse flitted near Aine’s ear and landed on her shoulder, chittering a quiet question of its own. 

“I don’t know. It’s the first time we’ve met. He doesn’t seem very…” she replied, as the fox suddenly ran off down the trail, whining in distress. “…friendly.” 

She puzzled after him as she watched him go.

The woods were full of noise and conversation now, all had awakened and returned. She trundled down the last slope and came upon a mother and her three cubs, feeding on a bright green hillside of early clover. “Good morning, finally awake are we?” asked Aine.

Finally?!” grumbled the mother black bear. “We’ve been on the move since the full moon began to wane,” she said and added, “that old sheriff’s been up here looking for you this morning, and he’s looking especially ornery. I expect he’s getting tired of you making him look the fool.”

Thank you mother, I know my way around him,” answered Aine.


Aine hadn’t been to the blue hole since earlier in the spring. The trees were still grey and leafless then, the snakes and skinks still covered and snug below, the crows and hawks and jays, skittish and scared, squawking at her from high, barren branches. The water was grey and her bath was cold then, her skin raising goose-bumps as she shivered all the way home. 

The freshwater spring was as fine a sight now as ever could be. The water was aqua-blue and reminded Aine of ice and diamonds. A tawny-colored fawn was dipping its head to drink, and surprised by the girl’s sudden appearance, quickly pranced away, all legs and shins, its white tail erect as it bounced through the mist. 

Workers from a nest of miner bees trailed out, back and forth in all directions, bringing food to their tunnels and chambers under the ground and providing just the right touches to the forest plants, who needed that pollen to flourish in their spring growth. Aine could hear the bees, hundreds of them talking together at once, vibrating their wings in a buzzing language even she could barely understand.

Aine settled onto a mossy stump tucked in next to an old fir tree and nestled herself between two giant knees growing straight up from its mighty roots. She intently watched the activity of all the creatures which used the spring, occasionally trying out her bee dialect. The bees were not impressed.  Aine laughed at her stumbling attempts to discuss pollination. Whether it was the subject or the effort, her eyes fell heavy, and she soon fell fast asleep.

The bees usually kept to themselves and of course, were very busy. Today, however, they all noticed something different about Aine. Several broke away from their flight patterns and began circling the girl’s head.

“Hhmm…I see. It’s almost time,” stated the first, taking a closer look at the sleeping girl. 

“Right. Almost time,” agreed the second, simply.

“Hers was the worst accent I’ve ever heard,” observed the third, slightly embarrassed for the girl.

“Sshh, don’t hurt her feelings. You know who she is,” said the fourth, in a scolding tone. 

“Yes, but she doesn’t, and she’s asleep!” exclaimed the fifth, feeling both were valid points.

“When she wakes up, we really should help her get it right. It’s time she learned,” said the sixth, with a slight note of impatience.

Their timing perfectly synchronized, they all turned to face one another. “It’s time,” they all agreed and together, flew back to their errands.


As Aine lay drowsing, the everyday activities around her continued quietly and unperturbed. Against the comfort of her fern-cushioned bower, her sleep took her further from the spring bank with each soft breath.  Images of dozens of tiny creatures, lacey-winged fairies and soft-footed nymphs, neither real nor imagined, were conjured into her dreams. They both weaved through her mind as a spirit might and sprouted from the very ground around her.  All were focused on her, moving in a shuffling dream-dance designed for a single purpose.     

She moved deeper into sleep while her hazy, fanciful dream world was pushed away, revealing a clear, dark nightmare world in which men struggled to live and children suffered for it. Her dreamlike glamour sent her creeping into dozens of mountain homes, where the children cried their way through the night, hungry and afraid. She saw the rich and powerful taking advantage of those too poor and weak to stand alone. She witnessed suffering and death, always ending with grave markers of wood or stone with poorly etched names and epitaphs.  

Half remembered legends, told by the community elders as she was growing up, and hushed whispers of little folk swirled in her unconscious mind. They would take the chosen to their world, forever existing in the borderland between consciousness and slumber. If the good in her was strong enough, she would straddle the real world and the imagined, using her power to help those she cared for in life.  If her true character was dark, she would be condemned to a dark hinterland, unable to help even herself. The choice forced upon her, made when her true nature was revealed.


It was late afternoon in the glen next to the spring, and the misty day had soaked Aine’s clothing to the skin. Her eyes moved rapidly beneath her closed lids, her head rolled back and forth against the bole of the tree where she lay. He breathing became ragged and deep, she rose again towards waking. She felt something was very wrong. Dark specters from the depths of her mind reared up and took shape. The old sheriff stood looming, accompanied by dark faceless wraiths, somewhere the voices of Finn and Pa shouting in distress.

Mother bear entered her dreams, standing upright like a human, one wickedly clawed paw dripping in blood. “I told you that sheriff was looking ornery,” she growled, as she dropped to all fours and charged straight at Aine.

Aine’s eyes flew open as she sat straight up, breathing hard, her curls stuck to the sides of her sweat-soaked face. The light was all wrong. She was confused…had she slept all day?! Frantically, she tried to remember…anything, but all she could see floating in her eye was mother bear with her bloody claws, and the sheriff with his dark men.

“Pa…Finn…the still!” she thought and stood up unsteadily, feeling like she had been nipping Pa’s ‘shine.

Aine began to run. It seemed important. She had to get…home?...to the still?...where? She imagined she heard voices calling her name and looked wildly around, as she pelted into the early evening, not even sure of which direction she was headed.

She caught sight of that same mangy fox from earlier that day, heading due west from her current direction. Irrationally she followed him, picking up her speed as it continued to get darker. “Slow down? Please!” called Aine as if from a dream, as she raced after him.

She stumbled and scrambled down a hill full of old roots and logs, watching the furry, bouncing tail ahead of her, the horizon brightening. The root bank along the side of the cliff came on as suddenly as if it had formed from thin air, just as Aine saw herself for who she truly was.  Tears came then, for those who loved her and their pain.  But her heart nearly burst with joy, as she stretched her arms wide and welcomed her fate.

There was no sound at the edge of the cliff, but a few seconds later snapping branches and a muffled thud could be heard. The mangy fox sat smugly looking over the cliff’s-edge, and after calling out a short, squeaking bark, he got up and trotted away, disappearing into the forest.


Patrick O’Hearn and his son Finn searched the woods for weeks. Even the sheriff and his men helped until they were exhausted. A turn of the year passed, and not a rumor of Aine surfaced. Her body was discovered the following spring by trespassing truffle hunters. Everyone talked-about how well preserved she was after having lain in the woods for over a year. During that time, mother bear, her cubs and the miner bees kept close vigil over her.

Starting the following day and still to this very morning, Aine’s voice can be heard each dawn, sounding like the songs of many birds singing at once, calling out a blessing for the family and woods that she loved. If any are there to witness, though none ever are, the figure of a young girl might be seen on a certain mountain bald, though most likely a trick of the light on the morning mist.

March 27, 2021 01:54

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19:05 Mar 30, 2021

Wow...what a lovely tale! I love that Yeats quote. How perfectly you blended that and the prompt within your narrative. Beautiful! :)


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Akshara P
01:07 Apr 17, 2021

The narrative became more and more engaging as I kept on reading! Well done :)


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Darya Silman
21:09 Mar 29, 2021

What a nice story. I must admit I was skipping words in the first paragraphs, but then the narrative became totally engaging. Well done!


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