Children of the Night
It was a fine December morning and the shone sun bright overhead, while the air was crisp and cold. Al followed his sister Sophie who he was racing up the hill. Sophie was far ahead and her bare feet left perfect footprints in the white mantle of the snow.
Sophie turned around and smiled at him, crinkling her shiny green nose. She had a face that was very like their mother's – bright green with a sharp chin that came down to a point. Her hair was brown though, and she wore it in a ponytail. Al thought his own complexion was Chartreux, rather than Sophie's shade of green.
"Beat you!" said Sophie laughing.
"Not fair. You have such long legs."
She patted his arm. "You did well though." She looked down the hill. "Come on, Oskar." Her penetrating voice cut through the chill air. She bounded down the hill to where one of their little brothers was scampering up after them, tightly wrapped in furs and boots – he did not like the feel of snow on his bare feet the way Sophie did. "Come on, I'll give you a horsey ride."
Sophie leapt back up the hair in great strides, like a huge green frog girl, Oskar clinging to her back.
At the top of the hill was a copse. Sophie led the way. "Right. Now Mum said I'm to take you herb gathering." She opened her bag and took out a silver sickle. "Who can see mistletoe?"
Al wasn't really interested in herbs. He took a paper butterfly from his pocket. Mum had given it to him that morning. As soon as he let it go, it fluttered around his head.
Oskar started to complain. "I wanna bird too. Big sis, why's Al got a bird?"
"It's a butterfly," Al corrected him.
"It's OK, Oskar. Here. Have a toffee apple." Sophie reached up and plucked a toffee apple from a low hanging branch and handed it to Oskar. The toffee apples were a fruit of Mum's invention. She used her magic to make an apple tree grow all year round and have apples that tasted like toffee. She said she was sad she couldn't taste them. Mum said her taste-buds were 'unrefined.'
"Don't wanna toffee- apple," whined Oskar, but he took it anyway.
"This is some mistletoe," said Sophie, pointing at a sprig of the soft plant.
Al was getting bored with mistletoe, so he shinnied up one of the other trees. Dad always said he was nimbler than a monkey and that he wished he could climb like that. Sophie knew perfectly well he could climb – he had hag blood just like her – but she started getting agitated anyway and began wringing her hands. "Hey! Come down. You'll fall!" Her bright green face was easily visible in the gloom as she peered anxiously up.
He stuck his tongue out at her. "No, I won't." Did she suppose he was clumsy and stupid? Al dropped out of the tree, landing on all fours, but then rolled over, keeping his eyes closed. His sister gave a cry.
"Al! Al!" Sophie leaned over him, her warm breath tickling his face.
He opened his eyes. "Gotcha!"
Oskar giggled. "Did ya think he could be hurt?"
Sophie turned away, folding her arms. "Not funny."
Al nudged her. "Do you forget I can climb cos you think you're so special cos you can fly?"
"Not speaking to you," said Sophie sullenly.
At that moment a strange silence fell over the woods. The birds had stopped chirping.
"Is something wrong?" Oskar sounded uncertain.
Then the shadows around them deepened. A terrible shape loomed out of the blackness. A towering shadow that seemed to distort the air around it so that its outline writhed like a multitude of snakes.
"Get behind me!" Sophie's voice rose shrilly. Al and Oskar scrambled behind her.
There was a flash of something bone-white through the trees.
Oskar pointed. "Look. Skeleton."
"It must be evil spirits. Mum has told us about them. The scary spooks!" Sophie's piercing voice was trembling now. She turned her head this way and that to stare around, her ponytail jiggling.
A hissing sound arose in the woods to their right. Sophie whipped round, and the shadows appeared to deepen forming the outline of a humanoid figure, that started forward and then leapt back. "Argh! Horrible hag-spawn!"
Then the shadows dissolved and were gone, like a nightmare goes at sunrise.
"Rude!" said Sophie frowning.
Al felt a dizzy, unreal feeling. What did this mean?
Oskar whooped and punched the air. "You scared it Sophie."
Sophie pouted. "I'm not scary. I'm not."
"Mum! Mum!" Sophie, Al and Oskar burst into the playroom where their mother was playing with their three younger brothers. She was now crawling around the room with Blaise and Gabby riding on her back. Blaise had his hands in her long, red hair. "Faster, horsey!" A colourful bird made entirely of felt flapped around their heads. Mum was good at making toys that moved by themselves.
She turned her bright green face to them, her eyes big and anxious. "My dears, what's wrong?"
"Don' stop!" ordered Blaise.
"That's enough horsey rides, dear," Mum replied. When she got to her feet, she pulled her older three kids into her embrace. Her weird smell filled their nostrils. Mum smelled very strong, but Dad didn't. "There now. Tell me all about it."
They sat around the little table. Mum had an extra large armchair and held Blaise and Gerry on her knee, while she rocked the cradle of their baby brother Marcus with her huge green foot.
"There's something really bad in the woods, Mum," said Sophie. "Something dangerous. We were gathering mistletoe and then Al was mucking about, winding me up."
"Wasn't that bad," said Al, sticking out his tongue at her.
Sophie pouted and folded her arms. "It was! You pretended to fall off the tree and get hurt."
Mum leaned forwards and planted a kiss on the top of Sophie's head before turning to Al. "Al. You mustn't tease your sister," she admonished. She touched his cheek. "Think how you'd feel if someone teased you. It's not nice, hey?"
Al guessed Mum wanted them to make up. Oh well. He gave his sister a peck on the cheek. She sniffed and unfolded her arms.
Oskar banged the table with his small, green fist. "We saw a shadow! It hissed and said Sophie was hagspawn. Then it vanished."
Mum's eyes widened. Had something startled her? "My precious darlings…"
Sophie touched Mum's long green hand. "What's the matter, Mum?"
Mum took her hand in hers. "You saw a spook – an evil spirit, my love."
"Why'd it come?" said Oskar, gazing at her with big, round eyes.
Mum gazed at him steadily. "The evil dead can only manifest in times of great upheaval. Don't worry, my little loves. Times are better. The spooks may appear, but they can't solidify. Not yet."
Elsie always looked forward to helping her mistress, Leevana the night-hag, with her bathing each day. It was one of the few quiet times they had together. Having six kids meant that most of Lee's day was booked solid – a lot of her night, too.
The tub was extra-large to accommodate the hag's huge frame. Lee laid back her head and closed her eyes. Elsie lathered her mistresses' long hair, enjoying her closeness. It was probably from having six children, but the green woman's boobs had got bigger. Out of water, they sagged a little, but in the tub they sort of floated. The dark grey nipples started leaking a glutinous milk that left a misty trail in the water. Elsie poured a bucket of water over Lee's head so that her fiery red hair was plastered to her head and hung limp over her broad shoulders. The hag opened her eyes and noticed the milk seeping from her nipples.
"My leaky boobs spoil more dresses than anything else, hey?" she said with a sigh. Her breast milk tended to stain fabric and smell strongly.
"It's wonderful how much life your body gives out," said Elsie tenderly. "Remember you used to think you couldn't become pregnant. Hey?"
In their time together, Elsie had somewhat adopted Lee's ways of expressing herself. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Elsie thought that if you loved someone enough, you should give that serious thought.
"Aw." Her greyish lips formed a smile and her eyes crinkled. "I still can't believe it sometimes. I've never known another night-hag who could have babies. It's cos the ichor in my veins warmed up. And my heart started beating faster."
"Yes. No other night-hag is so warm, or has such a big heart" said Elsie happily. She rubbed Lee's green neck and her broad green back. "How's that feel?"
"Mm. Great." Murmured Lee, closing her eyes again. After scrubbing, Lee's skin was still warm, but for the moment, it was no longer sticky.
When Lee had finished bathing, as always, she emerged from the tub with a great splash and got to her feet with uncanny speed, barely taking an instant to get to her feet. Elsie never got tired of seeing her in all her naked green glory. She really was magnificent. The sight of her still brought a warm glow to Elsie's heart. No other lady, and no man, would ever seem strong or beautiful to her now that she had seen Leevana in all her glory.
Back in the bedroom, Lee sat down on her bed which creaked under her weight. A towel was now wrapped around her torso and her leaky boobs were already staining it. Another towel was wrapped around her head, mostly concealing her red hair. The hag picked up Marcus, her baby son, and cooed to him as she cradled him in her arms. Marcus gurgled, and his little green face smiled up at her.
"Isn't he handsome?" Said Elsie, sitting herself on the bed. "Here, let me sing to him."
Elsie cradled Marcus in her arms and sang "Lamb of the World."
"You sing so sweetly," said Lee grinning. "My singing voice sounds like a banshee, hey?"
"Even so, any child is truly blessed to have a mother like you," said Elsie. "I ought to know. I didn't have a great relationship with my mother."
She had told Leevana about that before. She felt like there was nothing she couldn't confide in the night-hag. Or rather, almost nothing. She could not tell her exactly how she loved her. That would make things too weird and Elsie liked things as they were. Lee laid a long green hand on her shoulder in sympathy. "You always have me to take care of you. For the rest of your life."
"A wonderful life," murmured Elsie. Of course, Lee's attention was divided between her husband and kids. Elsie would never be the most important person in her life, even though Lee was the most important to Elsie.
Lee took Marcus in her arms and the green baby suckled at one of her breasts while her other nipple continued to leak a pungent smelling milk. The bedroom was a comforting place for Elsie to be in. The strong smell of the night-hag – a cloying, musty odour - made the room very much Leevana's. She only wished Lee was taking her in her strong arms now and cuddling her instead of Marcus. In their first months here in Noonvale, the green woman always had time to pick up her servant and hug her. That way, their cheeks touched and Elsie could really feel Lee's warmth and strength…
"I have to worry, Elsie," said Leevana with a sigh. "My kids have seen a spook. Too weak to manifest, but it's a warning of things to come. We're all gonna have to stay indoors until I figure this out."
At that moment, there was a clamouring of voices outside the door and then Sophie and Al, Lee's eldest kids, burst in.
"Mummm! Al's saying I scared the spook. I'm not scary." Sophie pouted, sticking out her greyish lips.
Al was a handsome boy, with a vivid greenish-yellow complexion and round, shiny cheeks. He stuck out his grey tongue. "It was a compliment. I wanna be tough and scary like you, Mum. Didn't ya fight Isaac the Dreadful? And Captain Bloodaxe? That must've been awesome."
Lee beckoned for them to sit down beside her while she suckled Marcus. "Spooks are bad news, my loves. We must be here for each other and support each other, hey? Al, your sister loves and wants to protect you. Sophie, Al admires and looks up to you as his big sister. Even if he sometimes has trouble showing it. Please remember that. Now until I've done a sweep of the area, you've all gotta stay indoors."
"Aww," Al protested. "But I wanna go out anyway."
"No buts," said Lee, stroking his hair with her free hand.
Jason had married Leevana the night-hag nearly thirteen years ago. At that time it had seemed like a wonderful dream come true. Something beyond all his expectations to have a wife who was so strong, beautiful and caring. Now married wife was his day to day reality. When still quite a young man, he had become joint head of a household with loads of kids.
At this moment, he was entertaining Blaise, Gabby and Oskar with magical toys his wife had created with her clever green hands. She had made an intricately carved wooden carriage filled with a multitude of tiny marionettes, each as small as his pinkie finger, that moved and danced all of their own volition. Something like clockwork, but they were made of tiny strings and joints. Only Lee could make toys like that. Jason was full of admiration. The boys were bored with the carriage however. Now they were interested in the plush krell toy that the hag had enchanted somehow to move at the will of whoever held it. Krells were a type of six limbed monkey with blue fur from the distant jungles. Jason made it grab and chuck away a plush elephant toy, much to the amusement of his green-skinned sons.
"Does he want to grab the crocodile?" asked Blaise, picking up a plush toy crocodile.
"I don't know, Blaise… I think he's looking at you rather hungrily," said Jason, and made the krell grab hold of Blaise with its four arms so that his sons gigled.
At that moment, Lee came in through the door, snowflakes in her long red hair. She was holding Twiggy, her hideous carved broom, under one arm. Lee didn't feel the cold, but even so, her green cheeks were glowing. "Heyy darlings. I've done three whole sweeps of the entire grounds. I've found absolutely nothing."
"Grab Mum, grab Mum," clamoured Oskar and Gabby pointing at her.
The hag grinned and plumped down. Gabby and Blaise clambered onto her lap, while Oskar made the krell try and grab her hefty arm. She chuckled and allowed them to wrestle her to the ground.
"Yeah, we outnumber you."
Lee lay still. "No… I've got you!" She sat up suddenly, grabbing the three of them and kissing them madly as they screamed in laughter.
"No spooks, then?" Jason asked her, when the four of them had calmed down. They all turned smiling green faces to him.
Lee pushed her long red hair out of her face. "I'm gonna have to do a psychic sweep tonight after I go to sleep. I can leave my body then."
That night, Jason lay in bed as Leevana took off her man-sized bathrobe, revealing her broad green back, and then lay down beside him. Marcus was asleep in his cradle behind a folding screen and Jason was hoping the baby would just stay asleep tonight. He wanted to have some private time with Lee.
He felt the familiar prickle of excitement as his wife lay down. He gazed at her face, the mounds of her green breasts… He leaned over her and she smiled and reached up to touch his cheek.
"Are you worried about the spooks, Lee?"
Lee gazed up at him with her intense blue eyes. "I hope that vision the kids saw was just a one-off thing. But I'm gonna do my sweep while I dream tonight."
"I wish I could help. Not being a night-hag, I can't do what you do."
She smiled. "A night-hag couldn't give me the life you have. All your love… all my kids… each time I've held my own baby for the first time…" She wrapped her arms round him and pulled him close to her huge, sweaty body. She was breathing more heavily, her breasts rising and falling. "You're a wonderful guy. A constant reminder of why I love humanity. Such noble and graceful beings."
"There are definitely bad humans. The spooks were human once."
"Yeah, yeah, but the spooks in the Netherworld are the most evil people in history. Not representative, hey? No good mortal goes there. And there are definitely bad night-hags."
Malevolent night-hags were an uncomfortable subject for Lee, but she had told him of their existence. Apparently, they would break in and do things like 'steal energy' from sleeping people and even rape human men. Weird. Lee had insisted that her two sisters, Ulva and Aila, swear never to use their powers against a living human as one of the terms of their pact of sisterhood.
They kissed heavily with tongues.
"Lee… your breath is foul with vomit," said Jason.
"Ohh, I'm sorry my love. Hard for me to tell that, cos I can't taste anything. But I think I know what it means and I hope it means what I think." She grinned. "That was a mouthful, hey?"
"Oh! Another baby? That's why you've been throwing up?"
She chuckled, her blue eyes sparkling. "I'm soo excited already."
They already had a large family. Now they were going to have a seventh child? And a lot more sleepless nights? But if another baby made Lee happy, Jason approved. He loved to see her smiling and excited. What would the kids think? Anyway, the answer could wait until morning. Jason and the witch needed time to connect.
"C'mere, eye candy." They wrapped themselves together in a delicious tangle of limbs. Lee's muscles always felt strong and her skin was very smooth and slick. Her touch fired up Jason's passion. They were about to get busy, but then something happened to really kill the mood. The lamps flickered and went out and the room was plunged in blackness. Lee could of course see in the dark, so it didn't affect her. She sat bolt upright.
"A spook is coming!"
The slurping noise again, coming from deeper shadows gathering on the ceiling. Then Jason could see two clusters of glittering red eyes and then he heard a spidery voice: "Greetings, unholy abomination. From one monster to another, let me introduce myself. I am a night terror to a night terror and my appetite will be sated tonight."