|The McGillpatrick Legacy
Author: kvm PM
While in Ireland tracking down distant relatives, Molly stumbles onto an ancestry that is tightly woven into the land's folklore. But there is more to the lineage than sixty-three generations of lovers, heroes and survivors. There is a legacy that may thrust Molly into battle against an evil that dates back to the days of Celtic gods, faeries and druids.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 24 - Words: 72,661 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 12 - Updated: 03-29-13 - Published: 07-29-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3045912
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Forty-eight Years Ago in Lislahelly
A mere spec in the lovely countryside of Lislahelly, Gwennin Ngrá was not a place to boast of to lords and jackeens. However, it cast a feeling of warranted pride for Lorcan O'Toole. His own grandfather had saved every piece of his change (and that was no small feat for a man of only twenty-six years) so that he could purchase the lot from the local County Sligo authorities after it had been abandoned during the Great Irish Diaspora, and had lain vacant for more than fifty years.
The original house – it might be more accurately referred to as a hut or a hovel by modern standards – stood in ruins on one corner of the two acres of grazing fields and farmland. Instead of attempting to repair it, the new owner constructed a roomy little cottage on the other side of the property. He even scratched up the funds for a gable roof, an extravagant alternative to the old fashioned thatch.
By the time the property came into Lorcan's hands, it was well established agriculturally, with a large kitchen garden and plenty of foraging room for the pigs, sheep and a small number of cows. The cottage, on the other hand, had become outdated; but that was a matter he could leave until he found himself a wife, as she should have her say in the repairs and renovations.
And that was where his problem lay. The one thing that kept him from gaining complete happiness in his life: a wife. Now, his older sister, Brianna, had had no difficulties in finding a husband in this rural area, as there was no lack of men. There was, however, a notable shortage of women. That made the rivalry high amongst his friends and peers, all of whom vied for the opportunity to woo each and every Sligo colleen of marriageable age.
Lorcan attended any number of dances and parties that he could get himself to in nearby Sligo Town. Certainly, he could not be called a bad looking man - not by any means - having a strong farmer build and a roguish smile that could make any lass swoon. But the competition was fierce. He often left social gatherings none the closer to having a wife, save for a girl or two that strung him along while keeping a few other men in tow.
One particular instance occurred on a late October night under a bright harvest moon. Lorcan left a party in dashed spirits. Samantha Smith, an extraordinarily lovely young creature who'd been of age for well over three years, and who'd been the bell of every assembly, had hooked him along for the last six months, setting him thinking that he might pin his hopes on her. That was until she announced earlier that evening that she was engaged to a man from County Mayo.
Lorcan escaped the dance hall as soon as he could, red-faced from embarrassment and sulking with heartsickness. He had two thoughts alternating in his head as he pushed his bicycle along the poorly surfaced road to Lislahelly. The first: that Mayo men should keep to their own county and leave the Sligo lasses to the Sligo lads. The second: he should have been quicker to ask Samantha to be his bride – and so, perhaps, he truly had no one to blame but himself.
He walked along in the dark, cursing himself and all the men of Mayo until he noticed a bonfire in the distance. It would be Samhain in a few days – All Hollow's Eve – and bonfires would be lit all over the countryside in celebration. This one, however, seemed a bit out of place as it was too early. But he thought nothing of it beyond the prematurity of the thing, until he felt the rumble of far off drums, and heard a lively tune carried upon the breeze to his ears.
Maybe he found another party – one that he could sneak into and find renewal of his spirits. In any case, a little entertainment might be gotten from spying in on the festivities. He leaned his bicycle along an ancient rock wall that stretched along that area of the road, and hopped over into the field beyond.
As he drew closer to the fire and commotion, he took care not to be seen. A lone shade tree, about twenty-five meters from the bonfire, kept him concealed and afforded him a view. What he saw from his hiding place struck him dumfounded.
The flames roared, the drums pounded, the notes of a harp and a flute played out a merry jig . . . but there was no one there. The supernatural atmosphere of the scene filled him, wrapping him in a stupor, and he walked forward without being aware of it, pushed on by an unbridled curiosity.
Closer and closer he walked. Queerer and queerer the setting felt. All of a sudden he saw shadows pass in front of the fire, whirling about as though dancing. Then, the shadows began to take shape, and the shapes were beautiful and lithe. Long thin bodies, lustrous flowing hair. Pale arms swayed about and light feet stepped in perfect rhythm. All passed before him, round and round the great fire.
At last, but too late, he came to himself, only to realize that he must have stepped into a faery ring.
"What have we here?" Lorcan heard the bellow of a radiant masculine voice, "A mortal come to join our party."
Lorcan turned his head to see a set of these incredible beings advancing towards him. Their smiles shone brilliant, but their eyes gleamed malice. He recalled the stories of unfortunate mortals who found themselves inside faery rings. Once within, the fae might trick or even force a mortal to dance for days, until exhaustion or death took him. Before this moment, the young man had supposed the tales to be nothing but simple folklore, imparted to children to keep them in their beds at night. Oh, both the horror and the thrill of finding out that such stories were based in truth.
The fast approaching fae reached out their wiry arms for him, and he could not bring himself to counter them; but, just as they were about to clamp their long fingers over his defenseless shoulders he was pulled away. Before he could grasp what was happening to him, he found himself swept into the dance, being led forward by yet another of the fae.
The divine face in front of him belonged to a nimble female frame, and was surrounded by golden hair into which the most aromatic flowers had been intricately woven. Her simple yet elegant frock hung the length of her from shoulder to foot, but did not hinder her lissome movement as she pulled him around the fire. The smile on her lips was not tainted with wickedness, but with genuine mirth.
Lorcan counted himself only too happy to be her partner in the dance, exhaustion or death be damned; but when they reached the side of the fire most distant from the others who had surely intended him harm, the lady leaned in and spoke. Her voice resonated like tiny bells, the ones he heard in church, which rang out during the blessing of the communion. So beautiful it was, that it took him a long moment to comprehend her words.
"Curious human, you put yourself in danger," she had said.
His eyes cleared from the distraction of merriment, and he looked at her in solemn dread.
She continued, "But fear not, poor mortal, for I can break you out of this faery ring and set you free. Only, I shall ask a favor of you in return."
"My lady," came Lorcan's breathless reply as they twirled once more, "for you, I would perform any favor that you desire, whether as payment for your help or not. Although," he found the courage to display his roguish grin, "I should say that I would prefer to receive whatever aid it is you might offer me just now."
At this point, they returned full circle about the fire, and so both resumed an appearance of thoughtless revelry before the eyes of those whose attention his presence had previously caught.
When they moved further away, and were partially hidden by the far side of the fire once more, the she-fae whispered, "Follow my lead, and do not let go."
She clasped his hands tightly in hers, lacing their fingers in a firm grip, and they skirted further away from the fire. Just as Lorcan spotted a thick border of mushrooms – odd, he had not noticed them before – the lady shoved him over it. He did as she bid, and did not let go of her hands (they were so entwined that he could not do so, even if he wished to) so that when he was tossed from the faery ring, she was pulled. They toppled over each other and landed hard on the ground. Lorcan felt himself happy to take the brunt of it, saving the lady from any real injury.
The music played on and the bonfire still burned, but the dancing figures were gone. Lorcan and the she-fae both breathed a sigh. He picked himself up and pulled his dance partner gently to her feet.
"Thank you. Thank you, my lady. You've saved me from a fate I don't think I care to know the worst of," he said; and while he slapped the grass and dirt from his pants and coat he asked, "And now, what favor, good lady, do I have the pleasure of doing you in return?"
"But you have done it, already," she replied, smiling in appreciation.
"I have?" Lorcan scratched his chin in confusion.
"Yes. Are you unfamiliar with such basic laws of magic? Why, in order to free a mortal from a faery-made ring, he must be pushed out of it by a fae. And the simplest way for a fae to be free of the ring – that is, to become physical on the mortal plain – well, she has to be pulled out by a human. It is a very rare and nearly unheard of achievement in this age, but you have done it. You have freed me to explore a world that I have always wanted to see. While the mists have long been forbidden to me, the intervention of mortal hands has not failed to accomplish my wish." She clasped her hands to her chest and whirled around in giddy wonder.
Needless to say (meaning that it's needless to remind anyone who has any prior knowledge of the fae, that they have the uncanny power of attraction), the she-fae's beauty caused Lorcan to fall in love with her as soon has he fully returned to his senses. For the lady's part, she held an admiration and wonder for the human who pulled her into his mortal realm. He was the first human she ever had contact with outside of the changeling servants in her father's residence. This sort of esteem could only, and in a very short amount of time, lead to love on her part, as well.
And so, Lorcan finally found someone with whom to share his home. What a delightful time they had together. Orlaith (for that was her name) displayed the inquisitiveness of a child, examining every little detail of the countryside; and Lorcan made an expert guide and informative teacher in regards to the world around Lislahelly.
He told Orlaith stories of the people and of the places nearby. He even found her particularly moved by the account of "Sligo's Noble Six", a group of soldiers who were gunned down on the slopes of Benbulben during Ireland's civil war. She wept for the short lives of those valiant men, and her compassionate nature filled him with more adoration than he ever imagined a human could feel.
Though Lorcan inquired many a time, Orlaith did not reciprocate with an extensive amount of information regarding the land of her people. She only parted with enough of her own history to allow Lorcan to conclude that she was the daughter of King Finvarra of Knockma, a well-known lord who offered close council to the high rulers of Tir na nOg, the Land of Eternal Youth. Such knowledge gave him gooseflesh, for these were figures that affected fear in the local folktales; and so he pried no further.
A month passed in complete bliss, but one evening, when dusk had just settled into darkness, the two young lovers were interrupted from their quiet company in front of the hearth by the loudest most unnatural knock upon the cottage door. Lorcan was surprised and bewildered, but Orlaith immediately became alert and distraught. She turned towards her love and the look in her eyes told him, 'I am sorry. Our time has come to an end.'
At that, the door burst open, and standing on the threshold was a fae archer, auburn hair tied back, and a look of fury in his sea-green eyes. He was flanked by a small army all of similar description.
Lorcan reached for the iron poker by the fireplace, but Orlaith stayed his hand. She gave him serious warning by the look upon her face. He could not hope to win such a fight, and she could not abide such a loss.
No word was uttered for a full minute, until the fae at the door spoke a stern order at Orlaith, "Come now, and come peacefully. If you do, we will not harm this mortal you have taken up with." The word mortal was spit out as though it was nothing but an insult.
Orlaith hesitated for only a moment before heading towards the door. Lorcan shook away his shock in time to step between her and the fae archers. He raised the poker that was still in his hands, and scowled at his foe.
Orlaith placed her hand on his arm in an effort to make him lower his weapon. Before Lorcan could utter his appeal to her, she reasoned with him, "I will go now, in peace, in order to secure your safety, my love."
"Damn my safety. And damn any thoughts of peace. I will defend you until I die." He turned to attack the fae beyond the door.
Orlaith grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back. "I will not have you do so." She stepped around to face him. "If you love me, you will not make me suffer your untimely death."
Lorcan lowered his weapon, defeated by her plea. Far be it from him to allow her any such suffering. Orlaith stepped towards the door, but stopped before passing through it. She turned and said, "Do not lose hope just yet. I will plead my case to my father. Wait for me."
She walked out of the door and the fae warriors surrounded her as they marched down the pathway from the cottage. The leader turned back long enough to offer the mortal a mocking sneer. Their shapes became shadows as they moved away, and slowly, their shadows faded into the night.
Lorcan did as Orlaith bid, and waited for her. Every day and every night he looked for her return. In the garden, in the grazing fields, from the parlor window, he kept his eye focused for his love, even as the days passed into months.
One evening, towards the end of summer when the air turned prematurely cold, Lorcan sat at the hearth staring into the fire, and seeing Orlaith dance about in the flames just beyond the reach of his vision. He could have spent hours in that attitude, but a growing cry of something helpless and frightened carried him back into the present. The lonely man rose from his chair and followed the sound to his front door.
He hesitated with his hand upon the doorknob, lest the cry be emitted from a banshee come to foretell his death; for it ought be observed that, as the fae were found to exist, so must other beings of Faery. A moment's courage, though, was all he needed, and he opened the door to face the creature.
But there was no such creature in his yard, and the wailing came from the direction of the ground. Lorcan looked down, and there on the step was a baby, wrapped tight in a blanket and settled deep within a basket. It looked mortal to all the world, except that its perfect beauty rivaled any other newborn he had ever seen. And upon closer inspection, he noticed its ears sloped ever so lightly up to a point.
The young man picked up the bundle and searched the area near the house for any signs of the person that had set this baby upon his doorstep. Nothing and no one could be found, so he brought the infant into the warmth of his house, not sure what else to do with it.
The child stopped crying by this time, possibly reassured by the sight of the grown up. It began to coo and wiggle in its blankets. When he settled the little one down on a tabletop, he spotted a thick fold of stationary paper tucked within the basket.
Lorcan pulled the paper out and unfolded it. His heart fluttered over the sight of Orlaith's name at the bottom of a short missive that was addressed to him. The body of the letter was in an old form of Gaelic, but he knew enough of the language to make out what it read.
The contents declared that the child was a daughter born from the love of Lorcan and Orlaith. The she-fae's father, who would not hear any of her assertions about love towards what he felt to be an unworthy mortal man, threatened to give the child to the kelpies upon its birth; but Orlaith delivered the baby in secret, and charged her dear trusted servant to spirit it away into Lorcan's care. To ensure the safety and security of their infant, she placed a glamour upon her, so that Orlaith's father would never be able to find the child and harm her.
The despair that Lorcan felt at finally knowing for certain he would never see his beloved again, became tempered by the happiness and the love he immediately felt for their daughter, Kaitlyn.
And so, his life wore on without a wife; but there was a lady of the house, none-the-less.