This is the story of two Irish sisters, twin sisters though you couldn’t tell by looking at them. Though the babies shared the same womb, when they were born one was the epitome of beauty. The other was so ugly that their father, having stumbled in from celebrating at the pub exclaimed “Faith and Begorrah!” before releasing a loud belch and dropping dead on the floor. Faith grew to be a lovely creature with hair like copper, eyes like the hills on summer day and skin pale as moonlight. Her voice was rich as honey when she sang and she never had a harsh word to say to or of anyone. It was lucky that Faith was so lovely and fair for she was also dumb as a stump.
Begorrah, on the other hand, lived in her sister’s shadow. Dark and plain was she with hair dark and wild as a midnight gale and eyes deep as mud. Having spent most of her days frolicking in the sun, her skin was ruddy and dark and she barely spoke at all. Where her sister was loved and adored, Begorrah was met with uneasiness and disquiet. It was often whispered that the girl was a changeling brought in the moment of the father’s death. Still, Begorrah was shrewd and while she kept her mouth shut, her eyes were always open. She knew who in the village could be trusted and used her shrewd mind and intimidating manner to love and protect her little family.
One night as the household slept, Faith was gazing from her window up at the bright full moon and the star-filled sky above. The most beautiful of stars seemed to dance and float down to her from the heavens. Never had she seen anything so enchanting.
“Dance with us!” They seemed to say and so she did.
Out the door and down the path Faith danced with the stars. So happy was she that she sang out which woke her sister from her slumber. Begorrah gasped and called out, “Faith no! Tis the Teine Sidhe, the Fairie Fire, ye be dancing with!”
But her call went unheeded and the beautiful maiden disappeared into the woods. Begorrah swore, threw her shawl about her shoulders, and raced into the woods after her sister. Though she couldn’t see them, she was able to follow her sister’s song as it floated through the trees. Finally, she saw a brightness up ahead and stopped at the edge of the clearing. The girl frowned and ducked down, peering through the brush at the sight before her. It was a marketplace where no marketplace should ever be. Makeshift stalls lined the brightly lit clearing, showing their weird and exotic wares to the various creatures, beautiful and hideous alike, that strolled before them. Begorrah scanned the scene but could find no sign of her sister. Oh where could she be?
Suddenly, a great commotion drew the crowd’s attention to the opposite side of the clearing where a large and gaudy patchwork tent had been raised. Begorrah gasped and shook her head violently. Stalking out of the tent was a little man dressed in a bright green suit. A large green top hat sat jauntily upon his fiery brow and a crooked smile formed a chasm within his thick red beard. The jingle of the chains he held behind him echoed as the din of the crowd died down and on the other side of those chains was wrapped firmly around the dim and beautiful Faith.
“I must do something!” Begorrah thought. But what?
The crowd began to murmur and somewhere somebody shrieked.
“A human! He’s brought a human!”
“Pipe down all o’ ye!” The leprechaun spat. “This human is my prize. I won her fair and square!”
“Aye, and just this morning I suckled the Morrigan’s tits until screamed my name with pleasure!” Someone called followed by raucous laughter.
“Twas my uncle disguised as a Buar Sidhe amongst the old farmer’s cows you suckled again!” Came another voice followed by more laughter.
“Shut up all of ye!” The leprechaun shouted again. “We have ourselves a visitor.”
All eyes followed as the little man pointed to where Begorrah had been hiding. Pulling on her most intimidating manner, she stood bringing gasps and more screaming from the crowd, and stepped into the clearing.
“Welcome to the Bodacha market, lass. I believe this is what ye have come for?” He yanked the chain and Faith stumbled forward with a jingle.
Begorrah stepped forward, causing those Fae closest to her to stumble back, and glared at the leprechaun.
“Ye will hand my sister over to me now!” She snarled even as her heart pounded with fear in her breast.
The leprechaun smiled. “Hand over me prize? Me prize which I’ve won fair and square? I think not!”
Begorrah smiled. “Fair and square? Pull the other one, even ye friends don’t believe that!”
A few of the Fae tittered in spite of themselves.
“Believe it or not it happens to be true.” He laughed with a glint in his eye that heightened Begorrah’s suspicions. “But if ye be wanting your sister back I’ll strike a bargain with ye.”
Begorrah folded her arms over her breast. “Only a fool would bargain with a leprechaun!”
“Suit ye self.” He shrugged and turned.
Faith’s wide eyes pleaded to her sister as tears streamed down her face. Begorrah gritted her teeth and she cursed her sister’s foolishness.
“Wait!” she called. “What is the bargain?”
The leprechaun turned back, grinning ear to ear. He violently yanked the chain, pulling Faith to her knees, and dragged a stubby finger down her tightly drawn trembling face.
“Your sister is quite lovely, even for a human. She will make a perfect teind for the demon Scathach, don’t you think? Now if ye can find an even better tribute by the next full moon your sister is free.”
Begorrah shook her head. “No, I will not leave her with ye for so long!”
“Then ye best be moving.” He smiled again. She was beginning to hate that smile.
“Be well, Faith, I will return.”
To her credit, the beautiful girl sobbed but threw back her tiny shoulders and nodded silently. Begorrah hated to leave her behind but what other choice did she have?