Bounding through the fields, Rafer skipped among the flowers lightly, taking care not to tread on any of them as he continued to make his way to the pond, where he had an appointment with Frog for tea.
As he neared the pond, he caught a whiff of something. A whiff of gloom, stark against the happy smells of fresh, green flowers and grass.
The leprechaun sniffed the air again. Where did it come from? He wondered. His mischievous eyes darted about the tall blades around him. Then he spotted a flash of white.
It looked white, but a second glimpse showed that the white silk was faded to a pale shade of grey. Rafer walked through the grass to the creature that the white silk adorned. A human? No, it was as small as he, and humans weren’t so sad most of the time. Just angry.
A female leprechaun? No, they don’t exist, Rafer had never even seen one in his life, and if female leprechauns existed, they would be wearing bright, gaudy green, same as he. Although he wouldn’t know even if it wasn’t the case…
What was it then? The aura of despair emanating from the creature, who was clearly female as he came closer, was almost too much for Rafer’s happy heart to handle. The white-haired fae was bent over, face between her knees, body racking with heavy sobs. The leprechaun watched with curiosity as the fae continued to weep.
Without forewarning, her head suddenly sprang back from her legs and arched backward, wailing to the heavens in terrible despair. Rafer jumped back a step in surprise. He knew what she was. A banshee, whose shrill keening foretells death. Rafer wondered how death could occur in such a peaceful rural countryside.
Unbeknownst to him, his friend the Frog had been snuck up from behind by an avian predator of juicy amphibians, leaving only a well-set table for two at the pond side and an extremely satisfied bird, which flew off minutes later. Rafer would only find out about this much later, but that is another story.
Meanwhile, Rafer had totally forgotten about his appointment, and was trying in vain to comfort the banshee, with jolly couplets – “Death may come a-knocking, but Life will keep a-coming!” – and merry limericks – “-there was a death, but being out of breath, the banshee could no longer scream!” – But his attempts fell on ears deafened by the incessant cries of the weeping banshee. Then Rafer realised he hadn’t introduced himself. What an impolite leprechaun I am! He reprimanded himself.
“Hello, I am Rafer O’Leprechaun, at your service,” Rafer said, taking off his hat and making a bow. “What is your name?”
The banshee stopped crying and opened her eyes, painted crimson by Sadness. She paused, then uttered shakily, “Deirdre.”
“Pleased to meet you. Deirdre is a nice name,” Rafer returned. Deidre stopped tearing and Rafer thought he saw the beginnings of a grin playing on her tear-stained visage.
“What can I do to make you happy?” Rafer inquired. He felt a deeply-submerged longing for companionship suddenly emerge from within him. Maybe he had never realised it before, but suddenly Rafer felt that all his life, he had been solitary, so alone, with little company. He dared to think that he and Deirdre could become friends.
“I don’t know what you can do,” Deirdre replied with a tinge of sadness in her voice. “Banshees are forever cursed to feel the despair and loss of death as it happens around us. Even here, the death of something as small as an insect affects me. No one can escape death, but only we will ever feel it so deeply. And being immortal, we feel it forever.”
Her pale face was swept over with her white, long hair as she related the tragedy of her life. Rafer suddenly realised that Deirdre was beautiful. She was ice, wintry, clammy, but she had a terrible beauty in her sadness. Rafer wanted to make her feel better.
“Let me show you my pot of gold. Maybe that will cheer you up,” He blurted as swiftly as the idea came upon him. Deidre’s ears perked up at the word ‘gold’, and her expression seemed to improve considerably. “Really?” she whispered.
“Anything that would make you happy,” said the leprechaun. “Follow me.”
He quickly disappeared through the tall blades of grass, his green velvet coat flapping in the wind. The banshee quickly followed.
Rafer bounded through the countryside, exhilarated with the possibility that he may be the only fae who ever made a banshee happy. He imagined a life with Deidre, a life of mischievousness, fun, and tricks on the foolish humans, who remain futilely in search of his kind despite their frequent appearances in public. A life forever with Deirdre…
He stopped suddenly at what appeared to be a hare’s burrow. Deirdre crashed into him from behind, sending him flying into the burrow, which was in reality his abode. “Watch it!” he laughed, and Deirdre let out a short giggle.
Encouraged by his successful attempts thus far, Rafer brought Deirdre to the side of the burrow, where an inconspicuous hollow was present.
“This is where I keep it,” he told her. “Opus Openus Aurum!” he invoked. The entrance to the hollow expanded, revealing the shiny, yellow coins held in a strong, brass pot.
“My pot of gold,” he declared proudly, and watched Deirdre’s face expectantly, hoping to see a joyful expression.
Deirdre’s face was indeed etched with a joyful expression as she gazed at the gold, but something was wrong. He stared at her face. Her grin was twisted, her eyes not filled with wonderment and awe, but with greed.
Before he could stop her, Deirdre touched the pot of gold, gave an evil wink to Rafer, and laughed, “I appreciate your kindness,” before disappearing into thin air as the leprechaun blinked.
Rafer stared at the empty hollow where his most precious possession once was, stared at the grey sky, and howled as raindrops pattered all around him.
All that was left was a leprechaun howling in the rain, a wisp of a high-pitched cackle that sounded like a banshee’s, and the clear absence of something bright and joyful.