(Author's Note: This was a story I had to write for Halloween last year in Creative Writing. It was limited to 'so many' words, so that's why it isn't as good as it possibly could have been..

Most of this comes from my love of the Celtic Folk Lore. All of the traditions you see throughout here are real. Also, 'Aine' is pronounced 'Anya')

She was gone. No more could be said. Little Aine's mother now lay upon the table that had been draped in a white cloth. Her lips, which had so often held a smile were now cold and pale and the two deep emerald eyes that sparkled with light would never open in this life to see the setting of the sun across the beautiful loch of Ireland. At her chest hung a newly carved crucifix and entwined between long slender fingers were the rosary beads.

Aine turned her gaze from her mother's lifeless body to the room around her. As a sign of respect all the clocks had been stopped and the mirrors were all turned to face the wall. Her grandfather, Larcon, had already put the snuff out into small trays about the room and had lit the candles to keep the fairies entranced.

"We must keep the fairies away," he had told her. "If they come they shall take Elizabeth's soul with them. The candles will fascinate them and they will go to them instead."

The little girl, only five years old, believed her grandfather. She remembered how her mother and grandfather would get into the big arguments about his beliefs. She said he should not be telling Aine ghost stories. "I do not want my little girl growing up with these superstitious fears of ghosts and spirits." she had once yelled at him, when Aine had been listening to her grandfathers stories.

"Ye would nae say such things if ye knew the truth, lass." Larcon had told her."And I swear to ye that Aine will know the truth!"
They always argued. It hurt Aine to listen to them. She knew that her grandfather's stories were true, especially after what had happened to them just two days ago.

They had gone out to sprinkle ashes on the walkway of their house. It was a custom that each year on May Eve you would sprinkle ashes out and the next morning if you awoke and saw a footprint turned outward it meant someone in the household would be married. If the footprint was turned inward someone in the family would die. But often there were no footprints and in that case the future was not decided. Aine excitedly got up the next morning and pulled her grandfather out of bed to see what the spirits had done. When they had walked outside Aine was expecting to see just the windblown ashes, but looked on in shock at the footprints in front of her. She watched as her grandfather slowly knelt beside the ashes and traced a finger over the print and whispered a soft prayer as he crossed himself... The footprints turned inward...the death sign.

Suddenly Aine heard a noise. It was not a noise like that of anything she had ever heard. It sounded like a song...a long and mournful song. Then she saw her. At the end of the walkway filled with footprints stood a beautiful woman, wringing her hands and crying out in sobs. She was completely white except for a blood red cloak that was draped around her. Aine knew she should be afraid, but she felt drawn to this lady as she listened to the song of her cries.
Suddenly her grandfather grabbed Aine's arm and pulled her tightly into his protective arms as he cried out."The banshee!" and quickly crossed himself. The woman then disappeared with a final sob, and only then was Aine able to pull her eyes away from where the spirit had been.

"Grandfather," she whispered. "She was beautiful! Just like you said she would be..."

Her grandfather held her only tighter and asked in a strangely demanding voice. "You mean you saw her too, Aine?" The girl could only nod as she met grandfather's deep emerald eyes that mirrored her own. They stood like this for a moment then Grandfather quickly swept Aine up into his arms and went back into the house. That very evening, her mother died.

Larcon finished preparing for the wake. He glanced over at his little girl. His little Aine... He then looked over at her mother, his daughter. Shaking his head he was forced to turn away from these things. Had he not known this would happen to Elizabeth? Why had he doubted his own senses? The dreams of his daughters sudden death had plagued him night and day for the past month. Yet he had thought it would be Aine who went to meet her fate. The very thought sickened him but she was a May born child. The children born in May always die early. Everyone knew this. Everyone.

Larcon moved with deliberate steps to each room, placing candles and snuff out as he prepared for the wake of his daughter. They had never gotten along. No matter what he tried to warn her or tell her, she would not believe him about the Fear Darrig that haunted his dreams, foretelling doom.

As he passed by the West Room where Elizabeth was laid out he saw Aine with her small fingers brushing the rosary beads that the corpse had entwined between her fingers. He stepped over and laid his hands on his little girls shoulders as he gently pushed her away from the body.

"Come on, Aine. Don't let the fairies see any weakness." But even as he said it he could feel his own weakness eating away at him.

The night started out with the silent prayers of all who entered the house. Aine and Larcon stood by, excepting those who came in to give their regrets and sympathies for their loss. Each person then passed by the body, crossing themselves with a soft prayer as they kissed the crucifix above Elizabeth's head. Once this was done they passed by Aine and Larcon once more and gave their sincere words of promises for her passing on to a better place.

After standing there for about two hours all the women went in the dining room talking, all the men were in the kitchen, the children outside playing silly kissing games, and one maid was kept by the body at all times. Aine was curled up in her grandfather's lap, almost asleep in the kitchen with the other men as she listened to the traditional storytelling at the wake.

This was the part of the wake Aine liked the best. Each man was to tell a story passed down in their family from all the generations. Every one of them had something different and wild, but Aine could not help but smile as she knew each one of them by heart from her own grandfather. They were the stories of the wild horse, the Pooka, that would take drunkards on a ride at night and leave them the next day face down in the gutters, and the story of the Sheoques fairies who lured travelers into their lair and then robbed them blind.

Finally though it was her grandfathers turn who had, by custom, been chosen to go last. He was silent a moment as he stroked Aine's hair, then looked up as he spoke. "What better story to tell at a wake then that of the banshee? Now, everyone has heard her story but few have seen this mysteries lady of death. Ah, she is perhaps one of the most bewitching and enchanting of all other specters. If one sees this beauty of darkness it is a foretelling of death in the family. She is seen in a transparent form of pure white except for the red cloak draping across her slender shoulders that looks as though it were stained with blood. The cry that she gives out is like the soft call of the bagpipes. She wrings her hands in a pain that none of us could even begin to fathom, for you know that she experiences each and every death that happens. The one whose death she foretells never sees this spirit until it is too late and they are taken away by the Dellahaun with her treading at its heels."

He fell silent then and all the men gave a grave nod, each one trying to decide for themselves if they truly believed in this tale. Then, into the silence her grandfather started to sing the lullaby he had sung ever since she was born. It was a song that was sung to a 'true love' which was what 'Roisin Dubh' meant. It sang of the hardships of Ireland and how this one person would always stand by his love's side through it all..

"Roisin, have no sorrow for all that has happened to you
the friars are out on the brine,
they are traveling the seas
your pardon from the Pope will come, from Rome in the East
and we won't spare Spanish wine
for my Roisin Dubh.

Far we have journeyed together, since days gone by
I've crossed over mountains with her,
and sailed the seas I have cleared the Erne,
though in spate, at a single leap
And like music of the strings all about me,
my Roisin Dubh
You have driven me mad, my love, may it do you no good
My soul is thrall, not just yesterday nor today
You have left me weak and weary in body & mind
Oh deceive not the one who loves you,
My Roisin Dubh"

Slowly the little girl drifted off to sleep while listening to her lullaby that was slowly mixing in with the mournful sobbing song of the banshee.

A young woman, age eighteen, was riding her horse along the pathways silently. The horse was a beautiful sleek black color that gave off a glossy shine as it pranced along the road with a cocky stance. The path they took led to a small abandoned house that was located at the top of the hill.

The woman's name was Aine. Thirteen years had passed since her mother's death and not much had changed. She still lived with her grandfather who had fallen ill and had taken to his bed. He was almost always running a high fever and during those times he would cry out of a 'certain doom' proclaimed by the Fear Darring. She remembered how, as a girl, she had clung to every word of his tales. Now she was unsure whether she should believe him or not. He was so sick and so fevered. He was not in his right state of mind.

She reigned Pooka in to the stables and dismounted him with practiced ease. Putting a quick bale of hay in Pooka's stall she walked past her grandfather's horse, Dullahan, and stroked his velvety nose. After a moment she left the stables to return to her home that graced the Irish green hill.

She entered the house to hear the cries coming from her grandfather's bedroom, muffled by the door. "The Fear Darring! He brings the Dullahan with him! Doom! Death!" It was the same feeble cries to Aine's ears. He could no longer think as he once did. The tales he use to tell her were simply coming back to haunt him, that was all. His fever had reached its highest and all she could do was sit by and watch his groping hands strain to pull himself into the dreams he proclaimed so fitfully. Two weeks went by like this...two weeks that led up to the morbid night of death.

The fog had just settled upon the lochs of Ireland and made it so the half moon above cast only a yellow tinted glow upon the grounds below. All was silent. Even the nightbirds and insects refused to call out. Indeed, this was what death must sound like. Complete and utter silence.

Aine trailed to her house, a large watering pail in her hand that was freshly drawn from the well. In the back of her mind she could hear her grandfather sing the gentle song of "My Roisin Dubh" again. How often had she heard the song lately? How often did those icy memories of time gone by come back to haunt her?

Suddenly Aine saw her. Dropping the water pail she gave a cry and was almost sure she must have been living in the past memories again for there she was. As beautiful and sad as she had been before her mothers death. The Banshee.

Come from another life, the woman again cried out in that song that hypnotized her. The womans red cloak blew about her like a downed nightbird as she wrung her hands in horror.

Aine could not move for the longest of times, the trance beginning to weave its magical and sacred power about her soul. But slowly, ever so slowly, she tore her feet from where they were cemented in the ground and began to move towards her in rhythm with her cries and wails. As she drew closer she realized the spirits back was to her and that she had taken no notice of her presence, if she was able to sense it at all. Finally she was no more than a mere foot from the sobbing woman and she reached out her hand, slowly drawing closer and closer to the shaking shoulders. Suddenly though the ghost whirled around with a scream, breaking Aine from the trance as her hand went completely through the banshee. She stumbled backwards as the apparition loomed above her with a violent cry.

Aine remained there, laying on the ground as she stared up at this creature of the night, this fortune teller of life, this bringer of death.

"You can't have him!" she suddenly yelled out and was as shocked at herself as the lady appeared.

Finally though the banshee spoke and her voice was like the sweetest, purest,most seducing melody ever heard. "You cannot stop me . . . "

Aine knew her grandfather was whom she had come for and she shook her head as tears began to well up within her emerald eyes. "Please, do not take him from me . . . " she whispered like a pitiful child. "He merely has a fever. Once he is over his fever then he will have many years to live."

The woman narrowed her colorless eyes and folded her arms in an awkward slow motion across her chest. "The Dullahan comes a midnight child. At midnight, I must claim a life."

The girl was terrified with horror. She could not allow her grandfather to die. She would save his life from the cold clutches. But how? The banshee began to turn her back on the weeping girl until Aine shouted out. "Wait!"

The woman turned back slowly, her red cloak billowing about her as she whispered, "For what? His time has come."

"No! Take me instead." They were both as silent as the night about them for a moment until Aine was able to continue through choking tears. "Give him back his full life, and I shall go in his place." Another long moment passed as the phantom simply glared at her then Aine said softly, "Grandfather always told me that May babies die young . . . "

It was more of a statement to herself than the banshee, but it seemed to make its mark. "Ah, yes," she purred slowly. "A May born child is to be taken upon this night from another couple, but you might suffice." With those words the banshee began to approach her in a graceful levitation.

"Wait!"

The banshee smirked cooly. "Are you having seconds thoughts of death child?"

Aine shook her head as she rose to stand before her. "No. But, I do want to say good-bye to my grandfather first." Again she realized the childlike plea in her voice.

The woman gave a slow, graceful motion of her arm to the house. "Go then. I cannot take you before midnight."

Aine's mind was racing and surging with questions with no answers as she stepped into her grandfather's room for the last time. He lay on his bed sweating, but for the first time in weeks actually sleeping. His low breathing was ragged and strained as he fought for life. Aine came to his side and took his twisted and gnarled hand in hers as she sat there, just enjoying the feeling his presence gave her. She knew that he would not hear her if she said, "I love you grandfather," or "Good-bye, grandfather." No, but what he might hear is the final lullaby that would pass through the shield between life and death.

I would walk in the dew beside you, or the bitter desert
In hopes I might have your affection, or part of your love
Fragrant small branch, you have given your word of love to me
The choicest flower of spring you are to me, my Roisin Dubh

At the last two words Aine felt the hand give a light twitch. Oh, not much, just a little but it assured her of his life. She looked down upon her grandfather in silence as he slowly began to breath evenly. Then the bells slowly began the death toll . . .

One, two, three . . .

They cried out into the silence and she heard the soft voice behind her. "It is time to go…"

Four, five, six . . .

Aine turned very slowly to look at the woman who regarded her with the eyes that held no color.

Seven, eight, nine . . .

The banshee glanced out the window and to Aine's horror she saw the Dellahaun waiting to carry her away to eternity. The headless horseman and headless horses drawing their black death carriage.

Ten, eleven, twelve . . .

The banshee extended a hand to Aine. Aine put her hand into it and instead of meeting a foggy mist the banshee's hand became solid and grasped hers tightly in coldness. With a sharp gasp of pain Aine's entire spirit was wrapped suddenly in coldness, a scream coming from her throat at the biting pain, then all was silent as the banshee released her hand. Aine turned ever so slowly back to the bed and saw her body slumped across her grandfather, the body's eyes closed in death.

"Come," the banshee commanded as she began to glide to the door. "The Dellahaun awaits."

But Aine shook her head. "No, you promised me he would live."

The woman turned back in obvious irritation and gave a slow gesture with her hand. Aine turned back to her grandfather as he gave a sudden intake of air, gasping loudly as he began to cough. The body that once was Aine moved with his coughs. It took a few moments but finally Larcon's eyes opened slowly and he looked dazed. Then his eyes focused on the body that lay across his chest and he smiled, thinking Aine had fallen asleep while waiting up with him. "Aine. . ." he whispered, giving the corpse a light shake. "Aine, my girl, wake up." But only silence met his words and a look of darkness passed over his face as he called louder. "Aine!" Then he gasped as he rushed to feel a pulse, but none met him and he shook his head in horror. "No! No, Aine!" He pulled the body into his cradling arms, bowing his head and he began to sob loudly. His entire body racked with his moans and cries as he continued to call upon her name, but no answer came. That was when he began to sing, through the fitful crying and choked sobs he sang a part of her lullaby that Aine had never before heard . . .

The Erne will be strong in flood, the hills will be torn
The ocean will be all red waves, the sky all blood
Every mountain and bog in Ireland will shake
One day before you shall perish, my love, my girl, my Roisin Dubh