Shadow Walkers Chapter 14

Say a prayer for all the lost
Say a prayer for the unborn
Say a prayer for all the young
It takes a fire to keep them warm ~ Braver Than We Are/Jim Steinman

"Dammit, Bri! That be enough!" Caeoimhin growled, when Borias gave her another shake. "Let her go!"

Borias released his grip only to see her drop a foot and a half to the ground, loose her balance and fall. Glaring up at him, she lashed out the only way she could. "Someday, Bearach, someday you, the Gap Toothed Troll, Bresley Elathan and the Albino Monkey are going to get something none of you never expected. You're gonna turn around, and find somebody just like me standing behind you. And guess what? By then it'll be too late to do squat...Cause there's an old saying where I come from that goes, 'Don't get mad, get even'. And nobody like you or the rest of them sorry bastards are ever gonna treat me like that again."

When Caeoimhin held out his hand to help her up, she batted it away. " No. There's no maid service here," she informed him, pushing herself up. She glared at Borias again and shook her head. "And you...Too bad there's no vaccine against stupidity."

"Where ye think ye be goin', ye hellion?" he demanded when she walked away.

Just before she went around the corner of the wall, she looked back at him. "In the end? Same place as you, Buttcheeks. To Hell I suppose. Till then...till then, I'm still stuck here with you!"

"Mary Kate said if ye would have done that to her, she would have punched ye in the fookin' nads," Mick snapped at him.

Borias shoved him. "Mary Kate's dead dammit! Dead and gone! She is no here! She is no comin' back! What can ye no understand about them facts, ye wee idgit?"

"Fal, ye take Mick and go with her," Caeoimhin instructed, seeing the hurt in Michael's eyes. He waited just long enough for the two to disappeared around the wall, before he doubled up his fist and punched Borias in the nose, knocking him down. "What maggot got into yer damned brain? What the hell be wrong with ye?" he ground out.

"So she got the best of ye with a wooden sword. So what? Fal and Mick do it too and ye let them get away with it, but still ye taught them to use a weapon. Ye dinna jerk them up off the ground and shake the hell out of them, a'cause ye lost yer temper, then drop them in the dirt! Dammit Bri, ye had no right! No right a'tall! She dinna deserve that and Mick dinna deserve to be called an idgit!"

"Mary Kate isna come..."

Caeoimhin cut him off with an angry wave of his hand. "Aye, and ye keep sayin' it over and over, and over like a mantra to anyone within hearin' range! But what harm is it in lettin' Mick pretend she speaks to him? Dammit Bri, it gives him comfort and sometimes he needs that! He may look like a man grown on the outside, but inside, in his heart, he still be a bairn just like wee Caitlain is! Goddess knows, even though he be almost three hundred years old, mentally he is no much older than she is. But ye dammit, ye be eight hundred and thirty-two years old, Bri. Ye should know better!"

"Just a'cause ye be mad at yerself fer what happened with Mary Kate, doesna mean ye can go about and take it out on those two. They need ye to be strong fer them. Not yank the damned ground out from around their feet and leave them in the dirt, like ye did wee Caitlain!" Caeoimhin heaved an aggravated sigh. "If Mary Kate would have seen what ye did to both of them, she would be ashamed of ye, Bri and right now, so am I."

Caitlain followed the narrow wagon road, that led down the rocky outcropping the tower sat on. Every so often, she glanced over her shoulder making sure she'd lost her two wee companions. At the bottom, she sat down with her back to an ancient boulder, that had once been part of the foundation itself, before it had broken off. She stared out at the horizon and the mountains that seemed to go on forever, and wondered if she'd ever see home again. If the circumstances would have permitted, she would have loved to set out on foot and explored the mist covered hills and glens, but they didn't.

It was just like in Georgia when she was in the orphanage. She was as just as confined here behind the tall stone walls, as she had been there, and the monsters had been just as real. There were all kinds of monsters in the world, Caitlain told herself. Just because they didn't have claws and fangs, didn't mean anything.

Beluah Ballbuster and her buddy the Albino Monkey who ran the orphanage in Hickory, had proved that fact on more than one occasion. Too many nights she'd went to sleep hurt or hungry in the punishment room, until one night she'd unexpectedly gained her freedom.

Beluah Ballbuster had thrown an envelope in her face, screaming at her to get out. She'd taken the envelope and ran and never once looked back. Why was still a mystery to her, but she wasn't ever going to look that particular gift horse in the mouth.When she'd finally stopped long enough to catch her breath, she opened the envelope to find enough money to board a train and she'd headed north.

"Now there was two of a kind if ever there was one," she whispered, almost as if she were afraid they'd hear her and come and drag her back. "Well, I ain't going," her voice trembled, when she ran two of her fingers up just underneath the cast, to try and rub away the ache.

"You can't make me, because I got a family now. I got a Finn and Aine and a sister and a brothers that care about me, and you can't hurt me no more. And guess what? Neither can Buttcheeks. I ain't gonna let him, no matter how much he wants to lop off my friggin' head. I'm gonna be brave again. You wait and see."

Mary Kate tilted her head, watching as Caitlain drew her knees up in front of her. Borias was so angry yet over the past and he'd never let it go. Then today, he'd let that anger boil over and he'd lashed out. Not because Caitlain had exhibited a little skill with a sword, but because she'd done the same thing Mary Kate had done once upon a time. She'd not only smacked him in the ass with the wooden sword, but she'd smacked him on top of the head.

He had immediately thought of Mary Kate and had taken his frustration out on one person. The one Mary Kate knew would eventually sooth his broken heart, because Borias would never start to live again, if he kept letting her death eat away at him like a cancer.

"If ye want my opinion leanbh, ye should have hit the hellion harder," she sighed, when she heard Caitlain give a choked sob. "I know I would have. He is no a bad man ye know, but Bri can be a stubborn cuss even at the best of times. Tis my fault what he did while ago, and fer that I be sorry. Ye should no have been on the receivin' end of his anger."

Caitlain scrubbed at her eyes with her fist. "I don't belong here," she sniffed looking up at the figure in front of her. "I want to go home."

Mary Kate stood in shocked silence for a second. "Sweet mercies. Ye can see me, leanbh?"

Caitlain dropped her head in guilt. "Sorry. I can close my eyes if you want."

Mary Kate quickly shook her head, kneeling in front of her. Trying not to frighten her, she gently laid her hands over Caitlain's. "No leanbh. Tis alright, truly. Mickey said ye had a gift, but I dinna think it included seein' spirits."

"It ain't my fault," she sniffed again, looking at the dark eyed beauty in front of her. "I've done it since I can remember. I seen Sister Benedikta after they...after she died." A big fat tear rolled down her cheek and Mary Kate gently brushed it away. "She screamed at me to run, but I was too little and I got caught."

"After they what, leanbh?" she urged. "Ye can tell me, ye know. What happened to her?"

Her shoulders trembled as she fought a loosing battle, trying to keep the memories at bay. She didn't want to remember. It was against the rules. "Tell anyone, my wee bana-druid and we'll kill them just as dead as your good Sister Benedikta," they'd threatened. It was why she'd locked the memory away and now she was being asked to tell.

Mary Kate frowned watching Caitlain's eyes glaze over, as if she no longer saw Mary Kate kneeling there in front of her but something else. When she'd finally spoken again, it was in a flat monotone voice.

"They killed her. Beluah Ballbuster shot her and when she cried, the Albino Monkey cut her throat. Then they took over the orphanage. Sister Benedikta and I wasn't even supposed to be there. We were supposed to be gone, because the soldier that brought me there, he said she had to take me and get out as fast as she could. He said the Yankees were on the border and would be there before morning."

When Mary Kate asked her to describe what the soldier was wearing, it made her frown even more, for Caitlain described the uniform down to the brown frock coat, and the trousers with their CS belt buckle, and the tell-tale stag hat which he wore. It was then a niggling sensation made the hairs stand on the back of her neck. She'd seen uniforms like that long ago, and they belonged to the Confederate Cavalry of the United States. "Leanbh, did he happen to tell the good sister his name?" she murmured softly, trying to make Caitlain focus on her.

Caitlain swayed and tilted dangerously, causing Mary Kate to reach out and support her. "He felt like Finn, and Aine and Tadg, and Bhug and Brogie. And you and the rest of them. Even them two that took over the orphanage, but those two...they felt strange."

"Leanbh, his name. Did he say his name?" Mary Kate encouraged.

"Gerry...Gerry Delacroix," Caitlain murmured, before she went limp in Mary Kate's arms.

"Damn the man," she cursed under her breath, looking at her unconscious charge. Her mind raced, as she tried to make sense of what Caitlain had said. "One hundred and forty-six... forty-seven years ago, mayhap a wee bit longer? What the hell were ye about and just who is this child, a'cause if ye found her that long ago..."

She looked down into Caitlain's youthful face studying the features. It was a sure bet she didn't belong to Gerard Delacroix. Thank the Goddess for that small favor granted she thought, remembering what she'd heard said a few years ago. She'd been searching for Borias and his clan of Scáth Siúlóir at the time, and had run across another small clan of Shadow Walkers in Bulgaria.

"Hell, Gerard be so damned homely, when he was a wean his Da tied a sack over his pointed head, so he dinna frighten off the women and children."

"And the sheep. Dinna fergit the damned sheep," the other Scáth Siúlóir had sighed, pulling his bedroll closer around him.

To this day, it hadn't so much been the remark that had drawn her to their encampment, but the deep sorrow she felt from the two Tuatha de Danaan. It was same sorrow she felt when she was close to Borias. Like Borias one had loved and lost someone, and it still grieved him after all that time. "May the Goddess grant ye peace," she murmured aloud, looking at Caitlain. Caitlain on the other hand was a new mystery yet unsolved.

Had Delacroix truly had her at some point during the Civil War? Or was it Caitlain's imagination? A product of too many stories about the war? Too many books? What? Holding the child in her arms, Mary Kate tried to feel what Michael had told Caitlain, was a gift. What she felt was nothing more than the empathy of a sort. It allowed an immortal, elf, faerie or others, to let them know that someone like them was near. It also allowed that being to feel their pain sometimes, if it was strong enough, but in Caitlain's case, Mary Kate felt nothing more than a sad, frightened child in her arms.

It still didn't explain Delacroix's involvement with Caitlain. Could it have been someone else? It wasn't that Gerard Delacroix was a bad man, but he was known to every Scáth Siúlóir clan that had ever hunted, along with his cousin Gallagher Lochlainn.

No neither were bad men, but they were hell raisers in their own right. So if Caitlain's story had a grain of truth to it, Mary Kate would swear Gallagher Lochlainn had been close by when it happened. "Now there be two bitin' fleas on the same dog's arse," she mumbled, tracing a finger down Caitlain's cheek. "A'cause usually where ye found one of them heathens, ye found the other."

Still the unanswered questions remained. Was Gerard the same Delacroix, Caitlain had met and just where exactly did she meet him if he was? And why...why had it seemed like a switch had been flipped, when Mary Kate asked her about what had happened at the orphanage? Could it really be a memory or even a dream? Or more yet, something different? Something darker?

She knew Caitlain hadn't wanted to talk about it, but then it seemed like an invisible barrier had crumbled. Granted, her eyes had glazed over and she'd spoken, as if she were reciting the words from memory, but there was something else about them that bothered Mary Kate. Caitlain's voice had held a quiet desperation in it, as if she knew in her heart, there was no way out.

"There ye be!" Borias half shouted, coming down the narrow road on horseback "Did ye no hear anyone callin' fer ye, ye wee hellion? I have a good mind to turn ye over my knee and paddle yer wee, scrawny arse fer ye good and proper!"

Good and proper? Mary Kate thought to herself. She'd show him good and proper. Slipping away from Caitlain, she came up behind Borias the minute he dismounted from Padraig and gave him a sharp rap on the back of his head with her knuckles.

He gave a surprised yelp and spun around, ready for a fight only to find he was alone. "What the fook?" When he received another one, he spun again finding the same thing. No one. "Sonuvabitch," he whispered, frowning deeply. "What the hell kind of dark magick is this?"

His eyes shot to Caitlain and he felt his heart thudding in his chest. She was pale and her eyes were shut. Something was wrong. Chancing another look around him for an unknown assailant and finding none, he hurried to her. He could barely make out the rise and fall of her chest, when he scooped her up in his arms and carried her toward his horse.

Above him the sky was beginning to darken with the impending threat of a storm. Her arms came around his neck and she laid her head on his shoulder, murmuring in his ear. "Brogie, you big stud muffin you, don't you drop me. If you do, I'll tell Aine and Bhug on you. Then I'll tell Finn and Tadg and all hell will break loose.

bana-druid...female sorceress

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