Part I: Lhiannon—Sídhe
Teagan Wylltson blinked and tried to focus on her five-year-old brother, Aiden. His best friend, Lennie—a pudgy, pimpled eighteen-year-old—was holding him up so that he could see Teagan’s perch on the roof of the porch. Lucy, the sprite who had taken up residence in her brother’s hair, was zipping excitedly around his head.
“Come quick! Thomas is growing feathers!” Aiden yelled again.
“The man’s shape-shifting,” Finn said. He had taken her hand to pull her to her feet, and he hadn’t let go. Every molecule in her was suddenly vibrating at a higher rate, and webs of electricity spread over her entire body. It felt good. Really good. But it did make it hard to focus.
“Where’s Mamieo, then?” Finn asked.
“She was sitting beside him when I went through the living room,” Teagan said, dropping his hand and stepping away.
Focusing would be a good thing right now. Finn’s grandmother hadn’t been happy when they’d dragged a wounded shape shifter out of Mag Mell, but she’d promised not to harm the creature—so long as he didn’t do anything unnatural.
“Do you think she’ll consider this—”
“Unnatural? I’m sure of it.”
“Do away with the creature?” Finn rubbed his chin with the two good fingers of his wounded hand. “I doubt it. But I’d best go check on them just the same. Thomas might be needing some help.”
“Finn,” Teagan said, as he turned away. She glanced over to make sure Lennie had put Aiden down. He had. “I do love you.”
Finn turned back, grinning. “I know it.”
“But I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it, either. I meant it when I said that I’m still headed for Cornell. I’m not giving that up.”
“You didn’t think I’d go along with you? That’s why you were crying?”
Teagan shook her head. “I didn’t believe you could love me. I was going to get over it, and get on with my plans.”
“That’s just like you. Sticking to the plan.”
“Not this time. You turned my world upside down, Finn Mac Cumhaill. If Cindy hadn’t fallen for Oscar at first sight, I wouldn’t have been thinking about—”
“Why are you guys still talking?” Aiden yelled.
“Just one more minute, boyo,” Finn called over the edge, then turned back to Teagan.
“Cindy and Oscar? Your monkeys?”
“Chimpanzees are apes,” Teagan said automatically. “And they don’t belong to me—I just work with them. They shouldn’t belong to the zoo, either. They should belong to themselves. That’s what I’m working for. That’s why it’s important that I go to Cornell. So maybe you and I should wait until things settle down a bit—”
“Tea.” Finn looked grim. “Things are not going to settle. Your relations have come calling.”
“You mean the goblins.”
“And the Travelers. There’s never going to be peace between them. And your family’s in the middle of it.”
“Are you guys kissing? ” Aiden shouted.
“Not yet.” Finn cocked an eyebrow and lowered his voice so only Teagan could hear. “But I can’t wait to get to it.”
“’Cause Mamieo said to hurry!”
Finn touched Teagan’s face, then turned and jumped, catching the lamppost next to the house with his good hand. She stepped to the roof’s edge to watch him swing around it as he dropped. She’d been coming out onto the porch roof since she was little, but her stomach still felt tight if she stood too close to the edge. She would never just throw herself off it like that. Finn landed lightly in the patch of frost-yellowed grass between the sidewalk and the street, then grinned up at her.
Kissing. Teagan pressed her hands into her stomach to stop the trembling, which was threatening to spread to her knees.
“Come on, girl.” Finn lifted his arms. “Jump down. You’re just the right size for catching.”
“Uh-uh.” Teagan took a step back. “Not while you have a hurt hand.”
“Well, then, could you bring my duct tape down with you?”
Aiden started for the door.
“Finn—” Teagan began, but he had already caught her brother by the collar.
“Not so fast, there,” Finn said as Aiden tried to wiggle away.
“I want to know what’s happening,” Aiden said.
“Thomas is growing feathers.” Lennie sounded worried. “Like a bird. That’s what.”
Lennie couldn’t see Lucy and the other the creatures of Mag Mell who were only half present in this creation. But there were some unearthly creatures that were fully present in any of the worlds of the multiverse—angels, Highborn, and Fir Bolg—that even people without second sight could see. And watching a shape shifter transform would give Lennie nightmares.
“I’ll take care of it,” Finn assured him. “But I’ll be needing two brave men to stand guard out here. Do you know where I might find them?”
“We’re brave.” Aiden stopped wiggling, and tipped his head as if he were listening. “Yep,” he said. “There are bad guys coming. We’ll fight them!”
Finn glanced up at Teagan, and she shrugged. Aiden had been saving the world from imaginary bad guys daily since they escaped from Mag Mell, sometimes by singing them away, and sometimes defeating them with stick swords and rocks.
“We will?” Lennie looked worried.
“I fought bad guys before,” Aiden assured him. “I’ll show you how.” Lucy had decided the show was over and had settled into his hair again. She always played along with Aiden’s imaginary battles.
“All right,” Lennie agreed.
Finn looked at Teagan again, and she nodded.
“You two stay right here, then,” he said, “until Teagan can walk you across the street to Lennie’s house. Got it?”
Finn disappeared onto the porch beneath her, leaving both Aiden and Lennie looking up at her expectantly.
“Jump, Tea-gan,” Lennie said. “I can catch you. I don’t have a hurt hand.”
“Thank you, Lennie,” Teagan said. “But I’m going back in through the window. You wait there like Finn said.” She wiped her tears on the back of her sleeve. Her eyes were swollen, and her nose felt like a blob. She picked up the roll of tape.
“Aiden. Come to us.”
Teagan froze. She knew that voice, and it made her hair stand on end. She stepped as close to the edge of the roof as she dared.
“Lennie!” Aiden said. “The cat-sídhe are here!”
“What’s a cat-sídhe?” Lennie looked around. “Are they the bad guys?”
“Yep,” Aiden said. “They’re the kind you can’t see.”
“I hate that kind.” Lennie picked up a stick and swung at the air.
Teagan was glad Lennie couldn’t see the creatures on the far side of the street. He would have had nightmares for months. At first glance, they looked like large housecats. Dirty, diseased housecats that stood upright. But if you looked closer, you’d notice that their mouths and hands were almost human. Bare skin showed in mangy patches through their filthy fur. The bigger one’s ears hung in tatters. Maggot Cat. The last time she’d seen him he’d flicked maggots picked from his rotting flesh at her. The wound on his stomach didn’t seem to be open, but even from this distance his bare abdomen still looked swollen. The cat-sídhe beside him was younger, and Teagan had seen it before, too. It looked like it had been sleeping in an oil pan. Both of them had hunted Teagan, Aiden, and Finn through the streets of Chicago. The cat goblins were always causing the Irish Travelers trouble and grief.
“Aiden, is Finn already inside?” Teagan asked.
“Ah, ah!” The smaller cat-sídhe pointed up at her. “Teagan!”
“Teagan!” Maggot Cat commanded. “Step down.”
Her left foot moved a half an inch closer to the roof’s edge.
“No!” Teagan said, as much to her own leg as to the goblin.
“Yessssss!” Maggot Cat said.
They can do that, Finn had told her, the first time the goblin creatures had tried to control her body. The cat-sídhe could move some people’s muscles just for a second—long enough for a car to swerve into a pedestrian if you were driving, or for you to step in front of a train. Long enough to ruin your life. But you could learn to resist them, if you focused.
“Bones,” the smaller cat-sídhe yowled. “Marr-ow! Marr-ow!”
“I heard something scary,” Lennie said. “Like a whisper in my head.”
“That’s their voices,” Aiden explained. “Don’t listen.” Cat-sídhe voices had never had any effect at all on Aiden, but Lennie was a different matter.
“Lennie.” Maggot Cat tipped his head, looking at Lennie. “We know your name.”
“Shut up!” Aiden said.
Teagan flinched. Sídhe creatures had m...