Goodwife Jones put aside her broom and squinted out across the
moor, shielding her light blue eyes with one hand. In between a few wisps of
pink-and-purple clouds, the sun was sinking below the horizon. Just as she was about to
start worrying, she spotted a figure far down the lane, moving in her direction.
She resumed sweeping around the entrance to the cottage. It seemed so empty, with five of
her eight children grown and moved away. Now it was only she, the two girls who were too
young to marry off, and her youngest son, who would be a man all too soon for her liking.
Her husband stayed there too, of course--when he was on dry land. He was currently on
another long voyage into the North Sea. His stated purpose was to fish, and indeed he did
return with a good catch each time, but his wife knew it was the adventure as much as
anything that called him away.
The rickety gate opened with a comfortingly familiar creak and she looked up sternly at
her youngest son. "Davy, how many times do I have to tell ye? I want ye home well
before the gloaming. 'Tisn't safe out on the moors after dark."
He smiled at the predictable lecture and kissed his mother on the cheek as he passed her
to go inside. She was thus forcibly reminded that he was now taller than she was, which
did nothing to improve her mood.
"Are ye even listenin' to me, Davy?" she said, latching the door tightly behind
"Of course, mum."
"Ah, so ye hear me, ye just choose to ignore me."
Davy hung his hat on a hook by the door and prodded the hearth with an iron poker, coaxing
new life from the softly glowing coals. "I'm not ignorin' you. I'm just a wee bit old
now to be afeared of faeries and such."
In years past he and his siblings would sit around the fire in the evenings, mesmerized by
their mother's stories of faeries, witches, mermaids, selkies, giants, trolls and gods.
Their father was a genuine highlander but their mother's people had been in this country
for fewer generations. Her ancestors had brought a wealth of legends and folklore with
them aboard their dragon-prowed ships. At first they had come as conquerors and raiders,
but in time many peacefully settled the land, living side by side with those already
living in the harsh but beautiful landscape of Scotland. None of those born on foreign
soil now lived, but their tales carried on, undimmed by the passage of time.
"Say what ye will, boy, but some night you'll see lights a'twinklin' through the
heather and they'll draw ye in. Mark my words."
"It's not the faerie lights what call to me," he said softly, stirring the coals
to avoid meeting his mother's gaze.
"You're been down to the docks again, haven't ye?" she said, sounding more
frightened than accusatory.
He neither confirmed nor denied it.
"You have, I can smell the brine on ye. I thought ye were going to the church to
practice for Sunday."
"I did. I played all the hymns so many times that my fingers'll be reaching for organ
keys in my sleep. Then I went to the docks."
Goodwife Jones sighed and took her son's arm, leading him to sit with her in two well-worn
chairs before the fire.
"Davy, I know ye want to go. 'Tis the same look in your eyes as your father had when
the sea first cast her spell on him."
"I--" he began but she grasped his hand and shushed him.
"I couldn't keep him from going and I kinnae keep you. If there be a ship in the
harbor someday that'll have ye, then follow your dreams. Your sisters and I will be all
right. But promise me just two things. Don't ye dare leave without tellin' your dear old
mum goodbye, and never let that music leave your heart. I know ye'll never be happy
stayin' in one place, but when ye have the opportunity always let your hands have a dance
on the keys. You've talent, Davy, and I'll not have that goin' to waste."
She held his hand tighter and tried to smile, forbidding the tears in her eyes to fall.
"Can you promise those things, Davy?"
He regarded her seriously, his eyes shining with the same pale blue color as the point
where the sky and sea meet on the unreachable horizon. "Yes, mum. I swear to
"Good boy," she said with a sad smile, patting his hand. "Now, unless
you're plannin' on leavin' tonight, would ye be so kind as to bring in some water from the
well? I'll get supper started just as soon as I find where those lazy sisters of yours
have gotten to."
He nodded and went to the door, heart pounding and head spinning with possibilities.