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The Leprechauns

The craggy-faced little man blew puffs of smoke into the heavy-scented air of the forest. His dark eyes slid around the dimly-lit clearing, taking in the eager faces all around. The young folk appeared to be attentive to their elder, and he almost nodded approvingly. But then he grew suspicious. They were too well-behaved, too eager for the story.

The old Luchorpán watched them cannily. Something was definitely off. Though the children appeared to be staring at him wide-eyed, he could hear giggling, rattling, and even the occasional suppressed shriek. From experience, he could guess the rest: Under a barely-maintained illusion of stillness, the young Luchorpán were jumping up and dashing back and forth to play tricks. Stealing things, mussing hair, spitballing, jolting each other with sparks, and generally having a laugh.

The old Luchorpán coughed, annoyed, and tapped out the dead ash in his pipe against the stone he sat upon. It was time to make some clever guesses. “You there, young Lurigadawne, put down those swords and wands this instant! And Cluri, stop pickpocketing those other fellows and join us now! Gather round, young tricksters, it’s time you heard the story.”

The illusion rippled and disappeared, revealing the disorganized group staring at him open-mouthed. The old Luchorpán could hardly contain a chuckle of his own.

The tops of the trees rustled in the wind and seemed to lean forward in anticipation as the elder took another long pull on his pipe, waiting for the young folk to settle down. He glared at them for quiet.

Some of the youngsters listened, but a few still shimmered blue in his sight. It seemed the children who had gotten pranked were turning to their revenge now. He gave them his best disapproving glare. However, a shock of fear went through the old mans’ chest as he saw the eldest child draw a knife from his pocket and brandish it with a foul expression.

“Stop,” cried the elder. Anger flashed in the old Luchorpán’s face as he leaned forward on the rock, struggling to get the knife-wielder’s attention.“So, it’s a bit of a fight you’ll be wantin’ to remind ya of yer place then? Have ye forgotten all my lessons? Is that the way of it?” He stared until the boy lowered the knife and sat down with a crimson face. “You should not be so angry at a little trick like that,” he added, sitting up straight. “The way yeh handle yerself, especially when mischief is afoot, says everything about who y’ are. Don’t let yer anger overwhelm ye, or ye’ll be fightin’ family in a moment.”

The boy sat down, chastened. As soon as his teacher turned away, however, the youngster stuck out his tongue and made an insolent gesture. He kept his fist closed around the knife handle.

“Then ‘tis a fight you’ll be havin’!” The elder reached behind him and pulled out a staff, scarred by long use.

The juvenile Luchorpán glanced at each other in alarm. The youngest among them stood and raised his hand for attention. He puffed himself up to his full two-and-a-half-foot height and proclaimed in his high voice, “I call upon you, my fellow Luchorpán! We have all suffered many hard knocks from our teacher. Let this be a day of reckoning! Let this be a day of vengeance! Let this be the day we got a bit of our own back! We’re ready for you, old one. We know all of your tricks. Today, we repay you in full!”

Rather than let their companion get his revenge alone, the youngsters rose from their seats and smiled darkly as they counted their numbers, six in all. That should be more than enough to overcome the white-haired Luchorpán. They too drew their weapons, a wide array of gnarled staves, curved wands, and leaf-shaped practice swords.

In return, the elder smiled deeply. “Tis true we have fought many a fine duel. Yet I have one old trick, a very old trick indeed, which I have saved for this very day.”

At that, the confidence of the youngest ones wavered a little, but not that of the eldest boy, who had followed suit and sheathed his knife only to draw a padded club. “Words don’t scare us! You heard what Cluri said. We’re more than prepared for whatever deviltry you’ve cooked up!”

“Are ye now?” replied the elder with a nasty twinkle in his eye. “Then prepare yerselves. I’m going to give you a demonstration of real Luchorpán magic. Ehindbay Ouya!” he bellowed, and then nodded almost imperceptibly. The young folk tensed, then looked at one another in confusion. It was a strange language to them, one they had never heard. Was it a new spell? Looking at the elder, they saw no sign of him summoning magic.

“Is this a trick, old one?” said the oldest boy scornfully, calling up as much bravado as he could muster, “or have you lost your powers along with your wits?”

The elder sat down again and grinned. “I am not that old yet. If you were my age, you would know that I just told you to look behind you.”

With bushy eyebrows raised quizzically, the six youngsters turned around to see six older boys creeping up behind them with heavy sticks raised. The rebellious youngsters gaped in astonishment as six staves came crashing down. THWACK!

The young challengers sat down hard, feeling bumps rise on their chastised heads. The elder smiled as he lit a new bowl, puffing clouds of smoke. “Young ones, magic is not the only way to trick someone. Now, who wishes to start the recitation?”

Smiling weakly as he stood once again, Cluri began to speak in a singsong voice.

Long before the Second Breaking of the world, there once lived a pair of children in a house on a hill, a brother and sister named Gadai and Angha. Their parents had died or disappeared long ago. Gadai was sibling and parent to his much younger sister, though he would often disappear for hours during the day while she played in the weedy garden. This was because Gadai would go into the town at the bottom of the hill and steal what they needed. He was slippery, quick, and his child’s fingers were clever enough to pluck a purse as soft as a breeze. He was very good, perhaps already one of the greatest thieves of his time.

Everyone in town knew his profession, but they never caught him. Besides, it was clear that Gadai followed a strict moral code. First, he only stole from the wealthier folk in town (or the occasional well-heeled visitor), who could well afford the loss. Second, he restrained himself, and took no more than what he and his sister needed to survive. Finally, Angha insisted that they always share with others truly in need, and Gadai was happy to oblige. The other orphan children in the town were never turned away when they climbed the hill and asked for bread. Gadai soon felt like a parent to all of them, and Angha somehow always knew what was most needed to help.

The townsfolk at the bottom of the hill even put up with his occasional pranks and tricks. They laughed when they discovered that their laundry had been switched with the neighbor’s, or jokes had been painted on the side of the well. The townsfolk let him carve out a living, and he and Angha were happy.

The years passed and the children grew. Gadai became a man, growing tall and straight, with long limbs. Angha said she was glad of that, so he could hug her tightly when she needed to draw on his strength to supplement her own. Angha was on the cusp of adulthood herself when the signs of the first Veilstorm came. Everyone in the village felt the pressure in the air, the thrumming of the storm gathering its power to strike their area. She and Gadai watched at the window, wide-eyed at the flashing lightning and the pelting rain. The wind tore at the earth in gusts and the thunder seemed loud enough to crack stone. Buildings in the village below shook to pieces, and the storm battered, changed, or killed many of the newly defenseless folk.

When the sun rose next day, its warm light shone on a scene of chaos, as a great deal of damage had been done. Folk mourned their friends, families, and everything that had made their village beautiful, as they tried to pick up the pieces. Up on the hill, Gadai and Angha’s house still stood, untouched. Not a single tile in their roof had come loose. They had been very lucky, and the pair invited several desperate folk to live in their house while the rest of the town was rebuilt.

That same year, another storm loomed over the town. Certain that the house had been spared by previous storms only for a more terrible retribution now, the superstitious folk staying with Gadai and Angha fled into the twilight. Once again, the winds of magic tore furiously at the town and its terrified people; and once again, the house on the hill was untouched.

Wonder turned into suspicion and jealousy in the following year, when more storms came and went without damaging Gadai and Angha’s home. Gadai let up on his thievery and pranks, but it didn’t make any difference. Many of the townsfolk stopped speaking to him and Angha. Gadai threw himself into helping the dispossessed, the starving, and especially the children in need.

One day, a powerful wind picked up. Scuds of clouds ran across the sky, fleeing the terrible wrath of a storm. The sky groaned as though in pain; this was no average Veilstorm. A Malevolence gathered power.

Instead of preparing for the oncoming storm, many of the homeless townsfolk had gathered in one of the few pubs left standing, swilling ale and trading survival stories. As the pressure in the air grew to an unbearable level, the Malevolence rolled in overhead.

A wave of emotion washed over the crowd like a flood. The storm seemed to encourage their dark tempers, aiding the ale in their blood and bringing the mob to a fever pitch of anger. They spilled into the street, voices raised in a clamor for justice. Who started it no one ever knew, but many of them took up the cry that thieves had stolen their luck, blackguards in league with dark forces above. Former victims of Gadai’s tricks blamed their misfortunes on him, and shouted that the man in the house on the hill should suffer as they had all suffered. In their storm-fogged minds they clung to the vague notion that inflicting pain on Gadai would ease their own.

Wrapping sticks in alcohol-soaked rags for makeshift torches, the mob set off through the pre-storm quiet, calling hoarsely through the town for others to join them. Waving broken glasses and flaming shards of wood, many caught the scent of blood in the air and joined them. They were taken with a mad panic, thinking this was the last act before the storm ended everything. From a distance, their angry procession formed a stream of fire that quickly spread up the path toward Gadai and Angha’s humble home, one of the last houses still standing in the township. Among the mob were many of those who had received help from the siblings on the hill; in their anger and their fear, all kindness was forgotten.

It was unmistakably time to leave. Gadai grabbed Angha’s arm, and she grabbed the basket from the pantry and her walking stick. They fled out the back door as the angry mob stormed the front door. The mob’s blood was up, hearkening back to the way their ancestors had once stormed the castles of their oppressors.

The little house on the hill was far from a grand castle. Within moments, the mob had busted through one of the walls and flames began licking along the edges of the roof. Angha looked back as she hustled ahead of Gadai, and he saw the flickering reflections in her eyes. They could hear the townsfolk’s rage, cursing and clamoring with one voice that Gadai and Angha give up the secret of their safety. The house was clearly empty, but it made no difference. The pair knew no secrets; they had simply been lucky.

Desperate, Gadai and Angha ran through the gathering rain, stumbling through the mud and wet grass, seeking shelter from the implacable storm. The hills rose up before them, but Angha guided her brother to a cave where she had stored herbs to dry. They both knew the shelter would do little against the Veilstorm, but at least it was warmer and out of the rain.

Inside the shallow cave, they dropped their burdens and sat on the cold stone, watching the rain increase in violence outside. The storm growled with thunder, though no lightning had yet struck nearby. Gadai seethed in turn, scowling out the open cave mouth. “What was the point of it all, Angha? I feel like a fool for helping them. What thanks is this? Why did we ever go hungry just to feed them? I will return their cruelty tenfold.” For emphasis, he spat into the rain.

Angha smiled sadly at him. “It is only fear and weakness, Gadai. You have done many foolish things, no doubt; but helping others in need was not one of them. Calm yourself. If you waste time seeking revenge, it will only stop us from finding a new home.”

Gadai could not help smiling back, though it was a strained smile. “You shield your heart from the anger that overtakes me. I’d be lost without the kindness you were named for; and so would they.”

As the storm raged outside, its fearful roar made it clear that this was no ordinary Veilstorm. It was a Malevolence, terrifying to behold in its power and intensity. Stones cracked and split outside the cave as lightning poured down out of the sky like a waterfall of white fire. The pressure of the air, heavy with furious magic, increased in force even as the temperature dropped. Cold winds descended on the town, leveling the buildings and the trees, and everything else for miles around, including the former home of Gadai and his sister.

The Malevolence howled louder, roiling the heavens with terrible power, as if delighting in the pitiful cries of the creatures below. Its freezing fury whipped across the landscape, tearing at the earth. Thrumming power filled the cave where Gadai and Angha now huddled close together.

A pricking, scraping sensation crept over Gadai’s skin, and he felt Angha’s body stiffen in fear next to him. There was a presence in the wind-blasted cave, a feeling of change and shaping. Chaotic forces of wind and magic tore at their bodies, and Angha cried out in pain, “Gadai, something’s happening to me!”

He threw his arms around his sister and hugged her close to his chest, hoping to somehow shield her body with his own. Eavesdropping during his exploits, Gadai had heard of storms that turned folk into monsters. He knew it was The Change, but had no power to stop it. “Hold on to me!” he cried, desperate. “No, no, no! Take me instead!”

Angha’s body began to shake with the beginnings of The Change. Distantly, screams and howls from the top of the hill told Gadai that others were suffering the same fate. But only one person truly mattered to him.

Gadai hugged his sister tightly, but she only shook with greater violence. She screamed when she realized what was happening, and the storm roared its thunder in return, slamming the countryside with sound.

Angha’s flesh rippled as the horrible magic pulsed through her body. Her back arched in pain, and her scream cut off as the first wave of change overtook Gadai’s little sister. He held on tight even as her fingers were stretched into claws that raked at his arms, drawing blood. Her teeth became long and sharp as she reflexively bit into his shoulder. Gadai refused to let go even as her legs grew horns and scales, twisting to kick at him as a tail curled around his neck.

He told her he loved her even as the Abomination that had been Angha ripped him off of itself and snarled. It rolled on the ground as tentacles burst from its flesh and waved stingers in the air while the storm thundered triumphantly above. It sounded to Gadai like booming laughter, mocking their helplessness in the face of the horror.

The creature stared up at him from the floor of the cave. Gadai prayed to God, the storm itself, and to the old gods of his people, to anyone that would listen, to stop The Change. For a moment longer, the thing still had Angha’s eyes, weeping as she looked up from the sandy floor of the cave; then as the pressure swelled, the eyes began to change as well, swelling and shifting to an evil yellow. Gadai gritted his teeth against the tears that pressed against his eyes, and dropped to his knees. He cradled the Abomination’s misshapen, bulbous head the way he had cradled Angha’s perfect one when she was a baby. The writhing creature that had been his sister hissed and growled. Gadai knew he couldn’t hesitate a moment longer, for the Abomination would swiftly grow in power and size. Hands shaking, Gadai drew his knife from the sheath on his leg.

Tenderly, gingerly, he cut the creature’s throat. It wasn’t his sister any more; the storm had killed her. As blood gushed to meet the puddles forming on the cave floor, a voice whispered, “I will always love you.” They must have been his own words.

When all the life had left her body, he laid her head down, arranging her clawed and tentacled limbs in an unnatural posture of rest. Mad with pain and loss, Gadai walked out into the storm, screaming into the sky as he choked on the cold rain. “Change me! Change me too, damn you! I dare you! I defy you, Malevolence! Or if you will not…I call upon all the Powers to grant me my revenge!”

After what seemed like hours, the lightning ceased and the rumbling of thunder began to die away as the Malevolence dissipated. When the Malevolence ended, he was still Gadai. However, as he dried his eyes and looked to the horizon, he felt slightly different. In what way, he could not have said.

Time passed. The darkness gathered in Gadai’s mind, a miasma of rage and hurt. He was unable to think clearly. His sister was gone, taken by the storm and put to rest by his own hand; and without her, he was lost. He could not hurt the storm, and so he blamed the folk he had once helped, who had turned on him and burnt his house in their fear and confusion. The darkness filled him, and the only way he could make an aperture, an opening for himself to exist in the thick swamp of revenge that infested his mind like an endless swarm of gnats, was to seek vengeance. He could not see the storm’s face, he could only desire to see their faces, distraught and destroyed, as they had done to him. He never considered that the storm might have changed Angha no matter what the townsfolk had done.

Gadai tried to satisfy his need for revenge. He stole from the townsfolk as never before, not for anyone’s benefit, even his own. He took everything they had, from the rich and the poor alike, as punishment for their cruelty and ingratitude. Instead of sharing his loot, he hid the great fortune away in the earth, in a cave far from the one he and Angha had shared. He could never go back there.

The more Gadai stole, the more the Veilstorm’s influence on his body grew, but slowly enough that he didn’t notice at first. His countenance began to reflect his nature; the thief’s face twisted into a sinister mask of hatred and cruelty. He started to shrink in stature as his rage and need for revenge warped his mind. It became even easier to sneak his way into homes through small openings, and his footstep became light as a feather. Gadai’s eyes began to change as well, reflecting the color of valuable metals nearby, which he could track by scent like a hound following a trail. His skills at opening locks and evading traps the townsfolk set for him increased, as he paid little attention to anything else.

Gadai’s pranks were no longer intended to amuse. The surviving townsfolk found their door hinges removed, their well filled with foul water, and their wagon wheels loosened. None of these satisfied Gadai, and his mood grew ever darker.

The seasons turned, but Gadai paid them little mind, focused only on his insatiable hunger to take more and more. One winter’s evening, he entered the home of a wealthy merchant. Quietly, he crept from room to room, pocketing anything of value. He lifted a painting, the silver, and a few tapestries, piling it all by the window.

Eventually, he made his way to a small bedroom on the second floor, where the wealthy merchant’s youngest daughter slept. Gadai paused for a moment, hand above her tiny wooden jewelry box. The girl looked just like Angha.

He leaned closer. No, not just like her. It was no more than a passing resemblance. Gadai felt pain welling up inside him, threatening to overwhelm. He pushed the feeling aside and continued relieving the teenage girl of her jewelry collection.

The hiss of rain began outside. Thunder rumbled, and the flash of twisting lightning signalled the start of a sudden Veilstorm. The house he was in seemed almost at the epicenter of the tumult. Wind and magic tore at the roof and made the walls creak. Gadai figured it was time to leave and made for the nearest window.

He flung it open, and rain blew back in his face. The girl sat up in bed, awakened by the wet and the noise. She screamed wildly when she saw Gadai’s twisted little figure, his legs bent in preparation to leap out of her room.

Her desperate scream of fear, just like his sister’s on their last night together, pierced Gadai’s heart like an arrow. He hesitated for just a moment, staring aghast back at the girl in her nightgown.

That was long enough for something to answer her scream for help. Her father, mid-transformation into an Abomination, rushed into the room, letting loose a gurgling roar. Tentacles tipped with claws trailed behind him, twitching as they felt for prey. The thing made straight for the bed, where his daughter sat screaming.

Gadai reacted without thinking. He leaped into the path of death, knowing he could only offer a moment’s protection against this enraged monstrosity. He had no mighty weapon he could use to fight off an Abomination filled with rage. He was no warrior. The Abomination was a creature of the storm, which was already reaching the peak of its power outside. He kneeled on the bed, holding the girl tightly while she tried to push him away. Gadai refused to let go even as the Abomination attacked him savagely, raking his body and reopening long-healed scars. Blood spattered the room along with the rain blown in through the window.

As he felt his strength wane and the life leave his body, Gadai heard the crash and boom outside as the storm reached its zenith. Splinters of wood fell into the room as the roof began to come loose. Gadai’s last thoughts were of the long-abandoned cave where he had slain the thing that killed Angha. He wished he and the girl could be back there, where his life of vengeance had begun.

The Abomination slammed its claws down in a final killing stroke. However, its claws found only air and the featherbed. The creature howled with inhuman frustration.

When Gadai awoke, he found himself back in that never-forgotten cave, where the horror had happened. It was warmed by a gentle fire. Sitting up painfully, he discovered that his clothes had been cleaned and his wounds carefully dressed with torn strips of cloth. Blinking, Gadai rubbed thick sand from his eyes. He felt like he’d been asleep for days. The thief’s gaze landed on a young girl sitting by the fire, feeding it with sticks.

For a moment, he felt utterly confused. Everything had been a nightmare, and he was still with his sister. Elation briefly filled his heart. But before he could choke out her name, the girl came into focus and he knew that this wasn’t his sister. Angha was still dead.

The girl glanced up and smiled. She stood and came over to him, and Gadai realized that she was not as young as he had first thought. The young woman was merely small of stature, just as he had become these last few years.

“Thank you,” She said quietly. “Thanks for saving my life, little thief. I am called Aingeal. What is your name?”

Gadai merely shook his head. He could not speak to her. She was kind, but he believed she had no right to be. For him, all the kindness in the world had died along with Angha.

Aingeal put out a hand and gently shook his shoulder, breaking into his self-absorbed thoughts. “Do you understand me? You’re a hero, little man.”

He cleared his throat. “I-I am called Gadai.”

His name made her laugh. “Ha! I thought it was you. Tis a good name for you.” She let go of his shoulder and stood, brushing sand from her torn shift before adding, “You may keep the necklace that is in your pocket. It is my bond that we shall marry one day.”

Gadai’s malformed eyes narrowed as he scoffed at her. “What are you talking about? Why would we marry? We’ve only known each other for…we met when I was robbing your house!”

“My father could afford the loss, he…” for a moment Aingeal stood silently, staring into the fire. “He had become a monster all on his own, before the storm changed him.” Then she looked at Gadai and laughed again, her green eyes flashing with a hidden spark of magic. “Believe me, love. One day, we shall marry.”

“Ridiculous. You’ve gone mad. I have no use for love. I will marry no one.” Gadai struggled to stand, tearing the bandages across his back with a sharp pain.

Before he could rise, Aingeal put her hands on his head and pushed him back down. She kissed the top of his hairy head lightly and patted him. “Rest now. You’re going to have to take me back to my village soon.”

He sat back, breathing painfully, and looked up into her face. Again, he thought he saw the shimmer of magic in her eyes, or perhaps it was his own tears of pain. “What makes you so sure I will do any of these things?”

Aingeal shook her head as she turned back to the fire, which was burning low. “Men are always the last to know.”

When Gadai’s wounds had healed enough to let him walk, he walked with her back to her village. One of the village elders took Aingeal in, for her family and indeed her whole house was gone, taken by the storms. Then the thief turned to leave, figuring he had repaid her for bandaging him. He fully expected to hear her cry out after him, to object to their parting; but all Aingeal did was wave and call, “Farewell for now, my beautiful betrothed!”

The gathered village folk stared in complete shock. Gadai’s body was twisted and repulsive to look upon, as ugly outside as he had become within.

Gadai found himself unable to stray too far from Aingeal’s village. Time and again, he would try to leave, to seek further revenge on the rest of the world, but he found himself instead climbing hills and trees that overlooked the town and watching her from afar. Aingeal spent little time in mourning and rarely rested, always first in line to help those in need within the village. She was full of kindness, well-loved by the village elders that provided her with a simple home, and she was almost always happy.

At night, clinging to the shadows thrown by the village torches, Gadai would sometimes creep into the settlement and leave food, cloth, and other essentials at Aingeal’s window. Though he meant to leave the goods for her alone, she only ever used them to help others. Gadai couldn’t help hoping she guessed who left the things for her.

In this way he watched her from afar. He secretly laughed at the suitors who came and went disappointed from Aingeal. She was good-natured and beautiful, but her magic-glittered eyes often looked to the sky and stars, and seemed always to be waiting for something.

Until one day a wealthy young man came into her life. They met at a spring celebration in the central square of the village, and danced together. The man swept her off her feet, and her face glowed with laughter as he courted her. Each passing day, Gadai’s heart broke a little more. He realized how strange, how twisted he had become, hiding his hopes even from himself. He had let himself secretly believe in whatever was left of his heart that her prediction would come true. When he could stand it no more, he went back to the old cave once again to curse humanity.

He lay down to sleep that night dreaming of his revenge on Aingeal for breaking her promise to him. But when he awoke, Gadai looked around the long-abandoned cave where he had convalesced and found he couldn’t summon the passion that had fueled him. His revenge, his need to exact personal justice, felt as hollow and empty as the cave where Angha had died.

Gadai walked outside and looked up at the hill where he and his sister used to live so happily. The wreckage of the old house was almost completely gone, blown away or buried, or perhaps looted to repair other buildings in the town that lay just beyond the hill. Back then, he had followed a code. Back then, he had people to care for with his skill. Gadai remembered the young man he used to be and swore to become him once more.

The thief set out to use his powers for a purpose outside of himself and his rage. He thought he might help the poor and the sick, those in need of a little extra wealth. However, he added to himself with an impish grin that felt unfamiliar on his twisted features, a good prank now and then might do some good too.

He left the cave behind with all its terrible memories, never to return.

Gadai went from town to town, looking for things that needed doing by someone with his talents. Everywhere in the region that folk were trying to rebuild after the storms, they would find a part of their work done in the night. Everywhere that folk were in dire need, they found food and clean water waiting for them at the door. And everywhere that powerful people were taking advantage of the storms’ destruction to satisfy their greed for wealth or power, they found their riches suddenly diminished. Stories spread throughout the region about a kindly, impish rogue known only as the Thief.

As his journey crisscrossed the land, one evening Gadai found himself tired and nearing sleep under a tree on a hill that overlooked a familiar village. He settled down in the long grass with his back against the trunk, a peaceful smile on his face. He was thinking of his next adventure.

A pleasant scent pulled him from his slumber the next morning. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Gadai looked up in consternation to find Aingeal standing over him. She carried a large knapsack and blanket over her shoulder, and a basket in her other hand from which the wonderful smells wafted. She looked happy, but slightly annoyed. “I thought you would be here yesterday, Gadai. I had all my things packed up and ready to go. Oh well, so dinner is breakfast.” And she dropped the basket in the grass beside him.

Gadai tried to stammer a greeting, but before he could croak out a single syllable Aingeal dropped her pack as well, leaning over to kiss him. “I keep my promises, always and forever. ” she added sweetly.

On that day, Gadai’s twice-broken heart mended. It was not long before Aingeal’s promise of marriage was kept, and they traveled together ever afterward. Some of Gadai’s powers vanished over time, but Aingeal only seemed to grow in power and abilities, though not in stature. Like spring wildflowers, tales sprang up all over the land of The Adventures of Gadai and Aingeal.

“That was well spoken, Cluri,” said the elder. “Most of ye should leave me now an’ go practice yer skills. All except for you lot, with the lumps on yer heads. We shall work on something else. And I promise ye, it will hurt just enough to remind ye of yer folly.” Smirking as he hefted his staff, he added, “Like me wife, I always keep me promises.”

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