Welcome, folks! Seems I had a lapse of memory today and more or less forgot about the challenge… um, until almost midnight. *facepalm* So as a result, you’re getting a snippet with today’s post! Shall we hop to it?
The pooka gets its name from the Irish púca, meaning a goblin. Like the kelpie, the pooka is a shapeshifter, and variations of it are found in several Celtic myths.
In the Irish take on the myth, it’s known for certain forms: a goblin, a goat, a dog, and a horse. No matter the animal, it is usually black. Unlike the kelpie, the pooka has human speech, and it doesn’t kill its riders: more often than not, it takes them for a wild ride and leaves them stranded and confused, but virtually unharmed. Whether it is benevolent or malevolent towards people depends on who you ask, though. Some believe if offerings are left for it, it’s helpful, particularly to farmers; others believe it wilfully blights crops and terrifies livestock.
As for what my characters think of the pooka? Read on and find out!
It was late at night when it came. Ryan woke to the sound of chanting, soft and teasing, his own name repeated in an eerie singsong as wind whispered around the house. He followed it downstairs and stood at the window in the kitchen—the same they’d stood at when they’d watched Aisling die—and though he could hear the others joining him, he didn’t turn from the window.
The pooka had taken its usual form. The sleek, glistening black horse stood just outside the boundaries created by the house’s wards, its glowing golden eyes shining in the darkness. Its tail switching back and forth, it spoke, in a high, sweet voice.
“Won’t you share your rider? Share her with me?”
His hands tightened on the window sill. He was aware of Emily standing just to his side; he moved one hand ever so slightly and felt Gideon nudge her to stand behind him. “No.”
“No?” The horse’s ears went back. It stamped one foot. “That’s not very kind. Share your pretty rider with me, kelpie. She may like it.”
“No.” It seemed to be the only word he could find. He only knew the idea of Emily on the pooka’s back made his heart feel uncomfortably tight.
“It’s you who harms your riders. I give them only pleasure,” the pooka taunted. “Share, share, share your rider,” it sang, the horse’s head swinging up and down as it spoke.
“No.” This time it was Emily who said it, and she lifted her chin as she stepped out from behind Ryan. Even in her simple nightgown, her hair braided down her back, she managed to look utterly stubborn. “I don’t want what you have to offer.”
“I’ll show you pleasure so great it hurts, while he’ll show you pain that never was pleasure. And you want him?”
“I do.” Her hand reached out and closed over his. He turned his hand over and held on, refusing to let himself wonder about the words she spoke.
“He saw his friend die.” The pooka hissed the words, and now the glow of its golden eyes was not only unearthly but also unsettling. “And he yet carries the scars, while I am whole. And you want him?”
“I do.” Emily’s voice had grown stronger this time.
The pooka’s tail flicked impatiently. “Prove it,” it taunted.
“We’ve nothing to prove to you,” Emily retorted, and Ryan could have swept her off her feet then and there. “I do this because I want to.” She turned to him, rose onto her toes, and in the next moment her mouth was on his and she was kissing him for all their group and a damned pooka to see. And still he found himself powerless to do anything but respond.
An angry whistling noise made them break apart. “There!” Emily shouted, and if there was a slight tremor in her voice, Ryan truly couldn’t blame her. “Are you pleased now?”
The pooka stamped one foot into the ground and began to paw at it. “You’ve brought hell down on yourself,” it warned in a shrill, unpleasant voice. Then it turned and raced away, leaving only the echo of its piercing cry behind.