Diarmuid morosely looked up from the lukewarm sink that held two stained metal plates, and narrowed his eyes as he beheld the stocky younger boy with the fangs and green patches of skin next to the draining board. “What is it, Grady?”
“Me name’s Tomás. Nurse said you could use a hand.”
“I could. And mine’s Diarmuid. Not Red, or Red-Eyes, or freak…” he trailed off with an irritable sigh. Grady briefly exposed more of his fangs as his mouth silently worked, before he picked up a tea-towel and began to wipe the plate that lay on the draining board. For a few minutes, neither spoke as Diarmuid focussed on scrubbing the plates and tried to ignore the sidelong glances the other boy gave him. Eventually, he couldn’t take it any more.
“Go on…you want to say something, just get it out.”
“I been meaning to ask you. You’re from Galway, are you not?” Grady turned to face him properly, his hands still absently wiping the blunt Bakelite-handled knife that Diarmuid had handed him.
“Wrong side of the river, and the…they wouldn’t let me forget it.”
A frown briefly creased the other lad’s face, before the penny dropped. “Wrong side? You mean…you’re from our side of the Corrib?”
“I’m from the Claddagh. Less than two hundred yards from Galway itself, and we might as well be the other side of the world,” Diarmuid snorted as he began tackling a tea-stained spoon.
“Far as I could tell, it’s because we’re west of the river. As far as those toffs on Prospect Hill and Ballybrit are concerned, we’re all ‘Fomorian sympathisers’. Means we’re safe to literally shit on, and the RICs don’t care.”
“The police. The barracks is literally at one end of my road, right next to the bridge. The other end of the road is the swamp where the…the sewers from the forts come out.” Unbidden, an image flashed across Diarmuid’s eyes of Tadhg, flanked by his cohorts, each grinning like a pucán as he threw Diarmuid again into the reeking stream of half-stewed shit. The image shifted into Aunt Nora’s scowling visage as she verbally lashed him in front of everyone for being a good-for-nothing-
“Um…Diarmuid?” the southern Connemara accent broke into his memories, bringing him crashing back to the sink in a…whatever this place was. “You’re just staring at nothin’. What’s wrong with ya?”
Diarmuid regarded him for a moment, trying to figure out what the other lad was talking about. Only when he turned back to the sink did the rest of that memory break in, and he couldn’t hold back the bitter chuckle. Oh, if only the old bitch could see him now…
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” Grady had taken a step backwards, his eyes widening in contrast to his hunched shoulders and raised forearms. Diarmuid recognised that look, and it only caused him to briefly laugh even harder.
“My aunt used to say I’d end up in a Borstal or get taken by you Brotherhood orcs. Bet she never saw me gettin’ sold to a dwarf who’d turn me into one, and then I’d end up here!”
“A…dwarf? Not the Brotherhood? Wait, how did you know-”
“Maebh told us. She doesn’t like you lot much.”
Grady took a step forward again, his lips contorting around his fangs as his fists clenched and his eyebrows fell south towards his eyes. “Her mam and dad are slavers!”
“She told us they’re not proud of it. Strange what people do to feed their kids, is it not?” Diarmuid grinned mirthlessly, remembering ‘Pox’ O’Malley sneering at him from beneath his battered top hat that Diarmuid would be a perfect persuader when he was all grown up. Even at the tender age of ten – only four years ago – he’d known what that slimy bastard meant. Somehow, the RICs had never really bothered him…
“Of course not! They did it for coin. We don’t!”
“Oh, so snatching people for a cause makes it so much better.” Diarmuid paused. “Actually, why do you lot even do that?”
“Because the decadent League is not willing to do what it takes to retake the Homelands! When they flee, we hold the line!” Grady snapped. “And if exposing them to the air of the tunnels is the only way to give them the strength to take the fight to the banshees and snakes, then that is what we must do!”
“You sound a lot like those dwarven Inquisitors who kept poking around the village looking for volunteers,” Diarmuid snorted. “Different words-”
“You take that back!” Grady snarled, leaning close enough for Diarmuid to smell the unsalted porridge on his breath, as though he too hadn’t bothered to use any tooth powder that morning. “Do you know what they’ve done – what they do to us?”
“Put prices on your fangs and…other parts,” Diarmuid replied sourly. Grady didn’t step away, but the snarl on his face changed to a more bemused form of anger as Diarmuid continued, “I hear talk they tried using poison gas on you lot a few times as well. Bet they wouldn’t like the other way around, so if it’s true, fuck ‘em.”
The younger boy stared at him for a long moment, before hesitantly asking if he thought the British would do that too. Diarmuid shrugged, suddenly feeling very tired.
The Claddagh is just at the mouth of the river Corrib, just opposite the Spanish Arch and Fishmarket. While now it’s part of the city centre, it was historically considered a separate village entirely, not least by the locals. I figured that anywhere east of the Corrib would look down on those out wesht because That Is Fomorian Territory.
Back in the 1920s and 1930s, the Claddagh had open sewers running down the streets, and the old village was apparently condemned and rebuilt on sanitary grounds in 1928. Ironically enough, there’s been a sewage treatment plant out on Mutton Island since 2003, just to the south of the village. So…that’s where the sewers from the forts/army bases in this universe near Knocknacarragh and Moycullen will come out.
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