Keira grew rapidly as babies tend to do. She was a happy infant with dark, twinkling eyes and an irresistible giggle. At seven months old Keira was plump and curious. She sat in the grass taking everything in as her mother, Kate, tended their garden. Her father, Eamon, worked in the barn nearby. Kate hummed to herself as she weeded around the carrots and kept a careful eye on Keira. So far the one with the red eyes hadn’t returned in any form although Kate knew he would eventually. Kate heard Keira giggle and looked over to see Thora, her German Shepherd, and her recent litter of pups surrounding the baby. There were 6 pups, all fat and healthy. Four favored their mother, a classic black and tan while the other two had gotten their black fur from their father, the German Shepherd at the neighboring farm. Keira was as delighted with the pups as they were with her. Thora kept close watch over all seven babies as always. Kate never had to worry when Thora was near.
Eamon smiled at his daughter as he emerged from the barn and strode towards the garden. The strength of the love he felt for Keira still amazed him. Reaching the garden he knelt to help Kate with the weeding. The minutes passed happily as they chatted and Keira and the puppies played. Suddenly the silence was shattered by Thora’s thundering bark and the yip of a pup. Kate and Eamon whipped their heads up to see Keira grinning widely and a furry black pup suspended in mid air in front of her.
“Uh oh,” Kate said softly as she and Eamon looked at each other and chuckled. “We’re in for it now.” They rose and walked hand in hand to where their daughter sat. Eamon gently grasped Keira’s hand and helped her lower the pup safely back to the ground. Kate expected the pup to scamper away. Instead, he leaned against Keira and gazed at her adoringly as he licked her nose. Keira patted at his head and babbled as her parents exchanged knowing smiles.
“So this is him then?” Eamon asked. “You’ve found your companion already. Now what should we call him?”
“Hmm. How about Stark? For his solid black coat,” Kate suggested, ruffling the pups soft fur.
“Tark!” Keira replied surprising both of her parents. The newly named Stark just yipped in approval.
As evening fell, Kate peered up at the sky. There was going to be a storm, a fierce one, and they needed to prepare. Eamon tended to the animals in the barn while Kate, with Keira strapped to her chest and Thora and Stark at her heels, did what she could to protect the freshly weeded garden. Keira was quiet, sensing the coming storm and her mother’s urgency. The sky was growing dark quickly and the trees began to sway and bend with the strengthening wind. The fur on the backs of the dogs stood up, though neither could quite place the cause of their apprehension.
Finished with her own tasks, Kate hurried to the barn to help her husband. Thora and Stark guarded the door, their eyes peering into the growing gloom, ears pricked for the slightest sound. Lightening suddenly struck, quickly followed by the rumble of thunder. A sense of dread plucked at Kate and she urged Eamon to hurry even as she quickened her own pace. Finally done, they sprinted towards the house as the first fat raindrops began to fall. As Eamon turned to close the door behind them, lightening flashed again illuminating the land. In that split second Eamon spotted a black figure moving through the field behind the garden. He shut the door quickly, but Kate and Thora had already seen. Thora growled low in her throat and began to pace from window to door to window. Stark and the other pups sat quietly.
Without saying a word Kate and Eamon quickly gathered candles and formed their circle. The storm outside grew until it raged. The wind shrieked, the thunder boomed and the rain beat so hard at the windows Kate wondered if they would hold. Keira, still on her mother’s chest trembled and began to fuss. Kate adjusted her wrap and dress until Keira could reach her breast. Instantly calm, Keira snuggled into her mother. Stark padded to Kate’s side and stood guard. Eamon was chanting, his voice low and firm.
Something crashed into the front window. The lightening flashed again allowing Kate to see the black bird with red eyes on the window ledge. She didn’t know if the clap of thunder shook the house or if she trembled. Eamon glanced at the bird but didn’t pause in his chanting. His voice grew louder as the bird began to peck at the glass. Kate lowered her head and whispered softly, weaving her own spell of protection around her babe as her husband did for their home. Their house began to glow softly, then brighter. The bird screeched but refused to leave. Kate reached for her husband’s hand and began to chant with him. The glow brightened and began to spread outward. The bird cracked the glass with it’s frantic pecking and Kate’s heart lurched. Thora threw herself at the window snarling but still the bird pecked on.
Kate and Eamon whipped around to see another bird, identical to the first, pecking at the side window. Another cracking sound at a third window had Kate going pale. Still, she gripped her husband’s hand harder and their voices grew louder. Keira, still nestled against her mother, reached out with one small hand. Eamon glanced at Kate who nodded quickly. Eamon reached for his daughter’s hand. The moment he grasped it a blinding light exploded from the house. The birds were flung far away as if hurled by an unseen giant. The light kept going, through the garden and into the field it spread. In it’s glow, Kate and Eamon saw the black figure turn and begin to run. Keira gently pulled her hand away from her father and the glow began to fade. The night again grew dark, the spark of lightening and boom of thunder faded into the distance, the wind calmed and a gentle summer rain fell.