Aria McChumhaill always dismissed her grandmother's drunken tales of magic and the fae . . . they were just legends, ramblings of a mad woman . . . right?
An involuntary shudder passed through Aria’s small frame as she made her way down the dark winding country road. A small sigh escaped her slightly parted lips as she hugged her leather jacket close to herself. She had done it again. As always she had left it too late to walk the half mile home from her friend’s house.
A small frown spread over her delicate features as her emerald green eyes strained to see through the fog that seemed to roll in, in a matter of seconds. It masked everything in a grey hew that made Aria walk faster, looking over her shoulder every few seconds. It was after midnight and Aria’s mind had begun to transform every little thing into something malicious.
“Damn you Grams” Aria said shaking her head, her white blonde hair falling around her shoulders, almost glowing in the silver moonlight. From a young age Aria’s grandmother had filled her head with Irish lore. Ghosts, monsters and fairies. And everyone knows Irish fairies are not cute or friendly. To make it worse the old woman believed every word of it herself.
“You are very special my Aria, you are very special my girl” Aria recalled her grandmothers words. “You are a McCumhaill”
“What’s so special about that Grams?” Aria would ask each and every time, her youthful enthusiasm burning bright. Even is it was the hundredth time the old woman had told her.
“What’s so special!” She would exclaim. An excited smile lighting up her aged face, her emerald eyes shining fiercely. “You are descended from the Fianna. You are the descendant of Fionn mac Chumhaill! Magic runs through your veins!”
Now Aria shook her head dismissing the words of her deceased grandmother as she walked that night. Her grandmother lived by the bottle. When the wonder of innocence left Aria the magic of the old woman’s words was lost.
“There is no such thing as the fae” Aria said out loud to herself. The sound of her own voice did little to reassure her. She walked faster feeling eyes on her. “There is no such thing as the fae” She repeated, nervously pulling at her sleeves.
Clip.Clop.Clip. Aria could have sworn she heard the sound of hooves on the road. She spun around quickly but there was nothing to be seen.
Clip.Clop.Clip. This time she was certain she heard it. She froze on the spot. Goosebumps rose on her forearms. Slowly this time Aria turned around.Two red lanterns glowed in the dark. The eyes shone red with an unholy glow, in the sockets of a horse as black as sin. Aria swallowed hard as the stallion bared his teeth, foaming at the muzzle as he pawed the ground with a giant hoof. It was the biggest horse she had ever seen.
“Hey there pretty boy” Aria cooed nervously, her voice cracking.
”Run.” The thought came loud and clear in a voice that wasn’t her own. aria didn’t question it. She ran. Rational thought took over. She let hr gut guide her. She was surprised by her own speed, her feet barely met the ground as she glided towards the forest. She ran until she got to the wall that imprisoned the forest. A horse won’t be able to wind through all these trees Aria thought. She looked over her shoulder. The demonic horse was in a full gallop. She sprinted. She placed her hands on the top of the ivy infested wall and with a firm push upwards she flipped over the wall.
“This adrenaline really is something” Aria muttered to herself as she landed on the balls of her feet. A soft smirk graced her lips. She was safe. Surely she was safe. Aria watched as the horse still came running full throttle. She quickly stepped behind a tree as she watched the horse launched from the ground into a jump.
“Shit” Aria gasped as she watched the horse glide through the air. The stallions skin began to shimmer. Her jaw dropped as his skin began to become fluid. Ribbons of pure darkness weaved around the horse as it’s form shifted. She watched in sheer terror. When it landed on the forest floor it had taken the form of a man dressed from head to toe in black. His jet black hair framed his angular face that glowed with the intensity of the moon, in ringlets. Every fiber of her being told her to run but she couldn’t. He held such an otherworldly beauty that aria just couldn’t look away. A vicious smirk spread across his face.
“The Pookah” Aria whispered recalling her grandmothers stories of the shape-shifter that was drove fear into the people of Ireland years ago.
“Iníon Chumhaill” The Pookh said in an almost musical tone. Daughter of Chumhaill, Aria translated. Everything about this creature felt wrong to Aria. Deep in the center of Aria’s being Aria knew the Pookah was pure evil, “The blood of the Chumhaill lives in you” The Pookah stated as he closed the distance between them with a few long strides. “And that blood, the magic of the guardians will die in you”
“Run!” The voice of Aria’s grandmother cried in her mind. Aria turned on her heels and she darted from the beautiful creature. “Get to higher ground” Aria’s grandmother’s voice said clear in her mind. Aria didn’t question it. She turned and ran through the trees.
“The setting is vital” Aria told herself. Knowing your setting could be the difference between life and death. Aria’s eyes scanned the clearing she landed in.
“Don’t run Chumhaill. You’ll only make it worse for yourself” The Pookah called after her. I a blink of an eye he had caught up to her. He grabbed her shoulder from behind in a firm grip. It was a case of kill or be killed. Aria knew it. Instinctively Aria shifted her weight, using his weight against him. She flipped him onto his back, onto the ground. She was surprised by her own strength. He was up again in blurring speed, striking hard at her face, knocking her off her feet. Aria got back up and swung for him once more without hesitation, hitting his face hard. His face transformed into a mask of pure rage as he hit her hard into the stomach with such force she was lifted from her heat, landing hard among the roots of the ancient oaks.
“I’m going to enjoy this all the more now” The Pookah said, his eyes glowing red with new found intensity. Aria looked up at him. She could feel her heart pound violently against her ribs. Panic filled her. She gave into it. Shre gave into the force inside herself. She looked up at the Pookah with cold eyes. A deathly calm had came over her. She was a McCumhaill, magic flowed in her veins Aria clenched her teeth and flung up her arm to defend herself, a primal scream escaping her, it was a battle cry. She could feel the power flowing through her as the Pookah was flung from where he was standing into a tree at the opposite end of the clearing, impaling him on a protruding branch.
Aria got to her feet as the Pookah writhed and cried out in pain. Silver blood poured from his stomach, the blood of an immortal.
“I am Aria McChumhaill, and where ever you go when you die, your people that the Fianna lives on in me. The magic lives strong in my blood, and I will destroy any one of you who harms innocent people” Aria said in a voice so cold that it could freeze a running river as she closed the distance between them.
“It’s only the beginning” The Pookah hissed as a drop of silver blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. With a move as swift as meditation Aria plunged her hand into his chest and tore out his heart. She through the black organ that oozed that silver blood to the ground as the Pookah exhaled one last ragged breath as his body went limp. Aria watched as the body dissolved into shadows before disappearing entirely. Aria stood alone in the forest, her hands trembling as a lone tear streaked down her cheek. It was just the beginning he had said. Aria McChumhaill looked up at the moon, giving her Grams one final thank you.