Another work by the inestimable MJ Barros, this picture captures the characters from my short story Changeling in a tender moment.
On the left, you have Bridget Flanagan, an Irish peasant woman, no longer young. She’s seen her husband into his grave…and only recently figured out why she never got as “silly” over him as other girls got over the lads when they were young.
On the right is a banshee, one of the Good Folk, a spirit of death. A creature of terrible power compared to the mortal before her, she’s finding it very strange that she’s the one who feels shy and vulnerable right now:
“What do you think I am?” [The banshee] demanded. “A nymph? A dryad? Some elf-lady who sits on a cushion all day listening to her charmed mortal poets making verses for her? I’m a death-spirit!” Then her voice lost its strength, and the next words came out sounding suspiciously like sobs. “I’m hideous! No mortal can bear the sight of me, let alone actually want to stay with me! Oh, you’d put on a brave face for a time, but all the while you’d be looking for some way to get yourself free!”
Was that all? Oh, it’d be one thing if she’d be struck blind or dead to look at her new bride, but the silly creature was just talking about ugly, and what was a bit of ugly? Did the poor thing think Jimmy had been some golden-haired angel?
“Well now…” Bridget said as she climbed to her feet (saints have mercy on her knees!). “Why don’t you let me be the judge of what I can bear?”
She reached for the banshee’s hood, and the spirit actually flinched away from her.
“Easy now,” Bridget soothed. “This won’t hurt.”
With a sigh, the banshee closed its eerie blue eyes, and let Bridget take hold of the hood. She drew it back slowly, just in case blind or dead were still options, but then she saw her sweetheart’s face and she smiled.
Like her hands, the banshee’s face was nothing but a normal woman’s. A rather handsome one, actually, with a strong jaw and gray hair cropped mannishly short.
“Oh, aye, hideous you are…” Bridget grinned.
The banshee flinched again, and Bridget hurried to reach her point.
“…when you stand next to Queen Mab all day, as I’m sure you must. Here among us mortals, you just look like your younger days are behind you, and sure, isn’t that what being mortal is? You’re a handsome woman.”
Then, before the banshee could open her eyes, Bridget Flanagan leaned in and kissed her.