Seamus O'Shaughnessy had never had much of any use for that pompous ass, the Bishop of Armagh. It didn’t matter that the British-Roman interloper had died more than fifteen-hundred years ago. It only mattered that he, Seamus O’Shaughnessy, was still here and nobody seemed to notice!
For instance, how many people even remembered that St. Patrick’s Day was a saint’s feast day? Few, if any. They thought it was a day for running around saying fake Irish stuff, eating corned beef and cabbage, washing it down with copious amounts of beer, and playing pranks on everyone. Show them a picture of St. Patrick and they will give you a blank look. Show them a picture of himself in full leprechaun regalia and they all yelled, “Sláinte!”
So here he was in Talbot’s Peak, a lovely mountain town, far from his homeland in miles but cut from the same cloth in spirit. And there, before his eye, were a pair of good Irish lads planning out some shenanigans to celebrate this not-so-saintly feast day! They looked like they could use a little help.
“Are you sure this was how Mayor Gill did it?” the larger blond boy was saying to his smaller, dark haired companion.
“No, butt-breath,” the other sighed in frustration. “If this was how Gil did it, it would have worked by now.”
“Mayhap, I could be o’some help?” Seamus said as he slipped out from under a holly bush. The lads didn’t jump, though he knew he’d startled them both. They turned on him in a flash, their human teeth elongating into pointed wolf fangs. Well, puppy fangs, anyway. They weren’t yet big enough to have full wolf fangs yet. Seamus didn’t flinch, though. It may have been a long time since wolves had the run or Ireland, but he did remember them. Never show a wolf fear if you could help it.
Once they had ascertained that it was no adult looking over their shoulders, the boys relaxed a bit. The blond one started sniffing curiously while the dark lad glared at him suspiciously. Seamus ignored the lads for a moment and studied the things laid out in the snow behind them. They had a couple of snow-caked scarves, a large collection of pre-made snowballs, a couple of walkie-talkies with hands-free ear pieces, and a bedraggled notebook opened up to a page that looked to be covered in childish handwriting, though Seamus could not decipher the penmanship a’tall.
“I might be wrong, but neck clothes tend to be more effective when they are wrapped around yer necks and not covered in snow,” Seamus said with an amused chuckle. “Unless, o’course, t’ain’t yer necks you plan to keep warm. But why would ye be wantin’ te warm up a snowball?”
“We ain’t trying to warm the snowballs,” the blond lad said. “We’re trying to fling them around like on slingshots, but they keep breaking! Ouch!” he said in response to the dark lad’s elbow, which had just nailed in in the arm firmly. Seamus cackled gleefully. Oh, yes, these lads were in need o’help to get their shenanigans rollin’, that was for sure.
“What if’n I gave you a little help with it,” he asked slyly.
“What kind of help?" the dark lad asked, suspicious but still interested.
“This kind of help,” Seamus said as he shook a pair of lovely knitted wool scarves from his coat sleeves. One was a deep emerald green wool with gold tassels and the other was gold with emerald green tassels.
“We have scarves,” the blond lad said as he eyed the offerings distainfully. The other lad, though, had a look of cunning in his twinkling blue eyes. That one eyed the scarves and then eyed Seamus himself, missing nothing. A slow grin tried to peek out from behind a perpetual scowl, but the lad clamped it down sharply.
“I supposed these scarves are guaranteed to throw the snowballs?” he asked.
“O’course they are, me laddie!” Seamus said with a meschivious grin. The other boy, catching on to what his companion was thinking, looked at them closer and then met his eyes.
“For what price?”
“Price, me laddie?” Seamus asked, trying to look hurt by their ungreatful questioning. It was fake, but they didn’t know that. Or maybe they did. These lads may be young but they were also quite cunning.
“Mom said all magic comes with a price,” the blond continued.
“If those are magic scarves—and since you are one of the wee folk, they probably are—then there’s a price to be paid for accepting them,” the dark lad said, agreeing with his companion. Seamus realized slightly belatedly that these lads were probably brothers, mayhap even twins. That, combined with their obvious knowledge of the Danu and magic in general, meant they were the witch’s pups. He’d have to tread vera carefully lest their mam come back on him with an eye for revenge. There was lots o’mischief that could be done that didn’t have a bad price to pay, though, and these boys were schooled enough in the laws of magic that if he told them upfront the honest truth of things, Marissa’d have no recourse to come back on him.
“The price for these beauties is the same price as any good prank, me laddies,” Seamus said with an honest grin. “You need to pull them out and give them o’bit o’ use now and then. You canna let them slip from yer keepin’. And you have to pay the piper every St. Patrick’s Day, from this one until the magic fails.”
“Which piper will hold the toll?” the dark lad asked matter-of-factly. Oh, yes, he liked this lad. He liked him a lot. The laddie knew full well that there were more than one type of toll, and more than one type of toll keeper, and still he was willing to consider the gift.
“Why, I will, me ladies. And before ye go askin’, my toll is simple. The folks of this land have all but forgotten the wee ones. Once per year, ye must remind them that leprechauns still walk the green rolling hills.”
“And the scarves? What kind of magic do they hold?” the blond asked carefully. Seamus nodded, pleased to see that both lads knew their stuff.
“They are full of shenanigans, o’course. What other kind of magic would one of my kind be givin’ out to clever lads like yerselves?”
“And how long will the magic last? Can we use them at other times of the year, or only on St. Patrick’s Day?”
“They last so long as ye still have wonder in yer hearts and they can be used on any saint’s feast day,” Seamus finished with a grin.
“This doesn’t come pre-loaded with bad luck, does it?” the dark lad asked, looking almost convinced. Seamus let a little trickle of his magic slip down his fingers and into the scarves, altering the spells woven into them just enough to neutralize the luck that had been crafted into them when they were made. He’d have rather left those spells in place, but the lad knew enough to ask, and his mam knew enough to know that, so Seamus felt it prudent to not leave himself open like that.
“The only luck in ‘em is what you make of it, me laddies. Do good or do ill, it’s all up to you. All that I ask is that you do it well, with a little joy in yer hearts and a twinkle in yer eye. So, do we have a deal?” The lads looked at each other for a long moment and then grinned.
“Deal,” they said in tandem as they reached for the scarves.