Hill Folk - The Fae in the Trees
About the Story Hill Folk
This is a short story written with the early translation of W.B. Yeats Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry in mind. I wanted to create a short story on the feelings of a young fairy creature discovering the limits of his kind. It is a work in progress for a larger collection of stories I would like to produce and illustrate.
Her bright hair dances around her head as the flames throw shadow into the clearing. I watch with interest as the small gathering grows larger and larger, music elevating the gyrations of the slender bodies near emaciated. This is their one day, the one twenty-four hour period of enjoyment they allow themselves in the season of harvest. Not quite done tilling and sowing next year’s crop, more work ahead but enough done to take a small rest. A single night of revelry.
It reminds me of our own revels, but the human sphere of consciousness is far restricted, they cannot ever fully allow their minds to throw out into the vast expanse of enlightenment, cannot ever allow their motions to further expand into a movement truly natural and without control.
Yet, they captivate.
They lead such short lives, so exotic to the years and decades that we spend in adolescence, our adulthood marred with childlike curiosity and yet age old reverence and knowledge. We know the leaves, the trees they were birthed from in the deep of the great forest. We know the new streams, small lines of tears thrown from the vast and ancient ocean once whole, now tattered and broken, pieced by land with its ravenous desire to cover the cool waters and use its energy to produce more of the acrid soil, grow greener and produce more air. It hungers to kill the waters. We watch. We watch it all.
Some prefer to shy from the wicked touch of man, claiming that all the humans can do is destroy, that all they touch will turn to ash, and they will aid in the lands desire to dry the sea. I cannot agree nor deny this; I have not seen the old wars where bloodshed fueled the earth with its rich essence, where the desiccated bodies nourished the growth of fungi and flower alike. They say these are the beings that help to spread the soil, to leech the life from the pure waters we grew from. Or maybe we too help the earth conquer, never leaving much for the rivers to take over with our constant assistance to our expansive green kindred, our brothers the trees.
I am but young, a small child in our culture and her hair entrances me. MY gnarled limbs are nothing like the smooth skin of her shoulders, bared to the moon glinting with a sheen of sweat. I can almost taste the saltiness of her skin, the way it gleams beckons to me, the heat of the gathering bodies a warm embrace from the chill of the night.
They don’t know I am here, they cannot know. We have long hidden from them I am told, for reasons which only fuel the image of their hatred and cruelty. I cannot help but wonder just how cruel such beasts can be. Are they not like us? Alien to the earth in the sense that they are another force which can manipulate the fires, tend and care for the earth and evade its narcissist character?
They dance by fire full of laughter and life. They pound the damp soil with bare heels and howl at the moon above with extraterrestrial voices that snare and bare truth to a carnal desire even we Hill Folk cannot outrun.
I know there are others hiding within the canopy, breathing in the life that flows from the crowd in waves. They thrive off this. They are the killers, the ones who lure the young out into the wild, who take them captive and hold them in such a place that they will never age. They make them dance endlessly, entrance them to satiate their never-ending hunger.
I’ve often thought about this. Dreamed about bringing one of the young girls away, showing her the delicate details of the land she has overlooked. How the moon does not just shine, but fills each living thing with its light and allows sustenance even in the darkest of times. How the sun, the king of their sky, is a cruel and unforgiving bastard full of oppression. I have wished to unleash such wisdom that she may look upon me with the same awe and wonder with which I have often gazed upon her.
I have felt the supple skin beneath my hand as a young girl lay in the moonlight on eves when they fall into their deep slumber, only awoken with the loud and rough calls of the morning light. I have often longed to touch soft tongue to the bleeding wound of a torn leg, a skinned arm. Such a bright red they bleed.
The moon is falling now, his light once bright ebbing away to the dominating sun. The villagers are beginning to tire, and all but those brimming with life have gone.
She always stays.
Fire burning down to the embers, her feet slow their trot to a low and flowing movement meant for her pleasure alone. I cannot resist anymore. MY wonder grows and I push past the leafy hedge which has hidden my kind for so long now.
She does not see me, doesn’t not sense my presence as I come near, following her motions in the dark of her shadow. I can hear the others whispering, calling to me in wind soft voices to leave, to let her be, that I do not know what would come.
Their pleas fall on deaf ears and I move closer and closer to her, feel the heat of her skin, until I have dared to moved too far. Her hair grazes my face. She whips around, fast enough to throw me out of her shadow, into the grey light of a falling moon exposing my strange likeness to her keen eyes.
I am caught in the moment, cherishing the feeling of her eyes wondering over me. They widen, slowly, so agonizingly low as the humans always react. My heart, if it were a beating thing like theirs, would surely be heard by now. I throw a hand forward, offer her my barky embrace.
And she screams.
The grating sound is horrifying, and I cannot control my actions, instinct setting in thick. It is a horrible sound, a continuing agonizing torture. It has to stop, she must stop, must see me for the beauty I am, the nature of my intellect and longevity. Hard hands close around her arm, but the shrieks continue, deepening into a guttural sound and I can hear the beating of hundreds of feet now. They are almost here.
I lurk above her, pulling her closer to muffle the sound, wrapping the branches of my arms about her tiny and slender body, feeling the heat of her body against mine for the first and only time.
The shrieking stops.
With pleasure and bursting excitement I leap into the cover of the trees, certain she has come to understand that I am not here to scare, but rather to enjoy her company as I have for years. The villagers are still coming, and I cannot inspect her, cannot look down into my arms to see why her touch is starting to chill, why her breath has slowed to a deadly crawl. I escape away, the others following me in the trees as fire breaks once more into the night.
They search for the girl, but the elders now are going back, leaving the forest and the Hill Folk they know lurk in the trees. They know they will not find her. She is gone, lost to the mortal world now. Perhaps she will return in a year or two, wandering about the edge of the forest with flowers still woven into her flaxen hair, still thinking of the previous day’s work and where she left off. Or she will be found grey and covered in moss, her bones beginning to break through the once beautiful skin, her life drained from her, broken by the primal creatures hidden beyond the tree line.