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She liked to sing to herself as she walked through the woods. The trees gathered tight above the path, and it was often dark under their boughs even when the sun shone brightly. The sound of her own voice gave her the courage she needed to walk there alone.

In the dim light she saw something glinting ahead of her on the path. Something shiny. She drew closer and realised that it was a silver comb.

She stopped singing and looked around. There was nobody in sight, and she could hear nothing but the wind in the trees and the sound of birdsong. Whoever had dropped it was surely long gone.

She knelt on the ground to look closer at it. She had a vague idea that her mother had told her something about picking up combs; that it was bad luck, or something. She couldn’t remember.She felt strangely nervous as she looked at it.

She laughed at herself. She was being silly, letting the lonely atmosphere of the woods get to her. It was a pretty comb, finely wrought, and surely worth a fair deal. Whoever had lost it was bound to be missing it, and she would be doing them a favour in returning it.

She put it in her pocket and stood up, picking up her song where she had left off.

The birdsong stopped abruptly. The breeze fell away. The forest was silent.

“Your voice is so pretty.”

She turned with a gasp. A tall woman in grey stood on the path, smiling at her.

“Thank you,” she said nervously. “Is this your comb? I found it on the path here.”

The woman shook her head. “No. It is yours, now. Your reward for joining us.”

She felt cold. She shook her head. “What do you mean? Joining who?”

Other women appeared on the path, dressed in red, black and green. They smiled at her and began to sing, a haunting and beautiful lament.

“Only the most beautiful voices may keen the best of our land,” the woman in grey said. “You have earned your place as a Bain Sidhe.”

© Kari Fay

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