It’s like an epilogue, but I tell it, and tell it now that all the excitement has died down.
While finishing my cycle of drawings, and all my journal entries on the Fairy Battle – it took weeks – I read a lot of folktales from the old days, the ones that Arty’s books listed and defined and categorized by year, by country, by type of fairy.
The stories themselves are better.
I read them as a history, not as fiction. And the newest ones I will read as biography, note.
The Summer after the Gwyllion battles I spent mostly with my Dad, and he rewarded me with a trip to Scotland, since he saw the stacks of books I had been reading, and took an interest in my own “imaginative writings” as he called them – though they were diary entries and my imagination did not come close to describing exactly what had happened in May.
I was pushing for Ireland – but Scotland, and the North of England, was a compromise – my Dad said he – we – had family there, long lost cousins; and some short, found cousins had recently moved there from New Hampshire. I didn’t know any of this; it was a July of catch-up on that side of the family.
Arriving in the far North, near to Brig O’Achray, we stayed in a cottage that we had selected from pictures, and near to the action of some of my favorite stories, though they all took place hundreds of years ago. This was where he let me wander around for a few days – he said it was for inspiration, I told him it was for memorization. Though the weather and hot back home, here there was adventure in the wind, and the rain regularly fell, and temperatures in the mixed woodlands and ancient forests were very cool. Local people told us it was strange, but then, they said, it had been a strange Summer.
Tell me about it.
Each day I explored further, gently getting my father used to me going off on my own as he struggled with internet and phone connections back at the cottage. I found some favorite paths, bordered with hazel and blackthorn, and copses of crabapple trees, and rolling hills where the distant bleating of goats was clear on the wind.
But no fairies. Yet.
During my third day, and after wet morning and dreary lunch and short walk through muddy grass, I sat on a large stone at a crossroads and made some notes and tried to draw, the sunshine finally saying hello. There, while watching some deer as they watched me, a man rode up on a horse, pulling a cart, and all was draped in the classic thick argyle that sprouts from the ground, it seems, with the cooling air. He called, using my name, his accent from a dream where I was the princess in hiding up North but the Southern Kingdom was in trouble and needed me at court.
He rode down the short path off the main way that led to the sloping dell where the deer and I played under a newly crisp, blue sky and peaceful sun. I walked toward the snorting horse, as the man dismounted with a groan, adjusted his buttoned cap, and handed me a letter. He smiled.
“There’s a good lassie, a right bean shith.” He smiled more broadly, almost laughing the words, his large red moustache riding the motions, up and down. “Aware the sleagh maith, ay? Ha ha! Oh my, when I was a lad.”
Trying to find words, of any language, to answer him, while still distracted by the familiar handwriting on the letter, I am afraid I only answered the Scot with smiles of my own. He shook his head, added, “good for yours, little lady!” through a grunt that landed him back upon the seat and amid the reins of his brown horse. He wheeled the carriage around, boomed a command to the steed, and cart and all noisily returned to the main road and away.
The handwriting was Mary’s, and I had already torn it open and was halfway down the page when my father, as promised, came to meet me for a walk around the loch.
My father, who had a lot of explaining to do…
Mary’s letter warned me to be careful, to pick friends carefully until she arrived – both human and otherwise. She needed only one sentence to describe her realization of my fairy blood, and the precise amount of convincing it took. And asked if I wanted to meet my other blood relations, those on the fairy side.
Her English was perfect. My Scots was improving.