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 HAVERSHAM HILL

~ CHAPTER ~ 1

     A cold wind blew and it rained steadily, leaving everything shrouded in a misty veil, the day of the funerals. It was an unusually wet September in New England with one storm after another battering the area. The marble headstones emerged from the fog to stand in streaky shades of gray and pale pink as they rose out of the neatly trimmed grass in the Ravensdam Cemetery. But this wasn't a funeral in that pristine, orderly cemetery where loved ones were laid to rest in peace. It was a funeral for three in the Haversham family plot deep in an age old forest; a place some three hundred years old set on uneven ground and covered now with thickets and briers. This was an unkempt graveyard behind scrolled iron gates rusted and creaky from the elements; a resting place known only to a few although rumors of its existence persisted in the towns and villages nearby. 
    The only mourner at this funeral was the brother and uncle of the deceased. He was a well to do business man from Boston. This was apparent in the custom made suit and top hat he wore. A long black trench coat with the collar turned up against the rain hung almost to his polished imported shoes. He stood somberly looking down at the graves of his sister and his niece and nephew as the vicar said a few words over the plain wood caskets.
    The gravedigger, a well muscled black man, stood back in the thickets his forearm resting on his shovel; as he mopped his face with a soiled white handkerchief. He wore faded jeans with holes in the knees and frayed at the bottom. His wet shirt hung over a nearby gravestone.  Rain ran down his muscled chest and fell onto the ground. His eyes were huge in his face with whites showing all around as he looked over his shoulder wishing for a speedy service so he could be on his way. He could feel the spirits hovering here causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end.
    The rain came down in a constant cold drizzle and didn't let up the entire time. It seemed a fitting day for a place such as this where it was incessantly quiet as the excess water gathered in the low spots forming muddy pools. The only sound was the splashing of the rain as it hit the standing water. Mist hung in the trees and around the old markers adding to the dreariness of this painful ordeal. Merrill was in a depressed mood having lost the last of his relatives.
    As the vicar finished speaking and stepped back, Merrill cleared his throat and threw three white roses into the new graves. He had decided he would sell the three-hundred-year-old mansion, located on these grounds.  It had been erected by his relatives in the sixteen hundreds. He would not be coming back to Haversham Hill, letting the legacy and all the legends die with his sister and her children. For years he had tried and was successful in separating himself from the spirits that lingered here and from the lifestyle his sister lived. So this was the last of it then.
    Slowly he stepped away and back to the forest path, pulling his coat closer against the wind as the gravedigger finished his work. He didn't look back when the gates clanged shut behind him, but he heard the shovel make a dull scraping sound as it dug into the mounds of dirt.
    Stepping quietly he maneuvered his way around the pools of water and back to the house, his shoes tapping gently as they touched the packed wet earth. His intention was to dispose of any personal items that would cause needless family embarrassment and brand his sister for what she was. He wanted to make haste back to Boston and wouldn't be coming this way again.
    The gargoyles looked at him knowingly as his shoes clapped across the wet boards of the old porch. Their evil faces glared down as the wind sent a shower of fall leaves skittering by. Merrill pulled the collar tighter around his neck and ducked his head down against the chill as he reached the door, pulling it open to reveal a different world than his own. This was a world of dark evil forces that seemed to hang thick in the air around him.
    He worked quickly, his thin frame moving easily through the darkened rooms, as he pulled books and papers on magic from the shelves and cupboards. His long fingers removed jars of unknown items along with implements and candles that his sister used in her craft. All these items came to rest in a pile on the wood plank floor. He worked room by room gathering things to join the pile that was getting higher as the afternoon wore on. He was hoping the weather would clear so he could carry out his plan of burning everything that could link the family to witchcraft.
    It thrilled him when the rain clouds lifted and he was able to light the fire at dusk. He stood huddled against the chill with his overcoat held snug as he watched the flames flicker and dance in shades of orange and yellow. He was satisfied of a job well done as the pile was gradually being reduced to black ash. He was satisfied he found everything and didn't think he missed anything in the secret hiding places deep in the house.

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      THE MEDALLION - BOOK ONE - THE PROPHECY    

PROLOGUE

 

 

“Noooo!”  Lady Glynis wakes with a start, gasping for breath.  Her scream brings her handmaidens running from the adjoining alcove.  They move with haste to the Lady’s bedside where she’s sitting up in disheveled bedding, panting and grasping at the coverlets with boney fingers, her dark hair wild and tangled.

“My Lady what has happened?”  Annalisse grabs her thin arms shaking her as her gray eyes stare into space.  The Lady’s bedclothes are damp with her own sweat.  It trickles down her neck bringing a chill and a shutter.

“Quick Gerta bring a blanket.”  Annalisse looks wide eyed at her companion who rushes to the chest in the corner, the lid creaking open, as she pulls a wrap of white yarn from it.  The old chest lid shut with a bang as she races across the space with the spread trailing behind her, her green gown rustling softly as it brushes against the stone floor.

“Was it a bad dream, my Lady?”  Annalisse sits on the bed wiping the oracles face with a soft cloth dampened from the basin on the chest.  Glynis moans, beginning to come around as they drape the coverlet over her frail shivering form.

“I’m alright now.  Please I must get ready for the celebrations.”  She feels weak from her nightmare and finds it hard to push the maidens’ aside and stand.

“Just sit my Lady.  You’re dazed and must rest.  We have time to get your bath.”  Annalisse keeps a firm grip on her arm as she signals Gerta to bring forth some watered wine.

“I’ve seen my own death.  The winds of change will blow.”  Glynis speaks solemnly keeping a rigid grasp on the goblet with both hands so as not to spill it.  Shaken by the experience and not prone to nightmares, she slowly gains control over herself again.  She must accept the fact she’ll come to the same end as her mother.  This thought frightens her greatly as she remembers well caring for her mother the last years of her life.

“Tell us my Lady.  What was your dream?”  However, the handmaidens know she will not speak about it and look fearfully at each other wondering what kind of change is coming and when.  Who’s to rule the Isle if the Lady dies?

“Where’s Meriona?”  The Lady’s voice interrupts the maiden’s silent contemplation.  Startled Annalisse looks over at her companion for the answer.  She knows Lady Glynis is seldom wrong in her predictions and this thought scares her.  Whom will they look to for guidance if she meets her demise as she predicts?  There’s no one trained to step into her place.  A pensive expression crosses her face.

“She sees to preparations for tonight’s feast.”  Gerta’s words were hardly out when they heard the commotion out in the commons.  Peering across the vast grassy area, she could make out the men as they struggled to lay the large bonfire for the coming celebration.  The clang of pots shattered the silence in the lady’s quarters as the village women wrestled with the large containers and the tables as children frolicked about.

Shaking her troubled thoughts away Annalisse reaches for the lady’s hand.  She would give this some thought later.  All the activity on the grounds signaled there was no time to waste.

“Do you think you’re strong enough now to prepare?”  Annalisse and Gerta help Glynis up, then down the passageway to the bathing room.  The sweet smell of lavender permeates the small space as it wafts in curls of steam from the vessel.  A blue gown and veils adorn a lounging bench nearby.

 

 

Lady Glynis sits in a trance gazing into the crystal pool.  The skirt of her long blue garment spills over the rocks that sit like sentinels guarding this sacred place.  Thick and jet-black, her hair tumbles over thin shoulders to form a curtain over her face as she rests her lithe body beside the boulders propping herself up with slender pale arms.

The Isle of Tiernay De Ochern is heavily wooded with abundant streams and cascading waterfalls.  Rugged boulders in shades of gray and brown lay throughout the countryside, which lies in a veil of mists most of the year keeping it hidden from the rest of the world.  The Isle sits alone surrounded by water and only accessible by boat once the brave adventurer has made his way through the rugged mountain trails to the bank where a boat is available.

Raised to be an oracle, Lady Glynis is a leader to her people.  She stepped in without question to fill this position when it was time to do so.  Her job is to oversee preparations for and to preside over the festivals and feast days as well as to watch over all the inhabitants of the isle.  The villagers bring their disputes before her and they seek her guidance for the perplexities in their lives.

Glynis has always been thin and pallid.  She looks even more so now against the rich backdrop of the massive trees and boulders.  Water trickles from some unknown source above her head making its way over the bumps and crevices and into the pool.  The water is so deep it appears black and bottomless.  Small ripples spread outward where the stream enters the pool across from her perch.  Here an endless supply of round rings spiral away to the edges where it falls silent against the rocks and reeds that grow there.  A frog croaks nearby and a brief rustling in a bush that grows on the bank signals some small animal going to its evening rest.

As twilight falls, a crescent moon ascends over the mountain in the eastern sky.  Stars begin to take shape in the darkness and as if by magic, they appear in groups and patterns twinkling and blinking in the night sky.  A gentle wind ruffles her hair and clothes but she doesn’t stir keeping her gaze fixed upon the water looking for the prophecy to come.

The faint ringing of a bell on a distant hill pierces the stillness.  Ragged strips of cloth tied to the rowan tree above the pool flutter in the breeze, all the wishes and prayers from the people in the village who venture here to ask for blessings.  Glynis can smell the smoke of the numerous bonfires as it drifts up to her.

Ah, the celebration of Candlemas has begun.  She shifts slightly and lets thoughts of the ceremony fill her soul.  She feels such joy that her people have survived another winter and it’s time once again to welcome the sun back to warm the earth.  Her lips curve up gently for she has always loved the spring best of all the seasons.  The celebrations on the Isle transcend time and centuries as the traditions pass from one generation to the next.

Her gray eyes glow like mercury as a picture forms in the water before her.  Two daughters will be born to a peasant couple in the small village of Amesby On Tor.  The youngest and fairest one will receive the medallion cast in the finest silver.  She will be kind and brave and possess the strength of leadership.  Her parents will be people of the old ways, though there will be hardship they will raise this child well, and she will endure for she will be resilient and full of hope.  Glynis sees the newborn infant in swaddling clothes and resting in the grasp of a loving mother.

The water ripples again and she sees famine and starvation.  Many lives will be lost as the people struggle to get through yet another winter.  Food and medicine will be scarce and living conditions grow crowded as people move in together to help each other and save on supplies.

The next vision is two sisters playing in a mountain meadow and running through the forest.  Their laughter brings a smile to her delicate lips.  Then her face grows still and serious as her eyes stare into the rippling water once more.

She sees bandits with swords.  The flames of numerous fires crackle amid clouds of black smoke, consuming the village.  It falls to the ground in an echo of many crashes.

The picture before her fades and another takes its place.  She sees a young girl struggling alone, her face sad but hopeful.

The image in the pool begins to flicker and is gone.  Once more Glynis looks down into a black still pit.  She stirs and a young maiden in the green robe of a novice comes soundlessly from nearby to help her to her feet.  Reaching down with small slender fingers, she clasps the Lady’s hands to pull her up; long red curls tumble over her shoulders hiding half the freckles on her young face as she eases her arm around Glynis’s small waist to help her to the footpath where they start down the steep hill together.

“You have seen, my Lady?”

“Yes Annalisse.  I have seen.”  Her voice is hoarse and she speaks barely above a whisper as she stumbles, weak from the experience.  They walk in silence down the path that meanders through the trees and boulders as it makes its way back to the village at the base of the hill where the bonfires crackle and spit red sparks into the night air.

The men sit in groups on the grassy knolls while the women busy themselves with setting up the feast on trestle tables.  Children dart around chasing each other, their reflections casting ever-changing shadows on the ground.  All activity and chatter stop as Lady Glynis comes out of the forest and into the clearing.  The children hang on the garments of their mothers and everyone stands at attention waiting to hear the prophecy.


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SAVING THE RAINBOW
 - A Patrick O'Sullivan Adventure Fantasy Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 Chapter One
Into the Woods

 

Patrick ran at a steady pace, his feet pounding on the packed earth of the well worn path.  Coming to a sudden stop he bent to arch his back, resting his hands on his thighs, catching his breath as he looked back at his friend who was lagging behind again.

“Can’t ye keep up?”  He called out in gasping syllables, his disheveled red hair hiding one eye and half the freckles on his face.

“I don’t think we should be goin’ into the faery woods.”  Barry replied, as he loped along at least twenty paces behind, his breeches dragging in the dirt of the road.

Patrick’s eyes twinkled as he studied his friend.  He couldn’t believe what just popped out of his mouth.  He knew Barry always loved to take part in a prank, or get into a bit of mischief.

Shifting his muslin school bag on his shoulder Barry came to rest beside him, anxiety seeping out of his pores.  Patrick didn’t understand why Barry was always suspicious about the adventures he suggested, and yet his friend had no problem being an accomplice when it came to playing jokes on the old school teacher.

“I think it’ll be all right.  Now come on.  Ye know we must be home by dusk, or our parents will be concerned about us.”  Patrick’s gray blue eyes glanced skyward under the curl of hair that rested on his forehead.  There was plenty of daylight left judging by the angle of the sun.

“I can’t figure out why ye always delight in goin’ places you’re not supposed to.”  Barry complained.  He shook his head and wondered when Patrick had become so daring.  “Ye know what they say about goin’ in there alone.”  His dark eyes looked toward the woodland that loomed nearer and nearer.

“Aye?  Well I won’t be alone because you’re comin’ with me.”  Patrick sneered as he grabbed Barry’s arm and pulled him forward.  They started down the path again as a sly grin spread across Patrick’s lips.

“What’s so important in there anyway?”  Barry wanted to sound brave even though he was pretty sure they’d be bewitched by setting foot in the forbidden woods, and probably whisked away never to be seen again.

“I want to find a faery or a leprechaun.  I’m sure we’ll find one in there and maybe they can be persuaded to grant my wish.  Perhaps they’ll even give me magic powers and then I can do anything that I want to.  Can ye imagine what we could do with an amazing gift like that Barry?  Now come on.  Let’s hurry.”  Patrick was filled with excitement as he began to walk faster, dragging an unwilling Barry with him.

“What are ye wishin’ for now Patrick?”  Barry tried his best to keep the nervous anticipation out of his voice.  Lately Barry noticed Patrick wasn’t ever satisfied, or too happy about things.  What caused this strange behavior in his friend?  He was determined to find out the reason for his obsession with adventures, and having to get his own way about everything.

“Are things all right at home, Patrick?”  Concern showed in Barry’s face.  Maybe there was something he could do to help out.

Pushing forward, with Barry in tow, Patrick kept a firm grip and moved onward.  “Ye know my Pa works way too hard, and he’s not a young man anymore.  I hope to find a way to make things easier for him.  That’s all.  Wouldn’t it be nice if he could sell the farm, especially before I have to take over?”  Patrick answered calmly as if this was a trip to the miller’s to pick up some grain, instead of an adventure into the mysterious forest.  If there was any way he could get out of farming potatoes, Patrick would do it.

“Well I don’t think goin’ into the faery woods will help.”  Barry let his gaze move toward the giant trees waiting for them at the end of the path.  Reluctance swept over him.  He didn’t want to be a participant in one of Patrick’s schemes, especially one like this after all the talk in the village about getting lost in the faery woods never to find your way out again.  He wasn’t that anxious to get away from his sisters, his parents, or even all his chores as much as he disliked them at times.

“Here we are.  Now just stick with me.”  Barry came out of his thoughts just as Patrick pulled him inside the dark mass of vegetation, his fingers still clutching the neck of Barry’s brown tunic.  When the boys were well inside the woodland, Patrick let go.  Barry wouldn’t run home now and would have to follow him because his friend was too gutless to do anything else.  Patrick could’ve gone alone, but it was nice to have the company.  He hoped this adventure would do Barry some good.  He was rather cowardly and reminded Patrick of a startled rabbit.  The boy certainly needed more bravery, especially where magical things were concerned.  How would they ever be able to confront elves, and faeries, and battle demons together?  Barry could never get along by himself, and he wouldn’t be much good to Patrick in such an encounter if he didn’t muster up some courage.

The boys inched along, stepping over tangled roots that looked like twisted snakes crisscrossing the narrow path.  Their feet kicked up years of rotting leaf mold, and both boys sneezed several times as fragments drifted in the air around them and resettled on the dusty ground.  It was rather dark, compared to the field they left behind, and Barry kept tripping over the old roots and stubbing his toes.  Patrick walked more carefully, his wiry body twisting under the trees and over the brambles, but it was still impossible to miss all the debris in the way.

“Ouch.  Watch it!”

“Aye, aye,” Barry murmured, “sorry.”

“Sorry for what, Barry?  Ye didn’t do anything except make me drag ye in here.”  Patrick glanced over his shoulder where Barry was struggling along, and he couldn’t help but laugh.

“Ach, I thought I stepped on your foot.  Didn’t ye just say ‘Ouch watch it?’”  Barry tried to explain, under Patrick’s stare, as he fought to stay upright and tripped over another root.  He lurched forward and bumped against Patrick’s back.

“Nay, I didn’t say anything.  Are ye spooked already?”  Barry shrank as Patrick glowered at him.  He didn’t want to appear cowardly and tried to steady himself to keep from trembling.  He knew he heard a voice back there on the trail.  Who was it if it wasn’t Patrick?  He peered around cautiously.  Anything could be here and ye wouldn’t even see it.  Too many branches covered the old trees.  Someone could easily hide among them.  Barry felt invisible eyes staring at him and he shivered, as he met Patrick’s face, and tried to put his fears aside.

“Nay, I’m not spooked wise guy.  Something did speak back there.  I’m surprised ye didn’t take notice of it.  How are ye goin’ to find the wee folk anyway if ye didn’t hear that?”  Barry stood more erect and yanked on his tunic in an effort to straighten it.  The brown garment hung lopsided on his shoulders.  The wrinkles stood up in a permanent pucker where Patrick had it twisted in his hands earlier.  Barry demanded that Patrick make him aware of his plan.

“Up around that bend is a clearin’ where a spring comes out of the rocks.  I think that might be a good place to start.”  Patrick seemed confident enough as he started forward through the trees again.

Well anything will be better than these dark woods.  It’s so musty in here.  Barry sneezed again and looked forward to the clearing and some fresher air.  The forest was closing in and the twisted branches seemed like arms swirling around him.  He shivered and wanted to get this mission over with.

Barry stopped to take note of any sound that would signal a stream up ahead.  The old forest stood silent.  The water must still be too far away.  In fact, now that he was really paying attention, everything seemed too quiet.  There was absolutely no sound at all, except the grumpy voice he’d heard earlier.  Why is it this calm?  Aren’t there any birds or anything here?  Then he began to wonder if it was too late in the day for birds to be out.  Perhaps they’d already gone to their beds.  The possibility it was already dark entered his mind.  Did they only think it was daylight because they were in the magical world of faery?  Barry speeded up, realizing he’d dropped behind again while he was thinking.  He didn’t want to become separated from Patrick in these spooky woods.

“How do ye know there’s a clearin’ ahead, Patrick?”  He called out, stepping with haste over all the tangles on the forest floor.

“Because I have the sight.  I thought ye knew that.”  Patrick smiled, moving forward as fast as he could down the narrowing trail, while he waited for his friend to answer.

“Do ye really have the sight?  I’m your best friend and you’ve never told me that news before.”  Barry sounded a little disappointed, yet excited at the same time.  He thought only witches had the sight, so this was a surprise to him indeed.  Barry wondered how they could take advantage of Patrick’s gift in the future.

“Nay, of course not!”  Patrick suppressed the urge to laugh out loud and only elbowed Barry in the ribs and grinned, almost knocking him into the trees.  “I’m just foolin’.  I’ve been in here before.  Now come on, hurry up will you.”

Barry hurried along, digesting this information, when Patrick spoke up interrupting his thoughts.

 “It won’t be any fun tryin’ to come through this wooded area, on the way home, in the dark.” 

That’s the last thing Barry wanted to do.  He had enough trouble in the daylight.  The trees were so thick they hardly let any brightness at all penetrate their canopies.  He wondered when Patrick had the time to venture to this wood before, and on how many occasions.

Deep in contemplation, Barry fell, tripping over the biggest root yet.  Patrick heard the thump and turned to see his friend lying face down in a pile of fragmented leaves at the base of a giant knurled tree.  He rushed back to help him up.  Pulling on the hand Barry extended to him, Patrick couldn’t seem to move him at all.  Both boys discovered Barry’s foot was wedged below one of the enormous roots.

“Now what do we do?  Ye have to get me out of here.”  Barry pleaded, hoping Patrick would have a solution to free him.

“Ye have to watch where you’re goin’ in here.  These roots are everywhere.”  Patrick bent down to get a closer look as he scolded.

“How did your foot get under there so far anyway?”

“I don’t know.  It was like the tree grabbed my foot as I was walkin’ by.”  Barry looked up into the branches with caution.  Knots and twisted bark embellished hundreds of limbs bending this way and that, yet it appeared to be just a very old tree.

“I don’t think that can be.  Ye sure have heard too many tales down in the village.  Let’s see if we can get your foot out.  Can ye move it at all?”  Barry did his best to move his foot again, but it was no use.

“Nay.  It’s really stuck.”  Barry tried to twist it out, but that was only painful and didn’t get him anywhere.

“We’ll have to dig it out.  I wonder if I can find a big stick to break up the earth.”  Patrick got to his feet and moved off the path and into the forest, searching the ground for an old broken branch that would be sturdy enough.

“Don’t go too far away Patrick.”  Barry called out, not wanting his friend to get lost out in the trees and unable to find his way back.

“Ye worry too much Barry.  How else do ye propose we get you out?”  Patrick laughed as he moved into another section of trees.  Barry could only catch a glimpse of the gray tunic some distance away.  He began to fidget as he wondered if they would get out of the woods alive.  Perhaps this was how they did it.  Held you captive until dark and then you couldn’t find your way out.  They said, in the village, that eventually people lost their minds in the faery woods and forgot the rural community was even home.  Barry shivered.  No need to panic.  He had to have faith Patrick would free him.

The brush began to rustle and Patrick appeared carrying two large, twisted sticks.  Both boys began to dig under the root holding Barry’s foot, hoping to make a big enough space to slip it out of the trap.  The digging went on for some time and they weren’t making much progress.  Only a little of the dirt had been cleared away.

“How can this dirt be so hard?”  Patrick wiped his hands on his trousers, smearing loose mud and debris on the legs of his breeches, as he continued to work around the old root.  Sweating, he gripped the stick tighter and stabbed it in the dirt as he tried to pound some of the soil loose.  Barry worked on the other side of the root, but he found it harder to dig down deep enough from his awkward position.

“It’ll be gettin’ dark soon.  Why won’t this earth budge?  What are we goin’ to do?”  Barry’s nerves were getting the best of him, and it showed in his shaky voice.  He didn’t want to be stuck in the forest overnight.  All kinds of visions went through his head as he imagined himself carried away to the faeries glade, where they would put spells on him to make him forget his life in the community.

Patrick rocked back on his haunches.  “Why don’t ye just ask the tree to let ye go?  Ye seem to think it grabbed you in the first place.  Then we can be on our way.”

“Ye know that would be impossible.”  Barry stared back in alarm.  “We both know trees don’t talk or grab people.  You’d laugh at me for talkin’ to a tree.  It probably wouldn’t understand me anyway.”  Barry speculated.  Do I really believe what I’m tellin’ Patrick?  It sure did seem like the tree just covered his foot at the time.  Now he didn’t know, and the thought of a tree being able to do that was spooky and filled him with dread.

“Go ahead.  I won’t laugh.”  Patrick urged him on, as if reading his mind.  Seeing no other choice, Barry tried to muster up his courage.  He tilted his head up and let his eyes study the old canopy and all the twisted arms.  What if the tree has no intentions of lettin’ me go?  Those branches could do a lot of damage.

“Well go on Barry.  We haven’t got all day.”  Patrick’s voice broke into his thoughts.

“Aye, right.”  The boy murmured, and then in a louder voice Barry said, “Tree please let me go.  I’m sorry if I stepped on you.  I just couldn’t help it.  It’s very hard to observe anything in this old forest, and there are lots of roots in the way.” 

Barry hesitated, and then glanced up again to see if he could notice any reaction at all.  The boys waited for what seemed like several minutes.

“Ach, all right.  I suppose there’s no harm done.”  The tree shook itself, and the roots lifted up enough to allow Barry to slip his foot out and stand.  He felt stiff and his ankle was sore, but he was free and stood in awe as he watched the wad of tangled branches settling back into place, and the fibrous tentacles stretching out again on the forest floor.

“Ye can talk!  And ye can understand me.”  Barry was excited, forgetting his fear for a moment.

“Don’t do that again.  It hurts.  How would ye like someone walking on your feet?”  The deep voice answered.

“I won’t do it again.  I told you it was an accident.”  Barry looked over at Patrick.  He wanted to go home now.  He didn’t think he could stand anymore excitement today.

“Not yet.”  Patrick informed him.  “That clearin’s right up ahead.  We were almost there when ye got caught.”  Barry wasn’t about to venture out in the woods alone, trying to find the farm again, so he followed Patrick on down the path.  The boy turned to look at the tree once or twice, but it was just an old tree again that stood stark and still in the forest with all the other trees.  As Barry looked around, he wondered if they all could talk.  Then his thoughts turned to worries about stepping on more roots as he followed Patrick down the narrow path, paying close attention to where he stepped.

Soon the boys were able to see a penetrating golden glow.  The clearing must be up ahead.  Barry didn’t know what they would find.  Had his friend already talked to the wee folk on other trips to the faery woods?  He secretly wished he had the bravery Patrick did, for he would never go into the woodland alone.  And after what he’d just been through, he didn’t think things of that nature would ever change.

 

*****

 

Before long the boys emerged from the trees and into a meadow of bright, green grass, shimmering in the waning sunlight.  Rocky crags, in varying shades of brown, completely enclosed the meadow.  Looking closely, a schooled eye would notice several crevices in the rocks that disguised narrow trails leading to places yet unknown.

Patrick called out as he made his way to a flat stone that jutted out above the small, meandering stream.  His calls were met with silence, only broken by the trickle of the water over small rocks in the streambed.  Patrick and Barry seated themselves upon the warm granite as Patrick cupped his hands to his mouth and called out again, swiveling his body on the rock so that he could face in several directions.

A faint, droning echo had joined the mesmerizing sound of the water.  The buzzing couldn’t be pinpointed, but seemed to be coming from the rocks surrounding the place.  Patrick wondered if Elianne was nearby.  He recalled hearing the same noise the last time he had come here.

“I’ve brought a friend.”  Patrick called out to the canyon.  “It’s all right to come out.  I need your help.”  He signaled Barry to sit beside him again; the boy had gotten up to roam about the meadow looking here and there, humming as he went.  Patrick thought his moving about disturbed the faeries peaceful home.  He cocked his head and slapped the rock with the palm of his hand, and Barry hurried over.

“What’s the matter with you?  Will ye sit and be quiet.”  Patrick looked upset, a slight crease between his brows.

“I was startin’ to feel bewitched, so I got up to walk around and wake up.  I think that sound is puttin’ me in a trance.  If ye let them, they’ll take over your mind ye know.”  Barry spoke knowingly, a totally serious expression on his cherub like face.  His dark eyes darted around wildly as he talked, leaving no doubt he believed the village storytellers.

“Don’t be silly.”  Patrick lifted his hand to slap at him.  “I think your restlessness is scarin’ them.”

Patrick scowled and made another call, knowing it grew late as shade began to fall over the meadow, but he tried again and again to arouse the faery Elianne.  Barry, who finally sat down, fidgeted at his side and was relieved when Patrick got up to go.

“Well I guess no one’s here, like I thought.”  Patrick sounded frustrated.

“How many times have ye been here before now?”

“Only a time or two.  Come on, we best get started for the village before it gets any darker.”

“Don’t be so disappointed, Patrick.  The faery folk are shy with strangers.  They’re probably afraid of me.”  Barry lifted his shoulders and gestured with his palms out.

“Well, maybe you’re right.”  Patrick stepped into the trees with reluctance, Barry on his heels.  Barry followed along blindly, lost in his own thoughts.  He could only imagine how and when his friend had the time to come here before, and what he had asked for.  Sometimes Patrick was quite mysterious.  A groan brought Barry back from his daydreaming.  He realized he barely missed a very large root.  Lucky for him, his foot had only touched the outer edge.  He didn’t want to be stuck again, so he tried to concentrate on where he was stepping as it got darker and harder to see.  Night was closing in fast.

The pair started walking with as much haste as they dared.  After tripping several times, in attempts to avoid the twisted roots, they tumbled yet again into a deep pile of fallen leaves.  A snake slithered out, making its way off into the forest.  Barry held back a gasp as he struggled to right himself.  He didn’t succeed until a black beetle crawled over his hand, stopping to look at him before scurrying away back into the leaf pile.  A loud shriek escaped his lips before he could stop himself.  This brought Patrick hurrying to his side again with the thought his friend had been caught in the old roots once more.

Barry assured him he was okay as he scrambled to his feet.  The boys hurried along, at last making their way back to the farmland on the other side of the faery woods.  Barry was glad to see civilization again, and went about briskly brushing the dried leaf fragments off his clothes.  Their muslin bags of school work still lay tucked, next to the old boulder, where they had left the bundles earlier in the afternoon.

Picking up the packs and throwing them over their shoulders, they started off across the path that ran through the O’Sullivan’s farm.  The sun had set and the furrowed fields lay in semi darkness.  Smoke rose from the cooking fires in the distance.  Neither boy had any thought about food all afternoon, but now they realized they were famished.  Running down the rutted trail, their stomachs began to rumble.  Barry was just thankful they escaped with their lives.  He took a few deep breaths, gulping in the familiar scent of the rich, loamy soil and field grass.  The turned earth seemed so fresh.  Somehow, he’d never noticed that before.

After the faery woods were left behind, the boys slowed to a walk and Barry turned to his friend.  “I’m sorry we didn’t find the wee folk today Patrick.”  Patrick’s expression was sad, but then he grinned.

“I told you we’d be safe didn’t I?”  He joggled Barry who smiled and felt ashamed.  He should’ve never doubted Patrick.  They bid each other goodbye, at the fork in the road, each meandering home for a warm supper.

As Patrick walked along alone, he reminded himself how glad he was to have a friend like Barry, even if he was afraid of lots of things.  At least he’d gone with him, although he was sure it was against the boy’s better judgment to do so.  It’s a good thing they weren’t out slaying dragons today.  Barry has a long way to go before he’s ready for that.  Patrick chuckled as he stepped upon the porch.  He had his work cut out for him.

 

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