Brigid Kildare added a tiny glass pane to the lamp she was working on. When finished, it would be a two-level glass lantern shaped roughly like a flat-sided hour glass, but less than an inch in length. Her larger one, almost a foot high, sat on the bench. The design was one of her best sellers, but this one was special with tiny panes of crackled glass surrounded by a silver cage attached to a silver chain. Her blowtorch flared as she touched the flame to the solder, and she backed off to check the setting. It was the same as always, but the flame flared again.
She pursed her lips and glanced out the floor-to-ceiling windows of her studio to the back yard. Sure enough, her next door neighbor, Cassie, was pushing through the bare hedge. Though the temperature was mild for the first day of February, it was still barely above freezing and Cassie was wearing little more than a light jacket. Knowing she’d get no more work done with the child here, Brigid turned off the torch and made sure it was out of reach of the six-year-old. Most days, she didn’t mind having the little girl visit her, but she was under a deadline. Still, Cassie was so sweet and so lovable – and very much in need of her protection.
“Hi, Miss Brigid!” Cassie’s lilting voice tinkled through the room.
“Hello, Cassie. You’re home from school early today. And where’s your coat? It’s cold outside.”
“We only had a half-day today. What’cha workin’ on?” Cassie climbed up on the high stool next to Brigid’s workbench. Though Brigid loved the little girl, she also knew the curiosity of children could often get them into trouble so she had rules Cassie had to follow and sitting on the stool without touching anything was one of them.
“I’m working on a very special project. Does your mom know you’re here?”
“She’s on the phone.” Which Brigid took to mean no, Em didn’t know, but she’d figure it out soon enough. Cassie’s legs swung back and forth on the stool.
“Would you like to work on your project for your mom?”
Cassie’s pixie-face lit up. “Yes!” She jumped down from the stool and went to the child-size workbench Brigid had set in one corner. Cassie pulled out the pieces of silverwork Brigid had fashioned just for her. There were two sets, each was a kind of puzzle for Cassie to piece together. When done, Brigid hoped one would look something like a small church with open sides and a place in the center for a candle and the other a shepherd’s crook. She gave Cassie the church one first.
“Now, remember what I said: It’s just like a puzzle. The pieces fit together, but only in one way. If it doesn’t fit right, you can’t push at it to make it fit. Got it?”
“Okay. I’m going to work on my special project while you work on yours.”
“Can we have music?”
Brigid laughed. “Yes, we can have music. What kind would you like?”
“I like the drum one.”
“I do, too.” Brigid pulled up the Native American drum music on her player and the sound filled the space. Before she could fire up her torch, she saw Em crossing the backyard. Brigid flipped the switch on her hotpot and set out a second mug for tea. “Cassie, here comes your mom. You keep working, and I’ll take her into the kitchen for a cup of tea, okay?”
Em pushed through the glass door. Her eyes went immediately to Cassie. “Cassie!”
Cassie lay over her bench. “Mommy! You can’t look. It’s a secret.”
Brigid stepped between them. “Cassie, it’s all right. Your mommy didn’t see anything. Mommy and I are going to go have some tea.”
“Can I have some too?”
“No, but you can have a glass of milk and a lemon cookie.”
Brigid nodded her head toward the doorway that led into her kitchen. Em followed her in. Brigid poured the milk and put two cookies on a plate and took them out to Cassie while Em got out the tea.
“Bridge, I am so sorry. I’ve talked to her about just coming over here,” Em said when Brigid returned.
“It’s not a problem. You know that. Especially now. Has Lamia done anything else?”
“No. Just that one time of following her, and even then, we can’t be sure it was Cassie she was following. The school is being careful and the police have been keeping an eye out, but until Lamia actually does something, they can’t do anything. I don’t understand why she seems to be focusing on Cassie.”
“For the same reason the monster under her bed did. Cassie is a very special girl. She is light and love and all things good. Lamia and her kind can’t stand all that happiness and seek to destroy it.” Brigid noted how Em clutched her mug. Her friend was close to breaking. She had to get the necklace done and the sooner the better. “Hey, are you and Cassie still coming tomorrow night?”
“We wouldn’t miss it. But I wish you’d let me do something. It’s your birthday. You shouldn’t be doing all the work.”
Brigid glanced down at her mug as she took another sip. “I enjoy it.”
“Fine. We’ll see you after lunch. We’ll sweep out your place first, then mine.”
Cassie came bouncing into the room. “Brigid! I’m done! Can I show Mommy now?”
“Sure.” Cassie ran out and a minute later dashed back in holding the two pieces of sculpture puzzles. “Mommy! Look what I made! They’re for you.”
Em took the church and shepherd’s crook from Cassie. “They’re beautiful. Thank you!”
“Look at the church one, Mommy. You can put one of your candles in it.”
“I see that. Tell you what, why don’t we go home right now and find a candle to put in it?”
Brigid reached out to touch Em’s arm. “Em? Make it a white candle and put it in the front hallway by the staircase.”
Em eyed her narrowly, then nodded. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”
As soon as they left, Brigid got back to work. It took her until late into the night to finish the piece, but she finally did. It was deceptively delicate, just right for a boisterous six-year-old, and identical to her own lantern. She filled the base of the tiny lantern with special oil she kept and added a thread of wicking. She nodded in satisfaction and headed off to bed for a couple of hours of sleep.
The sun had barely risen but Brigid was already up and in the sunroom attached to her workshop. Her silver and white lantern sat on a small table in the center of the room, the necklace draped over the top of it. As the first rays of sun touched the room, Brigid knelt in front of the table, her white gown spreading out around her. She spoke the words of blessing over the necklace, infusing it with the power of protection, finishing as the sunbeam reached the lantern’s wick, which flared to life.
As the sun moved away from the lantern, Brigid blew out the flame and rose. She checked the wick and oil but both looked like they hadn’t been touched.
“You really think that will keep me away? That silly little thing? Seriously, Brigid, you’re losing your touch.”
Brigid turned, looking at the figure standing in the shadows of the doorway. “I think you’ll try anyway, but you’ll fail this time. I will not let you have this one.”
“What makes this one so different? She is bothersome and noisy and intrusive.”
“She is, but she is also love and light and laughter.”
Lamia hobbled into the room. “Just because it’s your birthday doesn’t mean I’ll let you have your way. She is mine.”
“You can try.”
“You can’t stop me, Brigid. I’ve grown stronger than you can even fathom.”
As Lamia hobbled away, Brigid touched the miniscule lamp and it flared to life once more. “You might be strong, Lamia, but I’ve depths you’ve yet to test.”
Later that night, after a long day of cleaning, sweeping and blessing farm animals, Brigid joined Em and several other women from Gloaming Gap around a bonfire in her backyard. The women sang and chanted until well into the night, adding more wood to the fire as needed. Cassie had long since been sent to bed, her new pendant twinkling around her neck. As the festivities ended and the fire burned down, Brigid spied a brilliant white light flaring from Cassie’s window and heard a scream of anger and frustration. It was not a child’s voice and nobody else seemed to notice, but Brigid and Em did.
“She’s safe, Em. And will be from now on. She is a child of the light now.”
Em hugged her, then hurried off to her house.
Brigid smiled, then swept the coals from the fire into a smooth circle, then looked up into the clear sky. She waved one hand as though wiping the sky. Moments later, clouds covered the bright moon and the first flakes of snow drifted down. By morning, the ground would be covered. Though she preferred sunlight, on this one occasion, clouds would obscure the sun. After all, it was time for spring to come. Six more weeks of winter just wasn’t what the town needed.
“You may have won this night, but you can’t save them all.”
Brigid didn’t even bother to turn at the gravelly voice. “I don’t have to. Just the ones you want.” She tapped her shepherds crook on the ground and light burst from her house, chasing away all the shadows but one. “Go back to your burrow, Lamia. The children here are under my protection.”
“Only for now. My day is coming. And there is nothing you can do about it.” The shadow disappeared.
Brigid returned to her house and her studio. Dozens of bracelets, necklaces and small lanterns lined her shelves. “Maybe not, but I can try.”