Aisling skipped down the lane with her long red braids flying behind her. Spring was finally here. She could see the lambs gamboling around the meadow and head butting each other. She wondered if that hurt since they hit each other so hard. Did they get headaches? And if they did why did they keep doing it?
She watched her friend, Raven glide on a breeze high in the air and since no one was watching wheeled down the lane with her arms outspread while the raven wheeled overhead. She flung back her head and laughed. The snow was gone. The trees were blooming. The air was fresh and clean and she wasn’t in trouble for anything. That all by itself was a wonderful thing.
She had been given the morning off to go collect mushrooms in the forest and any other edible new greens that could be sprouting. She was hungry to eat green things but so was everyone else after a winter of eating only dried and salted things. She hoped there were a lot of new fern bracts popping up. She liked the taste of those.
She looked up and saw a butterfly illuminated in a sunbeam that was streaming through the trees. Sunbeams in the forest always looked magical to Aisling as if anything caught in them should have your absolute attention. She stood for a moment and just enjoyed the sight of the butterfly drifting on its wings. It was a beautiful green on the bottom of its wings and brown on the top. It looked like it was flashing on and off as it flew.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” a quiet voice said. Aisling jumped and turned around.
A quiet pale green and brown woman stood half in and out of a willow tree. Aisling looked at her.
“Are you one of the Sidhe Draoi?” asked Aisling curiously.
“I am, today is the first spring day I could come out and I’m enjoying it. Are you Aisling?”
Ailsing started again, “How do you know my name?”
“The Green Man told us he had met you and claimed you for the forest.” The Faery laughed. “Did you think all of us who dwell here wouldn’t know you?”
“You all know me?” wondered Aisling. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? “Everyone? Even the spiders?"
“Every tree, plant, mushroom, hedgehog and spider, by the way you can call me Willow.”
“What do I call the other Willows?” asked Ailsing.
“Willow, my sisters and I are all connected.”
“All right.” Aisling wondered how confusing this was going to get.
“Would you do something for me?” Willow asked.
“Of course,” Aisling replied without thinking.
“A family of hedgehogs lives here in my roots and their mother was eaten by an owl last night. Would you help them?” said Willow with a sad face.
“How do I do that?” asked Aisling.
“They are too small to live on their own so would you take them to the village and feed them.”said Willow.
Aisling had a very strong feeling she was about to get in trouble again but she’d given her word and went to the side of Willow’s roots that she was pointing at and saw three small balls all curled up together. Aisling sighed. They really were cute. It made her sad that they had lost their mother and she wondered if she knew the owl. She knew the owl was just doing what owls did but still…
She gathered them in her tunic carefully and wondered if they were going to wake up and get prickly on the way to the village. As she turned to go walking slowly she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Put these in your pouch and look at them later and thank you.” Aisling took the package wrapped in a large soft leaf and tucked it away and forgot about it. Willow turned and melted into her tree. A few moments later Aisling was alone in the spring wood.”
Aisling walked slowly back to the village with her precious bundles. She thought the healer’s cottage would be the best place to go since it always had a fire going to warm potions and medicines. She worried about what they would say.
As she approached the healer’s cottage, Maeve, the Chief Healer was standing in the door. “What do you have?” She asked with one eyebrow raised. She knew Aisling, it would be either something very terrible or very wonderful.
Aisling held her tunic out. “Babies that have lost their mother?” she said hesitantly and waited for the explosion. Maeve peered into the tunic.
“Tiny tiggies,” she said quietly and reached in to pick up one. “Where did you get them and where is their mother?” She said sternly to Aisling.
“I met one of the Sidhe Draoi in the forest and she asked me to do something for her and it was them. She said an owl got their mother last night.” Aisling was afraid she was going to cry. She couldn’t take care of them herself without help.
Maeve stroked Aisling’s hair. “It’s all right. I bet it was old Willow.” Maeve said and looked at Aisling.
“How did you know?” asked Aisling surprised.
“You aren’t the only one who meets friends in the woods, Aisling. Come inside and let’s find them a box. You are going to be busy taking care of these for awhile.”
They went into the cottage and founds some old rags to line a wooden box Maeve had tucked away. They put the box near the fire where it would be warm and she sent Aisling to find some worms and to get some eggs from the cook and generally kept Aisling busy until evening. They had decided Aisling would sleep there with her charges.
Aisling curled up near the babies to watch them before she went to sleep and the package in her pouch poked her tummy. She had forgotten all about it. She drew out the package and inside was a set of ogham sticks. She had been wanting a set for a long time but hadn’t had time to collect the wood to make them. They were beautifully smooth willow sticks, all perfectly made and marked. Aisling smiled. She would have taken the babies anyway but this was a very nice thank you. Aisling lay down clutching her beautiful ogham set. Maybe while she was taken care of the tiggies Maeve would show her how to read them. It had been a wonderful spring day after all.