When they arrived in Nevan, everyone was quiet, and while that worried Moira, she could not help take advantage of that for a little while. Her grandmother had taught her many things in the night and she needed time to process it all, and some of it she just had to practice. It was not all easy and natural, like breathing. When they went into the inn for supper, Moira finally asked the Little ones what was wrong.
“Nothing wrong, Lady,” Macreedy answered. “It’s just your grandmother said we had to stay in our rooms tonight.”
“That’s not so bad for me and Macreedy, and maybe Pumpkin as long as we can find her some cartoons to watch,” Ellean said. “But it may be hard on Ignatius and Prickles. Ogres and Hobgoblins rather like the night.”
“Not as bad as if it was a troll and a true goblin,” Macreedy countered.
“But Prickles is positively dragging.” Moira pointed at the ogre who yawned.
“Ah!” Ignatius had been listening in. “That is because ogres have a very slow digestion, and this one has been eating a lot lately. Ogres don’t always get three square meals.”
“True,” Prickles confirmed.
“So they eat a lot when they can, except they kind of fill up after a while and then they hibernate while their system works it all off.”
“When the ogre is fed you are safe in your bed.” Pumpkin repeated the old rhyme, and smiled. Moira thought of something else.
“Why would grandmother tell you to stay in tonight?”
Macreedy shrugged. “She said there was a game you had to play tonight.”
“And I like games.” Pumpkin looked ready to pout, now that she was thinking about it.
“I do too,” Ellean agreed. “But she said stay in, and so I will.”
“She did say you need to keep Mary with you,” Macreedy added.
“Mary? Oh, yes, the rock.”
“So, where is our waitress?” Ignatius was impatient. Moira looked around in time to see a young man enter and walk right up to a waitress at the work station where they kept all of the silverware and glasses. He looked like a fine young man, only he was barely five feet high, while the waitress, who looked and pointed at them was at least five-six, a full head taller than the poor fellow. The waitress whispered in the young man’s ears and he followed her to the table. He stayed a couple of steps back to watch.
“Hello.” The waitress kept her eyes on Moira as if there was some comfort there. “My name is Michaela, have you decided what you would like this evening?”
Moira passed the buck, so Ellean ordered, followed by Macreedy. Michaela wrote it all down and looked at her writing the whole time. She refused to look up at the couple. Then it was Prickles’ turn, but he just tried to wake up and tried to figure out what was going on, so at last Michaela had to look up.
“And for the O, the-o, O,” she stuttered.
“The big fellow will have the biggest steak you’ve got, and just as rare as you can make it. Raw if possible.” Ignatius spoke up. Maybe Prickles was half asleep, but there was a little drool that dripped from the corner of his mouth all the same. Michaela gladly turned her head, but then she decided that this person was not any easier to look at. She returned to her writing. “Now, I’ll have the filet, but you better make it well done. Burnt would be fine.” Ignatius turned to the group. “Best way to keep the ogre’s fingers off it,” he confided. “And you better bring a baked potato. I had chips last night, but I like them American style, with plenty of ketchup, and Prickles kept grabbing them, thinking that the ketchup was blood.” Michaela shrieked and the young man took a step closer, just in case.
“That was mean.” Pumpkin scolded the hobgoblin and turned to the waitress. She ordered a small house salad and a glass of milk. “Mother might have to help with the milk if I can’t drink it all.”
“I am sure that would be fine,” Moira said as she petted the cat that was currently in her lap. She looked up at the waitress then and the waitress looked furtively around the room before she offered a little curtsey.
“And for you, Mam?”
“But—.“ Moira did not quite know what to say.
Moira shook her head. “You have to call me Moira.”
The waitress stopped trembling for a second. “Moira,” she said, and she honestly tried to smile.
“You have the sight, don’t you?” Macreedy interrupted.
“Yes, er, sir.” Michaela responded with a quick look which just as quickly returned to Moira. “People say I have my grandmother’s eyes.”
Moira nodded. “Then you should know that these are my friends and they won’t hurt you.”
“Yes, Mam. If you say they are friends, I believe you.”
Moira frowned and ordered, but when she was done, Ignatius had to get in one more word.
“And believe it or not, even I am a nice fellow, most of the time.”
“Sir.” Michaela acknowledged that she heard, but after another brief curtsey for Moira, she ran off to the bar, the young man following her.
“Are we really your friends?” Pumpkin asked. There was such hope in her voice, everyone was drawn to look in her direction. After a second, they all looked at Moira because clearly that was the question in their minds as well. Moira took the time to look around the table and even looked at the ogre and the hobgoblin for what they really were; something she could not have done just a day ago.
“Yes,” she said. “All of you are, and I can’t imagine feeling any other way.” It was true. Even after such a short time with these creatures—people, even if they weren’t human people, she honestly and clearly cared deeply about them. She looked at Pumpkin and wondered if anyone could be anything but friends with a fairy.
“Gee.” Prickles spoke up. “I never had a friend before.” He turned red and Moira smiled for him.
“You said Michaela had the sight?” Moira turned to Macreedy for an explanation.
“She could see us for what we really are,” Ellean answered. “Maybe not exactly.”
“Probably not exactly,” Macreedy interrupted. “But near enough to know we are not exactly human.”
“If she is a true seer, she might even catch glimpses of tomorrow,” Ellean concluded.
“Or the game tonight,” Ignatius added. The poor Hobgoblin had a small tear in one eye, still thinking about friendship in his own twisted way.
“Yes.” Pumpkin found her pout again. “What kind of game is it, anyway?”
“Poker,” Moira said. She figured out that much.
After supper, Mother stretched and dug a claw straight into Moira’s leg. “Ouch! Mother!” Moira scolded the cat, but as she reached to grab the cat, the cat jumped to the floor and began to move through the tables. The Little Ones watched, not thinking anything of it, but Moira knew it would not be good to have people complain about cat hair in their food, so she got up to retrieve the beast. Mother went straight for the bar, leapt up right between Michaela and the young man and startled them. Michaela was immediately drawn to pet the cat while Mother settled down and began to wash herself.
“Oh, be careful,” The young man said. “This beastie is not one for playing around, I think.”
The bartender picked up a rag to snap at the cat to get her off his bar. As he snapped the rag disappeared. He thought he dropped it, but when he did not see it right away, he picked up another. This one disappeared in his hands, and he saw it. He was frightened. He looked at the cat and shouted out his fear. “Hey!” But then no other words came out despite all of his efforts so he decided a quick retreat to the back room was in order.
“My apologies,” Moira said as she came close.
Michaela looked up. “Lady.” She curtsied and went about her duties.
“Mother.” Moira reached for the cat, but the young man stopped her with a word.
“Eh?” Moira knew what a familiar was. “No, just a stray I adopted,” she said. She reached out but Mother slapped Moira’s hand with her paw and let out a little growl. Moira raised her brows and looked again at the cat. “All right, Mother,” she said. “You adopted me.” She scooped up the cat and snuggled.
“Acts like a familiar,” the young man said. Moira shook her head and prepared to turn and go back to her table, but she stopped when the man spoke again. “So you’re not here for the game?”
“Poker?” Moira asked.
The man nodded his head and stuck out his hand. “Mickey Dolan.”
“Moira O’Leary,” Moira responded. She shifted Mother enough to give the man’s hand a half shake.
Mickey raised a brow of his own. “Moira de Danna O’Leary? I thought you would be older.” He said that as if he knew her. “They say you never lost a tournament.”
Moira paused and thought back. She remembered the games she used to play with some of the girls back in her Catholic High School. It was true that they soon stopped playing with her because she never lost. But that was the only poker she ever played, and it was strictly penny ante. “So what makes this game so special?” Moira decided to cut straight to the point.
“Ah!” Mickey sat back, took a sip of his drink and allowed for a long pause. “It’s a struggle for position, you might say. First, there is you who never lost, and me, and I’m thinking I may have a few tricks you haven’t seen. Then there is Danny Casey there.” He pointed and the man waved in a very friendly manner before he took another long swig of his beer. “Mister Casey calls himself the luckiest man in Ireland and he figures to put that to the test. Then there is Madam Elizabeth.” He pointed in a different direction toward an old lady in a shawl who appeared to be working on a crossword puzzle and ignoring them. “They say she is a witch and can make the cards do her bidding, if you believe in that sort of thing. And finally, there is Brian Brannigan.” Mickey pointed to a man who sat alone with his back to the wall. He appeared to be looking all around, furtively, as if he expected some enemy to show up at any minute. “He is a mysterious character from down in County Cork. They say he is a terror to his neighbors with his mischief, mayhem and magic, if, as I said, you believe in that sort of thing.”
“And what about you, Mickey Dolan? What does Michaela say?”
Mickey paused again before he answered, but this time it was not for dramatic purposes. Instead, he had something on his mind. “She says there is no way I can win against you; not if I had all the money in the world and sat at the table forever. She is usually right about things, you know.”
“And so does that mean you will be dropping out?”
Mickey shook his head. “Not a chance. That means I am more curious than ever to see how it all turns out, even if it costs me the price of admission.”
Moira cradled Mother and the cat let out a little meow which prompted Moira to stroke the cat’s luxurious fur. “You really like Michaela, don’t you?”
Mickey did not hesitate to nod. “Since the first time I saw her, but she says I am only half a man and she won’t be satisfied until she meets the other half.” Mickey looked at his shoes as he confessed himself. “The trouble is I have never known my father so there isn’t anyone to meet.”
“It seems to be going around.” Mickey looked up briefly before he returned to gaze at his shoes. Moira spoke. “I’ve never known my father either, but my friends are taking me to him, so don’t give up hope. Maybe someday some friends will take you to yours as well.” Mickey shook his poor, sad head, but his eyes never lifted which prompted Moira to ask a question. “You wouldn’t be a cobbler by chance, would you?”
Mickey lifted his head and grinned a little at that. “No. Why?”
“Just a thought.” Moira said as she turned to go back and sit with her new friends for a little while longer.