The night was silent as a graveyard.
My feet crunched through the snow, as I headed up the hill. The moon shone brightly, eerily lighting the way. My breath clouded as I staggered on, following the trail of blood.
I adjusted the heavy blunderbuss that lay across my back, praying that the old relic still worked. It had hung above our fireplace for so long, I couldn’t be sure.
Stooping, I touched the blood in the snow, rubbing it between my fingertips. It was still fresh. The child’s bare footprints beside the blood looked so tiny that I fought back my tears. She had fallen here, my little Bridgín, before being dragged back to her feet and forced onward.
I studied the footprints of her kidnapper. They were as tiny as my child’s, although closer study revealed certain differences. Each footprint showed long claw-like nails that cut deep into the snow. What manner of creature had stolen my daughter … and why?
Stamping my feet against the cold, I continued on. It was a bitterly cold night to be out, especially for a child dressed only in her nightgown.
Finally, I reached the crest of the hill and could go no further. Before me was an impenetrable wall of thorns and briars. The footprints had led me to the ancient hill fort.
“Bridgín!” I yelled.
Did I hear mocking laughter on the breeze, or was that my imagination?
“Bridgín, where are you?”
A shadow stirred within the thorns. I strained to see who, or what, it was.
“Bridgín, is that you?”
This time, the raspy cackle was not my imagination. It came from the shadowy figure that lurked before me.
“What have you done with my daughter?” I demanded, pulling the ancient gun from off my shoulder and aiming it at the Daoine Sidhe.
A bony finger pointed down the hill. “You have disturbed my sleep, Fiachra McMorrow. A price will need to be paid!”
Looking down the hill, I saw my snow-covered excavator sitting idly. Nearby was a pile of thorn bushes I had cleared earlier in the week.
My father had always warned me about messing with faerie forts, but work was hard to come by in this current economic recession.
“Give me back my daughter!” I demanded, raising the old gun.
The creature hissed, “You cannot harm me, mortal!”
“We’ll see about that,” I mumbled, pulling the trigger.
The blunderbuss deafened me. My shoulder felt like it had been kicked by a mule.
When the smoke finally cleared, the creature was gone.
“Bridgín!” I called again.
I heard a muffled whimpering from within the undergrowth, and soon I found my daughter, alive and well. “You’re safe now.”
Together, we hurried home, never looking back.
Had I killed the beast, or merely frightened it away?
I hadn’t used lead pellets. I’d used shards of cold iron, and blessed my ammunition with holy water.
Nevertheless, they’d need to find another fool to clear the scrub from off this hill.