“Come, children. Gather round and I will tell you a tale,” the woman gestured as the firelight flickered around her whitened hair.
The children crowded around and settled in the grass, slices of apple and fresh bread in little hands. When they grew quiet the woman continued.
“Samhain is a time when the veil to the Otherworld grows thin. Spirits come back to roam this land. But, sometimes, other things come, too. Creatures who live in the Otherworld.”
The children were rapt, apples forgotten.
“Once, many years ago, a fairy came through. Not the tiny creatures called fairies now. But a creature tall and beautiful. She had magic, strong magic. She was curious about this world.”
“Why, Maimeo? Why was she curious?”
“She wanted to understand why the spirits came back here, child, so she followed them across the veil.
Gigantic feasts were laid out for the spirits. Bonfires were as thick as fireflies across the countryside. Music, guises, and games abounded. She was so drawn to this world that she was not watching the time. What happens when dawn comes after this night?”
“The veil closes and the spirits cannot pass through, Nana.”
“Yes, little one. Those spirits trapped here must remain until the veil thins again. And the same happened for the fairy. Only, she was not meant to live here.”
“What did she do, Maimeo?”
“She had to find a way to survive. So she went to Clann Carthaigh,”
“It is. She asked your grandfathers and grandmothers for guest right until the veil thinned enough for her return to the Otherworld. The Clann was concerned. Fairies were not known to be very hard working creatures and winter was drawing near. They talked late into the next night before they decided to take pity and grant her guest right.
“At first things went well. She was a beautiful fairy and did everything she could to repay her debt for she knew of their concern. But, things did not stay that way. The neighboring Clann Suibhne grew jealous of the riches the fairy brought Clann Carthaigh. Clann Suibhne began to raid Clann Carthaigh. Soon, men were killed in the raids. Both clanns swore blood oaths to teach the other that they were not weak.
“The fairy felt terrible that her efforts were bringing sadness, anger, and blood shed to Clann Carthaigh. She went to the chieftain and asked for one night. In that night, she promised she would end the feud between the clanns. He wasn't sure he believed she could, but gave her that night.
“No one knows what happened that night. Clann Suibhne speaks not of it. But they left this county and have never returned. Some say the fairy cursed them. Others say she bribed them. That is why they say to cross a fairy is bad luck indeed.”
The children sat in silence, listening to the fire crackle and starting at shadows. They finished their apples and bread before thanking the woman and moving off to their beds.
In the firelight the woman watched, a slow smile and a glimmer of something more in her tilted violet eyes.