Ailis is caught by the Black and Tans, the ruthless soldiers sent to Ireland to calm the rebellion.
The Captain looked Ailis in the eye. “Do you have a weapon on you?”
“No,” Ailis said.
His face hardened, his eyes narrowed. “A man has lost his life because of you. Would you care to explain?”
Ailis wasn’t sure how to answer. She dared not incriminate her brother in case he found his way out of the forest and back home. They’d track him down and arrest him, perhaps hang him as a murderer like they did that 15-year-old in Dublin after the Rising. She waited too long to speak, but had no idea what to say.
“Well, maybe we can get some information out of you if we try a little harder. What do you think?”
Again, she had no answer. If they meant torture, she vowed to Saint Peter she wouldn’t talk.
“What is your name?”
“Say that again.”
“My name is Ailis.”
“Nonsense. I want your civilized name. Your English name!”
Ailis drew a breath. There was no sense resisting. “Alice Kilpatrick.”
“Your home is where?”
“Where do you live, Alice? Is that a hard question for you?” He glanced at his strongman, who reached for his pistol. Perhaps they were going to apply some sort of torture after all. Ailis didn’t know, but her heart skipped a beat, and a cold sweat formed on her brow.
“Sand Cross, sir,” she answered as she watched the bullets slip into the barrel of the revolver.
“Sand Cross? What were you doing up here in these woods?”
“Foraging. I have an ill sister at home and needed to gather bilberry.”
“Pity,” he snickered. “And who came with you?”
“No one.” Ailis bit her lip, anticipating his reaction.
“No one? Come on, little pikey. You expect me to believe that?” His voice became harsh.
Pikey? She cringed at the insult. She’d have slapped his face, if her hands were free. Instead, she clung to her lie. “No one was with me. I came alone. I saw your men and got scared, so I hid. I don’t know who fired the shot that killed your soldier.”
The two scouts who had been searching for Paddy appeared out of the forest and jogged down the hill to the lorries. Her interrogator turned to them.
“Did you find him?”
“No, sir, he disappeared. No sign of his trail, either.”
Ailis bit the inside of her mouth to keep from smirking. The officer glanced at her again.
“You don’t know who fired the shot.” What should have sounded like a question, was a spiteful remark instead. It was obvious that the Captain didn’t believe her lie. Her heart thundered and her face heated.
His nose nearly touched hers. “You’re a liar. I’ll tell you who fired and killed my soldier. Someone who cares about you. Now tell me who that might be.”
She felt a fever coming on. Panic. Her lips were chapped, her mouth dry. “I don’t know.”
“I see.” The officer stepped back.
“What do we do with her, sir?” Strong Arm asked. He held his revolver so she could see him spin the barrel, and looked hard into her eyes.
Dazed, Ailis waited. She knew some of the options they had. She’d heard what happens to prisoners of war. She was at the mercy of these men.
Excerpt 1 Paddy finds that Fae weaving spider’s silk into a magical cloth.
Thread of the spider,
Weaving of ties,
Cloak for Fianna’s
And soldiers who rise.
A fabric of healing for wounds and their ills,
A cloak of our finest periwinkle.
Suddenly, the song ceased, the glow dimmed, and the faerie lowered herself gracefully to the ground. Once she landed, she stood taller than Paddy would have expected a faerie to be. In fact, she stood his own height when her moccasins touched the wet sand. She set her yarn on a tree stump and glanced in his direction. “You there!” she said.
Paddy had been well hidden, hadn’t he? Still, she studied the very rock he crouched behind.
“Come forth and state your name,” she commanded. “For you’re spying on me as I work, and yet I have no honest vision of you.”
Paddy held his breath. Surely, she couldn’t see him. Her voice was not as frail as he thought a Fae’s voice should be. In fact, there was authority to her tone, like that of a queen, or some noblewoman who lived in a castle and had many servants to watch over.
“You cannot hide from me,” she said. “Stand up. Put your weapon aside, because that firearm will do you no good against the might of a Fae. Tell me your name, so I can see if you are an enemy or no. Bear in mind we take little sympathy toward humans, unless of course we can use you.”
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