Forty-seven Years Later
"I am very sorry that you were not destined to live out your life with the one you love," Emrys said. "But I am afraid there are many amongst the fae who consider mortals to be unworthy of their attention, let alone their affection. They do not look on humans as equals; and they still feel the sting of a long ago war, one in which we lost our sovereignty over this Isle. As you are aware, though, we are not all of the same opinion. I gave my own heart to a human woman, and I would not take back my time with her for all the wealth in this world or the next."
"Aye, and I believe that you wouldn't," Granddad smiled to hear such words from a kindred spirit. "I do feel certain that Orlaith is fine wherever she is, but what I wouldn't give for some little news of her."
"What about Kaitlyn?" Molly spoke up. "What happened to her?"
"Kaitlyn," Finn spit out before his grandfather could answer, "my mother, ran off a long time ago."
"Ah, boy, don't you go talkin' like that about your own mother," Granddad raised his voice in agitation, "You don't know that she ran off. There is much more to it all than that. I know there is."
"Yah sure. I suppose, then, that the faeries came and took her away." Finn rolled his eyes. "Where did you come up with this nonsense anyway?"
"It ain't nonsense, my boy, it's the truth." Granddad slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair to emphasis the word 'truth'.
"Oh, come on. You hardly ever mentioned a thing about her before, and now you're telling these strangers some silly tripe that's straight out of some folktale – complete with magical faery rings and babies left on your doorstep. What a load of – "
"Whist. You watch your tongue, boy," Granddad shouted back. "And mind your manners in front of our guests."
"Guests? They aren't guests, Granddad. We don't even know these people." Finn's frustration grew to a height he'd rarely felt before. "And what's more, you're talking about 'faeries' like they actually exist. Like this man here is one. Well, he's peculiar looking, to be sure – strangely tall and oddly thin and . . . and foreign. But think about it logically, will ya? With all that blonde hair he's got – he's probably just . . . Norwegian or something."
Emrys's mouth didn't move, but the light of amusement shined clear in his eyes. Molly's own eyes rolled about in their sockets as far as they possibly could. Finn had to be the only human alive who could look at a being from Faery and not believe in his unearthly origin.
"I see you've digested your supper now, Finn," Granddad changed the subject. "Perhaps you can accompany Ms. Molly to the ruins and help her find whatever it is she's lookin' for. If you don't mind, Ms. Molly?"
"Wait. What?" Finn couldn't believe his grandfather was allowing this funny business to continue. "What about this guy's story? I thought he was supposed to reciprocate with some ridiculous tale of his own?" That should stall them a while longer until he could bring the old coot to his senses.
"Aye, that's true, that's true, and I'm certain he will," Granddad nodded and smiled towards Emrys, who nodded back his assurance, "but I have to tell you that somethin' struck me while I was in the middle of tellin' my own story. And it's a shame it didn't it occur to you, my boy, as it did to me. Don't you understand that this fellow here introduced himself to us as Emrys Gwennin?"
When Finn sat there blank-faced, Granddad continued to explain. "Gwennin, my boy, Gwennin. As in Gwennin Ngrá." Finn's face didn't change. "Oh, what are you, daft? Do I have to spell it out for you? This place was named for him."
"What?" Finn cried, "Seriously? And you think I'm the one that's daft? Come on, Granddad. This has to be some sort of great big hoax. This guy's only calling himself 'Gwennin' because he knows that's the name of the place."
"Oh, come now," Granddad replied, "this small plot o' land? Really, if anybody beyond you or I indeed know of it as Gwennin Ngrá, I'll be very much surprised. To the world at large – at least to those 'round here which know of it at all – this place is simply called the ol' O'Toole farm. Besides, I can read the face of truth when I see it. And there's truth on that face, if ever there was such a thing. Now go with the girl, and help her find what she's looking for."
Molly looked at Emrys, and when he nodded, she rose from the davenport with a gracious smile. "Thank you," she said to Granddad. Then, she looked over at Finn. "But I don't think I need any help. I'm sure I can get it myself."
She left the room and headed for the front door. Granddad gave Finn a searing look that said, 'follow her and give her a hand, you cheeky chiseller.'
Finn attempted to stare him down, but when Granddad's eyebrows started to close together in anger, he thought it wiser to rise up and follow her out.
"You keep rollin' your eyes like that, young man, and they're gonna roll right out o' your head," he heard his grandfather say before he slammed the door behind him.
"Come on," he passed Molly on his way to the ruins. "And keep up. You'll want to be careful of the ground here. It's not very even along this part of the yard, and you'd best not get your foot caught in any rabbit holes." Even as he said it, he secretly hoped to see just such a thing happen.
The girl uttered a reply, but Finn didn't hear it, nor did he care to. The rest of the walk to the old hut was made in silence. When they reached the entry, Finn went in and stepped aside for Molly to follow.
"Okay. So, what is it you're looking for, anyways? And just where is it supposed to be hiding?" he asked. He'd explored every inch of this place over the years and never discovered anything that might be worth searching for, so what could this girl possibly find here?
"Well, I need to find the fireplace," Molly replied.
"Is that so? Well, just so happens, that's over here," he said and directed her over to the far side of the hut. "Now what?"
"Emrys told me I'd have to pull up a few loose stones from the hearth. There's a little space in there between the bricks and the foundation."
They both leaned over the hearth and began to toss out pieces of rubble; and then they swept away the fine dust of long rotted embers. Finn pushed a finger between the stones, clearing away dirt and feeling for any give in the masonry. He found what felt like a finger hold along a stone in the center of the fireplace's floor. With a little work and several seconds of wiggling the brick, he managed to raise it high enough to get a hold with both hands. When he had a good grip on it, he pulled upwards. It certainly was heavy, but not too much for him to handle, and when he pulled it away from the floor, Molly immediately went for the next one.
Two or three stones later, they uncovered a dusty compartment, just as Emrys had indicated. The moon sent enough of its blue rays in through the roofless hut to illuminate the hole and what was inside of it. Covered in a layer of cinder colored earth, lay an old oiled cloth. The stained fabric, frayed and decayed with age, was wrapped around something. Finn's curiosity grew tenfold, and he reached inside the hole.
"Wait," Molly cried, and grabbed his arm. "Only I'm supposed to touch it."
"What?" Finn gave her a look that said he was fed up with this stupid game.
"You don't understand," she explained, "only I can handle it. Because of who I am."
"Oh? And just who are you?" Finn asked incredulously. "The Queen of Sheba?"
"I am the last of a long line of individuals who are allowed to hold what's in here." Molly reached into the opening and picked up the item. Dust fell and settled back into the hole as she held the cloth up between them. They both regarded it with rapt attention while Molly unfolded the fabric, as delicately as she could, to reveal . . . a sword.
The thing didn't look overly long or heavy, but it shone silvery in the moonlight, like it had just been polished, and the knife-edge appeared to be quite sharp. There were swirls and symbols along the handle and blade, and a single green jewel (an emerald, maybe?) was encrusted in the end of the hilt.
"Wow, that's quite a pretty piece of weaponry," Finn said. "And just what is this Emrys fellow expecting you to do with it?" He never took his eyes off the beautiful object.
"I'm not exactly sure yet," Molly replied, and rose to her feet. She turned away and held the sword out in front of her, letting it catch in the light of a particularly bright moonbeam.
Finn walked up beside her with his hands crossed over his chest, contemplating the amazing find that had been hidden there all these years in the confines of his private place.
"And just why are you the only one who can handle it?" Finn asked with raised eyebrows.
"I –," Molly looked nervous and confused, "I'm not sure. I just know that I am."
The girl headed for the exit, keeping the sword in front of her so that she could continue to take in its magnificence.
"Wait. Where're you going?" Finn followed close behind her, suddenly feeling himself rather duped over the progressing events.
"Back to the cottage to show the sword to Emrys," she replied.
"You don't really think you have claim on that thing, do you?" Oh, how the very idea irritated him.
"Well, yah," Molly said. "It belongs to my family. That and your grandfather gave me permission to take it. So, yes, I do have a 'claim' on it."
"No way. That thing is on our property. Heirloom or not, your family abandoned it when they left this place. I do believe, by rights and by law, that that makes it forfeit."
Molly gave him a disdainful glance and kept walking. "It wasn't abandoned. My family hid it away here for safekeeping. And now we're back to claim it. End of story."
With that she walked through the front door of the cottage, leaving Finn to seethe in the dark. After he took a few breaths of cool fresh air, he headed inside. This wasn't over. He was ready to fight. That sword was found in his private space, and it should belong to him.
He entered the parlor to see Molly presenting the sword to Emrys and her Aunt Honora. Granddad leaned from his chair to have a look at it, as well. He whistled and said, "My, what a fancy lookin' thing that is."
So, Granddad was just going to sit back and let these strangers abscond with a priceless old sword from their property? The value from that relic would give them enough money to remodel the old cottage. Heck, they could rebuild it. No, no, they could buy a house in town. Granddad had to be off his nut to let them take it away with them.
"That sword belongs to us," the boy stated aloud to everyone in the room.
Four faces looked back at him in different degrees of surprise. Molly looked annoyed; Granddad displayed alarm; Ms. Honora continued to appear horrified by the whole situation; and Emrys Gwennin, the stunning supposed Fae, raised a single eyebrow in inquisition.
Finn expounded on his argument. "Granddad, you can't let these thieves take a priceless piece of Irish history off of our land. She found it in my parents' hut. It rightly belongs to you and me, not to them."
"Finn, what a show you're makin' in front of our guests," Granddad replied with obvious shame towards his grandson. "These people have come to us for the express purpose of reclaimin' somethin' that belongs to their family, and here you are disputin' land rights. This isn't a game of 'finders keepers'. This is a matter of common decency."
"Common decency? How in 'common decency' can they think they have the right to something that's on someone else's land?" Could no one see this situation from Finn's point of view?
"Young man," said Emrys with that calm voice which Finn still found staggering, "I understand your perspective, and I am sympathetic to it. Please be aware that our reason for claiming this weapon is not for our own financial gain. We have a real duty and a true purpose which requires its use."
"Its use?" Finn bit back with skepticism. "So, you plan to 'use' this sword? And just what are you planning to do with it? Are you going to go around the countryside pointing it at people, and taking their money, just like you're stealing from us now?"
"No, lad, we are not. Molly will have need of this sword's power in the event of an impending battle against an evil that may put all, including you and your Grandfather, in great danger," Emrys answered him back as if it all made perfect sense.
"Danger, did you say?" Granddad shifted in his chair.
"Right. This is just getting way too loopy. I mean, let me get this whole thing straight. This sword has these magical powers, and you're planning to use it in some battle to save the world?" Finn crossed his arms and looked at his Granddad as if to say 'now, you get it? These people are on the far side of crazy. You can't give them a weapon'.
Granddad shook his head. "Finn, you don't know the half of what goes on behind the obvious workings of this world. You believe only the things you learn in school; and you look at everything so scientifically. But there is still so much out there that cannot be explained by mere logic."
"Oh, Jeez. What are you talking about? You mean magic? The land of the Faeries? Oh, Granddad, I think you've gone mental, too."
"Oh, now that is enough." Ms. Honora stood up from her place in the rocker. "How could you possibly talk to your own grandfather that way? Who really cares about what is real and what isn't real, anyway? All that really matters at the end of the day is that you have a family. Yes, you! And you don't even respect that, you silly little fool. You never know when he could be taken away from you. Oh, yes, you heard me right, boy. Taken away from you. Then you'll regret all the things you've said to him." She sat back down in her chair and began to rock back and forth frantically, but she didn't remove her glare from the teenage boy.
Finn did feel a little guilty that he'd accused his Granddad of acting crazy, but it didn't change how he felt about his position on the sword. He sat down on the ottoman, and stared into the fire, ashamed at what he'd said, but livid that no one supported the right to his claim.
A minute ticked by on the mantle clock before Emrys Gwennin spoke. "Perhaps, young Finn, if I relate to you the story in which Molly's ancestor plays a chief role, you will understand the reason why this sword is rightfully hers; and why she is in need of it now."
"Oh, aye, my fine fae-friend, please do tell us your story." Granddad's back straightened with interest before he leaned forward to grab a poker. He shifted the coals in the hearth, sending sparks upwards into the chimney, and settled in to listen to the fae's tale. The others offered their attention to him, as well. Finn checked himself for displaying an obvious degree of eagerness in his expectation of the narrative, but still lifted his ear in the direction of the storyteller.
As Emrys began, the air in the room seemed to stir, and the walls of the parlor appeared as if they were blurring, melting away. "First, you must allow me to introduce to you a mortal man of whom history, I am sure, has already made you familiar. You know of him today as St. Patrick of Ireland; but in his youth, he was called Padraig of Briton . . ."