Cassidy Keep on Ireland’s west coast. It’s a dark and stormy night but darker still is the mood of the keep’s steward, Eamon O’ Donnell, as he walks through the halls. Seeing a light shining from the library, he wonders if old Finnan is still up. He enters the room to find the old Leprechaun lying dead at his desk, a note under his hand.
The next morning, Sean Cassidy aka Banshee has arrived along with fellow X-Men Colossus, Nightcrawler and Wolverine. Nightcrawler feels Cassidy Keep has suffered enough. He’d hoped after they defeated Black Tom and the Juggernaut, its trials would be over. Ain’t how it works, Wolverine remarks. Peace is just the time between wars.
At the keep, Eamon greets Sean with an apology. Sean asks if he’s left the library undisturbed. As he instructed, Eamon assures him. Standing in the library, seeing the dead body at the desk, Sean explains that Finnan O’Bradaigh spent most of his life in this room but he never thought he’d end it here. He was the keep’s librarian and Sean’s teacher. He was an ornery old cuss, but he cared.
Colossus asks why he did not wish the body moved. Sean reminds him he is an ex-cop and he isn’t convinced this is what it looks like. He guesses Leprechauns don’t make a habit of suicide, Wolverine remarks. Sean agrees as he examines the body.
Young Sean defending his reading of choice with Finnan telling him in this class they read James Joyce, nit James Bond! Life is a gift. He won’t see Sean wasting his with nonsense!
He picks up a paperknife which he’d given Finnan on his 250th birthday. Eamon hands him the suicide note.
My Lord Cassidy,
Darkness has devoured my soul. Eternal evil stalks these halls thanks to my foolishness. Can you forgive me? Let this letter be both a farewell and a declaration of my sorrow. And may you find the courage that deserted me. Never forget that I was your teacher and your friend.
Kurt, in the meantime, browses a book about the Sidhe, causing Peter to asks what a “sid-he” is. It’s pronounced “Shee”, Kurt explains. His foster mother spoke of them. A type of faerie said to be very dangerous.
“Lord Cassidy!” a newcomer calls. A pretty red-haired Leprechaun girl enters crying. Sean greets him as Molly. It’s the first she has heard of the death. Sean hugs her as Molly explains that her grandfather had been feeling low after grandmother Roisin’s death but to take his own life… to leave her all alone… Sean promises her they’ll find the truth.
Wolverine sniffs at the cup next to the corpse. The scent is mostly apricot, but there’s a hint of something underneath like that tea Charles is always drinking. Chamomile, Sean reminds him. Fine for a man, but fatal for a Leprechaun. Where would Finnan have found it? Eamon wonders.
Another old Leprechaun, dressed in something akin to a monk’s robe, enters and addresses Sean who calls him Conall. He informs Sean that the museum was breached last night. Liam Cassidy’s chieftain ring was taken. It’s probably just the youngsters having a laugh, Sean ventures but Conall insists this is a serious matter. He felt it in his bones. Sean asks Wolverine and Colossus to take a look, despite Conall’s protest this is no task for outsiders. Deal with it, Wolverine tells him, cause they are all he’s getting.
Noticing Conall’s bandaged hand, Wolverine asks how he got it (addressing him as “bub”). His name is Conall O’Reilly, the Leprechaun stresses. They need to learn some manners. He cut his hand when he found the damage.
He leads them to a dark chamber with a broken glass case. He’s tended this museum for nigh on a century and he knows when evil passes between its walls, he announces. This chamber honors Lord Cassidy’s clan and that was where the ring of his ancestor Liam Cassidy lay. Piotr recalls Sean using the name. He was a hero of the people… That he was, Conall agrees. A mighty warrior.
Liam Cassidy protected these shores, but not alone. His staunchest ally and greatest friend was one of Conall’s kind – Malachy Quinn. They battled Norse raiders and rival chieftains and threats from the faerie world as well and the worst of them all was Craeliach, a sorceror of the Sidhe. It’s said his magiks could make the mountains scream and the oceans boil. Their battle was recorded in song and sonnets. It lasted thirteen days and thirteen nights but in the end Craeliach was slain and Cassidy and Quinn stood triumphant. They built Cassidy Keep a thousand years ago as a symbol of friendship between man and Leprechaun and as a bastion against the vile Sidhe’s treachery.
Checking out a tapestry above a window, Wolverine remarks someone ain’t as big a fan of them as Conall is (bub). He points at the tapestry where the faces of Liam and Quinn have been slashed.
There is darkness growing here, a shocked Conall announces. It must be destroyed. Cassidy Keep will be protected. Wolverine wonders which Leprechaun could reach that high.
Sean and Nightcrawler, in the meantime, are visiting a happy looking elderly Leprechaun, Owen McGuiness, the Keep’s apothecary. Owen happily greets Sean, though he acknowledges the tragedy, adding if he had been a better friend to Finnan perhaps he wouldn’t have lost hope. Sean points out he was under the impression Owen and Finnan weren’t friends at all. Owen courted Roisin McCormack in his youth but Finnan stole her heart and she married him instead. Owen never forgave him, isn’t that so?
Water under the bridge, Owens assures him. He only wanted Roisin to lead a happy life. He sees, Sean replies. Does he have any chamomile in stock? Owen’s look turns cold.
In the meantime, Owen’s apprentice, a young darkhaired boy, asks Kurt if he is a goblin. He’s been called that many times, comes the reply, but he is a mutant. The boy introduces himself as Declan McGuiness. He helps his grandfather here. Did he know Finnan well? Kurt asks. He taught him to read and write, and treated him fair. They are saying he took his own life. Does Mr. Wagner think that’s true? Lord Cassidy doesn’t think so, comes the reply. Neither does he, Declan agrees. He was saddened, but Finnan once told Declan he’d only read half the books in the world and he planned to finish them all.
Owen turns to Declan, asking if they have any chamomile in the store room. Declan replies that they keep some for treating old Mother Mulvane’s bunion. Impatiently, Owen orders him to get it.
Sean walks along. The storeroom is dark. Declan remarks he thought he’d mended the lights in here. Sean remarks electricity has never been a welcome visitor at Cassidy Keep. He thinks he sees a lantern on the shelf. He reaches for it but cuts his hand on a broken lantern. Declan gets matches and looks at the shelf where the chamomile bottle should be. It’s gone!
Sean recalls Owen doesn’t bother locking up the storeroom. Anyone could have sneaked in. Including Finnan himself, Kurt reminds him. Time they paid a visit to the kitchen, Sean decides where one human, Mrs. Malone, and lots of Leprechauns are working.
Mrs. Malone states she delivered the nectar to Mister Finnan but she swears on her great-grandfather’s grave it wasn’t poisoned when she gave it to him. Can she be sure? Sean asks. Who’d have access to the nectar that night? Anyone here, she supposes. She’s not one to gossip, but something odd happened a week ago…
Mrs. Malone’s story:
She was delivering Master Finnan’s supper to the library when she heard the voice of Owen McGuiness shouting that Finnan may think he’s clever but the truth has been under his nose for years! Finnan darkly promised he’d never speak of it. Owen has his word. And what good is that? Owen replied. The word of the cur who stabbed him in the back! Does he think he will let Finnan ruin his life again?
Owen stormed out without noticing Mrs. Malone, and then last night there was something else.
Mrs. Malone’s story:
She brought Finnan his nectar when he asked her if she had ever been hated. She doesn’t suppose so, she replied. That’s good, he told her. It’s a burden that can crush the strongest of souls. As she left she though she heard something echoing in the hallway. A kind of gigging. But when she looked around she was alone…
She supposes it was just the wind…
Molly comes into the kitchen, apologizing for being late. Mrs. Malone tells her she didn’t except her to work today but Molly explains she needs to keep busy. If she stays in her room any longer, she will go mad. She asks Sean if they have found the truth. He thinks he just got a lot closer, he tells her.
Later, he tells his fellow X-Men he has had Finnan’s body moved. He’ll be placed in the family crypt for now. Kurt muses that the business at the museum sounds important but he doesn’t see how it is connected to Finnan’s death. Piotr adds that Conall O’Reilly believes Cassidy Keep is under threat. If Finnan felt he was responsible it would explain the suicide note. Handwriting can be faked, Wolverine points out. Yes it can, Sean agrees, but he doesn’t think it was… Because they sound like Finnan’s words? Kurt asks. Because they don’t Sean replies cryptically. He’s going to call everyone here tonight. Everyone who’s been a part of this sorry affair. And they’d better all suit up, there’s going to be trouble. Why does he say that? Kurt asks. Because he knows who killed Finnan O’Bradaigh, Sean replies darkly.
Later in the library (there’s a storm outside): The X-Men have gathered as well as Eamon, Mrs. Malone, Molly, Conall, Owen and Declan. Sean has his back turned to all of them as he summarizes that Finnan’s death has dug up the past with all its regrets and wounds and that’s always a painful thing to beat. He’d spoken of the burden of being hated and that set him wondering. Had Finnan meant himself or someone else? Whoever struck last night seemed to have been nursing a hatred for both man and Leprechaun. People are saying that Craeliach himself has returned.
Yes, Conall calls agitated and jumps up. He asks Sean not to ignore the signs. He isn’t, Sean replies. There are those who would do anything in defense of their duty to Cassidy Keep. To protect it, they would lie or steal or even kill.
Or maybe – he turns to Owen – this was an act of vengeance – one delayed for years until the death of Roisin O’Bradiagh meant that she would never have to suffer the pain of bereavement…
But he thinks Finnan died for a different reason. He was murdered for a cold calculated purpose: to hide a secret… wouldn’t Declan agree?
The boy begins to smile darkly as the others turn to him in disbelief. Please tell me it ain’t so, Owen beseeches him. Calling him an old fool, Declan announces of course it is true. Now hush. He can’t wait to hear how lord Cassidy worked it all out.
Sean explains that storeroom was dark and none of those bottles had labels. The dust on the shelves hadn’t been disturbed. Someone had just walked right in and picked it up. That narrowed it down to Owen or Declan. And then he looked at the suicide note again. He was a tough teacher, was Finnan, a stickler for grammar. So why had he begun a sentence with an “and?” Because he’d needed to make the first letter of each sentence spell out a name… D-E-C-L-A-N.
Declan laughs. Finnan was a clever old codger. Should have seen that one. Has Sean guessed the rest of it? Yes, Sean tells him, he’d better reveal himself.
He was hoping he’d say that. He’s been a mangy little caterpillar for too long. Time to rise and shine. Large butterfly wings break through his shirt and are unveiled as Declan flies up.
He’s a filthy Sidhe! Conall cries. Not quite, Sean corrects. Declan’s father must have been a Sidhe and he inherited his wings. This is how he reached the tapestry and why Mrs. Malone didn’t see him hiding up in the hall’s rafters. So he is half Leprechaun, half Sidhe, Kurt wonders. Declan agrees. Isn’t Kurt going to give him a brotherly hug? He’s just like them – a mutant!
His silly cow of a mother tied his wings to his back when they began to sprout. She was so scared they’d be cast out if her dirty little secret was exposed. Even after she died, grandfather made him keep the lie going. He’d trudge down the halls, his spine aching, listening to sordid little jokes about half-breeds. The fools would curse the Sidhe every day, never suspecting that one was among them. They hated him and never even knew it. He started searching for a way to power. He spent long hours in the library. Finnan discovered his secret and promised to keep quiet. But then Declan stumbled across an old prophecy concerning Craeliach. He decided to test it. He forced Finnan to write the final note. He threatened to kill Molly if he refused. Then he shoved the poison down his old throat.
But Sean was wrong when he said he’d killed Finnan to protect his secret. He needed Sean back here and he knew that an old friend’s death and a mystery to solve would do it. He needed something from him to fulfill the prophecy. A drop of his blood taken from the broken lantern he’d placed in the storeroom. It’s written that when the blood of Liam Cassidy’s descendant touches his ring, the power trapped inside it will live again, the power of Craeliach!
He begins to chant strange words. Bespelled, the other Leprechauns repeat his words. And they begin to attack the others. Whoopee, Wolverine remarks unimpressed. He has a magic ring that zaps Leprechauns. Is he gonna order them to bite their kneecaps? For a start, comes the reply, then they’ll work their way up.
The other possessed Leprechauns of the castle, a whole army, come storming in with knives and whatever weapons they could find. How many of them live in Cassidy Keep? Colossus asks. 357 he is told while Kurt shouts at Wolverine not to use his claws. Sean orders the others to keep them away from Eamon and Mrs. Malone. Just blast them, Wolverine suggests. Sean explains he can’t, their ears are too sensitive. He could deafen them.
Almost buried under Leprechauns, Wolverine announces this is the dumbest fight he’s ever been in. Then he’ll d his best to liven it up! Declan promises. And Sidhe and other faerie creatures come breaking through the window, also possessed.
What are these creatures? Colosssus asks. Every dream or nightmare this land has ever had, Sean replies. That’s right, Declan grins. Wood nymphs and pixies and goblins. Water sprites and dryads and ogres. Any hobbits show up, they are his, Wolverine announces.
Declan shots he controls every single spirit from the faerie world. Not for long, Sean promises. Challenging the new lord of Otherworld, is he? Declan asks. His Sidhe brothers are taking offense at that. Giant trolls join the party, trying to take out Colossus.
All of the X-Men as well as the human staff try to fight. He’s a goblin? Nightcrawler asks an ugly creature. Now he just feels insulted.
Sean realizes that the X-Men are pulling their punches and will be overwhelmed soon. Declan already announces that as king he will drive mankind from Ireland forever. Not if this stunt works, Sean figures. Using a sonic tunnel to guide it, he throws Finnan’s paperknife at the ring and destroys it. With that the spell is over and all the possessed come to their senses.
Furious, Declan attacks Sean Cassidy who knocks him out. What a waste, he announces as he lands. He tells all of them that he has been called a freak, a pig, a mutie and a dumb Irishman. It is that kind of stupid hatred that twisted this boy into a killer. The next time anyone in this room feels like insulting someone just for being born, remember this day!
Later, Finnan’s funeral is held and afterwards Sean wonders how much time the X-Men will have. No way to tell, Kurt replies, but he suspects they have years and years ahead of them…