“Cead mile failte, I’m Moira.” That was all the girl got out before she began to stare through her tear reddened eyes. She looked at each person around the table, one by one, with her mouth partly open until at last she came to look down on Danna. “It’s you,” she said, and she fell to her knees and cried on Danna’s thigh where Danna could gently brush Moira’s hair and speak soothing words that only Moira could hear.
A man came quickly from the bar, but Danna spoke up before the man could say anything. “It’s alright Mister Moran, I’m her grandmother.” The man paused, not noting the absurdity of the statement since Danna barely looked older than the girl at her feet. “Just bring me some bangers and mash and a pint of your local. Ignatius, you need to order for Prickles. There there.” She went back to soothing Moira’s hair.
After a very short while longer, Moira looked up at the angelic face above her and quickly got up and into a chair that had magically appeared between Danna and a truly lovely woman who Moira thought was something else. She could not think about that just then, though, because one word kept echoing through her head. “Grandmother?”
Danna smiled. “On your father’s side,” she said. “He is my son, or grandson, or great-grandson, but I would rather not figure it out. He calls me Mother. Most of the children do, but in your case, I think I would not mind if you called me grandmother.”
“But that is crazy talk.” Moira drew a bit closer to the woman. “You can’t be much older than myself.”
“You can’t always judge by appearances,” Danna said, and she drew Moira’s attention to look again around the table. Moira looked at Macreedy and Ellean who smiled for her. They liked the girl already. She squinted when she came to Prickles and Ignatius, and she had to look away.
“It’s alright.” Pumpkin took the girl’s hand. “I can’t look at them either, especially when they are eating.”
“What are they?” Moria closed her eyes altogether and turned her head back toward Danna, though she willingly held on to Pumpkin’s hand.
Pumpkin whispered. “Patterwig is a spooky hobgoblin and Prickles is an ogre, but I think he is really a nice person if you give him a chance.”
“And if he doesn’t eat you.” Ignatius leaned into the conversation, having heard despite the whisper. Pumpkin took her hand back to shove the goblin face.
Moira shook her head and looked up at Danna. “I don’t understand. How can you be my grandmother? I never knew my father, so how can you be so sure.”
“But I know you.”
“But you’re not old enough.”
“I am nearly ninety,” Danna confessed. “And by the Storyteller’s estimate, I was born in 3266 BC.”
Moira scoffed. She looked around and expected the same reaction from the others but the others accepted what this woman said without the least trouble. “But you can’t. Who is this Storyteller?”
Danna paused before she nodded. “No time like the present,” she said, and she put her hand on the table while she grasped Ellean’s hand with her other hand. “Take my hand,” she told Moira. The girl did so readily enough. “Now don’t let go no matter what. It is tradition.” Ellean quickly nodded. Moira was a little slower, but she also promised. Then Danna went away from that time and place, and Glen arrived to sit in that pub, a long, long way from the university woods.
Moira shrieked and let go, but she could not scream because Ignatius had leaned over Pumpkin again and slapped his hand over Moira’s mouth. He quickly took it back when the danger was passed, and meanwhile, Ellean squeezed Glen’s hand in a sign of welcome home.
“This is really my lifetime,” Glen said. “I’m in the University in America and I should be home studying my psychology textbook, only right now I’m lending a few of my days so Danna can be with you.” As he finished speaking, a bar maid came up with their drinks and she could not help but speak as she set them down.
“Decided to take the night off after all, I see,” the girl said. Moira took Glen’s hand which was still laid out on the table, and she took it almost without thinking, even as Glen let go of Ellean’s hand.
“No, that’s not it,” Moira started to protest.
“I’m her grandmother.” Glen looked up at the girl and smiled.
“Cheek.” The girl looked right back at him. “And with Daniel laid to rest just this very day. What would he say?”
Glen answered. “He would say mind your own business and stop meddling in things you know nothing about.” He raised his hand. He thought maybe he could do it. Danna set the glamour, but they were his little ones too, and sure enough, the glamour that disguised them all and made them look human lifted with his arm. The girl from the bar screamed, and all the louder when she saw the ogre and the hobgoblin, and she ran off even as Glen put his hand down to bring back the glamour. He went away again to let Danna come back into her seat.
“Nosey, isn’t she,” Danna whispered to Moira whom she was pleased to see had not gotten the least bit upset on seeing the gang for what they really were. Instead, she stifled a giggle at the absurdity of what just happened. Of course, by the time the barkeeper came over, all was back to normal. “I don’t know what she is on about,” Danna said. “But after all that Moira’s been through this day, I think she needs a little time with family, don’t you think?” And of course, Danna touched something in the man’s soul so he did think that.
“Of course, dear Moira. You take all the time you want.” He turned to the girl. “And you leave them alone!”
“These are not the droids you are looking for,” Moira said. “I saw Star Wars.”
“Something like that.” Danna smiled again. “And didn’t you ever wonder why you could do things and see things that ordinary people could not?”
“All the time,” Moira said, but she was distracted. “But mother always insisted I act normal, no matter what.” She got up. There was a commotion at the front door. Ian and Annie Thompson, Daniel’s parents came in with two other men.
“I was told he would be here.” Annie shouted while her husband tried to calm her.
“Mister and Missus Thompson.” Moira ran up to the couple at the same time as the bartender. He was the one who spoke.
“Even if Paddy was here, I wouldn’t tell you. I have a business to run and I will not have any of that in here. It belongs outside.” Unfortunately, at that very moment, the elderly Paddy O’Kane came in the door with a half-dozen younger followers. Annie Thompson turned on him.
“How could you!” She accused. “My Daniel never did anything. He never took sides.” The woman wept and the old man was taken aback, but only for a second.
“Casualties of war,” he mumbled, and to be sure, he did not say it very loud. Meanwhile his six followers crowded Ian Thompson and his two friends.
“Not a very fair fight,” Danna said as she stood. “Gentlemen.” She called her little ones that and compelled them to come, not that Prickles needed to be compelled to get into a fight. “Macreedy, how is your fisticuffs?” She asked.
“I’m better at chess,” he admitted.
“Don’t start anything. Just don’t start anything.” Moira yelled.
“What do you expect to do here but make trouble. You are all nothing but trouble.” The bar maid from earlier stuck her nose into the middle of it and in her own way, egged them on.
“Erin Megan O’Riley.” Danna got the bar girl’s full attention. “You need to stop speaking, and I think that should be for the rest of the night. You can have your voice back in the morning.”
Erin O’Riley wrinkled her nose, found her most snide expression, placed her hands on her hips and opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Danna had already turned away from her and she had something more to say.
“Paddy O’Kane, sit!” The man immediately sat at the nearest table. His eyes got big. “Annie and Ian, as I said earlier, I am very sorry, but Annie, there are no answers here.” She reached out and hugged the woman. “Go home. Please.” She urged, and Annie began to weep in earnest as Ian caught her and moved her toward the door. His friends tried to follow, but several of Paddy’s boys moved to block them.
“Gentlemen.” Danna remained calm as Moira became occupied with the Thompson’s for the moment. “If anyone starts anything, I will end it.”
The two with the Thompsons looked at each other like they did not like the odds, but one big man, the biggest of the lot stepped forward, like he was going to make their exit difficult whether this woman said to or not.
“Er, Mike.” Mister O’kane tried to get the big man’s attention, but the big man was determined to be stupid.
“Have it your way.” Danna shrugged. “Prickles, don’t hurt him.”
Prickles, a much bigger man than the big man stepped forward, and Mike almost had second thoughts, but at the last second he threw a punch. It was a good swing, fast and it landed right on Prickles’ jaw. Of course, the ogre did not even flinch, and in fact Mike pulled back his hand like maybe he busted it slamming it against a rock.
Prickles grinned and flicked his finger into the man’s chest. That man flew backwards with such force, he took two others with him, and two slammed into the wall while the one on the end flew right out the door and just missed the Thompsons on the way. Paddy’s other men scattered and took the big man and his compatriot with them. The two friends of the Thompsons looked like they would rather not stick around, and left quickly. Paddy also looked ready to leave, but Danna interrupted him.
“Stay!” She commanded, and the man found his seat glued to the chair and the chair glued to the floor. While Ignatius and Macreedy escorted a very disappointed ogre back to his seat, and Erin the barmaid kept trying to talk, and the barkeeper examined his dented wall and Moira walked out with the Thompsons, Danna took a seat and stared at the man. The man found he could not look this woman in the eyes, and he not only had to look away, but in fact he covered his own eyes and trembled.
“Every innocent life will be laid not only on your head, but on the head of your descendants even to the tenth generation,” she said.
“Are you threatening me?” The man asked without looking up.
“No. I am just reminding you of what you already know,” Danna said and she got up and walked back to her own table without looking back. By the time an angry bartender came up to the table, Danna had reached into her purse and pulled out a small bag. She partially dumped it on the table. It was full of gold coins. While the bartender watched, she scooped the coins up and put them back in the bag and handed the whole thing to the bartender. “Open an inn or something. Maybe a dozen rooms or so would be nice, only right now, we are a bit hungry if you don’t mind.”
The man took the bag. “Of course,” he said. “Erin!” He turned and walked back the way he came.