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Maggie Kelley and J.P. Ronan

ISBN 1-58898-204-1

The Druid of Locherbith

IN ANCIENT Celtic times, the land was filled with Druid and the ways of magic. The Banshee and Pouka played a role in everyday life, and the hills were alive with fairies and leprechauns. The life of the Celt in those days is portrayed in tales that are still told by the country folk today. The Druid of Locherbith binds together a collection of myths and legends‌ legends that many believe are based in part on ages old truths‌ Follow the life of a young Druidess, her family and traditions, as she comes of age and her people face the unique perils of those ancient times, Learn about the ages old secrets of the Celtic people in this meticulously researched and wonderfully illustrated tome!

THE DRUID OF LOCHERBITH

Maggie Kelley and J.P. Ronan


Druid of Locherbith

Maggie Kelley and J.P.Ronan greatunpublished.com Title No. 204 2003 Copyright Š 2003 Maggie Kelley and J.P. Ronan All rights reserved. ISBN 1-58898-204-1


Introduction

In ancient Celtic times, the land was filled with Druid and

the ways of magic. The Banshee, and Pouka played a role in everyday life. The hills were alive with fairies and Leprechauns. The life of the Celt in those days is portrayed in the tales that are told by the country folk yet today. This novel binds together a collection of myths and legends that are held to be based in truth.


The life of a Druidess is followed. Her family and their traditions are imparted to the reader as a young Druid comes of age. Her Celtic homeland is an island that faces the perils of those times.

Acknowledgement

To the artists who’s labors cannot be measured in hours only.

This novel contains much effort based in a love and joy for the Celtic ways. Illustrated by M.X. McDonald, <mxm7@zoo mnet.com>,Celtic Knots by Howard Oliver. <howard@celticclipart.co.uk>


LOCI Cliath: an ancient capital city of the Chead Dano: a great river in the land of the Emor Drudec: city port on upper Dano in the land of Emor Estara: nation of the north from which raiders set sail Galatia: ocean port at mouth of the river Dano in the land Emor Holy Grove: a gathering place for Druid life and practice Lake Locherbith: Muiraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s home Lake Lockerbith: hidden water that is home to the Celtic goddess Maeve Lasi: city port at middle of the river Dano in the land Emor Tsaro: a secondary river in the land of the Emor


PERSONAE

Almidah: queen of the Emor Empire Anta: princess from the northwest frontier of the mainland Arianrhod: Celtic goddess of birth Bard: a person trained in music and telling of tales Banshee: a malevolent spirit that appears in the form of an old woman whom also takes the form as a Pouka Barnabas: a master Druid Boan: Celtic goddess of rivers Brid: younger brother to Muira Brogan: daughter of the king of the Giollabhain Cavan: grandson to Muira; adopted son of Rialta; son to Eta and Paolo Ceol: son and fifth born to Muira Chead: the name of the dominant Celtic population of a Celtic island Creidhne: Celtic god of metal making


Doan: a maid in the court of Queen Almidah; Oiche’s first wife

Linius: a member of King Mohl’s council

Doar: son and second born to Muira who died soon after birth

Lunn: second son to Almidah

Druid: any one belonging to a secret society that values learning and knowledge

Mab: a spirit of the enchanted forest of the Giollabhain

Drummond: king of the Chead

Madra: Cavan’s pet dog Maeve: Celtic goddess and mother of the island of Mahr

Dunbar: prince of the Cetura nation east of Emor; father to Paolo

Mairg: mother to Muira

Durin: a military commander of the Emor

Mario: brother to Almidah and chief council

Egan: husband to Muira; father of, Oiche, Daor, Leigh, Rialta, Ceol and Fergus

McElwain: one clan of the Giollabhain

Emor: a powerful and growing empire on the mainland Eta: the spirit of the lake Maeve’s daughter Fergus: son and sixth born to Muira Giddeon: council to Almidah Giol: wandering warrior and human husband of the goddess Maeve; father to Eta Giollabhain: a small Celtic population that lives separately in the isolated east section of the island Hugh Mhor: king of the fairy people

Mea: Cavan’s sister and Mairg’s younger daughter Mohl: king of the Emor, and first husband to Almidah Monty: a spirit of the enchanted forest of the Giollabhain Muira: Druid priestess of the Giollabhain: mother to Oiche, Daor, Leigh, Rialta, Ceol and Fergus; grandmother to Cavan Muther: mother Nordes: a nation of people that live to very distant north of Mahr Oiche: son and first born of Muira Olga: daughter of Almidah and princess of the Emor

Kendal: prince of the Land called Estara; north of Emor Empire

Ornan: spy sent to isle of Mahr by the Emor

Leigh: son and the third born to Muira

Owen: Mairg’s husband and Muira’s son in law


Phelan: cousin to Almidah, and advisor Poalo: son to Almidah and heir to her thrown Pouka: an animal form of the Banshee that walks the earth Quigley: a spirit of the enchanted forest of the Giollabhain Ree: Cavan’s sister and Rialta’s older daughter Rialta: only daughter and fourth born to Muira Roule: royal visitor to Almidah’s Court Shishi: a cow belonging to Egan Soweta: a dark Druidess from the very distant south; wife to Oiche Tarbh: Celtic god of fertility Torin: younger brother to Egan


To the victims of the great Irish potato famine


CHAPTER I An áit a bhfuil do chroi is ann a thabhar fas do chosa thú. Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.

It was a cool morn with heavy dew. The full sun, bright and golden round has just lifted above the distant hills. The light of the early day sweeps down the meadows, through the fields of crops and enters through the cracks of the closed side portal of a small cottage near the hidden lake of Locherbith. As the first beams of daylight scatter inside the hut, some fall on the carved wooden table and chairs in the center, while others dot the opposite inside wall of white plaster among the baskets and crocks held by wooden plank shelves. The sun’s rays glimmer on the white hair of an elderly woman busying her self


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in the kitchen. Her attention is on the iron skillet and the wild berry tarts warming over a small wood burning fire. She gently hums to herself as she prepares for the arrival of her grandson, Cavan. This is to be the time that she shall reveal to him all the happenings of Mahr. He is to stay for the whole of the night. “These are dun. I’ll let them cool on the window’s ledge now,” she says to herself. She sits three tarts neatly around inside a wide bowl, opens the shutters and sets her work to cool upon the sill. Outside the window a crow flies to a nearby tree. “This linen piece will cover the bowl nicely, they’ll stay fresh the entire morn. If one of those crows comes about these tarts I’ll be serving meat pie this night, I will!” She gazes out her window, passed the garden’s wall, and up along the lane that winds through the green fields some distance to the top of the rise. “Over a great number of warm seasons my eyes have never had such a pleasure as this one morning.” The cattle are just moving out of the shadows to begin feeding under the warmth of the sun. The birds are already working through the fields of hay and barley in search of breakfast. The mist is rising off the water in the streams. Muira’s eyes catch site of the family cairn in the shade of the trees off to the right behind her home. She recalls the day that they placed her dear husband’s remains there. She recalls the way Egan would tenderly stroke her cheek with his strong hand and how his gentle affection was never kept from her. The man never lost his fine self. “Egan, how you loved this land. How proud of your children you were, how proud you would be seeing our grandchildren grow into the fine men and women they have become.” She recalled the fullness of the life they had shared together and then sighs with a heart full of longing and joy. She thought of how in her next life she would share with her love, Egan. She recalls her infant babies who grew up in this old home and the laughter her family shared here even during the most trying of times.

“The music, oh, the music would fill the place for hours some nights when Ceol played his strings. How the children loved to see their muther dance with their father, the two of us were really good at kicking up our heels!” Much of her days now are now filled with memories and on her children’s own young ones. Just as she is about to resume her chores, the motion of a lone figure moves down the dirt path along the garden wall. For a time Muira watches the easy, almost familiar long strides of her grandson approaching. “And sure, he has the same walk as his grandfather about him,” she says to herself. She watches him as he approaches the cottage. His dark hair and eyes show from afar. Over his shoulder hangs a bag that Rialta, his muther prepared. She recalls when Cavan was a baby like it was yesterday. He was not given to fuss even as a newborn. Cavan sat quietly while on his muther’s lap while she would be sewing or preparing a meal. His mind was always on something, an insect crawling on the windowsill, a bird circling high in the sky. He could never seem to take his eyes off the birds. They were of special interest to him. Cavan’s muther, said that while pregnant, she notice there was an over abundance of birds about her place. They would chatter on non-stop. Cavan lived in more than one world even before he was born. But it was one day, when Cavan was out in my garden; he seemed to be communicating with the birds. Muira followed Rialta who was cooking that day. That’s when they suddenly were struck by the loud sound of fluttering and chirping birds. Rialta looked outside the window, disbelieving what she was seeing. “My boy,” she muttered under her breath. She quickly grabbed a skillet and ran out the door. Muira looked out the window and saw hundreds of birds of all kinds, fluttering around Cavan thick as the early fog. His muther moved with such ferocity, such never seen by Muira. Rialta feared those birds would pluck him clean from this earth. She shrieked

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loudly at the birds and flung the pan this way and that. Muira could very much see the warrior in her daughter. But the birds were not daft. They were gone in a moment’s notice. After the cloud of birds lifted, he smiled at his muther holding up a single white feather. His muther then dropped the pan and scooped him up in her arms sobbing like a baby herself. Muira couldn’t believe her eyes, never had she seen such a sight, but there Cavan sat, acting as if the spirits came down and kissed him on the forehead. After that, Muira told her daughter, since there were no black birds in the swarm, that this was surely a favorable sign from the deity of the birds, Agnus Mac Og. It was then that Muira knew that out of all of her grandchildren, Cavan was special, and chosen by the spirits of the land. “He will have my place soon enough, he was born to it, that’s for sure,” she said to herself as she moved to the door to receive her young charge. “Many blessings on this house and all who dwell here!” Calls out the boy. Muira laughs at the sound of her grandson’s voice braking from a child to a man. “A thousand welcomes to you, and all the more for the fine man of your muther and father that you are,” she says as she embraces him. She grabs hold of him by his arms and beholds the youth with dark hair gathered at the back, and one thin braid hanging down the cheek in the present fashion of a man. He is dressed in a beige linen tunic with borders of green about the sleeves, and at the bottom. He wears leather sandals and a horse’s hair belt with an iron cinch at the waist. “You muther dressed you fine this day, Cavan. It’s a fine look of a man you are, your father’s son for sure!” For all the size of man he has now become, he is still every bit of his grandmuther’s darling baby boy. Muira holds back her tears that are still meant for a small bit of a child. “It’s good to see you, Mame. Muther sent some things meant just for you”. Cavan hands his grandmuther a linen sack containing several small crocks. Some honey, some rhubarb jam, and sweet potatoes from Rialta’s garden are welcomed.

“Muther says you are not to give these out but to keep them for your own.” “Right you are lad. Your grandmuther will share these with you this very day, as the good weather will be keeping for some time says the birds. They’re busy about, building their nests, no sign of bad weather to come as sure as that.” Cavan sits at the table across from his grandmuther. “Cavan, I’ve your favorite, berry tarts with some fresh milk and honey. Are you up for a bit of refreshment?” She smiles to see her baby boy’s eyes widen as he searches directly over to the window’s edge for his treat. “Mame, I’m a bit dun in as I ran a far piece of the way, cause something gave me a scare this morning.” Any fear in the boy is lost in his relish of the goods on ‘s breakfast table, and with the quenching of his thirst. “May I have some more to drink Mame, please?” “Of course, Cavan, what would frighten such a strong lad as yourself?” “Da sent me out at first light. Just as I was close to your place, I saw something in the sky. Two big black birds flying and fussing most unusual like. Something flashed in my mind’s eye and gave me to get away from there.” “You’re safe here son, enjoy your meal, will deal with this sight of yours in a bit.” The tarts are placed to the boy’s front and a cool bowl of milk set as well. Through sips and sighs of much delight the boy finishes his meal, concern about his vision continues. He rises up to help her clear the dishes. “I’ll tell you son, such visions will return. There is a powerful and constant force that is always about, Cavan. The clans will be in great need of your skills with the spirit world. Although I will be soon traveling to the other world, I will always be with you. Turn around!” He looks into the blue eyes of his grandmuther still full of light. “But Mame, I have yet to earn my Druid collar.” She turns him around so that his back is to her. He feels the

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weight of a golden torc around his neck and touches it gently with his finger’s tips. He turns back around and meets the eyes of his grandmuther, the woman whom he has long admired and respected. She wears the white linen robes that his muther made and her white hair frames her face. She is decorated in jewelry; her Druid’s collar and gold bangles dangle about her wrist. He remembers how he would hold her hand at the market when he was younger. He can see that she was once beautiful, as she yet remains. “Wear this and I will be with you always. Come on now! No looking to sadness. Come with me to the oak grove. I have many things to tell you.” Cavan eagerly follows her out the door of her hut, and they head toward the woods. “Will we see any wee people, Mame?” “The wee people are as elusive as the wind in the trees. You must remember that they can be unpredictable and that most prefer to play tricks and cause mischief for their amusement.” She walks up the hill and looks over the village and her heart swells with pride. She muses to herself, that her grandson Cavan, who now stands tall at her side, will surely come to feel this way too. Over the gently rolling hills she views the crops and cattle grazing lazily, people going about their daily chores, and the growing number of cottages in the distance. The calm of the place overwhelms her. This place that has seen much despair and hardship, once again is flourishing. “What is it Mame?” “Cavan, look at this land. It is beautiful and it is free, we have pledged our hard work to keep it this way. We must protect it with every force that may pass out of our being.” “Yes Mame” In the woods, the wind rustles the leaves of the trees as they near a clearing. They walk in the direction of an adjoining hill, in which great stones are placed in a circle. In the center two large stones lay flat upon the ground. The birds chirp noisily and the sun fills the ground with a warm white light. “Sit on that stone Cavan.” She gestures to the opposite rock as she takes a seat her self.

“Look up in the sky, and tell me what do you see?” “A falcon searching for prey.” Cavan looks up as he squints his blue eyes. “Tell me more.” “I see our people, killing off their cattle and pigs. They are throwing them into the water wells of the village” “Very good.” “Did that really happen Mame?” “Yes indeed it did, lad. But there is heaps of more to this account. Tell of the birds that frightened you this early morn?” “Two black ravens crossed paths in the sky the larger chasing the lesser, the lesser could not escape, and the larger was intent on fatally harming the other as sport. All at once I saw the silhouette of young woman with long dark hair running with several fierce looking hounds through the forest in great haste. Then I had this troubled feeling, like something was amiss. I began to run myself so I should not be left behind.” “The woman running through the forest is a special spirit. But let me start from the beginning.” Muira resists in showing her fear. The Pouka must have been nearby, she thinks to herself. Cavan sits with his legs crossed. He rests his face on his hands to focus his attention on his grandmuther. Muira starts the training of the lad in the way of the Druid. She hesitates not wanting to sound like an old woman at the spinning of an tired tale. Now, she desires the boy to listen with a way not given to a child. “Cavan, it’s time for you to learn as a man in greater understanding of our land and people. There are many lessons I wish for you to take on your coming journey. Some of which you are to hear is known to no other in our family save myself. The Druid way is to use the knowing we acquire from the deities to help the people of this land, but that which the Druid knows is to be shared only with another Druid. Indeed, when one Druid comes to the place of another Druid, the latter is obliged to share knowledge, comfort, and shelter. The former Druid upon such circumstance is obliged to hold secret that which is made known to him. Do you understand?”

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“Aye, that which you tell me, and that which I tell you of the way of the Druid is not to passed out to just any folk.” Answers Cavan. “You’re a good boy, and you’re quick at learning as any! What you are being taught must be kept from all who are not Druid be it wife, child or parent!” Muira begins her first lesson to Cavan with a tale. “I was a little over thirteen when my father gave me the torc which you now wear, it was a gift from Locherbith,” she smiles at him. “My Da always told me when I look at things, I devoured them with my eyes. My muther said that I had eyes just like papa. He could see right into the spirit of a person and his gaze would always tell what the intentions of a person were, even before that person realized it. It was known early, that I had the gift of divination and communication with the spirit world. Da would take me to Lake Locherbith with him to catch fish, and he practically had to drag me away. He said that I would talk to the fish, but it wasn’t with the fish I was speaking. The spirits there in the lake were teaching to me. Oh, I thought it was a natural thing to do and in me young head I thought all could speak with them!” Cavan begins to fuss about while holding the sun off his face with one hand. He squints to better study his grandmuther’s face. Her present tale, he knows is meant for sharing as a fellow Druid only. For the first time he does not sit as a child beside his grandmuther, but senses he is to be spoken to as an equal. “My first experience as a novice Druid Priestess came when the land of the Chead had a major drought. The people were coming to me with their palms up, asking for help. I performed rituals for days, asking the spirits for a sign as to why they were discontent. However, I did not receive an answer from the spirits and knew I needed help. Many were sick and dying in our clan along with cattle, fish and crops. Nothing I could do would please the spirits. I met with the Druid chieftain and elders and it was decided our only course of action, would be to travel to a

distant spring, north of Cliath, to collect water. The spring is known as the Dark Well. Its water was as black as the night sky. Hunter, fisherman, and voyager alike had long avoided it. Many who went there met with disaster, some never returned. It was rumored to be a desolate and strange place. Some unsettling presence hung about the land there. All was unusually quiet with no loss in it. No birds could be heard. The spirits there were very angry spirits.” “Me da went as a boy to the Dark Well once. He made a great fire on the shore and….” Muira’s stern gaze interrupts Cavan. “Sorry Mame…it was very exciting!” Cavan’s mind fills with sights of decaying horror.Muira resumes. “Our clan also went to the Holy Grove of the Druid, where I was being taught. At the coming time when the leaves shall fall you are to begin your training there as well. The elders and I were admitted to see the Master Druid, Barnabas. He told us he would send us to the Dark Well with an entourage of Druids who were familiar with the spirits of that particular place. They would perform the correct rituals and guard the ancient customs to make the spirits respond favorably. There were to be many problems. It wasn’t certain how long such rituals would take or even if the spirits would respond in our favor.” Muira glances at the boy’s face and she is satisfied that his attention is strongly held. “We were all very fearful of entering the Dark Well area; it was as quiet as in death. Our fellow Druid entourage went straight to work. Those of us who were not familiar with these spirits were to stay in a protective circle of stone. The Druids began to read the signs of the earth, water, and sky. The kinds of trees, grasses, shrubs, and flowers within the glade surrounding the Dark Well were noted. I could hear the wind whipping around our circle; the angry spirits were displeased with our presence. We did as we were told and sat in a circle facing out on all sides, holding hands and chanting, asking for the spirits permission to enter their realm.” Cavan leans forward on his seat. Muira responds to the gain of the youth’s interest with added drama in her words.

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“Meantime, other Druids were testing the condition of the trees, testing the water, observing by color and taste. They sniffed the air, noticing the directions of the wind. Then they spilled out various powders and potions made with herbs, root and flowers into the waters. Goats were sacrificed, and set on fire as offerings to the spirits. We chanted sacred songs and continued these rites and sacrifices for days. As the angry spirits gradually calmed, I was asked to participate. The spirits wanted me to come into the lake, being that I was in communication with the spirit of the lake at my home at Locherbith. I was trembling looking down into that water as black as night shadows, but I reluctantly went in and walked toward the center in that cold water. The spirits guided me and pulled me in. What I saw frightened me. I saw how the lake was keeping the spirits of innocent people from reentering the netherworld. They were trapped forever in the lake.” Cavan is quick to share the fright that his grandmuther relives. He moves closer.”The spirits of these lost ones where swirling about me in the water. It was dark except for the whites of their eyes. They started pulling me down into the water and away from the shore. I felt their hands on my legs, arms and face. I was pulled under gasping for air. I lost consciousness. When I came to, I was on the shore. One of the Druid priests had pulled me from the water, almost drowning him self. That’s when a vision came to me. The lake needed to be cleansed from these restless spirits, which dwelled in it. “Set fire to it now!” I said to the Druid Master. “How do you burn a lake?” Asks Cavan impatiently. “They immediately began to make rafts from the lashed bows of hickory, ash, and elms. Various plants and leaves were spread upon a raft. Several pyres were set a flame then put to float upon the water. The surface of the lake was soon on fire. Breezes screamed and smoke whipped about the fires on the lake. The flames rose very quickly and the flickering reflections seemed to penetrate beneath the surface. We all moved into the protective circle. The screams of those spirits in the lake were so loud we covered our ears. When I looked upon the lake,

I could see faces of the lost ones, howling in anguish as they passed through the fires. I had to close my eyes tight. It went on and on. We kept building rafts of flame throughout the night until we all collapsed from exhaustion within the circle.” The power of Muira’s telling, and the vivid recollection of her tale has both herself and the lad exhausted. Her words came slowly and softly now. “In the morning, we all awoke to the sweet sound of the birds. A fellow Druid priest called out to us to look at the pool. It was now blue, and crystal clear. For several months after that, our clan came with Draught horses and donkeys to collect water, as much as we could carry. Carefully we followed the instructions of the spirits of the lake and performed the required rituals. The pool provided for us until the drought ended. We held a festival and a celebration in honor of the spirits of the Dark Well. Back in the that village near Cliath, the clan made me a home upon a small lake, as a sign of their gratitude.” “Oh! So that’s why me da threw the burning embers of his fire into the lake when he went fishing there, as an offering!” Cavan is eager to hear more, excited at the thought of what challenges await him. “Soon after, I met my husband to be, Egan. I left my father’s village and was to became the official spiritual matriarch of the clans in our land of Giollabhain.” “Will I get to see the Dark Well, Mame? Will I get to see the spirits?” Cavan wonders. “You will learn much of the ways of knowing and become a great Druid like your great grandfather. Your deeds will be directed by the needs of the land spirits and your people.” “Why can’t I learn from you here, why must I travel to this Holy Grove?” “There Cavan, you will learn from many good and wise people, not just from myself. To posses and to use the knowledge of the stone circle takes time and practice. In the Grove someone will always be there to answer your questions without delay. It takes much learning to tell what part of the

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sun’s cycle is at hand, to know the spirits of the sky, earth and water. You will learn more of the medicines and poisons of the earth than I in order to help our people. You will acquire the secrets of those who truly see the future. In the end, you’ll know much, and will serve greatly wherever wisdom is needed. Just as your older brothers made off to serve King Drummond of Giollabhain, for some time you must begin to follow in way of knowing. Your duties at the Holy Grove will take you all about our island, not without many visits to your home and grandmuther. You will meet many like yourself there, many a young girl will be looking for a lad such as yourself.” Cavan notices in the distance that a single horse drawn cart is making way from the village along the road towards Muira’s home. “Someone is after coming this way,” points out the lad. “I’m supposing it’s your muther and your two sisters on the trail,” answers Muira. “Are they coming to fetch me home now?” “Indeed not, me boy! It might be that they are coming to help with the making of a grand meal in your honor this very day.” Muira is thrilled to have caught the youth in a surprise. “All those of our clan are set off when they come of age by way of a special gathering and feasting. This day and night is for honoring the man your are now.” Cavan is full of pride and honor that his family is to begin the taking of him as a man. He is, however, just a bit faint at the knowing of what it is exactly that he must do differently now that he has become a man. “Let’s keep our place here for a time. Is there something special that you would like to be knowing?” Muira asks Cavan. “Grandma, tell me of the wee people, and how you came to know them. Will I ever get to see them like you?” “When I was a very young girl much younger than you, my father took me on a short journey in the fields about our village in Chead. He was going to a special place, a golden meadow, to gather medicinal herbs and roots that are found there in abundance.”

Cavan seizes in delight. He smiles. He is sure now that he will be getting the whole of her knowing of the wee folk. “It happens that this entire meadow was at some time thrust high above all the land about it. It sits like a natural table over the land with rocky high walls mostly marking its border. The place stands the height of several men, and can’t be climbed except near the western slope, which is covered in golden grass but steep as well. A man can climb atop if he goes crawling up on his hands and feet. To either side of this are two narrow rugged tree lines that steeply work their way from the lower meadow to the upper. These tree lines are impassable for most creatures with four sturdy legs and they are not meant for the likes of us to be stepping about.” Muira laughs to herself with the boy’s delight in her words. She wishes to miss no detail in her account of this tale for his sake. She speaks slowly, and carefully. “Now, the whole of the place is magical, with the western slope being more so. There are perpetual winds that pass up and down this slope. In the afternoons on a summer’s day, many are the count of birds that sit fixed in the air just off this western precipice. Their wings never flutter, but they play to their own delight in the strong breezes that hold them up in the air. Their motionless flights are such that a man could reach out with one hand and pluck them right out of the sky.” Muira is warmed at the delight in her grandbaby boy’s eyes from the hearing. “It is said all about that the great magic of these peculiar happenings are due entirely to the pleasure that wee people take by riding the backs of these birds as they soar. It is believed that the tree lines are home to an excessive number of such fairy folk as these woods are rarely traveled and the wee ones are mostly never disturbed. Also, neither man nor beast can keep a home on the top of this meadow as none who have tried have succeeded and only bones of the like are to be found up there. So! The fairies have kept the place to themselves and the whole nature is all the better for it. My father has had many dealings within the wee folk over the years and they’ve come to know him well, as my father respected and kept their ways. In return

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they would on occasion allow his presence in the midst at least for a brief time.” “Where do the wee folk come from?” Cavan puzzles out loud. “Now, as you know Cavan, the wee folk were the original inhabitants over all the lands of our island home. Druid teachings say that they came from far off by way of severe persecution. But being smaller and weaker they were easily conquered by those who came here by way of invasion, such as ourselves for instance. Taking refuge in the earthen mounds of the spirit world they came to be smaller and more spirit like over these many years. To see a wee person can only be with their wish, yet stumbling upon one at work or catching him by surprise has been known to happen. This is why they are about busy at night doing their chores. If someone gives particular offense, the wee people will be busy after them day and night causing all sorts of mischief.” “Me da says is best to avoid the wee folk altogether for fear of their trouble making,” reports Cavan. “The wee people are not all about trouble. The wee folk are awfully fond of the small children, as they may have none of their own. They’ll often times bring aide to a sick child, help with the child’s chores, and are particular about entertaining young cripples and other unfortunates. They can become so attached to a child they have been known to take the child to their homes under the ground for a bit and on rare occasion raise the child themselves. If you haven’t seen a wee folk as of yet, don’t quite give up hope. For sure enough in the business that is ahead that you’ll be near to many.” “How did you exactly come to see one for the first time Mame?” “It was quite unexpected. My father and I made our way up the western slope of the great high golden meadow, searching for special plants needing to be collected. We eventually came into the trees for a bit of the way. We hoped to just come out onto the upper meadow. There before us in the first opening from the trees was a small spring of water. We approached with

the intention of having a cool drink after our long hard climb. As we closed toward the spring, my father noticed a large print in the soft earth near the water of the spring. It was inhumanly shaped with large claw marks. My father was immediately frightened. He took my hand and we bolted down the step trail into the woods. ‘The Pouka is stalking about looking for a victim!’ Said he. Now the malevolent spirit of the Banshee can take several different forms when she is afoot. All of which are terrible shapes to behold, but my father had no intention of encountering this Pouka with his small child in hand. Down and around we raced through the thicket toward the lower meadow. Almost at once, the path in the woods came to a narrow point. Here in haste, my father’s step slipped off a small ledge and he fell into the brush several lengths below. ‘Hurry on the path home, I’ll be just behind you’, said he. So off I went, following the trail down but soon I could no longer hear my father’s voice or any sound of him. Fearful, I started back up the trail but was soon lost in the over growth. After a time, the sound of a man rustling about through the leaves drew me off in one direction.” “Mame, I was lost once about the village but I was too young for the remembering. Me neighbors collected meself and brought me home to me muther.” Cavan recalls. Muira recalls the panic in Rialta’s telling of her toddler being missing. She continues her tale. “I came upon a small glen. Lost and following the only sounds not of nature I could hear. I saw a small form of a man working about in the glen. From behind I could see his small red stalking cap, green tunic, brown trousers, and tiny leather sandals. My presence soon startled him. As he turned to face me, I could see his white beard. His gaze met mine. He was frozen to the spot on which he stood. I asked if he had seen my Da, I told him we were getting away from a Pouka on the high meadow. This freighted him all the more and he said for me to not bother him and go away. I did not understand and told him to take me to my Da. He quickly realized that I was a lost child and that I was ignorant of his fairy ways.

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The old man stood quiet and put his nose to the wind. He soon realized who my father was. He told me his own name was Hugh Mhor. He asked me to tell no one of this meeting but my father. In return for keeping the place of his dwelling secret, he would grant me my wish with the added promise of his friendship all the days while I walked this world. As a lost child I agreed! Although some would have bargained for his gold. The friendship of Hugh Mhor would prove over the years to be worth much more than several fortunes.” “How much gold did he have?” Cavan wonders. “Every man or man turned spirit makes a fuss at the having or having not of gold in their possession. Now gold has purity, and an eternal life to it that makes it part of this world and part of the next. This is why many hoard the gold even to the taking of it with themselves into their burial cairn upon dying. The wee folk keep it for it’s magic, as well keeping it off the hands of the big folk. The amount of gold that any one may own is limited by its weight for the carrying and the digging needed for it’s hiding, as well as the remembering where it lay. Indeed, the wee folk are awfully good at the keeping of the stuff. And it’s for sure that any fairy will keep more gold than any one mortal man can manage!” “Da says many a life was ruined for the want of too much of it,” adds Cavan. Muira nods her in agreement and resumes the tale. “Quickly, Hugh led me off toward my father who was busy attempting to discover myself. As father noticed my approach, Hugh transformed into a hare and made away into the thicket. I told my father of the little old man but have to this day told no one of the whereabouts of Hugh.” “Did you tell any of the Druid of Hugh’s place on the golden meadow?” Cavan asks. “No, my pledge goes with me through this world and into the next. It’s for Hugh himself to be introducing the location of his home to any other man, Druid or no.” Cavan realizes that the Druids are not bound to tell all from one to the other.

“And once every spring upon a particularly pleasant evening, I’ll walk out near the bushes of my garden and call out to Hugh with a poem of gratitude. Hugh answers by planting during that night some of the very small purple colored flowers my Da was fond of collecting.” “Did you ever see this Hugh again, Mame?” “Yes, upon several occasions, at times of great trouble. The next time would be the day before the near passing of my dear muther from this life.” “I remember my muther talking about great grandmuther, but I don’t know much of her life,” young Cavan answers. “My father was not young when he married your great grandmuther, Mairg. She was quite young, fresh and lovely, as sweet as any flower. Mairg would bear two sons and one daughter to my father. My older brother, the first born of Mairg would die as an infant in his first dark season of winter. All the magic and knowing of the master Druid of Holy Grove could not save many new born and many of the older people that year. The cairns would be full by the next summer. My younger brother, Brid, not much older than yourself would die in battle while in service to the king of Chead. My muther would not recover from the wound of his loss. I was just newly married to Egan, your grandfather, arriving amongst the McElwain clan in Giollabhain. My father said that Mairg’s heart had become too weak from shock of her last son’s death. Her strength left her. She lay frail upon her bed for many days with the color of the Banshee upon her face. Her desire for food and drink lost, my father said he never felt as helpless. It was a little before the spring season, late one wet and miserable dark night while my husband slept, there came a call from the wind, ‘Muira was lost, but is now friend to Hugh’. This call repeated till I rose and with lit candle searched out through the cottage door where Hugh Mhor stood below the thatch of the roof with a small vile in hand. If ever I doubted my sight of him as a small child, now before my eyes he stood dry as bone for having come through all the rain and great distance from his home. ‘Take this potion to your muther straight away, every

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drop must pass her lips, it will keep her form the banshee till summer when the spirit of her sons shall ease her dreams,’ said he. As I took hold of the vile from his small hand he vanished from my sight. ‘Thank you Hugh’, I called out after him. The vile contained one swallow of a potion with a fragrance unknown to me or any other at the Holy Grove. Only from a plant, or root deep within the earth could be such an unknown to the entire Druid. The journey back to Chead was hard and long with the winds, and rains, and darkness of winter. Only my Egan made the journey to my muther’s side possible. There as soon as the contents of the vile passed her lips her torment rested, she slowly recovered. That summer she would dream of both her lost sons and come to know their spirits were safely in the netherworld where her own spirit would come to rest. My muther’s health and contentment never left her disposition until her final day. But for the honor of the wee people, Mairg would have left this life far too soon for Da and me. Enough of the wee folk now Cavan. You must be prepared for the work ahead of you at the Holy Grove.” “Tell me about this grove of the Druid, Mame.” The two notice the figures of the small dark horse and a wooden wagon on the adjacent hill heading in the direction of Muira’s home. “Look Cavan upon the road, it’s you mum for sure.” “Yes, and there’s me dog Madra running about in front of the horse leading muther and the girls onward to your place.” The two Druid watch as the horse slowly pulls a flat wooden bed atop two solid wooden wheels along the road below. A lady sits up front holding leather reins and two child figures are seated in the back. A great brown dog chases about sniffing the ground, raising his head to scent the air, and occasionally stopping with raised ears for a listen. “Your dog, Cavan, is busy using his head to tell the past and the future.” “How so Mame?” “The scent of the past lays upon the ground for his reading.

The future is announced to the dog with fresh scents upon the wind. When your muther reaches the point in the road from which we have passed what will your dog then do?” “He’ll make our scent and take off in our direction to find me!” “And what man was there to be telling him our were about?” “None, he just uses his nose. Just as he has done since a puppy,” answers Cavan. “Right you are Cavan, but man is also to be knowing the past and the future! By the using of one’s own head, the signs are taken and the past as well as the future is told. This is the proper business of the Druid. It is now your business, Cavan.” “Shall we start back down towards the cottage?” Asks Cavan. “Let us do that lad. But we’ll take a slow pace for they’re a bit off for any need to be hurrying.” Muira continues the story as they walk. “To understand the Druid of Chead you must understand life in this land long before they came. The land of earlier times was uncivil. In fact, it was most barbaric. There were no nations on the island for the wildness of the people. No common laws were kept but by that of the blood feud. An offense against another was cause to fight, one family against the next, and neighbor fighting neighbor. Arguments were settled by the ruthless who many times seemed to be the only ones to survive.” Muira stops to have Cavan gather some wild flowers with which to greet his muther and sisters. “Get plenty of those bright yellow ones there for your muther has a fondness for them, just as your grand father had. The people of the land suffered mightily. If one’s crop failed or the cattle began dying the only way to survive was the plunder of one’s neighbor. Cliath was just a tiny place then, more squalor of dirty huts and garbage all about, a filthy place. But being by the sea the people could escape by boat from raiders that come from inland, or escape inland from raiders

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come by sea. So, as poor a managed place as it was then, Cliath was the best the island Mahr could offer as a home.” “Me da says when we are about we must be looking after one another for fear of any black hearts at work,” confirms Cavan. “Sometime back, a wise man came to be in charge of Cliath. His name has been lost to us. He was intelligent enough to keep the village well fortified and managed a small standing army to keep off most troubles. In these chieftain’s dealings, he came by way of sea traders to hear that an order of wise men had established places of council and law for the lands on the other side of the sea. These men were employed by a ruler of a country to manage, advise and regulate the many civil affairs to which the ruler could not himself attend. They would advise the king but were charged in duty to serve him and keep their loyalty.” Cavan begins to pick up a few pebbles and tosses them out over the meadow. “I’m listening grandmuther but you know I’m still little enough to be needing some fun.” “Be careful lad not to strike a wee person on the head for plenty’s the trouble to come from that.” Cavan drops the last pebbles, and Muira continues. “This lord took chance to sail to the mainland and seek out the place of the Druids. There he witnessed their powers and the knowledge they possessed. He made the acquaintance of three young Druid brothers. The chieftain informed them of his hopes to make the island one great nation by use of common decree, and common practice of business and religion. The young Druids made a treaty with this king that still stands today. In return for their service they were to have the land of their choice for purposes of their order. This was to include any chores of heavy labor, as they need. A secured separate compound was built for their living, study and teaching. The king provided materials, labor, armed sentries for the work of the Druid. In return, the Druid served the wishes of the kingdom and provided him with the benefits of their knowledge.

The three young Druid returned with the king to Cliath. Their first task was to construct a large circle of wooden posts atop a hill overlooking Cliath with the best view of the sky, and the earth’s horizon. From here, the placement of the objects in the sky would be marked and their changes in the heavens would tell of the time of the season. Crops would be planted, and harvested by prediction of the Druids. Ships would sail to sea with the aide of the Druid’s readings of nature to foretell the weather. All the people of Cliath would be brought into a covenant with the spirits. The daily living of the villagers would be in agreement with the deities of the earth, sky and water. The law of Cliath was shaped by the success of the Druid in regulating affairs of agriculture, metalworking, accounting, trade and commerce. A utilitarian sense of crime and punishment allowed offenses against the people, land, and sovereign of Cliath to be dealt with in a just manner.” Muira notices the studious look upon the boy’s face as he ponders his place in such a history. “You’re a descendant of those original Druid lad, and you’ll do fine at their work. Cliath began to prosper; the kingdom of Cliath began to move out of the village. As the nation of Chead was forming, the power and wealth of the Druid grew. The wooden circle of the Druid was replaced with heavy, massive stones laboriously dragged from mountains across the sea. These rare large stones are of azure color, a sign of their special power and magic. One by one the stones were made to stand in the circle until it appeared as it does now.” “Is their stone circle like the one we just left? “Similar Cavan, but the one you are going to see at Cliath is much grander for sure. The original mud huts of the Druid’s compound have been replaced with circular stone fortifications, which houses the Druid’s families, students in learning, servants and armed guards. The sapling trees planted in clusters about the Druid compound now stand as groves of large oaks. The entire facility of the Druid has come to be called the Holy Grove. As of now, the entire island is Druid in practice. The Holy Grove is revered

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as the seat of knowing and learning the ways of the spirits of the sky, earth and water. To the Holy Grove, come young men and women such as us to join in this order. Some come from lands far from the distant shores of the sea.” “Will I go far away to these places, Mame?” “If it is your destiny, but may you always choose to return home. The Druid study is many years by way of showing and doing. This is so for all that come to Holy Grove. The practice has been so since the original three Druid began, even from my time to yours.” Cavan looks at the horizon and notes his muther and all are a bit off yet. “They’ll be a time yet at the coming for muther does not like to tire the horse. She wishes no trouble with the cart from braking at the rush.” “She’s a wise one that muther of yours. Takes after her father she does.” Muira notices a bit of forlorn and longing in the boy’s gaze as he looks off toward the distant cart. “Cavan, you’ll have much fun and wonder about you there at the grove for many years. Your grandfather will be pleased.” “Did you meet grandfather there?” Cavan asks mischievously. He knows quite well that this is a favorite topic of his grandmuther. “Egan and I met by fate, and established a merging of our two souls immediately. He was visiting the village of Cliath with his chieftain to discuss the growing empire of a nation on the mainland. I was at the village hall with my father who was to attend the meeting also. Egan sat next to me at the table, and the first thing that impressed me was his stature and penetrating dark eyes. He had reddish brown hair and brown eyes. He was from the land of Giollabhain, northeast of Cliath. I was inspecting him out of the corner of my eye.” Muira clears her throat. “It wasn’t until he bumped with his elbow and a cup of wine spilled on my robe that we began to talk. He was obviously embarrassed and asked me to please excuse his clumsiness. I looked up at him, knowing all to well what the stirring in my

stomach was telling me. At first we talked shyly, averted glances at each other, then somehow we started forgetting our selves and really gained an understanding of one another. He told me about a land far off and how it was growing and power. ‘It is dangerous for us here on the island, he told me. But you,’ he said, ‘you interest me. I look in your eyes and see only goodness and lightness.’ ‘Thank you,’ I said demurely, feeling my face flush.” She said this and recalled his warm smile as he lifted his drink to toast her. “He stayed in town a for some time and we spent most of it together. Egan began to pursue me by showing up at my home, arranging chance meetings on my way to market. Always showing himself in a way so he would catch my notice, he also gave notice to my Druid father. My father was always very serious and he observed that I, his daughter was amused by the boyish pranks of Egan.” Muira notices that her grandson is about to giggle from the embarrassment of dealing with pure romance. She tries to gather a more matter of fact tone, but her womanly feelings rise, and her eyes water with the next recollection. Cavan holds his grandmuther’s hand in the manner of his early youth. “We walked through the fields together. That is when he told me that he couldn’t be without me, and he wanted me to be his wife. He instantly made his proposal to me known to our families and villagers. I accepted, knowing there would be some difficulty since I was a Druid. But he was very determined and I was glad of it. It chanced that my father once again found Egan at our home and in a simple direct way informed my young man that I was to be wed only to a man with proven right. Egan asserted his wish to wed me as soon as possible and that he was willing to prove his right. My father proclaimed that by the coming of the May Day festival of Beltaine, which starts immediately after the rainy season. Egan must return with three distinct signs approved by three powerful deities that prove he is chosen to marry his daughter. Egan soon left Cliath to return to his homeland. He

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intended to come back in the next spring to marry me.” Muira is thankful for Cavan’s affection. She kisses the boy on the forehead. “Thank you Cavan for caring. This tale has much meaning for you and your future.” “As the dark season neared, Egan became preoccupied with preparations of the family farm and thoughts of me were left to dreams and desires of late evenings. Winter forage for the cattle was to be gathered and stored from the coming rains in a large circular structure, indeed the cattle themselves would also seek shelter there upon cold blustery days.” Cavan had heard this tale many a time by his grand muther, and his muther as well. Today this lesson holds a new attraction, as if he somehow shares his grand father’s place. “It was a mild fall day when he was working repairing the roof of the barn with a group of neighbors, when Egan noticed a crow struggling to pick up a shiny object, but upon flying, the object would fall to the ground. The crow repeatedly struggled with the object only to be met with failure. It seemed that the object was magically called back to the earth. As the crow’s efforts intensified, other creatures took notice as well. Fellow crows perched above in the nearby oak, seemingly in order to fully observe the struggle. Egan found this spectacle to be quite peculiar and his interest was captured with growing curiosity at the object. A hawk broke from its transcending flight to circle slowly above in anticipation. It seemed as if the whole earth stilled to assist the crow in his endeavor. The object appeared as a small yellow leaf, or a fall bloom with yellowish petals. It seemed as if the object was a familiar bit of nature but at the same instant, it seemed to have some intelligence capable of outwitting the beak of the crow. His fellow workers, although amused, did not seem particularly intrigued by all this. Egan, however, descended the ladder and headed in the direction of the crow with the suspicious object. He had to know what it was that brought a full stop to all natures business. The crows above in the oak gave out a cry of warning, and the crow that was busy with the object noticed Egan approaching and reluctantly flew away.

Egan saw the object in the grass, and bent down to pick it up, surprised at the heaviness of it. It was a bright yellow flower with three petals. Egan’s gaze made wide in disbelief. ‘Gold! This is made of gold!’ The object reflected the sun’s light. His fellow workers overheard and came down to find out what was all this talk of gold. It was a crudely fashioned by nature as a three-leaf amulet, a sign from the deity Creidhne, and the goddess of metalworking. There could be no one who would say otherwise, even my father. Egan had this most precious amulet attached to a golden chain and would wear it about his neck until he presented it to me in the coming spring. The first sign had been made. As winter passed, Egan’s attention would wonder from his work in hopes of discovery of the remaining two signs needed to win me. In early spring, the calves would be born. This time would be soon. In anticipation of the newborn cattle, Egan recalled the episode in his youth, in which he found and saved his dearest cow, whom he named Shishi. Upon some accident, shortly after her birth, Shishi had slipped backwards down a deep embankment and was pinned under a large root extension. Water erosion of the ground exposed several large roots under which a ditch from the draining water had formed and became the inescapable trap for Shishi. This trap grew tighter about as Shishi struggled. As Egan passed by this stand of trees on his way up the hill, the calf ’s weakened sound of stress turned his head. He spotted a black calf with a white forehead and under belly in her struggle. He wondered how any calf could fall into such a place. Perhaps at a nighttime feeding the calf slipped. Cows bear their young and hide them for a time before returning to the herd. Perhaps the muther made a poor choice of retreat. Perhaps the muther was nearby and ready to charge in defense of her calf. Egan had to search about the trees and shrubs, the nearby meadows, but no cow was to be seen. Shishi’s muther must have abandoned her. Perhaps the muther had twins. In any case, Egan’s compassion for the baby beast compelled him to give aide. One massive root held Shishi,

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but as he leveraged off the root’s grip, Shishi was too weak to scramble up the embankment to freedom. Egan could not free her alone. He attempted to comfort the animal by covering her with his tunic, then ran home to get his younger brother Tarin, to assist him. With the aid of his seven-year-old brother, Egan lifted the root off the back of Shishi and his little brother pulled on the tail. Due to the rise of the embankment, and the force of a tug of the calf ’s tail, Shishi slid further down the embankment, and slid freely to the ground. Her legs collapsed from weakness. The two boys lifted her to all fours. However, she collapsed once again. Egan carried the calf around his neck. The animal was nearly half the weight of Egan. He nursed the calf to health, and Shishi would remain devoted to him. She would, over the years that followed, provide a great number of calves with several twin births. Shishi would reward Egan by giving him great wealth in the size of his cattle herd. That spring, Shishi would return to the herd with triplet calves of identical markings. Surely, Arianrhod, goddess of birth had granted him the second sign needed to win me hand.” “The second sign had been delivered.” Cavan asserts. “For the remainder of the spring, Egan waited, hoped and searched for the third and final sign, but only in vain. Becoming desperate, he traveled about with a walking stick to search under shrubs for his missing sign. He searched litters of dogs, cats, anything for something special. He would not give up hope, even up to the time he left for Cliath and the celebration of Beltaine. As Egan made his way to Cliath with Shishi and the three calves with identical markings, and the amulet about his neck, he continued to look. They traveled along the water’s ways. He dreamed of the surprise on my face, that I would behold his two triumphs and surely my father would delay his time for a third sign. He grew tired and more uncertain as he neared Cliath. He stopped to offer thanks for the fortune he had come upon and for the chance to win me, even if he would not. During this muse, a sweet floral scent awoke his senses. A

scent stirred in him a yearning he could not explain. His mind flashed of being a babe in his muther’s arms. His lungs filled deep and hot fire grew within. He would fight for me and he would never surrender his quest. Never! That scent, which revived him came from the riverbank, came from three small deep purple flowers growing on a tiny shrub. The velvet petals with delicate yellow markings were barely visible among the bracken. This would have to be his final sign. Boann, goddess of the river, must surely be on his side.” “Grand da thought this must be the third sign!” Cavan has waited for this part of the story. “Egan’s band approached my family dwelling. I stood proud and hopeful that I would be Egan’s woman. This man would be the center of my love and giving for the rest of my life. My father waited as well, with his arms crossed over his chest and face stern. Egan presented the golden amulet and placed it on my neck. He presented the triplet calves, born with the same markings of the muther. My father didn’t respond. Finally, the three roses were handed to the father and he put to them to his nose. His eyes swelled with tears. These roses were his muther’s favorite and he had not held any since her passing into the other world. He had no question of Egan’s worthiness. My father kept the roses, and gave his permission for me to go with Egan as his wife after our wedding. The gold amulet would stay with me, and all the cattle would return with Egan and myself as his bride. Soon after the wedding, Egan and I settled a new home. The first year, I was with child. Oiche was my first son, he had hair the color of fire. About two years later, I had a second son, Daor, who died after eight months from a cough in the dark season.” She pauses and closes her eyes briefly to remember him. “My heart was broken, for I held my baby all through the night the night he died. I was weary caring for the sick child and poor Daor was weary as well.” Muira grabs holds Cavan’s hand tightly as her eyes water.

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“One can still find his grave on the top of the hill south of here, under an ancient oak. Egan was distressed over not being able to comfort me, but before we knew it, I was with child again. I knew this child would be musically inclined by the look of his long fingers when he was born. I named our third child Ceol, because he was like a song to me. He had blond hair with a red tint and pale blue eyes. A few years passed and we had a third child, a son, whom we named Leigh. He had brown hair and blue eyes, looking very much like his own father. He was a bit clumsy and I could never keep him neat, but he grew up quick-witted and wise. Several years later our girl child was born, who we named Rialta, The boy Fergus followed at the last.” Muira releases Cavan’s hand. She smiles as she recalls the joy of all her children and the many good times they shared. “But enough of idle chatting. Now you know everything about me that is necessary to know when I am gone. I want you to know of Locherbith as well.” They walk quietly and listened to the birds. “Your vision of the birds is a forewarning of things to come. You must go to the Holy Grove and take your teachings very seriously. Always be mindful of the spirits, for our very existence depends upon them. There is so much more to tell you.” She pats him on the head. Cavan stirs yet with pensive gaze. He looks to his grandmuther. “Why is gold always found under the earth?” Surprised by a question never asked before, Muira leans back. “So that we who walk upon the earth in life or in death should value the land.” Muira is surprised by her own response. Cavan has given her cause to rejoice in living. Rialta has arrived and they climb into the cart and head back to Muira’s cottage.

DRUID OF LOCHERBITH

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CHAPTER II Ní thigeann an sách an seang. The well fed does not understand the lean.

Cavan and Muira reach the cottage just as the boy’s muther and

sisters arrive by horse cart. Cavan advances to take hold of the horse as his muther brings the cart to a stop.


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“Ah, Cavan put a tie around the horse’s feet till your muther gets herself down.” Rialta runs to give her new manchild a hug. “Oh my, you’re wearing muther’s brioche. It’s a grand site you are with a fine Druid tunic and gold finery about you. Those Druid in Cliath will be glad at the very site of you.” Muira helps Cavan’s sisters, Ree and Mea, down from the back of the cart. “Take your goods into the cottage girls. Your grandmuther has some treats on the table waiting for you now.” Rialta still holds Cavan. “This day the family celebrates your coming to be a man. It’s a grand feast with all your uncles, we will be having.” “My uncles are coming here today? Just for me own sake!” “Coming no more for they are down on the lower west meadow tending the cattle, and playing the games of their youth I’ll wager,” answers Muira. “Now Cavan, your uncles want you to join them for lunch just before they take the herd to the lake for a wash up. Uncle Ceol has brought a fine new rope to be stretched over a large bow near the water’s edge for the climbing up, and the swinging and diving off, at the old swimming hole.” Cavan knows he is now to join the men at the gatherings and to keep off from the children as he is now a grown-up as well. “Me uncles asked for meself did they? Best I be off for the joining of the men folk.” “If you please Cavan, I have cold ham, cheese, and fresh bread to be taking along with you for lunch. And there’s a crock of stout for their thirst in the back of the wagon,” speaks Rialta. “Take your muther’s horse, and I’ll put the goods for the eating in a large linen bag. You’ll be eating with your uncles, Cavan. Mind the boys and keep some appetite for an early super.” Muira directs. “Cavan, leave your tunic off and I’ll be keeping the brioche till you return. Don’t lose one of your new sandals for otherwise

you’ll be off to Cliath with the look of a beggar.” Rialta wants the boy to look proper for his arrival at Holy Grove. “Muther may I have some stout with me uncles?” “What? And you just turning from a child!” Rialta is shocked that her son is so quick to be asking for manly pleasures. “Hold on Rialta, it’s his time for his choosing in the way of a man. Nature won’t keep young that which doesn’t fit in a cradle. Share what’s given to your uncles and take your part as a man in the family, and be off with you now!” Rialta is sad as the youth rides off. “He’s very much a small child yet to my thinking.” “Indeed, my dearest daughter, but the king will put him to war with the men if he chooses. Let the boy wear his new manhood with ease. It’s for sure he’ll be earning it dearly for many a year to come.” Muira calls her two granddaughters out to the back yard. There Ree, and Mea are made busy at working up a fire in a large cooking spit. Rialta will bring pieces of pork, lamb, chicken, and beef from the springhouse for setting over the fire for a slow roast. “Mum there’s several large crocks of stout, and wine on the wagon. Me husband, has loaded a long table on the cart as well.” “Fine Rialta, when the boys return they will be after the drink. We’ll have them set up the long table in the garden under the shade for feasting this day.” The ladies work away at baking breads on a large skittle set upon flat stones heating by the fire of the spit. Long loaves, biscuits, and rolls of raisin bread glazed with honey are made ready. Cabbage cooks in a large kettle upon the fire to which salt is occasionally added to fit the girl’s taste. Rhubarb boils in a second kettle into which strawberries and honey are mixed. Fresh tomatoes are stewing with squash, and a mix of warm beans. Apples just taken from the cold storage of the springhouse are baking. Fruit pies heat in covered metal pans. Fresh buttermilk, spring water mixed with lemon juice and

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honey, and apple cider are gathered from the springhouse as well. The entire spit and all the flame is busy for several hours at the making of a grand feast in the tradition of the McElwain clan of the Giollabhain. Smoke and scents of cooking meat fill the air about Muira’s cottage. “Girls it’s the time to be gathering bunches of flowers of sweet scent for the table,” says Rialta. “Mind you mix some green leaves with the flowers for color,” adds Muira. The girls are thrilled to be let loose in the gardens of Muira. Her many brilliant flowers, and bushes grow in circular rows about the cottage. Many are the villagers that have passed by Muira’s home just for the viewing and the taking of the fragrances to be enjoyed there. “Those girls will ruin your plants before they’re done,” says Rialta. “There’s no better hand in a garden than a child’s and the damage dun will not last as long as that of an ordinary rain. Besides, the place is to be left to you, and yours when with Egan again I’ll be.” Rialta’s eyes turn to see if her muther shows a weakness. The sight of Muira who is as busy and as happy as ever comforts her. “It will be my great grand children you will need to be asking for the leaving of it.” Rialta laughs but she is always anxious about Muira just as her father had been. After several hours the ladies have the feast in hand and they sit about talking of the finer things that belong to just the woman folk. Lot’s of news from the village is brought to Muira’s attention. The loud sounds of men laughing and giving cheers announce that Muira’s boys are soon to be home from their business in the fields. “Hello! Is there a boy to become a man in the house?” The men roar all together. Indeed the house and the ground shake as an army of healthy grown men invades the cottage. “Thousand welcomes to all,” the women sing back at them with just as much joy.

The hugging and kissing becomes a swirl of one anxious to see the other. The motion of arms search to see who is free for the greeting gives way to the men pulling one another off to get first place at grabbing hold of one or other of their women kin. Cavan watches, as it seems a great battle has commenced in the yard of his grandmuther’s home. The contest is filled with joy and laughter. The sounds are wondrous and loud as a warm family unit. Muira is delighted to see her all children home once again. It is almost as it had always been when they were all little. “Dinner is to be served as soon as the table is set and all hands are washed up as clean as they can be made.” “Right it is that your are muther,” says Oiche the oldest. “Boys let us waste no more time, and get to muther’s cooking. It’s the treasure true we’ve all been longing after.” “Oiche you are always the leader, and especially good at flattering our muther,” speaks Leigh. “Flattering any woman is more like it,” laughs Ceol. “How else could that great ugly face of a man get a woman’s kiss but without a great effort at beguiling,” adds Fergus. “I haven’t kissed a dead woman yet!” Oiche retorts but laughs as heartily as the rest. “I’m not sure that some weren’t kilt off entirely after having your kiss,” barbs Rialta. Oiche’s fondness for the women has always made good sport with his siblings. “Cavan you are to sit at the head of the table with Oiche at your right hand as proper this day. Meself will sit at your left.” Muira is sure to have Cavan’s day done up so the clan’s traditions will be well kept. Rialta, the girls, and the boys get busy with bringing small wooden bowls for drinking and large wooden bowls for eating. Metal knives and forks with wooden spoons are set at each place. At the table’s end opposite from Cavan a place will bet set by Muira for the presence of the spirit of Cavan’s grandfather Egan. As the family sits down, Muira calls to Cavan, “It’s you duty to say the words before this meal.”

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Cavan’s face flushes to have all his uncles look to him as a man, and listen to his words. “It’s glad and grateful I am to pass into manhood this day with my grand family. Muira the living muther of our family and Egan our dear father, your goodness has filled our lives. I come of age in the light of your love and kindness. My pledge to be faithful to our way is given. May all the children to come be as fortunate as me here this very day…let’s eat.” Hurrah and cheers, and tears of joy flow for Cavan’s words touch every heart. “Fill your bowls with punch for a toast to Cavan,” booms Leigh’s voice. To Oiche comes the duty of the father at the table. “To our Cavan, no longer boy, but man. There’s much to this world to see, but there’s no better sight, no lovelier place, and no greater joy than our home here with our muther. May you days be full, may your joys be long, and may your heart always be content as it is this day…Let the feast begin,” orders Oiche. The girls watch as the food platters move up and down the long table. Their young eyes bulge at the prodigious size of the servings taken by the men. The heavy flow of drink gives wonder to them as to how a body might hold so much at one time. “More pork here! Awfully fine stuff muther,” calls Leigh. “Good night man, your nose will be turning round on your face for the eating of so much pig,” laughs Ceol. “Sure it’s no shame to be a full sized man. Better to have the strength of a beast than the shadow of a pole.” Leigh answers pointing out Ceol’s long thin frame. “The lean horse wins the long race, da would always say,” adds Fergus. “Have any new wives Oiche?” Rialta is always curious as to her older brother’s love life. “I’m in need of a grand war to put me in the mood for family making…Has your husband been after another woman?” Oiche cannot resist the tease. “He’s more than satisfied with one, thank you very much.” Rialta answers proudly for her husband. The good-

natured banter and cracking on of one to the other continues throughout the meal. The young girls are not left out. “Mea, you’re getting to be a fine lady. Are the boys looking at you yet?” Fergus smiles at the little one as he questions her. “No, I’m only ten Uncle Fergus, but all the boys watch Ree all day long.” Ree’s face turns red and she looks down demurely. Her long black her hides her blue eyes and the pale white of her beautiful face. “And why not? She’s as much of a looker as her muther. All the boys followed Rialta around at the same age like a pack of ducks, making noise with no sense to it at all but just fort the keeping of her attention” Muira is proud of the looks of her daughter, and her granddaughters. “It’s time for some pie and lemon juice and then a bit of music.” Says Muira. The young girls rush to get at the pies and bring them fresh to Oiche for the cutting and handing out. “The first piece to Cavan them mum’s get her choice,” orders Oiche. Cavan digs into his pie, but the pause in the talk gives him chance to raise his favorite subject. “How about the wee folk?” “They weren’t invited to your party!” Muira jokes, yet knows that the lad must have much more knowing on this subject and she is quick to lead the conversation. “There are many a spirit, fairy, and lesser deity to be found about the island. These abound in the earth, sky, and water. The greater spirits residing in places of greater magic and power over mankind. About the island are scattered various clans of fairies known as wee folk. The bands of wee folk are disbursed according to the most ancient of civilizations. Some abide in the forests, some in the earthen digs about the meadows, some at the banks of rivers, and streams. Only upon a rare occasion will the wee folk venture off the land, and only then with the help of a fellow creature of magic such as the bird, or a fish.” This is a subject also dear to Leigh, and he is ready.

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“Each fairy band is having it’s own chieftain kept over from the early days when they were only people about the land. Now the wee folk, although wholly converted to life as fairies, have kept much of the ways of themselves as people. They still produce goods for trade amongst other fairies and mankind alike. As fairies, they no longer keep animals or farm but help themselves to whatever pieces they like belonging to mankind.” Cavan is thrilled as Leigh continues. “Now it’s been observed that a fairy band will be quick to take to war as a way of settling disputes amongst themselves. They will take up arms against any ignorant person insisting on disrupting their peace all together. A farmer must take care of not starting a feud by way of plowing up a fairy’s earthen home or cutting down trees special to the wee folk. Today the various people of the island and the spirits have long kept the peace by practicing the ways taught by the Druid.” “Is the king of Cliath a Druid?” Asks Cavan. Oiche laughs at the mention of the king of Cliath. He roars, “The king of Cliath is a kindly old man. Not much to look upon, he is soft and round. There is much of the way a woman about himself but he is dearly loved by his all people. All but the very young children take to fussing and turning stiff when the king is in their presence. The truth is that the children and dogs detest the sight of the king. The dear old man loves to hold the baby, and pet the dog. But a natural revulsion to the king by both has caused the king to be bitten quite often. The king carries scars from the teeth of dog, and small child alike. Indeed, when the king is about the village, his guard must carry walking sticks to keep the stray dog from chasing after their sovereign.” Ceol is a good friend of this king and is slightly offended by Oiche’s characterization. Ceol comments. “Perhaps a plain and lesser man than most, the king is truly royal in affairs of state and business. His reputation for trading, and treaty is second to none in Cliath or abroad among the many villages on the mainland. Under this king’s rule the wealth, power, and security of the Chead are legendary wherever a ship may sail.”

Rialta giggles aloud and she says, “This King is fond of having a youthful wife. Every woman young or old is wanting to be a queen.” Ceol continues, “Over the years by way of acquisition the king has collected a large number of ladies and many children to claim the throne. Being a practical man, the king named the heir to throne to be the child who has made through independent ways the greatest wealth. The next king shall inherit only the throne and the difficulties of it. The kingdom will fall to the one with a keen sense of making the profit. His fortune will pass to his dear infant children who will not want for the lack of a father’s wit when he is off to the next world. Hence, his elder sons and daughters are in much demand by merchants who are ambitious to gain future influence from the throne.” Muira is also fond of the king and her view is offered. “His concern with the needs of the people leads the king to rely on the wisdom of the Druid. The Druid in return are faithful to the people, and the leadership of the king. As the village of Cliath prospers under the reign of the king, and the guidance of the Druid so does the island as a whole prosper.” “The Chead have always been an intelligent, industrious people but are given to violent ways in personal conflict. As a nation they are relatively peaceful but collectively the Chead are quite capable of providing a formidable defense.” Fergus speaks with much affection for the Chead of Cliath. “However, there has always been a second king who assists in the rule of Cliath. Hugh Mhor is the ancient lord of the land about Cliath and the wee folk who retreated to the high meadow near my child hood home.” Tells Muira. Indeed, Hugh makes the King’s business his own. Hugh sits uninvited in royal council, and many of the treaties made by the Chead with nations over the sea have a magical way that is born of Hugh’s influence with the dreams of the king. Cavan is learning that the history of the people of the island, and the wee folk are inseparable. Leigh’s interest is raised, and he speaks. “Hugh’s attention with the king’s business is intended to the mutual interest of his

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fairy band, and the Chead for as the Chead prosper the fairies there about are left to their own. For in hard times, the wee folk will be driven from their work. Many a tree in the orchard will not bear fruit without the magical attention of the fairy. The berry bushes will wither for want of care from the ancient little fairies. The spreading of wild flowers about the land can not be done in earnest if the wee folk are not free to come and go as they choose. Not to mention the difficulty the wee folk will have running the salmon from the sea up the rivers and streams when the big folk muddle the waterways with their presence. Indeed, the land prospers only when the wee people are free to carry out their ancient duties. Peace on the island leaves the fairies as content as fairies can be. The wee folk are powerfully fond of visiting the homes and dwellings of the people of Cliath at night for purpose of inspecting the goings on, and gathering lost bits and pieces of the goods to be found there about. The many fairy bands will gather in Cliath on major holidays such as Beltaine, to join the big folk in making merry.” “It is said that many a time when the stolen children being held for sale in the barns with the pigs, and goats are comforted by the music and song of the wee folk at night. In some instances, a special fondness for a child so bound will give rise to a plot by the wee folk for the child’s escape to live with the fairies themselves. I know this to be the fact,” says Oiche. “Mame, tell me about the woman who runs through the woods.” “Eta! She has become the keeper of the forest. Maeve herself grants power to her. Sometime past, Eta made the acquaintance with three peculiar spirits of the enchanted forest. These three spirits have long banded together to cause mischief. They will scare cattle, and chase the sheep form the fields. They will startle the dear from under the hunters gaze,” Muira laughs. “They have great fun upsetting the plans of the mortal folk.” “The spirits are named Quigley, Monty, and Mab.” Rialta adds.

Oiche is quick to say. “These three have special powers. One power is the ability to travel among the human population in the visible form of some animal such as a dog.” “Let me tell the tale of Eta,” asks Muira. “In the land of the Giollabhain, Eta lived as a young orphan girl whose love of nature and animals was so great that she often traveled within the enchanted forest alone. The three spirits took great pleasure in observing her daring escapades and would follow her about the forest. Upon one occasion the three spirits decided to have some fun and present themselves to Eta in the form of three large trout. They swam about in the small clear pool in which Eta fished with a net. As Eta gathered the net, the three trout were hauled on to the shore. Eta held one trout in her hand and marveled at its special beauty. Returning the trout into the pool. Eta said, ‘you three are too beautiful for the dinner plate… I must place you back into the pool from where you are lost.’ The three spirits were most confused by this inhumanly choice. But they were eager to press on with their challenge of the girl. They were quick to make a bird’s nest in a small bush placed along the way that Eta herself would be passing on her return to home. Here they appeared as three nestling arrayed in glorious feathers of many bright colors, the like of which has never been seen by man. They sang a beautiful sweet melody for the harmony of which no mortal one could resist. Eta passing by the fairies’ trap paused to inspect the nest. Eta exclaimed, ‘Oh what lovely music, what wondrous colors to behold…I can’t tell any one of this place or the young birds may come to harm’. Eta withdrew covering all signs of her presence so no one could follow her tracks. Now three fairies were sure this girl had the power of a spirit unlike any that dwell in the woods. Eta was a girl child of the kind they had never seen. They tried once again to test her humanly ways. They circled about the woods distant to Eta as she walked. They behaved like stocking wolves to scare the girl into flight. To their surprise, the closer they approached Eta in form of a wild pack of dogs, the more Eta called back to them by making the sound of a baying hound.

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It seemed that Eta was intending to close on the three spirits. Eta was not afraid, in fact she was anxious to make friends and three hounds soon found they could not elude the girl as she pursued them into a cave not far from the Banshee’s mountain. Here Eta confronted the three. Laughing, Eta informed the three that she recognized them in their spirit form all along. ‘To me no fish, or bird or dog do I see but three muses making a silly fuss about the forest.’ This gave uproarious delight to the three fairies. Many the times Eta would return to this cave for the purpose of the making of grand sport and song with the muses. By and by the cave became the home of not only the three fairies but Eta as well. Eta often arrived with some item to become part of the decoration of the cave. Wood was assembled to make a table, and chairs. Wool, and warm hides she deposited within the cave for bedding. Crocks for storing food, cooking and serving bowls were gathered into the cave. Eta was bit-by-bit taking her residence within their fairy haven deep in the enchanted forest. In order to protect Eta while she was in the cave, her three fairy friends transformed the trees and bushes in front of the cave opening into the appearance of a large stone wall, so any one or any thing passing by would not see the cave’s opening. However, the more time Eta spent with her fairy family, the more fairy-like Eta became. She was loosing her desire to be mortal. And her three fairy mates were all for the granting of her wish. Over the years Eta, child of the forest, and the three grew to be all but inseparable. To this very day it is so! The family was enthralled by this tale and just at its end, Ceol breaks into music with the pipe flute. Rialta and the girls beat tympani with wooden spoons on the long table. Before long Oiche grabs his muther and the pair begin to dance with Rialta and Leigh at the follow.” Just as in days past the feet skipped to many a merry tune. The end of the feast comes with Egan’s favorite song. Leigh’s rich tone, Ceol’s sweet sound, and Rialta’s soft angelic voice blend into a powerful melody for a sad tugging of the heart as the evening approaches.

“It feels like he is here with us tonight.” Muira smiles to herself. Oiche announces. “The feast is ended.” The girls and the men begin to clear off the long table; trash is hauled to a pit a good walk off for burying. The meat is wrapped in coarse linen then dipped in melted bee’s wax, and stored in the springhouse. The perishables are set upon the small table inside the cottage for the picking over during the night. The men hold each other’s arms and join together. “Uncle Oiche, I must pass through the enchanted forest on my way to Cliath.” Oiche interrupts. “Do not fuss lad, your uncles will keep you company on the trip. Beside the person who wears a brioche from Muira will be getting safe passage through the enchanted wood from the Banshee.” The sun moves low in the sky. Day is mostly gone, and the images of evening appear in the long shadows. “Cavan and the other men are taking him to Maeve, the spirit of the lake on the opposite side of Lake Locherbith. They are to follow Muira down a path to an cove only known to Muira and her children. There will be this night the fullness of the moon. It’s to be the lad’s first part in dealing with Maeve herself.” Says Muira to Rialta. The ladies gather some things for the men to pass the night. “Some drink and a bit of light provisions is all we’ll be wanting.” Muira instructs Rialta. “Take the horse and cart, mum. Rea and I will keep the whole of your house till you return. Cavan won’t be frightened by the goings on this night, but best mind he keeps awake muther.” Rialta is uncertain as to her son’s ability to take part with the Druid way so soon. Fergus gathers the horse and readies the cart. Oiche and Leigh collect the needs for the making of a tent from animal hides that will be set upon a small rise near the lake. Muira will ride with Ree on the cart. Cavan and his uncles will walk ahead and lead the ways to the hidden cove of Lake Locherbith were the goddess Maeve dwells.

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Cavan is sure the night’s proceedings are to be grand, as his uncles are heavily armored and carrying sword, lance, and shield. The men will march with eyes fixed along the whole of the horizon. Their words are few, and softly spoken. “We’ve not gathered as an army since we fought the Emor,” says Ceol. Along the group’s march, Fergus hesitates as a number of large crows circle the band. The ravens caw to one another, and to the men below as they make fight away from the direction of the lake. “The spirits are aware that Muira is heading to the lake. Keep the eye about our work lads.” Leigh is put fully at the ready by the birds calling. The men raise their shields up instinctively on guard in case they encounter the Poulka. The band has taken a bit of alarm. The rest of the march is done in stealth with the men’s eyes never leaving the horizon. They march out upon an open land. As dusk settles and the mist rises they arrive at the place of their rest near Locherbith. Here the men stable the horse aside the cart. A small tent is raised, and a large fire will burn through the night, as Ree tends the camp. On a knoll with a wide-open view of Locherbith, their encampment is set. The distance to the lake from the camp is not far but sufficiently off so Maeve’s privacy is respected. Cavan’s uncles immediately form a plan of watch that encompasses the camp, and all the grounds leading directly to the lake. Their guard will not break until Muira’s work is done. Through the evening, the night to come, and until morning’s wake, the men will make safe the work of the Druid. “It is time for Cavan to visit with the muther spirit as only the Druid may. We shall ask the muther spirit to show us the way by seeing present and the past”. Muira’s voice is strong and determined. The sun has moved low in the sky. Muira and young Cavan begin to move toward the body of water that is filled by magic through the presence of Maeve. “What shall I do till you return?” Ree is apprehensive. “Keep the fire bright. Listen to your uncles. I’ll ask the full

moon to let you see in your dreams the man whom is to be your husband.” Muira smiles and Ree is heart filled with the joy of such expectation. For a short time, the Druid pair advances to the lake. Muira and Cavan come to stand at the very edge of the water. The sun has no direct light to fall upon Locherbith. Muira takes a potion from a small linen bag. She opens the small vile and pours a white liquid onto the surface of the water and lifts her hands saying these words: “Muther spirit, know that I Muira, daughter of your husband’s blood calls to you. Here stands Cavan! He is one of your own. Come to us that we may share that which you wish us to know. We wish to see places far off during troubled times of the past. Only you can help those of your own spirit.” Cavan has never seen his grandmuther so siren, and so strong. From Muira’s self raises a force of sound, and will such that nature hushes to hear her words. The winds about the lake fall soft. The water stills. Nature is attending to Muira. At the feet of the Druid pair, atop the surface of the near water appears the image of the full moon as a saffron globe. “Look into this form upon the water. Call to whom you seek. The view to you by wish is to be seen,” came these soft words of Maeve upon the wind. Cavan asks boldly. “Let us see the fairy forest and it’s secrets.

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# A great forest that fences the land of the Giollabhain assures privacy in the east of the island. A deep wood completely covers a stretch of the land that partitions the island into unequal halves. Cavan views the form of a magnificent stag as he prances along a trail in a deep wood. This deer moves in a lordly fashion surveying all about him. The bright rust color of its fur allows the stag to pass among the forest hidden from mortal view. Stands of oak, ash, and elm mix with thickets of briars


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growing so dense the deer cannot pass through. A maze of tangled trails and paths confound any traveler who enters into the woods. Although man is not welcomed into these woods, the stag prince navigates effortlessly. The deer moves close to a place of the wee folk. He pauses not for fear but he wishes to create no disturbance of their valuable work in nature. Near a small stream that trickles through a glade of ferns, the stag spies four small men. They are digging roots and carrying them into a mound. “We have only a million of these left.” A small round fellow with green jacket and yellow pants declares. “Why didn’t anyone tell me we’re are almost out ginger root.” Three little men all in shades of black and brown, scratch furiously at the earth beneath small delicate plants. Little drops of a blue-white glowing liquid falls from under their red stalking caps. Upon hitting the ground little flashes of light sparkle. “How is one to have beer with his super? There are no big folk here to depend upon.” The fairy leader complains as his helpers dump tiny buckets into a tiny wagon drawn by a ground hog. The stag moves onward deeper into the darkest woods. As he moves, the sound of laughter and music call him into stillness within mighty oaks. A band of wee folk dance with the spirits of lost children of the Giollabhain. Fairies young and old play flutes and beat drums. Harps made from tree branch and spider’s webs play a captive sound. Small children run through knotty holes that cover the oaks. Through fairy doorways the children dart in and out of the trees running one after the other. As high as a hundred feet above the ground the lost children rise through the air at the chase. Black birds carry tiny men and women through the branches and leaves. Little trumpets of gold sound as the birds fly about with such gaiety that is never to be seen among mortal man. The trail left by the stag closes after him. It is said that

the path made by a human traveling through the forest may disappear altogether by the work of the fairies that dwell there. In the center of the forest is a lone lofty mountain which stands in midst. Its peak is perpetually shrouded in a cloudy vapor. Here is home to a most malevolent spirit of death and destruction, the Banshee. Our deer scout will not move near this place. He as well as all the creatures of the forest animal and spirit alike takes much dread by it. The magical nature of the forest has given home to a range other spirits and animals not to be found elsewhere on the island. For many such reasons the Chead have long made this forest a forbidden place. Only the Druid and people of Giollabhain dare to pass through. This forest is also home to Eta. She is a true child of the forest. The stag passes around the evil mountain. He moves toward the land east of the enchanted forest. He approaches a narrow strip of flat land, which is scared and almost barren. The trees will not grow here nor bush nor holly. He will not tread upon the soil of this place. He waits and watches. Soon small flickering lights approach a swarm of fireflies. The tiny lights make among the sparse bracken on the parched soil. The stag is motionless. His breath is seized. Only after the dancing sparkles depart does he circle about. Our stag emerges into land east of the forbidden forest. Here is a stretch of meadows, glades, isolated stands of trees, and flowing streams that is Cavan’s home. Here the mystical Lake Locherbith feeds into a small river, which flows east through the meadows to a fall that drains into the sea. Several villages gather along the river with meadows and plowed fields laying about their homesteads. Horse and wagon trails follow the river. #

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The reflections of the moon fade. “The magic forest is beautiful!” Exclaims Cavan. “What were those small fiery creatures?” “I have never seen so much of the forest before myself.” Answers Muira. “Only Maeve can tell of the tiny fire spirits. She must wish you that you know of them else they would not be seen in the reflections.” “Mame, what do you know of Locherbith and the gold that is said to come from this lake?” “The mystery of the gold from the spirit of the lake is what has brought our enemies to us. However, they are unaware that the gift of gold that we on this island receive is not for taking! We have come to realize that gold is just a gift, a favor from the spirits. Locherbith’s gold has never made this country a rich one. Locherbith remains a mystery. Our modest prosperity came from other sources, the land and the spirits that dwell here give our most treasured luxuries to us. Cavan, let me show you the current circumstances so that you may understand. Here in Cliath, in earlier times, a small fishing and farming community thrived. The people grew prosperous with the coming of the Druid.” The moonlit orb light of the moon from the surface of Locherbith stirs.

the place of the Druid. They keep orders of the king at the seaport of Cliath. By virtue of the power of the high king of Cliath all the Chead are ruled. Ships from various nations anchor year round. Some remain in the port and some to wait out the winter. Great markets of produce, fish and meat are found about the shore. Many people from around the island come to camp in the fields surrounding the village to trade the goods from their farms. The sharp talons of the hawk soar above a high hill overlooking Cliath that is the Holy Grove of the Druid. Their compound is so prosperous that it is now a village unto itself. The bird passes above the center of Cliath and a large palace of great adornment. Here the king of Cliath dwells. The king’s army is small in number but dispersed about Cliath and the Holy Grove. The hawk makes it out to sea. It is following the high stonewalls that rim the seashore from east of Cliath. Up and around to the north and back to the west, the island is inaccessible by sea. The falcon crosses over the land of the Giollabhain from the eastern shore. The bird’s eyes reveals from aloft the fall of the river. A large circular fort overlooks the ocean. A narrow stone path makes it way down to a tiny hidden ocean cove from which the original father of the Gillobhain made his ascent. This fort is to be occupied by the entire population of the east upon an invasion. There is no standing army of the Giollabhain. The chosen ruler of the Giollabhain keeps the land nearby with his neighbors. Matters of ceremony and celebration are to be undertaken in roundhouses along the river’s edge. The roundhouses serve for funerals, security, and winter meetings and as centers of learning. Life for the Giollabhain is much as the Chead. The size of the land in the east is smaller but more abundant in riches. Most of the people and their homes are adorned with amulets, pins and decorations of gold. This gold is found in the waters of their land. The gold is taken up

# A large winged hawk circles around the Bay of Cliath. It glides on warm currents rising from the land over the shore. The sharp eyes of the bird show Cavan large holding pens for animals, goods and slaves to be held for sale and trade. Huts of skilled workers, merchants, and sailors spread about. Several small stone circle forts stand about the bay. These are made by the king’s guard to keep order and secure the business of the docks. Cliath is the only place on the entire island with a standing army of some one hundred troops. Their main duties are to keep the peace, guard the king, and protect

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as a present from the Maeve, the spirit of the lake to her children of Mahr. For longer than memory can serve the Giollabhain are at peace with the Chead.

Dunbar,” the guard can’t help but to scoff. Mohl is the son of the great king who formed this prosperous, large kingdom of Emor, which lays adjacent to the valleys of the great White Mountains. This kingdom strategically rests in the midlands from the sea to the eastern mountain valleys.” The guard continues. “This woman is much bolder than you think. Our King’s weakness for beautiful women is playing right into her trap. Look at the way King Mohl looks at her, how enamored. She has him feeding from of the palm of her hand. As a visitor, you are not familiar with the fuss she is causing both in and out of the court. Stately men come from all over, all in want of the same thing, her hand in marriage if not only to catch a glimpse of her. Not only is she known for her great beauty, but for her shrewdness in matters of state. Now that she is entering the realm of royalty, she has a huge advantage in the bargaining. Just by looking at her, one can see that the stakes are high indeed.” “She is a sight to behold,” the Prince says under his breath. “Yes, and you being a handsome chap yourself should heed my advice stay out of her path. She has very big, sharp teeth.”

# “I didn’t see Locherbith anywhere! Did the hawk avoid it?” Asks Cavan. “Maeve’s lake is hidden from sight. Only the presence of her descendants may give rise to the water’s apparition.” Muira pauses. “This magic lake near to which we stand is Locherbith. I dwell close with the spirit of Maeve of the golden hair. When you look at the lake near dawn or dusk, one may see her golden hair on the surface.” “What is next Mame?” “Show to us Almidah of the Emor past.” Calls Muira. As both stare into the fiery reflection upon the water’s surface, human figures begin to move within, and the sounds of a time ago rise to be heard. The pair stands in witness to the proceedings as if they are transported through time, and place. # The figures in the globe began to speak. “Who is that bewitching woman dancing with that man?” The visiting Prince Dunbar of the Cetura watches the woman as her long dark hair caresses the small of her back and then he catches a glimpse of her slender ankles as she turns perfectly in step to the sound of the lyre. “Her name is Almidah. Her father has won himself a position as an envoy of commerce to our court not too long ago. Although she does not come from royalty as she seems, her father acquired quite a bit of land and power,” answers the aged guard. “She moves with such effortless grace. What on earth does she see in that little troll of a man?” Dunbar speaks with disdain. “That little troll is our King Mohl of Emor, Prince

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# Maeve’s reflection of the past fades. “She’s beautiful Mame! I’ve never seen any thing to match such a vision. Does she still look like this?” Cavan ponders over the vision of Almidah. “The vision does not deceive you, but in person Almidah would be more lovely yet. I see you are taken by her beauty, Cavan.” “I can’t help myself Mame. Is more to be seen?” “Be still Cavan, and let Maeve show us as she herself decides.” #


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Again the globe shines with life passed. The King of Emor is drunk on this woman’s beauty, and spinning round her he wants nothing more than for her to share his royal throne. “Never, have I seen a woman of such beauty, and I’ve seen many women,” Mohl’s hooded eyes look anything but attractive. “Such a graceful dance partner, your dance is as one who stands upon the air.” Almidah smiles broadly trying not to focus on the scar that stretches from the king’s left temple down to the corner his mouth. “Tell me dear lady, would you be so kind as to join me for private feasting tomorrow evening, it would give me such pleasure.” “A great honor it would be to one so small as me, sire.” A guard rushes over to the King and whispers in his ear. “I regret that I must go now, important business has come up. Until tomorrow,” he clasps her hand to kiss it and slides a gold ring on her ring finger. She stands until he has left the hall and glances around. She nods to her father as he watches from behind a velvet curtain. Just then a man appears before her. He is tall and broad of shoulder and he bows before her. “Let me introduce myself. I am Prince Dunbar, from the land that forms the eastern border with Emor.” He looks into her green eyes and she nods demurely. “Lady Almidah,” she pauses to study his angular features. “It is the pleasure to make the acquaintance. I need the fresh air, can you meet me out in the garden in some minutes.” He is taken back by her aggressive response. “Gladly!” She turns and heads in the direction of her father standing in the doorway and he calls her over.

“Who is that man, Almidah,” he says in an urgent whisper. “He gave his name as Prince Dunbar, papa.” You don’t want to ruin our hopes with the King tonight. I suggest you avoid that young man altogether.” “Do not worry so father,” she tries to reassure him. “No! I have the serious thought. You cannot let the short fancy get in the way of our long ambition. Whim can be the fatal enemy of ambition. Especially when you are to deal with royalty. Such do not take a lack of loyalty lightly. Let me see your hand.” “The King placed this ring on my finger.” “Yes, he is serious about you my dear. At least wait until you have an heir and you establish relationships with trusted confidants. Our young cousin Phelan is very trustworthy. He will keep you safe and advise you well and his father is an important confident of mine.”

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# The two Druids watch the reflections of the past play out upon the water’s surface. “Why does a beautiful young girl want an ugly old king?” Asks Cavan. “The heart of some women is to be filled only with gold. Others as your muther, Rialta have hearts made only to hold the love of their husband, and children. And many of both believe that only a king can fill any woman’s heart. The age of a man to a woman in great need has no part in the bargaining at all,” declares Muira. # The tale by the water’s reflection continues. “I have thought you forgot me, Almidah.” Dunbar speaks in excitement. “I could not deny myself the curiosity of you. However, King Mohl has shown interest. It is dangerous for both of us to be here so.”


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“Then why did you come here?” “I had to,” she takes a step closer to him. She wants to rest her head on his shoulder and feel his strong arms about her. He meets her and embraces her. She immediately pushes him away. “You will have us both executed. Meet me tonight in my father’s garden. Follow me home and be discreet. My father and I will be leaving shortly.” With that Almidah is gone. The evening passes at the palace. “Sire, you are in unusually high spirits this morning. Could it be that Lady Almidah is the reason for such inspiration?” “Yes indeed. She is truly stunning, young and fresh.” “Are you concerned at all of any ulterior motives she may have?” “Not one bit. It has been my experience that pretty faces are short on smarts, if you know what I mean.” He taps on the side of his head with one finger and laughs. “I’m certain that you’ve heard rumors that she contains a substantial amount of brains as well as beauty.” “I can handle her. Believe me Councilman Linius. Besides, I might enjoy a challenge for a change. I’ll have her as tame as a household pet. You know what I mean. After all, I am King Mohl of the Emor and there is no better aphrodisiac than this.” The King grabs a goblet from a servant’s tray and takes a drink, which makes his lips pucker. “I hope you’re right, Sire. Don’t forget you have an important meeting with the chief of military early tomorrow morning. You know how impatient the council can be.” Linius walks away while shaking his head. King Mohl goes about his business humming.

“She has won the seat next to the throne of Emor. She is now queen”, answers Muira.

# “Almidah now wears a crown Mame! What does it mean?” Asks Cavan.

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# The moon’s reflections come alive once more. The soft shuffle of Almidah’s feet could be heard as she hurries into the castle where King Mohl sleeps. Almidah enters and carefully slides into the bed of her husband the king, while he snores. He stirs only for a moment. She has her back to him as the sun rises. She hears him yawn and rise. His hand reaches over to touch her shoulder and she cringes. “My queen, which party did you have the pleasure of visiting last night?” Her eyes open wide in disbelief, still not looking at him, she gains her composure. She stretches casually, looks him in the eye and says, “My dear king, it was only at the home of the new commander of the watch; the one with the looks of a god. After all, I cannot always be expected to talk to a mule. He’s a much better choice than the poor girls whose favor’s you seek.” His face reddens but he laughs as if what she said is ludicrous. “My loving wife, do not make me look bad in front of the court, or I will have to put you over my knee.” She rolls her eyes at him and puts on her robe. “Don’t you want to stay a little while with me here?” He asks hope filled. “I do not have time for your nonsense. I have a meeting with Phelan, my coconspirator.” “That’s what I like about you. Your honesty,” he says sarcastically. “You could have everything of my kingdom, only if you would truly love me.” “I do not love you. I am your queen only. Yet I shall have it entirely my dear. On this you may count.” With that she goes to her dressing room and calls upon her maids. The king sits at the edge of the bed and sighs. Almidah moves about the court. “Phelan, I cannot


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stand to be queen to this Mohl anymore. He is too weak a man to provide heirs to his kingdom, and I don’t want to share the king’s life any more!” “Calm yourself down my sweet Almidah. It won’t be too much longer now. He isn’t paying much attention to matters of the state now that you have filled the castle with so many beautiful young maids. Your brother Marco is now securely the head of the military, and council is nearly fed up with the King due to his lack of interest in current happenings. We’ve successfully replaced many of the King’s advisors with our own trusted lackeys. You shall not wait much longer.” Tears well up in her eyes as she clutches Phelan, “He is so weak, so truly detestable, I am noxious every day thinking about sharing our royal lives.” He puts one arm around her and kisses her forehead. “You will be another’s queen very shortly, I promise. And then the Emor shall have the kingdom of Cetura in the bargain.” The reflections off the water advance in time. Almidah sits at the head of table with her Emorian counselors, a group of women and men whose power and influence kept the kingdom wealthy and thriving. A large oblong wooden table with seating for twenty people is filled. Phelan sits to the right. “Your highness, now that King Mohl has passed away and you’ve taken his place, we need to discuss something of great importance with you,” speaks an elder man, Constable Giddeon. “An island far in west of here is known as the land of Mahr. This place appears to be thriving with gold to be found in the streams and rivers, an abundance of cattle, in addition to slaves. We have been trading with the people of this island for sometime now. It is becoming highly developed and self-sufficient. It seems to me, that this island’s resources would easily increase the wealth of our nation.” Several of the counselors nod in agreement. “This is all very interesting Constable Giddeon. I have

heard of this nation and it seems worthy of consideration, this Mahr.” Responds Almidah. “King Mohl depleted many of our resources foolishly on charity for the poor and the rest he practically gave away. I think overtaking Mahr will help to replenish your economic standing, Almidah,” Phelan comments. “They don’t seem to be a much of a threat at all. My treasury will be all the more heavy for it. So it is decided then. We shall make further plans for our attack of Mahr. This will be in the very near future. But first my royal marriage to Dunbar of the Cetura.”

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# Mame, this woman has another husband! How can she marry so soon?” “Cavan, some women take on a husband as you change your sandals and them with no more caring than that.” “Maeve, herself must have been most put off by this queen Almidah. For as sure as the tellings are chosen by herself that we see.” Muira continues as the reflections show much of the past. “The need for royal progeny to maintain the throne have to be provided by other than Dunbar who will also prove to be a weakling of a king. So, Almidah begins a campaign with worthy consorts from neighboring kingdoms. To the near north lay a harsh war like people. The brother of the lord of this land would father a girl child with Almidah. This girl, Olga would be as ambitious as her muther, but was lacking her muther’s refined beauty. Olga would become crueler than Almidah. Almidah’s first born would be a boy from a dashing wellbred warrior, who was the youngest son of the chieftain of a nation of great commerce to the south. It was said that this young prince was Almidah’s only true love. Almidah doted on this boy child, Poalo and intended him to inherit the throne. The second and youngest son of Almidah was born to the brother of the King Dunbar. This son of Almidah would be a great leader of the Emor. This boy was pressed into service as


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a military commander. The people of Emor loved the young prince, Lunn. Almidah had secured her hold on the lands an adjacent to the valleys of the great white mountains.”

“I don’t know what to say,” he smiles, pretending to be interested. “Her and her family are coming to dinner tomorrow, so you will get a chance to meet her. I’ve spoken with her briefly, and she is very bright and gentle. She shall make an excellent wife.” Almidah is more pleased for herself than for her son. “That’s wonderful, I am looking forward to it.” “Mama, what about me, when shall I get married? “I am already ten and six summers old.” Asks the princess. “Soon enough my dear Olga.” Almidah looks down at her plate and takes a bite of pork. Olga sits for a moment, waiting for more to be said on the topic. Her muther continues eating and Olga sinks into to her seat disappointed. “Oh, and Lunn, one more thing. I’m thinking of sending you and some troops to Mahr. I think it will be rather unchallenging for you.” “Of course muther. I will gladly do it. I think General Doir should come too. He’s very trustworthy and wise in these matters.” “Shall I go muther?” Asks Poalo. “No, I shall need you here.”

# More images appear in the moon’s reflection. “You stupid girl! What have you done to my hair?” Olga yells and stands up to slap the maid in the face. “When I am queen, I shall have you fed to the rats!” The young maid stands holding her face, determined not to cry. “Don’t stand looking at me, fix it.” Olga sits back in her chair huffing. “Fix it like my mama’s.” The girl combs through the knots, being extra careful. The hair is thick and course, unlike the smooth glossiness of her muther’s hair, but the maid is able to create some resemblance and is quite pleased. “That’s better. Why do you look so smug?” “I’m glad it pleases you,” speaks the girl. “Well don’t get so full of yourself over it.” Olga stares in the girl’ face. “You’re so ugly it makes me sick.” She offers a swift kick to the girl’s shin sending her down and crying. Olga’s face is contorted and she kicks the girl again. The young princess walks out the door to meet her muther for dinner. “Olga darling, your hair looks lovely,” Almidah says pleasantly to her as she sits down to the dinner table. “Thank you mama.” “Poalo, where is Lunn? Why is he late for dinner?” “He has to tend to his horses, but he’ll be here for dinner.” They dine at the oval table when Lunn comes in and joins them. “Lunn, I have some very good news for you.” “What is it my queen, my muther?” “I found a beauty for you. A blond girl from the north near the mountains has arrived. She is from a wealthy family, and she is absolutely stunning.”

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# “What an ugly mean girl! How can she be related to that beautiful queen”, asks Cavan. “Children wear the love of their parents. Their form and health are gifts from the spirits. Your handsome looks Cavan show the pleasure of Maeve, the muther spirit with you. Almidah was long insecure and feared the treachery of others. She employed many to watch over those near her, and in courts of lands conquered, or yet to be so. Olga was skilled at the ways of gathering the secrets of others. Olga was a great confidant of Almidah. The princess was often emissary to neighbors of Almidah’s kingdom. Here Olga by bribery and


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sedition laid the seeds of Almidah’s conquest. Information on the resources of the foreign land, the strength of its army and principle fortifications were all gathered. Internal malcontents were solicited for service to Almidah’s ambitions. As Almidah’s empire approached the sea, more word was brought to Olga of the island of riches. Such is the indigenous wealth of the island that the children wear gold in fields as they work. The population of the whole island is small compared to most seaports that border Almidah’s empire. Now Almidah’s army was quite large and busy, keeping order over her expanding empire. With formations of chariots, horsemen, archers, and men afoot with sword and spears, the army was unconquerable on the mainland. Almidah’s forces had no experience at sea or invasion from the sea. But Almidah knew that soon her domain would occupy much of the coast of the mainland and ships, and sailors would be at the army’s disposal. Her conquest of this small island people would not be far from coming. “Tell me of Emor?” Asks Cavan.

great nations reach Cliath. The number of any one of these nations shall fill many villages much larger than Cliath. The possible enemies are formidable. Now Poalo has taken Almidah’s place, and Emor now lies dormant. Olga is being kept locked away in a dungeon to the south. Poalo, whom she attempted to murder, placed her in the dungeon. Originally, a people of dark hair, hazel eyes and olive skin escaped from a war raging about the shores of a warm blue sea from the far side of the White Mountains. They are cunning and aggressive by nature. By arrangement of marriage and brutal assaults they came to power over a small peaceful tribe living in the valleys of the White Mountains. They formed a great and powerful empire that threatened all including the island of Mahr. This empire is known as Emor. This powerful empire now stands under a treaty of peace. The Emor under Almidah spread from mountain meadow down along the rivers to the sea. They then moved north and south by conquest of arms or treaty till no single nation stood against them.

# Maeve, spirit of the lake responds. “The vast land over the sea runs long east towards the great White Mountains from which the sun rises each day. Many nations of large proportions unimaginable to the Chead are shown across the sea as they reach as far north and south as one may sail. The people of these distant places are bound in speech and custom. They are as different from the Chead as the land they make home. Ice and cold lie in the north. Heat and dryness lie in the south. These people live as neighbors with far more ease of access to one another there then do we to the Chead. This makes war and treaty with several peoples at once a possibility. Several great rivers run from the distant White Mountains to the ocean shore from where the ships of

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# The growing darkness pushes the last blue of the day’s sky to the very edge of the horizon. Directly above Muira and Cavan the brightest stars are emerging. A soft lean mist gathers at the feet of the Druid pair. “Will I ever be able to call Maeve as you, Mame?” “Yes, when your practice as a Druid is much longer!” “Maybe some day I’ll become a spirit such as Maeve!” “My dear Cavan you are already much a spirit!”


CHAPTER III Níor chaill fear an mhisnigh riamh é. The man of courage never lost it.

The old Druidess stands before the lake of Maeve with hers arms

outstretched. She looks up at the full bright moon. “Goddess of the night’s sky hear me. We who serve you are the children of Maeve. Stay your reflection on the water until our present work is done. Aide our search for knowing this night.” Muira looks to Cavan. “The time of passage from one warm season to the next is given by the Sun god, and it is marked by


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the stones of the Druid circle. The passage of the night during the Sun’s annual journey is made by twelve comings of the night goddess as a full moon, which are also foretold in the markings of the Druid circle. The seasons of the year are thus divided, and announced. It is also foretold that upon a rare year, the moon goddess will visit the night sky for the thirteenth time. This is such a year, and this is such a night for the moon goddess’ thirteenth visit. Every Druid upon every shore will this night keep themselves in the presence of the moon goddess for her appearance is deemed to be a time of great foretelling.” “Is this why the men keep guard about us, mame?” Cavan is most anxious. “Ah, my good dear boy it is so! For there are those in life and spirit that fear the times of foretelling, and will strike at we who seek knowledge that they do not want known. No harm shall come to us while Oiche watches!” “Mame, why didn’t Uncle Oiche become a Druid?” “When I first held my son in my arms, I knew Oiche was called to become a ruler of men and a leader in war. Cavan, your uncle was the grandest baby born in the land of the Giollabhain, or the land of the Chead. His length and weight were of the size of baby nearly ready to stand himself up. His tiny grip on my fingers was strong and sturdy. Your grandfather was so proud that he carried his grand baby Oiche from one friend’s house to the next showing his son’s great size. The night of my first son’s birth, the dark sky was big and filled with countless points of light from horizon to horizon. Many balls of fire with tails of many colors crossed the sky that night. It was unlike any night ever before seen by the people of the island. The Druid make claim that on such a nights the spirits of the sky are moving about due to some great change within the cosmos, an omen of things to come. Upon this night of Oiche’s coming, one great piece of the sky streamed down upon the land as one bright ember of fire with many bursts of white and blue flame. Heaven’s power had struck the earth that night. All marveled at the night sky.

During this night, amidst my great cries of pain from birthing, Hugh Mohr appeared to me. I was alone within my cottage, just before the midwives arrived. Egan had gone to fetch them. Hugh carried a flask of water from the spring, which still flows on top of the golden meadow. Drink this lost child to ease your burden and bring forth your new son this very night. Within three days, a piece of the sky sent by the gods above will be handed to you. This gift is for your child. When in your possession it comes, that is the night you are to call upon me. To do otherwise is to cause your child in life to fall into great hardship. With this message Hugh was gone. Soon after, the midwives arrived and attended to me in my bed. The contractions were getting closer together; we were up almost all through the night. Before dawn, Oiche was born and let out a great big whopping cry. His curly hair so red it looked as if it was on fire. He swung his fist around as if ready for a fight. Egan, the proud father, lit the bonfire of new life upon the hill to shine to the village below.” “Oh! How I wished I could have seen that night!” Cavan exclaims. “Indeed you may…by the asking of Maeve upon the water. Just ask her as you would your muther, Rialta.” Cavan steps to the water’s edge and casts his stare into the moon’s reflection. “Maeve dear, may I see Uncle Oiche’s night of birthing?” With these words the mist frame’s the moon’s image upon the water. A soft warm breeze caresses Cavan’s face. Cavan feels an embrace much as when Rialta’s arms held him to sleep at night.

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# Past life stirs once again in the moon goddess’ reflection. That very same night of Oiche’s birth, deep within the enchanted forest, Eta and her fairy companions watch the turmoil in the sky. Eta watches from the opening of her cave, and is both fascinated and fearful of the


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brilliant colored streaking flames passing through the sky. Quigley, Monty and Mab are chattering frantically. Mab claims that the gods of the sky only move so to warn of coming events. “The last comings down from the sky brought a great fire into the forest. This was long before the wee folk came in to the forest to dwell,” says Monty. “Many of the animals of the forest died in the flames. Many were dear friends to us,” says Mab sadly. “What is the cause for these happenings,” asks Eta. “They are burning rocks of great hardness, stronger than the metal spears made by the Chead,” answers Monty. “These rocks are said to make an irresistible strong love potion that no one can resist,” adds Quigley with a snigger. “They most certainly do not! What lunacy is this, Quig? This is no time for your foolery!” Mab scolds. “Shut your cob, Quig, or I’ll whack you into tomorrow,” adds Monty. “They are thrust onto the earth. Sometimes they split the trees as they fall. They smell of evil and glow a soft red color as if they have traveled a far distance from a place forever away,” offers Mab. “Have you seen these rocks that fell from the sky,” asks Eta. “Oh yes! Many times as we pass near the mountain of the Banshee,” Mab states as his two companions nod in agreement. “It seems that the Banshee collect such treasures and covets that the power of the sky is stored within these sky rocks,” Mab continues. As they speak, their attention is diverted to the sight of a great ball of flame passing over Eta’s cave into the enchanted woods. Eta instructs her fairies to find this rock and bring it at once to her cave. “Let no Pouka gather this one piece of the sky for we shall hide it within our cave.”

With that command the three fairies fly off within a wink of an eye in the direction of the fiery brand. By and by, this same night the trio returns to Eta’s cave with a piece of scorched blackened rock the size of large man’s fist. “We found this at the bottom of a lake at the far end of the forest near the land of the Chead,” reports Monty. The banshee is all about the woods searching for the fallen treasure. But as the banshee has no power in water, the sky rock is safe from her until retrieved from the pool. Safe it is to be in the cave for now. Eta ponders all the next day and the day after what to do with the sky rock besides the keeping of it from the Banshee, which may prove to be foolhardy. “For sure some good must be made of the blasted thing,” she says to herself. On the third day Eta is told by wee people of the enchanted woods of the birth of Muira’s son, Oiche. “And Muira would be knowing best what to do with such a thing, besides no banshee here would be coming in to the home of a Druidess such as herself.” With this notion, Quigley appears altogether in the form of a great beast of a dog and carries the sky rock to the door of Muira’s cottage. On the third day of Oiche’s life the rock from the sky is in Muira’s possession.

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# Muira continues the tale beside the lake with Cavan. “That night, after all in the house were sound asleep, I went to the window and called softly, Hugh Mohr, your lost child Muira has need of you. Almost at the instant of my last word Hugh stepped out of the reeds in the garden into the light of the new moon.” “A rock from the sky has Muira, says Hugh. Only the wee people can make from it something good. Hugh will take it to be his own, and on the day of your Oiche’s thirteenth year, the rock will come back to Muira for Oiche only. This must be so Muira, if you are Hugh’s true friend.”


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“With this said, Hugh asked for the sky rock and several strands of my baby boy’s red hair. I obliged and Hugh was off.” “As Oiche grew, he was always of extra size, strength and superior intelligence for his age. He grew in compassion as well, always lending a hand to someone in need. This man once lifted a fallen horse off a fellow villager who had a tumble. Oiche was never found using his physical strength or intelligence as an advantage over those less capable than himself. For as big as he is, his heart is bigger yet.” “Oiche was a very quick study. He learned the lessons from your grandfather and me without repeating,” “His character is sweet and good and he makes friends with all that come to know him. His friends have always been devoted to him and they never fail to solicit his advice on personal matters of any sort.” “As a boy, Oiche demonstrated his ability to wreak havoc and fear among a fierce bunch of mischief-makers. This band would torment the less fortunate of our clan and bully the young ones. Once Oiche came upon them while the group of youths was playing the game ‘King of the Mountain’. The five of them occupied the top of a single grassy knoll set amid an open field while another group of challengers was to push them off entirely to win a point. However, the challengers didn’t have a chance. The challengers were usually forced to play by the group or get beat up on until they eventually played anyway. The occupying group would kick and punch at their opponents if they got too close. Oiche and his smaller friends challenged this group of older youths.” Cavan interrupts. “May I see my uncle play this game?”

“You think you’re big and tough, well then, come on and let’s have at it! We’ll kick yours and your scrawny friends arse up and down this hill!” One of the boys yells loudly. Young Oiche could easily push any one youth off the knoll, but his band was individually too week to overcome the larger youths to win. After several tries straight on, the youthful Oiche directs his men into a left and right flank about himself. Oiche’s plan is to charge the center hilltop at the strength of the opposition by himself, while the right flank pretends to attack in order to draw some of the occupiers partially off the hill thus splitting the opponents formation. Oiche charges the center of the hill bowling over two of the larger defenders including their leader who fall backwards, stunned entirely. On the right, Oiche’s smaller friends dodge punches, and kicks while they pull the legs out from under the defenders. The left flank pushes in a coordinated move with a unified single shove and dispels any occupier not in the clutch of Oiche. There is one straggler left standing, and he just looks at the size of Oiche, and flees the hill and the rest follow suit. Not one of the defenders stands upon the hilltop. The larger lads look at Oiche atop the knoll as they retreat. Oiche and his smaller group win the hill despite overwhelming odds.

# The reflection of the moon gives answers. “My, my, what have we got here,” replies the leader of the nasty boys while he eyes Oiche. He lets go of one young boy’s tunic whom he has been punching. The boy drops to the ground and takes his opportunity to escape. “You have a challenger,” Oiche says boldly.

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# “I suppose that those bullies got to see the true size of my son at the top of the hill,” she laughs to herself. “As I watched my son during this event, I marveled at the pride of the lesser youths in their victory. Oiche became a hero among the very young Giollabhain before he was able to leave our home.” “Mame, tell me about Oiche’s thirteenth birthday, what did Hugh Mohr do with the sky rock?” “As you know Cavan, in our thirteenth year we pass from


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child into adulthood. Oiche was to enter military service with the King Loch of Chead. This was the best military training on the island. My father interceded with the King, for the Giollabhain are rarely permitted to serve in such a way. The night of Oiche’s thirteenth birthday, Hugh appeared to me. “Hugh has come to Muira with his fairy’s work dun. For thirteen years this rock I have hammered. Oiche’s hair it holds within. This amulet he must bear.” With that said, Hugh handed to me a shiny spear’s blade made from the sky rock itself. The blade fit in the palm of a large man’s hand with an edge so sharp it would cut through any metal. Egan would fashion a shaft from oak and mount the blade for his son’s first spear.” “Now, I presented this gift to Oiche as he left for his military service. Oiche was told that the blade had power from the heavens and by the work of the fairies it would be his to use. Under no circumstance must he use it’s power against the wee folk or it’s magic would be taken back from himself forever. It was indeed his duty to protect the wee people about Cliath, as he was obliged personally to their leader Hugh Mohr. The magic spear that Oiche carries gives him safe passage through the enchanted forest. He is to be safe from the banshee herself as long as he keeps off her mountain altogether. Furthermore, Oiche was told that this gift was found by Eta of the magic woods. And as favor to her, he is never to hunt in her part of the enchanted woods being that her friends travel in animal form there.” “Did Oiche like being in Cliath when he first arrived by himself Mame?” “Oh yes Cavan. He told me he was a bit sick of not coming home right off, but the sights, sounds, and smells of the thriving port thrilled him. He met up with many people from foreign places and made new friends which sped the time away from him and he was back to his home as quick as you please.” Cavan giggles at Muira’s consoling sense of time. But Muira sees the gaze of hesitation in the young boy’s eyes. Muira proceeds to reassure her grandson.

“Oiche was trained in several duties in service to the king. First was the duty in Cliath of guarding the business of the port. Here Oiche came to know the ships from many nations; he was quick to learn the languages of the major countries that came to trade. At least enough of any language is being spoken on the docks of Cliath to assist in the business of the day. He observed the different ways the visitors dressed and the strange new tastes of the foods cooked about the docks were great delights to Oiche. He made many friends among the sailors and the merchants of many lands. He was told stories of far off lands, the ways, means and times of passage to places across the sea. Oiche was instructed first hand about the many ways of life on the mainland. The most deplorable duty in Oiche’s time of service was the guarding of the pens in Cliath, that hold the children bound for sale as slaves. His compassion on the many little ones brought there, gave him to bring what extra food he could manage and straw for bedding that he could collect. But the suffering was too great for any man with as big a heart as his.” “Why do the Chead sell children Mame?” “For as long as there is sickness that ends the life, and creates poverty, and war, there are children left behind with no one to care for them. It is a hard life; also great is the need for additional helpers on farms and such at hard times. Only the rich can keep their family in such a way, as few are the children to be found for taking as slaves. Our island’s remoteness has long been a boon to the business. Children stolen from one part of the main and, are taken here to be sold to other places. There came to be kept in the slave pen, one young girl of blond hair for the selling. Young she was but she was of marrying age. Despite her worn dirty appearance, she had a bearing and soft presence with gentle and comforting ways. It was said her sale would bring much wealth. Oiche watched her day after day, night after night as he kept guard over the holding pens near the docks of Cliath. The more he observed this woman child, the more her worth grew in his eyes. He came to learn she was from a land far north from

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the shore across the sea. Her village and family had been lost to war. The thought of the loss of her sailing off to a distant place disturbed Oiche greatly. He had no goods or wealth to offer her. No one would dare fight him over her. There seemed to be no way to save this girl let alone a way to make her his bride. The idea of a bride was new to him. Oiche recognized that he was now fully a man!” “Can I watch Uncle Oiche as a young warrior?” Asks Cavan.

Oiche knows that the king offers a great opportunity. Oiche replies. “My will is to continue to serve as I am asked. After my obligatory time in your army I should like to offer to all of Cliath and your lordship my future service in some great task.” “You are a man of great strength and integrity, and I shall indeed, place you in such circumstances in which your representation of our country will be most useful. I am in your debt and welcome you to my court.” Speaks the king. Oiche pleads. “My sovereign, in order to prepare my future I am in present need of a wife but have no means. Presently, allow me to continue my training and service. Procure for me a woman of my choosing and let her serve you here in the palace until I may repay you by a future deed of your choosing.” He pauses before he answers. “This you ask of me is without precedence. Know full well that my consent is given. She may serve you as wife but she and any child born of her must dwell within my house until land can be secured for you. However, she may leave only after you complete our agreement by some great service.” Oiche nods in agreement.

# Maeve’s water and the moon goddess comply. It so happened at this time, the king of Cliath is much aware of the young, strapping Oiche. The word of his power and the magic in his spear give much weight upon the king to place Oiche in his services. The king is aware of his popularity among his troops, his people and even the foreigners who visited Cliath. The king is also aware of Oiche’s family relationships among the Druid themselves and his curiosity about Oiche grows with each story told to him by his men. In council with the Master Druid, the king asks for advice. “What is to be the future for Oiche upon the island?” The Master Druid offers to the king. “Let Oiche choose the first steps in his own path to the future.” The Master Druid acknowledges to the king. “Oiche is destined to be a great force among nations. He is from a family of powerful Druid.” He warns the king that Oiche must be dealt with in terms such greatness. “A young one with great powers and resources to the spirit world is to be put to good use!” Advises the Master Druid. Immediately the king summons Oiche into his council. Oiche is greatly honored. “Your present service to Cliath and myself is welcomed. As king, I wish you to be best prepared for the future. Tell me what path do you see that you must follow.”

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# “That slave girl is Aunt Morgute?” Asks Cavan. “The king paid the slave girl’s price and put her to service in the royal kitchen. Oiche and the slave girl would have three children while they were under service to the king. All would be sons of great size just as their father.” Muira confirms. “Now after some years on the docks and the pathways about Cliath those with experience in service to the king’s army are assigned duties across the lands of island belonging to the Chead. So Oiche began to patrol villages most distant from Cliath. On these treks, he came to learn much of the west of the island and the people. In the most distant part of the west was to be found an ancient ringed fort built a time long ago by a people long lost


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and forgotten. The land about is flat, dry and wind blown. The western part of the island is open and easy access by sea. Here amid the old fort a small hand full of the king’s guard kept watch for sea raiders from the distant north. These raids have been a reality of life since the time before the ancient fort’s construction. The raiders come for plunder and sport. The attacks from the sea are vicious and the people there suffer. The King of Cliath could not support a western force large enough to protect all that lived and farmed there. Small bands of northern bandits would land at night and attack without warning from the seashore. Larger numbers of marauders would sojourn deep inland for great plunder and many Chead would lose their life or freedom in such attacks. During these attacks, they were stripped of what few possessions they had, women were abused and villages plundered. The king’s guard could only make a small show of their presence by day along the shoreline. The armed guard could respond only by offering a fortified retreat to the Chead upon the time that a large band of raiders continued their infiltration for days upon the isle.” “More please, Maeve?”

pay the debt. In addition, he wants her to work under his roof to clean and cook for him. Once more, this is proper under the king’s law. The young widow woman is hysterical. She says, “I’ll kill any wretch whose hand reaches for a child of mine. Let me be having my husband’s place at sea until the fish run and the debt be settled as agreed.” But the greedy bully sees only an opportunity to collect the debt and make the additional profit from a child’s sale. Oiche is overpowered by the piteous site of the woman who is quite plain looking and her three very young ones of hers are barely new at walking. He wants the debt to be settled and the lost sailor’s family left suitably provided. No other party in the village or there about is soon to take a debt with the black heart of the likes of the one standing over the woman now. Oiche has no choice but to pay the debt at once and take on the care of the widow and her children by himself or he will have to take them all straight off to the slave pens of Cliath. The amount of the debt is a barrel of fish or the equal. Oiche strikes a deal with the debtor. “Payment to be accepted as two barrels of pork to be made good within a week.” Now the flat land of the west is full of brush and briars and wild boar roaming at the plenty. But the openness of the land makes the hunting of the wily beast nearly impossible. Oiche has the idea of making a deep circular pit in a clearing of trees next to the field where the great boars are fond of foraging. Here the smell, the sound and the scent of an intruder give early notice to the beast and they are quite dangerous in such circumstances. The boars are large, some nearing the size of a small cow in height and nearly twice the weight. All through the night, while the pigs sleep in their boroughs, Oiche prepares his trap. He digs a large pit covered over with patches of brush and makes a swing of vine to carry him safely across to the other side of the

# It happens that while on patrol in the west, Oiche passes into a remote seaside village of the Chead. It seems that upon the last storm to wash the coast, a young fisherman was lost from the last boat making its way home from the sea. The young sailor has left a wife, three small children and a small-unpaid debt to a bully of a man in the village. Now the king’s law provides that an unpaid debt to be settled by way of placing one or all of the debtor’s family into slavery for payment of the debt. Although the size of the debt is quite small and as the land is poor, no one wants more hungry mouths to be feeding. The debtor is a hard man and is insisting that the woman’s children be taken, one or all for sale to Cliath to

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pit. Oiche climbs atop a tree above the pit and looks out, seeking for the great boar moving about with her brood. It was not long before the movement of many hoofs and snorts fill the air from a short distance away at the opposite side of the field with gently sloping hills. They graze and play while the muther eats grass and root. Oiche climbs down the tree quietly, and focuses his attention on three piglets wondering off a ways from the muther. He covers himself with manure so as not to alert the muther beast and heads toward the side of the field where the piglets graze. He turns the shaft of his spear so that its fairy blade rotates in the light of the sun to catch the pig’s eye. When he is within twenty feet from them, he charges toward them with his spear and impales one of the boars. It lets out a loud anguished squeal, and in an instant the muther boar is heading in his direction. In one fast charge of fury, the huge boar makes straight towards him with her tusks erect and her squealing brood behind her. Any thread of caution in the sow gives way to the frenzy of a charging pack of ravenous pigs. The bunch races out in mass onto the thatch covering the pit. Oiche dares not look behind, for a moments delay may cost him his life. He grabs hold of the swing and hears the cries of the brood behind him as they fell into the pit. Here Oiche slays the great sour with his spear and holds captured seventeen young suckling. The meat from the female boar fills four barrels for that’s how large is she. Oiche pays the widow’s debt. The woman and her three children, two barrels of pork and piglets would find their way to a new home in the old ring fort of the west. The widow would by and by be taken as Oiche’s second wife. She would bear several large sons as well.

about soon prospered. Such prosperity however would come sooner or later under the watch of the raiders from the north. One night a large band from the north came ashore to raid the north west of the Chead, looking for slaves and plundering the small village on the coast. Many of the people fled the village and were quick to find the way to Oiche’s Fort, as it had come to be known. For sure Cavan, the fort still carries Oiche’s name to this day.” “What happened to the raiders, Mame?” “The raiders, as any pack of predators, were following the fresh tracks of those fleeing in search of children to seize and goods to thieve. They camped in the hollow of a hillside; Oiche realized this to be so. He set out in the darkest of nights with several of his most hearty men to find the campfires of the invaders, which were not far from the coast. For sure, the brigands were used to having their own way and feared none that might come against them. The noise of the drunken raiders in their camp and the many fires ablaze cooking confiscated meat made the finding of them that much easier. Oiche and his men painted their naked bodies with ancient Druid signs in red and black from the juice of berries, as is the custom for many years now. Just after the camp went to sleep Oiche’s band encircled. They passed quietly through the camp binding the sleeping raiders’ hands with rope. Some men had to be gagged as they woke. At the camp’s center Oiche’s spear came to rest upon the chest of the leader of the invaders. With hoots and howls the Chead warriors awakened the camp. The few raiders not bound were quick to surrender their arms when they went to challenge the Chead who held captive their leader in the camp’s center.” They two Druid gaze beside the lake. They view this scene in the moon’s reflection.

#

#

“Aunt Neeva! She has plenty of pigs at home yet!” Cavan loves this tale. “With such as Oiche to provide at the fort, life there

Captive raiders are to be sent bound to Cliath to face the king’s justice. There are forty or so men captured this night. The leader of the raiders is a rough dark blond haired

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man named Kendal. He wears a necklace made from the claws of a great beast unlike anything worn by the people of the island of Mahr. “This amulet of claw,” says Oiche to his captured counterpart, “has it much power?” “The power is not to the one who wears it, but to the one who slew the beast,” answers Kendal. “I have a deal for you, Kendal.” Oiche has the man stand up. “If you and several men of your choosing, stay the for the remainder of the summer at the fort and tell me of your people and your ways, then you may return freely to your home. Or if you prefer, be sacrificed up to the spirits,” offers Oiche. Kendal hesitates, “I will be missed from my father’s kingdom if I am to be sacrificed. So, as I am in your debt, I shall comply with your offer and share with you the ways of my people in Estara. However, I must send the remainder of my men back to their families and let my people know that I shall be returned safely to them by the end of the season. I have a family waiting for my return.” “You are a prince, yet you spend your time plundering? Why is that so?” Oiche is confused. “It is because of the Emorians, whose empire lies to the southeast of my land. They have drained all wealth out of nearby lands, including ours. Yet, Mahr remains untouched. I don’t think it will be over looked for too much longer. We have virtually nothing left, many of my people are starving.” Oiche is much impressed by the frankness of this leader. In a great gesture of generosity, Oiche arranges for thirty bags of grain and much chattel for the king’s men to take home in exchange for his men’s time at his fort. The two leaders from different worlds speak of life through the season. Each learns much from the other and Oiche makes a long lasting friendship with his captive, Lord Kendal. In the spring, the raiders sail home on their

immense boat with the serpent’s head at the bow. Oiche keeps Lord Kendal’s claw amulet as booty.

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# “I hope to visit Oiche’s fort in the west some day,” says Cavan. “We all shall be going off to the west for Oiche’s eldest son will be marrying before long,” answered Muira. “Let me finish the tales of Oiche.” She continues. “The last part of Oiche’s required service to the King would be as guard at Holy Oak. He made his way with his second wife and family to Cliath to join his first wife, here to be kept under the same conditions as the first family with the King Drummond until he succeeded in a special task yet to be named by the king.” “Oiche’s duties at the Holy Oak began with the meeting of the Druid Master, Barnabas, in an inner sanctum where only the privileged may enter. Here, only King Drummond of Cliath may enter at the Master Druid’s request. Upon a chair of oak and gold sat a small-weakened man of years no longer countable. His years were many, but he sat erect and alert.” “This tale must be seen!” Cavan is excited. # “Come closer young one, son of Muira, let me get a closer look at you. Yes! You have the look of your grandfather. He served me many years and was a favorite student of mine. Muira has not been to see us for some time now young one. She makes the day very special with her warm presence. What name has Muira given you lad?” Barnabas speaks only in a whisper. “I am called Oiche, your Excellency, as I was born on a fervent, star streamed night.” “Yes, I recall that night. It was quite a spectacle and had all the students in an uproar. It was a most fateful omen. Young one of Muira, your time of service here will be short. King Drummond and all of Chead wait upon the


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time of great deeds that you are soon to undertake. Your duty here is by my choosing. Some members of your army have been chosen by us to join our order. Some have served as our guards for many years.” Barnabas continues. “There is one task here in the Holy Grove that only you can perform. A young student has come from far across the sea from the last known land of the south. She is called Soweta, and she must be escorted through the enchanted forest to visit the Giollabhain in order to complete her training. You are to accompany her and keep her safe. When you return from this task, your required time with the king’s men will be complete.” A slender woman with short dark hair and dark skin enters the chamber carrying a golden gourd on her head. She is very still and her almond eyes glance demurely at Oiche.

Take Soweta to the enchanted forest. There she is to fill this flask with the mist from the Banshee’s mountain and then to give her golden flask to Muira.” With that said, Oiche and his charge make straight off. The young Druidess is quiet and speaks no words. Her eyes glance coyly at Oiche. “The mist of the Banshee Mountain is the most profuse just before dawn, this is at a time of the great danger, however,” Oiche informs her. As the pair makes way slowly through the forest, Oiche notices that the Druidess grows troubled and fearful. She often stops complaining of sore feet or slight injury. Their task will never be accomplished by such measures, thinks Oiche. Oiche feels the girl is too delicate and must be hardened otherwise they shall fail. The more Oiche urges the dark beauty on through difficulty, the more difficulty the young lady finds to avoid. “This will not do! This task requires a woman of great strength, who is a warrior, not a coward,” rebukes Oiche. Her almond eyes meet his. Hurt and intimidated the Black Druidess replies. “I need hugged and cuddled and spoiled. Not all are brave as you, but do not underestimate my abilities! My gentle spirit and grace help me to reach objectives where strength will fail. You are all the toughness this task needs!” Oiche is speechless. Never has anyone spoken to him as such. Never has he thought that such display of weakness could lead to anything but defeat. Reluctantly, he continues on and decides to trust this delicate creature. He wonders if perhaps her softness is needed to capture the banshee’s mist. “How can such a little one so soft succeed,” Oiche says to himself. As the path grows deep and dark in the forest, the moon shines off the magic blade of Oiche’s spear. The spirits and

# Cavan interrupts. “Why a gourd of gold?” “Because young Cavan, that which is sealed in gold is known to last forever.There are many lands in which a king or other powerful ruler is placed into the grave completely encased in gold to preserve themselves entirely for the next life.” “So mame, they want to take no chance of being poor in the next life!” “Precisely dear boy.” “Does it work?” Cavan searches his grandmuther for an answer. “I have never witnessed it as such, nor has any ever spoken of it to be so. Perhaps when you make your fortune you shall be the first in our family to discover the truth.” Muira smiles at the boy’s muse over such a possibility. “Now let’s see the tale of the Black Druidess.” #

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fairies of the enchanted forest know the power of the blade and let the pair pass without harm. The banshee herself is enraged by the intruders with the moon rock but dares not to challenge the power of Oiche. She climbs the walls in her cave and froths at the mouth eager to attack. As night falls they reach the base of the Banshee Mountain. The mist progresses gently down the mountainside. Just before dawn the pair makes their way through the dense mist. Oiche is lost but his charge finds her was easily through the darkened thicket and pale moonlight. “Wait here Oiche, keep yourself and your spear visible in the moonlight.” With that the Soweta steps into the shadows where she removes her ivory Druidess’ tunic. Nothing is to catch the light and gain the attention of the banshee. The slender black lady makes her way through a darkened path effortlessly up the hill towards the mist. She carries the golden gourd in a darkened shroud, which wraps the gourd so that no light could find it. Softly as the mist moves, Soweta leaves. Oiche is amazed at her grace and how quietly she passes. She disappears into the mist for what seems to be a brief moment, when suddenly he hears her footsteps like the sound of drumbeat followed by the sound of the banshee shrieks! Only moments later, she runs to him covered in beads of sweat and urges him to follow her quickly. The banshee red eyes glare and she screeches when she sees the moon rock shaped into a spear. She howls at the darkness in a fury because she cannot destroy the intruders. Oiche and the dark girl trot along a fairy path seen only by her. She steadies the gourd on her head with one hand, and leads Oiche through the mist with the other holding the man’s huge hand. Straight towards Eta’s cave they head. Quigley and crew spot the newcomers and speculate on

how it is that the banshee does not feast upon their flesh. The fairies make off to Eta’s cave where they inform her of the strangers in advance, and Eta prepares a welcome with food drink and bed with in her cave. Eta greets the pair outside the cave. Oiche knows of Eta’s power from the telling of Muira. “Eta, daughter of the woods, I am Oiche, son of Muira, and this is Soweta, a Druid priestess in training. I thank you for your help in the past and ask for yet another favor,” Oiche announces. “Yes, my friends here, Quigley, Monty and Mab discovered the moon rock used to make your spear head.” She gestures over to the three who now present themselves as wild dogs. “Please come in and take rest. I must go about my business.” Soweta tosses and turns with nightmares of the Banshee. She wakes and Eta comforts her. Soweta trembles with fever and is weary. When Oiche awakens to the sound of the soft voices of Soweta and Eta talking, the sun is high in the sky. He rises up and prepares to go, mindful of his mission. “I must get Soweta to muther’s while it is still daylight.” “You are right. I will accompany you, since Soweta’s power to see the fairy trails only come at night. The walk is only half a day. Soweta is feeling ill as a result of her encounter with the Banshee. Muira will be able to help her.”

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# This is Cavan’s the first vision of the Banshee of the enchanted forest. He is frightened. “Do not fear, Cavan. Our power is greater than this wicked spirit.” “I feel safe with you, mame…please continue.” “Upon Oiche and Soweta’s arrival, I took the gourd for


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hiding until time for its use. Soweta, the young Druidess recovered. The banshee did not take well to intruders on her mountain. In fact so great is the power of the flask and the anger of the banshee that Soweta had to avoid the enchanted forest altogether. Oiche kept her in his care with the protection of his mighty spear. “For a time Oiche stayed with me until Soweta felt strong once more. Oiche made her his third wife, she was to sleep with the spear close by to avoid seeing into the eyes of the Banshee. Oiche fashioned a small boat, and they set sail from the bottom of the falls of Giollabhain round by sea to Cliath. Here Oiche returned Soweta, the dark lady to Holy Grove, before he presented himself to the king and proclaimed the end of his regular military service.” The dark lady served as a Druidess in Cliath and gave many children to Oiche. Some of which became warriors and others became Druid. “Mame, what is the purpose of the mist in the gourd?” “Cavan, to release the mist from the gourd is to call the Banshee forth at will. Only Soweta had the power to call upon the Banshee since she captured the mist.” “Well, many is the time you’ve heard it Cavan, but know that you’ve come to be a man and the showing is all the more grand indeed.”

will be your home and your women may join you there, this is my offering.” The great task to which Oiche was born and to which Hugh Mohr and Eta gave aide is to begin. Oiche is to make way by his own self, north to the land from which the cold winds come. This land is home to the raiders from the ships that carry the dragon’s head. Here, Oiche must ask to meet the king of the north and by treaty, end their armed raids upon the island of Mahr and make covenant with them for peace. Oiche is to set sail from Cliath. His wives prepare a coat made of animal skins and they pack food for his journey. His learning of the distant lands and languages serves him well. A small seaworthy craft suitable for a sea voyage of much length is made. He knows from the stories Lord Kendal, during his time in the west that he must sail the distant shore to the north where the sea turns to ice. There where mountain valleys and forests of pine run into sea, he will find small villages along the shore made from cabins of wood. Here the way to the king’s compound in an upper mountain valley will be shown to him. One night as Oiche sleeps, Eta, accompanied by a wild dog appears in his dream. “You must travel with no other man save your own self by order of the king. Take my dog Mab with you. His powers will aide you on your quest as no gods of the north will favor a stranger in their midst.” That mourning as Oiche prepares to depart upon his great journey, the spirit Mab appears at Oiche’s small ship in the form of a huge fierce hound. Around the dog’s neck is collar studded with pieces of gold. This gold will serve the traveler’s needs as they make way north from port to port. Oiche wears the necklace of great claws and carries his spear in his hand. Now the time of traveling in a small swift craft upon the sea does not allow Oiche to make great haste as he moves north along the shores of the mainland. Oiche’s

# The king is in need of a great warrior and emissary to send north to the land of the raiders of the serpent ships that terrorized his western lands. Indeed the king may think of no task more worthwhile to the all the people of Mahr, or anyone but Oiche capable of succeeding at such peril. The king realizes that Oiche must be further rewarded upon his return from the land of the cold winds. “Oiche, you shall govern all the land two days walk from the western shore upon your return a with treaty that gives us an alliance with them. The ancient fort of the west

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great size and fierce look as well as the horrible sight of his companion beast give pause to any that might think to do him harm as he passes northward. He stops in port to gather supplies, to wait out a tempest, or to keep from the sight of other craft at sea not leaving to chance to run afoul with assailants. Oiche and his dog sleep aboard ship and push on as long as the winds prevail. After some months at sea, Oiche’s ship begins to pass islands of ice adrift at sea. Mab circles about the craft in the dark and fog to give direction for Oiche to safely steer passage. Onward and northward Oiche’s little ship sails until one morning they arrive at the land of the rivers and mountain valleys known as Estara. Nestled up inside a narrow passage of sea, between two steep wooded ridges lay a small village. One house sits beside the water’s edge near a green mountain meadow. A small number of cattle with heavy hide and sheep graze on the sparse covered ground as smoke rises from the chimney. Several large men work upon a moored boat with sail and a serpent’s head. A great clamor of ringing bells, barking of hounds and shouts of alarm arise as Oiche’s ship makes its way into the harbor. Sturdy men and women stand along the shore with ax, spear, or bow in hand. With a fierce gaze, they watch Oiche’s ship approach. Oiche and Mab walk side by side slowly from the shore towards the villagers that yet stand quietly at the ready. The leader of the village steps out and points to the Oiche’s necklace made of great claws. “How did you come by the king’s amulet of the great bear?” He asks Oiche. “Tis a gift from Kendal, when he visited my land several years ago,” answers Oiche. “I’ve come to return it to its rightful owner.” “The rightful owner is the king of the north himself, King Kendal.” Everyone in the village knows that he who wears the

king’s amulet must be treated with royal hospitality. A great feast with much drink and sport commence that day and continues into the night to honor the presence of the amulet of the king in the village. The village chief is to escort Oiche up into the mountains where the king resides. The village elders talk of their homeland and the times they visited the island of Mahr. Indeed, several of the women of the village were born in lands from the south and brought to the north as bounty. The men in the village are of large size and have Oiche’s look. Oiche is treated as one who has come home. The village tells Oiche of the magic of the great bear from whom the claws were taken to make the necklace he presently holds. This great beer had stalked the land causing great harm. Many lives were lost to this bear. Men from many villages were slain in the hunt. It was many years ago that this bear was slain and the necklace of claws given to the royal family of Kendal. The village chief informs Oiche that today another great bear more menacing than the last, has made it’s way from the northern most mountains into their valleys and it is taking animals from all the herds of the land, including the king’s own. For several seasons the hunt for this bear has failed and human life lost. No one’s weapon or trap has succeeded against this great bear whose claws are said to be larger than those found on Oiche’s necklace. In fact, the king has decreed a royal favor to he who should slay this bear. Directly to the royal house goes Oiche. Upon meeting the king, Lord Kendal of the north, Oiche returns the necklace of claws. Kendal greets Oiche as a lost friend. The king and his royal family give a warm welcome to Oiche with fine foods, drink and the company of his large family. The king is prodigious in the number of his sons and daughters. After a time the king speaks to Oiche of the present menace of the great bear. “If I slay this bear will the people of this land make a

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treaty of peace with the people of the island of Mahr,” asks Oiche. “This will be so!” Says the king of the north laughing in disbelief. But a treaty is made here by royal marriage only. Oiche must choose any two of the king’s daughters as wives to seal the pact, which will last as long as Kendal’s royal blood walks the land of the island of Mahr. The following day, Oiche prepares to go to battle with the great beast that torments the village. He asks the king to order all the livestock from the summer fields to be held in the stockades within the villages as custom in the winter. For several days after this is done, Oiche and Mab search for signs of the bear. Approaching one village far up the mountainside the fresh prints of the great bear are found. Here Oiche and Mab set their plan. Oiche searches out a great hollow tree with space enough for him to step inside to hide his presence from the bear’s view and to keep his scent within the tree’s trunk and away from the bear’s great nose. Mab is bathed in sheep’s blood and strides about the mountain meadow amidst the breeze. Soon the great bear’s great hunger is set upon dining on sheep this night. After dusk, the great bear circles down wind of the strolling Mab to close for a strike. But the spirit Mab disappears just before the bear lunges toward him. The bear’s anger rises with hunger and frustration, as the only piece of meat left in the meadows is being uncooperative. Bit by bit, Mab makes closer to the tree containing Oiche and his magic spear. By way of obliging, Mab snorts and bleeps in the form of a lazy sheep to keep Oiche informed of the bear’s progression to his tree. As the bear strides in front of the hollow of the tree, Mab lays down, as to slumber. The great mass of a bear stands up on two hind legs to strike down on its prey. Out steps Oiche just feet from the bear which

is nearly twice his size. He is face to face with the beast, and immediately thrusts the spear with the magic blade into the behemoth’s chest. Slicing easily through the bear’s bone and muscle, the spear cuts the bear’s heart completely in two. The great bear attempts to strike at Oiche with its immense claw, but is weakened from the fatal injury and the bear falls to the ground dead.

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# “I can’t remember all Uncle Oiche’s wives names!” Says a confused Cavan. “It is a large task for anyone.” Muira laughs. “Oiche removed the great claws as present to the king. The celebration of Oiche’s triumph was carried on for several days of feasting. The entire nation made a holiday for the end of the bear and the royal weddings. Oiche procured his treaty by way of royal marriage to the King’s two loveliest daughters both tall statuesque blondes. The girls gave birth to many children of royal blood. Oiche has freed the isle of Mahr from fierce raiders of the north for many generations to come. The girls also returned with Oiche with royal dowry of gold, servants and royal guards. Many ships would carry the royal party to Mahr and the land of the Chead. But priceless was the friendship made with King Kendal. The ancient fort of the west became the seat of the second great village of the Chead.


CHAPTER IV

Níl aon tintéan mar do thin téan feín. There is no place like home.

Suddenly the presence of an intruder at the place of the Druid

at Locherbith alarms Muira. In an instant Muira looks in the water’s depth past the moon’s reflection and calls. “Maeve be our protector! Let not the one who approaches be permitted to do harm.” Silence falls all about Cavan and his grandmuther. An enveloping mist pours from the lake in the direction following the path back to their camp atop a distant rise. Cavan sees


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a flash of fear in Muira’s eyes. He quickly points toward the moon’s reflection upon the lake and commands. “Let the one who approaches be seen in the light cast by the moon goddess.” The vision of a small person struggling to find way through the shrouding mists appears. The image of a human form moves about disoriented and confused. “This one is lost,” says Cavan. “This intruder is none other than your sister, Ree!” Muira exclaims. Cavan is first to speak into the pool of Maeve. “Make clear the way for Ree to find us. Let no harm come to her by spirit or beast.” At once a great light rises from the moon’s reflection, and the mist parts along the way from the Druid pair to the place where Ree is lost. At once Ree sees both of their forms illuminated by a warm light coming off the water’s surface. Quickly she makes her way toward them. Ree seems a bit distraught as she arrives safely at Muira’s side. “Mame! Mame!” Ree calls out as she rushes to grandmuther’s arms. “What brings you here from our camp my dear,” asks Muira most concerned. “I fell asleep but was awaken by a great gust of wind. The fire burned and the light faded. I put more brush upon the fire, for a brief moment a flame ignited but only to be swallowed up in darkness over the whole camp. It was as if light itself was being consumed.” Ree’s face anxiously searches Muira’s for an explanation. Before Muira can respond Ree continues. “There was no sound to be heard about the camp. I called out to the men but they did not hear me. The path to the lake lies in the light of the full moon and I rushed down, but the mist closed about me as I neared, and I couldn’t see.” “You acted wisely my little one.” Muira’s voice is sure and soothing. “On the night of any full moon, and especially on the rare moon malevolent spirits are also stirred by the presence of

the moon goddess. Mostly, they wander about getting in the way of serious folk, but some are intent on great mischief even violence. Many a human form is host to such a spirit for the duration of the moon’s fullness. I fear children that a special evil has come near to us this night.” Muira calls out to Hugh Mhor, “Hugh gather your band and descend hither. Take guard of the place where Muira’s family stands this night. Send your wee folk with arms in great numbers to keep off harm from the entire McElwain clan.” In an instant the sound of small horses, and tiny drums with trumpets call filled the distant hills about the lake. The uncles of Cavan, and the camp are ringed with armies of belligerent fairies ready for taking on any spirit that’s come to do it’s worst. The mist lifts from the ground and the moonlight floods the earth. Muira’s sons make back to camp where they find a bright roaring fire; a pig roasts on the spit, soft beds of down, and crocks of hard drink. Muira and the young ones hear only music and laughter streaming from the camp the whole of the night. “Will we see Hugh this night?” Cavan peers about for some sight of a wee person.”Will we see any fairy at all, grandmuther?” Ree cries in frustration for all the sounds and doings about but not one sight of tiny hands. “Not all the fairies will keep off from bothering Maeve and our Druid work. And what’s more, Ree darling, you’re in the midst of Druid practice without one sign of the Druid order.” Muira is quick to take a golden bob from her waist and fashion a necklace for Ree to wear. “This night a Druidess you must appear before the spirits else the powers of our presence will be lost. Besides it’s no place for child or woman around men folk when the drinks are long and hard. It’s with us you’ll be staying although your time as a Druid be short.” Ree is impressed with herself for keeping as a Druid with her brother, and grandmuther. Muira is widely known as the finest of Druid and second to none even by Cliath’s standards.

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“Cavan, your entire uncles and your muther as well have had the benefit of the power of the fairies behind them. As one keeps the ways of the small fairies found in the trees and bushes, one is sure to find a friend.” “Did any of my uncles meet Hugh Mhor, Mame?” “There’s much to the telling of my children and the wee folk, that’s for sure.” “Tell us all of the wee folks doings with you, grandmuther,” asks Ree. “Very well children…excuse me, for the two of you must be told as Druid.” Murie points to the place where her daughter and grandson are to sit. She begins her present tales of the family’s past experience with the wee folk. “A few years passed after the birth of Oiche, and we had a second son whom we named Leigh, as he was born after the rains of spring had given way to the first flowers. He had brown hair and blue eyes, a blue that only can be found in the pure water of clear lake. “Well, you know your Uncle Leigh. He is a dear and decent man.” Ree says to Cavan. “I can’t help to stare at his eyes. There is a sparkle of innocence to his blue eyes that I’ve never seen on another.” Ree loves her dear uncle Leigh. “Yes, I know he likes sweet potatoes and cabbage, and likes to ask tricky questions, and he still thinks he’s going to beat me in a race one of these days, even though I beat him more times than I can count!”, Cavan adds. “Yes, you know him well enough,” Muira chuckles. “Leigh was most quiet as a newborn. A child capable of entertaining himself and staying busy on his own until his muther had time for him. The darling child had little hands and feet but the size of his newborn head was second to nun! He was a bit clumsy as a child, and one could never keep him neat, but he grew up witted and wise. He was always gone from sight when one looked for him and he would reappear unexpectedly. His grand father put him to work in the fields long before most his age were ready. Egan would say that Leigh

had a peculiar odor about himself such that all the animals of the fields took to the liking of him once they got hold of that scent. And what’s more, the creatures couldn’t get enough of the smell of the boy, as they would follow him about forgetting the business of their own selves. Often one would see Leigh, followed by a small parade of hounds, goats, and sheep. ‘There’s the way of the earth in that Leigh of ours,’ Egan was fond of saying. ‘This baby’s features have the look of another world,’ was my answer. Indeed, his place was in the fields and among the animals as well. Little children, being pure much like nature herself were fond of Leigh and were like his shadow.” “I remember muther telling stories of the wee folk and Uncle Leigh as a baby,” says Ree. “Can you tell us one?” Muira tells her favorite tale of Leigh. “Once upon a very hot day while all of nature rested, while only the buzz of bees passing among the flowers stirred one’s thought, little Leigh noticed a motion in the hay field near our house. Out the child darted into the meadow and his wee self disappeared below the tall grass. I called for Egan and sent young Oiche out after the baby. I went into panic for thinking some Pouka might be after my child. For some time through the grass and heat we went calling after the missing boy until a great thirst came upon all of us. We grew weak and sought a bit of rest in the shade from the stand of trees near the house. Here we found baby Leigh sitting with a bowl of freshly picked berries. The mystery is that these berries only grow atop a large thorny bush difficult to approach by any person and not to be gathered by a toddling child. It seemed that baby Leigh had long been keeping the company of one or other of the wee folk from the parts here about. He has always been dear to them. The wee folk have shown him much of their ways and few are those who have the knowing of so many of the wee folk. Leigh spent his youth and learning in the woods and fields in the company of himself and the wee folk. He came to travel about as invisible and as easily as the wild deer. His physical appearance has the look of the earth herself. He is neither

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too short nor too tall, neither too thin nor too stout. Mighty in strength are his legs and arms. His face is round and plain in feature. His hair is coarse and his appetite is prodigious. He is too wild in looks to find the eye of a woman at least upon first sight, and man quickly overlooks his presence for he easily blends into any crowd or surrounding. Small children and dogs are drawn to him. His intellect is unsurpassed; his voice is rich, and commanding. He has no noticeable talents; in fact his plainness and common look allow him to pass unnoticed among the villages in any circumstance. His ways are more the ways of the wee folk and he has been known to become invisible. The childhood of the Leigh was barely noticed by most. It seems that dogs have always sought his attention and the children never tire of his presence. Both were thrilled by his attention. Leigh always appeared timely at a moment of need, or conflict, or judgment, or crisis upon which occasion he would render an opinion of great wisdom. Leigh did not take part in the games of children as he was always disappearing into nature. As young man he was given great freedom in his comings and goings. Only himself knew the reason of the time and place of his sojourns. It was by the cause of nature that moves her creatures about. At a time when Leigh was near to manhood, his walk took him far across the plains of the Giollabhain. The reason for that particular journey on that specific occasion has never been known. But far out and away from the place of the people, Leigh chanced upon the trail of two persons moving deep into the brush away from the nearest village. A man and a small child were traveling in a way that left signs most disturbing. Leigh was sure of one fact. This child was in the presence of a man in great haste. There was no sign in nature for need of such speed.” “Show us Mame!” Cavan pleads. Ree joins. “Cavan gets to see! May I as well?” The three Druid step to the water’s edge and glance into the globe of moonlight.

Having senses well formed by nature, a young Leigh Havin smells the fear left by the child on the trail, and the man’s tracks are covered with a hideous evil stench. The sense of evil ahead grows from a source other than nature. The path of the leading pair is cumbersome and unlearned. Leigh is closing upon the man and he is growing fearful. The thicket gives way to a clearing. Here stands a dark hairy man with his fist clenched in a grip upon a sharpened object. The man’s face is distorted in the form of an evil mask like those worn by the Druid in the time of Saurine of the dark season. His face darkens into a sneer. A young girl with brown hair, worn and numb, is held in a predictor’s grip. Leigh quickly moves around through the nearby thicket making the sound of an angry bull. As the man pulls the child in one direction, Leigh darts ahead and again feigns the sound of bull’s charge. Leigh kicks up dirt and shakes the branches. Again and again the man tries to escape with the young girl only to be routed by the antics of Leigh. The more his escape fails the more crazed becomes the man’s actions until at last he tosses the child ahead to face alone the bull’s charge. In doing so he hopes to elude the beast and make good his escape. Leigh quickly snatches the small girl into his arms as he dashes her away from her attacker. The frightened child clings to him and weeps. He follows the long trail back to the cottage from where the girl was stolen. As night arrives, Leigh makes his way with the little one into her family’s home where many who have searched are yet gathered. “The man who took your child is still afoot in the fields. He will have to make bed and await day’s light before he continues to flee if the banshee doesn’t get him first. Follow me as I can lead you along his trail.” Darkness in nature holds no fear for Leigh as it does the villagers. But their anger to capture the thief of children is great. With torch and spear they follow behind the young Leigh who makes his way with ease to the place where the deviant one lays asleep.

#

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The evil one is captured and brought before the Druid of Giollabhain. For Leigh has saved the last child stolen and more that may have followed her. He deeply regrets that he could not save those children that were taken and lost before this time. It is judgment of the Druid that this man from our own people must not be permitted to stay in this life, or be permitted to pass on into his next life. He is to be placed within the water of a great bog and his spirit to be held there forever.

finding of golden treasure. In fact every pair of fairy legs in the whole of a region will stand together. Wee man and wee woman form a great army to march out onto a neighboring meadow for a grand fight with their pestilent fairy foe. The battles they undertake can last through the whole of the night with just the break of the day before resuming their conflict. Hugh’s neighbors were fond of undertaking war with such delight that the goings on could last for many a year. Now with the little ones busy at having at each other, the important work of the fairies in nature was left for wanting. Nature herself was put off and all would be the worst for it. Hugh was most anxious that his wee people would not suffer with nature’s loss and he was asking for Leigh to visit the lands of the fairy feud to see if a stop could be put to the fighting entirely. “Leigh at my request made straight off for the lands just west of Cliath. At night during his walking about the sound of tiny trumpets and a mass of tiny shouts drew him to a great meadow that lie between the remnants of two ancient ring forts. These forts were long abandoned and the people of the villages nearby stayed off from both as they were considered troubled places.” “Oh show us please, please!” The children shout. “Ask Meave, dear ones.” “Please Maeve!” Cavan asks.

# “Did Uncle Leigh find many missing people, Mame?” “No but Leigh would always try his best.” “How was Uncle Leigh able to find so many wee people?” “Your uncle’s way in nature is the same as the wee folk, and you might say they shared the same work. Now as Leigh’s walks about came to be a grand sort, he would be walking for days without seeing a living soul. From one end of the isle of Mahr to another with no distance or no obstruction of nature to keep him, he would go. Many are the villages he passed through with none but the dogs and the little children at play noticing him at all. The wee people, like the cows in the field took great delight in Leigh’s presence about themselves. Many are the fairies that wanted to come to know the boy.” “Did Hugh Mohr know Leigh?” “Yes! It came that one day Hugh Mhor was in a great need and came to me asking his last favor from Leigh.” The island of Mahr has long been divided by the wee folk into separate regions, each for habitation by an individual band of the fairies and each with it’s own lord. On the other side of Cliath lived a particularly fussy bunch of fairy folk that were the western neighbors of the realm of Hugh Mhor. This bunch next to Hugh took to war with a third band of wee folk living further west yet. When the wee folk take to fighting one another in large armies, they are full of more delight than they are for the

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# It seems that the two fairy bands had long contested the rightful ownership of the meadow as it rests upon both sides of the border between the two fairy kingdoms. The wee people are fond of planting special flowers and herbs about in the same meadow. For as long as the fairies can remember, each respected the other’s work in the meadow. At harvest each fairy taking out the benefit of their effort only. But recently, the best crops laid by the fairies are disappearing as quickly as they are raised. One fairy band laying blame on the other until one fairy group came to


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blows with the second. As quick as you please, the entire meadow is thick with angry fairies running about kicking, punching and biting one another with all the enthusiasm a fairy can muster. Leigh has never observed such goings on and is hard pressed as to know the means for settling the fairy’s feud. Soon however, he discovers that one particular old woman is making her way from a good distance off into the meadow for helping herself to the goods she finds for the taking there. She is covered in mismatched patches of cloth and keeps her peppered hair straight down her back in a single coil. It seems that she is a bit of a thief and is known for filling a dark linen bag with whatever of worth her eye and opportunity fancy. She has long, slender, withered hands that are sticky, indeed. She has recently stumbled onto this meadow long left to itself by the villagers for the fear of magic in it. The old woman finds a treasure of things growing for her table and for sale back in her native village. Now as the meadow is a good way off from home, her visits are not often to be known to the local fairies but often enough to start a grand bit of trouble. The old woman has a lethal personality as attested to by the sizable list of dead husbands. Her fellow villagers lack pity for her. Even with them she is known as a trickster. The overpriced goods she sells, however, are quickly bought up. It is said that she had a child or two but that she sold them into slavery when times were hard and her wants steep. Her cottage is swelled with things discarded by others for want of the using. It is also said the old girl would be a banshee in the next life if she could make profit by so doing. Alone she lives with several cats. Now the woman fills her bag at the meadow and takes the finer things for profit in the village market keeping some for her own. Here one day, Leigh pays her price for the booty taken from the meadow. Straight off he makes to dispose of the goods back into the meadow from which

they came. Here, Leigh sits in the meadow’s center with the plants, and flowers, and roots the old woman has scratched out days before. These are laid around him in a great circle. That evening when the two armies of wee folk gather at the meadow’s edge prior to commencing hostilities, Leigh invites the two fairy chieftains to council in the meadow’s midst. The plants are quickly recognized by the wee folk. The truth of the old woman’s work brings an end to fairy war on that same spot. The fairies to this day call the center of the meadow Leigh’s Part as they have all given ownership up to Leigh and his ancestors.

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# “What about the old woman, Mame?” “Ah Yes, Cavan, the fairies have a way in dealing with manipulative lady folk who cause trouble. The fairies place over all their crops in the meadow a magic dust. Once the old woman’s hand touched anything that grows in the fairy field, big ugly red warts grew upon her face and they stayed there until she stopped her wrongdoing. No woman, even an old woman, wants to be seen as ugly. She eventually put two and two together, that’s for sure.” “Did uncle Ceol have much dealings with the wee folk?” “No Cavan, I can’t say that he has ever dealt directly with the little fairies as did Leigh, but certainly the wee folk have a great fondness for Ceol and his music.” One knew this child would be musically inclined by the look of his long fingers when he was born. The third child Ceol made cries as a baby as soft any song. He had fiery blond hair and pale blue eyes. He was long and lean from birth. When one held him as a newborn in their arms, he leaped for joy when the robin took to singing, or the rain beat a rhythm upon the thatch. At times when music was in the house, Ceol would make his miniature legs kick to the beat. His little self would bounce up and down to the sound of the music long before he could walk.


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Ceol was sure enough ready to play with the children in the fields, but at chore time he was misplaced for the lack of music in the work to be done. His grandfather was quick to get hold of a pipe flute for the boy early on so the lad was busy about the place learning some good. For it was no farmer to be for Ceol. Ceol made it so his home was never without music and dance. He played the harp beautifully and even his voice wasn’t bad at all. He would play in the town, at weddings, at the Beltaine festival, all round the village, and even about Giollabhain early on. He was requested to play often and made friends and a bit of profit easily. He sometimes liked to go off into the forest alone and play. The wee folk take great pleasure in good music. The fairies have always loved Ceol’s playing, for on more than one occasion a broken instrument had been left for want of his repair only to be found as good as new lying upon his windowsill the following day. When it came time for Ceol to take to manhood the only way for him to make good was to be sent off to The Holy Grove. Here he went not for study of knowing as a Druid, but for the study of telling as a bard. At the Holy Grove, Ceol learned the ways of making music on many an instrument. Some of which are rarely ever heard played. Many the tunes he played for fun as well as the business of the place of the Druid. While at Cliath, Ceol got about while making music for the king on special occasions. It’s a fact that music has direct power upon man and spirit alike. The call of the pipes and the magic of a harp can move a man to do great things such as longing to fight in war. The spirits of the sky, earth, and water will chime in the work of man if the music is to their liking. Indeed, many are the women who have been swept away altogether by the music made just for the heart. Ceol was not much for being a man with family. He shared his soul, and his music with all that would listen. He stayed among the many at Cliath keeping a place with one lady or the other who had need for the deepness of Ceol’s feelings. Often he would be found to be keeping several homes at the same

time, each with it’s own woman inside. Prodigious in his music and his love of life is Ceol. But never one for making trouble was he. More’s the friend of his to be found in man and spirit. Ceol was well aware that his music is much liked by all. He understood that fairies one and all enjoyed music played from the soul. They would be quick to attend the listening of it. When sounds of his music were especially serene, Ceol could calm the sea herself. For sure such a gift of music must be given for the needs of the gods straight off. Keeping with his duties as a man of the finest accomplishment in the art of making music and the telling of tales, Ceol was soon in demand of performing about the whole of the isle of Mahr for the Chead, and the Giollabhain alike. His journeys were sometimes of considerable lengths. It happened that while traveling, Ceol would make music and song especially for those fairies in the vicinity. In return, the spirits would ease his journey with good pathways and good fortune. Often time his hunger and thirst would be attended to by the favor of the spirits along the road with the finding of a spring or the capture of a pheasant. “Mame, did uncle Ceol get to meet wee folk at all?” “There was never the need Cavan, for he communicated with them all his days in the way of the magic of music, and there’s no better way. Though they do hide in the shadows, behind the trees, and outside his window to listen to his ever beguiling music.” “I love to hear his music!” Says Ree. So does Maeve as the lovely sounds of minstrel rise from the moon’s reflection.

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# Ceol seeks inspiration by accompanying nature’s own sounds. There’s one place for the magic of nature like none other on the island and that’s the enchanted forest that Eta inhabits. Now Ceol visits the place for the listening of it’s magic. Sometimes he answers the forest back with the sound of his flute or lyre. For sure the banshee herself listens and takes pleasure from such a concert.


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Upon this visit, Ceol hears the sound of a lovely voice singing off in the woods. It is the sound of a young woman keeping herself amused while at her work. Ceol moves toward the girl’s voice. The beauty of her sound touches his heart. As he approaches the girl, his emotions gave way through his flute as his music joins hers. Dana, a girl fairy, is overjoyed with the richness of the melody that forms with her voice. The two became great friends and another is never to hear the magic of the music they make together. Dana becomes so fond of Ceol that she wishes him to remain with her in the forest. He is equally fond of her and wants her to come back to village with him. However, the forest is not to become home to Ceol, and Dana will not leave her woods. They will always keep a love for each other from such moments.

that left the children untouched, but many a grown up laid in bed sick for a day or more with a fever. Now Egan came home from the fields early one day with this fever and by the next day I was not able for rising to do the chores of the house. For two full days the house and all the adults of the home were under the charge of a very young, Rialta. With a knowing of care far from a child and the help of her fairy companion, Rialta kept the home. She made warm broth for her sick parents, as well as keeping her brothers busy with care of the animals. The child was happy all her days. She never knew sorrow except for the passing of her dear father. Her life is full with the memories of her family. In many ways she lives her life as a fairy child to this very day.” “Muther is always making jokes and fun. Especially when Uncle Leigh is about the place.” “Well, Fergus was my last baby to be born. As a young boy, Mairg was his keeper. They grew together as one. His small size at birth wasn’t the only remarkable sign I noted of him. From the first moment of life he was acrobatic, athletic and fast like the hare being chased by the fox. He was always a small child, nimble with more energy than two be a needing. In childhood he was always being chased by bigger older boys but never to be caught. A most confident, competitive boy he was, just filled with a fearless spirit. Climbing heights, diving into deep pools of water, teasing bulls in the meadows, risking his life were real threats for Fergus. How he always escaped injury in his daring ways is beyond my knowing. He had more zest that Egan and I put together, and we had the dark circles under our eyes to prove it. The best way to describe Fergus, is to see his story of the bull.”

# “Your Uncle Ceol loves his music more than anything. Besides Cavan, while you’re in Cliath you’ll see much of Ceol and his harp.” “Your muther has learned the ways of healing and giving life. You both already know much from her in caring for the sick and dying creatures of the forest. This is a great power your muther has shared with you. Your spirits are good and compassionate as your muther’s.” “Let me tell you a story of your muther that I’m sure you don’t know and perhaps your muther has forgotten entirely. As a little girl of four or five years, your muther with a head full of toffee ribbon hair would make about the house keeping busy at the playing of games with one wee folk. This little man was sent by Hugh Mohr to keep the baby child safe from the Pouka or other terrible creatures since she liked to wander hither and yon. Rialta soon discovered that she had this fairy eating out of the palm of her hand. All day her playmate would step and fetch till he could do no more. Rialta would laugh and giggle at the antics of her fairy friend seen only to herself. It happened at this time that a sickness came over the land

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# There is a particularly pugnacious bull in one meadow near about belonging to a neighboring farmer. This farmer has no control over the bull and keeps him in a field by himself. Many a youth is drawn there to view this monster from afar and thrill at the bull’s snorting and ferocious displays.


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The owner of the bull teases the boys with a challenge, “whoever can place an amulet of the spirit Tarbh upon that creature’s neck, may keep half the calves born from the next breeding season.” The spirit Tarbh’s power extends to fertility. Such an amulet would make this bull far more potent a breeder. The prospect of the gain of one’s own cattle is a guarantee of wealth for Fergus and his family. Although the farm head joked, Fergus took the challenge very seriously. Fergus approaches a neighbor one day. He asks for a golden amulet, which he will repay with the gift of the first calve to be his prize. There is a small amulet in his neighbor’s home. Fergus fashions it upon a strong leather chord of length to just fit about the horns of a goodly sized beast. Once placed upon the bull, the golden amulet will rest about the beast’s brow for all to see. The lad really has no idea how to get close to the beast so as to place the amulet. He does know, however, that as he approaches the beast it will charge. This is the place at which he must start his trial. So day after day, time after time into the field, Fergus goes to see the bull. The bull snorts and gives him chase across the meadow up to the border of a stone wall over which the lad bounds to make his escape. This scenario repeats itself for quite sometime. Each time the lad challenges the bull; the lad lets the horns of the bull gain closer in the chase. The closer the horns came to the lad the greater the fury of the bull and the swifter his flight. The two contestants became so proficient at one chasing the other that the bull comes to match the speed of the lad, but the bull can never quite close. This doesn’t go without several close calls. By practice the lad exits the field at the same section of the wall. The bull’s charge comes closer and closer to the stone wall. In fact, the two front legs of the bull brake the charge just at the very last step in the field before the stones of the wall. As time passes, a crowd of locals gathered to witness

the escapades of Fergus in the field. His young friends cheer. Many such days past until at last Fergus appears with the amulet fresh in his hand. The word has gotten about that the lad is going to kill himself all together in trying to charm this bull. With serene confidence, the lad marches a bit slower up to confront his waiting opponent. For sure, the two of them are no longer strangers. The demeanor of the boy this day confuses the bull somewhat but the intensity of the bull’s gaze gives sign that the game is going to be played. The bull struts about his territory and snorts aggressively. The boy stops short of the mark that always starts the race and holds the amulet straight out towards the face of the bull. “This is for you this day to wear,” says Fergus. The bull’s puzzled look and the quiet of the many spectators give great anticipation of things to come. The boy steps to the mark. The bull’s massive body heaves and springs forth with a mighty blare. Huge clumps of sod fly up as the lad turns and takes to immediate flight. The horns of the pursuing bull as close to the lad’s hindquarters as they have ever been. Over the meadow they fly one just after the other in a beeline straight to the usual place over which the boy leaps. The bull as usual sets to brake at the wall edge. As the bull comes to the wall, however, this time he does not stop. Instead something catches the beast’s hoof, and he stumbles mightily against the wall and lands upon his back. The night before, the boy has gathered stones and made a barely visible ledge of a step in the meadow just in front of the wall. Dazed, the bull lay motionless as his senses are scattered. Quickly the boy springs to the bull’s head and stretches the tether over the animal’s horns. The lad bounds back out of the meadow as the beast regains his senses and comes to his feet. The bull’s shock gives way to rage. Inside his pen,

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he charges down the path towards the opened mouth spectators leaning on the posts who quickly scatter. The bull bounds here and there in any and all directions but all the while the amulet shines atop his brow. The owner of the bull is greatly angered over the treatment of his prize. But once the creature is back grazing in his meadow and shows to be no worse for his fall, the farmer is quick to thank Fergus for the prosperity to come from the spirit Tarbh. In time of the next berthing season and for many more to come, the enchantment of the bull gives a great progeny in the farmer’s herd of cattle. Fergus’s fortune is won but far greater to him is the besting of the great beast in his own meadow.

There is a young maiden in court, whose name is Doan. As a small child she was sold into service in the royal court. Now as a young woman her beauty rivals Almidah. Fergus as well as all the visitors to the court are aware of Doan. Servants of the Queen of Emor are most cruelly treated. Fergus takes great pity for the young woman. Her form and presence captivate him. His regular appearance to the court becomes an opportunity to gain Doan’s recognition. Upon one occasion Fergus finds the girl absent from serving the guests. Almida has Doan’s beautiful mane of golden curls shaved. Doan is confined to quarters where no man will catch sight of her. Young Doan is made to stay late in the night at her work. She grows weary and her mistakes are frequent from her lack of sleep. Doan is yet still beautiful. Almidah becomes more displeased with her. Doan’s life is in great danger. There is talk in court, that Almidah might sell Doan’s head. Fergus decides that he must act quickly. The Emorian Queen is quite busy with affairs of the state. She is relentless in her attempts to capture her neighbor’s land. She is also consumed with her need for powerful men, whom she pursues with fierceness. One night Fergus sets out to retrieve the fair young Doan. She is cleaning and has grown numb from the work. He spies her from a window and is troubled to find the once vibrant woman devoid of a youthful appearance. He sits for some time watching Doan, as his courage rises. He must kidnap her for there is no time to explain. The girl slumps to her feet with sleep. “I am here to take you to some safe place,” he tells her as he takes her into his arms. The next day, Almidah is enraged and has her men perform a thorough search for the girl. Fergus hides her away in a ship moving west toward the coast and Mahr. “Do I know your face from court, or from my dreams? I am ever grateful to you.” Doan compliments.

# “I sent him to Emor to find out the goings on there once he became a man. I gave him a riddle to answer for me upon his return. The riddle was ‘what force of mankind runs up as well as down a river, reveals light on the surface, yet hides its darkened depths?’ Fergus accepted this challenge. He started from the port of the Chead with passage to the Emorian Empire across the sea. Fergus traveled by way of the river and spent two years in the court of Queen Almidah. He was amazed by the ways of her people who lived with such wanton abandon and whom kept extravagant appetites. There were many huge markets, much music and grand elegance like none seen in Mahr. Many days of travel led him to the queen’s castle. Here Fergus found never ending with royal parties held by Queen Almidah. She appeared to him as a spoiled child. Impulsive was her rule. Her directives were followed without question. However, he did not find her lacking! She was cunning, and she managed to build an vast empire on her own.” “This tale I shall let Maeve describe. #

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“I am Fergus of the isle of Mahr, we shall be there soon. You are not safe here, Doan.” “I’ve heard Almidah talk of Mahr. She is planning a siege upon this island.” # “Upon his return, I ask Fergus the riddle once more…What force of mankind runs up as well as down a river, reveals to us only light on the surface, yet hides it’s darkened depths?” He paused and answered, “Almidah is full of such murderous intent. Her plans destroy anyone in her path. The answer to the riddle is ambition.” Doan became his first and only wife. Fergus became an advisor to the king. “Mame, I want to see more of this evil queen, Almidah!”


Chapter V Ná nocht d’fhiacla go bhféadfair an greim do bhreith. Do not show your teeth until you can bite.

“Such a request is possible with Meave’s permission. Ree you may

join our present Druid practice, but you must keep the sacred silence of the Druid. To misuse the Druid way is to bring great danger to you and yours. Do you agree to this? Be sure in your answer for neither your brother or I may save you otherwise!” Muire speaks solemnly.


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“Yes, I shall keep the way of the Druid now and forever!” Ree’s answer is sure and strong. “Then your first Druid act is to call to Maeve to show us more of the past of Queen Almidahh of the Emor.” “I wish to see this queen of whom so many have spoken. How do I call her? I didn’t know such powers exist!” Ree is unsure. “Simply step to the lake’s edge point toward the reflection of the moon goddess upon then water. Announce yourself and your relationship to Maeve. Then tell her that knowing for which thou seek. That’s the whole of it!” Cavan answers. Slowly Ree moves to the water’s edge, gently she raises her open hands and motions toward the moon’s reflection. Respectfully she calls, “Meave, hear me! I am Ree, daughter of Mairg, granddaughter of Muire, and great granddaughter of Egan of the McElwain clan of the Giollabhain who are the descendants from your husband Giol. I who will one day shall be muther to your future descendants call upon you to provide us the knowing of the past that we here may serve your children’s children. Place the past of the life of Almidahh of the Emor into the moon goddess’ image upon your lake. Let…” “Ree don’t drown the poor spirit with words. Enough!” Muira demands. “Meave our muther, spirit let Ree see Almidahh.” A soft wind brushes against the Druid trio, and it carries a bit of a laugh across the water. Ree stares with bewilderment as the reflection of the moon begins to move with figures, and sounds of the past pouring forth.

Despite the crowds and activity within the great hall of Almidah’s home, the queen’s ambition drives her to anticipation of the coming spring. Pretty servant girls are arrayed in jeweled colored tunics of the finest linen and their long hair is let loose about their shoulders. They pass continuously among the guests with trays of seasoned beef, lamb, fruits and freshly baked breads that scent the air. Handsome young men in tunics and caps of red carry vessels of wine and ale for drink. Musicians from lands far away and groups of barely clad dancers entertain continuously through the darkened evening. The dancers flutter around like a group of exotic birds. In the main hall, groups of guests mingle and dance a lively step to the lyre, flute and harp. The corridors of the palace are swollen with visitors passing back and forth, Kings, Queens, Princes, Lords from far away lands gather. Almidah and her children sit in the back of the palace on a slightly elevated stage overlooking the crowded gardens. Olga comments to her muther on the dress of the various ladies of the court. Handsome male guests are recognized and their positions in court are assessed. The royal group remains isolated with heavy guard. The guests became animated by the merrymaking as the evening wears on. Much to Almidah’s liking, the conduct of the guests soon becomes uninhibited. Almidah is most entertained by the power plays of the young women and men that are made not only for love but also for status. The guards are heavily armed and stand about the place and grounds this night as the long darkness invites much intrigue. Almidah ensures the safety of her royal court by having all celebrate this night under her gaze and the watch of her guard. Prince Roule, who is a dignified man, is in danger of Almidah’s seduction. She is watching him. This night, Almidah gives presents to the guests who are of high standing in her court. Drawings are held for larger gifts of precious stones, gold decorations and

# The longest, darkest night of the year is a time of much celebration in Almidah’s castle and for the people of Emor. This night Almidah’s family, her councilor, Phelan, leaders of other lands, and advisors and their families gather in a great hall for feasting, music and merriment. Almidah hates this; the time of winter. She longs for the time of much sun, a place such as her home, far to the south. Across the conquered lands the Emor will make much celebration.

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silver objects. The best of the entertainers receive royal sponsorship with land and livestock. At this particular feast, Almidah wishes to gain much goodwill from those she has invited. Those who have served well during the past year are received privately at her table throughout the night. Here she dispenses special favors in return. Some of Almidah’s courtesans have so become wealthy. Almidah uses this night to conclude the accounts of her empire for the past year. Lords from neighboring lands attend or are to be found within Almidah’s compound. She keeps no prisoners. Those who commit a crime or plot against her or her plans will immediately disappear. During these private interludes, Almidah is sure to have fateful discussions. Her chief council for war is Phelan. Truly, this man is gifted in military matters. Almidah is the only architect of the empire but her war council has become the machine of conquest and rule. “Tell me of the plans for the campaigns of the coming warm season?” Asks Almidah. “The plans for the southern conquests are very ambitious. Your army is within reach of it’s final objective as it is moving towards the western sea. With sufficient provisions at their disposal, the last nation between your army and the warm sea shall be destroyed. All that stands before you to the southwest will be yours,” answers the general. “Excellent news! Once all the lands this side of the great mountains are unified under my banner, the riches that lay beyond shall soon be mine. What of our struggle in the north?” “My queen, the people of the north are great in size. They are most barbaric in manner. These savages give much trouble even when in chains. Their warriors are so mighty that they’re hundred stands against our five hundred. We destroy their fortifications but they gather in the remote highlands were it takes thousands of men to defeat the few.”

“Their mountains are always full of snow and ice. The typography makes it difficult to defeat them. I fear that these remnants will rise up time and time again against you. However, their weaponry is antiquated. We are far more advanced but it is possible that abundant manpower will be needed to keep your rule in the north. If this is so then your gain will be lost.” “What! A few filthy pigs are to spoil my plans? I don’t think so! Let your troops in the north slay all men of fighting age found up to the land where the ground is always frozen. Every woman and child in the north is to be made a slave and transported to the south. Here they are to be sold or used for the southern campaign. Let none but their elderly stay in the villages of the north. Offer to any man who serves us well much land in the north and two slaves. We will conquer the north after we have our profit. When the conquest is final, only our own people shall be there for our rule.” “It shall be as you say, my queen,” Phelan bows in her direction. “What of this island of Mahr? When shall I have the profit from this?” “My queen, I beseech you to delay the conquest of this island one year until the southern campaign is at an end.” “Why so, my general? Is this island so heavily fortified?” “The island is small in number that will resist you. However, we do not have a seafaring army. The warm season brings much trade. The ships are needed to move goods south. To impede the supply’s arrival there will not only delay victory in the south but may give strength to your enemies.” “Surely my general, a few troops will not occupy so many vessels!” “The vessels require oarsman and sailors. Our troops are trained for neither task.” “How difficult is it to row a boat! I could train a monkey to do it.” Almidah is agitated.

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“Yes Almidah, but there are the external factors, such as the gods of the sky and sea. Sure it’s easy to row a boat, but to keep it afloat is an entirely a different story. In addition, much material will be required in order for such an undertaking to be successful.” “What numbers have you in mind?” “A force of twenty thousand and several hundred ships. A sure victory is quite expensive. The land of Mahr is rumored to be heavy with spirits that dislike foreigners. The army must face armed warriors and angry spirits as well.” Olga boasts, “That’s just a bunch of nonsense. I can’t see why muther can’t have her island as she wishes. Our Queen’s power has crushed the wishes of many ghosts in many lands.” “My princess, no force is as great as the ocean when it rages. The risk of the loss of a large flotilla at this time would damage the queen’s plans at the borders.” “Muther, let Paolo take a small army and bring all the gold back now! You can send the rest of the army to occupy the island next year,” poses Olga. “Can this be done, Phelan?” “Aye, a small force of three thousand men would remove their resistance. The number of ships needed would be small, fifty or so. However, such a force would have to take provisions from the island itself. An extended campaign will not be advisable. There can be no plan for reinforcement until a year after the invasion.” “Would fifty ships be enough to carry all the gold?” asks Almidah. “Several round trips by the ships may have to be made. We can send more as needed.” “Olga, you are so thoughtful to your muther! You shall have your pick from among the first vessel to return with gold from Mahr. Paolo shall lead this task! General make what provisions are necessary to bring my gold home to me from this land as soon as possible.”

“Olga, we shall make plans for the riches to be coming. What fun!”

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# “That is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen! Her gown is gorgeous. Her home is immaculate and the most ornate, I’ve never seen such displays of wealth!” Says the astounded Ree. “What does she have to fear?” “In the time of the darkest night, the people on the island of Mahr also make great festivals of lights. Large fires are lit from stocks of wood gathered over many days. These fires are kept a glow all through the night so as to push away the evil that darkness brings. It is said upon this night of Saurine, that the lost spirits are most likely to return to walk the earth. Children wear protective amulets to ward off the haunting creatures. The Pouka does her best work on such a night, as many are the poor ones that lay helpless in their sick bed. This is the time when the Druid’s will offer sacrifice upon the mounting pyres for those who have caused discontent with the spirits of the land. Intent on pleasing the spirits, the clan will repeat chants along with sacred music and dancing. Men and women in dress and mask that give a spirit’s form will hide their human ways throughout the night. The villagers shall move about from hut and home to a fire’s side with cheers and music to drive misfortune away. The animals will be sheltered within the village this night for keeping safe. The kindly spirits of wood and well are made quiet by the overriding power of the evil that may be unbound in the dark. Cliath does not welcome strangers into it’s midst for fear a Pouka will be about this night in human form. The king orders all others but his guests and the local people to spend the night out of the village. Villagers are not permitted to leave and return this night. Death is the price for those who violate the law. All the king’s men will keep watch with sword and torch throughout the night. In the enchanted forest, Eta and her friends wait out this darkest of nights within their cave. No one is to be permitted


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entrance into her cave for just the supposing a counterfeit spirit would be at the want for the making of trouble. Eta will be busy all the previous day at making extra places for the soft animals that live in the forest to hide. Indeed, all the earth’s creatures will be in hiding as the mist in the woods grow large upon this night. The banshee’s power reaches its most formidable state at this time as well. The wee people do no work or play this night. They take great fear of getting into trouble with those black things that live in darken holes and fowl smelling places which come about on just this one night. Hugh Mhor leads his entire band to a place deep under the golden meadow and keeps them completely quiet for the entire night. It’s a great feat for a single fairy not to make a sound for a minute let alone the whole of the night. Such is only possible for the entire bunch once a year and this due wholly to the evil nature of this night. The good fairies take leave of the places the goblins are sure to be found haunting during Saurine. “Cavan, I myself have always hated the coming of the dark night of Sauriane ever since I lost my son Daor.” “It is necessary to see that no little one, or elderly, or sick one is left in a darkened hut alone anywhere in the land of the Giollabahin. Some of the villagers prepare torches and scented candles for the people who cannot provide for themselves. The doors and windows are closed as well as shutters. The homes are decorated with mistletoe and holly, for the keeping of spirits from passing easily into one’s home. Many a child’s crib and bed would be decorated the same. Broaches of iron will be pinned upon the sleeping child’s tunic to keep them from being carried off. Men awake or sleep would keep their sword and spear at the ready. In the west, Oiche lines his fort with a great ring of fire so no spirit may pass through. He invites all from the west to shelter their family and animals within his fort. Great feasting and drink, such as that in the way of the north men, will be available to all. Music and song are to be offered to the gods that keep the fort and it’s land safe from harm.”

Paolo is excited to hear he will lead the first naval invasion by the Emor. He chooses several of his closest friends to lead the army of invasion. Half his force is to be veteran foot soldiers; the other half experienced sailors. All would have to serve the double duty of shore and sea. In preparation, Paolo sends spies to the island of Mahr to assess the island ‘s fortification and possible armed resistance. His force gathers early in the spring at the ocean’s shore. Sailors drill with the army. All would train aboard vessels sailing up and down the coast of Emor. This spring, the spirits of the ocean are aware of a small poorly matched force of Emorians that are preparing to sail out for conquest. Any could guess that the island of Mahr is in danger of losing its freedom.

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# “What did we do about this?” Cavan asks. “News reached the people of Cliath long before the dark season ended. We were informed that the Emor’s army was in preparation and would soon sail to their shore. The king of the Chead called Oiche came from the west. A great council was convened. Oiche was quick to speak. “The Emorians will take to the sail at the time that the south wind blows. When the herds of the island are full with new life and the crops ready to sprout, then they shall come.” “Such has always been the way of invaders to our shores,” replied the king. He questioned as to how the island would defend itself. “The Giollabhain will fight in the land to the east. This is where they are most prepared to fight. Although they are few, many Emorians shall fall upon the land like drops from a rain cloud,” Oiche tried to comfort the king. “They chose to divide the enemy and force him to fight on the ground of their choosing. One can deny them the use of their strength. The island must hold out and weaken the enemy. Then there is a chance for


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victory. An initial confrontation would leave us at a tremendous disadvantage. I will consult further with a potential ally, King Kendal of the north.” “I didn’t know that we ever had spies about our village, let alone on the island,” Ree is most concerned.

woods where she vanishes. However, this time he is found by the queen’s guard who are ever vigilant. He tries to escape through the woods. The sport of tracking prey with canines has been brought to Emor from the land of Olga’s father. This sport Almidah adapts to the hunting of wanted men by her royal guard. Olga hears of the capture of a most vicious young man who has confessed to many crimes. More importantly to Olga, this lad has moved freely about the land of the Emor evading all security and law of place and time. His capture inspires the princess. Olga advises her muther to let this monster go to Mahr as a spy. Almidahh’s offer to Ornan to become an informant to save his life is accepted. He proceeds in advance of the young prince and this army into the land of the Giollabhain. Once there, he is to find the source of gold. This man, Ornan, gains passage as a sailor to Mahr in the dark season. This is a time of great tempests at sea. A most difficult voyage is undertaken at a time when few ships leave the shore. Once safely in the port of Claith, he passes about the island as a traveling minstrel and artist. He seeks his pleasures and fortune among the unsuspecting of Mahr. For days Ornan makes his way inside Cliath counting the number of troops. The locations of the port’s defenses and the king’s compound are noted. Ornan, in fear of detection, stays far away from the Druid and their Holy Grove. From the locals he reports the size of the Druid presence to Olga. It is not long before Ornan knows much about the Chead and the whole of the island. Ornan discovers that no real army exists to the west of the island. Only Cliath offers a defense with a standing army of little more than three hundred men. A conscripted force from the nearby farms will amount to a measure of 2500 Chead to defend the island. The conquest of Cliath and the island is assured.

# Paolo chooses a single spy recommenced to him by Phelan to send to Mahr. Ornan is man with a most cunning disposition. He is a most evasive and fleeting person. He is to pass among the people of the island as a young adult and as an artist. The artwork he will leave behind during his time on the island is to be the only perception left of the man. His artwork is to be found all around the royal court with scenic views of the landscape to help the Emorians. He works in paintings mostly. Working with crude paint of natural dye he makes murals upon walls. He does window picture type landscapes that capture the sensations of summer and hold them for all to see throughout the year. In some fashion, he creates music and rhymes that tell of other worlds, times of old and things of the future. This lad, Ornan seems to be an orphan with no family or apparent home. His physical appearance changes upon the occasion. One may describe him with having longish hair while another does not. His height is at once tall, but later he’s seen as short. His manner of dress is not constant, for he assumes many personae. As soon as he engages work, he barters away his present apparel for new. The look of him is never the same one day to the next. The truth is this lad is a vicious criminal, a devious thief and a predator of young girls. His activities have stretched for several years into all parts of the mainland. There he is a transient, yet was somehow greatly familiar wherever he goes. The crimes he commits are always attributed to an evil spirit. Just as the invasion is being prepared, Ornan has lured a young servant girl from Almidah’s court into the

#

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The source of gold for the island is not found in Claith itself. Although Ornan collected a small bag of golden objects taken from homes of his victims. He discovered that a magic pool where a muther spirit lives, provides the island’s gold. The spirit leaves nuggets of gold occasionally at the water’s edge as a present to those, which have found favor with her. This pool is found in the northeastern part of the island and is known as Locherbith. All this information Ornan sent to Olga by word aboard vessels bound to return to lands of the Emor. This news is transported back to the Emor in early spring when normal sea trading resumes. Ornan’s message once received by Almidah and her children gave great expectation to the islands conquest. There was no doubt that the task for Paolo would be swift to its finish. Ornan remained upon the island to await the invasion. His greed drew him into the enchanted forest on his way to reach the source of gold before Paolo’s arrival. He wished to gather his fortune long before any invasion. His evil presence in the woods of Eta was a great disturbance. The animals were quick to make off from his encounter. The fairies would cry out alarm in the winds to warn those of the forest to beware. Eta and her band of spirits searched for the path taken by Ornan through the woods but his elusiveness was too great even for them. The Giollabhain and the Maeve herself guard the way to Locherbith. The stranger who seeks this place without permission is confounded and led astray by nature. Only by the intercession of a Druid known to the lady of the lake may the newcomer pass to the water’s edge. Ornan set about the land of the Giollabahin to seduce the people and discover the means to the lake of gold. No one had a recollection of this lad as a baby or child. None had the power of observation strong enough to detect this man as an impostor. If a child was missing, it was thought the work of the banshee. Now, as the time of spring drew near, the sea traffic to the port of Cliath had all but about ended. Ships of sea were staying far off from the island for wishing not to be caught up in any

battle not their own. The slave pens around the docks were empty.” “Cavan, it was from Maeve we were wanting to know the way of protecting the people and the land from the invasion to come.” “What did you do Mame?” Asks Cavan. “I sent my daughter Rialta to the lake to call to the spirit there for help.” Rialta and all the female descendants of the lake made a great holy procession. Smoke and fragrance issued from flames of torches made from special dried roots and herbs that were carried by the Druids. At lake’s side they were to call on the spirit to show some sign that they would be protected from the invasion. Now, the villain Ornan was to learn of the pilgrimage and had disguised himself in Duidess’ dress and hood. He made his way in the last of the procession pretending to keep the back of young girls. All the time he was marking the way of the gold. Ornan hid his face behind the flames of a torch. None were suspicious and the band of ladies made straight away to their quest. The party arrived at the lake’s edge just before dark. The night would be kept in vigil and chant for the coming of the muther spirit just as the sun vanished from the sky. At the time of a dark blue sky with stars set above a reddish orange horizon, the waters in the lake took to turning and churning up bubbles. One great arm of water reached out to the shore. This crest of water fell upon the assembly of the people. The surge of water sent all reeling about one another. They all screamed as they fell and swirled in the rush of water’s flow about the land. Some were pushed many feet back from the edge of the lake. Others were pulled toward the brink in the current of water running back into the lake. One lonely figure was taken completely from the shore. Pulled away from the group of woman on land by the spirit of lake’s watery reach, Ornan was seen drifting out toward the middle of the lake. They were all struck by the sound of

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his moans for it was not the cries of a woman. A large whirl of water set about the man and pulled him under. His cries for help confused Rialta and the others who stood frozen and bewildered. How had this man come among their midst? She could only watch in disbelief as the villainous one vanished beneath the water’s surface. In the last instant, as Ornan’s fate was secured, the water of the lake grew calm. The women chattered about in confusion and horror. The swirling lake calmed once again, and the beauty of the cool late evening sky reflected from the lake’s mirrored surface as if nothing unpleasant occurred. The image of the face of a beautiful woman with golden hair flowing appeared under the water. “None shall occupy this land but my descendants. Muira shall tell all to abandon Cliath. Leave no person nor any possession there until the end of the warm season.” These words came forth from the lake as if by a whispering breeze. “How shall we fight those who come,” asked Rialta. “Follow the ways of Muira’s son Oiche.” With these words the cool wind from the north resumed. The surface of the lake grew rough and the lady’s visage was no more to be seen.” “When I received these words of Maeve from Rialta, a message was immediately sent to Oiche in the west.” Oiche was to make ready a plan for Cliath at once. To Eta word was sent of the impending battle for the island. Eta was told that the enchanted forest is to be invaded by non-believers from across the sea. All spirits and animals of the forest must prepare for defense of their land. “That same night I called to Hugh Mohr to come to my home.” Hugh arrived very late upon that damp and dreary night. He was most agitated by the news of an invasion. “We fairy folk are just getting used to the presence of the Chead in our midst. They have only been here one thousand or more years. This new bunch will have different ways. Our fairy business will be greatly inconvenienced,” said he. “Hugh, your band of wee folk will be left alone in Claith at

the time of the invasion. Your bunch must fight in the place of the Chead. This is the will of the spirit muther,” said I. At this, the little man’s back went stiff with his little shoulders upright. His face was filled with determination and fire. “A fairy war against those from the sea it will be and with no innocent ones in the way at all. Never in me life has there been a chance such as this to show the power of the wee folk,” said Hugh. “Muira, we have never been able to stop the big people from coming to our land. But it’s for sure we sent more than one handful back wearing the sores we give them.” With this said, Hugh smiled at himself and was off with a kick of his legs. The king of Giolabhain was informed. All the current proceedings on the island by man and fairy alike were reported. He immediately ordered all non-combatants to gather their goods. Parcel and animal alike were transported to the great ring fort at the east most sea wall. Here fresh embankments were dug. Tents from skins of animal were set standing for the many folk to be arriving. Meat and fish were dried for storage. The fields were completely abandoned from the plowing. The crops were not to be sown this year. Dry goods were collected and stored for rationing. Fruits and berries of the field were picked and dried as well. Those herbs and roots used for medicines were gathered in abundance for later want. Many were the nights that spring, in which man, woman and child would stay late at the making of spears, arrows or shields. “The way of war is not for long living, Cavan. It’s a hard preparation for one’s own suffering and dying.” We of the land of the Giollabhain had no fear of the outcome but we had fear galore for those of our men and woman who would be going forth to be wounded, or to die completely. Not far from Muira’s cottage a few meadows east, lived a family of seven; a husband and wife with five children. The oldest, a girl of fourteen, the second was a boy of thirteen. The

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remaining children were not considered adults and were too young to partake of the coming war. The life of this family and many another would change this summer forever. During these days of preparation, the muther was making supplies for the eating and care of her small children. The husband was carrying off the animals to the king’s compound where the selected men would see to care of the beasts. The older two children would be in training for the making and use of the weapons of war. All would work about the ring fort of the Giollabhain, digging and making the constructions needed for defense. The days were long and the nights brief. The work proceeded briskly through rain, wind and all the gloom of the springtime storms. The father had to decide which of his children would stand with him in the lines to face the enemy and which was child to keep guard at the fort. His daughter was soon to marry and she was a great help to her muther. Her loss would be the hardest for the young ones. The boy was not yet at his strongest. Although nimble, he would fall easily to a man’s blow with an ax. His own loss and that of his son’s in the battle to come, would leave the family with no man on the farm. There was no way to choose the dying of his eldest children. So, he decided by the only way any man who loves his family can be choosing. He let them choose their fight for themselves. The daughter chose to join a group of young warriors all with a gift for the small bow and arrow. This group would fight with Eta in the enchanted woods. From tree to tree in the thickets and glens they would strike in ambush. If forced from the woods they would fall back to the eastern ring fort and fight with the long bow. The young lad was dear to share his fate at his father’s side. He wished no more than to have his father see him die as a man, if he must. The father’s tears were many for his two darlings were too soon to be lost from this life he shared with them. Their only joy was to the safety of the muther and their three small siblings. The muther’s loss of her husband and elder two children

was immediate. For she may never gaze upon their dear smiling faces again in this life. Her work at the fort was all the greater. The small children were left to the care of the elderly as she took up soldiering entirely. She knew that when the fight came to her duty station at the fort, her husband and elder two children would be dead and it was for certain that those who would do this deed would be dying at her own hand where she now stood. Her last hope on this earth would be that at her ending someone would take the lives of her remaining children. She did not want them to be sold into slavery. Better they would be free to join her in the next life. “Such was the mood of the people, Cavan, in those dark days.” “Did all go to fighting, Mame?” “Indeed so my boy! Your own grandmuther was down at digging in the muck around the fort itself and I’m still decent with the bow today.” Only the small children and the weak elderly were clear of partaking in the workings for the war. Such it was in the whole of the island from coast to coast. The fairies worked the hardest for never taking of sleep at all. More mean the wee folk became as they had no play or sport in those days. In the west, few fisherman went to sea for there would be no trade in Claith for some time. Just enough fish needed for drying and storing at Oiche’s fort would be taken from the sea that spring. Those who depend on the sea for living were off at making their new home there behind the ramparts. Nature herself took pity on the plight of the people in her land. The ground was made easy for the digging. Many a tree was wind felled that spring and quick to become part of a new rampart. The distress of the animals was shown in the few births to happen that spring. The wells about the fort were as full as they could be by way of relieving the folk of the worry of any drought. For all the water that fell from the sky, none seemed to find it’s way to Cliath. The rivers and ponds about the place were low and sure to vanish in the heat that was yet to come upon the land. The fish took to hiding and avoiding the

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nets completely around Cliath. Indeed, the birds so prodigious in breeding about Cliath sought refuge elsewhere. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The land and its people gave way to living as the hunted fox. In a way, one might say that the island was invaded by high emotions long before the strangers set foot ashore.â&#x20AC;?


CHAPTER VI Ní neart go curile chéile. There is no strength without unity.

“Cavan, the worst time in preparing for a war that’s sure to

come is the coming of the fighting before the preparations are entirely made. How meager our resources were compared to the Emorians.” Cavan’s grandmuther recounts the tale.


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“Knowing this first hand, the king of the Giollabhain sent word out to Oiche in the west that he was wanting to send a force to hinder the Emorian’s effort long before the end of spring. At first, Oiche thought such an idea as preposterous. It was eventually Oiche’s agreement that a few men might be sent over the sea and have a look about. They might even have a hand at making trouble over there for the benefit of Mahr. Upon Oiche’s recommendation, the spirit of the lake was to be consulted for such an undertaking. To call upon the spirit of the lake, the proper course of action is to be taken in order for signs to be read. This is part of the knowing you will learn from the Druid at Holy Grove, Cavan. Ree, as you persist in the Druid way your time at the Holy Grove is to come as well. Omens are read from the sky, motion of the stars, changes in the winds, the formations of the clouds and especially the behavior of the birds for you, Cavan. The signs of the water are read for the colors and motions of the in the lakes, rivers and especially the sea and all life within. The signs of the land are taken from the health and color of the plants, trees and animals of the land. In troubled times, the sky is disturbed first, then the waters and then the land. For such a great feat as preventing the taking of our island home from the enemy entirely, all the Druid must gather. Each must first read the signs over many a time. The grand masters of the Druids at the Holy Grove convened the gathering of all the Druid of the island. The place of their meeting was to be upon the holiest place on the island to which all Druid are to attend, the great stone circle at the Holy Grove. Here the Master Druid spent several days taking counsel from his disciples directly. The Druid undertook proceedings from the most secret of ways. Animal sacrifice was to be a necessary undertaking. Indeed many offerings were to be made until the Master Druid was certain of the response from the counsel of the spirits that guide the doings of our lives. ‘Defending the mainland against the invading Emorians may succeed only with those with connection to Spirit of Maeve herself,’ spoke the master druid.”

There is no spirit of Mahr who will participate on such an adventure across the sea. The blessings of the spirits must be those already dun, for none will be found for the gathering upon foreign soil. The council of druids has decided that only those chosen from the Giollabhain may attempt such a task. The spirits are clear that there is to be great haste and great courage for those whom we send to unleash a sneak attack upon the Emor across the sea. With this said, the Master Druid called to myself to advise the king of the Giollabhain. It would be by the choosing of the Giollabhain entirely, that the undertakings for the making of a sneak attack at Emor would be done. In a gathering of the clans of the Giollabhain at the king’s fort at the eastern sea wall, I advised the king that a choosing from the people had to be made. All men and all women not as yet holding up a family would be among those for the choosing by Spirit of Maeve herself. “How did Maeve make her choice, Mame?” “Now Cavan, the muther spirit makes any choice of hers known by the doings of nature. There is no other way of it. All those wishing to take a part in the invasion from Mahr were asked to gather a small piece of a stone from the waters of the land of the Giollabhain. The stones are to be gathered and presented before the king the very next day. The king of the Giollabhain himself would have the Master Druid read the signs from these stones and oversee the final choosing. Those who wanted to change their opinion of going across the sea for the purpose of war would submit no stone. Many the man and woman, young and old alike were found fishing about the waters of the Spirit Maeve that day. Indeed the number of stones that would be presented to the king the following day would sink the largest boat in the bay at Cliath. The people were altogether anxious at the chance to land the first blow of the war to be coming.” “How could anyone make sense from so many stones?” asked Cavan. “The king let it be known that those with stones of black

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rock were to be dismissed. And many a black rock was flung off to the bush in disgust. The king next called for rocks of brown color to be gone from the choosing. Now the brown rock seemed to be the rock of choice by the folks of Giollabhain, as the king had quickly lowered the number for the choosing from a great many to a very few. The last call for the rocks by the king was then made. ‘Since the troubled sea must be traveled with only the sky to guide us, let those with stones of blue gray be chosen,’ said he. Spirit of Maeve chose three good souls that day, Cavan. Your uncles Leigh and Fergus were the first to come forward to stand claim to their duty from the chieftain of the Giollabhain. The third and last person to be chosen by way of the colored stone was Brogan, the youngest daughter of the king himself, only being fourteen years old. The king wished to disqualify his daughter being that she was of age to marry. But his daughter was quick to convey her desire to go. She was every bit as brave as your uncles. I’m sure you’ll have the opportunity to know this young lassie in good time. It is said that her beauty compares to that of Maeve herself, for her hair is golden also. These three had gathered the only rocks of blue to be found from all over the land of the Giollabhain. There was no bit of a doubt that these three were the only ones fit enough to be called for the task of a sneak attack of the mainland. The king called my two sons and his daughter to cross over the sea at the first of spring. There they were to determine much of the plans of the Emor for the invasion as they could mange. If possible they were to strike mainly at the sea craft of the Emorians in hope that they could hinder the invasion of Mahr. The challenge was accepted eagerly. The three started immediately for the port of the Cliath. As they were making their way just to edge of Cliath, they come upon a small a lad who has chanced to get stuck in a sagging bog. For sure this youth was going for his end if no help was to come forth. The invading army of three fashioned

a ladder from a sapling tree. Reaching out across the way, they pulled the boy from the bog, and his life was spared directly. It seems the boy had wandered far from his uncle’s home nearby. His family had been searching about for him all day. They feared the Pouka took him away. So great was their anxiety over the lad that a large sum was offered for his return. Many the folk about had already quit the field for the searching and calling out to the lost lad. The invaders from Mahr saw the boy safely to his father’s care. Grateful, the father offers much gold as compensation for the lad’s life. The notion of any reward was refused as no price may be put on decency. They inform the lad’s father that they are on their way across the sea to look for work and good pay. ‘If it’s work and travel you be wanting, then look no further said the boy’s da.’ The father it seems was visiting his business interests in Cliath, which are managed by his brother. The man owns warehouses in Cliath as well as all along the great river Dano that runs form the mountains to the sea in the land of the Emor. The father offered passage across the sea, and work for the three on river transports. “There’s always the want of hands aboard a ship crossing to the mainland this time of year. And the work on the rivers of the mainland never ends since the Emor have taken over all the land along side the coast and far in on the main land,” Said he. In Cliath, the distant merchant has hired a rugged crew to sail a small ship over the rough late winter sea. The rewards for sea travel at this time are great as the stores of the past summer are low in stock all about the mainland. Almidah’s armies require much in preparation for their coming campaigns. The goods shipped presently from Mahr will bring extra profit. The warehouses of Cliath are swelled with goods to be traded. The merchant from Emor has again dealt early with the Chead and his returns by spring’s end shall again be large. The ship’s hull was full of smoked meats, cheese and dried pork. Only those of the mainland with wealth will acquire these

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late winter delicacies. The merchant, his son and the crew of nine counting the threesome from Giollabhain set sail as soon as the sky was clear. With brisk winter winds to drive the ship, the time of travel to the mainland is fast if not altogether safe. For many an adventurer was sent to the ocean bottom by sudden swells of the sea sent from great storms ragging far out of one’s sight. But the luck that has made a large fortune for the merchant from Emor did not fail. The threesome accomplished their first crossing as they set foot upon the strange land of the Emor at the mouth of the river Dano. The river Dano divides Almidahh’s empire into two. The river runs the path along which Almidahh’s first conquests were made. It’s from this river that the southern and northern campaigns are launched. The river was crowded with barges and vessels of all descriptions carrying troops and various stocks of goods. Most supplies and persons moving through the land ruled by the Emor must pass on this river. Now there are many spirits both small and great along this mighty river. All of who are unknown to Muira’s children. The ways were known of the Druid to Leigh and Fergus from their muther’s teachings. Muira’s children know how to conduct themselves without offending the gods of other lands. The customs and manners of the many people along the river made it easy for the trio to move about without suspicion. The weather was damp and they had the hoods of their tunics. However, disguise was not necessary with all the various races of people moving about. They were quick to notice that the land about the river they visited lacked much of the mystique of the waterways of Mahr. It must be the complete absence of the wee folk about the mainland, they all determined. Their work for the merchant required them to labor on a barge that passed up and down the three major ports along the great river Dano.”Let us see this tale!” Commands Cavan. Muira and Ree are egar as well.

The ocean port of Galatia is found at the mouth of the river. This place is many times the size of Cliath. It is a great city with the number of visitors alone that may count in the ten thousands. There are a surprising number of slaves about doing labor on the buildings and grounds. The three from Mahr make their first assault at a port in Emor with a population greater than Mahr itself. The prospect for Mahr’s aggression here is abundant indeed. The grateful merchant has a home setting high upon a hill that overlooks the bay. Huge fortifications have recently been built about this bay. The land of the merchant’s birth is a recent acquisition of Almidah. Although many have suffered, those who deal in trade proved useful to Almidah by serving the vast Emorian Empire. The trio lived aboard a large barge and worked the loading and unloading while sailing along the Dano. Galatia sits nestled among hills that run along the coast which provide a natural barrier to a standard military style invasion. The valley of Galatia has a wide natural harbor and much land along the river’s shore for commerce, residence and fortification. The hills give a natural defense from attack by land and they are heavily lined with sentry posts of the Emor guards. Here the trio is amazed at the expanse of the shoreline and the great busy markets. There are throngs of people busy at every sort of trade. Many commercial activities are new to them and Mahr seems as a bubble compared to the immensity of Galatia’s wealth. The harbor there is filled with countless vessels from foreign lands and the people speak in languages never heard by their ears. They are quick to view the disposition of troop placements of the Emor about Galatia. The merchant informs the trio that the Emor have recently confiscated his only seaworthy ship and it’s anchored around the northern point of the bay of Galatia. A number of ships are being so collected. Here he informs that a small garrison of ships has arrived. There is royalty

#

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present as the personal banners of Almidah fly about this compound.

The trio’s transport carries barrels of iron goods arriving by sea for use in the southern campaign from Galatia to Lasi. They transport nails, arrowheads and cinches for the tethers of horse and ox. Metal hubs and rings used in wagons to carry supplies. The large army of the south must pass through long, dry, barren regions. Supplies of water must be carried in casks. They sail up to Durdec for a shipment of food and wine before returning. Durdec is the third major port off the Dano. Here marks the end of the river’s great flow that permits the grand commerce of the Dano. Almidah’s home is a still many days travel by the lesser flow of the Dano. Durdec is part of the original homeland of the Emor. All the people there keep its defense. It remains less a military necessity than a port of commerce. The northern campaign is mounted by the Emorians from here to protect the land already gained and to push further north to claim more. Most goods are disposed at Lasi, but some are bound for trade between Galatia and Durdec. The military traffic on the river has priority but there is always a great flow of commerce required upon the Dano long before the Emor came.

# “Why are there so many foreign looking people in this place?” Asks Ree “Galatia serves as one great window of commerce for goods coming to the mainland. These are easily dispersed along the Dano for use by the empire.” Answers Cavan to Muira’s delight. The Emor keep great fires aglow at night along the Dano in late spring and summer for additional movement of transports along the river at night. In early spring, the rains and fog yet prevent much night sailing on the Dano. So the barge operated by the trio moves about by day. The next major port is Lasi, which is found several days travel up the Dano.” “We need to see more of this world!” Cavan says with authority. “Maeve, we are grateful for your showings. We learn much from your waters.” # The villages that line outside the city of Lasi are the most fortified in the whole of the Emorian Empire. A dozen large forts ring this town. For here a second great river, the Tsaro makes it’s way from the southeast to join the Dano. The Emorian’s army that fights the southern campaign is stationed here. This river’s crossroad is crucial for the defense of the empire. An enemy’s army arriving from the south would sail easily along the Dano to its headwater where Almidah makes her home. Hence, Almidah’s uneasiness over her plans for the final conquest to her south. The southern army is by far the largest of the Emor. The complex required for its support sprawls for a day’s walk in any direction from Lasi. There are compounds of reserve soldiers training for movement to the empire’s southern borders. Vast complexes of material stored ready for transport to the battle lines anywhere in the empire.

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# “This river is mighty in the people and ships upon its water. A whole world of it’s own is shown to us.” Remarks Cavan. “I have never seen so much material and goods.” Ree states. “The heavy currents of the Dano to the sea make return time from Durdec to Lasi to Galatia a third less than the labor up river. The three are quick to realize the opportunities that lie for making great trouble at each of the main ports on the Dano. They plan to act upon the return trip from Durdec.” Muira responds. Maeve does not wait to be asked. #


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In Port Durdec, the barge operated by the three from Giollabhain lay ties at the dock for reasons of unloading goods to be stored there. Such activities cost several days as stores may be taken to one or more select warehouses. During the normal business of the barge, Leigh notices that among the holding pens for animals a large barn has held many small children and young women of tall blond stature. This compound is located on the northern shore of the Dano just east of the village. Some of the women and children carry heavy stones from one compound moving it to another place in order to build a new compound. Almidah’s cleansing of the northern tribes has begun. The first of her captives have arrived. These northern people are soon to be transported to Lasi, then south on the river Tsaro. They will soon enter the southern slave markets. Near the slave compound is found a corral of horses bound to the northern army of the Emor. The number of guards is not as many at Durdec, which is far from the frontiers of armed conflict. Across to the southern shore of the Dano, there are many wooden barges busy with goods to be placed in a large array of wooden warehouses that line the shore. Now little if any of the material of Durdec would find it’s way to the invasion of Mahr by Paolo’s army. However, any trouble in this port would create many problems for the already busy river Dano that is soon to be made busier with the arrival of the warm season. Leigh is up for making the first attack of the war between Mahr and Emor at Durdec. “With all the wood afloat and ashore, several small fires started about the place could easily grow into an grand inferno. The smoke and heat would keep all about the port busy as we make our escape west on the Dano,” says Leigh. “We’ve a nice supply of lard aboard. We could fashion several balls from lard wrapped in linen that may be made for the throwing of it in the right places. In a few quick minutes we can start a grand blaze,” answers Fergus.

“But what of the women and children? How will they escape? Where will they go if they do escape?” These words came forth with great emotion from the little Brogan. “It’s not much of a way of fighting a war to come so far just to leave off with no much as a spit in the eye,” Fergus replies impatiently. “What if your muther was held in that filthy barn? I’m betting the first thought out of your head would be the taking of her to freedom.” Brogan’s eyes are watery from thoughts of losing her family and their inevitable slavery, should the Emor claim the island of Mahr. “Well woman, it’s right you are, and Fergus, we’ve a duty to confront the enemy as quick as the fox would snatch a bunny from its nest. If you are agreeing, we’ll do both here this very night. Fergus is to swim over to the other shore for striking the first blow. Brogan and myself here will make our way as the flames rise to release the blond ones from their bondage. Brogan, with her gold hair shall be useful.” “The women must have some time to compose a way out, other wise they’ll be quick to the capture by the Emor.” Brogan insists. “The only way for it then is for yourself to enter the holdings with the slaves and make our plans known to themselves at once.” Leigh knows this is the only way for the three to help the northern captives. “We’ll make you up as a child escaped from the holding pen. I, by way of duteous service to the queen, will claim yourself as a found stow away in our barge. Are you up to this Brogan?” Brogan swallows hard and with the widest eyes Leigh and Fergus have ever noticed on such a small pretty face, she nods her willingness. Making her dress in the fashion of the animal hides worn by those of the north, Leigh binds the girl’s wrists together. The two then march straight from the dock to the gates of the holding pen of Almidah’s slaves.

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“This ones for getting away! The queen will not be happy to lose the purse from this slave child,” Leigh informs the guard. Not wishing to bring the commanders about and suspecting Brogan to have strayed upon the slave bunch’s first arrival, the guard simply places her in with the group of northern captives. “Your lucky the rats did not take you first,” laughs the guard. “They be shipped off in a day or so by barge,” he informs Leigh. Once within the dark and foul smelling shed, Brogan is quick to spot Anta, a royal princess, daughter of a king of the north who is sitting in the far corner surrounded by her warriors. This young woman of regal bearing and statuesque beauty has a fierce temper. Suddenly Anta’s stare catches on Brogan. “You are not of my people. You are not of the north. How come you are captive here?” Anta is suspicious of the young woman from Mahr. “I’m here to help.” Answers Brogan. Anta continues. “My brothers are dead or missing in the woods of my land. My father and my muther have been murdered. Most of the homes of our people are burned and destroyed. The children and young muthers of my people are held in bondage. I am to be queen among slaves with my land held by barbarians. And now I’m to be mocked by a stranger in front of my people. “All is not with out hope. There are forces that Almidah and the Emor may not conqueror. There is help for those to be found here this very night. “Brogan eagerly informs Anta of the plans for a great fire that night. She approaches her only to be stopped in her tracks by the queen’s warriors. Anta takes one long look at Brogan, as if inspecting her soul and gestures for the girl to sit and speak with her. Anta suggests that she and some of her warriors accompany the barge along the Dano.

“We can either stay here and rot, or trust what you say is true and make for escape. It is my pleasure to destroy much here in the homelands of the Emor for what they have done to my land and people. To die fighting my great foe would be preferred to slavery.” “However, I need to consider the safety of my people held here. There are horses just outside the holding pens. I shall send my people with their children on horseback northward to join their men in hiding. They shall burn and destroy much of the resources of the enemy as they return to the north.” The captives upon being freed determine the only course of action is to take horses in nearby corals and confiscate weapons from the guards on duty. They have to take the lives of several Emorian guards and act quickly. An alarm is bound to get out fast. As many as could ride are to return to their homelands. Early that evening Leigh and Fergus load the barge with empty casks and shipping crates. The barge will keep the appearance of commerce as it sails west of the Dano. Fergus makes thirty or so clumps of lard. A linen sack sealed with oil will carry his weapons as he swims across to the southern shore of the Dano. Hot embers he wraps with moist leaves to carry. Fergus enters the water to commence the war by attacking the nearby storage houses. Leigh makes his way in the darkening sky to the holding pens on the northern shore upon which his barge is docked at the ready. He moves his way with stealth among the warehouses, barns and sheds and corrals. It is the end of a very busy day. The people of Durdec take rest. The guards of the Emor keep watch with mild interest. Fergus is quick to move to the rear of the storehouses of southern Durdec from which a northwestern wind prevails. By blowing on a hot ember, a clump of lard wrapped with linen is lit and placed within a moderately crowded gathering hall. As he makes his way to the riverbank, Fergus leaves flame at many places. His final

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volleys of fire are made on several large barges. The dry wood used for buildings soon reaches to large flames. The heat and wind swirl about as they spread the growing flames about the southern bank causing quite a stir. Leigh waits in hiding till dusk when the lights from the fires across the river are large. He strikes quickly at the lone guard about the holding pens. The captives move in two groups. One to the horse corral, the other to a store of weapons. Swords and arrows provide ample arms for a quick escape. Leigh and Brogan lead Anta and her warriors toward the barge. The main band of northern women traveled the main road out of Durdec north right away. By first light they will move into the forests. Their way north will be easy, as they will avoid major fortifications while pillaging and burning the smaller outposts. With their movement north will go all suspicion. Lasi will remain unprepared for ambush from the Dano. As the escapees reach the barge, Fergus makes his return. The call to fire is being sounded and people are stirring as a result. However, the fires have spread among dozens of barges along the southern dock and several large warehouses. Leigh’s barge moves into the current of the Dano flowing to Lasi to escape. There is panic and chaos as the people scramble about, some guards attempt to put the fires out, while others try to gather the straying horses.

Along with Anta, are many young warrior like women. They are all tall compared to the Emorians. The blond women of the north are athletic and skilled in archery. However, many have lost their home and family to which they may not return. These girls were eager to help fight by way of surprise attack along the Dano. They hide upon the open barge by day in the empty casks and crates. The barge makes to land for forage and to avoid suspicion of hurried movement by night. Anta assumes the male dress of a barge worker and keeps the company of Leigh. She has much of the way of the wilderness in her and she responds to the steadfast strength of Leigh. Together they shall plan a major attack upon the Emorians at Lasi. Again Muira responds with out request.

# Ree.

“Those poor women in all that filth. How cruel!” Cries

“That fire is huge. So much damage from so few.” Cavan is amazed. The damage done was not nearly as much as Leigh and the others had hoped. The goods lost would easily be replaced and the ships lost on the river would only temporarily delay the plans of Almidah. Yet any time gained was precious. More to the good was the fact that war had begun by way of few people from Mahr showing a gain of courage.”

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# The barge makes its way slowly out of Durdec through the night with Leigh making the helm. After traveling clear from the notice of any watch, the barge makes a stop at a moonlit cove for the remainder of the evening. The first night Anta and her band of fighting ladies are exuberant with the thrill of freedom and the excitement of revenge upon the Emorians. “Be still now, the bunch of you will be waking the dead from the land all about these parts,” Leigh speaks sternly. The girls take to silence at once and all aboard go to sitting to wait upon his next command. Anta finds herself sitting at attention with her subjects, and is herself embarrassed. Without words, she looks hard at this plain looking oaf of a foreigner. He has no looks of a lord yet his words are as noble. His clothes are soiled from the fire and long hours of work upon the river, she has the urge to dust him off and wash him when suddenly Leigh speaks to her. His blue eyes seem to meet hers while he speaks but she cannot follow his trail of thought. She becomes faint. Anta is not able to concentrate, instead finds her eyes


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cast to the floor trying to focus on what he is saying. Finally she looks at him directly as he as speaking. She understands not. His blue eyes radiate out of the moonlit night and pierce her soul in a way she has never felt. Anta is not able to look away from Leigh. She wants to hear his voice, and she wants to be closer to his presence. “You there! You seem to have charge of this bunch,” Leigh inquires. An unexpected nervousness settles upon her as soon as she knows that he has taken notice of her presence. She hesitates. Her face flushes and her words stumble as she tries to nod and say her name. “Mynanta,” she mumbles and immediately is aware of her awkwardness. Her feminine comrades are quick to notice that Anta is not composed. They convey this through half met gazes at each other. Anta takes a deep breath, aware of the snickering and stares directed by all towards her. She stands, back erect, shoulders squared. She is nearly a full hand taller than Leigh. She cannot break her eyes from him. “I am a leader. My name is Anta,” she states. Leigh is quick to notice something in her eyes. This lady has emotion. He speaks trying to quell the awkwardness of a prolonged silence. “Well if Anta has nothing to add, then our meeting is done.” He looks confused as the girls gather to leave the inner chamber of the barge. “Wait, I have something to say,” Anta blurts out. Her followers hesitate once more. Anta breathes slowly. She pauses before proceeding. Perhaps the long night’s effort has worn her. Her voice is subdued and she uncharacteristically averts her eyes. She speaks as if a child before an angry parent. “These warriors are my people. They are to follow my orders,” She hesitates to see if he takes anger. She beholds the raggedness of the man with his powerful looking arms and his blue eyes.

Leigh’s attention is lost to her words. Despite soiled clothing, she has yet a beauty that captivates. Amazed that after the trials of that evening, she is clean and pure. He notices her command upon the docks. Her manner is dignified and her readiness is that of a great warrior of steady courage. Behind the warrior, however, he can see a woman of loveliness and purity rare as she stands before him. “Yes, you are a queen from the north. Brogan has told me of you. We are from the island of Mahr. We will fight the Emorians. Are you and your warriors to join us?” He rubs his nose then smoothes his hair back with his hand. Surely he must repulse her. She must think him daft as well he thinks to himself. He stands straight and feigns confidence. “Yes, we will join you against our common enemy. And after perhaps, one day we may return to our own land.” “You will have command of your warriors here. Together we shall fight them. Can you sail a barge?” His tone of voice cracks from emotion when he speaks. Anta stops herself before she could smile. “We thank you for giving us our freedom. Yet we know the task before us is great. We shall fight with you for as long as we are able to stand. We do have sufficient skills at sea.” Her warriors nod in agreement. “Good! Rest you troops this night. Let no one stir at morning’s light least our true business be known. Early in the day we shall make plans. You, Fergus, Brogan and myself shall decide the way of our fates, which will bind together. We are grateful for your aid.” Leigh’s eyes linger on Anta’s face trying to memorize the curve of her cheek. The next day council is held. Their own barge remained in the shaded cove where it was sheltered for the night. Anta’s warriors were wrapped in linen tunics in the way of the river folk. They separated so as not to be noticed. Some made busy about the view of the barge moving supplies and food to give the look of

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commerce to traffic moving along the Dano. Others were afoot scouting the approaches by land for heading off any surprise. “We must make great trouble at Lasi for our people’s sake,” says Fergus. “Much trouble will be found by the Emorians by way of the northern people,” adds Anta. “If we use our strengths together, we can mount a surprise ambush and inflict much damage,” Leigh replies. “We have lots of oil and linen on board, the attack by fire is most effective…let’s burn the whole place,” offers Fergus. “Not so fast, Fergus…Lasi is to big to be carrying flames all about. Besides, the soldiers of the Emor stand by the twos under every tree,” Brogan comments. Brogan notices that Leigh and Anta are staying close to each other. She thinks that this woman is not even from Giollabhain. Leigh couldn’t be serious at thinking this one is a woman for him. “There are two many buildings, too many guards, and too few of us. But no Emor can stand upon the water. They’ll look for an attack or trouble from the land only. The waterways are theirs!” Leigh assures that their attack shall be made swiftly from the river.”We people from the north are skilled with the long bow as well. Any one of us can place a flaming arrow in a ship or building from the distance across the Dano,” Anta informs.

just before a great bend, west of the city. Here the river Dano widens but there is only one narrow deep channel for the river transports to pass. The water of the Dano passes through this bend flowing over shifting sandbars and rocky shoals. The current through the channel is always swift and great care is needed in its navigation. Heavy movement of barges on the river can become delayed as the largest of ships will not pass one another in the narrows of this bend for fear of collision and the closing of the channel by a sunken barge.

# “I think Leigh and Anta love each other from first sight.” Ree sighs. “There’s no time for romance, Ree…Uncle Leigh is at war!” Cavan scolds. The great inland port of Lasi rests upon the confluence of the great river Dano with it’s major contributory, the river Tsaro. The village of Lasi developed such that the meeting of the two rivers lies in the west of the city. The two rivers converge

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# The barge of the invaders floats slowly toward Lasi. They have timed their arrival to coincide with day’s end. The barge will dock at the eastern end of Lasi near the storehouses of the casks used for the drinking water. “Our mission must be clear, short and cause much devastation. We must immediately head off afterwards.” Leigh calls the crews to attention. Brogan and Fergus were anxious, as is Anta. Most of the warrior women of the north sit quiet among the empty baskets and casks. “Let me set the fires! I did it well in Durdec, did I not?” Fergus is eager for the task. “This time I want to do something with Anta,” Brogan is pushing to have Leigh’s special interest. “Brogan, our main attack upon the Emor relies on our success at Lasi. The plan I propose will work only if you can distract the guards on the dock at the precise time. There is no one else who can achieve this task. For once the guards move toward you, Fergus will set fires in the warehouse of the water casks as he did in Durdec.” Brogan blushes with pride for herself and is sure all must see her importance to Leigh and the entire invasion. Anta nods in agreement. “Fergus, this time you have the benefit of practice in throwing the torches. There will be little surprise and less time to act in Lasi.”


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“For sure, Leigh, I’ll land 5 or 6 fireballs among the barrels as quick as you can blink an eye. Once thrown, I’ll swim back to the barge.” “Not this time, Fergus. Anta will have a small craft to receive Brogan and you from the dock. Myself alone will take the barge down the through the great bend of the Dano before you act.” “It’s too dangerous for you alone during the day.” Brogan is greatly alarmed that Leigh is putting himself in such danger. Anta’s expression goes pale upon hearing this. She searches Leigh’s face to measure his intentions. “I’ll move slowly and my vision at night will guide better than most by day for there will be no glare to bind me, nor any other craft to confuse the way. By the time I’ve made shore after the deed you’ll be near about upon me in your small crafts.” Leigh is surprised by the concern of Brogan and delighted to have the chance to show himself off for the beautiful Anta. Besides, if he should failure in his effort only himself will be lost. The deed might still be done that night at Lasi and the bunch yet to have a chance to make on to Galatia. “Leigh, several of my girls are excellent swimmers. Several can make about the docks cutting lose barges to float away and give us cover as we escape.” “And sure it’s a great notion of an idea. Brogan, once you see the first barges adrift, that’s the time for you and Fergus to set the warehouse ablaze. Anta, you and your crew must be at the ready. The girls of your choosing shall make way by small craft down each side of the Dano cutting loose as many barges as they are able. Once the fire is large all must make straight to the bend where I’ll be waiting.” “These loose barges will also be set fire after our barge is at a safe distance,” Anta says. Leigh is once again indebted to Anta’s insight. By the time the barge reaches it’s destination at Lasi,

all are prepared. Their barge lay lifeless until the great quite of night. Fergus is sent to gather a number of swift skips tied around the docks. These small oar driven crafts would be used by the force and provide their escape. Leigh takes the barge out upon the Dano and heads for the great bend past the western end of Lasi. Torches are being lit just past dusk along the shore area. The crafts of swimmers move toward the moors of large heavily loaded barges and begin their work. On both sides of the river swimmers are cutting barges free and quietly returning to their skips to be transported along the river to the next target. Fergus and Brogan make their way to the storehouse of interest. As they notice the first barge drift freely out to the middle current of the Dano, Brogan ran past the guards crying out with screams of a wounded banshee. The guards give chase towards the hysterical girl. Fergus slips into the warehouse. In a flash, six concoctions of lard and flame are thrown about and Fergus is off to the river and swimming out to Anta and her waiting crew. Brogan reaches the water ahead of him and plunges herself in. The guards reach the shore just behind her. Here they are greeted with a hail of shafts from the long bows of Anta’s warriors. The fire spreads quickly all about the warehouse of wooden barrels. Not all the barrels are empty. By miscalculations and great fortune, the fireballs have landed on barrels of olive oil. By the time the guards could gather their senses, the small crafts are darting between the slow heavy barges adrift on the Dano. Oil barrels explode sending flames all about the crowded docks. As the barge made it’s way down the Dano, Leigh navigates by reading the stars in the night sky. He lets the barge drift. It has no weight in goods to be driven by the current and it responds easily to the helm and moves out of Lasi as sure as if it were day. #

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Muira interrupts. “Leigh was not worried about passing the barge through the big bend. He was more the worried about the speed of the thing once going through. The strength of the current and the force on the barge as it went through the bend might well send the whole thing crashing. Furthermore, as soon as it past the bend, he had to find a quick cove to dock and wait out his crew leaving off from their mission behind him in Lasi.” “How would he slow the thing for stopping? If he lost the barge, for sure the whole lot of them would soon be afoot and he would be easy for the taking by the pursuing troops of the Emor.” Cavan is frantic at the sight of his uncle drifting in the rush of a strong current.

Lasi with their hides intact, then he knows that he’ll be required to kiss one or both in gratitude. At this thought, he smiles gleefully to himself to have the need to entertain such ideas! The barge leaps as it reaches the fastest currents in the bend. Leigh awakes from dreams of love and romance. The barge goes through the bend much as a bunny turns from a chasing hound. Leigh sets its course straight down the Dano. It is a hard helm to the left for the turn and a quick recovery once through the turning. The barge heaves to one side with the second maneuver of the helm. Water splashes up on over the gunnels onto the barge and falls upon Leigh. “Cold! That’s cold water!” Yells Leigh to the barge herself. In that instant, Leigh fears the barge might take on water enough to be sinking all at once. With a second kick much as by a horse with a bad disposition, the barge rights it’s course. It’s tipping about while responding to the helm has slowed the thing. Leigh makes right off to the nearest cove. Shallow enough with hardly a current to make a ripple, Leigh puts the barge to a stop. As he waits, Leigh’s thoughts are of the great effort of those behind him. Their swimming about in the cold waters of the Dano is magnificent all together. They have to beat the loosened barges through the bend otherwise some might be crushed. His own barge might get run over by the cascading flotilla on the river. Once they make on to him they have to be quick back out onto the Dano and race off from the runaway traffic. There is a great light in the sky now. Lasi has a terrible problem with the fire set by Fergus. There’s no mistaking that there is movement on the river coming downstream to the bend. Friend or foe, Leigh starts a fire aboard the vessel for warming of the folks and for their seeing of his barge. Leigh brings out dry clothes from the stores to greet Anta and the rest. It seems natural for him to be thinking of her first.

# The barge is quickly out of Lasi and minutes away from entering the grandest bend in the whole of the river Dano. Leigh can make out the light in the sky over Lasi from the fire on the dock. “Hurrah for the lot of them!” Leigh shouts. They are giving fits to Almidah’s plan for sure. Leigh reckons that Brogan and Fergus are off with Anta and the small crafts are making straight to him. Leigh wonders why the two girls are putting up a fuss on his account. He muses that had he passed the two as strangers in Lasi, neither would have batted an eye at him. Brogan has known him most her life but now she is making wifely noises at him. Anta is eyeing him as a puppy waiting to have a grand meal. Never has he had so much feminine attention. Never has he felt the cravings for a lady as Anta has stirred in himself. He feels that if he doesn’t take Anta in his arms for cuddling soon she will be after him with a spear. As soon as he should accomplish that, for sure Brogan will be asking for something grander by himself to be doing for the likes of her. The pair of those lassies is going to be mad at him for their needs, felt but unanswered. If the girls get out from

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The rush of the small paddled vessels is much as a great race one might see upon the river of Cliath during Beltaine. There is no competition in the arms that row toward Leigh’s boat now. Sheer panic is taken from the sight of loose barges following behind that drive the crews on to Leigh. “There’s several dozen of the grandest barges not far behind,” shouts Fergus as he makes onto Leigh. “It is wild and grand! The fire seems to run from one building to the next as if it has a life of it’s own.” Brogan is terrible with shivers that rock her and the barge itself. “Get to the fire girl. Wrap yourself in this wool and keep still till your blood is unfrozen entirely. Where’s Anta?” Leigh’s eyes search about the small craft coming in to the barge. “She dropped us and set out to help her girls recover to here. Oh Leigh, there was some grand archery set upon the Emorians this night, I’m telling you. As soon as a guard set eyes upon us, Anta’s shaft was after him no matter what the distance. Be careful of that temper me boy!” Brogan says as she winks at Leigh. Anta is the last aboard the barge. She is the last to take to the fire. She is the last to be seen to for dry clothes. Her first act upon the barge is to handle the needs for making the barge drift off down the Dano. Leigh for the first time comes to know the makings of a noble queen. “You handled this barge as you might care for a small child. It’s no trick to row through that bend.” Anta’s words are spoken to Leigh full with admiration. She thinks of no other man who may have completed the feat of Leigh this night, from the north or no! Anta looks at him in awe and admiration.

completely. A great tangle of runaway barges would crash in the bend with several sunk to the bottom of the narrow channel through the great bend. The Emor lost a full month if not more of preparation. All campaigns would be delayed. The complications by way of the time gained and new fortifications by the enemy of the Emor in the south would bring the war there to a draw. Almidah had never suffered such a set back. In fact it is said that the loss suffered that night caused such detriment in Almidah’s fleets, that it gave Mahr a small bit of a chance in its fight to come. “That was wonderful.” Comments Cavan. “They all risked their lives for us Cavan.” Ree declares. “Almidah would never send her army east to cross the great White Mountains,” Informs Muira.

# As they make way down the river, they do not come to know the great damage they had delivered to their enemy that night. More than a quarter of the storage at Lasi was burned

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# The barge with Leigh and the exhausted band of river raiders are closing upon Galatia. Leigh’s thoughts are of Anta and home. Mahr has no idea of the size of the force Almidah may send against her. Yet he knows that the power of the spirits of Mahr is great. “You are gone from us,” Anta interrupts his thoughts. “Rest with your warriors as night shall soon break. We will arrive at our home dock in Galatia early on the day coming.” Leigh is watching Anta as she steps closer toward him. Anta feels a need to be with Leigh. She wants to be touched by him. If she was home among her people she could command his attention. Aboard this barge she is without such power. She is helpless before him and she likes it thus. “Anta, what will you do when we arrive to Galatia? I think it wise if you and your band were to accompany us. However, this may places you and your warriors in grave danger. Or do you turn your band to march north?” Leigh steps towards Anta. He stands close to her and can


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smell the saltiness of her skin. He searches her eyes for response. “We shall go with you and fight along beside your people. What we once called home is just a memory.” “Fergus, Brogan and I must make sail out of Galatia as soon as possible. The information we have must be made known to the leader of the peoples of our island.” Anta has no answer. She remains quietly waiting. His arms reach for her. His strong rough hands hold her shoulders. Anta does not resist. Her eyes wide and open search his face for his feelings. He moves her wet hair out of her face. She closes her eyes and moves herself against his chest. There she rests. Leigh kisses her forehead softly, sweetly and she relaxes further into his embrace. Leigh has never known such softness from a woman. Anta is more than wonderful and he feels as if he is finally at home. Anta shall never leave his side, nor is Leigh ever again to think of separation from her.

“We shall wait till sunset, then take the barge around to the northern point to the compound there just as if we would bring provisions by sea,” speaks Leigh. “Why don’t we take one of their sea vessels,” suggests Fergus. “Aye, and burn the place as well,” says Brogan. “This barge we shall load with stocks of oil. On the far side of the point we shall leave off our friends from the north. The ladies shall reboard upon a sea vessel borrowed from the Emor. This barge we shall leave docked among the other vessels. When we start back we shall leave a burning ember upon it. For as fast as the fire spreads, the news will reach Almidah.” Now, all are aware that river transports bring supplies by seacoast around the point to places just north of Galatia. Leigh is most concerned by the sea voyage back to Mahr at night. The loss of vision of the stars by a clouded night sky might well take them off course onto the unknown ocean. Many ships so lost have never returned. At dusk this evening, Leigh sets the barge upon the bay to cross around the point to Paolo’s compound. The barge pitches and rolls with the ocean crests. The sea is not rough, but even the roll of a calm sea is much for his crew to handle. Anta and her band are left stranded upon the point. They are relieved of the sea voyage upon the barge’s present mission. Leigh’s barge approaches the docks in front of the army of Paolo that is soon to depart for their invasion of Mahr. Here, no trouble is be made as it is best to skip out to sea quickly before notice. Brogan counts the number of fires upon the shore. “Many dozen at best,” says she. “No way is there ten thousand troops camped here. There are no more than 20 some ships at the ready. They can’t be very serious with this outfit.” “Suppose they have five thousand men and another 20 ships yet to be delivered. This bunch could sail to Mahr in

# “That was beautiful!” Ree’s tears flow from the love found by Leigh and Anta. “Did not you dreams tell of your future husband ?” Asks Muira. “I saw my brother Cavan as a man traveling with a handsome stranger. My heart was filled with great anxiety for their safety. I could sense the soul of my brother’s companion.” Ree answers. “This tale is not over…Please continue Maeve?” Begs Cavan. # The barge reaches Galatia at midmorning. The blond warriors from the north hide among the empty stores on the barge. Leigh is for taking a sea vessel straight out towards Mahr. He knows they need to get out of there quick, if they are to get out of there at all.

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a week or so. If they have two thousand of the lot hardened by previous battles of the islands, then Mahr is in for a tough time, that’s for sure.” Leigh knows that Almidah is not planning a large invasion, but it’s clear that the Emor expect no real difficulty at their task of conquering the island. Upon the barge’s arrival, some goods are placed off the barge and upon the dock for the showing of the best intentions. Leigh then settles the barge for the night with the intent of finishing the deliveries the next day. As soon as the stars are bright in the sky, Leigh, Fergus and Brogan make their way along the dock. There are no guards for the sea about the entire coast. The trio has their pick of the lot. Indeed there is some debate as to which empty vessel would best serve their needs.” Speed is what we are wanting for our purpose.” Leigh ignores convenience and worth, for they need a sturdy ship for their journey home. “If she’s fast and easy to handle that’s the one for us,” commands Leigh. Brogan is quick to loose a sleuth from it’s mooring at the dock and she bounds aboard. “She’s not low to the waterline. The small craft will give little outline for those who might pursue us to follow.” Her choice is agreeable. “Brogan darling, you’ve been nothing but right yet, so I’m with you again.” Leigh is more than pleasing in his words. He has come to rely on the wisdom of the young girl. “You’re a natural born invader, you are.” Brogan is full of herself at the grand words Leigh has for speaking to her. “Too bad that bunch of shaft makers weren’t present for the hearing of yourself.” Brogan is a bit troubled by the coming together of Leigh and Anta, even if she does agree to the sense of it. The vessel makes out to sea quietly, unnoticed by any ashore. They sail past their old barge. Fergus drops off

one last gift of flame. By the time Anta and company are aboard, the barge is high glowing with flames. The swift sleuth is out into the main body of the ocean and onto Mahr when the vessels near the barge catch fire. Only one or two vessels are lost to Almidah. The damage is all the more for the knowing that another is stolen away that night. Now the trip across the sea on the return to Mahr is most distressing with clouds passing through the night sky. The sea is a bit rough and the wind is strong. All hands are new at the making along the open sea. Navigating is far from simple. Leigh stays at the helm, marking the stars explained at a stone’s circle. Brogan is a natural sailor and she is a grand advisor to Leigh this night. Just at the darkest hour of the night, some points of light shine out from of the horizon. “It’s Cliath for sure. The lights are gathered just as they should be for seeing the port.” Fergus is right. They made straight to the lights and came upon the island well before the start of the day.

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Chapter VII Ceileann suil an né ná feiceann. The eye shuns what it does not see.

“Now Cavan, the invasion of the mainland by Leigh and his

crew was a very important happening. Your uncle made it seem as if the sneak attack was as simple as making mud pie. If he had


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taken a hundred men with him across the sea, it’s likely he might have taken Almidah herself prisoner and won the war right off! All my children behaved courageously. I’m quite proud. No telling for sure, Cavan. Sometimes it’s the small troubles that we never plan for that rule the day. No matter what might one has for or against oneself, there’s always some greater might to be found.” “Now Mame, if Maeve rules the island of Mahr, what greater might be there?” “There’s the might of the ocean itself. Sure there’s been talk of other islands upon this very sea that have at times ago broke all into flames and sunk entirely under huge waves that washed across all it’s shores at once. There’s the sky, which can keep back the rain forever so no living thing may stand. Or the great whirling winds can descend from the clouds that pull trees from out the ground. Oh, my, Cavan, don’t be wishing to see the power of the gods that will top Maeve herself for there’s no one man exempt from such.” “Tell me of the Great War by way of invasion by the Emor, Mame!” Asks Cavan. “Yes, I wish to see all as well.” Adds Ree. “It’s a grand story and it shows that fighting by war should not be the first choice in the way strangers may deal with one another. Yet it is the love between a man and a woman that keeps no bounds and will put a stop to war as likely as it starts one up.” Maeve stirs the sounds of the woods and fields. Soft gentle breezes carry a musical hum across the water to the place where the moon goddess’ refection serves to show. To Maeve, the time of the troubles with the Emor was a great concern for the well being of her descendants and the whole of her island retreat.

charged to seize the source of the island’s gold before the invasion. Almidah will entrust only her own kind in tasking where gold is to be found. Paolo is aware of Locherbith and devises a plan for the most efficient maneuvers for conquest. There is uneasiness about the Mahr. The animals are skittish, the wee people are agitated, especially Hugh Mhor. The whole of human kind on the island is disturbed. Hugh’s comrades note the site of a long ship that has quietly passed to the opposite side of the island port of Cliath. He is beside himself with uneasiness. Hugh is always cheerful and gay, however he cannot dispel his tension and urgency after the wee people have spotted an unfamiliar looking band of warriors departing a ship east of Cliath. I’ve never seen Hugh in such a stir. “There’s a chill in me bone. No good will come by this.” Says Hugh. At this time, Paolo and a small army approach the forest. They plan to hide until nightfall. They will reconnoiter Mahr’s resources, especially lake Locherbith, where gold is to be found. They are also interested in preparing the design of the final campaign for the island’s conquest. Eta, accompanied by her three cohorts, who travel with her in the form of foxes, stumbles across Paolo’s troops as they enter the enchanted forest. Paolo’s troops of men, numbering 50, are at the western edge of the magic forest opposite the main port Cliath. Here they set up camp. Eta hears the news of these strangers from the sounds of the forest. She comes to their camp to see the nature of these warriors. Her attention is immediately drawn to one man with dark hair, penetrating blue eyes and broad shoulders. For a moment, she can’t take her eyes from him. She moves closer to obtain a better view and to hear his words. Eta stops as close as possible without being discovered. Quigley, a fairy with a lilac colored hair that stands straight up in a big mess, looks as if he has been struck

# It all starts at the time of a covert visit to Mahr by Almidah’s son, Paolo. During the ventures of Uncle Leigh’s visit to Emor, Almidah has made plans of her own. She secretly sends a small convoy to Mahr. Her son Paolo is

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by lightning on several occasions! “He is someone of importance,” Quig whispers to Eta as the three fairies change back into their sprightly form and move to satisfy their immortal curiosity. Eta wants to know all that is going to happen. The dark haired one is to have the answers. She wonders how to isolate him away from his warriors. She watches the man and instinctively knows that she must act. She turns her head only to find that Quig and the others have abandoned her. At a loss for knowing what else to do, she returns to her cave cursing her fairy friends under her breath. Quigley, has noticed Eta’s stare that is hung on the handsome stranger. He has gathered up his companion fairies, Monty and Mab, to capture the man for her as a gift. They make a plan to wait for Paolo to go off by himself. “He’ll have need of privacy for himself sometime,” Monty states. “How much longer do we have to wait Quig? It’s been forever and I’m going to eat my hat if I don’t get something in my stomach soon,” Mab says as he rubs his tiny round belly. “Look,” Quiggly tugs on Mab’s pointed ear. “He’s going behind that tree over there.” The fairies mount to the treetop above the lone figure of Paolo. “Let’s get him,” Monty whispers excitedly. “Wait till he’s motionless,” Mab insists, “We don’t need any unnecessary messes.” “Okay, now!” And then, whooosh!!!! “Ooohhh!” Paolo moans in surprise. But before he can say another word he is bound, blindfolded and gagged by fairy magic. In her darkened cave, Eta trips over a silent shadow upon the ground. She calls out to her friends and lights a candle. The shadow is the dark haired stranger whom she sought earlier. For a minute she suspects the man to

be dead. He stirs at her footsteps. Her companions, three wild foxes smell him with mild interest while wagging their tails gently. She attempts to sit him up, but he shakes her off. “I am not going to hurt you!” He relaxes a little at the sound of woman’s voice. “I’m going to remove the ties from your mouth and eyes.” He steadies. “Who are you?” He asks immediately after she removes the gag. “I am Eta, daughter of the woods.” “Who told you of our coming?” He demands. “What brings you here?” Eta takes no orders from mankind. “That is my business woman.” Paolo retorts. “If you try to escape, you shall never find a way out of these enchanted woods. As it grows dark, I can not guarantee the safety of your men.” “What have you done with them?” Paolo asks angrily. “I have done nothing,” She matches the tone of his voice. “You best tell me who and why you are here!” “Have you ever heard of Queen Almidah from the land of Emor, and soon to be ruler of this island? I would advise you not to interfere with her plans.” “I’ve heard she is a woman with little care for others as she destroys homes and starves women and children for her gain. You shall answer my questions else my friends will rip you to shreds for dinner,” Eta removes his blindfold. He squints first at the snarling hounds, which are eyeing him. He looks at Eta once his eyes are adjusted. He finds her silhouette slender, with hair hanging down her back. She gestures for the canines to back away and they do. His vision clears. He glances into her face and sees her features clearly. His face turns as red as a ripe autumn apple! He turns away quickly. “Will you untie me,” he asks. “Sure, right after I go jump off a cliff into jagged rocky waters.”

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“I must finish what I’ve come to do.” “You won’t be finishing anything, anytime soon. So, you just better tell me why you’re here. He sighs impatiently and answers, “All lesser countries are to become part of the greater whole. Their resources are there for the taking, if only one will just reach out and take them. Our country is extremely rich and powerful. There is no reason we should not help ourselves.” “You are heartless and stupid if you believe that, and it seems to me that you repeat that little ditty enough to believe it. Who do your people think they are anyway? That is cruel and heartless to let others starve while you eat off the work of another’s land.” “You don’t understand. You’re just some forest nymph. What do you know of ruling a kingdom? Why are you hiding away out here in a cave like some kind of animal?” “You’re one of those people who just runs off at the mouth. You drone on like a fly buzzing about with not any thought of your own. Who has brainwashed you? Do you have a heart, or is there a big black hole where it should be?” Paolo is speechless. His eyes wonder around the room of the cave. The dogs are off in the corner, curled up together. Eta towers above with a hard stare down at him. Her lips pursed in anger. She awaits an answer. He avoids her stare and notices all around him. There are animal skins on the floor and the bed. A fire pit rests toward the front for cooking. He feels her continued stare. There is little else other than her in the cave. His eyes fix upon her now without turning away. She continues her fixed stare. His eyes, blue, seem to move like water.

“Well, Cavan, not exactly. Here, look into the water. Muira’s hand gently skims over the surface of the lake and images reappear.

# “What happened next, Maman,” Cavan asks eagerly, hitting his fist against his other hand, “Did she strike this enemy dead?” “She cannot harm this man surely?” Ree responds.

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# It is morning. Quigley and his band search out for the rest of Paolo’s troops. His warriors are nowhere to be found. even the ship is gone. Hugh Mhor appears to Eta and tells what has been done to the intruders. He demands to see the captured prince to find out what is to happen next. Paolo refuses to speak further as he has already made his intentions known to Eta. “We must prepare,” Hugh says. “As for your comrades, long have the wee people lived in harmony with the good people of this land. They were soon to take to panic after the young prince’s disappearance. They searched the area trying their best not to be discovered. So the wee people took it upon themselves to rid the island of these invaders. “It’s an old trick the wee folks of the forest use on any stranger that comes to disturb their homes. Every fairy will amuse them selves this way from time to time. It is known as the looking glass trick.” “I think I remember it!” Monty interrupts, “it’s when you hold up a reflective shiny object to someone and it makes one face appear all wiggly.” Quigley and Mab give Monty a look that would melt ice, for no one interrupts the king. Hugh clears his throat and begins again after eyeing Monty with a disapproving look. “As I was saying, we used a mirror of the past to confuse the soldiers. They could not get out of the forest. We sent them in circles to the point where they could only find their way back to their ship. # “Maman, what exactly is this mirror trick?” Cavan asks. “It is the wee people’s way of confusing someone by


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making the surroundings look like the way they just came. It is an illusion. They would use it to trick hunters so that the animal being hunted could escape. Never have they done it on as many for so long at one time. The soldiers were reluctant to return to Emor without their prince. They feared him lost forever.” “The soldiers were lucky they left before the banshee got after them!” Adds Ree.

tie this vine around her underside. You must then pull as I push the deer up the embankment.” Paolo gently frees the doe from the briars and ties the young muther about her shoulders. Together the two pull and shove the young creature to safety. He stays with her for some time, finding himself a true man of nature. He has never been happier. He tells Eta that he is promised to marry a princess, but he wishes to refuse his mothers arrangement and marry Eta. The following morning he leaves while Eta yet sleeps. Upon her wrist he placed his royal bracelet. He whispers in her ear that the bracelet was a special gift from his grandfather, which has been blessed to protect its wearer from harm. He kisses her softly upon her lips and promises his return.

# Back at Eta’s, Paolo is becoming quite fond of her attention. Quigley with his wily magical ways tricks Paolo into revealing the true nature of his feelings for Eta. “She is touched by a beauty as pure as nature. She is unlike any woman I have ever come to know,” Paolo admits. He is accustomed to women who have the most beautiful adornment, who wear elaborate hairstyle and whom possess great wealth. He is intrigued by Eta who is just plain of nature. “Her face lacks any line of evil. Her beauty is of goodness and tenderness of heart. Her spirit is of nature and shines upon her face as directly as a pale moon in the night sky.” Paolo muses. The goddess of love, it seems in times of war makes special plans. As it happens, Eta comes back to the cave one afternoon upset. A pregnant doe is trapped in a nearby ravine and the poor animal cannot be saved quickly. Eta fears of it’s death by the banshee. Paolo speaks, “I will help. I will go with you.” Without thinking, she kneels down to Paolo and puts her head on his shoulder. It is then that he slips his hands from around him and put his arms around her in an embrace. He has loosed his bonds unbeknownst to Eta. He has chosen to remain of his own will! He does not run nor wish to harm her. She leads him to the ravine and he gathers some vines. “Eta, I will slip down the steep bank to the doe and

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# “What a dear man!” Ree has tears in her eyes. “What of the Emor’s invasion?” Asks Cavan. “By the time of Leigh’s return voyage back to Chead, the start of preparations has long been a reality. The Chead village itself is deserted. The people of the Chead have closed the port so no ship may enter. There are no goods stored upon the docks or anywhere about the place. The Chead have decided to leave no one or any place for the Emorians to meet. The same was true of all the buildings and parts of Holy Grove save the large stones. The Druids have placed a mighty curse against any hand that touches the stones of the great circle. Indeed, the Druid themselves may not move these stones after they are first set to rest. Aye, I went to our small stone circle many a night, after Maeve revealed trouble was on the way. I inspected the night sky and the stars for help. I went to the Holy Grove and consulted with the elder Druid, but preparing for the army of the Emor was no simple task. For our land of Mahr, there seemed to be no answers on how to deal with the oncoming trouble. The Chead were in an uproar, being that the Druid perhaps might fail them.


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As the official communicators with the realm of the spirit world, we had to answer the problem of an oncoming war with a powerful foreigner. My children came up with a plan to help. It was a simple one, but a plan none the less.”

to man, but proper for nature herself. Leigh leads the band of raiders into the forest. It is not long into the woods that Anta speaks. “There are no woods like this in Estara! The trees and shrubs seem to know we are here. The birds follow us as to keep watch.” She had never seen anyone move through woods, as does Leigh. He seems to be transformed in such a way as to become part of his surroundings. He notices the direction of the winds, listens to the sounds of the leaves rustling in the trees and his blue eyes pierce through the woods as if he can look beyond their immediate surroundings. “How do you know the way here leads onto anywhere?” Anta is confused and lost. She is of the northern forest and no trail appears to her as they walk behind Leigh. No view lies ahead and nor is there a way to pass back to the beginning. “The eye shuns what it does not see,” says Leigh. “What exactly do you mean?” “There are two woods here, Anta. There are those of the creatures and trees and then there are those things to be felt by one’s spirit. This land is dense in both. The spirits are abound but they share with any who know their way.” The woods of her home must lack the magic of Mahr, reasons Leigh. As it happens, the time is too short for finishing their travel through the magic woods by day. The band must seek shelter for the night. Leigh will rest at the cave of Eta. There shall be little room left when all have entered. Eta is a grand one for sharing and passing out her hospitality. The women who wear the strange hides of soft creatures on their backs send all the fairies of the woods to excitement. The tall, blond women are the likes never to be seen in the enchanted woods till now. That’s not to mention the response of the other creatures of the woods to such. Now the commotion of the entire forest has taken the attention of all the fairies and animals alike. Quiggly,

# Now all the remaining ships in Cliath are loaded with the last goods for sailing around the island to the west. Leigh sends word of the size and nature of the Emorian force to be coming for battle. He is expecting the Emorian’s invasion to be delayed only a week or so. The last bit of work by the retreating Chead, is the fowling of the watering places as they move west. Every well, lake, stream is to be polluted with the remains of dead animals. The carcasses of dead sheep and goats and pigs are thrown into the waters to be used by the Emorians to quench their thirst. As the last group of Chead makes off towards Oiche’s retreat in the west, all objects of man are destroyed or hidden safely away. Not a bucket or nail is to be found until one reaches Oiche’s front door at the fort, in the far west of the island. The future course of action upon the island is left in the hands of a few. In the west, Oiche and his fort are the only defense. In the east, the Giollabhain gather in the ring fort at the eastern falls. And in the enchanted forest, Eta takes charge. Leigh and Anta’s band march straight off to the enchanted forest. They head to the land of the Giollabhain. There, Leigh hopes to add to its defense. Now Leigh has for many a year been passing through the enchanted forest much in the way as the wee folk. There are paths to be followed that are not to be seen by the eye of a man. There are the trails most used by the fairies and spirits of the woods. For sure many of the soft creatures that live there are up to the same way of thinking. The wild ways of Leigh are ever so grand as when he is in his own back yard. His has come alive in ways not common

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Monty and Mab see beside themselves with the joy of the fresh sport these new blond beauties shall provide. Just before the setting of the sun, not far from the Banshee’s mountain, Eta’s three spirit friends are plotting their first escapade. They go to circling Leigh’s band as howling wolves. The northern girls have had many encounters with the wolf pack back home. They were quick to bring their arrow shafts to ready. Anta’s face goes somber with the fairies first howls. “There could be 20 or 30 of the beasts,” she says to her girls. “We must make a shelter at once!” She gives her first royal command to Leigh. “Not to worry. We shall be safe in a cave before an hour passes.” Leigh is sure of his place in the woods and their nearness to Eta. “These beasts will be here soon and tear into us any moment. We must not delay!” Suddenly the sound of a young girl’s laughter fills a nearby treetop. Anta and her warriors look about in confusion. With all this, Quiggly, Monty and Mab, are all the more delighted and intensify their acoustic feats in the nearby woods. Anta and her girls form a protective circle about Leigh. Each share a gleam in the eye that says she is willing to fight till death in order to spare him the wolf ’s ferocious bite. Eta views the scene from above with such rapture that her sides ache from her laughter. His follower’s willingness to spare him touches Leigh. His smile gives joyful expression that is lost to Anta’s anguish. “There will be no wolverine attack. There are no wolves permitted in these woods since the wee folk came to live here long ago. They are a natural enemy to the wolf when they were mortal folk and they drove all the wolves off when they took on the magic of the fairy.” Leigh is anxious to calm the girls who are now just as hysterical as young piglets at a first feeding.

“We are in grave danger and you are talking of fairy folk!” Anta says in disbelief. Eta, seeing Leigh’s concern calls out, “Enough! The play is over, for the ladies here are taking no part in the joy of it. Sorry I am that the joke is not much to your liking.” With that said, Eta leaps down from her tree before the blond haired ones that circle about Leigh. Anta’s expression is converted entirely to bewilderment at the site of Eta, for never has the like ever before her. Anta sees the same look of the wilderness in Eta’s eye that she finds to be seen in Leigh’s. “Is everyone half man and half spirit on this island?” Anta asks. The northern girls look over at Eta then turn to Leigh and back to Eta again. “Only a few who are alive and mortal may pass through these woods as they please. It is good of Muira’s son to accompany you,” Eta speaks as she gazes up at the taller Anta. The noble spirit of Anta touches Eta and she is most curious about this royal stranger. “You may be one of the few.” Eta is immediately fond of the northern princess. Anta is just as awed by the presence of Eta. “Are there any more like you two about? I don’t have enough royalty to be giving it away to all the heroes on this island.” Anta’s grand smile warms Eta’s heart. The two are quick to give a hug to one another and make themselves good friends before another step was taken. That night all in Eta’s cave have a roaring good time. Tales of the northern lands during more prosperous and pleasant times are told. With every one of the girls providing tears for a sad state of the world since Almidah’s rise in power. The three spirits are quiet and listen intensely to the talk. Eta is elated for the arrival of Anta and the blond warriors and share in the tears for the lost of their families, friends and homeland. Eta offers the girls to remain with her in the enchanted forest, and then they shall all go to Oiche’s fort when the

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time comes. Anta feels more at ease in the forest, which reminds of her homeland. More so, she doesn’t want to be away from Leigh. Her warriors are determined to fight against Almidah along side the Chead. “I shall remain with Leigh,” Anta speaks as her and Leigh’s eyes meet as if in agreement. In the morning, Leigh and his future wife leave for Giollabhain. All the other golden haired women stay with Eta. By this time the Gillobhain have withdrawn all their people and animals to their fort at the sea. Some five hundred Gillobhain are waiting at the edge of the enchanted forest to engage the Emorians as they emerge and before they can form an attack. Here Leigh and Anta chose to fight.

supplies.” The general is emphatic about the risks of an army fighting a long way off from its supply base. “General, our troops have never known defeat. The island people are barbarians that shall run and hide from us. No! The conflict shall be brusque if any at all. Our troops must secure the island, and collect the gold. We will bring ship loads of the stuff back to our queen in a month’s time.” Lunn answers. In early afternoon they sail in straight into the bay at Cliath. The Emorian’s main thrust of the invasion is a total force of five thousand men. The invading flotilla numbers about 50 wooden hull ships cramped with men, and with few supplies. Near Cliath the leading 10 ships are latched together forming a floating dock from which the remaining ships will onboard. The first numbers of the Emor to land form an advancing line into Claith. Here they find no Chead but only charred remains of buildings, and abandoned land. The few provisions must remain afloat until suitable facilities are constructed. There is much confusion amongst these invaders as they are not accustomed to building but destroying. There is loss of direction among their military commanders as to where to attack as nothing is left standing to be occupied. Large parties of Emor must be put to work gathering material, scouting and securing. Expanding defensive perimeters must be made quickly secure. Much time is consumed by the command in regrouping. This is the first island to be invaded. The flow of needed resources to sustain their campaign has never before been an impediment to their military campaigns. In haste to prove himself to his evil queen, Lunn splits his force. Some 1500 soldiers are to follow after him into the land of the Giollabhain. Here he hopes for a quick conquest and to muster supplies for the western campaign against the Chead. He desires to immediately send treasure to Almidah. The act of splitting the army before engaging the enemy is unwise but necessary due to

# “The people of Cliath have long abandoned their homes. With their goods and animals, they have made their way west. Many are to stay close to Oiche’s fort there in the west. Oiche’s work of that winter to build large circular abutments, with shelters for the people of Cliath had been done. All Chead were setting up about Fort Oiche where provisions were kept. Hugh Mhor and his fairy band, it seemed, had made their own plans” “Time has run out!” Cavan realizes. “The muthers must be completely done in from worry by now.” Ree says. # The enemy army approaches. Prince Lunn of the Emorian fleet inspects his ships. “After noon we reach the island of Mahr. You men are to make history as the first invasion by sea of the Emor. Queen Almidah watches us. We shall be rewarded most handsomely for our victory.” The troops cheer him onward. “Good sir, the invasion starts late! We must have quick victory or chance the army being stranded without proper

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the inadequate conditions of supply. The main body of the Emor will spend its time in domestic efforts awaiting the return of the Prince Lunn.

Emor are quick to launch half their ships and some 1500 men to engage the rough noisy bunch just outside the harbor. The Emor are fine warriors, but wholly lacking at using the helm of a ship at sea for ordinary warfare, let alone maneuvering against practiced sea pirates. The huge bulks of manhood from the north are skilled at using their dragon shaped ships against larger vessels. The north men sail directly into the fleet of the Emor. Skillfully they maneuver their smaller faster vessels around about and run head onto the sides of the ships of the Emor. The greater strength of the hulls of the north ships gives cause to splinter the wood holding the sides of the ships of the Emor. Once pierced by the dragon ship, the weaker vessel fills with water, and the crew is lost. Some north men’s ships sail up on top of the Emor’s vessel with the north men climbing out to flail the smaller Emor. One by one the Emor’s vessels succumb. They were helpless to escape the tactics of the wild men from the north. The Emor’s naval attack fails. Many an Emor escapes death at the hands of the north man only to drown at sea. One out of three ships of the Emor return to dock in Cliath. The ships of the north men are swiftly after them with volleys of arrows of fire. The dragon ships sweep past the docked fleet of the Emor putting fires aboard many of the Emor vessels. The Emor mount an effective land based response of matching arrow and flame. So stiff is the defense of the Emor that many north men fall to the shaft, and half the northern fleet retreat aglow with fire aboard. The damage by the north men is severe, yet Lunn is determined to recover and succeed on this mission. The loss of soldier at sea was many, but he had plenty more at hand. The Chead have depleted the sources of drinking water. The enemy stretches it’s troop concentrations about what water is to be found. Their military efficiency is reduced. Existing supplies may not be centrally massed and are

# “Oiche had made special plans for the Emor who occupy Cliath. He had sent word to the cold country of the north where the large bears roam. His wives’ people had at the ready a large raiding party of some dozen vessels, and 500 warriors. They were prepared to sail to Cliath at Oiche’s command to raid the Emor. By guile the flotilla of the Emor was to be attacked and burnt by the dragon ships. The invaders would then be cut off from their homeland. They must then advance toward the defensive positions of the Chead driven by despair, and hardship. The enemy forces would gradually weaken and the more desperate they would become for supplies. Disease among the Emor should mount due to the contaminated water. So Oiche’s plans for the island’s defense had been put into action.” “Most cunning!” Cavan agrees with his uncle’s design. # The north ships advance towards Mahr just as the expedition of the Emor follows Lunn. Now these sea raiders are both soldier and sailor. Their grandest wish in life is to die in armed combat at sea, for the rewards they then earn in the next life are beyond measure. Second is to die in fight with foot upon the land. Least in reward of death is to die of an old age. So when the northern raiders reached the bay at Cliath they are intent on bringing out the enemy onto their ships and to fight afloat. The north men are heavy with drink, and loud with songs cursing the likes of the Emor, and baiting for a grand fight at sea. Now the Emor have never encountered these fierce northern raiders, and mistake the ships approaching as way of fighting by the weaker Chead themselves. The

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accessible to enemy’s troops. The overall communication network of the invaders fails. The divide and conqueror scenario began to work as soon as the first enemy ship has reached the shore of the island. Inadequately supplied troops dispersed too far from supplies, and reserve troops isolated from their central command become vulnerable. The prognosis for the invaders as the conflict drags toward the dark time of the year worsens.

the first of Lunn’s soldiers would step there. The trees and bushes bent so as to keep the sunlight off the floor of the magic woods. The forest was made dark, quiet and empty before Lunn’s arrival.” “What of Eta?” Ree wishes to see more of this warrior spirit.

# “The invading Emor underestimated the cunningness of the defenders. Many vessels of the Emor were lost in the one devastating encounter with the north men. The loss of supplies compelled the commanders of the Emor to move the troops to engage the Chead at once. The main force of the Emor began to depart Cliath and moved west against the main army of the Chead. The Emor were humbled but their pride yet made them a formidable foe.” Tells Muira. “What of the wee people and Hugh?” Asks Cavan. “Now the wee folk were actually the first to confront the Emor at the very instant the invasion began. Hugh had his fairy band spread thick green algae about the large waters used for drinking around Cliath. This stuff was sure to make any mortal man or animal sick as can be from the drinking of it. Many of the wild plants able for growing about the invaders were full of a disagreeable odor to man but to liking of flies and bugs of all sorts. Many the bits were made on the Emor by the pests attracted to the stinkweeds about the camps of the Emor. Hugh’s wee folk removed anything not capable of making the Emor miserable.” “Maeve herself showed her displeasure by making that warm season as dry as a desert and all the more so where the Emor slept. The spirits in the enchanted woods began at once to hide the pathways for traveling by mortal folk long before

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# Eta sends her golden warriors deep into the woods to lay ambush upon the Emor upon their march. Eta’s three fairies mimic the voices of the Emor commanders. With calls from one side to the other, the three pests bark instructions about Lunn’s advancing column. Small sections of Emor follow blinding into the waiting arrows of Anta’s warriors. Eta assists the retreat of the girls to a different part of the forest where another trap is to be set. Over and over the 1500 Emor of Lunn’s are either partitioned to be destroyed or bound by the fairies to await captivity. The wee folk and other fairies of the woods permit Lunn and the remainder of his force to find only paths of briar and sharp rock upon which to march. Their effort through the forest is made to wind without reason or gain by Eta’s instruction. Only upon the time when the Emor are ready to quit from fatigue are they permitted to pass out of the forest. Here await the Giollabhain under Leigh’s command. The out numbered Giollabhain fight with zeal and strength that overwhelms the worn and confused army of Lunn. Anta, armed with bow and arrow, leads the charge from the flank and unleashes her fury on the unprepared Emor. Leigh pushes through the center and all organized resistance from the Emor collapses. Lunn is wounded by Anta’s arrow and his men surrender. Nearly 1000 Emor are taken to the ring fort as captives. #


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“The main force of the Emor fell upon Oiche in the west, where we lost many of our own.” Muira bows her head in respect to those who gave their lives. “There is no enchanted wood out there to be helping.” Comments Ree. “Uncle Oiche has his magic spear!” Reminds Cavan.

“The banshee must be called upon the field in the midst of the Emor.” Oiche says. “It will be very dangerous for you but only you can save us now.” Soweta takes the gourd. “It is time. The spirits have called me to this moment,” She says. Soweta bends down and kisses Oiche’s forehead, as he now lays weak from blood loss. “I have loved you from the first sight. Never have I seen another as courageous as you.” The night is dreary. Fires about the rampart glow as the Chead hold their place. Gusts of wind flailed about and a light rain drizzles. Alone Soweta quietly moves toward the encampment of the Emor. Her breath is slow and deep as her hand holds the gourd upon her head. The gourd shines above the black maiden. Out through the field, among the dead she passes. Slowly she advances to the line of the Emor. Sentries call out the alarm and many men gather in order before her path. The black Druid, wife of Oiche walks erect and stately. Her beauty and the gold that sits upon her head give no threat to the Emorian soldiers. They part to let her pass as if she comes with gift giving. As Soweta walks into the camp’s mist she trembles. The gourd is lowered and carried in both hands. Gently she sets it upon the ground and loosens the lid of the gourd. She is prepared to die. The Banshee’s mist rises about the enemy’s camp. There comes an awful howl. Soweta freezes. The Emorian soldiers are struck with bewilderment. A ghastly noise mingles with the hissing of the wind. The wild snarls of the banshee are coming up from behind her! The men in the camp just stand as they listen to the Banshee’s eerie call. They forget about Soweta and take to running in various opposite directions as the Banshee appears. It happens as crack of lightning. Soweta cannot move at all. She stands at her ground with her eyes closed and her hands covering her ears.

# “The main army of the Emor moves with determination. They have much experience at land conquest. Many men are dying at Oiche’s fort this day from the Emor’s attack. The battle is ferocious in the way of the Emor. Many Chead fall bravely. The day is hot. The sun god places much fire above the earth to build the Emor’s thirst. The women help to care for the men who are injured, Chead or Emorian. Uncle Oiche himself is in the whole of the battle. His spear he carries to the part of the battle where the danger is greatest. Uncle Oiche has a terrible gash in his shoulder. He weakens from the length of time he has carried this wound. As long as Oiche fights in the field, the battle is a draw. Through the day and into the night way after way of the Emor are repelled. Back at the fort, Hugh Mohr appears and he hands Oiche the golden gourd that holds the banshee’s mist. “Only the one who captured the mist can release it,” says he. Oiche is aghast. “You mean to have the banshee, herself called into this battle?” “All mortals here are in grave danger. None here are accustomed to such a grand warning. The Emorians have much resource to this fighting. Your wound will not let you stay in the field. By morning all here will be dead.” Answers Hugh solemnly. A small, dark woman comes to Oiche’s side. Soweta carries a crock of water. She recognizes the gourd in Oiche’s hand. Hugh is completely caught off guard!

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“Don’t look back!” Hugh whispers urgently in her ear and then, “Hurry! Follow me.” They make haste throughout the mass of the Emor trying to escaping the horrible apparition of the Banshee angry at being called from her home. Hugh’s little legs run ahead. Soweta follows behind as tears stream down her face hearing the shouts of death behind her. They make it to the safety of Oiche’s fort as the Emor fly to escape or die as the banshee unleashes her attack. They abandon weapons and purpose. In the morning all the Emor that survived on the island are captive, included in this party are the generals under Prince Lunn’s command.” # “Gentleness and grace decided the war.” Remarks Ree. “What of Paolo?” “How was peace guaranteed?” Cavan asks. “Paolo, as next in line to Almidah’s throne, made a deal with his muther it seems. He would do as she wished and marry the southern princess and he would bring Lunn home safely if she would in turn leave Mahr alone. Phelan also told her that there was not enough gold in Locherbith to justify another loss of men and resources. Lunn and the remaining Emor soldiers were returned under a treaty of peace. As for Eta, she received a letter from Paolo. In this letter he proclaimed his love and longing for her and if fate should have it, they would be reunited. Yet unbeknownst to him, she was with child.”


Epilogue

At the time honoring my grandmutherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s birth, her grandchildren

prepared for a celebration. Muira did not walk about much these days, so the clan gathered at her cottage at Locherbith. Bunches of flowers were set all about her home. Songs were sung and small children would be forever dancing to Muiraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s delight. Laughter and good banter would break only for serious gossip.


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DRUID OF LOCHERBITH

Before the feast, it was my grandmuther’s wish to take a handful of her muther’s favorite flowers, and place them on the ancestral bough to be found just up the hill from her home. Here in an earthen mound rested the remains of her ancestors. The spirits of her loving muther and very dear father dwelled in this place. I assisted her in the short walk to the family grave. I towered over her fragile frame as we made our way. At the bough’s edge, a small girl child handed my grandmuther a bouquet of violets. Muira sank to her knees, placed the offering upon her muther’s own grave. Suddenly, her eyes welled up with tears, which streamed down her cheeks and fell heavy to the ground. She laid her hand upon the bough as she wept. She murmured, “Mame, dade, soon I’ll be with you.” Her shortness of breath would not let further words come forth. I stood by her side and my emotions got the better of me as I watched my grandmuther. Try as I might, my throat tightened but failed to hold back my tears. I was at once embarrassed, filled with pity and love for his this small woman. In a moment of overpowering warmth, I bent over and reached with my hands to clasp her shoulders and gently held her. “Soon it will be time for me to go to the netherworld. Cavan, take me back.” In a few cycles of the sun, Muira would forever not wake from her bed. The bough would solemnly be opened once again, and her spirit would be perpetually joined to my grandfather Egan, in the netherworld. As I helped to place Muira’s remains in the grave, I could still feel her tiny hand in mine as she lies on her bed. I recalled that the love and warmth of her spirit had never failed. Up above, birds flew through the sunlit sky like spirits sailing to another realm saying their good-byes. After the passing of some time, I came to assume Muira’s place as a Druid among the Giollabhain. I had moved into her cottage on Lake Locherbith. One evening, in the first warm season since Muira left this present life, I was planting atop Muira’s cairn some of the violet

roses still to bloom in her garden. These were similar roses to those by which her husband Egan had won permission for their marriage from Muira’s father. I take special care of these flowering beds of roses that bloom in Muira’s garden. The shadows of the day were long and soon to blend with the night. I was just returning along from Muira’s old path to the cottage when a small bird circled above my head and landed at my feet, where the small figure of a man stood just off to the side of the path. “Muira’s friend is yet Hugh Mhor. To Cavan will Hugh Mhor be friend to now. This is the last wish of my lost child.” I beheld the tiny bit of a man and his wrinkled aged face and white beard. “Are you the Hugh Mhor, of the wee people,” I asked. “At the last hour of Muira’s time in this life did Hugh Mhor come. To you she bid me to be a friend. To many of the wee folk of Mahr is Hugh Mhor lord. The help of the wee folk, Cavan, shall have if friend to the wee folk you will be! “Look south bound on the lake lad and you will see something of great importance to your future,” said he and he gazed in that direction. I followed his gaze that landed on a swan that was swimming toward the shore. The swan swam in the direction of an outstretched hand of a fair young maid. Her hair was dark and she dressed in a simple beige frock. She called out to the swan to feed him some bread. “That be Kira, daughter of Eta, descendant of Maeve. She has learned the ways of the woodland creatures,” said Hugh. I watched with interest as she fed the swan that comfortably ate out of her hand. Soon Kira turned and disappeared into the wood. I looked back at my new friend then removed the torc of gold Muira had given to me upon my thirteenth year. “To Hugh this piece of gold, a gift Muira received from Locherbith, I give to friend of Muira as I shall always be.” Hugh Mhor had never been so presented and a crystalline tear from his fairy eye fell to the ground as Cavan handed him

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Muira’s golden torc. It is said a spring of water is sure to be found where a fairy’s tear lands upon the ground. Here along this very spot aside of Muira’s path is home to a small spring that flows this very way. THE END


Druid of Locherbith