The morning was drizzly, not exactly raining, but it was a cold October. Moira stood, backpack ready, raincoat over all. She stomped her feet and thought that running shoes were perhaps not the best choice, when she saw Ellean and her skinny boyfriend, Macreedy come over the little rise. Moira drew her breath in sharply when she saw them, because what she had seen in a cloudy sort of way at the bar, and later sensed in her insides was now shown to her eyes as plain as day. Ellean and Macreedy were not human. Elf was the only word she could imagine that might describe them, and just before they arrived, and just before Moira said something silly about not believing in elves, a marvelous thing happened. Mrs. Pumpkin came flying over the rise so fast, Moira could hardly keep her eyes on the fairy, and she zoomed right up to Moira, face to face, or rather, Moira’s face to Pumpkin’s whole body; and while Pumpkin still sounded like a grown-up woman, her contagious, child-like enthusiasm and excitement did make her sound a bit like a three year old.
“Good morning Moira. Are you ready to go? I am so glad you are going with us. How far is Eniskillen? You have a backpack. Can I see what’s inside it? I could ride in your backpack and watch the rear as long as I don’t have to look at Prickles. Ignatius is pretty scary looking, too. My Lady said I could ride on your shoulder, but I had to ask permission first.”
“Ahem.” Macreedy coughed and Pumpkin flew to hover beside Moira’s shoulder where she sat and watched and only tugged once on Moira’s long, red hair to get her balance. Macreedy and Ellean both bowed since they were both in pants, like Moira who was in her jeans..
“Elves.” Moira said the word at last.
“We are elves of the forest of South Park on the long march beyond the Castle of the Free,” Macreedy said, which meant nothing to Moira. “But the first question must be, can you still see the glamour?”
Moira almost shook her head because she could see no disguise at all, but at the last second she refrained and thought that it might be like an optical illusion. She tried to look at the two before her in a different way, and all at once she saw a man, not quite so skinny, and a girl about her own age, or maybe a little younger, still dressed in the same dress she wore at the church. “Yes, I think so,” she said.
Macreedy took out a plain tin whistle and tooted a few quick notes. Prickles and Ignatius came and Moira was glad she was still seeing the glamour.
“What are they?” Moira asked.
“Ignatius is a hobgoblin, and a sorry excuse for his father’s son if you ask me. Prickles is an ogre.”
“But not a terrible bad person once you get to know him,” Pumpkin said in Moira’s ear, and that caused Moira’s head to turn and Pumpkin almost lost her seat. “Sorry.” Pumpkin was the first to apologize.
Moira was startled for a second because the fairy looked like a parakeet. “No, I’m sorry,” she said while they waited for Ignatius and Prickles to catch up. Then Moira made them wait a bit longer while she looked at both of them without the glamour. She shivered when she saw what Ignatius really looked like. She screamed, but only briefly when she saw Prickles, and Prickles lifted his head in pride.
“I like you,” Prickles assured her. “Why, I can look at you and not even get hungry.”
“Very reassuring.” Ignatius spoke for Moira as Moira pulled herself together and asked a question.
“So where is my grandmother?”
“Ah, that is a bit of a story.” Macreedy spoke right up. “She says she will see you in the night while we are on this journey.”
Pumpkin interrupted. “But during the day, she said you have to be stuck with us.” Pumpkin sounded pleased with the idea.
“Stuck is right,” Ignatius mumbled.
“I don’t know why she used the word stuck.” Macreedy spoke more thoughtfully.
“Hush.” Ellean hushed them both. “The Great Lady just wants her granddaughter to have a chance to get to know us, that’s all.”
“Being with the Lady’s granddaughter is next best to being with the lady herself.” Prickles spoke up.
“What about the lady’s daughter?” Pumpkin asked.
“Hush.” Ignatius used Ellean’s word. “You’ll give him a headache.” And Prickles did look like he was thinking about that one rather hard.
“I still think it would be better if we went invisible,” Macreedy said, grumpily.
Ellean took Macreedy’s arm. “Now, if we went invisible, how could we order lunch?”
“I would like some lunch,” Prickles said.
Moira rolled her eyes. She imagined they would stay there all day talking if she let them. “Come on.” She turned and started to walk down the road, heedless of whether they followed or not. Within the hour, the rain started to come down hard, and that dampened everyone’s spirits until a step van pulled over in front of them and the driver leaned out.
“Need a ride?” The driver shouted through the rain. The whole group ran, and while they had to open the back doors to get Prickles inside, in short order they began to dry and feel much better. Moira sat in the front with the driver and his cat that seemed content to stay curled up on the floor beneath the driver’s seat and who barely lifted an eyelid when the great crowd invaded the van. “Mother.” The driver called the cat, and the cat appeared to respond as if acknowledging her name. “She goes with the van,” he said. He pulled over to where a pub was lit up in the dreary day, beside the road. “This is as far as I go.”
“Oh.” Moira was disappointed that it was not any further, but she prepared to get out when the driver stopped her.
“No. This is where I get out. The lady who rented the van said she would see you in Eniskillen, and meanwhile she would not be far away.” He smiled and slipped on his slicker. He looked once at the crew in the back. “I suppose you had better drive,” he said. “Oh, and I almost forgot. The Lady said you need to keep her purse.”
“Eh?” Moira took the big cloth and fringed bag which looked to her like some hippie bag and certainly not something she would carry. She looked inside. “But there’s only a rock in here.”
“Aye,” the man said. “The Lady called it Mary and said you should guard it because she was thinking of making it into a door knocker.” He smiled again and hopped out. He did not look back before he ducked into the pub.
“The Lady is very thoughtful,” Ellean said. The others all agreed.
“Can I get little again?” Pumpkin asked as soon as the man was out of sight.
Moira paused and looked at her with strange thoughts going through her head. “Why are you asking me?”
“Because you are the Lady’s granddaughter,” Pumpkin said as if the answer was so obvious.
“We can’t help it,” Macreedy explained. “All of her Little Ones will defer to you. It is sort of like breathing, you know, blood ties and all. It makes you like a Princess of the realm.”
“And for the sake of your father,” Ellean added.
“I don’t know my father,” Moira said as she shifted into the driver’s seat. The cat immediately jumped up into the passenger seat as if staking the claim before someone else came forward. “Isn’t that right, Mother.” Moira spoke to the cat, but the cat just licked her paw and said nothing. “Alright, Pumpkin. Just don’t fly around and distract me when I’m trying to drive this thing in the rain,” she said and started out on the road
Lunch was a thing to behold. Danna had stocked the van with sandwiches and a side of beef which kept Prickles happy even if he did start nibbling around ten. Ignatius only wanted a flank steak, raw.
“But I claim the bones,” Prickles said. “I get all the bones.”
“Fine, fine,” Ignatius agreed, but then Prickles would not let him cut his piece for fear that he would cut too much. Macreedy finally had to draw out his knife and cut it, to which he said the hobgoblin owed him a plethora of divots, and Ellean giggled and Pumpkin asked how much was in a plethora, so Ellean had to explain while Ignatius kept repeating “Sim, Saladin,” and tipping his hat and Prickles was busy examining the beef to be sure no bones got cut, and that would have been fine except he was humming, and I don’t know if you have ever heard an ogre hum, but it isn’t comforting and it isn’t soft, and finally Moira had to yell.
“Quiet!” And there was quiet for a whole minute while she stuffed the turkey on whole wheat in her mouth as fast as she could.