Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just Rewards

     This is a tongue-in-cheek sword & sorcery tale.  I hope you enjoy it!                     
It was rather a slow night at The Hammer and Shield.  Korrin was about to send Rosie home when the door flew open.  A cold wind whipped through the tavern as a green-skinned creature stomped inside.
     He growled, “A message for Daimanus, the Defender.”  The goblin trudged to the far corner where the light was dim.  He sat down, pounding the table with a massive fist.  “Bring me an ale, and stew.”
     Korrin sighed, got a mug and walked to the table.  “Rosie will fetch your stew. I’ll take the message.  I’m his wife.”  Her voice was cold and clipped. She extended her hand, waiting for the parchment.
     “Orders are to deliver this message directly into The Defender’s hand.  Get him while I eat.”  He removed his cloak; Korrin blanched at the stench it released.
     “Of course.  I’d expect nothing less.  Care to give me a name?”  Korrin tapped her toe, scuffing the paper-thin leather.
     “Say Gorak brings an urgent message.”  He drained the pint, handing it back to her with a belch.
     Snatching the mug, Korrin stormed back to the keg.  Rosie spaced the mug and stew at opposite sides of her tray for balance, when Korrin reached out and stopped her. 
Reaching beneath the bar Korrin opened a bottle of rose water.  She splashed it along her throat, sighing as she inhaled.  She offered the bottle to Rosie.  “You’ll thank me once you get a whiff of him; reeks like a dung heap, he does.  Now off to find my man.”
She found Daimanus in their bedroom, oiling his bastard sword.  The ruby in the pommel reflected crimson light across his face.  She moved between him and the lamplight, causing him to look up.
“There’s a goblin out front with a message.  Says it’s urgent.”  She moved behind him and massaged his shoulders.  “I suppose you’ll be leaving again?”
The warrior set down his sword and snorted.  “What do you expect me to do?  I wield the Blessed Sword of Unfettered Virtue.  It’s my duty to answer any plea.”  He jerked free of her and stood, knocking her off balance. 
Korrin thumped to the floor.  “I just get so lonely when you’re gone.  We bought the tavern to run together, but you’re seldom here long enough to serve a meal.  The children hardly know who you are.”  She stroked his rock-hard calves and looked up through her thick eyelashes.
“It’s my job, Korry.  You knew I was a swordsman when we married.”  Daimanus pulled on a chain mail shirt and a studded leather skirt, and added a chest plate and a sheath at his back for the sword.
“You were a sell-sword when we met,” Korrin pouted.
“Ahh, but that was before I found the Blessed Sword.”  He pulled on his boots and shin plates.
“And don’t I wish you never had.  I hate magic.  I don’t trust it, and that includes your damned sword.  How long will you be gone?”  Tears twinkled on her lashes.
“Damn it, would you stop?  I don’t know.  You have plenty to keep you busy ‘til I come back.”  Daimanus strode into the tavern.
Drying her face, Korrin returned to work.  She uncovered a bowl of dough and began kneading a batch of bread.  She punched it with both fists, watching Daimanus.  He took the parchment, scanned it and then left without a word.
Rosie cleared the table.  “He’s gone off again?  I hate seeing you so upset.”
Korrin pummeled the dough.  “What makes you think I’m upset?”  She glanced up as a group of dwarves entered.
Rosie filled a pitcher with Rocksplitter Dark.  “Well, it’s the third time this month he’s gone off saving the world. You usually don’t attack the dough as if it’s the one what’s left you alone.”  She took the pitcher to the newcomers.
Korrin wiped away a tear, leaving a powdery smear on her cheek.  She shaped the rolls and put them on the stovetop to rise, as Rosie returned.  “It’s his job, that’s all.  I wish he’d never found that damn Blessed Sword of Unfettered Virtue!”
Rosie put her arm around Korrin.  “I hate to ask but until he did, had you ever heard of it?”
Korrin blinked.  “No, I suppose not.  What exactly are you implying?”
“I think you should consult the hedge-witch.  My aunt went to her when she thought Uncle Otis was sneaking off with another woman.  She won’t talk about it, but Uncle Otis hasn’t left the house since.  I could come in early tomorrow.”
“Perhaps it’s my only choice.  At the very least it will be a nice walk through the meadow.  And the girls love when you come early.  Thanks, Rosie.”
Daimanus followed Gorak into the woods.  “How far?  I need to keep this adventure short.”
Gorak snorted, “Not far.  He didn’t want to risk being spotted.  He’s still wanted for passing counterfeit coins.” 
Gorak passed through a patch of pines and stood before a stone cliff.  Pulling a dagger from his belt, he rapped the rock four times with the pommel.  A purple glow spread across it and a doorway appeared.  Daimanus walked into the hidden cave and greeted his old friend.
“Roderic!  No details in your message?  Don’t keep me in suspense.  What have you lined up this time?”  Daimanus flopped down on a pile of furs.
Roderic pulled a bit of sulphur from a pouch, rubbed it in his palms then blew the dust into the air.  He whispered an unintelligible word and a globe of light appeared, hovering above them.  “A trade caravan is headed to Zargoth tonight.  We’ll take them by surprise and make a respectable haul.”
Roderic wiped his hands.  “Meanwhile two street wenches are waiting for us to unfetter their virtue, as it were.  In the morning you can return and share whatever portion of your cut you want with the wife.”
Gorak grunted and wandered outside.  Daimanus heard him relieving himself on the rocks.  “Can’t he do that further from camp?  He reeks.”
Roderic whispered, “You won’t have to endure him much longer.  Tonight you will be the hero, and we will go into town and claim our just rewards.”
The trade caravan was small, just three wagons.  There was a driver and guard in the first wagon, a single guard in the other two and two more guards at the end on mules.  The first wagon held a tent and cooking pots, the second was heaped with furs and bolts of linen, and the last held seven large barrels and three small chests. 
Gorak farted, causing the draft horse to snort and twitch.  Roderic glared at him.  “Gorak, attack the guards.  Kill them all but the driver.  Daimanus, wait with me a moment.  I’m going to cast a spell; cover me while I do.” 
Daimanus nodded, and gave the goblin a shove.  Roderic pulled a pinch of sand and duck down from his pouch and whispered the spell.  A gray mist flowed from his fingertips toward the goblin.  As it cleared Daimanus saw six burly goblins join Gorak charging toward the wagon.
The wagon guards drew their swords, but were helpless against the magical creatures.  Daimanus clutched his sword, his knuckles turning white.  “Now what?”
Roderic smiled.  “Look closely at the goblins.  Only one fights left-handed.  That is Gorak.  I’ll slip down there, pull the chests off the back wagon and cover them with a concealment spell.  When only the driver remains, you rush in to assist.  Slay Gorak and the doppelgangers will run off into the woods.”
Daimanus watched Roderic pull the chests and place them behind a tree.  There was a brief flicker of light and Roderic was again at his side.  The driver swung his whip at Gorak who decapitated the last guard.  With a warrior’s yell, Daimanus raced forward.  With his Blessed Sword he ran Gorak through, and five shadow twins melted into the trees.
He cleaned his blade on Gorak’s shirt and held out his hand to help the driver down.  “I wish I’d gotten here sooner.  This one must have been the leader.  The other cowards ran off.”
The driver bowed low.  “Thank you, sir!  Surely your skill scared them off.  Let me offer you a token of my gratitude.”  He took a key and unlocked a chest beneath his seat, removed a leather pouch and held it out.
“That is not necessary,” Daimanus protested.  “I regret I was too late to save your comrades.  I failed in my sworn duty.”
The driver spluttered, “I insist.  It was my fault for traveling at night.  Behind schedule, you see.  I am offering you what I’d have paid my men.  You earned it honestly.  Consider it just rewards.” 
With a nod Daimanus took the pouch and watched the wagon disappear down the road.  He motioned for Roderic.  “Damn, now we have to lug the chests back to the cave!  Some plan.”  Daimanus shouldered the two largest chests and followed Roderic to the cave.
The first chest held jewelry.  Daimanus tucked a ruby ring into his pouch, and passed the rest to Roderic.  “Any of it magical?”
Roderic wiggled his fingers over the chest, and sighed.  “Not a one.  I’ll fence them all and we’ll split the proceeds.  What’s in that one?”
Daimanus held up a strand of orange peppers.  “These are rare.  You have any use for them?”
“No.  No use in spell-casting, and I abhor the taste.   They make my eyes water.  You keep them.”
Daimanus dropped them into the chest and pried the lock off the last one.  He pulled out a bound parchment and started to untie the ribbon, but Roderic grabbed him by the arm.
“Stop!  If you untie it without a protective aura you could blow your fool head off!”
Daimanus grunted, dropped it into the chest and closed the lid.  “It’s full of papers tied up like that.  You take them and we’ll call it even.  Now let’s not keep the ladies waiting.”
They left the cave; Roderic sealed the magic door behind them.  As they reached the alehouse where the wenches waited Roderic asked, “Does your wife suspect what you really do on these missions of mercy?”
Daimanus laughed, rattling the cheap oilskin windows.  “She definitely resents the time, but a good romp in bed and a new dress and I’m the realm’s greatest hero.”
Korrin returned just in time for the lunch rush.  Daimanus stumbled through the door as she was busy with a large order for the town jail.  He kissed her on the cheek, slipped the ring in her pocket and went to bed.  From the fumes he left behind, she knew he was quite drunk.  She thrust the bags of bread and crock of soup at Rosie, who hurried out the door.
Korrin heard Daimanus snoring over the lunchtime noise.  She took out the ring.  Sliding it onto her finger, she dropped her hand back into her apron pocket, fingering the tiny bottle inside.
Korrin put a second batch of rolls in the oven.  Rosie returned, and dropped a handful of coins in the till.  As quickly as the tavern had filled, it emptied and the two women began cleaning. 
Rosie gasped, noticing the ring.  “It’s beautiful!  Where did you get it?”
Korrin sighed, “Daimanus gave it to me before he stumbled off to bed.”
“At least he wasn’t gone long this time.” 
“But what about the next time, or the time after that?”  Tears slid down her cheek.  Her fingers clenched the bottle in her pocket.  She drew it out and held it to the light.  A deep blue liquid swirled inside.
“Did you get that from the hedge-witch?”  Rosie stared at the bottle.
“Yes.  It’s a Potion of Just Reward.  She told me to mix it into a sweet and send it with Daimanus the next time he leaves on a quest.  If he is honest and true, nothing will happen.  If he is deceiving me, I will know the truth.”  Korrin wiped her hands.  “All I have to do is wait and hope I have time to make the cake.”
The smell of fresh-baked bread filled the tavern as the women prepared for the evening rush.  Daimanus still snored in the back bedroom.  Korrin set the tray to cool as her children rushed in, flushed from playing.  A boy she did not recognize accompanied them.
“Mama, Mama!  He says he has a letter for Daddy!”  The children rushed behind the bar, clamoring for her attention.  The boy ducked his head and held out a parchment, sealed with wax.  Korrin gasped, recognizing the royal insignia.  “Surely this is a true quest,” she thought.
“Daddy is sleeping, so be quiet.  I’ll give him the letter.  Now sit down and let me feed you all.”  Rosie set bowls of stew and a basket of rolls before the children.  They attacked the food, sloshing the counter as they raced to finish. “What’s you name, son?” Korrin asked the boy.
“Roderic.  Thank you. I have to get back to my uncle now.”  He hopped down and ran out the door.
Korrin sent the children to bed while Rosie filled a pitcher of ale for the first group of the night.  Korrin returned and mixed a batter of flour, apples and nuts. 
“Are you sending it with him tonight?”
“No, in the morning will be soon enough.  Besides, I’m worrying over nothing.  Look!  It has the royal seal.”  She showed Rosie the wax stamp on the letter.
“Still, do you think the royal house would send a message with a small boy like that?”  Rosie set out a row of mugs.
“I suppose, if they did not want to attract undue attention.  I’ve never claimed to understand how protocol works.”  Korrin tipped the blue liquid into the bowl.  Faint sparks shot into the air and the color disappeared.  “I hate magic,” she muttered, pouring the batter into a pan and sliding it into the oven.
A rooster crowed, waking Korrin at dawn.  She looked at the nightstand where the small nut-cake waited.  She kissed Daimanus, who responded with passion.  He made love to her with a tenderness that had been long lacking.  She turned her head to the side and let the tears sink into the pillow.  When it was finished she got up and fetched the letter.
“A young boy brought this last evening.  I’m sorry if I should have awakened you, but you seemed so tired that I just couldn’t.”  She held out the parchment.
Daimanus gasped.  “Korry!  It’s the royal seal!  Didn’t you recognize it?”  The veins bulged down the sides of his neck.
“Yes, but he was just a little boy.  Surely if it were urgent they would have sent a guard, wouldn’t they?”  Her voice trembled and she took a step back.
“A boy?  Who?”  Daimanus broke the wax, unrolled the letter, and then rubbed his mouth to hide a smile.
“I’d never seen him before.  What did he say his name was?  Let me think.  Yes!  His name was Roderic, though he didn’t give a last name.”  Korrin watched him roll the letter and slide it into his pouch.
Daimanus rose and assembled his armor.  “I don’t have much time.  How about fixing me something to eat?”
“Will you be gone long?”  Korrin pulled on her chemise and overskirt.  She tied on a fresh apron and pulled her hair back with a ribbon.
“A few days this time, and don’t go on crying about it.  I am the wielder…”
Korrin sighed, “You are the wielder of The Blessed Sword of Unfettered Virtue.  I know, and I am proud of you.  There are not many men who would leap out of bed and rush off to defend the helpless and besought.  I’ll have a full breakfast ready soon, and a bag of rations for the journey.”
Daimanus stopped dressing and pulled her into his arms.  “That’s a good girl.  I’ll be back soon.”  He slapped her rump and returned to his armor.
The sun had passed its apex and twilight was approaching as Daimanus rapped on the rock wall.  He waited for the purple light to fade and stepped through the mystical door.  Roderic lounged on the furs with the two women from Zargoth.  All three were naked, and the women giggled as they pulled at his buckles.
“Ahh, good to see you again, and so soon.”  He dropped his sword and breastplate to the ground.  “Still, I think I’ll be needing a little fortification before we get started.  After all it was a long, hot walk getting here.”
Roderic passed him a bottle of wine.  He swallowed most of it and then opened the linen sack that Korrin had packed.  The small brown nut-cake sat on top.  A sweet fragrance tickled his nose, unlike anything he had ever known.  Daimanus popped the entire cake in his mouth and swallowed.  A deep blue smoke appeared, swirling around his head.  It expanded until it covered him completely.
Roderic and the women sputtered, fanning the smoke away with their discarded clothing.  As the air cleared they gasped.  Daimanus was gone, his armor lying in a jumbled heap on the ground.  A fat, black rat sat up on its hind legs and released a string of chittering squeaks. 
The women shrieked; Roderic cursed, searching for his wand.  The rat ran over to the closest woman and crawled up her thigh.  She reached out, grabbed the breastplate and brought it down on the rat, cutting it in two.  Roderic retrieved his wand, turned around and fell to his knees.  The rat began to smoke and within a moment the naked body of Daimanus lay on the furs, severed in two at the waist.
At the tavern, the tiny bottle on the bar began to glow a deep red color.  Korrin shrieked and threw it to the floor. She fell to her knees, wailing as Rosie swept up the broken glass.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June Jinxes - SNM Horror e-zine

My voodoo short story Gris Gris placed 3rd.  Be sure to check it out.  Great looking site with free fiction to keep you up at night.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


     Liz tore open the newsletter.  Rock in a Dead New Year at Oakland Auditorium!  It's the end of the seventies.  She grabbed her duffel bag and tossed six rainbow shirts on top of a lid of Panama Red.
     Her mother peeked in the door.  "Leaving already?"
     "Yeah.  Christmas is over."  Liz threw the duffel bag over her shoulder.
     "Where are you going?"
     "Following the faithful, Mom.  Following the Dead."


     Liz thumbed rides and walked when no one stopped, making her way to Oakland.  Her buzz was solid by the time she joined the masses in the parking lot.  The concert had started and so had the spinners.
     She waved one of the shirts over her head.  "Handmade Dead shirts!  Five bucks!"  Liz wandered through the crowd and, by selling the shirts and a few joints, earned her admission.
     The stadium was packed and she squeezed in making her way as close to the stage as possible.  She took a deep breath of the pungent air mixed with pot, hash and body stench.
     She lit a joint and offered it to the guy next to her.  He stood rigid and stared at the stage, swaying with the music.  He leaned against her until she was pushed in his direction by the bodies on her other side.  Someone reached out and took the joint so she lit another.
     "So how many concerts have you seen?  I've been a Deadhead for six years and haven't missed a single one.  Well, I've at least made the parking lot."  The drum solo started and the packed bodies throbbed with the beat.
     She looked over at the man beside her.  He was lost in the music; his eyes were vacant and his mouth hung open.  He rebounded off one shoulder or another, depending on the swell of the crowd.
     "What'd you take?  Looks like a sweet trip."  In the distance a fat girl threw her peasant blouse in the air.
     "Quiet type, huh?  I get motor mouth when I'm buzzed.  My last boyfriend hated that, but I can't help it."  She hit the joint and passed it on.
     The crowd behind pressed against her back.  Her silent friend fell into her and she shoved him upright.  Her shoulder felt warm and wet.
     "Gross!  Look what you did!"  She reached up to wipe the drool from her shoulder but her hand came away covered in blood.
     The man beside her moaned as the crowd bucked around them.  Somewhere off to the left she heard more moans.
     "Buddy, you're bleeding!  You need help."  Liz reached up and slapped his cheeks trying to gain his attention.  More voices began to maon in all directions.
     "C'mon.  Let's find a rent-a-cop or something."  She pulled on his arm and he turned to face her.  His eyes were still vacant and his jaw hung slack.
     The band started All Over Now.  "Damn, that's my favorite song.  Hey!  What the hell do you think you're doing?"  Liz suddenly lost her buzz as he bent and tore out her throat.

                                                                THE END

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When a Baby Laughs

     Bridget sighed as she pulled the needle to the back of the hoop and secured the last tiny stitch.  She removed the soft ivory fabric and smoothed it out across her knees. In the centre was a smiling
pink baby cradled on a sunny yellow rose. A tiny fairy hovered above the infant’s head. Circling the picture were the words “With every baby’s first laugh, a fairy is born.” Nights in the maternity ward had been slow lately, and she’d been able to finish the cross-stitch in just two weeks.

     “Seanmhathair, this one’s for you. I only wish I could see a fairie like you did,” she whispered softly as she tucked the threadwork into her tote bag. Bridget sighed again, remembering her grandmother.

* * *
     Born in the country just outside Kenmare, Seanmhathair’s heart never truly left her beloved Ireland. Bridget’s Seanathair, Ian Patrick O’Brien, moved his bride to America from Dublin in 1913 following Bloody Sunday. He’d lost his job as a tram driver in the lockouts, but more devastating
was the loss of his best friend – shot through the heart by a strikebreaker.

     America held the promise of a brighter future, and Seanathair had grabbed for the gold ring. After docking in New York Harbor the young couple sought peace and prosperity in Maine, where the rocky coast was reminiscent of the Emerald Isle.  Five years later Bridget’s Da, Ian Patrick II, was born. Before the boy’s third birthday Ian senior was dead, succumbing to pneumonia. Seanmhathair
never remarried, and young Ian remained fiercely devoted to his mother. At the age of twenty he married Lois Thompson, a sensible young woman from Yankee stock, and brought her to live in the modest home he’d shared with his mother all his life.

     Ian and Lois brought Bridget into the world on St Patrick’s Day, 1950.  Her hair was a rich copper, just as her grandmother’s had once been, and they shared the same green dancing eyes. Bridget spent many hours at Seanmhathair’s knee listening to endless tales of the Emerald Isle. Lois tried to discourage the old woman from filling young Bridget’s head with nonsense, but she never succeeded.

     Of all the tales her grandmother told, Bridget’s favourites were about the fairie folk. “Oh, Seanmhathair! I want to see a fairie!” she would cry.  “I’ve looked in the garden under all the roses, but I can’t find one! Not a single one!”

     “Patience, child. One day you’ll see a wee sprite. Watch for a babe’s first laugh. That’s when you’ll be sure to see one. That’s how they’re born, ye know. Oh, but I saw a beautiful one the night you arrived. Ah, how she kissed your dimpled cheek and winked away.” Seanmhathair consoled the young girl. “Ye were born under the light of the full moon with a caul o’er your face. You’re destined to see the fey realm one day, I promise you. Remember, in the seeking for one thing will you find another. All in its proper time.”

     When Bridget was fifteen, she and her parents were in an automobile accident.  Bridget sustained minor injuries, but watched in agony as her parents bled to death before help could arrive. She felt so useless, not knowing what to do or how to save them. It was at that moment she decided to devote her life to medicine.  She worked hard and put herself through school while working nights in a laundry. She graduated with honours and a Nursing degree in 1974.  Her grandmother sat beaming in the
first row as Bridget received her cap and pin. She took a job in the Maternity Ward at Mercy Hospital in Portland.

     Seanmhathair died six months later.

* * *
     Eight years had passed. Bridget had assisted at almost three hundred births, and had cared for each tiny newborn. At first she had hovered over them, anxious of making any mistake. She never took a break, and often skipped her lunch to stay near the infants. Many had smiled, and some even laughed softly in their sleep. Still, though she always watched, Bridget never saw a fairie.

     She rose and moved through the nursery, checking each swaddled bundle in the isolettes. Her crêpesoled shoes whispered across the tiles. “Ah, well,” she said to herself. “I’ll be thirty years old next week. I suppose it’s time I stopped believing in nursery tales.”

     She approached a small blue bundle.  The card above his head announced the arrival of young Colin Brady O’Connor. Bridget smiled as she brushed the fine copper fuzz atop his head. The baby squirmed as much as the swaddling blanket would allow.  She could see his eyes darting beneath his closed lids.
     “Playing with the angels, are you?”

     He turned his head toward her and his perfect little rosebud mouth parted letting a tiny, silvery  sound escape.
     “Your first laugh! How precious you are,” Bridget cooed as she stroked his head. She stared in amazement as thin pale wisps of fog formed above the sleeping babe. The fog thickened and
condensed into a gray-green cloud. A faint breeze passed through the room, dispersing the cloud. In its place was a winged creature barely two inches tall. It wore a pale green suit, soft moss-coloured slippers and a peaked green cap.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “Top o’ the morning to ye, Bridget,” it said, doffing its hat.

     “And the rest o’ the day to yerself,” she responded automatically.  Bridget shook her head, realising she had slipped into her Seanmhathair’s brogue. She hadn’t heard the traditional Irish greeting since her grandmother passed away. Her heart ached as she remembered a lifetime of exchanging these words every morning at the breakfast table with Da and Seanmhathair.
     She stared at the wings, beating almost too fast to be seen. The muted nursery light reflected as an iridescent shine off their surface. “Are ye truly a fairie?”

     “Aye, and what else would I be, now lass? Don’t be daft. Let’s see, this says me name is Colin. Ye can stop thinking of me as ‘it’. I’m a man, right enough.” The tiny man straightened his coat tails and replaced his cap on his head.

     “I’ve waited all my life to see a fairie. I’d nearly given up hope.” Puzzlement filled Bridget’s trembling voice. “Why now? Why are you here?”

     The little man flew closer to Bridget’s face. “I’m here because this fine Irish lad birthed me. I’m speaking to you so that you will know the destiny you have to fulfil. Yer Seanmhathair told ye of the Faire folk and the Fey Realm, didna she?”

     Bridget nodded silently.

     “Aye but there are those less gentle and kind in the Realm that have escaped their bonds and are preparing to arrive. Ye must keep yer eyes sharp. Heed me warning well, child. Tonight ye will see an unholy fairie birthed when a human babe in your care screams. Dunna be afeared.” He extended a tiny gold shillelagh no bigger than her cross-stitch needle. “Take it, girl. I have na got all day.”

     Bridget took the tiny cudgel between her thumb and index finger. It glowed with an intense golden light.

     “Ye’ll have ter be fast,” the little man continued. “When the unholy one appears ye must club her while her wings are still wet, before she can fly away. If she escapes, great evil will be spilled across the world. Do ye ken me words?”

     Wide-eyed, Bridget nodded.

     “Ye have been chosen to stop the evil ones from entering the mortal coil. Tis a grave responsibility, yet I feel ye have the inner heart for the work. May the Saints be with ye, child.”  The fairie bowed low and disappeared.

* * *
     “I must be losing my mind,” Bridget thought. She moved toward the small desk in the corner and picked up her clipboard to make her shift report, though she had no intention of including any mention of the last five minutes. As she reached for her pen she realised she still held the tiny golden club. She dropped it into her front pocket and sat down, cradling her head in her hands.  Half an hour later she  received a call from the Emergency Department.

     “We’re sending a bad one up your way. Crack addicted girl, fifteen years old or maybe a bit younger.  Says she’s had no pre-natal care, and doesn’t even comprehend that she’s pregnant. Doctor Fisher’s been called, but I think the baby’s coming fast; you may be on your own for this one. Just wanted to warn you.”

     Bridget had attended a seminar about drug-addicted mothers just a month ago. This would be the first
case for Mercy Hospital, but surely not the last. The larger facilities in the area transferred all the charity cases to Mercy. Without proper insurance, all the street pregnancies would end up in her care. The instructor had warned them the numbers of these mothers was rising at an alarming rate.

     Bridget felt her stomach tighten, remembering all the things that could be wrong with the baby soon to be her charge. The infant was probably premature and would be far too small. He could be born in a drug-induced, depressed condition if the mother had recently smoked crack. If she had not
used recently the baby would arrive suffering extreme withdrawal. Either way posed serious problems for the helpless child.

     “Bridget, I need some help here!” Jane struggled with the young girl who kicked and screamed at the orderly pushing her wheelchair. Bridget ran to assist, and the three of them managed to get the girl into a bed.

     “Good luck with that one.” The orderly took the wheelchair and disappeared into the elevator.

* * *
     Bridget’s job was to take the baby as soon as it was delivered, while Jane would tend to the mother. Mercy Hospital was short-staffed, so there were only the two of them on duty. Jane looked up from examining the girl. “They were right. No time to wait for the doctor. This one wants out now.”

     The girl sat halfway up, shrieking obscenities at the two women at her feet. She gave a harsh grunt, and a tiny, blood-soaked bundle oozed onto the bed. The tiny baby lay motionless as the mother began to shriek and kick.

     Bridget clipped and cut the cord quickly, wrapping the girl and rescuing her from the imminent danger of her mother’s flailing feet.

     “Go, take care of the baby. I’ll deal with her.” Jane slapped restraints on the terrified girl, then pulled a syringe from her pocket and injected a sedative.

     Bridget watched the girl go limp, still mumbling words that should not come from a woman’s lips. She hoped Jane would encounter no difficulties while delivering the placenta.

     Carrying the limp, silent bundle she rushed to the nursery. Under the warming lights she weighed and measured the infant girl who slowly began to thrash about. She wiped the baby gently and used a bulb syringe to suction her mucous-clogged airways.

     The child tossed her head with uncommon strength, squinted her tiny face and balled her fists. Bridget was amazed to find she could barely keep her on the table. Suddenly the child grew rigid, and every muscle tensed as her face turned a deep purple. Her tiny lips parted and a shriek of pure agony issued, resounding through the nursery.

     Bridget watched in stunned silence as an ugly mist rose from the baby, the dark purple-black colour of a nasty bruise. The mist swirled and began to thicken and take shape. A hideous fairie woman shot out of the vapour. Her wings were black, and her hair was a streaming mass of purple. She began to wail in a highpitched keen. The sound was hideous, and Bridget felt her supper rise in the back of her throat.

     Bridget stumbled backward to get away from the sound, but remembered the tiny shillelagh in her pocket. She quickly withdrew it and struck the fairie on her acorn-sized head.

     The fairie exploded, sending splashes of purple-black darkness in every direction. The infant whimpered softly, but stopped her thrashing. Bridget dropped the tiny club back into her pocket, and finished caring for the baby girl. Once the babe was moved to a heated isolette and sleeping, Bridget
began to clean the table where the baby had been.

     There were thin strands of purple-black goo clinging like a spider web to the wall behind the table. Bridget extended her finger, but the gelatinous mess began to smoke before she touched it. As Bridget stared at the wall the substance disappeared, leaving only a slight blistering of the paint behind to mark where it had been.

     “Oh Seanmhathair, no one is ever going to believe this!” Bridget longed to talk with her grandmother, to try to understand what had happened. Her shift was nearing its end, and she decided
to relay only the expected medical information to the nurse who would soon relieve her.

     Later as she walked to her car, she remembered what Fairie Colin had said. The evil fairies had escaped, and she must stop them. She needed to fulfil her destiny. She looked to the dawning sky and said a silent prayer that she was not alone in the fight. After all, there was just so much that one girl could do.