“And here she is.” It was a woman’s voice and a chilling voice that Sandra heard before she saw. “I am a bit surprised she made it, but I see she brought a couple of friends with her.” The woman was an old woman that might best be described as a hag if that hag was struck in the face with a bucket of ugly. She waved her hand and Macreedy and Ellean lost their glamour of invisibility, but they did not lose the arrows that were strung in their bows and ready. The man beside the djin took a step back on seeing real, live elves in his face.
“Wait a minute.” Sandra was looking around. “This is the University woods, not very far from where Mother and Mellissa disappeared.”
“Very good.” The hag said. “And it is only a couple of hours since you left.”
“But we were gone for two days.” Sandra protested.
“And a whole night.” The djin nodded and cackled which solidified Sandra’s impression of the djin’s hag-like appearance. “Sadly, the tree people came out in force so nothing untoward could happen in the night.” She looked disappointed that nothing came out of the dark to tear Sandra and Glen to shreds.
“Old woman. You swore you would gather the whole family. How dare you try and send this one to Hell before I had the opportunity to do it myself.” The man beside the djin, an Asian, Chinese looking man with perhaps a taint of European blood raise his hand as if to slap the hag.
“But I did exactly as you asked.” The hag stayed his hand with the words. “They are all here as promised. All of the living in the family line are here. The fee was the first, and this is the last of them all but for her baby; but if she died on the way.” The hag shrugged. “I did not promise she might not die on the way.” She cackled again as if she was enjoying the idea of Sandra’s death too much. Sandra would have stepped back in horror at that attitude, but in truth, she hardly heard the exchange as she spied her mother holding the baby, and she ran to them.
“Melissa, Mother! You’re alright, O thank God.” She caught Melissa up in her arms and squeezed and hugged and kissed the two year old with her lips and her tears, while Sandra’s mother hugged her daughter and cried on her daughter’s shoulder. Macreedy stayed where he was. He kept his arrow aimed at the djin and the man and never wavered, but Ellean ran with Sandra, and she was the one who found one more person.
“Miss Fairy, are you well?” Ellean asked, and Sandra stopped crying and hugging long enough to gasp. A real, live fairy, no more than seven inches tall, was in a small cage, hanging on a tree branch. The fairy shook her head, sadly, and then reached out for Sandra, of all things.
“Pumpkin.” Melissa said, pointing to the fairy, and the two-year-old smiled. She was too young to realize the danger she was in or the danger she had just gone through.
“Sandra.” Sandra’s mother made her daughter pause so the older woman could tell her daughter something first. “Sandra.” She repeated. “This is your great-great grandmother, Mrs. Pumpkin.”
Sandra went up to the cage with the wonder written clearly on her face while Ellean was apologizing for some mistake. “Pardon, Mrs.,” the elf maid said. “You look very young and I am not very old.”
Pumpkin merely glanced at the elf as if to say no offense was taken, but then Sandra put her finger up to the cage as she might have held her finger out for a parakeet. Pumpkin reached out between the bars, touched that finger and attempted to smile. It looked difficult. It looked like the poor fairy had been tortured, and all at once, Sandra got terribly angry. She spun around, handed Mellissa back to her mother and tromped to within a yard of the man and the old woman.
“How dare you!” She yelled. “Who do you think you are? You have no right holding us. Kidnapping is a crime. You let my family go, and I mean it. Let us go, now!”
The man laughed and the djin grinned and with a wave of her hand, the bows and arrows that Macreedy and Ellean were holding were ripped from their hands and came to the old woman’s feet. “You have no power here.” The hag said through her cackle.
Sandra took a step back and her expression turned from one of anger to one of incomprehension. “But why?’ She asked.
“Family honor.” The man stepped up. “To finally cleanse the stain between your family and mine.” Sandra looked at the man with questions dancing in her head, but she kept quiet as the man spoke.
“One hundred and thirty years ago, my poor family came to California in search of prosperity. As a young girl, my many-times mother married a man of European decent over the objections of the family. But this was a new world, full of hope, and they had great hopes, and had a son, my sire. Then men found gold along the rivers and the madness began. One man, a man named Marshal Casidy tried to maintain order in the chaos, but he brought with him the creatures of whispers and legend. One of these was the winged goblin now held prisoner to account for her crimes. She stole the heart of that European man and together, they ran off and had a daughter. The stain of that betrayal has never left my family name.
Our gold was stolen, our hope was gone, and my great father brought his family back across the sea to the place of his birth in disgrace, and the strange looking son who had no father could find comfort only in the arms of prostitutes. My great-grandfather should have been a rich man, living in a California mansion, but he was born in a brothel. My grandfather was born in a ditch and died of alcohol poisoning before he was fifty. My father learned to steal and I was nourished on stolen bread.
When the Japanese invaded my country, I became a traitor to my own people, and I became rich betraying my neighbors for a price. I made peace with the invaders, and with the money I obtained, I began to deal in drugs and built my own little army of thieves and murderers; but I always knew the shame of what I had done. The soul of my family has never known peace since that first betrayal that destroyed our hope, and I vowed revenge.” The man was angry, spitting. He could not finish his speech, so another had to prompt him.
“And what did you promise to this hag for capturing the fairy and gathering the survivors of her family?” It was Glen, and he had come into the light, and Ignatius, the hobgoblin had come with him.