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of Tam OHare
© 2007, Scott Alan Roberts
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away, O, little child,
To the waters and the wild,
With a faerie hand in hand;
For the worlds more full of weeping
Than you can understand."
from William Butler Yeats
"The Stolen Child"
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MacDervish gripped the hilt of his sword tightly and kept very still,
pulling the makeshift hood of his feileadh mor up over his head.
Three soldiers were standing directly in front of the very bush in which
he was hiding, and were they any closer, Malcolm could have reached
out between the leaves and touched them.
The sun was starting to set in the west, transforming the sky from deep
azure blue to hues of gold and pink. In the bright slanted sunset light,
Malcolm could see his own golden breath on the cooling air. He slowly
inhaled and exhaled through his mouth with deliberate quietness, a skill
he had been developing for just such an occasion as this. Inside his
leafy hiding place he curled his body into a tight ball, pulling his
knees up under his kilt. Then wrapping the upper folds of wool around
his arms and head, he hoped to blend-in and remain unseen. Unseen, that
is, until the perfect moment offered itself, allowing him to launch
a surprise attack on the unsuspecting soldiers.
He was lucky. The soldiers gave no indication that they even suspected
he was there. They stood with their backs to him, engrossed, he imagined,
in frustrated conversation. To date, they had not yet been able to hunt
down "Malcolm MacDervish, the hero of Glenburrow, Scotland.
This pleased Malcolm to no end and he grinned gleefully in his silence.
He wanted them to remain oblivious to his presence, knowing that he
would need the element of surprise to be victorious against three professional
No, wait... not soldiers - knights! They were knights, he decided.
Evil Knights who were there to attack the families of his clan while
they slept in their beds that night. A good hero needs an equally bad
enemy, so Malcolm decided that these Knights were indeed heinously Evil.
If he could thwart their plans and slay them before they had a chance
to attack his village of Glenburrow, the name and deeds of Malcolm MacDervish
would be recited around the fires of his clan for generations to come!
At that very moment, a sparrow landed on the hawthorne branch that hung
low over the bush where Malcolm was concealed. He looked up at the bird
and put a finger to his lips in a futile hope that the small bird would
understand that it needed to keep quiet, making no noise that could
possibly attract the Evil Knights attentions. However, the motion
of Malcolms hand served only to startle the bird, who lit in a
flourish and flew away in a fluster of flapping wings and falling feathers.
"Im doomed!" Malcolm yelled inside his head, wincing
and gritting his teeth at the sudden betrayal of his hiding place, "Id
best attack now before all element of surprise has faded!"
At that, Malcolm bellowed a horrifying war cry and leapt out of the
bush with both hands gripping his sword high above his head. As he swung
down toward the first of the Evil Knights, the blade of his sword hit
the hawthorne branch above his head, sending the weapon flying out of
control. Malcolm looked at his empty hands in horrified shock, glad
that none of his friends were there to see him make such a bumbling
maneuver. He then put his hands on his hips, tipped his head back and
laughed at the Evil Knights.
"Think thats the end of me, eh?!" he boomed.
Then in one fluid motion he tucked and rolled to the ground, snatching
his sword from the dirt where it had fallen. While rolling back to his
feet, he made a wicked slice toward one of the Evil Knights, taking
his legs out from under him. Now back on his feet, Malcolm brandished
his sword and without hesitation began hacking away at the two remaining
evil knights. First a mighty blow to this ones head, then a hack
to that ones ribs.
And just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. The three Evil Knights
lay in a pile at Malcolms feet.
With a broad smile and a champions bravado, Malcolm tipped his
head back and howled the victors cry.
He then threw his wooden sword into the air and danced a victory jig,
kicking in all directions the hawthorne sticks that he had used to build
his imaginary Evil Knights. It wasnt often that a seven-year-old
hare saved his clan from destruction, and Malcolm was going to celebrate
this one to the hilt. Too bad his friends werent there to share
in this glorious victory.
Then it came. A wail on the wind. Like a banshee keening out the death
of some great Irish warrior.
Malcolm slumped his shoulders.
"Time to come in for your supper," the voice echoed from down
in the glen.
"Very weel, Motherrrrr!" Malcolm called back sullenly.
And wasnt that the way it always was? Just when he was having
the most fun, it was always time to come in for the night.
Malcolm stooped and picked up his toy sword and one of the hawthorne
"Tomorrow," he mused while pointing his wooden weapon at the
scattered hawthorne sticks, "I will come back with Hamish and Grigor,
and well rebuild you, you Evil Knights, and then well have
Then tucking his sword into his belt, he turned toward the cottages
in the glen and began to walk home, whacking the tops of the long grass
with the hawthorne twig as he went.
As he passed through the hawthorne grove near the tall blue-grey stones
that stood on the bank of the stream, he thought he heard the sound
of someone playing the pipes. The music didnt sound nearby, but
seemed as if it was being carried on the air from some far-off place.
Malcolm stopped to listen, cocking an ear slightly toward the sky.
The pipes continued to play.
The longer and louder they sounded, the more his memories were roused
of frightening bedtime stories told by his parents; tales of the beautiful
mysterious musics that would fill the air on nights when the Good People
- the faerie folk of the shadow lands - would appear.
His heart was suddenly filled with fear, his eyes growing wide as the
piping became more distinct. The music was haunting and beautiful all
at once, blending into the sound of wind. It seemed as if the birds,
the woods and all creation had grown silent around him save for the
soft, sweet, lulling music of the pipes. The sun dropped out of sight,
leaving a thin band of golden pink on the horizons edge while
the rest of the sky melted into a deep, dark bluish-black. Malcolm stood
still and alone in the grassy field, wanting to run toward the cottages
in the glen below, but somehow unable to move his feet. He was surrounded
by a soft bluish light that came from somewhere behind him.
The young hare, now wishing he had left for home much earlier, braved
a glance back over his shoulder and saw what looked like flickering,
blue firefly-like orbs filling the air from the midst of the hawthorne
grove. A shaft of light danced over his head, terrifying yet strangely
more beautiful and serene than autumn moonlight. The bluish iridescence
seemed to be alive, brimming full with shimmering wee folk all riding
the shaft of light as if it were a magic carpet dancing on the air.
The little people all wore green scarves about their necks and shoulders
in varying lengths, save for the one at the fore, who seemed to be leading
Malcolm had never seen the Good People before, to be sure, and he was
overcome with a curiosity that would not allow him to succumb to his
fright. He stood frozen in his place, crossed himself in Christian incantation
and watched the dancing faerie troupe float low on the air.
The faerie at the front of the troupe was a good deal larger than the
others, Malcolm observed, yet still as small as a little child. She
had bonnie long hair bound about with a strap that glinted like the
stars. She was more beautiful than any creature Malcolm had ever seen.
Then something very strange happened. The beautiful faerie at the front
turned aside and looked straight at Malcolm, who was immediately convinced
he had lived his last day on this earth. Floating softly on the air
before Malcolm, she stretched out her hand and touched her soft, cool
fingers to his lips.
her whisper echoed softly into the twilight mist, blending into the
beautiful melancholy of the pipes.
She gently took the hawthorne twig from Malcolms hand, then turned
and slowly floated back to the head of her troupe. In a fluid motion
they all glided up and over the hedge of hawthorne trees then down toward
the small cluster of cottages in the glen below.
Malcolm could not speak, nor think, nor move. His little body felt all
at once light and heavy, and his legs buckled beneath him. Sinking slowly
into the grass he could see the first stars of the new night twinkling
in the sky above him. He slowly closed his eyes and fell into a long,
dark, peaceful sleep.
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