|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: 69,971 - 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|
The Nature of Ogres
"Welcome to my home." Searbhán came to a stop, and moved aside to allow his guests passage between two trees that closely bordered the path. Emrys walked through, and Molly smiled up at the ogre as she stepped inside. Finn took a deep breath and gave the host a wary glance before he joined them.
What the boy saw on the other side surprised him, and without a thought regarding his rudeness, he said, "This is your home? It's nothing but trees and ferns. Just rocks and . . . and vines."
"What?" Searbhán looked just as confounded as he did offended. "And you're supposed to be the grandson of a Lady? Why, your fae blood must have pooled in your feet, boy. You're only looking with your human eyes. Stir that blood through your veins. See the world with your fae vision. You'll take it all in more clearly, you will."
The ogre insulted him; Finn knew that he did, though he couldn't quite comprehend how. The idea of being something more than human was still so very new to him, and he didn't even have a chance to suppose that it might effect unhumanlike differences in his abilities or perceptions. And of course, being teased didn't help his hot-blooded attitude, so he bit back with "I don't know how to. And I don't see how it would help, anyway. This place is a jungle. I've seen pigsties that are homier than this."
Molly sucked in a loud breath of shock, and Emrys tut-tutted. Finn realized at that moment that he'd gone too far. He took a step back, trying to consider if he should apologize.
"I'll bet if I knocked you in the noggin you'd know how to see, boy." The ogre turned a shade darker in his anger.
"I – I didn't mean – " Finn tried to stutter out an excuse.
"I know what you meant," Searbhán turned his back to him and headed for an enormous moss covered rock. Finn watched closely, in fear of the creature's wrath, while Searbhán bent over a pile of wood that sat in the hollowed out interior of the rock face, and began to scrape two pieces of flint together. A spark caught, and a flame flickered to life. Smoke began to billow upwards, and Finn noticed that it spilled out from a chimney at the crown of the rock. Searbhán, then, turned to retrieve a hidden cauldron (the bronze thing must have weighed twice as much as Finn, yet he handled it with one hand) and hung it on a hook over the fire.
Where did all that come from? Where there had been nothing but a big lump of rock before, there now appeared a fireplace, right in front of them, plain as day.
And that's when it happened. Finn's senses loosened up just enough upon making out the details of a kitchen, so that, when he looked around him again, he was able to distinguish the ogre's home in its entirety. He now saw that a solid mass of rectangular stone was obviously a table, and the flat-topped tree trunks spaced about it were seats. A bed of lichen and ferns grew thick in the corner, and a blanket made of some sort of hide (Finn chose not to imagine what sort of hide it might be) was tossed over it in a half-hearted attempt to make the bed. And there was an alcove off to the side of the dwelling, created by a line of trees on three sides, and hung with tapestries of knitted vines. From inside of it, they could gaze up and see the sky. It looked so much bluer and brighter than it had when they were trekking through the pastures earlier.
It was in this alcove that Searbhán directed them to take their leisure. Emrys, Molly and Finn sat upon lounges of stone softened by coverings of moss. Their host brought them a fragrant tea of herbs and flowers, served in cups of woven leaves, which he carried to them on a tray of smooth bark. Everything about the home came from the earth, yet nothing about it felt rustic.
Along with the tea, Searbhán offered them a selection of dried meat spiced with something unfamiliar. Given their recent encounter, Molly couldn't help but ask, "What is it?" Finn, having the same question in mind, raised his eyebrows and displayed a slight apprehension as to the answer.
"That?" Searbhán responded, "Why, it's beef." It took him but a moment longer to understand why the girl had inquired, and when he realized, the ogre let out a mighty howl of laughter.
"You didn't think that I'd serve you . . . " The large fearsome creature wiped a tear away from his eye as another round of amusement poured out of him. "Oh, now that's just . . . ah ha ha ha . . . Oh, ho, no, no, no, my girl. The farmer who lives nearby leaves me a goat or a cow every now and then. It's something his family has been doing for generations. Kind of a favor, if you'll understand . . . in exchange for me not eating any of them."
Upon seeing the reaction on the faces of his mortal company over that last remark, Searbhán let out yet another peel of laughter. Several minutes passed before he could regain himself, again. After some silence and tea slurping, the ogre resumed the dialogue with his guests. "So, Emrys, seanchara, do tell me what it is you have come here about. I know you can't have just popped in at random, not with this band of adventurers at your command. I can tell you have an exceptional purpose in store for your young companions here. Tell me, is it a quest?"
"Indeed, you are correct. We have an important task, and have come here with a distinct purpose – beyond the enjoyment of your company, that is, " Emrys replied.
"I see," Searbhán sat up straight, rather astounded that his jest proved true. "Do tell."
The ogre seemed to have calmed himself in regards to Finn's earlier conduct, much to the boy's relief. He sat across from Searbhán with an expression of sheepish guilt on his face, while Emrys explained their quest to him.
"A noble mission it is that you're on, my young friends," Searbhán said after Emrys finished. "Tis true, I know, that the nathair have returned to this Isle, for I've seen them myself. A few of those bloody loathsome codgers made an attempt in recent days to defile my rowan trees. Crawling up the branches, they were, trying to swallow my berries. Well, they shan't have them. I'll be seeing to that. Never once have I shirked my vow to protect these fair boughs."
The ogre's eye went distant and his expression turned ugly. Perhaps he was recalling the one instance in which Diarmuid thwarted his efforts?
"You are a true and constant guardian, mo chara," Emrys reassured him.
Searbhán grinned at the compliment. "So, you fearless young warriors," he gave the teenagers another teasing look, and Finn wondered whether or not he would have winked at them if he had more than one eye, "if you're on a quest, why is it, then, that you're honoring me with your presence?"
"Straight to the point, Searbhán. So very unlike you," Emrys replied. The ogre gave a short chuckle, and the fae continued, "Molly-cailin, perhaps you would be so kind as to make your request now?"
Molly looked a little unnerved by the undertaking for just a brief moment, but then stood up and addressed the ogre. "Searbhán . . . sir, we were wondering – if you don't mind – could we use your cloak? Ah, we – we intend to give it back to you when we're done with it."
"My cloak? The Cloak of Darkness?" Searbhán looked at her, then at Emrys. "And what use would you make of the cloak now, mo chara?"
"We will make similar use of it as Oilill and I have done before," Emrys assured.
"I see," the ogre nodded and returned his gaze to Molly. "Gladly, then, will I lend it to you in order to banish those nathair from the likes of my forest."
The girl smiled her thanks.
"But first," he continued, and Molly's smile was immediately replaced by confusion. Finn perked up, interested by the sudden suggestion of a stipulation. "First, you must answer a riddle."
"A riddle," the boy blurted out. "But why?"
"Yah, why?" Molly threw Finn a glare for his interruption. Apparently, she could handle the conversation herself. She turned back to Searbhán, "don't you want us to get rid of the nathair?"
"Oh, aye, aye. Of course. More than anything," Searbhán responded as if that should be clear.
Finn asked again, "then why – " Molly slid over and elbowed him for talking. Oh, he was sick of that elbow.
"Then why make us answer a riddle in order to get the Cloak?" She asked the exact question Finn was going to pose. He let out a huff of irritation.
"Because." The ogre appeared astonished by the very thought of such a question. Maybe it was a good thing after all, that Molly had asked it and not Finn. "It is my way. Riddles are a part of my existence. It's how an ogre stumps those who are not worthy of the bounty of the fae. And I'm afraid that that means the Cloak, as well, young one."
"Oh," she replied, a little dumbfounded. Speechless for once, Finn thought.
"Besides," Searbhán continued, "I've nothing better to do with my time than to think up riddles. I have some real doozies, too," he beamed, proud of the fact.
Uh oh, that couldn't be good. At the look on their faces, Searbhán laughed – again.
"Come now. You know it's in my best interest that you use the Cloak, so I won't be too hard on you. But I'm afraid Emrys cannot help. You must think this through on your own. Earn it by your own merit."
Emrys nodded in agreement with the ogre.
"Now, let me see," Searbhán tapped a sausage-like finger to his forehead. "Ah, I've got it. I thought this one up during that long bout of famine that hit here about, oh, a century or so ago."
He sat up in his seat so that he could more clearly recite his riddle, "Here goes:
"I have a body, but no limbs.
"I fatten and waste with the seasons.
"When broken, I heal with no scars.
"I give life to some, and claim it of others.
"And I'm always on the move, though I appear to be still.
"What am I?"
Finn and Molly frowned in contemplation, and Searbhán chuckled at his cleverness.
"May we discuss it with one another?" Molly asked.
"Ah, well . . . I suppose so," the ogre consented.
She turned to her riddle partner. "Well, whatever it is, it's a thing and not a person."
"Why's that?" he asked. Really, how did she figure?
"Well, because he said what am I, and not who am I," she replied.
"Ah, she is smart, Emrys," Searbhán told his friend. Emrys smiled with satisfaction.
"Okay, so it's a thing . . . but it has a body," Finn said.
"True, but lots of things have bodies," she replied.
"Right. Like what, for example?" he questioned.
"Um. Water. Yes, a body of water. And you can break its surface and it leaves no scars . . . and it gives life to some and takes it from others," she exclaimed.
"Of course. And it's always moving. Maybe it's the ocean. Or a river?" he offered.
"But it appears to be still. You can't tell it's moving. That's not like the ocean or a river, is it?"
"No, I guess not." Finn wanted to hate her for that, but he knew Molly wasn't giving him a smart attitude. She was just thinking out loud.
"And it fattens and wastes, which means it gets bigger and smaller, but with the seasons, not with the tide," she speculated.
"Marvelous, Emrys, marvelous," Searbhán watched on, engrossed.
Finn looked at her, realization lighting up his face, "Well, then it must be . . ."
"A lake," they shouted at the same time.
Searbhán looked at them, very much impressed. "Well, well, what intelligent young people we have here. Now, I think perhaps I made that one a little too easy for the likes of you. I didn't expect you to solve it in less than a minute. Next time, I'll make it more difficult, just to give you a real challenge."
With that, the ogre picked up the Cloak, which had been draped over an arm of the lounge, and handed it to Molly. "Take good care of it, now."
When she took it, Molly bristled and shuddered as though she'd been zapped by a static charge; but she held it tight in spite of the discomfort. Such surges of magic were still foreign and strange to her, but she embraced that fae aspect of her lineage.
Emrys spoke, "Searbhán, mo seanchara, I thank you for the Cloak and for your hospitality; and I am sorry to end our visit so soon after arriving, but we have one more article that we must acquire before we are ready to face our foe."
"Must you?" Clearly, Searbhán was a lonely ogre. "I get so few visitors. Even Glic comes to see me but rarely. And now, I'm afraid, he'll no longer call on me at all."
"I might have relented to stay longer if we had not left another of our party on the outskirts of the forest," Emrys responded.
"Well, why did he not join you? The more the merrier."
"Because she is human," Emrys told him, "And – if Molly will permit me to say so – she is a bit . . . coarse. I thought it in everyone's best interest that she did not disturb you."
"I see," Searbhán said.
Molly added, "And I happen to be pretty fond of her. Enough so that I don't want her to be eaten by an ogre."
Finn's eyes went wide at the very mention of it, but Searbhán just snickered.
"I understand, my girl. And you can depend upon it, that I'd not eat a friend of yours. But I'm afraid you might not find all of the creatures of Faery to be so good tempered as I." Searbhán smiled, though he still looked disappointed that his guests were preparing to leave. "Well, if you must go, then go and return to your friend. I look forward to the day when you restore my Cloak to me. Perhaps, you can extend your visit at that time?"
"It will be a pleasure," Emrys reached out his long thin fingers and clasped Searbhán's giant hand in friendship.
"Good luck to you. All of you." The ogre bowed to the fae-mortals as they turned to leave. Molly curtseyed back, and Finn managed a rather clumsy bow in response.
"And I give you leave to take some rowan berries to see you on your way," Searbhán added, "They're very nourishing, you know. In fact, when ingested, they can heal wounds, and cure diseases. They've even been known to extend one's life. A mortal who eats them will know no hunger for days, and will find energy enough to run from one side of this Isle to the other without fatigue. And best of all, they go excellent with roast . . . err, lamb."
"Wow. They're like super food," Finn found it interesting, "I think I can see why Diarmuid and Gráinne craved them so badly."
"What?" Searbhán cried. His face turned purple and his fists clenched together so hard they shook. He growled and spat, "Ah, just take your berries and go." With that, the ogre stomped off in a huff.
Finn breathed hard and fast, and counted his blessings that the angry creature removed to another part of the woods instead of changing his mind about what he was going to have for dinner.
"I warned you not to mention their names," Emrys chided.
"And next time, I think I'll listen to you," Finn replied, and let out a long sigh of relief.
"Where to next?" asked Molly as she spotted some berries on a low branch. She picked out a large juicy red one from a bunch and popped it into her mouth.
Finn snorted at the sour expression that crossed her face. "They're a bit tart, wouldn't you say?"
"Try the smaller ones," Emrys suggested, "They are somewhat tastier."
Molly and Finn began to pluck berries one by one from the clusters within their reach.
"Oh, for-cryin'-out-loud. What's wrong with the lot of you? Don't you know the best berries are higher up," exclaimed the high-pitched voice of Glic. He scampered out of Finn's knapsack, crawled onto Molly's shoulder, and catapulted up into the branches. In a matter of seconds, berries began to rain down on them. They avoided as many as they could, dodging out of the line of fire to let the brownie finish his harvest.
"As for your question Molly," Emrys resumed the conversation, "we will now head southward, in the direction to County Clare, where we shall seek out the Harp of Dagda. It is currently in the keeping of Aoibheal, Queen of Craig Liath. Unfortunately, it will not be as simple for us to retrieve the Harp as it was to gain the Cloak, so do not expect an easy task this time."
"What do you mean?" asked Finn.
"I mean that asking for the Harp would be useless in procuring it, so we must obtain it by other means."
"You mean . . . we have to steal it?" Molly gasped, bothered by the idea.
"Yes, Molly, we must steal it – or appropriate it, if you will," Emrys replied.
While it had begun to sink in (after witnessing the ogre and the brownie, how could it not?) that Emrys and Molly were telling the truth about the sword and their quest, and not just trying to steal from him, the reality of the journey they were embarking on was only now coming to the fore. Finn thought about it – really let it penetrate. They actually were going to play a hand at thievery . . . but this time, he was going to be in on the act.
At that moment they heard a scream. It was a hair-raising, spine-tingling, terrifyingly desperate screech that carried through the trees, and echoed off the side of the mountain. Finn looked at Molly, and Molly turned to Emrys.
"Oh, no," she half whispered, half cried, "Aunt Honora."
At that, she ran straight for the pasture.