Disclaimer: "ANGEL" is a trademark of Twentieth Television © 1999.

Pawn Spawn
by Christine Costello

Katherine Doyle was being smothered to death. Gasping for air, painfully aware that she wouldn't last much longer she struggled for the door, her only hope, and her one chance to escape. Choking, she pushed forward, inch by inch, all the while dozens of hands reached out, clawing at her, trying to pull her back but finally with one last desperate effort she managed to reach the portal. She was dizzy from lack of breath and it took all her strength to force the door open. She burst out of the Boar's Head in a swirl of cigarette smoke and blaring music, stumbling out on the path. Immediately the chill, damp air of Dublin in February restored her senses and she took a few deep breaths trying to clear her lungs of smoke. She hated smoking. That made her decidedly uncool in 1969 but try as she might, she just couldn't get the hang of it. Behind Katherine the door flew open again and her roommate Sharon called out to her over the din.

"Ah, Kitty! Don't go! The lads were just having a laugh with you. Don't mind them! Come back in. Its freezing out here," Sharon said and reached her hand to Katherine.

"I'm all right. You go on. I need a bit air, I can't breathe in there," answered Katherine.

"Suit yourself but don't you go off without telling me," Sharon warned, "The good Sisters will murder me if you wander off again."

Katherine agreed and Sharon disappeared into the noisy maw of the pub. It had rained all afternoon and the cobbles and asphalt glistened in the electric lights. From where she stood under the pub's awning she could see a swath of the River Liffey at the end of the narrow laneway. The river, spanned by several bridges of various eras, bisected the City Centre on its way to Dublin Bay and then the Irish Sea. She longed to follow it down the Quays; it seemed such an inviting night for a walk now that the rain had stopped. Sharon had been right to make Katherine promise to not to wander off. She had a bad habit of that and was lucky no real harm had ever come to her. Sometimes, she mused, it is just so nice to be…

"Alone?" asked a voice from behind her. Katherine jumped and a felt shiver run all over her body. Not only had she been startled but the voice had completed her thoughts for her; read her mind. She whirled around to face the shadows beyond the pool of light under the awning. Slowly, a shape detached itself from the darkness of the building and stepped into the light.

"What did you say?" she whispered.

"I asked if you were alone," he said calmly, either unaware of her shock or unperturbed by it.

Katherine's first thought was that he was handsome. Her second thought was that he hadn't a clue about fashion. His eyes were a haunting, piercing gray set in pale, smooth skin that seemed to shimmer blue and green in the neon glare of the entranceway. Thick, black hair framed his face, drawing her attention down to his lips. Sensual, thought Katherine and then gulped, I don't think I have ever even thought that word before, much less about a stranger's lips. She tore her eyes away from his mouth and focused, briefly, on his clothes, which were hopelessly provincial. He must be from the country, she concluded, with typical city girl snobbery.

"You gave me an awful fright, you know," she scolded and before he could defend himself she added hotly, "And no. To answer your question I am here with my friends. They're inside."

"That's good," he said. "Its good to have friends." Then he leaned nonchalantly against the awning pole opposite her and began to talk. At first Katherine though he might be drunk because he never seemed to stick with any one subject but soon she realized that he was building an elaborate story and she was transfixed. On and on he went, with or without her participation. He talked about travel, history, politics, music, America, Irish history and lore. Soon she couldn't help herself and leaped headlong into the conversation. As they chatted away, pub goers began to trickle out of the Boar's Head in various states of inebriation. Katherine never felt the time passing or noticed that there was now a steady stream of people leaving the bar; the young stranger mesmerized her.

Suddenly, Sharon appeared in front of her, hanging on the arm of her boyfriend, Michael.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Thank you!" she spluttered, obviously tipsy. "I thought we had lost you for sure that time, Kitty. Have you been here all along? Are you coming back to the school tonight?" Sharon asked and then winked and nodded in Michael's direction. She was hinting, albeit not very subtly, that she hoped to let Michael sleep over in the dorm room that she and Katherine shared at UCD.

"No. I promised my folks that I would spend the weekend with them," Katherine lied.

"You're a good girl, Katherine," said Michael while giving Sharon a firm squeeze.

Sharon leaned into him then swung around to face the stranger.

"Is this who you've been spending the evening with, Kitty? Can I trust you to look after her then?" she asked him.

"It would be a great honor," said the stranger, flashing his charming smile.

"What's your name?" demanded Sharon.


"Saint Francis," Sharon nodded approvingly. "Very well, Saint Francis. It is on your honor then." She gave Katherine a parting kiss on the cheek and started off towards Grafton Street where she and Michael could grab a coffee at Bewly's before attempting to sneak him into the dormitory.

"I will have to catch the late bus down at O'Connell bridge" Katherine sighed. "Hopefully, my folks will be happy I've come to visit and won't mind the hour."

As they walked along the river the stiff sea breeze finally managed to rip the clouds open and moonlight flooded down around them. The Liffey turned silver and as Katherine glanced sideways at Frank, admiring him on the sly, she noticed again that his skin seemed blue. A strange trick of the moon, she thought.

They waited at O'Connell Bridge for twenty minutes according to the Guinness Clock Tower. They did not talk so much now, they simply settled into each other's company, keeping themselves aloof from the noisy crowd of young people also waiting for the last ride home. When they finally stepped onto the bus Frank bought two tickets for Howth, the end of the line. She smiled to herself, warmed by his chivalry. It was only when they settled on a seat together that she felt the icy shiver crawl up and down her spine for the second time that night. She turned and stared at him, suspicious and a not a little afraid. He turned to meet her glare with eyebrows raised.

"What?" he asked.

"How did you know?"

"How did I know what?"

"How did you know where I lived? I never told you. I know I didn't," she insisted.

He was quiet for a moment, staring into her challenging eyes. Then he looked past her, out the window, sighed sadly, and said, "I have seen you there, many times, walking out on the cliffs. And I always thought you were so beautiful but so alone."

Katherine felt suddenly vulnerable, exposed. It was true. She often walked out to the high cliffs behind the family cottage. The thought that he had been there, watching her, when she believed she was alone terrified her. Her heart drummed in her ears. She was panicking.

"I'm sorry," he said gently, "I am not trying to scare you."

Katherine didn't answer him. In silence, she sat stiffly next to him on the narrow, cramped bus seat, extremely aware that she was pressed fully against his side. The route to Howth Village was a long one through the north side of Dublin; there were dozens of stops to make. Katherine's emotions were running riot. Why hadn't he told her straight away? Was he hiding something sinister or should she be flattered that he knew her, that he had noticed her and thought her beautiful when so many others had dismissed her as a bit of a loner, as odd. And there was something else, something new; she was beginning to want him. It was very new to her, this feeling of lust. She was a virgin and could only imagine but as their bodies moved in unison, rocking and swaying with the bus, she had the distinct impression that they were also breathing together, hearts beating together, sharing something intense. By the time they reached Sutton the bus was finally beginning to clear out and they had still not spoken a word. A seat became vacant and, like a gentleman, Frank rose to take it. Before Katherine gave any rational thought to the action she reached out and grabbed his hand. He paused and turned to look at her.

"Please," she said, "stay." He slid back down into the seat beside her. She didn't speak again but she didn't let go of his hand either. He leaned close to her and she felt his soft breath on her neck. Together they looked out the window as the bus lumbered towards the peninsula of Howth. On one side of them was the dense green jungle of Saint Anne's Park on the other was the glassy black expanse of Dublin Bay. She felt like she was drifting between two worlds, both of them primal, both of them seductive, wrapped up with Frank in their own private magic.

When they reached the second to last stop at the entrance to the Deer Park Frank stood suddenly.

"Come on," he said.

"Mine is the next stop, In the Village."

"Come with me to the cliffs tonight. Please, Katherine," he implored, still holding her hand.

She hesitated a moment longer then rose and followed him off the bus. They made their way by moonlight through the woods and up the steep hill behind Howth Castle. Howth was almost an island. It jutted out into Dublin Bay and rose like a rocky fortress in defiance of the sea. Connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of road and beach it was a perfect place to look at the lights of Dublin Port to the south and Malahide Port to the north. Lights from cargo ships anchored for the night dotted both bays. At the crest of the hill, they waves crashing beneath them they embraced and sank to the rough heather. Ignoring the wet from the rains they kissed and held each other, their passion rising.

Frank drew back from her and looked into her eyes. "This is fairy country, you know."

"I don't really believe in that sort of thing." She laughed. "It is 1969, not 1869."

"Do you believe in destiny?" he asked in all seriousness.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that there are Powers bigger than us. Fates that we can't escape. We are only small parts of a much larger game, an eternal game of balance between good and evil. You and I, here tonight, together, are meant to be. We have no choice."

"You mean we are pawns? I didn't choose to be here with you tonight? No, I don't believe that at all. I'm certain sure I want to be here," she answered firmly and kissed him to prove it.

Frank sat up, his black hair tousled in the strong wind. "I want you to see something. Then you can choose if you want to be here tonight." As she watched, an appalling change came over his face. It sprouted quills, great heavy brow ridges bulged from his forehead, his eyes glowed crimson and his skin color deepened to sea green.

Katherine screamed. The creature turned his baleful red glare away from her.

"It is still me," said the thing, "I won't hurt you."

"What are you?" she asked in horror. "Are you some kind of devil?"

"Not in the fire and brimstones sense of the word, no. I am a Brachen demon. We are a natural people, an ancient race of mystic seers. These lands are our ancestral home but my people are scattered across the earth as serving as messengers to the Powers That Be." Frank transformed back into his human-like self. "Come on. I'll take you to the village."

Katherine realized guiltily that her reaction to him had hurt him deeply. Suddenly, she wasn't afraid anymore. Am I just curious, she wondered, or am I enchanted?

"Wait," she said, "tell me more about the destiny."

Frank reached out and touched her face and when she didn't pull back from him he leaned forward and kissed her. "There will come a great messenger. A messenger who will lead my people to safety and will set forth an angel on the path of redemption and mercy; an angel to restore harmony between all the peoples of the earth. Half human, half demon, the messenger's fate is sealed even before he is born. When he is sacrificed great events will be set in motion."

"Sacrificed? That doesn't sound fair," Katherine said softly, pulling closer to Frank.

"There is a legend about these cliffs," he said as they cuddled together once more. "The ancients would consummate their love here under the full moon to guarantee that they would conceive a child blessed by the Fates. A child born with a noble destiny.

"I told you, I don't believe in that sort of thing," she whispered as they began to lovingly remove each other's jackets and scarves.

* * *

Nine months later, in her parent's tiny cottage, Katherine Doyle gave birth to an illegitimate son. Although her parents kept it quiet, they loved their only daughter more than they cared what anyone else thought and wouldn't have dreamed of turning her out. Besides, they told her, this certainly wasn't the first enchanted birth in Eire. But they were wrong. This baby was the first such birth. The only of the ancient and magical Brachen race to ever mingle with human blood by the light of the full moon on the sacred cliffs of Howth. Katherine kissed her son, Alan Francis Doyle, on his healthy but bluish cheek.

"That color won't last," assured the midwife. "He will be pink and rosy by the end of the day."

Katherine thought back to that night on the cliffs. After they had made love, Frank told her he had a destiny of his own to fulfill and could never see her again. She had only just met him but she had cried nonetheless. She cried again now. What would she tell the child? How could she explain? Should she tell him that he had been marked by destiny? That his life was not his own? Her tears fell down on the infant's face and Katherine decided she wouldn't tell him anything. If the Fates want my baby, she thought fiercely, then they will have to come and get him themselves.