A stranger, a wood, an offer of hospitality. It's an old story, and like any old story, it doesn't happen anymore. No one now stumbles from a fairy mound a century late, or takes a fallow deer to bride. Once upon a time, but no longer, there were magician kings who accepted no mortal vassalage, whose favour could be won only by impossible tasks, who knew the dark places of the sky and the depths of the sea and the hollowed hills. But those days are past, and nothing now escapes the rule of man.
So I had always thought.
The blackbirds fly en masse, the light glancing from their coal-black wings, like the coal-black hair of the girl who sings in the local bar. The cellar bar is dark and cool, nestled deep beneath the coal-black soil: there's drink and music and dancing, and everything glamoured by the changing lights. Did our foremothers lie when they warned that such things were not of this world, when they said they couldn't bear the light of day?
The sky is full of stars, my love, somewhere overhead. I can see to dance by the starlight reflected in your eyes, even underground.
An owl, a lark, a colly bird, the flowers in the valleys … any of these have been at times a girl, the heroine of some lover's tale. But the tale is told by the human lover, long after the girl is gone: gone far away to stay with another, or fly away free to her long-lost home. 'My father's health is failing', 'the other man is fairer', 'there's some secret at the heart of the ocean at night' … it needs no vision that comes in dreams, no trace of the seer's art, to foresee the unalterable end, only the excuse.