Tall Tales

Title: Tall Tales
Time Period: June, 114 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Like anything else, the grass is always greener on he other side when it comes to matters of magic.

“… and then the traveler got sucked into the magic lamp, because the djinn had tricked him into wishing for as much power as he himself had…”

The storyteller in the midst of the circle of children is an unlikely one — it’s rare to find older children listening to someone as small as Beisdean, six years of age and no more than four stones soaking wet. But then, it’s rare to find such a storyteller in a six year old. Using animated gestures and varied expressions and voices for the different character, the little boy keeps his audience captivated to the end of the story.

The timing works out well when he begins to frown, waving his hand at something over his shoulder and muttering, “Go away.” This is the other children’s cue to leave — that and the smell of supper coming from the nearest homes. The sun is setting, and someone’s mother steps out onto a porch to call for Finn.

“Tell us a pirate one tomorrow,” says the owner of that name, scrambling to his feet, which scuff over the remaining traces of their marbles game in the dust. Darklight, the little pine marten that is always near Beisdean, chitters as his tail is nearly missed, and scrambles up his mage’s sweater to perch indignantly on the little boy’s shoulder.

The other children all scatter like leaves in the wind, most not bothering to say goodbye to Beisdean, who is scowling down at the ground shaking his head. It’s best not to bother him in times like these, the children know. He’ll be fine and full of stories and games the next time they see him.

One of the children, a little girl with wild blonde hair hangs back, not following the others. She's dressed a little finer than the rest, though her pretty frock has been soiled from too much play during the day. Her little legs tuck neatly under the hem but dirty little toes peek out from under the handmade lace. She regards the boy silently for a little while, not wishing to bother his thoughts but her reputation has been well earned.

"Baizey, I'd like a story about princesses," Luna announces, her little chin lifting with confidence seen much too often in girls of five, especially those pandered to by their parents. A filthy grey and white tabby kitten on a string struggles to get away as she pulls it closer, hugging it tightly. It yowls, presumably for its mother to save it but no cat rushes to its rescue. "A magic princess, like me."

The marten bristles at the yowl of the kitten, but Beisdean soothes it with a soft murmur and stroke of its fur. He rubs his nose with the cuff of his sweater as he considers the younger girl’s request.

“Tomorrow,” he decides, the promise an earnest one. The reasons for the delay are many — the darkening sky and the smell of supper in the air are enough, but for Beisdean, the biggest reason is the man only he can see, standing now at his elbow, talking in Gaelic — that at least makes it easier for Beisdean to block out, as his English is better.

More distracting than his words are the fact that he has a bullet hole in his chest, blood leaking to the ground where it fades before Beisdean’s eyes, never leaving a spot. He has long ago learned that no one else can see these visitors, that talking about them is pointless.

The promise made, he turns to go, but can’t resist correcting the younger child. “You’re not a princess though.” He’s pretty sure she’s not magic, either, but he’s sure on the princess part. Princesses don’t have dirty feet.

“I am,” she insists, standing as he does and taking a step or two to follow. It’s been Luna’s way with him since they were half the age they are now. “My da’ calls me his princess, he knows everything. So I must be, ‘cause he said.”

The kitten drops to the ground with a painful sounding plop but shakes it head to clear it before trying to run. It doesn’t get far, the string that attaches it to the little girl’s hand ensures that she’ll keep it, at least for as long as she’s holding on. “Are you going home then? For supper? Can I come?” There’s no blush of shame for the self invitation on her pale cheeks, just a widening of her stormy blue eyes for curiosity’s sake. She doesn’t wait for his reply before she takes a few more steps toward him, dragging the kitten behind her.

There is a head shake to the entity that only Beisdean can see, his blondish hair falling into his eyes and across furrowed brows of the same shade. Luna earns his attention back with her endless chatter. “Are Das always right?” he asks; he has none of his own, so he defers to her experience on that one.

“You can’t come to supper. Princesses don’t go to places like that,” he scoffs, frowning down at the kitten. His hand delves into his pocket, the action instantly getting Darklight’s attention; the pine marten chirrs as it peeks around Beisdean’s shoulder to wai for its treat, but instead the scrap of dried meat gets tossed to the kitten.

The marten peers at Beisdean, and the little boy laughs, reaching for another piece to offer his companion. “Selfish thing,” he chides.

The bit of meat captures the thin kitten’s attention and it leaps on it, tiny teeth needling into the flesh as it tries to chew. It stops struggling, at least for the time being, too occupied with the treat to bother trying to find a new route of escape.

“Da’s are always right, mostly ‘cause no one ever tells ‘em they’re wrong,” the little girl states, her eyes widen as though she’s imparting the meaning of life or something as important to him. “Is that why you never ask me to come to dinner? Because princesses don’t go to your house? Your ma’ looks like a princess, she’s so pretty. All the ladies you live with are so pretty an’ fancy. I’m fancy too, you know. You think your ma’ might be a princess like me?”

Her attention is caught by the kitten and its meat as the little thing tugs on its string to hide away again. “Is that how you capture them then?” Luna pries curiously, pulling on the makeshift leash to bring the kitten a bit closer. She reaches out to grab the meat but shies away again with a squeal when the feline’s claws rake against her hand. “Naughty Butterfly! Bad thing!” One of the pink lines beads red and the little girl presses it against her lips to suck at the wound.

“Butterfly’s my fam— famlilyor— like your marten but in kitten shape.” She explains to Beisdean while rubbing her hand against her dress. Likely both will need a good washing, the dress because it’s already so soiled and the hand to ward off infection. “I caught her by the rubbish but she’s just a babe, so she can’t talk to me yet. My ma’ says that famlilyors talk to their magickers.” She pauses her own little story for a moment and takes a long breath inward, presumably to keep chattering. “My ma’ knows more about magickers than my da’ cause my great granny was a selkie. So I’m a piece selkie, you know… s’what makes me a magicker, so we’re the same you ‘n me.”

Beisdean’s eyes drop at the talk of fathers — he has none, so he can’t argue with her wisdom there, but his smile flashes wide at the compliment of his mother. He’s missing his two front teeth. The marten moves down one side toward the pocket of treats, nosing there until his mage pulls another tidbit for the animal to nosh.

Out of the mouths of babes — Beisdean isn’t mean spirited to make too much fun of the girl’s tall tale; after all, he embellishes his stories so that his mother says he could make a mantle out of a thread were he weaving with something other than words.

“I didn’t catch him — he came to me. If it can’t talk and you have to keep it on a string to be near you, it’s not magic,” he says, though not unkindly. “Maybe you can turn into a seal when you’re older,” he adds, a consolation prize of sorts.

“No!” The little girl yells, suddenly angry because of the denial of her status. “It’s magic, it’s just too wee to talk! An’ I don’t want to turn into a seal, I want to be magic like you! I want people to look for me to tell ‘em stories an’ listen like everyone does to you.”

Like a flash in a pan, Luna’s anger is abated as soon as the reason for it comes out. She’s obviously jealous of the attention Beisdean receives, just not enough to blame him for it. Her little head tilts down to look at the ground and the kitten for long enough for the shadows from the trees to grow over the road. Then a long pitiable sigh draws out from within her until one could swear she has absolutely no air left.

“Can you walk me home Baizey? It’s too new and I forget where it is in the dark. Maybe you can stay for supper at my house?”

The little boy glances to his left; the gruesome figure still hovers at his elbow, and the longer he is not alone with it, the better. “That’s not why they listen to me,” he begins, brows knitting. “I don’t think you need magic for that.”

He doesn’t say no to the request, but instead begins to move in the way of the inn — it’s just across the lane, and on the way to the brothel at any rate. Darklight runs down his side to lead the way, tail bouncing behind him as he scurries down the path.

A smaller hand fits into his palm as Luna skips every other step to keep up with the boy. Butterfly’s protesting has stopped within a few meters and she merely drags along behind by the string, chewing on the piece of meat. It slows the little girl down enough that she lags behind, her arm stretching further and further. Soon enough, she stops completely to wait for the kitten.

“You have to stay for supper,” she insists, the lack of acceptance not missed by her sharp little ears. “We’re having lamb stew and my ma’ made biscuits for after.” The last is added as an afterthought, like it’ll push the decision to the affirmative for him. “I bet my ma’ will let you bring home some for your ma’ too.”

When she stops, he lets go, surreptitiously wiping his hand on his pants. A moment later both hands are held to his ears as he tries to block out the voice only he can hear, the spirit growing more and more insistent in his monologue. Beisdean’s eyes squeeze shut, his back to the little girl, and he doesn’t answer.

At least not with words.

They’re close enough the inn is in sight. He runs in the direction of the brothel, only pausing to turn around when he’s put several yards of feet between them. “My mum’s calling me — I’ll tell you a story tomorrow!” is thrown over his shoulder.

After gathering the kitten back in her arms, Luna watches after Beisdean with a solemn downturn to her lips. When he turns and makes the promise again, she suddenly smiles and waves one arm over her head in farewell.

“When I grow up, I’m goin’ to marry you Baizey Skye! We’ll be magickers together, you wait and see!” Her shout alerts someone inside to her presence and the door cracks, letting the inviting scent of stew and biscuits out into the street. The little blonde smiles up to the shadow of a woman at the door and lifts the feral kitten over her head. “Look ma’, I caught a famlilyor, I’m magic!!”