The Sword of Paracelsus: “Follow The Stone!”, Part 4

Sword & Stone 2 001

“This is Taman,” announced Simon Brach, as he, Eochy, and Eny jumped ashore and dragged their little boat up the beach. “A headland of the promontory we call Mag Adair. Thus far the Stone has led us. We’ll stay until it moves on.”

No one felt inclined to argue. Least of all Morgan, whose arms were aching with the strain of incessant paddling and whose quivering heart was ready to leap from his chest after the fear, excitement, and uncertainty of their escape from the tower and precarious passage of the strait.

They gathered wood, built a fire, and shared a scant meal out of the meager rations of the Fir Bolg and the few provisions left in Eny’s bag. Then, as the twilight deepened and the stars glimmered overhead, they reclined on the grass in twos and threes and began to talk over their adventures. Baxter sidled up to John Izaak and had soon engaged him in deep and earnest conversation. Morgan, meanwhile, left his father’s side to join Eny on a green knoll above the water.

“Didn’t I tell you it would turn out this way?” he said, sitting down beside her.

She turned and looked at him, her blue eye glinting strangely in the fading light. “I don’t remember. What did you say?”

Morgan laughed. “You know! I’ve found my dad! We got the Stone of Destiny back! We beat the Morrigu! And now—” he glanced away for a moment before continuing “—now we can all go home.” Hesitantly, he reached out and touched her hand. “Together.”

She seemed oddly apprehensive. “Can we?” she said, withdrawing her hand. “Do we control that?”

“Why not? What else would we do?”

Eny didn’t answer. Instead, she reached into her bolg, took out a sling-stone, and shot it far out across the inlet. It fell into the dark green water with a tiny splash.

“You say we got the Stone back,” she said after a silence. “So what do you think happens now?”

“I told you! We’re finished here. We go home.”

“That’s not what I mean. What happens to the Stone? Do you think we just take it back to St. Halistan’s?”

“I don’t know. I guess not. The tower’s gone.”

“Exactly!” She pursed her lips, whirled the sling over her head, and sent another stone whistling out over the water.

Sheepishly Morgan reached for her hand again. “I’m not sure what you’re trying to say, Eny. But—well, you’ve been my friend all my life. You’re my sister and my … well, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want that to change. Not ever.”

Eny smiled sadly. “You’re sweet,” she said.

There was another long pause. Then Morgan said, “I have something for you.” Reaching into his own bolg, he drew out the Feth Fiada. “See? I found it on the floor of the Morrigu’s Hall. With this we can go home any time we want! At least that’s what she said.”

She took his hand in hers and pressed it. “You keep it, Morgan,” she said. “I already told you. It’s not about you and me going home whenever we want. It’s bigger than that.” Releasing his hand, she flopped down on her back. “We’d better get some sleep,” she said, gazing up at the stars. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen next. Or when it’s going to happen.”

Morgan’s heart was fluttering. “Guess you’re right,” he said. Then he too lay down.

After a few moments he turned his face toward her. She didn’t look back. Instead, keeping her eyes fixed immovably on the stars, she opened her bolg, pulled out the broken sword, and laid it between them in the grass. Then she rolled over on her side and fell asleep.


The sun was already high when they woke. There were voices and the sounds of hurrying feet on every side. Morgan sat up to find out what was going on and saw the other members of the party loading the last of their gear into the currachs and dragging them down to the water’s edge. Then he turned and saw the Stone Lia Fail floating away over the shining bosom of the jade-green inlet.

Simon Brach, who was standing on the strand directing the others, caught sight of them and waved.

“Missy!” he shouted. “Young Mr. Izaak! Lia Fail is on the move again! Back to the boats and follow the Stone!”

Without a word to one another they got up and ran down to the shore.

Sunset 001

Notes from Underground

Books 001

My own picture of the future is that our society is going in the next decades to be totally non-Christian; I mean its institutions, everything about it, will lose whatever relationship they now have with Christian religion. Then, I think, there will be people, in the very stressful circumstances that are likely to arise, who will still want to live as Christians, and I think they are much more likely to find themselves in the position of a Christian underground, a sort of maquis. I imagine the forces of paganism occupying our world, and the Christians drawn together in those conditions, rather as I remember surviving Christians in the U.S.S.R., who appealed to me very much. They seemed to me to be enormously pure – simply a collection of people who, in extremely hostile circumstances, clung to their faith, and tried to cling to their Christian way of life. This might easily happen, and I hope that if I were still alive, I should be among those people.

— Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered (1969)

The Sword of Paracelsus: “Follow The Stone!”, Part 3

Sidhe Map 001

They all looked up. Though it was still broad daylight, the air above them appeared to be filled with glittering stars. What’s more, the stars were growing. No, not growing, thought Morgan. Moving closer. They were in fact rising up from the steep black headland across the water and bearing down upon the flock of seabirds at a great rate.

“Flying ships!” shouted Eny.

Squinting at the approaching points of light, Morgan could see that she was right. Even now he thought he could make out the red and blue stripes of their billowing spinnakers. A second later he clearly discerned the flash and sparkle of the painted shields lining their gunwales. And then came a burst of blazing pinpricks, like sparks from a bonfire, as the airborne archers let loose a volley of steel-tipped arrows.

“What’s happening?” panted his father. “Is it good or bad?”

Very good!” answered Morgan. “It’s the Tuatha De Danann!”

“They’ve come from Taman!” Simon shouted. “That’s where the fleet is anchored!”

And now the arrows were whizzing and flashing around them like a deadly hailstorm. A shrill chorus of squawks and screeches rose from the throats of the stricken birds as hundreds of them splashed heavily into the water. The others rose up in a hurricane of flying feathers and wheeled back towards Tory Island.

“Hurrah!” shouted Morgan. “They’re running away!” But no sooner had the cheer left his lips than he felt John Dee’s bony hand upon his shoulder.

“Glory be!” cried Dee, once again pointing heavenward.

Following the old man’s trembling finger with his gaze, Morgan looked up and gasped. There was not a cloud in the sky, but the sky was parting like a curtain on a stage. The great blue dome itself was splitting from zenith to horizon. Within the widening crack, against a background like black velvet, shone a host of diamond stars. And looping down from the biggest and brightest of these stars, swaying above the sea like a ribbon of gold, swung the celestial stairway he had seen once before, on that fateful night at St. Halistan’s: Jacob’s Ladder. Its lowermost rung dangled directly above the surface of the floating Stone of Destiny. And upon the ladder, ascending and descending in rank upon luminous rank, were the terrible seraphim, fair-faced, many-eyed, eagle-winged, searing and burning like living coals in a red-hot furnace.

“E’en so they appeared to me, lo! these many years ago!” Dee murmured. “Edward never saw them!” he added emphatically, turning to Morgan’s father. “It was to me they taught their speech!”

Even as he spoke the vision faded and the shining stair withdrew. The edges of the rift in the sky drew together and the seam was tightly sealed once more. Dumb with wonder, Morgan watched the Danaan ships race away after the fleeing Fomorians. For an instant he thought he could discern a tiny spot of glossy black hurtling over Tory, far ahead of the rest of the flock. And then the entire cavalcade—the retreating cloud of birds and the pursuing specks of the glittering ships—disappeared beyond the heights of the island and went down unseen beneath the dim horizon.

The wind dropped and the waves fell flat. The current died and the sea fell still. On and on over the glassy water floated Lia Fail, nearer and nearer to the chalky cliffs on the further shore, the four currachs bobbing along behind it as if drawn by the Stone’s native magnetism. At last it rounded the tip of the headland and drifted into a calm inlet of smooth jade-green waters. There, as the sun touched the western horizon, it came to rest upon a wide, flat shoal of golden sand.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: “Follow The Stone!”, Part 2

Black Crow 001

“Dost expect me to swim?” asked John Dee as they gathered on a rainbow-misted rock above the foaming breakers.

Simon shook his head and nodded in the direction of the four Fir Bolg, who were already turning their belt-bags into sturdy round currachs. “We sail with the tide!” he said. “Missy—bring us those few bits of driftwood. We’ll need some paddles.”

In a few minutes they had the four little boats in the water. Eny boarded the first with Simon and Eochy. Morgan tumbled into the second with his father and John Dee. Slanga and Crimthann manned the third, while Sengann was left with the lethargic Baxter as shipmate. “Row, you slug!” they heard the cantankerous Fir Bolg shout as they launched out into the surf and spray.

No sooner had they got beyond the breaking water than a blast like a thunderclap drew Morgan’s gaze back towards the land.

“There she goes!” shouted Simon; and as they watched, the tower of Tur Morraigu collapsed into the bay, casting a plume of white spray high into the still blue air. In the next instant something that looked like a column of black smoke shot up from the crest of the plume.

As this dark pillar flattened out against the upper atmosphere, spreading over the sky like a net of shadow, the rowers in the boats could see plainly that it was not smoke at all, but a dense flock of seabirds—cranes, herons, terns, petrels, cormorants, and multi-colored gulls. And at the head of this feathered throng one great black bird, conspicuous for size and commanding in aspect, was leading the rest down towards the four little currachs in a massive swooping wedge.

“Bend your backs!” cried Simon. “Out into the current!”

Morgan picked up his piece of driftwood and cast a glance at his father. Smiling grimly, John Izaak grabbed his own paddle and thrust it into the sea. Together they began to row with every ounce of strength they had.

“Whither away?” yelled John Dee.

“Follow the Stone!” answered Simon, driving his boat up the glassy slope of a steep green wave.

“The Stone?” shouted Morgan.

“Yes!” said his father, pointing out across the whitecaps. “Over there!”

Morgan shaded his eyes and caught his breath. Was it possible? Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny, was floating on the surface of the water, exactly as in the picture in Rev. Alcuin’s book! He could see it, about twenty feet away, bounding over the crests of the jostling waves just as if it were a big piece of cork. The jagged sword blade sticking up out of its back made it look like a ship with a broken mast.

“By the beard of Erc!” cried a voice at Morgan’s ear. It was Sengann, who had just come alongside, paddling furiously while Baxter sat staring in the stern of the currach. “She’s going against the current! How do we follow that?”

“How indeed?” grunted John Izaak.

“Just keep rowing!” shouted Simon, whose craft was directly in front of theirs. “You’ll find out!”

So row they did. And at first it seemed to Morgan that the harder he strained, the greater grew the gap between the floating Stone and his fragile little currach. Nor was that the worst of it; for with every passing second the armada of flying Fomorians was getting closer. Already he could feel the wind of their wings on the back of his neck. Already he could hear their harsh cries echoing off the rocks.

Then, without warning, came a jolt from behind. Suddenly the currach was darting through the water like a torpedo. Morgan looked back to see what had happened. There was nothing there.

“Keep paddling!” shouted Simon. “Follow the Stone!”

And now they were tearing along, driven by some power they did not control, but which responded automatically to their feeble efforts to keep up with Lia Fail. For if they stopped rowing, this force faded like a dying wind; but as soon as they started again, it picked up and thrust them forward with all the energy of a violent gale. Out across the strait it carried them, away from Tory Island, straight towards the curving promontory of the mainland.

Morgan grinned, exulting in the speed of their flight. But a moment later he heard someone screaming in the next boat. He turned and saw Baxter Knowles standing in the currach, flailing his arms wildly in an attempt to drive off a big gull that was pulling out tufts of his hair with its beak. The birds were upon them!

“Stop your bawling and row!” shouted Sengann, taking a great swing at the gull with his paddle. But no sooner had he batted the bird away than the entire flock descended in a storm of flapping wings and jabbing bills.

“What now?” cried John Izaak, slapping a big cormorant with his oar.

Simon answered by pointing to the sky.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: “Follow The Stone!”, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

Grabbing Baxter by the hand, Morgan followed Eny up the aisle, through the twisted doors at the rear of the Great Hall, and out into the darkened corridor where the floor was thick with daggers of broken glass. There, through the reek of snuffed and smoking torches, he discerned a group of dusky silhouettes— Simon Brach, the four Fir Bolg, and his father with the frail John Dee perched upon his back. They were just turning down a narrow flight of stairs at the end of the hallway. Treading hard on the hem of Eny’s shadow, he plunged ahead and leapt down the steep winding steps after them.

It was a long, treacherous way down. At almost every turn huge stones fell thudding across their path. Several times the steps beneath their feet gave way and fell in bits and pieces into the steaming darkness below. When this happened, Morgan had to find a way to persuade the sluggish Baxter to jump over the holes and gaps. It was like trying to get a cow to dance a jig.

At last the stairway emptied out into an arched gallery paved with red tile and lined with stone pillars shaped like leering gargoyles and long-toothed ogres. At the far end of this lofty vestibule stood a tall double-leaved door of heavy, dark-grained oak, barred with heavy beams and iron girders.

“This is the way out,” explained Simon, as they all jostled up behind him.

“Hmph!” muttered old John Dee. “Much good may it do us!”

“Are we trapped?” asked Morgan’s father as the walls rumbled and the pillars shifted on their foundations.

Simon drew his sword. “Not this time.”

He touched the point to one of the oaken beams. Immediately the bars shot back and the girders fell jangling to the floor. The doors flew open and they found themselves gazing down a long, broad stairway leading to the gate in the outer wall. Beyond it rolled the billows of the restless sea.

“Everyone out!” shouted Simon. “Down to the shoreline!”

Morgan tugged at his companion’s arm as another bone-rattling concussion rocked the tower. But before he could get Baxter to budge an inch, Simon and Eny, who were already halfway down the stair, turned suddenly and began waving at him in great distress.

“Morgan!” they cried. “Behind you!”

He spun around. There in the shadowy corridor he saw a number of gigantic and fantastically misshapen figures thundering down upon him, their bulging eyes aflame with hate. Fomorians! The carven pillars had come to life!

Shoving Baxter ahead of him, he leaped down the stairs just as the first of the ogres and gargoyles smashed through the doorway, demolishing the frame and surrounding masonry with a single thrust of their powerful shoulders. An instant later the entire face of the tower crashed down on the monsters’ heads with a rush and a roar like a mountain avalanche. Without looking back, Morgan followed Simon and Eny down to the gate.

At the portal Simon dispatched the heavy locks and gratings just as deftly as he had managed the bolts and bars of the tower door. Then he lowered the drawbridge and they all trooped down to the water’s edge.

(To be continued …)

Great Issues

Books 001

Lord! How I loathe great issues. How I wish they were all adjourned sine die. “Dynamic” I think is one of the words invented by this age which sums up what it likes and I abominate. Could one start a Stagnation Party – which at the General Elections would boast that during its term of office no event of the least importance had taken place?

— C. S. Lewis, letter to his brother, 1940

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Third Angle, Part 3

Sword & Stone 2 001

And with that it was as if a floodgate had burst open. A deafening roar broke out in the hall. Screams and shouts mingled with the din of clashing blades. All in a moment Morgan found himself in the middle of a raging battle. His heart pounding, he raised the blue blade above his head and prepared to defend himself. But before he could get his bearings, someone seized the sword from behind and wrested it violently from his grasp. He whipped around to see who it was.

Baxter Knowles!

“Sorry, Izaak!” sneered Baxter. “But all’s fair in—aauuggh! My hands! My hands! Hot! Burning! Help! Help!”

As Morgan stood staring, Baxter dropped the sword and fell to the floor in a writhing heap. In the same instant Simon Brach, once again in the shape of the old custodian, appeared the midst of the melee.

“To me, lad!” he cried, waving frantically and pointing at the sword. “Quickly now!”

Morgan glanced back over his shoulder. The Morrigu, recovered from her sneezing fit, was bearing down upon him at full speed, her face a pale flame. Catching up the sword, he tossed it to Simon hilt-first. In turn, Simon snatched the glittering blade out of the air and ran with it straight to Eny, who was still fiddling away like a windmill in a hurricane.

Then came a blur as Morgan dodged to one side and ducked behind the lumbering shape of Falor. Darting and weaving, he fought his way through a confused mass of flailing limbs and swinging weapons until at last he reached the foot of the stairs. There he looked up and saw the Morrigu locked in a deadly embrace with the homunculus.

Thanks goodness! he thought as the two combatants fell and rolled together across the floor. She thinks it’s me!

Whirling around, he caught sight of Eny with the Sword of Parcelsus in her hands. She had laid her fiddle aside and was standing in front of Lia Fail with the point poised directly above the rough, pitted surface of the old gray stone. As he watched, she leaned forward and thrust straight down with all her might. To his great surprise, the Sword pierced the Stone as if it were nothing but a bale of hay. But as it did, the blade snapped off short in Eny’s hand. Then came a flash of light and a crash of thunder as Eny, recoiling from the blow, stumbled backwards with the hilt and the broken shard in her hand.

All at once a howl arose from somewhere amongst the tangle of tree-shaped pillars. The columns trembled and the whirling stars in the shadowy spaces above their intertwining branches sparked and fizzled and fell. There was a great shock as of a terrible earthquake and the stained glass window above the dais shattered into a million fragments. The whole tower shuddered and swayed. A pillar toppled and fell, crushing Falor son of Balor beneath its weight. Morgan looked around and saw the other Fomorian guards stampeding towards the door.

“A hand with this!” cried Simon Brach, who was now standing beside the Stone.

Jumping up the stairs to join the old janitor, Morgan turned and saw his father running beside him. Eochy was there, too, and Slanga and Crimthann. Eny came after them, and together they took a firm hold of Lia Fail and raised it from its resting place, broken blade and all. Then they bore it between them to the rear of the dais while Simon and Sengann dragged the marble pedestal to a spot just below the broken window and shoved it up against the oaken doors.

“Heave away, now!” ordered Simon, leaping to the top of the pedestal. With Sengann’s help, he reached down and assisted the others to raise the Stone to the level of the window sill. “One—two—three! Up and over she goes!”

Hands and shoulders to the Stone, they shoved and lifted with every ounce of strength they had. At last, with a heavy, grating sound, Lia Fail slid over the crumbling sill and toppled out the window. Morgan jumped up beside Simon just in time to see it crash into the turbid waves at the base of the tower far below. In the same instant a terrible, blood-curdling screech rent the air as, between the shards of broken glass, a great black bird hurtled out the window and plummeted into the sea after the Stone.

“After me, now, all of you!” cried Simon, leaping down the steps. “We haven’t a moment to lose!”

Then he dashed off down the aisle while bricks and stars and beams and branches fell crashing around him on every side. John Dee, John Izaak, and the four Fir Bolg followed close behind.

“Hurry, Morgan!” shouted Eny, gathering up her fiddle and the broken sword as the tower heaved and lurched violently beneath their feet.

Morgan looked up. There on the pavement beside the shattered remains of the homunculus lay the forgotten Feth Fiada. Quickly he snatched it and shoved it into his bolg. As he did, he heard a moan and turned to see Baxter Knowles lying prone on the floor, whining and whimpering but apparently none the worse for wear.

“Get up!” said Morgan, helping the other boy to his feet. “We’ve got to get out of here fast!”

 Sunset 001

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Third Angle, Part 2

Alchemist 2 001

“I also am a man who keeps his promises,” said Dee with a glance in Ollamh’s direction. “So then. The seven letters spell two words. Zir signfieth ‘I am’ in the Enochian tongue. And deh-veev—”

Deh-veev!” whispered Ollamh.

“—means ‘the Third Angle.’”

John Izaak put a hand to his forehead. “The Missing Key!” he said.

“The Missing Key?” echoed Eny, apparently in great distress. “The Third Angle? Oh, Morgan! What have you done?”

Morgan felt dizzy and confused. He heard all of these words but understood none of them. He knew only that the Morrigu had taken possession of his precious sword and didn’t seem inclined to give it back. Hardly realizing what he was doing, he broke away from his father, bolted towards the enchantress, and seized the shining blade.

“Give it back!” he shouted. “It’s mine!”

Immediately shouts rang out on every side. Weapons rattled and clashed. The Fir Bolg drew their long knives. Falor and the other Fomorian guards unsheathed their swords. Ollamh Folla raised his own blade and prepared to strike. But the Morrigu merely lifted a hand and looked down at Morgan with an imploring expression on her pale oval face.

“Morgan, Morgan,” she said in her most soothing tone. “I know how much this pretty sword means to you! And yet I too would dearly love to have it. Do you think we might we come to an understanding?”

Morgan stared up at her. His head was swimming, but he kept his hands clasped tightly around the sword.

“I’ll be direct,” she said. “Would you like to barter?”

Confused, he shook his head. He had no idea what she meant.

“Let me show you.” The Morrigu reached into the voluminous folds of her black gown and drew out something like a lump of shadow or a rumpled piece of cloud. Holding it up between her forefinger and her thumb, she let the shimmery gray material unfold and drop down to the floor like a veil of rain.

“Hey!” shouted Eny. “That’s mine! My Feth Fiada!”

The Morrigu smiled. “With this, Morgan, you and your father can return at once to your home in the Overworld. All you have to do is join hands and cast the cloak over your shoulders.”

“Really?” This seemed too good to be true.

“Yes. And I will give it to you. In exchange for the sword.”

“No!” cried Eny. “Don’t do it!”

“On the other hand,” continued the enchantress, “if you refuse, I could decide to make use of the cloak myself. Here beside me stands your father. In the blink of an eye—before your brave rescuers are able to lift a finger—I can whisk him away with me to some place where you will never, ever find him again. I can do it instantly. Your little friend over there—” she nodded in Eny’s direction “—knows that I can.” She ended with a winsome smile.

Morgan gazed up into her beautiful face. The warm, sleepy feeling was weighing heavily upon him and making his eyelids droop. Why not? he thought. Dad and me, back home with Mom again. That’s why I came, isn’t it?

He looked at the Morrigu and nodded dumbly. As if in a dream—though still without releasing the sword—he reached out for the Feth Fiada. “Yes,” he mumbled. “Yes, I’ll trade you for it.”

He was about to lay hold of the cloak when a sound like an audible beam of light, pure and intense as a liquid ray of the sun, fell upon his ear and pierced his brain. He knew at once what it was: music—clear, sweet music of a kind he had heard many, many times before. Turning his head in the direction of the strain, he caught a glimpse of Eny, her feet planted firmly at the edge of the dais, her head thrown back, her fiddle under her chin. She was standing beside the slobbering homunculus, sawing away for all she was worth, the bright notes flying like sparks from the end of her darting bow.

Instantly the debilitating torpor vanished. Morgan was himself again, and he knew it. He snapped his hand away from the cloak as sharply as if he had just touched a hot stove. Tingling with a strength and vitality he didn’t know he possessed, he shoved the Morrigu aside and sprang back a step.

There was a fierce, all-consuming light in the enchantress’s eye as she recovered her balance and swung around to lay hold of him. Bracing himself for her onslaught, Morgan gripped the sword tightly. But then, as Eny’s music rang out loud and strong, another idea suddenly occurred to him. Instead of striking with the blade, he grasped the golden pommel and gave it a vigorous twist.

Against all expectation, it screwed open as easily as the lid of a jam jar. Holding his breath, he looked inside and found the globe filled with powder: a fine, pinkish-white powder like flour or powdered sugar. He glanced up—already she was in mid-air, pouncing like a cat. Without thinking, he grabbed a handful of the stuff and flung it into her face.

“Monster!” she spluttered, sneezing uncontrollably and falling back with her hands over her eyes. “Horrible brat! Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!”

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Third Angle, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

Morgan rolled over onto his back. His head was sore. Everything was spinning.

Rubbing his neck, he raised himself on one elbow and looked up. A pair of glowing green eyes smiled down at him through the fog. A delicate white hand reached out and touched his arm. He felt groggy. Without thinking, he grasped the hand and struggled to his feet.

“Morgan Izaak!” The Morrigu drew him close and kissed his forehead. “Dear Morgan! Welcome! What is this you have brought me?”

She bent down and picked up the sword—and as her fingers closed upon the handle, a kind of shudder ran round the hall. Ollamh Folla tensed and sprang forward a step. “Fragarach!” he breathed.

“The Sword of Paracelsus!” muttered old John Dee.

Slowly Morgan’s eyesight began to clear. He saw his father move forward and step between him and the enchantress.

“Dad!” he said, reaching for him. “It is you! I’d know you anywhere!”

John Izaak gripped him by the shoulders. “And I you! If only we had time to talk—there’s so much we need to say! But right now there’s just one thing you’ve got to tell me: where did you get that sword?

Morgan blinked. “I—I found it,” he stammered.


He pointed at the Morrigu. “In her shop. In Santa Piedra. Why?”

“It shouldna be here at all,” Eochy said ominously.

Morgan’s father turned and peered intently at the little man. “You!” he said. “I don’t even know your name. But I remember you well. You’re the one who told me to hide it in the old hotel! That’s what I did. So how in the world—?”

“Tush, man,” interrupted Eochy. “That’s easily told! I put the thing in her shop myself! It’s in her umbrella stand I left it! Ha! ‘What better hiding place,’ says I, ‘than right under the old girl’s nose?’” And with that he and the other three Fir Bolg burst out laughing.

The enchantress glared at them venomously before turning back to Morgan.

“Pay them no mind,” she said gently, taking the boy by the hand. Then she pointed to the inscription on the blade. “Tell me about these pretty markings. Have you ever seen writing like this before?”

Ogham inscription 001

“I have,” Morgan answered—and as he spoke a warm, dreamy feeling stole over him. “It’s called Ogham. Rev. Alcuin told me that.”

Ollamh Folla seemed alarmed. John Izaak opened his mouth to speak. But Morgan, who was feeling extremely comfortable and pleased with himself, pressed on.

“It says ‘In exile. To divide and bind.’” He turned and looked at the Danaan chief. “You said so yourself.”

The Morrigu gave him another kiss. She was very beautiful. Never, thought Morgan, had her eyes appeared so lovely. They seemed illumined from within by the light of some profound revelation. “Please go on!” she urged.

He put his finger on the crossguard. “These letters are Enochian—my dad knows all about that. But the words are Latin. They say, ‘Where the sister and spouse is. Under the stairs of Jacob.’

“I see!” purred the enchantress. “How interesting!”

The scent of her hair was rich and heady in his nostrils. The smoothness of her skin was like cooling ointment upon his hand. She turned the sword over.

“You have been very helpful so far,” she said. “But what about this last inscription?” She ran her fingertips over the seven mysterious letters:


 “I’d like very much to know what that says. Can you read it?”

Morgan was struggling to keep his eyes open. “N-no,” he mumbled.


Suddenly he felt himself thrust violently aside. His father caught and held him just before he fell. Stunned, he glanced up and saw the Morrigu pointing to the inscription on the handle. “Can anyone here read this?” she demanded.

A great hush fall over the hall. The air itself seemed to crackle with tenseness. The guards shuffled in their places. Ollamh Folla took another step towards the Morrigu. The Fir Bolg dropped Lia Fail with a thud and put their hands to their weapons. And then a thin, cracked voice broke the silence:

“I can.”

Every head turned. Morgan, too, looked around to see who had spoken.

It was the old alchemist, John Dee.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: “Behold Your Son!”, Part 2

Sword & Stone 2 001

At the sound of her voice, Simon raised his sword and charged straight up the aisle. Falor and the rest of the fumbling Fomorians gave way before him like chaff before the wind. His companions, four wiry little men carrying long knives and short spears, followed closely on his heels. Eny knew them well: Eochy, Sengann, Slanga, and Crimthann.

“It’s Simon!” Eny shouted to Baxter. “He’s come to rescue us!”

Baxter brightened. “We saw them! Morgan and me! Outside on the hill!”

“Stand back!” ordered Simon, halting directly in front of the Morrigu and throwing back his hood. As he did so, his gray hair flashed gold, his grizzled chin grew smooth and firm, and in the blink of an eye he was Ollamh Folla, the valiant Danaan king.

“Welcome, Lord Folla!” said the enchantress, curtseying and extending a hand. “A pleasure to see you again!”

Ollamh turned her hand aside with the flat of his sword. “I did not fight my way here to engage in pleasantries. Neither the Maiden nor Lia Fail are of any use to you now. I know your powers and your tricks. But this time I come armed with powers of my own. So make way!”

To Eny’s great wonder, the Morrigu obeyed. With a demure bow, she lifted the hem of her robe and glided softly to the foot of the stairs, where she stood with downcast eyes.

“Let the girl go!” snapped Ollamh, pointing his sword at the two Fomorians who were standing guard over Eny. Reluctantly, they sheathed their weapons and withdrew, plainly cowed in the presence of the Danaan chieftain.

“Secure the Stone!”

Instantly the four Fir Bolg clambered up the steps and surrounded Lia Fail while the king, with a nimble leap and a swipe of his blade, severed the grasping branches, setting Dee and Izaak free.

“You see I keep my promises,” he smiled as he removed the prisoners’ chains and helped the old alchemist to his feet.

“Now I warn you!” he shouted, leaping to the top of the platform and waving his blade in the face of the bewildered Fomorians. “No one moves from this spot until we are well away! That means everybody!” he added, casting a fierce glance at the Morrigu. “Eochy! Bring Lia Fail!”

Eochy whisked away the silk shroud and the four Fir Bolg lifted the Stone gently from its resting place.

“Follow me!” cried Ollamh, taking Eny by the hand and escorting her down the steps.

“Wait!” she said, pointing at Baxter Knowles. “We can’t go without him!”

Ollamh paused. “Baxter!” he exclaimed. “Here? Now?” Apparently he had failed to notice the boy until that very moment. A look of consternation clouded his brow. “But where …?” His glance darted to the face of the sham Morgan. “Surely this can’t be …?”

At this, a silver peal of laughter rang out in the hall.

“How thoughtless of me!” said the Morrigu with a slight wave of her hand. “Of course I have forgotten to introduce my other guest! You can’t leave without saying hello!”

For the third time she clapped her hands. One of the oaken doors at the rear of the dais swung open. Out stepped two more armed guards with another prisoner between them: a thin, yellow-haired figure with a rumpled leather bag at his belt.

“Morgan!” cried Eny.

The enchantress snapped her fingers and the guards hustled the boy across the platform, making him stand side by side with the dead-eyed homunculus.

Eny looked at John Izaak. John Izaak returned her gaze. “Morgan?” he said. “Is it really Morgan?”

“Morgan indeed!” sang the enchantress. “Two Morgans, in fact! Ha ha! Son, take a good look at your father! Father—behold your son! Oh, but wait! You don’t know for sure which is the real Morgan, do you? Hmm. Tricky, isn’t it?” She paused and smiled. “If I point him out to you, will you tell me what I want to know?”

“Don’t listen to her!” shouted Eny. “I can show you the real one!”

Up the steps she dashed. But before she could reach him, Morgan broke away from his Fomorian attendants and lurched past her with a cry.

“Dad!” he exclaimed. “I’ve found you! I’ve found you at last!”

And with that he leaped down from the dais, stumbling over his own feet and falling in a disheveled heap at the base of the stairs. As he fell, the bag at his waist burst open. There was a blue flash and a loud metallic clang as a long, bright object spilled out upon the floor. Every head turned. Every eye stared.

There, gleaming brightly on the pearly pavement, right at the Morrigu’s feet, lay the Sword of Paracelsus.

Sunset 001

The Sword of Paracelsus: “Behold Your Son!”, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

Veiling the lower part of her face, the enchantress reached into the folds of her robe, drew out the Feth Fiada, and swept it over the scene. There was another explosion of light. When Eny opened her eyes, she and her companions were standing outside the Great Hall of Tur Morraigu.

“Escort them within!” ordered the Morrigu.

The brass doors swung open. Eight strong-armed, spear-bearing Fomorians drove the captives in under the ceiling of pinwheel stars and down along the pavement of luminescent pearls until they arrived at the raised platform in front of the hall.

“Take her to the Stone.”

A sharp pain, like the bolt of an electric shock, shot up over Eny’s shoulders and across her back as two guards grasped her by the arms, carried her up the steps, and plumped her down in front of Lia Fail.

“Face me, Maiden!”

Eny obeyed. As she turned, she saw the horrible homunculus slouching beside the marble pedestal, its head inclined to one side, a tiny trickle of drool dribbling from the left corner of its slack-lipped mouth. In the same instant she caught sight of the white, terror-stricken face of Baxter Knowles. Baxter was standing directly opposite her in the grip of another pair of lumbering giants, staring incredulously at the counterfeit Morgan. Don’t worry, she mouthed silently. It isn’t him.

The dark woman extended a hand to Dee and another to Izaak. “Honored scholars!” she said. “A word of advice!”

Neither man responded. Both stood stock still, gazing straight ahead.

Drawing near to John Izaak, the Morrigu took his arm and kissed his cheek. “Sweet friend,” she murmured, “where have I gone wrong?”

The shadow of a smile crossed Izaak’s lips. “How much time do you have?”

She bent closer. “We understand one another, I think. Lia Fail is here. The Maiden is here. What’s missing?”

“You tell me.”

Her green eyes hardened. She turned to John Dee.

“And what of you, old man?” she said. “Wouldn’t you like to be set free?”

No answer.

“Is it possible you find my dungeon so appealing?”

The ancient alchemist scowled.

The Morrigu rose to her full height and clapped her hands. Immediately two long, supple boughs, like living serpents, slithered down out of the nearest of the pillar-trees. One seized John Izaak by the right wrist. The other took a firm hold of Dee by the left.

“My intent is not to hurt,” she soothed as the coiling branches snapped upwards, yanking the two prisoners into the air. “Only to persuade. Now—how do I consummate this marriage?”

A slight moan escaped Dee’s lips. John Izaak glared down sternly at his tormentor. “You’ll never know,” he said.

“What do you mean? Why not?”

“The key,” he grunted as he swung from side to side, “is lost.”

“The key?”

Izaak grimaced and shook his head.

“Falor! Loosen his tongue!”

The hulking Fomorian stepped forward and looped chains around the prisoners’ ankles. This done, he produced hooks and fastened a pair of iron weights to the end of each chain. Again the Morrigu clapped her hands. The boughs tensed and flexed, raising the writhing figures higher above the floor.

“What is ‘the key?’ Tell me before I tear you limb from limb!”

Unnnhh!” wailed Dee.

Eny felt as if her heart would burst. Looking up, she saw Morgan’s father dangling at the end of the branch, his face a pale mask of pain. Hot tears welled up in her eyes. “Stop it!” she cried. “You’ll kill him!”

“Not yet,” smiled the enchantress.

Louder and more pitiable grew the groans of John Dee. He seemed struggling to speak. “Carbonek!” he gasped at last. “I cast it into Carbonek!”

The dark woman went and stood directly below the old alchemist, her face livid, her eyes glowing. “The stream that runs beside the Gral Castle?”

Dee looked down. He winced and opened his mouth. But before he could utter another word there arose a din of clashing weapons, sharp cries, and shattering masonry at the rear of the Great Hall. In the next instant the brazen doors flew open and five armed figures burst into the room. At their head strode a tall, lanky warrior, cloaked, hooded, and brandishing a blade of bright steel. Eny recognized him at once.

“Simon!” she cried, her heart leaping within her. “Simon Brach!”

(To be continued …)