Counter Charm

Peter Phillips

Shavallan adjusted the burden on his old, bony shoulders and toiled on. Loose shale slid from under his plodding feet. The journey to the Silent Lands had been weary, but his goal was nearly in sight. Cloud mist wreathed the upper slopes of Slieve-na-mona; but the summit of the mountain was clear, and as he emerged from the mist, Shavallan saw the throne of the King of the Shee.

The court was in full session, awaiting his return; and a burden heavier even than that which weighted his shoulders lifted from his heart as he saw his own folk, and their many cousins and relatives gathered here from distant lands.

Two northern trolls hurried foreward to help him, but Shavallan waved them away and came to the foot of the throne before he put down his offering with a sigh of relief. The package was almost as big as himself.

Three pixies started plucking at the paper and string with quick mischievous fingers. "Whatisit, whatisit, whatisit?" Shavallan shooed them away and bowed to the King of the Shee.

"Sit down," said the King. "And let's be having some silence from the rest of ye. Give the feller time to find his breath."

"All the time in the world," muttered a kobold. "All the time in the great wide world."
Shavallan sat down thankfully and leaned against his package.

"How was it?" asked the King.

Shavallan took a pinch of snuff, sneezed once, and shivered. "Great magic," he said. "Greater magic than even you can make, Sire, with all respect to ye. There is silence everywhere: not even the song of birds of the squeaking of rats."

"And Those-Who-See-Us-Not?"

"The fields are yellow," said Shavallan, pretending not to hear. "Even the weeds barely grow. The trees are without leaf. The rivers are sullen and there are no fish."

"But Those-Who-See-Us-Not?"

"See-Us-Never," said Shavallan simply. He knelt and began to untie the string round his package. The King leaned foreward and the others clustered round excitedly.

"This," said Shavallan with a trace of pride, "is a grat charm, a Counter-Magic. With it, we may go freely and unharmed into their houses and palaces, wear their clothes and dance in their streets."

He took his time in revealing his gift to the Little Folk.

"All the time in the world," grumbled the kobold again. "All the tiem in the great wide world."

"Well what is it?" asked the King impatiently.

"It is," said Shavallan, turning back the wrapings, "a Geiger counter for the detection of residual radioactivity."

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