The dreams came in dark, frightening pieces. Over and over, the images of Dermot lying dead in her arms flashed through her head. Still more images of the time she spent in the hospital, her father, and brother sitting with worried and strained expressions next to her bed. Images of Dermot’s torn flesh, screaming out for her healing touch, only to be denied.
She had known that the dreams would come; they always did when she had been over-emotional. Waking up was the hardest part, knowing that she would relive those nightmares every time she closed her eyes.
She lay on the couch, keeping her eyes closed, listening to the sounds of Finn purring in the crook of her arm. She needed to get up and go speak with Dermot. It was past time that she stopped avoiding him and faced her own weak fears. She opened her eyes slowly and gasped at what she saw standing in front of her.
The creature standing before her gurgled bubbles of black tar as it watched her. Finn was automatically awake; hissing a guttural warning that sounded like it was coming from a tiger rather than a cat.
The Fomóirí stood on the other side of the table, bubbles forming in the slits of its nose as it wheezed, dripping black goop onto the rug. Its body was a mangled mess of dark, scaly skin. Its features were deformed and black blood dripped from its broken skin, hissing as they hit the wood floor. It looked like a cross between a common lizard and a man, standing on two bent and misshapen legs, with deformed arms that ended with claw-like fingers.
Brigid’s stomach turned as the smell of rotting seaweed and sulfur hit her nose. Fear filled her but she forced her racing heart to slow, calling up her powers as she did. Her fingers tingled as she prepared to fight with the powerful foe. Finn continued to hiss and Brigid could feel his own unique power building for battle.
“Relax,” the creature hissed in a voice that gurgled. It smiled, showing a misshapen mouth full of blackened fangs. She shuddered but the creature’s body began to shimmer and took on the form of a handsome, olive-skinned man. He now looked like a Middle Eastern model, save for the blood-red eyes. Brigid ignored the command and called out for help with her mind as she scooted slowly off the couch.
“I’ve not come to fight you... at least… not yet,” the watery hiss turned into articulate English. He leaned against the hearth and stared at her and Finn.
“You should tell your cat to relax,” it told her, looking bored.
“Finn’s no ordinary cat,” Brigid answered, ignoring its command again.
“Indeed?” the voice dripped with sarcasm. “He must be extra-ordinary to bear such a famous name.”
He flicked a finger, and an invisible force brought Finn into the air by the scruff of his neck. Brigid moved to attack but with another flick of the man’s finger, she was shoved back onto the couch, unable to move. Finn growled fiercely and the Fomóirí let out a sudden hiss of pain. Finn fell to the couch and Brigid felt the hold on her disappear. Nasty claw marks, the size of Finn’s paws, appeared on the man’s cheek, bringing drops of black blood.
“Extraordinary indeed.” The man reached a hand up to touch the wounds that had already begun to close up. “I think your little friend will have to wait outside while we have our little chat.” Finn bared his fangs, but the man snapped his finger and Finn disappeared with a hiss.
“I wouldn’t worry,” he chuckled, as tears filled Brigid’s eyes. “I didn’t hurt him… much.”
“What do you want?” Brigid stalled, wondering why no one had come yet.
“I wouldn’t expect your friends until after I’ve left.” The creature had read her thoughts and smiled as he spoke. “I wouldn’t want to let them in while I’m still here, now would I?”
“I can take care of myself,” Brigid challenged defiantly, trying to mask her fear.
“Is that so?” he questioned with a cold laugh. He stepped closer to her with a smile that revealed blackened teeth behind beautifully sculpted lips. “I doubt that very much.”
Brigid’s anger rose as she called for her power. She let it loose, sending a ball of bright fire shooting towards him. He raised a hand and it dissolved into nothing before it reached him. Brigid took a step back, realizing too late that she was not ready for this fight.
Before she could react, a terrifying pain shot through her chest. She gasped for breath as she felt her heart clenching and struggling to beat. An invisible hand had closed around it, squeezing, and the pain was excruciating. She fell to her knees, unable to breathe, her fingers digging at her chest.
She couldn’t be having an attack. The surgery had fixed the tear in her heart and repaired the damage she had taken from Dermot. It wasn’t real, it couldn’t be. She tried to stand, tried ignoring the pain, but she was incapable of moving.
“I assure you, it is real,” the creature crooned, reading her mind again. The pressure in her chest increased as she struggled to breathe.
“I can stop the pain though,” he told her as the hand squeezed inside her chest. She knew, in a few minutes, her heart would give out and she would be dead.
“You need only to give me the cauldron and I will end it.”
Brigid gasped. Dagda’s Cauldron. The Fomóirí being here meant that she was the next guardian. The realization filled her with fear, but also with relief, as she realized that it also meant her brother would not be a keeper. He would be safe.
Brigid could sense her friends and family pounding at the invisible shield around her cottage. With a short moment of joy, she realized she could also sense Finn attempting to break in. She knew they wouldn’t break through the magic soon enough. She looked in the man’s dark eyes and knew he was going to kill her.
Shock rolled through her. She had known the moment she had seen him that he was entirely capable of taking her life. What shocked her was that he was choosing to do it now. If she was a keeper, she should have a year before they battled, and that year had only just begun. She shouldn’t be in this moment yet.
Her heart gave a wild jump, desperately trying to beat against the pressure. Black dots danced across her vision. It would not be long now and it would be a painful end. He must have found a way to cheat fate and become more powerful than any of them had known. At the moment, Brigid thought both options were right.
“You make it too easy,” the creature murmured, bending down in front of her. “So weak after what he did to you. So pathetic.” He sighed, as if truly disappointed. Then his image shifted to look like Dermot, the way he looked on the cliffs six years ago. He smiled at her, in the carefree way Dermot used to. The black teeth behind those beautiful lips gave away the illusion.
Anger rose up in Brigid and the pressure dissipated for a few precious seconds. The sudden reprieve sent new blood flowing through her. She had gained a few more minutes, unsure if it was enough. Dermot’s face smiled with genuine pleasure.
“Now that’s more like it,” he told her, obviously pleased. “But do you really think a little anger is enough to stop me?” He laughed as she stood up. “I don’t think so.” The pressure was there again, worse than before, and Brigid knew she only had seconds now. She wasn’t strong enough to stop him.
The door to the cottage burst open, shards of wood flying across the room. The creature’s image shifted, making it look even more grotesque, with half of the human image left on its slimy body.
“What the hell?” Dermot stood in the doorway, his hands clenching the ax that had been in the yard, staring with horror at the thing in front of Brigid. He was looking at himself as he used to look, or rather, half of himself. The other half was the kind of creature that would give grown men nightmares for life. He looked at Brigid, seeing that her eyes were blank and glassy, her lips gasping for air.
“Get away from her!” he yelled as he rushed through the doorway.
“How did you get in here?” the creature screamed, now completely a monster, as it stopped Dermot mid-stride. Brigid felt the pressure leave her chest and knew this would be her only chance.
She swallowed in a giant breath, feeling the oxygen flow through her. The Fomóirí moved toward Dermot, momentarily distracted. She called her power and with another breath she attacked, feeling what little energy she had, drain from her.
It screamed, more in anger than in pain, as the fireball of power hit it low on the hip. Brigid fell to her knees as the creature turned to her. Dermot’s body was freed, and with a warrior’s cry, he swung the ax. The blade was suddenly laced with blue fire as he brought it down on the creature. The wet sound of the blade slicing through black slime filled the room. With a howl of rage and pain, the monster disappeared, leaving a bubbling puddle of dark blood in its wake.
Dermot let the ax drop, power still tingling on his fingers. It landed with a thud as he stared at the slime on the floor. Brigid tried to stand, but feeling her heart flutter weakly, stumbled back to the floor. Dermot rushed over to her, his face filled with worry.
“What the bloody hell did it do to you?” His voice was ragged as he pushed the hair away from her face. Brigid tried to smile but couldn’t muster the energy. Dermot checked her pulse, barely able to find it. Her eyes were no longer glassy but distant, like she was somewhere else. With fear, he turned her head so she was looking straight at him. Her lips were blue and she trembled as he held her in his arms.
“Stay with me,” he commanded as her eyes tried to focus on him. “You have a very weak pulse and you aren’t getting enough oxygen.” He thought he saw his words register in her eyes. “Tell me how to fix it, Brig,” he begged, unsure of how he could feel her slipping away.
“What did it do to you, Brigid?” he repeated as her eyes finally locked with his. “Tell me, Brig,” he shouted, wanting to shock her into snapping out of it. “What did it do?”
“It…” her voice barely came out and he leaned forward to hear. “It killed me.” She collapsed into his arms, her heart giving out: too much strain on an already imperfect muscle. Dermot’s cries echoed in her ears as she slipped into the dark unknown.
When writing a story, it helps to have a visual of what your characters look like. Having an actual picture of someone to base your character on helps you keep track of even the most minor details.