It was a moonlit night in the quiet village of Marghara, the stars were out shining in the sky like little flecks of hope. Undisturbed by the comings and goings of the tiny folk under their twinkling lights.
The village was dark save for the little windows beaming firelight. In one of the houses of said windows, there lived a little boy, a very nosy little boy who would often defy his parents wishes.
At their desperation they decided to leave him be from all his plans. Tonight he had a plan, he was going to investigate the old ruins near the village. He had to find out what was in the ruins and he told his parents what he planned to do.
His father often said “Rory! You’re a damned fool, but ye are nearly 14. If you are foolish enough to put yer nose into things then I won’t be fixing it!” Always the same answer more or less. Well Rory knew his limits, he knew how to survive.
Often he got out of trouble, he was wily.
He would mark out a way in to these castle ruins and find the treasure. He dreamed of treasure. Apparently. He heard from the drunken old boys, there was a tunnel in the ruins and deep down there would be mountains of gold and silver.
He couldn’t resist looking.
So he packed his trusty compass, a flaslight, pen and notebook and set off as the sun began to set. His parents fast asleep.
He began to walk past the village and through the woods. He walked for an hour or so until he came to a clearing. He loved how everything had a story to tell. Here in the forest the myths and legends of old Ireland swirled in his mind.
He saw the Hawthorne tree not 500 yards away and remembered a story about a boy that went missing about 50 years ago from some village nearby. Apparently a leprechaun had got to him and he was never seen again.
He heard tell of strange creatures that roamed around the forest, friendly and horrendous of allsorts. Rory was a believer, he knew the woods were alive and there was magic in the air.
His flashlight still on he walked past the Hawthorne tree and for another hour he finally came to the ruins. It was pitch black. How magnificent were these ruins! How beautiful it might have been when it was built!
He searched around the perimeter of the sunken courtyard, almost looked like boats in a sea of fauna. Rory heard twigs snapping to the side of him and then to his other side.
He panicked and turned his flashlight to his left.
Turned to his right and still nothing. He shrugged and carried on but some strange sensation happened, he felt like he was being watched.
“Who goes there?” He said confidently.
He walked on around the side and he heard the twigs snapping. This time some small grubby fingers touched his arm, he recoiled in horror. He fell to the ground in his panic.
When he looked up with his torch what he saw terrified him. A goblin.
A goblin with a huge bulbous nose, small beady eyes and a furry body. The arms and legs were small in comparison to its bulky body. Not only that but there were 50 or so more behind this one.
“Intruder! No pass!” Rasped a stony voice.
But in a flash Rory was knocked out, a goblin club came crashing onto his head.
Rory woke up, his head ringing. He rubbed his head and felt a swollen lump. He was in a dark damp place. He searched for his flash light desperately. It was gone. A sliver of moonlight streamed from a crack above. A lifeline.
“You’ll never find it” a voice boomed out of the darkness. He could make out two yellow eyes blinking, then sharp white teeth. “Your magic light beam.”
“Who are ye?” Rory asked.
The creature smiled, Rory reckoned he might have been about three foot tall from the proportion of his teeth from the ground. He rubbed his head again.
“Right now, I’m the closest to a friend you have! See up there” a furry hand silhouette pointed up “the goblins are having a meeting on how to eat you.”
Rory was terrified, never before had he expected this to happen.
“Don’t be afraid young ‘un!” The creature held out an item, his flashlight “I am a friend, do you trust me?”
Rory grabbed the light and turned it on, the small room illuminated and he saw his “friend” for the first time. A goblin, but different to the others. Same fur but cleaner, and his hair was in braids.
The creatures yellow eyes narrowed from the bright light.
“I’m going to help you, but when I do I beg you to tarry for a little while. Do you agree?” The goblin put his hand out in friendship.
Rory had no choice but nodded his head and said yes. He took the hand of friendship, the goblin smiled and uttered a few words.
Immediately Rory began to shrink, the ground was getting closer and closer while the goblin was getting taller and taller.
The process had finished and the goblin put his hand down to pick Rory up. Shaken, Rory was petrified. The world was big and it just got a whole lot bigger.
The giant goblin hand scooped him up like he was a fly, very gently the goblin put Rory in his fur and hurried off out the room. The creature went up and down underground hills and around corners until he came out above ground. Rory heard shouting and cursing in the distance.
“Roast the pipsqueak!” A voice said “grind him to dust and flavour some deer with it” said another. Rory keep hidden in the fur of this goblin.
Silence happened when this creaturr came close to the others.
“The prisoner is gone!” He announced and the six or seven goblins started howling. They shook their fur with rage and howled like wolves. A crescendo of noise that hurt Rory’s tiny ears.
He recoiled deep into the goblin fur that smelt musty. The howling stopped, the creatures started talking. Rory slowly edged forward to put his head out.
“He is an outsider, Margyle. He’s…hes…tasty” said a red furred goblin licking it’s lips. Sharp teeth bared.
The one named Margyle slowly put his hand up. “We will not be eating him, nor shall we chase him”
“Drats!” Said another one in annoyance and started pounding his fists on the ground. “Why? All we have is rats to eat, I’m tired of skinny rotten rats.”
Margyle walked slowly away, Rory climbed the fur to the top of the goblins head. They were out of sight from the little clan of goblins.
“Why have you saved me?” He asked.
Margyle s eyes turned from a dark yellow into a soft white glow. He smiled.
“How could I kill my own kind?” Margyle slowly nodded his head.
“A long time ago I was human, come!” He sadly gestured to a hole “I’ll tell you all about it, then you will need to complete a task for me.”
Rory was carried swiftly down a hole and through tunnels. Up and down underground hills, he would never have been able to get through this in his normal size.
Margyle ran fast for miles underground, it was so dark that Rory could not see anything in front. Eventually Rory felt the goblin come to a halt.
“Here we are little one” Margyle hand searched his fur for Rory, he grabbed him gently and put him down on the soft dirt.
Margyle waved his hands and a light glow appeared around the small alcove they were standing in. Rory looked around and saw various pots, pans and what looked like books. There was one chair and a straw bed in the corner. Close by was a little river and above that some tree roots. Massive tree roots that continued down through the river bed.
Margyle grunted as he sat down and beckoned Rory to lie down on the straw bed.
“I’ll tell you what happened my little friend” he slowly spoke “as I said I would need you to do a small task.”
Rory nodded, not knowing what it would entail.
“So about 200 years or so I was changed into this form you see now. I was a young man, engaged and ready to settle. It was all arranged until the woman I was in love with…” his tone was sorrowful “AM in love with…she is a witch or was…her beauty knew no bounds.”
Rory was starting to guess what the task would entail. Margyle continued.
“Oh Rory! If you had seen her! Hair of the blackest night, well it was until she used her magic on me. You see I found out she was a witch and I confronted her. I caught her in a ritual. She was enraged to be found out, her arrogance over rode her love for me. ”
He looked at the tree roots sadly, they twinkled from the light of the alcove.
“She turned me into this form, she knew of a tribe of goblins. The ones up there! And she asked them to take me in. She laughed as I went with them, yelling to me that she would play the grieving bride to the best of her ability. Days went by when I thought she’d changed her mind or at least see me. She never came back and I hated her but I still loved her. Meanwhile In the goblin world it’s total warfare, I fought with them everyday and I survived. I killed Frengal the Dogfighter in my first month and I am now a Chief Warrior in this tribe. My name is Margyle the Red and I am a goblin. I am consigned to my fate. Now the task of Marghartha.”
He pointed to the roots of the tree.
“My love, the witch Marghartha is in the tree there, it is a Hawthorne tree so be careful! I’ve heard that Conarght of the Gold has her imprisoned somewhere deep in the heart’
Rory pulled his head up.
“Why would you free her?” He asked “even after what she dId to you?”
“Well my love for her is still there but it’s deeper than that…I’m giving her something she did not offer me.” Margyle was tearing up.
Rory looked at him puzzled.
“Freedom!” Margyles tears flew freely.
“I’ll give you a few things to take” Margyle said as he sat musing, his hand to his lips. He was deep in thought. Almost in meditation.
He snapped his fingers and a potion appeared, a potion that was tiny. “This is for her, I’ve had this a long time. You must get her to drink it! It has properties to make her smaller than you, so small she can fit in your pocket.” He paused “we’re going to have to make you invisible! Oh and that potion..she will lose her magic. Do not mention that!” He flicked his hand.
“You are invisible now. Conarght of the Gold will not disturb you, he’s not been seen in 60 years, some believe him dead” Margyle scratched his head.
“Why do I need to be invisible Margyle?” Rory looked up at the giant goblin.
“Because inside that tree are creatures of the darkest colour of magic! Best keep your wits, you can sleep before hand. I’m sure one night would do her no harm” the goblin looked at the tree roots, he imagined her face staring out at him. He shook his head abruptly. He loomed at the straw bed, Rory had fallen asleep.
Margyle smiled. Then turned back to the tree and studied paths for his new friend to climb. He uttered a few words of magic and a little thin light illuminated up and around the tree roots.
A pathway for little Rory to climb.
Rory was having the best sleep, dreamt of his parents and treasure. He awoke refreshed and content. As he rose he stretched and yawned.
It dawned on him where he was, back in that little alcove. His happiness fell off like wet clothes. Margyle was nowhere to be seen, he saw a little writing on the floor illuminated by light.
“Go on Rory to the tree, climb there and set her free!”
Rory shook his head, the last of the sleepiness fading away. He grabbed the tiny potion and went on his way.
He travelled through the cave by a little light on the ground. Margyle must have left this trail he imagined, it took him all the way to the underground river. A small piece of wood lay on the river bed. Enough for him to sit on, he used his hands to row.
The wood floated softly towards the hawthorn tree, he could see the light trailing up the tree. His path to free the witch.
He felt like an ant in this world, so small and fragile.
He was at the tree, time to go.
Rory looked up at the tree, it was like looking up a mountain. His small stature made him look like a flea to the tree. He began to climb, quite a few little cracks and holes went up the tree. He carried on for a good hour until he was exhausted. How could he climb this tree? It might as well have been the largest mountain in the world.
He got to a ledge after following the lit path. Rory sat and rested, not for long as he heard rumblings from below. He peered down the sheer drop and saw little heads coming towards him. Little heads with two thin lines coming out.
The heads grew larger as they approached Rory.
Rory scrambled backward and hurt his back. The rumble got louder, almost deafening. Two thin lines slowly crept over the ledge.
Two little eyes peeked up from the ledge, ants. These creatures seemed to communicate telepathically with Rory.
“Friend of Margyle, we here to help” the ant said telepathically, it turned it’s head sideways as if confused “I not know?”
The ant started to poke Rory with one of its ligaments, it’s mouth clacking excitedly. “Bring to queen”
Rory was overwhelmed with fear, this ant looked absolutely monstrous. Then he remembered what Margyle told him, he was meant to be invisible. He looked at the creature and tried to communicate.
“NO QUEEN! ME GO UP TREE. MARGYLE!” Rory pointed upwards at the gold illuminated path. The ant followed his finger upwards. It shrugged.
Rory went on. “MARGYLE MAKE ME INVISIBLE. HOW YOU SEE ME?”
He was met with laughter, the ant was stomping on the ground guffawing. There were other ants poking their heads up from ledge.
The ant suddenly stopped and replied.
“YOU INVISIBLE YES. ME ALIVE CAN SEE.” It’s leg rose up as in imitation of his “DEAD CANNOT SEE.”
Rory looked dismayed, dead things up there in that tree. What had he gotten himself into? His parents voices echoed in his mind, warnings.
He looked up to the ant and firmly said “NO QUEEN. UP!” The ant started stomping and squeaking fast as if trying to fight some primal urge. It rushed to Rory, panicked and in the moment Rory put up his hands in defence.
The ant gently grabbed Rory with its mandibles. The ant started to climb, as it went up, Rory could see down behind the ants thorax millions of ants climbing. The weirdest feeling that an ant could carry a human being.
The ant followed the golden path around the tree roots and made steady progress. The powerful legs of the ants made the tree easy to climb.
They reached a massive ledge to which the golden path stopped. The ant left Rory on the ground and went to turn away. “STOP!” Rory screamed telepathically. The ant slowly turned it’s head, the two little eyes showed no emotion.
“WHATS YOUR NAME?” He asked the ant. Laughter from the ant.
“ME HAVE NO NAME, ME NO NEED” With that the ant crawled over the ledge and descended down the tree root.
“THANK YOU ANT” Rory replied.
Rory decided to make a little camp here on the ledge, he could see Margyles little cove from here. Not so far off but to Rory it was a huge distance.
As Rory relaxed and thought of what to do next he heard scraping metal. It was coming from inside a hole just west of the ledge. Scraping of metal against a wall, it was getting closer and closer.
There was a giant eye looking from that hole, it looked left and right as if searching something. The scraping carried on and the eye left the hole.
“His name is Magnus” came a familiar voice “Magnus Barefoot, a trapped viking. His spirit lurks in the tree, beware.”
Rory looked over to see across the water it was Margyle.
Rory looked back to the hole and the eye was back. Scraping of metal. Rory decided to move but the eye stayed in place searching frantically. The path was wide and Rory was able to move quite stealthily.
He sneaked around until he was at the back wall, he was able to reach the eye. He looked around on the ground for something. All he could see was dust, he remembered he had his torch. An idea formed in his mind, he took the torch out. He stepped in front of the eye and turned the torch on. Rory aimed at the eye with the light but it did nothing.
He didn’t know what else to do, this eye was horrible and the metal scraping sent shivers down his spine. He threw the torch down harshly, the eye went straight to the noise. Rory heard a foreign language being uttered and mumbled. He couldn’t quite make it out.
He made a mistake, the eye was motivated to find something and went back to frantic searching. Rory picked up the torch and stabbed the eye with all his heart.
As he did loud bellowing pain erupted from Magnus. Howling in a strange dialect. The eye was gone but the metal ceased scraping, it was now chopping.
Rory had to find somewhere . And fast.
“He can’t break through Rory!” Margyle voiced echoed. Rory had fumbled to the ground perspiring, a hand gripping his torch like death. It was covered in fluid from the giant eye. Metal chipping at the wall relentlessly, his head hurting.
He got up, every chop of that Viking sword sent a chill crushing down his spine.
“Then where do I go Margyle?” Rory yelled, the chopping stopped. Margyle pointed calmly to a small hole on Rory’s right-side.
The hole was just right for his to walk in. He put the light on, thank god he brought it tonight. He surveyed the hole and was amazed at what he saw. A small hole it was but inside was a huge cavern stretching high and wide, several paths leading this way and that.
Jewels and crystals sticking out of the cavern, the light bouncing through it all.
He was dismayed when he saw several paths leading off the main path. He sat by the entrance wondering what to do. He suddenly remembered his notebook and pen. It was in his back pocket, he drew it out and started scribbling and doodling the paths. His torch going up and down the tunnel for accuracy.
He was happy with the drawing and decided to try the first path on his left, his torch scanned the tunnel and it was empty so he walked down it, for about 30 minutes or so he had no encounters and was ready to head back.
Then he heard laughter and merriness. Intrigued, he went further. A glow of light around the corner, his torch turned off. He was about to turn the corner, that soft glow becoming more brilliant.
He peeked around the corner and saw a massive room, he saw people dancing and singing. The place was beautiful, many rows of seats and tables full of food. The women sat on knights laps and jesters pranced around. There was a huge throne at the end of the room.
A giant to Rory, or a normal sized person sat there. It was a king, Rory noted by the crown atop his head.
His eyes looked around the room with annoyance. Cold eyes that struck his spine deeper than the Viking sword.
The King stood up and held his hand to silence the music. The music stopped immediately.
“Who are you all?? You do not live by me!” The king bellowed. “I hate you all!”
With that the king took his broadsword and cleaved his way through the hall. His eyes were still cold, he didn’t look passionate even through the massive swings. He wasn’t exhausted, he wasn’t showing emotion, he was just killing these people as if he were bored.
There was blood everywhere, people screaming and yelling to stop. Not one knight took his sword up to fight. Rory was horrified at the scene, he couldn’t look. The king finished once the last person slid of his broadsword.
He went back to his throne and sat in the same posture Rory saw him in.
The blood emptied from the floor and the people that had died rose up and began laughing and dancing once more. The king looked on with those emotionless eyes.
A beautiful lady went to his side and whispered in his ear. The king let out a sigh and stood up.
Again he put his hand up and the music ended.
“People of Dal nAraidi, your High King Buile Shuibhne has just been informed that Magnus Barefoot has been alerted to an intruder amongst us.” At that moment a massive thump, then continuously on the door.
The king looked annoyed to be interrupted. “Open the gates!” He bellowed.
Some knights rushed to the door and unbarred it, massive timbers removed that required four knights on each side. The door slowly opened, a familiar scrape on the floor.
The Viking Magnus slowly emerged through the portal. He approached slowly and his footfall echoed through the chamber. his helmet had ornamental wings sat atop, piercing eyes under the rim. his tall stature and muscular build made him look quite formidable.
He stood before the king, his sword by his hand.
“Intruder. Beware” the Viking said pointing to his eye, his broken English tearing through the atmosphere.
“What does he look like invader?” The king asked
The Viking shrugged and proceeded to hold out his hand. His finger and thumb slowly going down to show a description of the size.
The king laughed at Magnus, mocking him for his description. Magnus took offence and he replied with a sword straight through the Kings heart. The Viking turned to the hall.
“Kill intruder! Beware!” Pointing at his eye. he glanced around the hall pointing.
Rory was horrified that he was being hunted. Who the hell were these people? And what did he have to do?
His thoughts were broken when the king resurrected, his mortal wound healed instantly and he told the Viking to leave. the Viking did not flinch and the king took his broadsword and waved it around. He then sat on his throne confident that Magnus got the message. he sat in that same posture and the Viking left dragging that sword down the stone floor.
Rory knew there had to be something to this room, what was it? He just wanted to get out of here. away from the horrible scene. the door slammed with great force.
Rory heard a voice, a female, inside his mind.
“Come away from the mad king! he is tortured forever, leave him be!”
startled Rory looked around to see someone but there was nothing. Rory obeyed and ran back to the main path.
There she was in the middle of the path, a beautiful blonde woman with the bluest eyes. She dwarfed Rory in stature. She was smiling at Rory and he was at peace.
“who are you??” he asked.
Rory stood puzzled. who the hell was she?
“You shouldn’t be here” Danu smiled, her hand was out beckoning him forward. He did so, the power emanating from this blonde woman was immense.
She waited for him and knelt down, her hand was on the ground and Rory clambered in. She took him up to her face and began to speak.
“I’m Danu, I am very old and I know everything in this world. You are Rory from the village Marghara. I’m afraid your parents believe you the Curse of the Village” she laughed lightly “but this is not so, you are the first human to enter the other side. It’s not a curse.”
She sat Rory on her shoulder , he gripped her blur cloth tightly so he wouldn’t slip. It was a long way down. Danu looked around, she started to hum a melody.
“Who was that King, Dani? Why is he killing those people?” Rory gently asked.
“He was a very nasty King Rory, he killed many but he killed an ancient tribesman. He wanted to learn our old ways but was unsuccessful, he killed the ancient.
And so as a final farewell the ancient follower of our ways banished him here for all eternity. With his final breath he uttered sacred magic to the king. He will play out his hatred and see no satisfaction forever.”
Danu looked sad, her blue eyes welling up with tears.
“All he had to do was give up his kingdom, he could have found his way with our ways. Men’s hearts are material now and they harden their hearts to love.” She looked at the tunnel and heard faint screams, then she turned to the main pathway.
“Danu, who are you?” Rory was perplexed.
Danu startled by the question did a little giggle “men always surprise me!” Her mouth did a smile to the side.
“I have many names Rory, I am mother earth for one. I was here at the dawn of time and will be here forever. It is so complicated for you to comprehend who I am, for now I am just Danu.”
Rory sat up straight.
“You mean you’re all powerful? A goddess?” His mouth dropped.
“I was” Danu smiled weakly “until betrayal.” She tugged at her hair as if trying to shrug a memory away.
Rory looked around the cavern, so beautiful and massive, they were in the middle of the cavern. Suddenly the scraping of a sword coming from one tunnel nearby. They both looked to the left and there the Viking stood. Magnus fully armored and sword unsheathed.
He approached Danu.
“I smell him on you” his voice full of hatred “where is thing?” He licked his lips looking up and down Danu. Danu in a flash put her hand up and Magnus was frozen in place.
“He is a bothersome beast” Danu shivered “such a pity he’s full of hate.”
She took her hand and placed it on her forehead, focused and pointed to the ground. She awoke from trance.
“There! The path, second before the end on the right. That’s your path to Margartha. She is hidden even from me. But I shall stay here with Magnus, he will bother you no more.” She gently took Rory off her shoulder and kissed his head. He was placed on the ground.
“Thank you for being here Rory, it has been lonely for Mother Earth” she smiled “go on your noble quest to the witch.”
“Thank you Danu!” Rory was exasperated. He waved farewell and travelled down the path.
He approached the tunnel Danu had told him to go down. The path through this tunnel was extremely cold, deathly cold. He shivered uncontrollably from the atmosphere. He carried on and walked straight in.
The coarse tunnel gave way to smooth stone, he passed many pathways into other parts of this wall. He knew what it was, a maze. A huge maze at that.
He heard a blood curdling scream. It was at the centre, a woman’s voice screaming. Rory ran into the maze looking for the voice, desperately trying to find the woman. Screams hurting his little ears.
He sat on the ground helplessly.
He was lost in the labyrinth with the screams getting louder.
He was lost.
Rory sat on the ground listening to the screaming in the distance. He covered his ears to try and dampen the raquet. After fifteen minutes the wailing stopped, Rory was dizzy with fatigue.
He tried to keep his eyes open but he just couldn’t, his eyelids were heavy. He fell asleep.
In his dreams he was flying high above this labyrinth, he soared to the top of the cavern and could see every part of the maze. He saw figures walking the paths of various routes, but what drove his eyes was the centre of the maze.
He saw a figure with golden hair sitting by a machine and massive amounts of straw. She was making the straw into gold and outside the centre wall was a mass of black. It’s head tilted upwards towards Rory’s figure and let out a horrible scream. The banshee was advancing fast towards Rory in the sky.
The one thing Rory heard in a deathly voice.
The banshee was just about to reach Rory, within an inch it was there. Rory woke up with a start.
As he awoke he felt a tingling sensation, he was disturbed by the feeling. It was in his left pocket, a small circular item. He had forgotten he had his compass!
He took the compass out and it’s hand was whizzing fast, so fast the compass was getting hot. Rory got up and started to walk the perimeter of the maze, he walked a good ten minutes until he came to an opening in the maze. The compass stopped.
Not knowing where to go but follow the compass, Rory felt it was a lifeline. He followed this path until the compass stopped. He took the right turn and he kept this on for a good 3 hours or so.
The compass had took him to the direct centre of the maze, however at the entrance Rory could see that banshee. It’s black mass covered most of the doorway, more impressive to Rory in his small stature. He could see two hands hooked to each wall and two legs gripped either side as well.
It was horrific to look at, two red eyes were searching by the entrance. Narrowed eyes penetrated into Rory’s soul, it sensed him here and it screeched, fantastically white fangs were seen. Rory’s heart shrank inside, the creature never let go of the wall.
How could he get past this thing. It was impossible, he had an idea. It was a bit of a longshot, the creature couldn’t see him but sense him. He picked up a small rock grain and threw it as far as he could.
The banshee immediately flew past with an immense scream. Then it went down the corridors searching. Rory had no time to lose, it would be back in a flash.
He ran straight through the entrance and there he saw that beautiful blonde woman yarning. The gold was exquisite. The woman was unconcerned with Rory, he looked around the room. There were massive straw piles which seemed to be replenished immediately. Rory hid in there, he could see the entrance opposite. Looking around he saw the woman was feeding the gold yarn wire down a well.
Thames’s his escape route.
Before he could think about going down he saw the banshee, her eyes were not red now but fire, Rory was not horrified now…he was petrified. The banshee went for the woman and started slashing and slaying the beautiful woman. She had blood seeping from her body and flowing towards Rory. The banshee kept on at the woman and did not stop for one second. The machine was broken, straw flew around the room in a whirlwind, the young woman’s dead eyes looked into Rory’s.
GO! YOU CANNOT SAVE ME MORTAL! IF I LEAVE THE WORLD WILL UNRAVEL!
As soon as she said that time seemed to rewind. The straw came back to original positions, the machine fixed itself and the young woman came alive and sat back to her work.
Rory didn’t think about it, he made a run for it. The banshee felt his presence and began to swipe for him. It was confused at his size and his invisibility, and with that luck was on Rory’s side. He jumped into the well, he tried to grab the golden thread but missed. He fell for what seemed forever but he grabbed the thread finally and was safe.
All around him it was pitch black, the only light was from the golden thread. Rory reached into his back pocket with a free hand and grabbed his torch. He turned it on and he saw fleshy like substance on the circular wall.
To his astonishment he pointed down and the light lit the bottom just five feet below. He jumped down and with a squelch there was a rumble. The golden thread went down into the ground presumably carrying on.
The circular wall was massive, Rory touched the walls and the substance was sticky. At the opposite side was a massive face, it’s eyes were closed until the light shone fully on it. Massive wide eyes opened, it squinted in the light.
“WHO ARE YOU?” It bellowed.
Rory was perplexed, could it see him? He was getting confused.
“Rory?” The creature looked confused “how did you get here? I suppose you want something?”
“I need to find the witch Margharta, the goddess Danu sent me onto this path” Rory explained not fully knowing what to expect.
The creatures eyes lit up.
“Danu! Oh how I dream of seeing her Rory!” The creature smiled weakly.
“Well, if you want to know, you are in the very heart of the Hawthorne tree. Tell the tree where you want to go and I will open the portal, I am the Guardian.” The creature explained.
“I want to go to the witch Margharta”
“Very well Rory, here is the portal” the creature looked to the left and a portal just Rory’s size opened up. It was a brilliant white and Rory had to shield his eyes. He turned his torch off.
“Thank you guardian”
And with that Rory entered, as he entered there she was the old hag. There was nothing but white, all Rory heard were the screams of a tormented soul. Shouting obscenities at a Constant, Rory was told by Margyle that this was the leprechaun.
Margharta looked at Rory and came straight over, she grasped him tightly.
“Who are you fiend? Friend or foe? Friend or foe? Friend or foe? You must be friend!” She looked away “or ye be foe. Did the trickster send ye?”
Rory knew now he was dealing with a mad woman, and a dangerous one at that.
He had to tread gently.
The witch released her grasp, she saw the small opening from where Rory came. Her eyes narrowed then looked back at the small Rory.
“Are you from outside this…this…place?” She looked around at the white room “yes, yes you must be!”. She started to sniff Rory, Rory grimaced as the nose came down.
“Stop it Marghartha!” He screamed.
She instantly stopped, her head went back up and tilted to the side “how on earth do ye know me name imp?”
Rory stood up in her palm, he brushed himself off and puffed his chest out.
“I’m here to free you! Stop sniffing and treating me like a toy if you want out!” Rory searched around his body looking for the potion to give. He couldn’t find it, in fact he couldn’t remember taking it. He groaned, had all this been in vain?
“Hold on witch, I will be back soon!” Rory needed to get the potion, he could use the Guardian he supposed. Possibly to go back to Margyle.
The witch did not let go, she was suspicious. Her eyes narrowed even more.
“Listen, I need to make you smaller! So you can fit through that hole!” He pointed at the small black portal.
“Very well imp, I’ve nothing to lose. Go!!!”
Rory leapt down from the lowered hand and ran straight through the portal. How foolish he seemed! He got to the Guardian on the other side and told him he wanted to go to Margyle.
The Guardian yawned and twitched his eyes, a portal next to the old one appeared. He walked through.
There Margyle was in his little cove, the only thing is that he was looking from high in the tree.
“MARGYLE!!!” Rory yelled at the top of his chest, no answer. It was a long way down and Rory had no idea what to do.
Just then a finger long and slender poked out of the hole and hooked Rory in. He was scared, he was pulled straight through. He needn’t have worried as that finger belonged to the hand of Danu.
The guardian stared at her in awe, he watched every moment with intense glaring. He was speechless that she had come.
She stood there smiling, Rory told her of his plight and how foolish he’d been. Danu smiled all the while and her blue eyes bore sympathy and love.
At the end of his story she nodded and flicked her hand. Two potions appeared. “Here” danu offered “one potion that is Margyles intended for the witch. The other is from my own concoction. Give it to her.” She smiled broadly, Rory looked at the potions but they were massive.
He looked at Danu exasperated to which danu giggled quite loudly. She flicked her hand again and the potions shrunk smaller. They got small enough that Rory could hold both under his arms comfortably.
“Everyone deserves a second chance, Rory” danu smiled and rubbed his head lovingly “be safe, and be as quick as you can!” She lowered her hand and Rory went through to the witch.
She was waiting for him and she was angry.
“What took you so long, Imp?” She screamed.
Rory had to sit down, this was too much. He was absolutely shattered, so tired beyond the point of exhaustion. The witch advanced and saw the two potions. She narrowed her eyes and grabbed both potions between her thumb and finger.
“These mine?” She asked not paying attention to Rory. Rory was fast asleep, the witch shrugged and took the potions both at once.
Suddenly the witch was covered in multicoloured swirls of mist, from light shades of colour to dark.
Her transformation complete she approached Rory with caution.
The witch was extremely small and vulnerable.
Rory woke up after a few hours sleep, he felt rested and a bit more relaxed. He awoke to a beautiful woman on his chest, she was smaller than he.
Her jet black hair looked sleek and shined against the white room, one long streak of white ran through the satin like hair. She was beyond beautiful, she was exquisite. Her Brown eyes glistened in the light.
“You’re finally awake!” She exclaimed, the witch had a happy tone “my saviour!”
Rory took a while to think, this small woman he now has in his palm looked so fragile. He let out a yawn.
“I want to see Conarght! I want to see the trickster!” She screamed, her tone changed from happy to anger.
“Why should I take you to him? You are no match for him in your current form” Rory batted back, the witch contorted with rage. She started chanting and rubbing her hands in a magic trance.
Sparks flew but nothing happened.
She tried again to no avail.
“What have you done??” She screamed, she fell on Rory’s hand and started biting and scratching. Rory grimaced, her biting and scratching was akin to a bee sting. Her words were venomous, she cursed at him. He was about to throw her when he came to his senses.
He put her on the ground.
She sat there for what seemed to be years, sobbing and crying about her lost magic.
“Marghartha, we must go. Do you want to leave?” He said tenderly “Margyle is waiting for us.”
With the mention of Margyle her ears pricked up and her tears did stop.
“Margyle? Is he still alive? I thought he’d have perished years ago!” She looked away deep in thought “must have been a true transformation, thought his mortality would have died.”
She stopped talking to herself out loud and turned to Rory.
“Very well giant” she looked up, how the tables had indeed turned “take me to Margyle, I want to know what he wants.”
“I can tell you already” Rory replied, Marghartha eagerly awaited him to go on. “He wants to give you that which he has not got…freedom.”
A single tear went down the witches left eye. She started to think she had made a mistake letting that man go, he truly had loved her.
She shook off the thoughts and retrieved her cold hard exterior. From an instant was a sad expression to a hardened cold grimace.
“Very well, take me there!”
Rory took her and put her on his shoulder, Rory didn’t see but she wept silently. He walked out the portal, it instantly closed behind him and he went to the guardian.
He asked the guardian to open a portal to the bottom of the Hawthorne tree nearest Margyles cove. A portal appeared and the Guardian winked.
“Just a moment! Before you go!” The Guardian yelled.
Rory stopped in his tracks, he wondered what possibly could the guardian want.
“Well, my greatest wish was to see Danu. You made it happen and I would like to offer you a free portal to your heart’s desire.” The Guardian shook his nose and started to sniff.
“Ah, yes! The purpose of this adventure. Where it all started , yes!” He kept sniffing “Rory, bring me your metal box.”
Rory brought his compass to the guardian, the guardian concentrated and sparks flew from his whole face and into the compass. The guardian looked happy and content.
“All you have to do now is hold it in your palm outright, think of your portal. It will be there, put your compass down to keep it open and pick it up to close.”
The Guardian was falling asleep “thank you for making my…wish…come…true” and he was asleep, snoring.
The witch tutted and rolled her eyes.
“Lazy git that one.” She retorted.
So they went through the newly created portal and arrived at the area where Rory had rowed across. Rory saw that the leaf was still there where he had docked it.
He started to row the boat and heard the familiar scraping of a sword on stone, it was coming from the tree. Looking up Rory saw the one eye of Magnus Barefoot looking around frantically.
Rory looked forwards shaking off the shivering anxiety. He pushed forward the dry leaf and started to paddle. The leaf took forever to sail but they got to the other side after two hours.
Marghartha sat on the dry ground with a sad expression. “What is my purpose now Rory?” The first time Rory had heard any sadness from her “My magic was my birthright, it was my innate ability to survive, create and destroy.”
Rory sat beside the tiny figure, he felt sorry for her. He tried to comfort her, he picked her up gently. He had to tread carefully with her feelings, he looked away in thought.
“Perhaps, if you had of used your magic for good…you might not be in this predicament.” Rory was matter of fact in his reply, not accusing.
The witch sadly shook her head.
“You know nothing of me, my history and what I had to go through. My family life was turbulent to say the least. But no more on it.” The small witch stood up “I’m going to try my best to get my magic back, Rory if only you understood. I’ve lost a part of my soul. I need it back.” She looked deep into Rory’s eyes “I need to find Conarght of the Gold!”
Rory put her on his shoulder.
“From what I hear bed a trickster and an imp, tell me about him” Rory retorted trying to help her feel better.
“Ah we fought for 100 years or so, he’s a leprechaun.” She stopped as Rory had a smile appear “what? You don’t believe me? You’ll believe in lazy wall guardians but not leprechauns.” He face was dismayed. Rory stopped smiling and she carried on.
“He appeared to me when some men tried to execute me for being a witch, I was however in the middle of ridding the world of an evil woman. A woman who had killed my lover, her husband. It’s not right but it’s the way love works. She poisoned him and she had to pay.
The leprechaun appeared and granted me three wishes, I used them unwisely. The last one I wished to live forever, a wish I’d come to regret. I did live forever but my body aged old like the one in that white room.
I searched for potions, lotions and spells to make me younger. I found the sap of the Hawthorne tree mixed with other ingredients can help you grow younger overnight. So I needed the samples and the trickster found me trying it, he would not allow it.
A week or two later I went to the tree, he was there and we ended up in a magic fight. Next thing I remember was being in that white room and the devil walking out.” She finished with a sigh.
“Don’t forget what you did to me!” Came a loud booming voice behind rory. It was Margyle.
Marghartha was terrified. He picked Rory up gently but only to see the tiny witch close.
“My love I have missed you” Margyle had wet eyes. Marghatha scoffed to which he shook his head. “I feel as though you have not changed” he sadly shook his head.
He clicked his fingers and produced a very tiny potion, smaller than a grain of sand. He put it on his other hand holding Rory. Rory bent down and took it, he gave it to the witch.
“That will reverse the height, I wish you luck.” With that he walked slowly away. “Find your own way out.”
“Margyle! Wait!” She hopped up and down, waving her arms. She gave up as soon as he left the light of his cove. Rory bent his head solemly. Poor guy he thought, still hoping for her.
The witch looked at the potion and then at Rory.
“Only one potion…” she grabbed it and gulped the liquid down. She smirked after at Rory.
Suddenly she was growing and growing her normal stature looked like a giant to Rory.
Her fingers curled as she rose and Rory heard her groan. As the transformation finished she looked down and snarled. Her face full of hatred, her foot came down nearly crushing Rory.
“You lost me my magic!” She roared like a lioness.
Rory took cover and hid.
“I’ll find you Rory! And you’ll be sorry!” She wailed.
Rory had an idea but he needed to be quick.