The Cloak of Mist

Chapter Two

I fell in with Ealish as I travelled home, and walked with her, glad of the company. She and I had played together as children, and her young man, Markys, was sailing to war with Fynlo. We talked of our men, of course, and our hopes that they would return safe. “You are a lucky girl, Bahey, for your Fynlo is tall and handsome,” she said. “Also, he is fair and you are dark; and so if you tire of him and take a lover the colour of his hair matters not, for Fynlo would always believe any child to be his.”

I was shocked. “How can you say such things? You are not even wed and already you talk about taking a lover!”

She laughed. “I jest, Bahey. I do not love Markys, but he is a good enough man and he will do well enough for me, especially if he returns from Ireland with plunder enough to buy a tholtan as a home for us. Yet if he is slain I will not grieve over much.” She must have seen the pain on my face, for her smile went away. “I fear you are not in the same case as I, and if Fynlo falls your heart will be broken. I am sorry; I should not talk of such things. Come, tell me how it is that you are to be the servant of a holy man? He is wise, it is said, and newly come from Ireland. Has he explained to you how this war has come about? Markys has tried to explain it to me, but I did not understand, and I am not sure he understands it himself. Queen Gormlaith seems to have been promised in marriage to almost every king in Ireland and the Isles, and surely she can not marry them all.”

“She has already married two, or is it three?” I laughed, although in truth her words about Fynlo falling in battle had caused me pain, and I set aside my fears and talked with her about the plots of King Sygtrigg, in so far as I understood them myself.


Brother Finán had been staying with the monks of St Leoc since he arrived on the island, but now he had found a place of his own, an abandoned keeil, and I helped him to carry his belongings from the monastery and then to clean the keeil and make it a fit place for him to live. It was a small hut that had served as home and church for a Culdee, a solitary priest, who had died some years before. It was a little too far from the village, and cruelly exposed to the north wind, and so the next Culdee had built a new keeil closer to the village and this one had lain unused. We mended the thatch, and I swept the floor, and prepared a fire.

“You need not do this, Bahey, for you are not my servant,” Brother Finán said.

“Change of work is rest,” I quoted a Manx proverb. “I am not the girl to be sitting on my hands when there is work to be done.”

“Well, grateful I am that you are such a jewel among women,” he smiled. “Enough of work for now. It is time for you to move on to the next part of your training, the use of the weapons of war.” He went to one of his bundles of possessions and began to unwrap it. It was long and I knew it to be heavy, for I had carried it from the monastery, although the weight had been of little consequence to me. The source of the weight soon became apparent, for from out of the bundle he took two long swords in leather sheaths. He drew one from its sheath and passed it to me.

I looked at it in awe. I had seen few swords close at hand but I still recognised this as a weapon of quality. The blade was bright and sharp, with a pattern within the metal like unto two serpents fighting. “This must have come from the smithy of Culain himself,” I breathed. I held it out at arm’s length and swung it gently, feeling its weight and its balance.

“You handle it as if it were made for you,” Finán said approvingly. “I see that the lore of Slayers that I have been taught is indeed the truth. No, it is not from the smithy of Culain, nor any of the Gaels. It was brought to Ireland by the Lochlannach, but I think it is the work of a Rhenish smith, for their swords are highly prized. It can cut through a sword of bog-iron as if through a wooden bough.” He drew the other sword and held it out himself. “This shall I use. It is a serviceable enough weapon, but not of the same quality.”

“Would that you had given this to me before Fynlo set sail,” I said regretfully, “for although he has a fine axe, his sword is bog-iron like those of which you spoke. Had I given him this sword it could have served him well in the battle.”

“That is why I did not mention it to you before now,” he said coolly, and I glared at him with anger. “It is for none but the Slayer,” he went on. “Yet do not condemn me, for were he to bear this sword the eyes of the Irish champions would be on him, such men as Murchad, or Wolf the Quarrelsome, and he would be slain for sure. Better that he be among the common run of warriors.”

I drew a long breath. “Perhaps you are right,” I agreed reluctantly. “What else do you have hidden within that bundle? A coat of mail?”

“A bow,” he announced, and set down his sword. He completed the unwrapping of the bundle and revealed a bow-stave and a quiver of arrows. “It is cunningly fashioned by the men of Gwynned, and requires great strength to draw, but as a Slayer you have strength enough and to spare. With this you can slay the dearg-dul at a distance, for a shaft of wood through the heart brings certain destruction upon them.”

“So you have told me.” I was eager to learn to use the weapons, and my anger at his hiding the sword from me was beginning to fade. “You have talked much of such creatures, but I have seen none. Neither have I heard of any upon this island. Are they truly more than just a tale to frighten children?”

“Oh, they are real, make no mistake, but do not be eager to make their acquaintance. I greatly fear that you will face them all too soon; or, if not them, some other of the devil’s creatures.” He laid down the bow and picked up his sword once more. “Now, Bahey, are you ready to learn the use of your sword?”


“Mark my words, it can only be a Buggane,” Grandmother declared.

“The Buggane is but a story for children,” my father said, shaking his head. “It must be a dog gone wild.”

“And how could a dog be killing a cow?” Grandmother scoffed. “No, it is the Buggane.” She folded her arms and looked smug.

I hung up my cloak and came to join the gathering, taking up my place beside my brother and sister. “Have I missed news?” I asked.

“A cow has been killed by a wild beast near Keeill St Connaghyn, and your grandmother thinks that it was slain by the Buggane,” Father sniffed.

“Mayhap she is right, for we have no wolves or bears on Mann,” I pointed out. Father scowled, but Grandmother beamed. My heart leaped, although I tried not to show it, for here indeed might be the chance that I hoped for to put my sword to use. It was said that the Buggane was a hairy giant, fierce and with great claws and tusks, that hid in the wild places and came out to steal the stock and, for some reason unknown, to frighten widows.

“It is a dog’s work, I tell you,” Father repeated, and Grandmother spoke again to refute his argument. I did not speak again, only listening to what they said, resolved to repeat it all to Brother Finán the next day.


It would be a fair walk to Keeill St Connaghyn, and we guessed that the Buggane would not stir before dusk, and so I could not depend upon returning home by night. I made up a tale for my family that I was accompanying Brother Finán upon a visit to the priest, and that I would stay the night with the holy men, and they were satisfied. We made our way to the hamlets of that parish, asked directions from those who lived there, and found the field where the cow had been slain. It was near the wetlands of Kiondroghad, a good place for the peat, and my mentor bade me search for prints in the muddy ground.

“I think my grandmother had the right of it, for that is the print of no dog that I have ever seen,” I said, looking at the marks in the soil. My excitement cooled and I felt nervous, for the print was twice the size of that of a man, and the marks of great claws were clear.

“An ogre or troll,” Brother Finán agreed, “and a mighty one at that, to judge by the prints.”

“Or a Phynnodderee with enormous feet for his size,” I jested, although my heart was not in the jest.

“I know not the term,” my Watcher replied, his brows creasing in a frown. “What might that be?”

I told him of the Phynnodderee, the hairy one of the Fairy Folk, who aided lost travellers and watched over the sheep, asking nothing in return but for perhaps a dish of milk.

“Ah, a leprechaun, as we would say in Ireland,” Brother Finán smiled, “although it is not said that our leprechauns are especially hairy. I have never heard of a leprechaun tearing the throat from a cow, nor does this look like the print of one of the little folk, and I think your grandmother was correct. It is the monster that your people call the Buggane, and if it has taken to killing cattle it must be found and stopped. Your first task as the Slayer, Bahey.”

I swallowed to clear my throat and hefted the bundle in which was hidden my sword. “I am ready, Brother Finán,” I said with as much boldness as I could muster.

“Good girl. Now, it went that way, and we shall follow. Lead on.”


The sun had long set when we came upon the Buggane at last. The moon was not far from being full; and I could see as clearly as if it were day, for since I had become the Slayer my eyes were as sharp in the darkness as those of a cat. I saw the Buggane at a distance, lurking in a copse, spying upon a farm. A dead sheep lay at its feet and it was gnawing upon a leg.

Half again the height of a man it was, and broad, and mighty tusks stuck out from its jaws. It saw us and growled. “Woman!” it grunted, raising high the sheep’s leg, and it came out of the copse and advanced towards us.

I say ‘it’, but rather should I say ‘he’, for the Buggane’s maleness was obvious, and became more obvious as he drew nearer. “Careful, Bahey, for it would go ill for you if you should fall alive into its clutches,” Brother Finán cautioned me.

I stared at the creature as I pulled free my sword. “It would indeed. I see now why the tales say he molests mostly widows,” I said, with a little laugh, and then I blushed as I remembered that I was speaking to a man of the cloth. There was no time to say more, for the Buggane was charging forward, and in seconds he was upon me.

I met his charge and swung with my sword, striking at his head, but he parried my blow with the leg of the sheep and took no harm. The blade stuck within the meat for a moment, and I had no chance to pull it free, for he grabbed my left arm with his other hand. His claws dug into me, piercing my flesh, and I cried out in pain. In front of me I saw his member rearing erect, huge as that of a bull, and below it swung testicles as large as goose eggs. It was too good a target to pass up and I brought up my foot in a mighty kick.

His roar was so loud I thought my ears would burst. He bent double, let go of my arm, released the sheep bone, and clutched his hands to the affected part. I drew back my sword, whirled it and sent the bone flying across the fields, and struck a mighty blow. Even as hurt as he was the Buggane tried to protect himself, putting up his arm to protect his neck, but the blade bit deep and I severed his hand from his arm. I thrust with the sword as if it were a spear and pierced his chest.

“Mercy!” the Buggane pleaded, falling to his knees. I hesitated.

“Spare not the beast, child, for it is the servant of the devil,” Brother Finán spoke sharply. “Do you think that it would spare you in like case?”

“No,” I replied. “He would ravish me, slay me, and eat me. I know this.” I brought the sword across in a sweep to the neck, and the Buggane’s head flew from his shoulders. “Yet slaying one who begs for mercy does not sit well with me.”

“Your compassion does you credit, but might one day get you killed,” he scolded. “Clean your sword, and then I shall tend to your wound.”

I obeyed his commands. “You said that a danger must be coming to Mann for me to have been chosen as the Slayer,” I remarked as he bound up the wound at my wrist. “Surely the Buggane was not that danger, for truly it was not so great an opponent; nothing that a few stout men with spears or axes could not have defeated as easily as did I.”

“No, it was in truth a minor peril, although it could have been a deadly foe nonetheless,” he agreed. “I believe it had just been made bold by the absence of so many of your menfolk at the wars. Some other danger looms.”

“Well, I am blooded now, and I shall not shrink from danger,” I said confidently. “Now tell me, Brother Finán, what shall we do with the body of the Buggane?”


Easter came one week after the night that I slew the Buggane. Naught of consequence happened during that week. I studied letters, and practiced with my weapons, and listened to Brother Finán as he told of how to slay the various fiends and monsters, most particularly the dearg-dul. Then on the night of Good Friday I had a dream of ill-omen. I dreamed of battle, and bright axes striking, and men fleeing into the sea and drowning in the waves. I saw King Brodir, who I knew by his hair that fell to his waist, tied to a tree. His coat of mail, of which it was said that no blade could pierce it, had been stripped from him and lay at his feet. I saw the mists that we call Manannan’s Cloak rolling down from South Barrule and spreading out over the island. Last, I saw a figure walking in the mists, a man with a strangely swollen forehead and with sharp teeth like the fangs of a cat. I recognised it from Brother Finán’s descriptions; a dearg-dul.

I was deeply troubled by my dream and sought out Brother Finán as soon as possible in the morning. He listened to my tale and his face turned grave. “The dreams of Slayers are often dreams of prophecy,” he said. “The danger that I feared may soon be upon us. What is this mist of which you speak? The cloak of Manannan Mac Lir?”

“So it is said,” I confirmed. “It takes the form of a cloud of fog, hiding the island from those who would attack, at least in stories. It seems too slow these days, for when I was a little girl the ships of King Aethelred of England raided Mann, and the cloak did not form until they were already here. Manannan is not the power that he was in the days before the Irish monks came to spread the word of God.” I faltered then as I remembered that I was speaking to an Irish monk, and I did not know how he would take my words.

“Go on,” he urged, and there was no displeasure on his face, only interest.

“That is all there is to the tale,” I went on. “The cloak of mist hides the island often in the autumn, and sometimes in the spring, but it is no true protection for us. Still, we preserve the tale that it is the Cloak of Manannan, and we watch the sea for enemies when it appears.”

“A wise thought. Keep your eyes to the sea, Bahey, for enemies may indeed be upon us soon. I fear that your vision means that the battle has not gone well for your people and the defences of the island might be weakened for some time to come.”

“Fynlo,” I breathed, and a deadly fear came upon me. “What if he has fallen?”

Brother Finán put his hand upon my shoulder and squeezed gently. “I shall pray for his safety. I suggest you do the same, and put your trust in God.”


  • Chapter 3

  • The concept of the Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. No profit is being made from this unauthorised use, nor is there any attempt to claim ownership of the concept.

    All characters in this work are created by me and are entirely my property.