Aoife watched the procession move through the middle of the town with a heavy heart. Though she was not supposed to return, she couldn’t help it when she heard that he was going to die. That had been days ago and still she hung around. It was hard to let go; even when she had done it thirty years earlier.
That was the problem with humans. They aged while the Faeries didn’t. Of course, there were ways to keep human lovers around far longer than they should live but he had refused the gift. He had never planned to stay with her and moved on with her blessing. She never told him how deep that had wounded her and it was the very reason that she hadn’t visited until now. Aoife didn’t want the reminder of what she couldn’t have.
Leaning against the trunk of the tree, she couldn’t deny the long buried emotions any longer. But now it was far too late to tell him. Instead, she had been letting her own grief come out each night since she arrived in a mournful keening. It had scared the townsfolk nearly out of their wits the first night but his family took it as a sign that it was time to say their goodbyes. They were taking the loss far better than she was.
She had wailed and cried and sung her sadness out each night, even when he finally passed into the next world. And despite being called a Banshee for the first time in her life, she allowed herself to feel again. If he had taken her offer, he could have lived three times longer than the average human.
But if he had taken her offer, then it would have been far harder to let go when he did finally die. She would have had him for many years, filled with the same laughter and light that he had brought her for the three that she had his heart.
Rubbing at her throat in an attempt to ease the ache, she continued to watch the funeral march and eyed the small group of people following behind the coffin. A woman with graying hair and her face covered by a dark veil held tightly onto the hands of two grown women while one young man trailed behind them; there were two more boys and it took a moment for her to locate them in the crowd of people carrying the coffin. She could see him in their faces, in the way that the boys walked and how the girls tried to smile despite their sadness.
If he had taken her offer, he never would have left behind such a legacy. She could fantasize all she liked but if those were all her children, they wouldn’t be as they were now. Even half-fae children held power and were brought up in the Faerie Courts. That would have destroyed all trace of him and they had both known it. It was why she never gave him a child when they were together.
As the funeral went on, there was a welling of anger within her chest. It wasn’t fair that she had to grieve from afar, that she wasn’t the one wearing the black veil of mourning. Biting down on the bottom of her lip, she tightened the hold that she had on her cloak. It may have been thirty years since she was any huge part of his life but she never forgot him. She didn’t go and see him but that didn’t mean she didn’t have her own ways of gleaning information when she needed it.
It wasn’t until the ceremony was nearly over did she finally draw upon the pride and bravery of her kind. She was not mortal nor was she a being of darkness, she was a Faerie of the high court and she could attend a very human function if it so pleased her.
Ignoring the stares she received as she joined the outer edges of the group was harder than she thought. These were people that had mattered to him and once she had found herself included in that circle. With all that had happened, it was doubtful that he had even mentioned her to his own family.
Being this close made her nose itch with the scent of death that clung tightly to mortals. She was highly sensitive to such a smell and the fact she was so immersed within it reminded her of the very moment that everything she could have offered him had been refused.
To keep from crying out her grief, she focused on studying the family. Close up, she could see both of the parents in all five of the children but it was his tributes to his offspring that stood out the most. The middle son could have been mistaken for his twin if not for the mother’s high cheekbones and delicate chin.
Pinpointing the differences in the children from the safety of her cloak was a good enough distraction to keep her emotions from overwhelming her. Humans were so full of feeling and emotion that it was difficult, even for her kind, to keep emotions hidden.
When the ceremony finally ended, Aoife stood still while the humans all passed her by. They had one last gathering at his home to celebrate his life before they attempted to put it aside and carry on. Moving towards the hole, she slowly sunk to her knees at the base of it to stare down at the intricately decorated coffin.
“I always hated graveyards,” she murmured, throwing in the handful of dirt that she had seen each of the others do. It was a strange custom but she would respect that only because this was the life he had chosen. “It’s a place for the living, not the dead. I think I told you that once.”
Bringing up past conversations was enough to make the dam break. Aoife covered her face so that she could cry in relative dignity, uncaring as to the fact that her wails carried in the wind and struck fear into the heart of the humans. Already she had been labeled a Banshee; she didn’t see any harm in playing on it while she was still there. None of them felt the pain that she did.
A small touch to her shoulder made her jerk, nearly falling into the hole in which the coffin lay. Her hood had fallen with the movement and her blue tinted hair tumbled out and around her but she paid no heed to that. Instead her attention was focused on the woman who was looking down at her with such understanding. But how was his wife to understand anything about her?
There was enough sense in her to be sure that her glamours still held as her true appearance and the magic that seeped from her pores would have turned the woman before her into a drunk and obsessive creature.
“You are Aoife, aren’t you?”
Five little words destroyed any thought that her existence had been kept secret from even his family. There was no other way that she could have known her name unless he had told her. Despite this knowledge, she could do more than incline her head in a small nod.
“Kian spoke fondly of you,” yet another surprise that she had not been expecting but her eyes were stuck on the withered hand that was being offered to her. This mortal knew not what she was doing. “Before he…passed, he told us that the Banshee haunting the woods was probably you. He said you had a flare for the dramatics.”
It was so familiar and yet so strange to hear that come out of the woman’s mouth. Kian had mentioned it many times when they had been together. He was the only reason that she had deigned to allow the old woman to help her up despite her own ability to do so.
“The Kian I knew was dramatic as well,” She finally murmured. An awkward conversation but it gave her something to do while she wiped the tear tracks from her face. Looking up, Aoife noted that the children were all waiting expectantly. As if they had expected her to show up and were unsurprised to see their mother so comfortable with not only a faerie woman, but a former lover of her late husband.
“That he was,” the woman chuckled, patting Aoife’s hand gently before tugging her along. “Come, you can share stories of the young Kian for us. Grief is meant to be shared among others, not cried out to winds that do not answer you.”
Aoife blinked down at her in shock, wondering silently if there was some kind of mental switch that made older humans far wiser than they came off to be. Not wanting to hurt Kian’s wife, she gave up trying to take her hand back when the woman tightened her grip before looping her free arm with her daughter’s.
“It’s not my place.”
“And wallowing in the dirt is?”
“….He said that to me once…”
“I know dearie. We had no secrets.”
Well, as Maura pointed out, I’m having a hard time catching up. This holiday season is kicking my butt. I promise that I am trying though and will be spending much of my free time plotting and getting this up as fast as possible!
Next Creature: Selkie