A father shares a tale of a magical event. But when a young girl sees the same images in the ashes by the hearth as those told about in the story, what's she to think? Is the newcomer to their home just a coincidence? Or is the magical spell repeating itself?
"Why do ye no' tell us a story, Iain?" her mother entreated their father.
The family chorused their encouragement, shouting out various favourite tales.
"Tell the one about the faery prince," Granny said softly, and all
voices hushed to listen to her. She smiled, folding her worn hands in
her lap, and waited expectantly.
Muirne's father made great show of settling himself in his chair by
the fire, and the family got comfortable for a long tale. Muirne had
never heard this story before.
"Long ago, on a Christ Mass just like this, a young maid woke and
looked in the ashes." Everyone's eyes swivelled to look pointedly at
Muirne, and her father winked. "And there upon the hearthstones she
saw a faery footprint, for the house had been visited in the night.
She looked long and hard, but no matter how she stared, she couldn't
determine if it faced the house, or out o' it.
"Before long she received a visitor again—and this time she saw him in
the darkened house. She was alone, so he spoke to her. A faery prince,
dark and tall like the fair folk, he was comely enough to beguile
Muirne turned up her chin at her brothers' whispered comments. In her
heart, she conjured an image of this faery prince, imagining he might
come to her. Her pulse quickened at the vivid picture her mind
created, and she listened as her father described him in detail.
"His cloak was black as the sky, though it sparkled wi' light as wi'
stars. His eyes were grey as a storm cloud, and his skin pale as the
snow. But as she beheld him, the man fell in a swoon, for he was
wounded sore. She took him in and cared for him, little kenning his
wound was enchanted, and that she who had the healing of it would be
bound to him forever."
Muirne shivered, pulling her arisaid around her.
"Soon his wound was healed, and that night he took the lass away into
the night and her folks ne'er heard from her again. 'Tis said the lass
and her faery man made a happy life in his faery castle in the
Otherworld. Folk talked about the faery footprint she had seen in the
ashes. All agreed the arrival was the prince. That the death omen
wasna a death at all—just a departure to a new place."