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There May Be Mischief Ahead
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Are You Ready For Today's Story?
summermarket.rtf
Keywords male 616592, female 497616, fox 131098, rabbit 62321, vulpine 19846, fantasy 11237, transgender 7863, story 6513, lapine 4749, family 3228, lupine 2278, siblings 2263, mtf 1046, medieval 764, red wolf 730, ftm 581, mild violence 96
Summer Market










It was nearly dark when someone knocked on the front door.  Niamh was in the kitchen where she was preparing a light supper for Ciara's return home from the forge, and she went to answer the door.  But something made her pause with her hand on the latch.  She wasn't afraid.  Nobody who lived in Oseille would hurt her, and most visitors to the city never came this far inside, but there was a strangely familiar scent in the air that made her hackles rise.  She picked up the bread knife from its place on the counter and went to the window instead, just as the knock was repeated.  She wished Ciara would come home.  She'd never been good at handling conflict by herself and she always felt better with her wife behind her.
“If you need food or lodging, the tavern is by the Market Square, just past the front gate,” she said.
She heard a shuffling outside as her visitor moved under the window, and she fought the urge to run to the back of the house.
“Are you Miss Lohan?” he said.
He sounded quite young and scared, and trying to hide it.
“If you've come this far, you know the answer to that,” she said.
“Please.  I came to ask you for help.  The innkeeper told me where to find you, and he said you know about medicine and--”
“Are you hurt?” Niamh said.
“Not me.  Please, you must come,” he said.
He sounded so genuinely upset that Niamh went to the door and unlocked it, but she kept a tight grip on her knife.  Common sense said she should wait for Ciara, but if someone was injured she had an obligation to help them.  Ever since the last war, there weren't many who would aid a stranger, even in Oseille.
“Why come to me?  We've got a doctor here in town,” she said.
“Doctors want to be paid.  We spent everything we had on the room,” the boy said.
Niamh took a deep breath and pushed the door open.  She was perversely pleased to see her visitor flinch away from her when he saw the knife in her hand.  That meant this probably wasn't a trick.  He was a small, brown furred rabbit with long auburn hair and, for a second, she had the disconcerting feeling she was looking at her reflection.  This close, his familiar scent was even stronger.
“Doctor Cullen is really the one you want.  I only know just enough to sew--”
“Niamh, please!  You're the one he asked for,” he said.
“It's Miss Lohan to you.  At least until you give me your name,” she said.
“It's Seán.  Now, there's no more time for this,” he said.
She hesitated a moment longer, but it was a straight walk from her house to the Red Wolf and with the Summer Market at full swing there was no chance of his getting her alone.  The Market was open around the clock for a full month and there were always people out on the streets no matter the hour.  She locked the door behind her, stuck her knife in her belt and nodded at him.
“You must be desperate to buy a room in the Red Wolf at this time of year.  Killian charges double rates during a Market month, and all the best ones were taken months ago,” she said.
“Nobody else would let us in.  Father can be... difficult when he's angry,” Seán said.
She let him lead the way to the tavern so she could keep her eye on him.  He walked quickly, but she noticed how he stuck to the shadows as best he could, and how he kept looking around at the buildings and the people they passed.  She noticed, too, that he was rather small for a buck, which the baggy clothes he wore did nothing to hide.
“Is it always so crowded here?” he said.
Niamh couldn't keep from laughing a little in spite of her uncertainty.
“Oseille's just a tiny place, compared to someplace like Cearnach.  Or Blackpool.  It isn't always this busy, but I wouldn't call it crowded on its best day,” she said.
“I had no idea it was even here.  I've never been this far south,” he said.
“I thought everyone knew about the Markets here.  We get merchants from all over the place here, even some from the mainland,” Niamh said.
The crowd thickened as they approached a narrow crossroad between warehouses and she pulled Seán into the mouth of one of Oseille's many alleys to get him out of the way of a cart laden with scrap iron.  As she did, she took note of the way he flinched under her touch.  Then the moment was over and he visibly shook himself.
“Seawash is self-sufficient,” he said.
“I didn't know there were any rabbit settlements up north anymore,” she said.
“Not many do.  It isn't the kind of city that welcomes visitors,” he said.
The Summer Market was the busiest time of the year, and between the people who filled the streets and the temporary stalls which filled every corner, even between the low, round houses that people seemed to favor, Oseille could almost seem like a proper city if you didn't know any better.
“But there's Blackpool.  I thought everyone who lived up north went there,” she said.
“Those who are welcome to,” Seán said.
“What does that mean?” Niamh said, but  Seán just put his ears back and shook his head.
The Red Wolf wasn't the biggest tavern in Viridis, and it certainly wasn't the most comfortable.  It was run by an actual red wolf named Killian who favored the rather militaristic severity of his ancestors, even though he'd never spent a night outside of the city.  The tavern was known for its bare floors and booths and seats of rough hewn timber, and its ability to be hot and stuffy even in the dead of winter.  Its one saving grace was that nobody stocked a broader range of food and drink than Killian did and the tavern was always filled to bursting during Markets.  Niamh heaved a sigh of relief as soon as they stepped inside.
“He's just upstairs.  First door on the right,” Seán said.
Niamh nodded, and she went over to the bar and banged on the knife-chewed wood with her claws.  Like the rest of the tavern's furniture it was made of solid oak, and there was a thin strip of metal set loosely on the outside edge so customers could make themselves heard over the din.  The room was dimly lit even at this time of night, to save on lamp oil, but she saw Killian turn and flash her the briefest of smiles.
“Come on.  You can get a drink later,” Seán said.
“If you think I'm going upstairs alone with a total stranger, you're out of your mind.  I want someone with us I can trust,” she said.
Seán's expression was unreadable in the poorly lit room, but he had the grace not to argue.  After another minute, Killian came over and put a glass of whiskey on the bar in front of Niamh.
“The boy said it was urgent, and he seemed so upset that I thought maybe it was,” Killian said.  He seemed embarrassed, which was such a rarity that Niamh couldn't bring herself to be cross with him.
“It's okay.  Maybe it is, at that.  Can you spare a chaperone?” Niamh said.
“Yeah.  I can spare me,” Killian said.
Niamh glanced over at the rest of the bar.  People in the Red Wolf usually behaved themselves because they knew what Killian would do to them if they didn't, but there were always a few troublemakers.  Niamh had never known Killian to leave the bar unattended while there were still customers around.
“I've got some help in tonight.  Anyway, after everything you and Ciara have done for me, I owe you this much, at least,” Killian said.
Seán looked distinctly unhappy at having Killian along, but he led the way upstairs and unlocked the door to one of the tavern's two suites.  As he did, Niamh shared a look with Killian.
“Suites are three hundred dollars a night.  One night is half a year's salary at the forge.  Who spends that kind of money on a room, but won't go see a doctor when he needs one?” Niamh said.
The room had a thick, wine-red carpet on the floor and actual drapes on the windows, and a large bed was pushed up against one wall.  An old rabbit lay in the bed with his right arm bound in a crude sling made of pieces of his shirt.  He had the same light brown fur and auburn hair that Seán did, and that Niamh had, herself, though his fur was shot through with streaks of grey.  He sat up as soon as they entered and Niamh saw him studying her.
“My father,” Seán said.
Niamh barely heard him.  She knew exactly who was propped up in the bed.  The last time she'd seen him, she'd been three years old.  Not counting her nightmares.  She'd lost count of how many nights she'd spent running away from Liam in her dreams, while he ran after her, holding the same bloody knife he'd used to kill her mother.  He'd vanished before she was old enough to remember much except her own name, but she could still hear his midnight fights with Bébinn that always ended when he knocked her mother into a wall.
“Is he your kin?  He looks just like you,” Killian said.
“I've never seen him before,” Niamh said.
Liam chuckled softly, and Niamh was horrified to see him wink at her.
“I should have known that Bébinn's kitten would grow up to be just like her.  Your mother couldn't lie worth a damn either, girl,” he said.
“What my mother could and could not do is not up for discussion.  If you want my help--”
“But I'll have it anyway, won't I?  I know all about you, Miss Lohan.  Some rabbit you are.  Married to a fox and you didn't even have enough pride to keep your own name.  Not that I blame you for wanting to get rid of that shame,” he said.
Niamh's first impulse was to walk away, and she turned her back on him with her ears held down.  Then she caught the pleading look on Seán's face and she bit back her emotions as best she could.
“Now that you've got me up here, there's no point in wasting any more time,” she said.
She went over to Liam's bed, though she hated herself for it, and she carefully unwrapped his right arm.  Underneath the bandage was a deep cut that ran the length of his forearm and the fur there was matted with dried blood.  It looked raw and painful and he grunted a little when she touched him, but she couldn't smell any infection.  She took the glass of whiskey from Killian and held it out to him.
“Drink this.  For the pain,” she said.
“Little Niamh. I knew you'd find your way back to Oseille okay, even as young as you were.  It's the best place for a rabbit to live, or so they tell me.  But is it the best place for my daughter?” he said.
“Hush father.  It'll be okay,” Seán said.
Liam sniffed at the whiskey, but he wrinkled his nose and set the glass on the bed table without tasting it.
“Swill,” he said.
“Swill, indeed!  That's my best stuff.  Five dollars a glass, and that's for my regular customers,” Killian said.
Niamh moved over so she was between Killian and her patient, but she didn't look directly at either of them.
“Go downstairs and get me the aid kit you keep under the bar.  There's not much I can do but sew him up, but since they don't want to see Cullen that's all I can do,” she said.
She glanced up at the old rabbit, but he was staring off into space at something only he could see, so she turned to Seán instead.
“Get the doctor.  I'll pay him, if I have to.  I'll--”
“No,” Liam said “No doctors.  No strangers.  You might not be what I hoped for, but you're family.  Like it or not, you're family.”
“You never gave a damn about me, Liam.  You murdered my mother and you abandoned Fiachra and me to starve in the wilderness.  You--”
“You do remember me,” Liam said.
Niamh bit her lip, hard, in an effort to stop herself from shaking with anger, and she fought back the urge to squeeze Liam's wounded arm.  Instead, she tipped a little whiskey onto a clean cloth and dabbed it at the wound, which made him flinch.
“I was three years old, but I remember.  I remember almost starving to death before grandmother found us.  I remember the smell of blood and my mother lying lifeless in a field and hoping that what Fiachra told me was wrong, that you'd come back for us,” she said.
“I wanted to take you.  I would have come back for you, but there wasn't time,” Liam said.
Now she did squeeze his arm and she dug her claws into his flesh until he screamed.  Then she dabbed at his arm again, to clean away the fresh blood and the pus that she'd squeezed out, until his wound was clean again.
“If you're going to come crawling back on your knees like this, you could at least be honest,” she said.
“I know.  You have to hate me.  My children have to hate me because you have to cling to the warm delusion that you're nothing like me.  At least you have an honest reason for it,” Liam said.
“You're the last person who can preach about honesty,” Niamh said.
Liam just snorted and snatched his arm out of her hands.
“Are you going to sew me up or not?” he said.
Niamh glanced back at Killian, who still hadn't moved from his place by the door.  His fists were clenched tight and his ears were laid flat against his skull.  Niamh knew that he had become quite fond of her and Ciara, because they seemed to be the only people in Oseille who genuinely liked him, and she knew when it was a good idea to throw a distraction at him before his legendary temper flared.
“The aid kit, please, Killian.  I'll be okay up here for a couple of minutes,” she said.
“Will you?” he said, and he flashed his teeth and Liam.
“I promise.  We didn't come here to make trouble.  Did we, father?” Seán said.
“That's all he's ever been,” Niamh said.
Liam grumbled and shifted around in his bed so he wouldn't have to look at any of them, and he waved dismissively with his good arm.
“You'll make up your own mind.  Just look after your sister and let me sleep,” he said
Niamh had enough self control left not to shake him.  She knew that would please him far too much and she'd given him enough satisfaction already.  She moved closer to the bed, though, so he couldn't just ignore her.
“Why did you really come back?  After all these years I'd learned to just let it go.  You were gone and hating you wouldn't bring my mother back.  Now you come back and it's like everything happened yesterday,” Niamh said.
Liam sat up again and he grabbed a handful of Niamh's shirt before she could dodge away.
“I didn't murder Bébinn.  I cut her throat, but she was already dying when I found her.  Rabbits shouldn't trust predators like she did.  Like you do,” he said.
“You have no idea what you're talking about.  Mom--”
“I couldn't save her.  I couldn't save you.  But I've come to ask for a favor.  Now listen before you close your ears little Niamh.  Hate me all you want, I've earned it, but don't turn your back on the innocent,” Liam said.
Niamh turned to look at Seán, who blushed, but he didn't back down or look away this time.  There was clearly enough of his father in him to give him some pride.
“We're outcasts.  This is the last city in Viridis we haven't been thrown out of, and I think it won't take long to fix that,” Seán said.
“That could be.  Just hope it happens before my sister finds out you're here.  For your father's sake,” Niamh said.
She heard Liam snort behind her.
“Your 'sister' is a fool.  I can't imagine why a perfectly good buck would want to go and turn himself into a doe.  Like that was some kind of an improvement.  Worse yet, you encouraged him,” he said.
“Fiachra's happier this way.  She--”
“It's wrong.  Boys are boys and girls are girls.  I always knew he was broken from the first day.  I blame his father, and Bébinn for not having any better sense than to get involved with who knows what kind of trash,” Liam said.
Niamh hit him so hard his head bounced off the wall behind him, but this just made him laugh as he dabbed the blood from his nose.
“You're no better, married to that vixen of yours.  And there are Bébinn's children for you.  I should have known better than to expect any help from your kind,” Liam said.
Niamh drew her fist back to hit him again, but Seán grabbed her wrist and when she looked up at him, the pain on his face was enough to stop her.
“Father, we need her,” he said.
“That was my mistake.  I must confess that, before we got here, I had no idea how bad things were.  I thought that if there was anything you and I might see eye to eye on, it was that it's wrong to try to deny the role you were born to,” Liam said.

“You can stay here one night, so Niamh can sew you up.  If she's still willing to work on you.  But then you'll have to leave,” Killian said.
He stood in the doorway with the aid kit in his hands and his ears still flat against his skull.  Niamh gave him a relieved smile as she took the kit from him, and she tossed it onto the foot of Liam's bed.  Nobody spoke while she unpacked the proper supplies and Liam only grunted when she propped his arm up on a couple of spare pillows and shoved the glass of whiskey in his other hand.
“Drink it.  This isn't going to feel good, and I don't want you thrashing around while I work,” she said.
Liam sneered at her, but he drank the whiskey in a gulp and tossed the glass on the floor.
“Don't pretend you don't enjoy hurting me,” he said.
“I liked it a lot.  I just don't want you bellowing in my ears while I'm trying to work,” she said.
“That's my girl,” Liam said.
Niamh took some care while she stitched his arm and she made sure he felt it as little as possible, as a point of pride.  For his part, Liam lay quietly and just watched her work, though he chuckled every time she met his gaze.  Then she was finished and she wrapped a fresh bandage around his arm and packed her needles away.
“I'll pay for your room tomorrow, if you'll just make sure you leave before dawn so Killian won't have to look at you again,” she said.
“The sooner I can leave this city, the better.  It was nice to see you again, Niamh,” he said.
“After tonight, you and I are done.  For good,” Niamh said.
She swept out of the room with Killian close behind her.  Seán followed them as far as the top of the stairs, and he reached out to put his hand on Niamh's arm before they could go down.  Killian growled at him, but Niamh shook her head and stepped between them.  Seán, at least, was still innocent.
“He'll be okay.  Just keep the arm clean and it'll heal.  And get him out of here,” she said.
“I'm sorry for the way he's treated you,” Seán said  “I've gotten used to it, but--”
“It doesn't matter.  You aren't responsible for something that happened almost a decade before you were even born.  Now go back to your room and look after him,” she said.
Downstairs, she paid Killian for the room and the glass of whiskey, and she kissed him on the cheek which made him blush.
“Thanks for looking out for me tonight,” she said.
“If I'd known who those two who were, I'd never have let them anywhere near you.  I should go back up there right now and--” he said, but Niamh waved him into silence.
“It's okay.  I always knew Liam would show back up one day.  There's too much unfinished business between us.  Just don't tell Fiachra or she'll kill him,” she said.
“She'd kill her own father?” Killian said.
“Liam isn't Fiachra's kin.  Her father was a decent buck from here in Oseille, and he died before I was even born.  Fiachra's been itching for revenge since she was eight years old, and I don't want her tainted by Liam like I've been,” Niamh said.
He gave her a helpless look and followed her to the door, as if he expected more trouble to be lurking in the dark streets.  She left quickly before he could volunteer to walk her home and she didn't dare look back.  She was glad it was night so nobody could see how badly she was shaking, or how angry she was.  The last thing she wanted was for everyone in Oseille to know what had happened.  She could count on Killian to be discreet and to do as she asked, but some of her other friends had never learned how to leave things alone.
Ciara was waiting for her when she got home.  The little fox stood in the door with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and the warm smells of the kitchen drifting out around her.  To Niamh's relief, Ciara didn't ask any questions but just embraced her and kissed the top of her head while she wept.

In retrospect, Niamh knew it was a mistake to open the bottle of whiskey.  She didn't get drunk often, but it wasn't every day she confronted her mother's murderer, either.  She drank to keep herself from having to think about that too much, for fear of where her thoughts might lead her.  She'd always thought that revenge was beneath her, but temptation had never been so close before.  For her part, Ciara sat and held Niamh in her lap while they shared the whiskey sip for sip.
“He'll be gone tomorrow,” Ciara said.
“He's come this far.  He didn't track me down just to get me to sew his arm up.  There's no shortage of doctors who'd help him, outlaw or not.  He's not done with me yet,” Niamh said.
“Then I'll stay home tomorrow.  It's about time I took a day off anyway.  We'll bolt the door and if anyone comes knocking I'll take care of it,” Ciara said.
“Seán's innocent,” Niamh said.
Ciara must have sensed her reservation, because she gave Niamh's hand a gentle squeeze
“Maybe.  But he's not on your side,” Ciara said.
“You don't know that,” Niamh said.
“I do.  So do you.  He's not going to pick the sister he just met over the father who raised him,” Ciara said.
“I wish I could think of a reason why you're wrong that didn't sound like total shit.  But I'm not going to give up on him yet,” Niamh said.
They drank in silence for a while, and Niamh began to relax just a little.  Whatever was going to happen, it couldn't be worse than being in the same room with Liam while she had to pretend she wasn't frightened of him.  She'd faced angry foxes and lynxes with swords, and she'd learned how to ride Ciara's big yellow mare, but none of them had left her shaking the way Liam had.  She leaned her head against Ciara's chest and shut her eyes while Ciara petted her.
The mood was spoiled moments later by someone pounding on the door.
“Ignore it,” Ciara said, but Niamh was already up and she yanked the door open with her best attempt at a fox's snarl.  She was dimly aware of Ciara laughing in the background.
Fiachra, on the other hand, wasn't laughing at all.  She burst into the room and pushed Niamh all the way over to the far wall as if she expected an attack at any moment.  At the same time, she gestured at Ciara to shut the door.
“Just what in the hell were you thinking?  What did you think you could achieve?” Fiachra said.
Niamh squirmed in Fiachra's grasp, but even now Fiachra was stronger than she was.
“It's nice to see you, too, sis.  Ciara, see if we have an extra glass, will you?  Someone needs a drink and to sit her butt down,” Niamh said.
“You went up there all by yourself.  To his room.  His damned room.  He could have cut your throat right there,” Fiachra said.
“Killian was with me,” Niamh said.
Fiachra hesitated, and she let Ciara press a glass of whiskey into her hand.  It was only by watching the little ripples that appeared in the liquid that Niamh could see Fiachra was shaking.
“Killian sent someone to tell me about it after you left the tavern.  He said you asked him not to, but I think he wanted me to deal with things so he wouldn't have to,” Fiachra said.
“Did he?  It's a wonder you came here first and didn't go straight to the tavern,” Ciara said.
“Killian wouldn't let me in,” Fiachra said.
Niamh grinned in spite of herself, and she shook her head.
“He's not a fool.  We're not the only ones who know how you feel about Liam.  Besides, one of us stomping around and making demands is more than enough for one night, I'm sure,” she said.
After a moment, Fiachra smiled, too, and she gave Niamh a hug and tousled her hair, like she used to do when they were children.  It has been something like a year and a half since Fiachra's transformation from buck to doe, and even Niamh, who loved her, had found it difficult to get used to it, but some things never changed.
“I just don't want to see you hurt,” Fiachra said.
“I think you're just afraid that Seán will steal me away.  That I'll get some shiny new sibling who won't fuss over me so goddamned much,” Niamh said.
“After all these years, you wouldn't know what to do without me,” Fiachra said.
“Or you without her.  But never mind, you'd still have me,” Ciara said.
“You're as crazy as she is,” Fiachra said.
“Maybe worse,” Ciara said.
Fiachra pulled a chair over and sat down across from the sofa, though she angled her chair so she could keep an eye on the door.  Ciara relaxed as well and she helped Fiachra finish off the rest of the whiskey, but Niamh couldn't sit still.  She paced nervously around the room and checked the lock on the door three times, as if it could open all by itself.  She knew she wasn't thinking completely rationally, but she also knew that Liam would delight in surprising them.  She'd never admit it where he could hear her, but she'd always suspected she had more than a little in common with Liam and she knew how he thought.
After maybe her tenth circuit around the room, Ciara grabbed her and dragged her back to the sofa.
“You're making me dizzy,” Ciara said.
She pushed Niamh down and sat on her lap, even though they both knew that Niamh wouldn't have any trouble just picking her up if she wanted to.
“Well what do they want with me?  Seán said they needed me.  At the time, I just thought he meant for my skill with a needle, but--”
The knock on the door was almost a relief.  Niamh started to get up, but Ciara gave her ear a gentle tug to keep her seated.  Fiachra went over to the door instead and she put one hand on the pull, but she didn't open it.
“It's none of your business anymore,” Ciara said.
“Isn't it?  That's not what you said when it was your family hurting people,” Niamh said.
“My family weren't murderers.  They didn't want to hurt me,” Ciara said.
“That just make this all the more important.  There's no telling what Liam might get up to if he didn't have me to worry about,” Niamh said.
She pushed Ciara off her lap and went to join Fiachra at the door in spite of all her lingering doubts.
“Open it,” she said.
“He'll kill you,” Fiachra said.
“I don't think so.  You said yourself, he could have done that already.  Anyway, I'm not completely helpless,” Niamh said.
She lifted the hem of her shirt to show the hilt of the knife stuck in her belt.  Fiachra snorted, and she shot Ciara a stern look.
“You see what you've taught her?” Fiachra said.
“Not me.  She knew that much before I ever met her,” Ciara said.
The knock was repeated and this time Fiachra yanked the door open.  At the same time she grabbed the knife from Niamh's belt and pointed it at Seán, who stood on the porch with his hands raised.
“Please.  I have to talk to you,” Seán said.
“You had your chance to do that already,” Fiachra said.
“That was for Liam's sake.  This is for my own.  I haven't done you any harm,”  Seán said.
Niamh hesitated for a moment, then she nodded and stepped out of the door.
“This isn't a good idea,” Fiachra said and she went to shut the door again, but Ciara grabbed her wrist.
“This is my house, too.  Let him in,” Ciara said.
Seán bowed to her and to Fiachra, then he darted into the house before Fiachra could stop him.
“Father was asleep when I left.  He didn't want me to bother you any more, but I was worried about you,” Seán said.
Niamh studied Seán's face for a moment, but she couldn't see anything there but honest concern, and a hint of fear, no doubt from the way Fiachra stood over both of them.
“I'm not the one who has to share a room with Liam,” Niamh said.
“I never thought any of those stories about him were true.  Until tonight.  I never wanted to.  He was all the family I had,” Seán said.
“Not anymore,” Niamh said.
Fiachra snorted and nudged Niamh, but they both ignored her.
“He's just a kitten,” Niamh said.
“I'm nineteen,” Seán said.
“That old?” Ciara said.
Sean blushed as they all looked at him.  It was the first time Niamh had seen Seán in good lighting, and now she noticed how soft his fur was and how delicate his features were.
“Everything that Liam said about Fiachra, that wasn't really aimed at me, was it?  Or at her, either,” Niamh said.
Seán hesitated, and Niamh could see the blush creeping up the insides of his ears.  Then, without another word, he took off his shirt.  It took Niamh a moment, then she recognized the bandage around Seán's chest and what it was meant to hide.
“You're--” she began.
“Father named me Eileen when I was born.  He still insists on calling me that when nobody else is around.  He won't even speak to me in company.  He still hopes I'll change my mind,” Seán said.
Fiachra was the first to move, and she surprised everyone when she put her arms around Seán in a shy embrace.
“You're safe here,” she said.
Liam came out of the shadows at that moment and he stood in the doorway, which Niamh had neglected to shut, and glowered at them.  He was armed with a sword, held awkwardly in his left hand, and a sneer twisted his mouth into an ugly slash.
“Another freak in a family of freaks.  I had such high hopes for you, girl.  I thought maybe one of my children might turn out to be normal, at least.  I thought you might learn something from meeting your sister and witnessing the sickness she lives in first hand,” he said.
“Everything I learned, I learned from you,” Seán said “How to hide.  How to lie.  How to hate myself for something I couldn't help.  You've taught me enough.”
Liam ignored him and he rounded on Niamh instead.  He was through the door before she could shut it and she stumbled backward out of his reach.
“You're the biggest disappointment, child.  I brought her here in the hope that you might help me.  I'd hoped that there was some part of me still in you, no matter how well hidden,” he said.
“That was your mistake.  I still have a heart,” Niamh said.
Liam spat on the ground at her feet and he waved his sword in front of her.  The blade swung back and forth an inch under her nose, but she stayed put.
“What you need is a brain.  You need to see that the world works the way it does for a reason, and we're all born to fill a certain role.  When you try to defy that order, everyone suffers,” Liam said.
“Is that what you told Mom, before you murdered her?” Fiachra said.
“I was sorry about Bébinn.  For a long time, I was actually sorry.  But I should have killed you, too.  I should have realized the evil she had brought into the world,” he said.
Niamh threw out her arm in time to stop Fiachra from rushing him.  They both grunted as Niamh's palm slapped into Fiachra's ribs, and to Niamh's surprise she actually stopped.
“Come back and stand with me,” Ciara said and she pulled at Fiachra's arm, but Fiachra didn't look at her.
“We're here now, if you care to try again.  And Seán.  All your mistakes in one room, just waiting for you to fix the world.  If you've got the stomach for it,” Fiachra said.
“You said it was an accident,” Seán said.
He pushed between them, still half naked and trembling, and he grabbed Liam's left arm and twisted it to show the bandage still wrapped around it.
“That night we were hiding from the bandits.  You said their torches blinded you, and that's why you attacked me,” Seán said  “Because you thought I was---”
“You wouldn't have suffered.  It would have been quick, just like it was for Bébinn all those years ago,” Liam said.
The next few minutes were a blur.  Fiachra pushed Seán into Niamh's arms, then she raised her knife and threw herself at Liam.  Niamh stumbled backward, trying to to both keep her feet and to protect her brother from any more harm.  Metal rang twice and someone yelped in pain.  Niamh smelled blood and she felt Seán clutch at her and bury his face against her chest.  Ciara put her arms around them both, and she steered them gently to the other side of the room when neither of them had the will to do so by themselves.
Fiachra and Liam circled each other in the middle of the room.  Fiachra was bleeding from a long, shallow cut across her left shoulder, and the fur on Liam's muzzle and chest was speckled with blood, though Niamh couldn't tell whose it was.  In spite of his age and his previous injury, Liam matched every one of Fiachra's feints, and every time Fiachra lunged at him he ducked the blow.
“You always have preferred to let other people do your fighting for you, haven't you, Niamh?” Liam said.
“I'm a healer,” Niamh said.
“You're a coward,” Liam said.
Ciara tightened her grip an instant before Niamh tried to break free.  She bared her teeth at Liam, and balled her fists, wanting nothing more than to hit him one more time, but Ciara and Seán were able to keep her still.
“Helping each other is what families are for.  Something I gather you wouldn't know anything about,” Ciara said.
Fiachra lunged again, and this time she landed a solid hit across Liam's muzzle.  Liam yelped once and he reeled back to crash into the wall behind him.  He bounced back and slashed at Fiachra's chest.  He missed, but only because Seán broke out of Niamh's embrace and ran across the room and threw himself in Liam's path.  The two of them stumbled into Fiachra and all of them collapsed to the floor.
Fiachra was the first to recover and she knelt on the ground above Liam, and never looked away from him.  There was blood on the floor and Fiachra clutched at the cut on her shoulder.  Liam didn't seem to be badly hurt, but he lay flat on his back and wasn't moving.  Niamh's knife lay next to him with its blade unsullied.
“I only hit him with the hilt,” Fiachra said.
“Pity,” Seán said.  Ciara nudged him and shook her head.
“You shouldn't say things like that.  You're better than he is,” she said.
Fiachra picked up the dagger and Liam's sword and threw them out the front door, where they clattered on the porch.  Niamh found a clean cloth from somewhere and she soaked it with alcohol.  Fiachra hissed in pain when Niamh pressed the cloth against the cut on her arm, but she gave Niamh a brief smile.
“Next time, just keep the door locked, will you?  It makes things so much easier,” Fiachra said.
“I promise,” Niamh said.
She finished bandaging Fiachra's arm and helped her up.  Fiachra cast one last contemptuous glance at Liam, who was already stirring, then limped over to perch on the sofa where Ciara refilled her glass.  Niamh stayed by the door and she held out a hand to help Liam back to his feet.  He ignored her, as he ignored Seán's own efforts to help him, and he clawed his way back to his feet alone and clung to the door frame while he glared at them.
“You're all dead to me,” he said.
“Father, don't be rash.  They can still help you,” Seán said.
“The same way you helped me?  With a dagger to the heart?  No.  You're all damned, and I will have no more part of this,” Liam said.
Before any of them could speak, he turned and walked out into the darkness.  Seán took one step after him, but he stopped when Niamh put a hand on his shoulder.
“Father,” he said, but Liam had already vanished into the dark streets.
“If it means anything, you have a home here,” Niamh said.
“You can stay with us, until you find a place of your own,” Ciara said, and she put her arms around both of them.  Seán didn't answer, or look at either of them, but he let them embrace him while Fiachra shut the door.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Holy crap, Megan's actually posting something she produced for a change! Amazing! Believe it or not, this little bastard took me the best part of a year to put together. I'm still writing, I'm just very slow at it these days.

Anyway.

This is the story of what happened one summer night when an oddly familiar stranger showed up on Niamh's doorstep begging for her help, and unknowingly opens some very old wounds as well as some new ones.

Niamh, Fiachra, Ciara and all other characters belong to me. Marked as mature for some mild violence.

Keywords
male 616,592, female 497,616, fox 131,098, rabbit 62,321, vulpine 19,846, fantasy 11,237, transgender 7,863, story 6,513, lapine 4,749, family 3,228, lupine 2,278, siblings 2,263, mtf 1,046, medieval 764, red wolf 730, ftm 581, mild violence 96
Details
Type: Writing - Document
Published: 4 years, 1 month ago
Rating: Mature

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CyberCornEntropic
4 years, 1 month ago
So, let's see...

Niamh has a home, stable job, family, significant other, friends.  She loves and is loved back.  Fiachra has the same, as does Seán now.

Liam is an outcast, no family, no friends.  He is full of hate and anger, and has driven away or killed those few who might have loved him at some point.

Who is the truly damned?
MeganBryar
4 years, 1 month ago
At the risk of going into Saturday-morning-cartoon-moral mode, I suppose it just goes to show how blind hatred can make a person. One could almost feel sorry for Liam, if he wasn't such a terrible person. Or maybe that's just me, since I'm the one who created him.

Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it!
CyberCornEntropic
4 years, 1 month ago
You're welcome. :)

One wonders though.  What is Liam afraid of?  Hate doesn't come from nowhere.  It usually stems from fear, which is irrational and can come from strange sources.

Were Liam's parents hoping for a girl, and he took their disappointment too personally?  Was his family full of bigots?  Or were they pretty open-minded folks, but Liam rebelled a little too much?  Maybe he got spooked because he had been accidentally spooked by his actor uncle dressing up as a vixen?  Could it be one of those all-too-common origins in which nobody can point to any one instance because he misinterpreted something someone said because he was in a suggestible state of mind, such as shock or fright?  It would be very tragic if he spent all his life fearful, hate-filled, and angry, ruining his life and others', because of a wrong impression made at the wrong time.

Eh, never mind.  Just rampant speculation.
MeganBryar
4 years, 1 month ago
To be honest, I haven't yet decided exactly what it was that made Liam who he is today. Which isn't to say I won't fill in those gaps in the future. I'm certainly hoping to bring him back in future stories. It's just that I tend to prefer to leave things fairly open ended until I'm ready to work on a new story, so that each new story has plenty of room to develop on its own.

All of your ideas are good ones, though, and I'm flattered that this story, and these characters, have got you to think so much about it! It would be sad if it was simply a misunderstanding that made Liam into who he is, and it's certainly an idea I've toyed with. With luck, I'll be able to explore his past more thoroughly sometime.
CyberCornEntropic
4 years, 1 month ago
I understand.  I was expecting that the answers to the speculation would be revealed in future stories, if at all.  That is how storytellers tend to work, after all. :p

True, it would be sad if it were a misunderstanding, but that's the sort of tragedy that's all too common.  And think of the drama were he confronted with the truth.  Considering his personality, he'd most likely go unhinged, unable to accept the fact that he's screwed up his whole life because of a mistaken assumption. :o
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