Disclaimer: These are always mandatory when dabbling in fan fiction. If there is anything at all that is reminiscent of the 1992 musical Newsies, then it probably belongs to Disney. The characters of Patrick Conlon & his family (with the exception of Spot Conlon) and Diana Mason & her family, specifically, are mine, as well as others that may work their way into this story.
It had been handed down in the Conlon family from generation to generation.
Some thought it was a blessing, others a curse.
But Patrick—he just thought the key was an old, tarnished bit of metal.
Sligo, Ireland, 1841
It was cold and wet, that night, and the rain came sloshing down around him, upon him, as he ran. The feel of the slick raindrops crashing on his bare shoulders and sliding down his shirtless back was a familiar one, and he reveled in the sensation as much as he could. Of course, considering he was, in a sense, running for his life, he could not revel in the pleasantries of the sensation all that much.
The darkness surrounded him—consumed him—but bootless feet, callused and hard, kept him on his path. The feel of every stone, of every blade of rain-flattened grass was well-known to him and Seamus Conlon knew exactly where he was despite the black of night.
To the north of him, when the lightning lit up the pitch dark sky, he could see the looming shape of the Dartry Mountains; the Binn Ghulbain, sacred resting place of both Diarmuid and Grainne, was the sole witness to his flight through the countryside.
To the south of him, encircling County Sligo and trapping him along with his pursuers, the Ox Mountains stood vast and strong. The great winds of the ocean, brought on by the storm, were beating against the mountaintops. Every now and again, much to his chagrin, one of the stronger gusts would escape the mountain's grasp, plowing into him and veering him away from his planned course of escape.
In spite of the heavy rain, the fierce winds and the frantic padding of his own footsteps, Seamus could hear the very threat of those who were running after him. There were the frustrated grunts that hailed from John Sullivan, and the hollers that preceded Jimmy Finnerty's imminent arrival. He heard them and, though the slippery ground, the rain and the wind were all working against him, he tried to run all the faster for it.
How was he supposed to know that Kathleen was Jimmy's sister? Well, the last name had been a giveaway and all but if Kathleen wanted to stop by the farm, he wasn't going to send her back to her father. She had never mentioned that John was attempting to court her—was he to blame that she wanted to kiss him instead of the Sullivan brute?
John obviously thought so, as did Jimmy. And, when the two men happened upon Seamus and Kathleen down by the old Abbey earlier that evening, Seamus found out just how much he was to blame.
"Conlon, where you heading, you pogue? You'll never run fast enough!"
That's what Jimmy thought. Seamus, on the other hand, he was prepared to keep on running until he reached Sligo Bay—and even then he would keep on going. He had seen exactly what John's meaty fists and Jimmy's heavy boots could do to a fellow they believed crossed them. And, as much as he fancied Kathleen, he was not ready to lay his life down for her favor.
He was a good enough looking lad, as it was, and he was very popular with the local village girls. More often than not, one of the girls would come to ask Mae Conlon about her baking only in an attempt to spend some time in her only son's company. The loss of one's affection, even if she was Kathleen Finnerty, would not be that noticeable.
A farmer's lifestyle had formed broad shoulders and sturdy hands; a touch of mischief kept him lithe, limber and, thankfully, quick. Long hours in the bright Ireland sun had lent a natural tan-ish color to his normally fair skin while bleaching his hair a dark blond color; his cyan eyes, wide and staring when not narrowed in disbelief, lit up his long face, adding to his attractiveness.
Kathleen loved his eyes. And, unless he could keep ahead of the other two, he wouldn't be surprised if, the next time they met, those same eyes were swollen closed.
Seamus shuddered, sending the rain that welled on his flesh cascading down his bare back, but he continued to hurry forward. The rain, if possible, fell harder, but the Conlon boy refused to slow. It was not that he was afraid, exactly, but the odds were not in his favor—he was smarter than he appeared and he knew for sure that, if his pursuers caught up with him, he could never beat them both. One maybe—Sullivan's size could count against him—but not both; Jimmy Finnerty could be mighty quick.
Shaking his head as he continued to move forward, Seamus could only imagine what his father would say if he knew his only boy was running from a fight he had, however inadvertently, caused. It was not, usually, in the Conlon nature to run from any problems but, just then, that was the least of his worries.
Having lived in this part of County Sligo for all his seventeen years, Seamus knew the lay of the land—even in the dark—almost as well as he knew the back of his hand. And, though his attention had not exactly been on his destination, he figured out his place mere seconds before he arrived at the water's edge.
The River Garavogue was before him and, with sudden understanding, he knew he had a choice to make: he could foolishly attempt to cross the storm-ravished waters of the winding river and search for sanctuary on the other side or he could continue on the straight path, skirting the river's edge, and pray that, sooner or later, Sullivan and Finnerty would just give up.
He allowed himself a second to entertain that notion before snorting in absolute disbelief. Neither one of the men was known for mercy or defeat. They would never give up; like hounds, once they had the scent, the chase was on and would only end in blood.
Seamus swallowed and eyed the dark waters. It was not that wide of a river and, from a childhood of wading during the hot summer days, he was familiar with its depths. If he was quick about it, he could probably make it. And, besides, the two goons chasing him would never expect that he'd chance surviving the Garavogue.
The sound of Sullivan's heavy feet hitting the slick grass behind him was fainter than it was before and Finnerty's taunts were whispers on the wind, drowned out by the storm but they were undoubtedly still on his trail. There was not much time to devote to making such a decision so, with a deep breath, Seamus prepared to jump into the river.
And promptly stopped as he stared down into the quickly streaming waters. He was not, exactly, sure that he had heard anything—fish, as far as he knew, did not call for aid—and he let his eyes rove across the river. Though he did not know what he expected to find, he did see something and, before he could think better about what he was doing, Seamus leapt into the river.
There was… well, it could be said that it was a man, if a man could be only a foot high. His jacket and britches were a reddish color and it was only the hue of his clothes, in comparison to the black piece of driftwood the little man clung to, that made him visible in the dark waters. There was no hat on his head, and yellow-gold hair was stuck to the man's head; his mouth was open and whether he was attempting to cry for help or just breathe without swallowing half of the Garavogue, Seamus wasn't sure..
The driftwood was traveling downstream with the quick currents of the river, floating along the near bank. Once Seamus had joined him in the water, the Irish boy reached for the wood, took hold of it and hurriedly ferried it across the river. It was a harder task than he would have ever thought but, just then, he wasn't thinking. He was saving someone—something's—life.
Once he had made it to the other side, Seamus pulled the damp, splintered piece of wood out of the river, bringing the little man with him. It had taken almost all of his strength to make it across the River Garavogue with the man in tow and, once he was back on solid land, he remained on his knees as he coughed up the water he had accidentally swallowed.
"Ach, boyo, watch where you're spittin' that!"
Seamus almost choked. If there was any doubt—there hadn't been any time for doubts, it had all happened so fast—that he had just rescued a twelve-inch man, the fact that said man was speaking had just made those doubts all but vanish.
Without a thought left to devote to whether or not John Sullivan or Jimmy Finnerty could see him kneeling across the river—they didn't and, oblivious to Seamus, they continued running along the Garavogue's length—Seamus pushed his water-soaked hair out of his eyes as he stared in wonder at the little man.
Too weak to do anything but yell at his rescuer, the man had taken a seat on the grass, absently kicking the buoyant piece of wood that had all but saved his life before turning to face the human boy who had saved his life. He scowled; it never did any good to be indebted to a mortal—he just hoped that this boy did not understand what his thoughtless action had just done.
The little man had high hopes for that; the boy didn't look all that clever to him.
It took Seamus a few seconds—the rain continued to fall around him, setting the scene, though he no longer paid any attention to his misfortune—to understand what he was seeing. Finally, when the surprise began to wear of and he was mostly sure that this wasn't a hallucination brought on by an evening of fleeing a jealous suitor and his pal, he was able to say, "What… what are you? A fear dearg?"
The little man, dressed all in red like the solitary fairies known as the far darrig, had the audacity to look offended by the question. "Me? I'm not of the fear dearg," he said, the words out before he could think better of the admission, "I'm a leprechaun!"
"A… a leprechaun?"
That one word seemed to break the spell for him. Wiping roughly at his eyes with his hand, Seamus made sure that the water wasn't causing him to see things that weren't there. A leprechaun? He must have slipped up along the path, gotten caught, and now the bumps and lumps from the beating he surely received were causing him to imagine that he was talking to a leprechaun. That had to be it.
The self-proclaimed leprechaun watched Seamus nod assuredly to himself and knew that his first instinct had to be right. Instead of looking greedy, as most people who spotted a leprechaun did, the boy looked confused. He didn't believe that he could be talking to a leprechaun—which suited his purpose quite well.
The little man jerked his chin upwards. He needed to keep the boy's mind off of the obvious, lest he figure out just what was going on. "Say, what is your name, lad?"
"Conlon," Seamus answered automatically. He was not quite paying attention as he, to prove a point to himself, extended a pointed finger towards the little man.
"Ah, one of the Ó Conalláin, are ye? Hail from Meath, boyo?" he asked then, continuing in his attempt to waylay the boy from realizing the obvious.
"My grandfather's father, aye. But the farm's here in Sligo now," he said absently, still following the path of his finger with his eyes. Seamus prodded the little red coat, his finger making contact with the leprechaun's tiny shoulder. There was no doubt about that—the little man was real. "You are a leprechaun!"
The little man had to swallow his curse as he waited for what would happen next.
He was not disappointed.
"A leprechaun, to be sure, and I know the lore," Seamus announced, drawing his finger back before the fairy could bite the tip. His mother loved to tell stories of the leprechauns, the far darrig and the clurichauns that dwelt in Éire and, after a lifetimes of hearing those stories, he felt it was better to be safe than sorry when dealing with the tricky creatures. He kept his eyes firmly on the little man as he leaned forward, a suspicious look in his wide eyes. "Save a leprechaun and be rewarded, ain't that so?"
The leprechaun had the sudden desire to jump back into the river and let it finish what a bottle of poteen and a fight with his wife had started. It would be better to drown honestly than be honor-bound to serve a human. "Aye," he said, and the bitterness that crept into his brogue was not ignorable, "and let me guess. You'll be after me pot of gold."
Seamus shook his head, the rain water splattering recklessly atop the leprechaun. "What good would a pot of gold be for me?" he asked, and the words did not sound strange to his ears. Though the little man would have been surprised to know the truth, Seamus Conlon was quite a lot smarter than he looked; though his tastes regarding the young ladies of Sligo was definitely questionable, he was very careful to watch out for himself and fight (or flee) when the danger became too much.
"Gold can't make the potato grow or till the land," he added, both valid points to the farmer's son. "Aye and there would be far too many question and not enough answers, I think, it I start flashing off a bit of gold that, by any rights, should not be mine."
Though it was darker than it was when he started running, and the rain was—if possible—falling even harder, Seamus did not miss the scowl that marred the little man's face and it surprised him. He had always assumed the leprechaun to be a smiling, if mischievous, fairy; with the creature looking quite fierce, he was still holding onto the idea that he was part of the fear dearg.
"A smart boyo, and that's the truth," the leprechaun admitted and he wished all the harder that the Garavogue had consumed him. If the human boy was not after gold, his true wish must be all the more dangerous. "What, then, are ye after?"
The word was out of his mouth before he knew it. "Luck."
"Luck?" The leprechaun could do quite a lot with such a vague wish as that. "Just luck, Ó Conalláin?"
The image of Kathleen Finnerty's pretty, freckled face ran through his mind as he nodded. Rubbing at the goose pimples that ran the lengths of his bare arm—was it just him or did it suddenly become far too cold?—he nodded. "Aye, and good luck, too," he clarified before explaining what he meant, "I want to be with a girl who loves me and have enough money so that my father wouldn't need to work so hard. I don't want to worry about bullies coming for me, or my family." He knelt down, meeting the small face of the fairy as he added, quite earnestly, "I just want the Conlon's to be lucky in the future… in the future and now, understand?"
The leprechaun was standing on his feet now, his dark, beady eyes looking up at Seamus's imploring face. He was searching for something there and, with a sly look into its depths, he found it. "And then we would be even? I'd owe you nothing for the act of savin' me from a watery grave?"
There was something about the way that the leprechaun was suddenly speaking a lot more slowly and quite clear. But Seamus, whose imagination was already warming him with the promise of Kathleen's warm embrace, paid no mind to it.
He nodded his head. "The lore says that you save a leprechaun, you get a wish," was all he said.
"That is so," the leprechaun agreed. The little man then lifted his tiny arms and bowed his head in Seamus' direction. "I thank ye, boyo, and give you what you ask for."
The leprechaun clapped his lifted arms and, with a sound that rivaled the echoes of the storm's considerable thunder, he disappeared. However, in the very space that he had stood, he had left something behind—he had left something for the Conlon boy.
There, nestled in the grass and quickly being covered by the ever falling rain, was a key.
Author's Note: Well, here we go. This is the promised sequel to my beast of a fan fiction, a Maldição de Diabo. This, like its predecessor, will deal with a familial theme—in this case, the Conlon family—as well as a supernatural/mythological theme—in nowhere near the length. There won't be any ghosts in this either, except the ghosts of the past, and you don't have to be familiar with the first story to read this one (though, of course, it does help). Anywho, read, review, enjoy… you know the drill ;)