Banshee's Mourn, by Mark Coveny
I stalked the family of three, as they trudged through their day time routines. I formulated a plan to steal a closer look at the infant. The search of the village over the past week left only this house and one other possibility. Salt deterred me from entering the other house. The salt also made it more difficult for my nemesis Boglamore to switch the infants in that home. I, as a fairy, loathed banshees, Boglamore was one of the worst. The pain of seeing Boglamore's scream kill 10 of my fairy brothers still haunted me. I was close to catching the banshee's offspring. I just needed to find the child. I believed, this house held the child.
I watched as the father of the family brought the sweet milk from his cow. It was the magic time for fairies: dusk. My power was strong now, but hunger would set in later. I could taste milks warm wholesomeness on my tongue. My mouth watered.
Stay focused! I told myself.
I watched the wife cook to pull my mind away from thoughts of milk. I floated within 4 feet of the woman undetected. I found the brown of the mother's eyes unremarkable, but her hair was long, like wisps of golden smoke. The breeze through the window created the illusion of her hair barely hanging on, like the dying leaves of a tree in fall. I measured her normal human height. (it's hard for a fairy to tell these things) She seemed plump.
She's still heavy from the pregnancy. I thought.
I peered across the room at the soundless crib. A quick flight through the window would let me look at the infant. That's the human type of blunder, not the fairy's way. I finally came up with the trick. It's fun to prank humans. Why hadn't I thought of this before?
Stealthy I moved to a position in the field next to a cluster of grapevines. I waited for the husband to come near. He crashed down the row of grapes. I released my spell. The vines sprang forth to entangle my prey underneath them. I smiled as he tried to dislodge himself. The spell was subtle although ancient, the vines healthy and many, a human didn't stand a chance. That will subdue him for an hour or more. I expected calls for help and rushed back to the house.
I smiled proudly as the sounds of a struggle grew. The mother dashed out of the house to check on the disturbance. Now was my chance. I sped to the crib. I tugged the covers down to inspect the child. I could see no outward appearance of defects, mutations, or telling Banshee features. I began to cast a spell to reveal the infants true form.
"Iszera batogaloo, misdara da revealous cretarsemba," I cast, looking for signs of the banshee's magical voice.
I concentrated to maintain the spell to see deeper, past any illusions. I felt fairy dust pour off my body. I cursed my slow fairy magic. It takes time to break a banshee's spell, time which I did not have. In the back of my mind I knew the dust might give away my presence to the family. My worry was threatening to break my concentration, this spell is not easy.
When I heard the mother return from the field the spell broke. Hiding in the rafters of the house, I punched the wood. The mother checked on her babe. She finished the meal just before the father came in covered in leaves.
How had he freed himself so quickly?
The father gave the mother a tight hug. His kiss on her check was quick, but his gaze lingered on her even after he took his seat at the table. She filled his plate with large portions, setting it in front of him. Steam swirled off the plates with a gamey aroma of deer. My mouth filled with saliva again. I might do something stupid if I couldn't control my hunger.
He inhaled the food, he couldn't enjoy the feast she provided. Bits of food fell to the floor while he ate. The father then moved the table and pulled out the bed. The infant laid there still quiet. The male sat on the bed. He looked at the female with food hunger in his eyes. The woman smiled. Her hair cascaded across her face as she tilted her head. He growled at her showing teeth. She slid to him. He tackled her down on the bed.
"eep" she cried
The male stripped, and forced her into nudity even as she attempted to flee the bed. She futilely tried to free herself from his restraint. He pinned her arms above her head. He began nipping at her breasts.
This is some sort of attack. I thought.
The man forced the woman's legs apart with his thighs. She watched him as prey watches predator before they strike. The mother wore a calm helpless look of resignation on her face. I know nature, the woman did not have long to live.
The death of this woman would make my mission easier. I struggled with indecision. I wanted to keep the woman alive, but her death would mean less humans to interfere. I decided not to break my morals. I cast a spell.
There was a knock on the door.
The man stopped the violence to look around. The color flowed back into his eyes. The male animal was perplexed by the knock, he didn't seem to understand what it meant. I cast the spell again.
There was a knock on the door, again.
The males face flushed red. He jerked his clothes from underneath her, grumbling. He slapped the bed in frustration. The woman burrowed into the sheets for protection. The killing blow prevented! I was very proud of how I understood and handled the situation.
Humans are just like any other animals. I smirked.
The man ripped the front door open looking for whoever interrupted his sport. The house groaned under his strength. I now understood why the vines couldn't hold this human's strength for long. I prepared another spell against this beast just in case. The woman put on her clothes underneath the covers, while the man banged around outside.
"Who's there?" He yelled repeatedly.
No ones there human, I thought.
"Come back inside, they're gone," the woman finally called.
The man stomped into the house. Slamming the door behind him made bits of dust fall from the roof. He blew out all the candles, slipped into bed, and drifted to sleep. The woman stared at his back for many minutes crying softly.
She should be happy, I just saved her life. I puzzled
As the woman fell asleep, I focused on the quiet baby, his eyes following me as I floated down to the crib. I locked gazes with the child. I drifted closer to see the intelligent gleam in this so called human. He did not make a sound. I wanted to know for certain that he is the banshee's child.
"Iszera batogaloo, misdara --," I began to cast
The banshee child's scream was horrid, but not fully developed to it's killing potential. I was forced from the sky like a pheasant shot with an arrow. Dropping from the air saved me from detection, as the humans shot up in the bed.
While the woman nursed the child, I crawled under the bed to recover. The man crashed back to sleep. I didn't doubt the origins of this child now. I waited for the family to lay back down to bed.
I collected fairy dust I cast to the ground earlier, arranging the dust in a circle around the crib. I etched eight symbols in the circle with great detail. Eight fresh leaves, from the fathers clothes, worked well as the nature element present in all fairy magic. An hour from dawn I finished the circle.
Dazed with hunger, I scavenged what scraps I could from the floor to eat. The last gel like mass, of hard and cold deer stew resisted my throat. As I ate my mind cleared of everything but the spell at hand. The spell required perfection to place the human child in the crib. I was now mentally ready to weave my magic.
In a low voice I chanted, "barbalama, tusorulagosmar, tiscamakpeck, eeknarboo masgonar."
Fairy magic grew around the crib. I could feel it working. I felt it seek where the true child was hidden. My magic found the child. A dim pulse of light returned the human child to the crib. The changeling imprisoned in my enchanted pouch.
I checked the pouch to make sure Boglamore's infant was secure. The infant banshee could do no harm in there. The elder's spell would make the child's voice harmless forever, when I returned. The human lay in it's rightful place. I headed to the barn for a warm glass of delicious milk. It was my reward for fulfilling the vow to my fallen kinfolk.