Connor heard the wailing before he saw its source. Thinking someone was in trouble, he veered off the path and toward the river, branches slapping his arms as he ran. He reached the edge of the tree line and saw the scene clearly, drawing back in alarm and falling on his rump.
The riverbank was lined with women wearing pale dresses, their long fair hair floating around their heads as if they were underwater. At first only one of them keened, a loud, eerie call that made Connor’s skin crawl, but then the others joined until an unearthly chorus of shrieks and cries echoed like the music of the damned.
“Saints preserve us,” he whispered. “That many of the bean sidhe in one place… the king must be dead! Or the bishop!” He steeled his nerves and stood. “I have to warn the village!”
He stumbled back to the path and ran off.
Soon, the keening stopped. One of the women cleared her throat.
“That was good, sisters,” she said. “This concludes the test of the emergency banshee system. See you again next year!”