The Season of The Faun
The Season of the Faun
May 10, 2017
Finished June 6, 2017
“I loved her gray eyes, and her fine light brown hair and her gawky way of walking (like a fawn just learning to walk…I fell for her like a suicide from a bridge.” — Neil Gaiman, Troll Bridge, as from Smoke and Mirrors, 1998
This story, as do so many in fairy tales, started with the moon. That glorious orb that filled the heavens every night with her shining light accompanied by the stars; her brothers and sisters in their magical dance in the blackness of gray and blue.
But the moon on the night of this account wore a dress that shown a radiant orange; serving as a sign that the time of the harvest drew near.
In order to avoid getting ahead of myself allow me to start from the beginning.
I was a journalist who made a living off of traveling to the most remote areas of the world to document its wonders for the average person who would not otherwise be able to journey there.
My journey this time would take me from my current hometown of Liverpool in the United Kingdom to a new living quarters in the magical land of Ireland.
What would bring me there was the allure of the lore and history surrounding this ancient world where superstition and spirits would commingle in a glorious song and dance of stories and shanties.
I would take a passenger ship over the Irish Sea to the port in Dublin, Ireland and from there hop a ride to the smaller town of Bray which lay just south of the busy port.
Upon arriving in Bray, there was already something odd about the place.
People bustling from left to right appearing to be preparing from what I would expect be some sort of festival. The leaves were turning the spectacular colors of orange, gold, purple, red and yellow and tumbling and flowing in the wind to the ground below.
Curious as to the goings on, I stopped one of the locals; a little girl, and inquired about what it was that was causing such a stir.
“Why, tis the celebration of the harvest sir! The changing of the light season of summer into the darker winter. We gather for Samhain at the end of the month. Tis a huge celebration so we begin decorating and preparing early!” The little girl bid me farewell and romped off towards her mother who was calling from a local market.
I thought about what she had told me as I made my way to the small cottage I had purchased with the money from my latest venture in England. It was a quaint little place sitting on the top of a hill surrounded by small shrubs and beautiful trees with leaves now turned with golden lights from nature around it. A quiet little place I knew would suit my needs.
The moving truck arrived later that evening just as a soft roll of thunder began echoing across the hills and a soft rain had begun to fall. Oh what a joy it was to move my writing equipment into the front office in the rain but at the end of the day, I was able to move what scant amount of belongings I had brought with me into the house as I liked them.
Later that night, as I watched the lanterns light in the houses just over the hills next to me, I thought about how to go about beginning my new journal. I had only begun writing the outline of my arrival for the prologue before fatigue took me to my sleeping quarters.
The next morning, a thick fog rolled its way over the hills cooling the air from the rains of the day before. It would appear that they would continue today as well but only softly compared to the gales from the previous day.
I decided I would go into the market to find out what kinds of wanders and oddities I could find in the town. My eyes were suddenly filled with different shops from the famed Irish pubs to markets where one might buy fresh fruits and vegetables; which I took the opportunity to buy some.
I made my way to an old bookstore and eagerly I stepped in and was met with the odd smell of what seemed to be an old cigar which was being smoked by an elderly man standing at the counter.
“Greetings good sir! I’m Charles Buxley and I’ve just arrived here to this humble town.”
He turned and looked at me and took a puff on an old pipe before letting out a “Feh.”
“Angus! This is no way to treat a guest!” An older, portly woman with short curls came from a room behind the counter. “Welcome dear, to the Fairy Bookstore and Antiques. I’m Merriwether and this ole goat is mah husband Angus. What brings you to our town?”
She was very sweet with rosy cheeks and a smile from ear to ear.
“I’m a traveling journalist. I go all over the world to write about the people and cultures. My current travels bring me here because I hear Ireland is a land of magic and mystery.” I waved my hands in roundabout motion to indicate what I meant.
Merriwether smiled again. “Well dear, you came at just the right time. Samhain is the time of year where the veil that separates our world from the supernatural thins out and little spirits begin to cause some real mischief. Best watch your step, boyo, don’t go into the circle of mushrooms.”
I had no idea what she meant by that but I continued looking around the store and found a small wooden statue carving of a mysterious woman with goat legs and horns sitting on a log playing some kind of flute. I was drawn to the piece immediately though I didn’t know why. I found myself purchasing it along with a few books on Irish folklore before departing from the store.
Throughout the day I would explore the different buildings; writing about the architecture and making sketches; interviewing the locals who all seemed to have a different air about them from the day before. I went to the old train station and took some photos, documented what it looked like before heading back to one of the bistros to have dinner and a cup of tea before heading home.
A small basket had been left on my front door from one of my neighbors welcoming me to the neighborhood. I took it inside to look at its contents which included a bottle of whiskey, a loaf of homemade bread and a cobbler. Taking some of the cobbler and a bottle of whiskey I sat down to start writing more on my outline; adding what I had seen that day.
Before going to bed I took out the little wooden statue and sat it on my bedside table before taking one of the books, A History of Irish Folklore, and read it until the wee hours of morning before falling asleep.
My research continued in the following days to come. I would look at the culture, the different events, what kinds of sports they liked to play and what their favorite things about living in Bray were.
Scents of pumpkins, fall cakes, and pies began filling the air as the days went by. Banners went up with orange lights that wished a Glorious Samhain to everyone and children ran around in their costumes; too excited to wait to wear them.
The following day was sunny and cool so I decided to go exploring around my house, where to my surprise, was an old forest. Back in England I used to love to hike with my girlfriend so I decided to return to my house and pack some provisions to set out for a hike. I took my camera and writing journal as well so I could document some things for the journal article.
At first I didn’t notice anything different. The forest was like any other that I had adventured in. The sun poured in from the tops of the trees creating rays of light that danced with the breeze. A beautiful shade of green following the rains. A strong scent of Ash and pine filled the air around me. Birds sang from their nests in the trees and squirrels harvested the nuts from the forest floor before scurrying up a nearby tree to nibble on their prizes.
As I started to get deeper into the forest, I found a path that had been clearly carved out; maybe by hikers or bikers that had come before me. Only this time, I heard nothing but the wind whispering through the trees, I could almost swear I heard speaking. No birds or animals seemed to inhabit this part of the forest.
The air around me began changing into something that I had never felt before. Senses of fear, wonder, curiosity and bewilderment filled me and I quickly decided to end my hike early and head back to my house. I didn’t know what it was that I had just experienced; but it surely wasn’t a normal feeling; it was almost….mythical.
I met Angus and Merriwether that night at their home for dinner. Merriwether had invited me many times but I hadn’t been inclined to accept so when I finally did, she hugged me joyfully.
“Oh! That makes me delighted to hear! Meh daughter would be happy to meet such a handsome man as you!” I blushed as I didn’t know they even had a daughter. Merriwether saw this and chuckled.
“Umm, I would be honored to meet her ma’am.” I said before letting a short cough into my hand.
Their home was much like mine except full of older antiques and books. Paintings of folklore covered the walls alongside porcelain plates and cookbooks on shelves.
Angus sat in an old chair reading the paper while Merriwether sat opposite me in a rocking chair; knitting.
“So Charles, Eleanor will be home soon. She works in the library on the weekdays reading books to the children. How have you been’a gettin’ along here?”
My hands were between my legs like an embarrassed schoolboy when she mentioned her daughter again. “I’m doing well. Gathering all kinds of information to fill my next journal article. Ireland truly is fascinating!”
Merriwether chuckled her hearty chuckle. “Yes it is quite a place!”
“Merriwether…” I began
“Oh please dear, Merri will be just fine!” She interrupted.
“Merri…the forest near my home. What exactly is its history?”
Merri froze in her chair and Angus looked up from his paper. Both had looks of shock on their face.
“Only a darn fool woulda gone in them woods during the week of Samhain!” Angus flared. “All sorts of odds goin’ on. Even tales of a fairy circle at the end of a path of mushrooms guided by the will-o-wisps! I tell ye’ stay out of there during Samhain!”
Merriwether shooed her husband. “Now, now, that’s all just folktales. No one has ever seen a wisp in those woods; Samhain or no.” She turned to look at me. “Though Angus is right; many of us don’t venture into those woods during the week of Samhain. Remember what I said dear?”
I almost quoted her before a woman walked into the front door. She was very beautiful with green eyes and red hair that mimicked that of her father. She looked at me confused before heading upstairs to her room.
“Eleanor! We have a guest! Come on down and have dinner!” Merriwether hollered.
“I’m coming mother! Got to change!” Was the reply.
We had all come to sit at the table getting tea when Eleanor came down. She was wearing what looked like night clothes; her hair all a mess from the shower she had just taken. Her skin was very fair indeed and I found myself blushing a deep read at the very meeting of our eyes.
“Eleanor, this is Charles. He’s the new neighbor that moved in to that old cottage on the hill.” Merriwether, hopeful, introduced me.
Eleanor didn’t say anything but reached to shake my hand; to which I greeted warmly and trying not to act like a child.
Dinner was delicious. Merriwether had made Cottage Pie for the main dish and bread pudding for dessert. By the time it was all over, I was so full I couldn’t eat anymore.
“Charles, are you planning on staying here for a while? We would love to have you over for dinner again!” Merriwether said as she began removing dishes from the table. Eleanor was helping her mom clean up.
“I usually only stay somewhere until my article is done. Then I’m off to the next place.” Though this time, in my mind, I was really debating on staying.
Eleanor’s ears perked up at my mention of being a traveler.
“You travel?!” These were the only words she really spoke to me all night so I took advantage.
“I do! I’ve been to many different areas of the world. Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands. My next venture would be the United States!” I was never more proud of what I did than in that moment.
Eleanor’s eyes lit up. “That’s amazing!”
I smiled and nodded.
After helping clean up the mess, I got my hat and coat and headed out into the night back home; thanking my hosts and wishing them a good evening.
“Charles! Don’t forget Samhain! We have a pre-festival in the town before the lighting of the bonfires! You should come!” This was Merriwether’s voice and I waved at her over my shoulder.
The night after the dinner was filled with restless sleep and dreams. Thoughts about the forest, the path, the words that Angus had said and Samhain swam in my mind like fish.
I tossed and turned about endlessly until I found myself standing on the path once again. Only this time I was in my night clothes, and it was not as dark as it was the first time I had visited. At the end I could only see a bright light and within it a shadowed figure that seemed to be a person.
I shielded my eyes against the brightness as I tried to make out who they were only to be jolted awake by the clock on my night stand.
I was covered in a cold sweat and breathing harder than I had in my life.
What on earth had just happened?
The air about the town was much more exciting than a week ago when I first moved here. No one was in their homes and out in the streets which appeared to have become a market for artisans as if overnight!
I had a hard time navigating my way towards Merriwether and Angus’ store amidst all the people.
Merriwether was dressed in a black cloak with a pointed hat handing candy and cakes to children while Angus was an old scarecrow sitting in a chair reading the paper and smoking his pipe.
“Charles! Charles over here dear!” Merriwether yelled and waved at me to come over to which I obliged gladly. “So glad you could make it! Quite the spectacle eh?”
“Indeed it is! I don’t think the children in Liverpool got so excited as this!” I said laughing as a little boy with wooden horns on his head and cape ran into my leg.
It was then that I saw Eleanor walking up to me; only she was with a young man with a scruffy beard and hair as red as her own.
They walked up to me.
“Charles, this is Peter McGilligan. He’s my fiancé. We are to be married come the Christmas holidays.” She said, slightly blushing.
Merriwether huffed behind me. I think she had been hoping that meeting me would change her daughter’s mind about marrying Peter.
I reached out my hand; hurt to be honest. “Charmed to meet you, sir.”
Peter took my hand with great gusto and shook it firmly. “Ah so you are the famous traveler that Elen has been talking about. Here’s hoping a traveler like yourself finds pleasure in this, a truly important time of year for us!”
I smiled at him and turned to walk away from all three of them; a sunken heart amidst the joy, I soon wondered out of the village towards my house.
A soft rain began to fall as the sun sank down behind the moors and hillsides.
It soaked me though I didn’t find it in me to care. I had never felt so alone in this place since I had moved here. I had fallen in love and lost it all in the same week. My sense of wonder seemed so lost that I hadn’t noticed that I made my way to the opening of the same forest.
It held an even more magical air than it did before. No birds were singing, no squirrels mucking about for nuts in the fallen brush.
As if drawn by some force, I walked into the forest and traced my steps to the same path I had been before and seen in my dream.
I could hear faint whispers as I walked deeper into the woods as if someone or something was following me and beckoning me to go down the path.
It ended at a strangely huge tree with roots so large that I felt dwarfed at the sheer size of them. Unlike the other leaves, this tree’s leaves remained a strong and healthy green.
Upon looking up into the leaves, I could see strange blue lights dancing in the darkness. They whispered to me in hushed voices.
“The elder tree, the elder tree, the elder tree, Samhain is here.”
It was almost a song of celebration.
I stood in awe of the tree and the lights until a rattling of chains drew my gaze away towards what appeared to be a woman.
She sat upon a stump in the middle of a ring of mushrooms. Truly beautiful and elvish; as if taken out of a fairytale and folklore like one of the books I had read at night in my study. She had long wooden horns protruding from her head that were adorned by silken spider threads with beads of dew. Her hair flowed down her back like the purest silver river and her eyes as blue as the sea itself. Her face was strange; with the nose of a goat and with elongated features but still so beautiful. She lifted a golden flute to her lips and proceeded to play a Celtic tune which echoed throughout the woods.
Creatures of legend and myth of all kinds suddenly began to dance across her feet, the tree and the roots as she played. Hushes and whispers of song filled the air as they celebrated.
Drawn to her I walked cautiously towards where she was sitting. It was then that I noticed them. Chains around her ankles and wrists that lead to the tree.
She stopped playing the flute and her gaze met mine. My heart skipped a beat and my breath stilled as if it was ripped from my breast.
“My…name is…. Charles Buxley.” I could not believe I was talking to this creature of myth. Was this a dream or reality, I did not know.
Charles. I am Annwfn. She spoke in a voice as calming as the light of the moon above her that had parted the clouds. Her lips did not move but I could hear her nonetheless as if in my mind.
I had no voice. She held me in silence as she continued playing her song to which I listened all night long.
“My lady, may I ask…why do have chains about your ankles and wrists?” I spoke slowly; feeling rude that I had even interrupted her song.
She stared at me and then continued playing her flute though the tune changed and the whispers around us began telling the story.
The lady of the forest,
Faun of the most fair,
Desired by the Dark King,
Denied his advances,
She was chained here,
Never to be freed,
For the Dark King does she fear.
The lady of the forest,
Faun most fair.
My heart hurt as I heard the words that repeated throughout the space around us such that I felt tears drip down my cheeks as slowly I drifted into a deep sleep.
I woke the next morning in my bed. The sun shone through my window. Samhain was over and I had missed the festival but the pain in my heart didn’t leave me much room to care.
I got up and got dressed as a loud rapping at my door aggravated my already pounding head as I wondered if the events from the night before were those of dreams or reality.
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