Who is on the plum tree?
Niamh Chinn Óir mounted her white stallion to ride the warm, west wind. Her golden hair, wild and free as horse’s mane danced in gay abandon. This journey, fit for none other than she of the faery folk had not been made for centuries. Leaving Tír na nÓg far behind, she crossed the perilous ocean.
What lover’s call had summoned her?
What sweet voice had carried on sea-foam mist to enter her slumber? She would know his name.
Oisín, son of Fionn mac Cumhaill sat on rock gazing over sea. Young warrior bard took pause from labour, disturbed as he was by unquenched longing. His father, fierce and wise chieftain of the Fianna had conquered the Scottish giant Cú Chulainn. Oisin was tasked to write the victory for posterity making it known to all those who were destined to belong to the future.
A wind stirred his hair, just a whisper that carried sweet, unfathomable promise. He was lifted up by it, dazzled by golden streams of sunlight. He looked upon the face of Niamh and knew his love.
On her horse, she carried him across the sea to Tír na nÓg, the land of Eternal Youth. The journey was the passing of a second. No mortal had ever crossed the perilous ocean to the edge of time, to the furthest, western-most reaches of the world where faery and mortal knew no distance or fear between them.
She was his arbour; him, the conqueror of all he surveyed, and prince of timelessness.
But mortality is ruled by time. And soon the restless spirit summoned him to his father’s purpose. In his deepest heart he was of the blood-line race of Fianna and must return to Ireland to attend his kin.
Niamh warned him of succumbing to his mortal destiny. “If you set foot on Irish soil, it will be your end.” Echoes of her warning called after him on the high-pitched voice of the ill wind that carried him home.
Oisín was shocked at how his land and people had changed. He was a giant among men. Fields were cleared, forests cut down. Hunting had given way to farming. He sighted a group of workers as they struggled to lift a boulder and clear a new tillage. The boulder was of no consequence to Oisín. He leant from his horse to toss it aside. As he did so, his stirrup broke and he fell to the ground. Ageing in an instant, the three hundred years that had passed claimed him and returned him to the soil from whence he had come.
In Oisín’s passing, contact with faery was lost forever. Niamh came no more to the Emerald Isle. Although I hear it told that her name lives still in some of Erin’s daughters.