The Mountain King and His Sky Bride (Continued)

by O.R Melling

It happened in the early summer, when the hawthorn boughs were laden with white blossoms like brides, and the sun had melted the last snows in the lee of the mountains. On that soft bright morning, the fairy Queen of Wicklow went a–maying with her ladies.Eastward they journeyed, into the rising sun, tripping lightly over rust–colored bogs, down into leafy valleys, and up grassy hillsides. The Kingdom was an endless garden: beautiful were its trees and flowers, its lakes and streams, sweet the music of the birds on the branch and those in the clear air.

When they reached the sugared peak of Little Giltspur, in sight of the blue sea, the Queen’s ladies chose a sheltered place to hold their picnic. They fashioned a bower with the mayflowers they had gathered as they went. On a cloth of white linen, they laid out seedcakes dripping with honey and crystal glasses of cool elder wine.Then they called to their mistress to join them.

The Queen only laughed and waved them away as she ran down the hillside. For she was chasing two butterflies, a Holly Blue and a Clouded Yellow. Soon she had left her ladies behind, as southward she flew in pursuit of her quarry. After a time, she came to an old forest that crested a high ridge. Below her fell the steep slope of a glencloaked with oak and ash. On the valley floor flowed a narrow stream and, bordering the stream, a stretch of gray road.

The fairy Queen did not see the road where mortals drove their noisy vehicles. Having no interest in the other world, she had never paid heed to its denizens; for she lived between the layers of their days and behind the veil that they seldom pierced.

She spied the little Blue hiding in a holly tree, and tagged him fair and square. When he flew off, she began her hunt for the Yellow. Then she heard the music. It drifted through the air toward her, high silvery notes, dipping and gliding like the very butterfly she sought. Head tilted on her shoulder, eyes closed, she listened.The tune was like nothing she had ever heard before, powerful and beguiling. Following the sound, she moved lithely through the trees, drawn downhill, irresistibly closer.

When she came to a clearing halfway down the wooded slope, the Queen hid behind a bramble bush. Purple berries draped her ears and throat like jewels. Peering through the greenery, she gazed at the young man who commanded the glade.

He was dark–haired, with long curls that framed his lean features. His eyes were hazel, the color of acorns; his skin, a golden tan. He bowed his slender body as he strained to make music, his red lips pressing against the silver flute. Serenading the trees around him, he delved deep into the roots of sound before surging upward into tremulous trills flickeringlike leaves in the sunlight.

The Queen was enchanted by what she heard and what she saw. The Queen was enchanted by the music and the man.

She began to sing.

At first he couldn’t hear her. The sweet notes that issued from her throat like a siren’s song were so low that his ear could barely detect them. Yet his soul resonated as if it were being played upon, and he strove to mirror that secret sound in his music. Only after a while did he realize that the inspiration was coming from outside of him and not from within.

He stopped playing.

She continued to sing as he stood entranced, hardly daring to breathe, listening and looking and finally spying where she was.

Behind a leafy bough was a pale and beautiful face with eyes like stars. His heart felt faint. A strange languor crept through his limbs. He felt his blood slow as if he were dying; but if this were death what bliss it was and he welcomed it gladly, surrendering to his doom. She stopped singing when she saw that he had found her.Like a bird startled on the branch, she went to flee.

He called out to her in a voice filled with longing.

She was doubly caught now.

A faint motion shook the air, like a veil being drawn aside, as she stepped from the shadows and into the sunlight. She wore a gown of pearl–pale silk that swept the ground. White flowers crowned her red–gold hair that shone like fire.

Enthralled by this vision of a glimmering girl, he ignored the trace of fear that tremored in his mind.

They stared long at each other, fairy and mortal. Both did not really know what the other was. Both were caught in the mystery of being.

He struggled to find speech.

"Hi."

She greeted him in her first tongue, the airy language of the sky.

They looked at each other, baffled.

"Did you say hello?" they asked together.

"What?"

"I beg your pardon?"

Frowns of frustration.

"Where are you from?" he tried again. "What language is that?"

With a sudden smile, she reached out to touch his forehead. A gentle caress.

He shivered.

"There," she said, in English. "Is that better?"

"How did you do that?!"

Her dazzling smile again. All thought abandoned him.

"Now that I know what you are," she said, "I may speak with you. Yet this is not the language born of the land, which my people use also. Are you not of Ireland?"

"Taimse a foghlaim gaeilge, if that’s what you mean," he said. "I’m hoping to learn more Irish while I’m here. I’m Canadian. Of Irish descent. I’m over for the year to collect tunes and workwith local musicians. I’m a composer."

"Gabha an cheoil." She clapped her hands. "Yes, I heard this in your art. You fashion pure sound into music. Ceol n’éan agus ceol an tsrutháin. The music of the bird and the music of the stream."

"A smith of music?" He repeated in English the title she had given him. "What a great thing to call me." Her words fascinated him, for they brought the joining of his thoughts with the sympathy of his heart. "And you’re so right about what moves me!I practice in the forest to wake the sleeping muse. I never dreamed you would actually show up in person!"

"An leannán sí faoi shuan? You call me this? The sleeping muse?"

Charmed, she threw back her head and laughed merrily.

The sound of her laughter shot through him like quicksilver, scalding his soul. He wanted to hear that laugh again, though he knew if he did he would be lost forever.

His fingertips brushed the white blossoms in her hair.

"Isn’t it bad luck to pick hawthorn in May?" he said. "I’m told it’s the flower of the Faerie Queen and she punishes anyone who touches it."

That laugh again.

They sat down together on a fallen tree trunk. He played her some of his compositions. She sang along with them. He changed his melodies to suit her rhythms so that new tunes were forged, tunes that were both human and fairy. Tunes that were woven with the thread of new love.

Phóg mé ar ais is phóg mé arís tú
Gheill mo chroн don leannán síofrúil,
Is thug mé cúl do gach aon dílseacht
Nuair a phóg mé do bhéal.

I kissed and kissed again
Yielded to the fairy spell
Left behind all love till then
When I kissed your mouth.
*

He recognized the ineffable truth that rose in his heart.

"Come with me," he said. "Be my love."

She was already losing her way; yet some part of her remembered as she made her last protest.

"The life of your kind is but a fleeting moment, a raft upon the sea that leaves no wake, the journey of a single day through a sleepy country, a mist dispersing, a petal falling. . ."

But her words drifted away as he kissed her mouth. And she yielded to the spell.

She walked out of the Glen of the Downs that day, hand in hand with her mortal lover.

He did not return to his homeland.

She did not return to hers.