Category Archives: Sword and Stone

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Third Angle, Part 3

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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!”

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The Sword of Paracelsus: The Third Angle, Part 2

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“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

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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?”

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“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

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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.

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

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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 …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 4

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The circular walls of the arcade were pierced by five arches opening into five passageways. They radiated outward from the dome-roofed space like the spokes of a wheel. Except for the one that stood opposite their own, these five corridors were identical. All were wide and lofty. All were perfectly straight. All were paved with shiny black flagstones. All came to a dead stop at a stone wall about fifty feet from the circle center. All of them, that is, but the one directly in front of Eny and her companions.

That passage had door at its further end.

It was a curious-looking door. More like the door of a country cottage than the portal of a prison. It was a narrow green wooden door with a brass doorknob and a square window. There were red curtains on the window, and through the frosted glass a beam of yellow light slanted down gently to the floor.

“A way out!” cried Eny.

As she spoke, a great clash of arms echoed in the corridor behind them.   The Fomorian guards were on their heels! The instant they saw Eny and her companions they cast their weapons aside, dropped on all fours, and took on the form of four snarling wolves. On they came, their red tongues lolling from their dripping jaws. Eny spun around and charged for the door, dragging Baxter by the hand.

“Right behind you!” cried John Izaak, who was still carrying the aged Dee on his back. “Don’t slow down on my account!”

Eny sprang forward. In one great bound she reached the door, grasped the brass knob, twisted it, and gave a slight push. The door yielded easily, swinging open without a sound.

Immediately a blast of heat and light, like the glare of a raging furnace, poured in through the opening. She flinched and shaded her eyes. Looking up, she became aware of a tall, dark woman standing on the threshold at the heart of the blinding glow.

“Here at last!” said the Morrigu, her voice sweet and mellow as a ripe summer fruit. “I’m so glad you could make it. We need to talk.”

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The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 3

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At length they came to a place where the passage divided into three branches.

“Which way now?” said Baxter, tightening his grip on Eny’s wrist.

“Straight ahead—we’ll stick to the middle road,” she answered. John Izaak nodded in confirmation.

“And let go of me, would you?” said Eny, slapping Baxter’s hand. “I never gave you permission to touch me!”

As they followed the climbing middle path, they became aware that narrow side-passages were beginning to enter the main corridor at odd, random angles. Some breathed icy air from their murky depths. Some reeked of smoke and sulfur. Some were black as midnight. Others were faintly illuminated with the warm glow of flickering torches.

In time they came to a wider side-avenue. As they approached, Eny could see its walls pulsing with light. Signaling a halt, she glanced quickly around the corner.

“Fomorians!” she hissed, pulling back sharply. “A guard station or something!” She inched her eye past the edge of the wall a second time.

What she was looking at was not a passage at all but a large arching alcove. In the left wall burned a brilliant fire on a wide stone hearth. Over the flames hung a seething black cauldron. At the further end of the recess stood a rickety wooden table. And around the table, on creaking wooden crates, sat four grizzled, bald-headed giants in shirts of clinking chain-mail and heavy black boots. They were slurping rank-smelling stew from deep wooden bowls, laughing and belching loudly as they ate. Against the nearer wall stood a disarrayed heap of spears, swords, and brass-riveted shields.

Eny looked back at Izaak and Baxter. “We may be able to slip past if we’re quick and quiet,” she whispered. “Can you manage?”

“I’ll try,” Izaak replied.

A peal of loud laughter burst from the feasting Fomorians. Eny seized Baxter’s hand and dashed out into the open. In the same instant a rat darted across her path.

“Aaaack!” screamed Baxter, flinging himself against the wall with a heavy thud.

“Alarum! Alarum!” bellowed one of the guards, jumping to his feet.

He lunged for his spear and shield, but tripped and fell over one of his comrades. A clamor and a ruckus followed as each of the four guards strove to be the first out of the arched recess.

“This way!” shouted Eny, shoving Baxter down the gallery.

Just beyond the guard station they reached a place where three different intersecting tunnels converged upon the main passage. One veered slightly to the right. Another came in from the left. The last seemed to bend back sharply in the direction from which they’d come. Eny took the third path.

“Are you still with me?” she called back over her shoulder.

“Yes!” answered John Izaak. “I think they took a different route!”

“Good! Keep moving!”

The passage grew steeper as they pressed on, becoming at length a narrow winding stairway. There were no torches here, so Eny and her companions had to navigate the twists and turns of the rising shaft by the sense of touch alone.

Reaching the top of the stair, they stepped out into a wide, brightly illuminated stone gallery. It sloped upwards to the left.

“Now what?” gasped Baxter.

“Up!” answered Eny. “Always up!”

They followed the sloping grade until it opened out into a wide circular arcade with a smooth, tiled floor and a high vaulted ceiling. Near the top of the dome six narrow slits shone bright with daylight.

“Ground level at last!” exclaimed Eny.

“Yes!” said Izaak. “And that’s not all. Look there!”

Following his finger, Eny gazed across the beehive-shaped chamber and saw something that caused her heart to jump.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 2

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“You!” exclaimed Eny. “What are you doing here?”

He brought me,” Baxter said sulkily, pointing at the indisposed guard. “They were going to make me room with you. They said you deserved it. I’m not sure what they meant by that.”

“Where’s Morgan?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere else.”

There was a soft rattle of falling stones and gravel as Dee and Izaak re-emerged from the tunnel. Eny turned in time to see John Dee stumble and stagger against the wall. John Izaak hurried over and took her by the hand.

“Who is this?” he said, gazing wide-eyed at Baxter; and then, catching sight of the bulky shape on the floor—“Is he dead?”

“Unconscious, I think,” she answered. “Come on!”

Yanking Baxter to his feet, she rushed out into the passage.

“Follow me, Dee!” cried John Izaak. “As I expected, our escape has come about in an entirely unexpected fashion!”

Without looking back to see if the others were behind her, Eny took off running down the narrow torch-lit corridor. It appeared to have been hewn from living rock. Thick oaken doors like the door to her own cell were set into its dripping walls on either side every twenty feet or so, and in between the doors red torches flared and guttered in heavy iron sconces. Big black spiders hung from the ceiling in dirty ragged webs. The air was stale and damp, and the whole place smelled like a sewer.

The passage ran on in a straight line for about a hundred feet before curving slightly to the right. Rounding this bend, Eny threw a glance back over her shoulder. Neither Baxter, Izaak, nor Dee were within sight, but she could hear their splashing footsteps, for the floor was covered with half an inch of stagnant water.

“Hurry!” she called out, pausing to let them catch up.

Baxter was panting heavily by the time he came around the curvature in the wall, but that was the least of Eny’s concerns. For when the two older men came into view she could see at once that they would never be able to keep up the pace. Thin, haggard, and worn as he was, Morgan’s father was lurching along with the lanky Dee perched precariously on his back. The bony arms of the ancient alchemist were wrapped around John Izaak’s neck, and his tangled beard was flowing down over his chest.

“He says he can’t walk,” gasped Izaak.

“Are you sure?” said Eny, drawing near and looking up into Dee’s watery eyes.

Dee glared back and said nothing.

I’m sure,” said Izaak, with a weary shake of his head. “Maybe you’ll know how he feels someday. If you live to be four hundred years old.”

“Four hundred!” spluttered Baxter, backing away from the two bearded men with an expression of pure terror in his pale gray eyes.

“Let’s keep moving,” said Eny. “We’ll go slower from now on.”

They forged ahead, then, Baxter sticking as close to Eny as possible, Izaak sloshing along in the rear with his burden. The corridor continued to curve, first to the right, then to the left, then to the right again. After a while they began to get the distinct impression that it was spiraling upwards. There were fewer doors in the walls now, and fewer torches between them. The light grew dimmer and smokier as they plodded forward.

The only window they ever came across was a sort of large round porthole glazed with thick wavy glass. Through it they could see a shimmering, swaying world of coral and kelp and darting schools of silver fish. As Eny peered out, a big black fish with a gaping mouth, three rows of sharp teeth, and two glowing green eyes swam up and glared at her through the glass.

“Look!” she exclaimed. “This part of the tower is actually under water!”

“As one might have guessed,” Dee mumbled ironically, glancing down at the floor.

“Thank God,” breathed Izaak, “that we never succeeded in breaking through an exterior wall!”

Every so often dark shapes scrambled out of holes and splashed across the passage in front of them. Feverish-looking eyes glittered in the shadows of several larger openings in the rock. Often, as they passed the door of a cell, they could hear the faint echoes of moans and cries within. Once there was a blood-curdling screech that made Baxter yelp and grab Eny by the arm.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Labyrinth, Part 1

Dungeon 001

The big key clanked heavily in the lock. Slowly the iron-studded, brass-bound, triple-ply oaken door began to move, squealing on its rusty hinges.

“Back to your own cell!” whispered Eny, shoving John Izaak towards the opening in the wall. “Him too!” she added, indicating Dee, who was standing in the middle of the floor like a great awkward bird.

“But what will you do?” protested Izaak, ducking into the hole and dragging Dee after him.

“You’ll see. Just wait for me on the other side.”

Bracing herself for what was to come, Eny took her sling and sack of stones and crouched in the shadow of the tunnel. Fitting a stone into the sling’s pouch, she held her breath and watched the creaking door.

That’s when she noticed that her hand was trembling. The thought of striking anybody—even a brutish Fomorian—was repulsive to her. It went against the grain of her temperament. It contradicted all of her most deeply cherished convictions. She didn’t want to do it. And yet it had to be done. Closing her eyes, she groped for courage in the darkness.

In that instant a vision rose before her. She saw herself standing beside a shallow ford in the middle of a wide green plain, taking aim at the pursuing Fomorians while the Fir Bolg made a feckless attempt at self-defense. She saw the sling whirl above her head. She saw the stone flash forth like lightning. Then the image faded.

It won’t be the first time, she told herself, taking a firm grip of the sling and stepping out into the cell.

The creaking door swiveled inward.

But what was this? Not one but two guards! Two dark shapes silhouetted in black against the ruddy light of the corridor. The first was huge, hulking, and apish. The one behind it was smaller and shorter, but still too big for Eny to tackle single-handed.

She hadn’t planned on this. She could only hit one mark at a time. For a split-second she hesitated, wondering what might happen if the second of the two guards were to raise an alarm while she tried to re-load. But it was too late to change her mind. In one swift motion she whipped the sling over her head, snapped her arm forward, and released the cord. The stone shot across the chamber like a bullet.

Thwack! Without so much as a whimper, the big round-headed Fomorian pitched forward and crashed to the floor like a load of bricks.

“Mr. Izaak! Help me!” shouted Eny, reaching for another sling-stone. “There are two of them out here!”

But even as her voice rang out, the second figure dropped to its knees and raised its arms above its head.

“Don’t hurt me!” it pleaded. I’ll do anything you say!”

Eny let the sling fall to her side and took two steps towards the doorway. She looked at the person kneeling there, then rubbed her eyes and looked again.

It was Baxter Knowles.

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Vision on the Stair, Part 3

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“Yes,” responded John Izaak. “The stairs of the tower at St. Halistan’s Church. I had been to see my friend Peter Alcuin. Among other things, we talked about Lia Fail. For reasons I won’t go into now, I felt compelled to climb the tower stairs when I left his office. I wanted to have a look at the stained-glass window above the first landing.”

“Jacob’s Ladder,” Eny interposed

He eyed her curiously. “Yes. I was standing there on the last stone step—”

“The step just below the landing!”

“—when all at once I felt very strange. Everything started spinning. The step itself began to vibrate and glow. The walls of the tower shook and cracked and expanded, and the golden ladder in the picture trembled and stretched. Up and up it soared, crashing through the roof and out into the sky. Down rolled its sparkling rungs until its feet touched the stairs.”

“And there were creatures going up and down the ladder—right?”

“There were. But not like those in the stained glass. Oh, no! They were the oddest, most terrifying, most awe-inspiring creatures I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“More like fire than living flesh.”

“With terrible wings, wings full of eyes. And their faces were the faces of men, women, eagles, oxen, lions, lambs.”

Dee fell to his knees, grasping Izaak by the remains of his coat-lapel. “The angels!” he cried. “Then thou hast seen them too!”

“Perhaps,” responded Izaak. “Though I had never pictured them looking quite like that!”

“Angels they were in sooth!” insisted the old alchemist. “I know, for they taught me the Enochian tongue!”

“Well, they didn’t speak Enochian on this occasion. I would have recognized that, because I’d been studying your Primer. No—they spoke good, plain English. And the first thing they said was, ‘Take off your shoes! You are standing upon Jacob’s Pillow-stone!’”

“So that’s how you knew!” said Eny.

“Yes. And I was pleased, for I saw that my theories had been leading me in the right direction.”

“What else did they say?”

“They said, ‘Protect the talisman that has fallen into your hands. This Stone is its Sister and its Spouse.’”

Dee nodded sagely. “Thus saith my inscription.”

One of your inscriptions,” corrected Izaak.

“What inscriptions?” said Eny. “I don’t understand.”

“Never mind now. The last thing they told me was the most important of all: ‘Expect a small man bearing a message.’”

“A small man!”

“That’s right. And once they had said that, the vision went out like a snuffed candle. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the front steps of my house with the sun coming up over the eastern hills. My wife wept when she saw me because she thought I’d been drinking again. But it wasn’t so.”

There was a long silence. At last Izaak continued:

“I believed I knew the small man to whom the vision referred. I had seen just such a person many times before, standing at her elbow when she came to confer with me in my study late at night. I had no idea what sort of message he might bring. I feared it with all my being. But when it came—and came it did—everything fell into place.”

Eny was breathless. “Are you going to tell us what it was?”

Izaak removed his spectacles and wiped them on his sleeve. “He met me one afternoon on the steps of the Linguistics Institute. I recognized him at once. His face and form were unforgettable—long nose, bald head, short legs, arms and hands that seemed much too large for him. He was dressed all in black and had an odd little leather bag dangling from his belt. When he saw me, he spoke no word, but grasped my sleeve, opened his bag, pulled out a bit of folded yellow paper, and pressed it into my hand. Then he was gone.”

He paused, then glanced over at Dee. “Can you guess what was at the top of the page? It was the other inscription—the one I have never been able to decipher. Perhaps you can decipher it for me now?”

Dee bowed his head and said nothing.

“You know the one I mean,” Izaak went on. “It looked like this—”

Leaning forward, he scrawled seven strange characters in the white dust on the floor:




“I’m familiar with the first word—zir, ‘I am.’ But the second—D-V-I-V—remains unknown to me. I’ve never been able to find it in any of the vocabulary lists extracted from the nineteen Enochian Calls. I don’t even know how to pronounce it. What I did know at the time was that the writing on the paper was intended as a cipher or a clue. It represented the inscription on the ‘talisman’ in my possession. That much was clear.”

“But was that all the note said?” asked Eny, drawing closer to him.

“No. It was followed by four short lines of verse:


  This is the promised clue.

   You know what to do.

   Lira, east wing, second floor.

   Keep them separate, mark the door.


“What did you do then?”

“Exactly what I believed the note was telling me to do. I took the thing of which we have been speaking—the talisman, the Spouse of Lia Fail—and hid it in the old hotel out on the Point.”

“I’ve been in that place lots of times!”

“I imagine every kid in Santa Piedra has. That’s where I left it. The Lira. Second floor. Room 247 to be exact. That was the last I ever saw of it. And unless one of you can be compelled to repeat my story, she will never find it.”

As he spoke, there came a rumble and a clatter and a jangling of keys outside the door of Eny’s cell.

“The guard!” hissed Izaak. “Quick, Dee! Back through the hole! Once we’re gone, Eny, you replace the stones and—”

Eny gripped him by the hand and looked up into his face. “No,” she said.

John Izaak screwed up his eyes. “What do you mean no?”

“I mean I’ve got another plan. I think I know how we can get out of here!”

 Sunset 001


The Sword of Paracelsus: The Vision on the Stairs, Part 2

Sword of Paracelsus 001

Eny turned from the scarecrow figure to Morgan’s father. “Did you call him Dee?”

“Dr. John Dee. My companion and cell-mate for many days.”

She squinted at the old man in the black skull-cap. “I’ve heard of you!”

Dee seemed mildly pleased. “Verily? And wherefore?”

“You know Simon Brach, don’t you?”

The old man drew back with a look of disdain.

“How about Ollamh Folla? Do you know him?”

Dee said nothing, but raised an eyebrow and shot Izaak a sidewise glance. “The ‘other’ I told thee of,” he muttered.

John Izaak laid a hand on her shoulder. “Eny, you’ve said more than enough to convince me. I recognize the ring of truth when I hear it. I believe you.”

Eny felt a wave of relief sweep over her. She smiled back at him.

“Which leaves me with just one question,” he continued. “Why are you here?”

Her heart leapt within her. “She has the Stone!”

John Izaak sighed. “It was only a matter of time, I suppose.”

“You were expecting it?”

“Not exactly. I had hoped it would never come to this. But I’m also aware of the extent of her power. I don’t say this to excuse myself. It was almost entirely my fault. Still, she led me on. She leveraged my lust for power. She promised me everything. At that point I didn’t really know where the Stone of Destiny was—that came later. But I was getting close, and she knew it. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late. I could no longer wrest myself free. But this much I will say in my own behalf: though she did her worst, I never gave her what she wanted. That’s why she brought me here.”

Eny shook her head sadly. “I know. And it wasn’t you, Mr. Izaak. It was your son who betrayed Lia Fail to her.”

“My son? Morgan found the Stone?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I can imagine.” He removed his spectacles, rubbed the bridge of his nose, and was silent for a few minutes before resuming his narrative.

“Well,” he said huskily, “she took me away, as I told you, and threw me into this dungeon. But I was not entirely without consolation. Two important considerations have always given me great comfort.”

“Go on.”

“In the first place, I knew that the Stone by itself was not enough. I knew that she couldn’t access its power without … certain other ingredients.”

“Like me, for instance?”

He stared. “What do you mean?”

She pointed to her one blue eye. “See?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“The eyes of Eithne?”

Izaak shook his head.

“The Maiden of Perfect Purity and Chastity?”

“Ah, yes. That! So then you—”

She thinks so. I don’t know what to think. She’s already put me through some kind of ceremony. I saw and touched Lia Fail, but nothing happened. That made her really mad. So here I am.”

“You were in greater danger than you suspected. I haven’t heard of Eithne. But as I understand it, almost any girl your age can play the part of the Maiden of Perfect Purity. For all practical purposes, you are that girl. Did she hurt you?”

She showed him her finger. “Not much.”

Izaak frowned. “It could have been worse. It may get worse before this is all over. With you in her power she lacks only one element. And the most frightening part is that she knows this now.”

“There’s another element?”

“Yes. And that was my other consoling thought. For, you see, I possessed that other element! And because I possessed it, I was able to keep it from her!”

“What are you talking about?”

Izaak seated himself at the base of the wall. “Dee and I have spoken of it more than once.” Here he shot his fellow prisoner a quick glance. “It came to me purely by accident. It was a mere artifact, a curiosity. I bought it because of my obsession with alchemy. The man who sold it to me knew next to nothing about it. In the beginning I had no clue as to its connection with Lia Fail. But then came the vision on the tower stairs.”

“Tower stairs!”

(To be continued …)

The Sword of Paracelsus: The Vision on the Stair, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

“Izaak? Did you say John Izaak?”

Eny stood back and took a good, long look at the man who was pushing his way through the dust and debris of the crumbling wall. He reminded her of a chick just breaking through the shell of its egg: weak, wobbly, bedraggled.

The bald crown of his head, which was the first detail of his anatomy to present itself as he emerged from the rubble, was surrounded by a long, lank crop of thin and graying yellow hair. His sufferings were evident in the painful lines of his gaunt face. The high cheekbones were sharp and prominent, the cheeks dark and hollow, the nose narrow and pointed. An abundant growth of matted gray beard covered the long chin, and the forehead was deeply lined and furrowed. His wire-rimmed spectacles were bent and cracked, and the skin around his eyes was as yellow and wrinkled as an ancient parchment. But the eyes themselves were almost terrifyingly brilliant—blue and piercing as the eyes of Simon Brach himself.

He straightened himself and shuffled into the cell, brushing the dirt and dust from the ragged remains of an old tweed suit. His wrists and ankles, which stuck out below the shredded sleeves and cuffs, were mere skin and bone. With a tentative bow, he stepped forward and stuck out a shaky hand.

“Yes, Izaak,” he said. “Does the name mean anything to you?”

Eny covered her mouth with her hand and took a step backwards. “It really is you!” she whispered.

He tilted his head and smiled vaguely.

“Those eyes! And the nose, too! They’re just like Morgan’s. You’re almost unrecognizable, but I think I’d recognize you anywhere!”

The smile faded from John Izaak’s lips. “Morgan?”

“Your son!”

“You know my son?”

“He’s my best friend! He’s in the Sidhe, too—trying to find you. I’m Eny Ariello.”

“Ariello? As in George and Moira Ariello?”

“My mom and dad! Morgan and I grew up next door to each other.”

“Grew up? But he can’t be more than a year-and-a-half old! He was born only a few weeks before she brought me to this horrid place.”

“He’s twelve.”

John Izaak turned pale and fell back against the wall.

At that very moment another figure stuck its head through the hole in the wall. If Eny had been shocked at Izaak’s appearance, she found the aspect of this emaciated, scarecrow-like creature positively alarming. The top of its head, which wobbled unsteadily as it broke through into the half-light, was covered by a tight-fitting black skull-cap. Its scraggly beard, white as snow and at least a yard long, reminded her of wizards she’d seen in books of fairy tales. Its frayed and tattered garments were black. When it stood up, it looked like a skeleton veiled in a death-shroud or a ship’s mast wrapped in the remains of a torn sail. The dirty scraps of an old lace collar hung about its neck. Its face was drawn and withered, its eyes pale and luminous.

“Music of the angels!” it muttered as it staggered forward, looking as if it might collapse at any moment. “Is this the gateway to the kingdom of heaven? Have I attained to the New Birth?”

John Izaak laughed. “Sorry, Dee. There are no angels. It’s just another cell. After all that work!”

“Humph!” snorted the scarecrow, eyeing Eny up and down. “Thou’rt naught but a maid!”

(To be continued) .

The Sword of Paracelsus: Breakthrough, Part 3

Alchemist 2 001

Once more Eny was reminded of Simon Brach and John Dee. Again she pictured them side by side, chipping away at the mortar and the stones. She put her ear to the wall and held her breath.

Tick, tick … chink, chink … tap, tap, TAP!

The sound was still there! On and on it went. And the longer it lasted, the louder it got. Soon her heart was pounding in time with its steady rhythm. She thought she could feel the stones vibrating. From time to time she imagined she could hear faint voices from droning behind the persistent patter. She felt certain that something wonderful was about to happen. And then, just as abruptly as it had begun, the noise stopped.

Minutes passed while Eny stood with her ear to the wall in the deepening gloom and silence. Drip, drip, drip went the trickle of water in the corner. Scribble, scrabble went the tiny feet scampering across over the floor.

When at last she felt sure that the sound had gone for good, she turned away from the wall. But she didn’t allow her heart to despair. Instead, she lifted her head and closed her eyes. In her mind’s eye, she pictured herself standing in the cool and dripping silence of the Cave of the Hands. With her inner ear she listened for the boom and hiss of the waves outside the cavern door. Then she raised the fiddle to her chin and began to play.

She began with an island air called “The Boatman.” Next came “The Wing of the Black Crow.” After that she launched into a set of reels, beginning with “Soldier’s Joy,” “Christmas Eve,” and “Last Night’s Fun.” Remembering the simple pleasures of long summer days in Santa Piedra, she played “The Dawning of the Day,” “The Lark in the Morning,” “Out on the Ocean,” and “The Ships Are Sailing.”

By now she was dancing and fiddling at the same time. From “The Flowing Tide” she went into “The Cliffs of Moher,” “The Butterfly,” and “The Kid on the Mountain.” She skipped across the cell as she played “The Joy of My Life” and “The Man Who Died and Rose Again.” She made the horsehair fly with “The Banks of the Allen” and “The Kesh Jig.” But just as she was about to shift into “Contentment is Wealth,” she heard something that made her drop her bow.

The noise had come back. And this time it was accompanied by another sound—the unmistakable skitter of a shower of sand and gravel.

Eny turned and peered at the wall. Had she imagined it? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. There could be no mistake about it now. One of the stone blocks was actually moving—shifting, sliding forward, protruding from the face of the wall. There was a loud tap! tap! followed by a bang! and a crack! And then, with a terrible crash! the stone dropped out of the wall and broke into a couple of pieces at her feet.

The instant it fell, several other stones around it broke loose and tumbled after it. Down they all came in an avalanche of such sudden force that Eny barely had time to jump out of the way. Dust and dirt flew everywhere, thickening the gloom in the shadowy chamber. She coughed, covered her mouth, closed her eyes, and turned her head away.

When at last she was able to look again, she was astonished to see a hand thrusting its way through the hole in the wall. Slowly and deliberately, the hand pushed several more stones aside, widening the aperture.

A moment later a face with blinking blue eyes and a thin mouth surrounded by a tangle of gray beard emerged through the opening. Then the mouth opened and a voice spoke.

“Hello,” it said. “My name is Izaak. John Izaak.”

  Sunset 001

The Sword of Paracelsus: Breakthrough, Part 2

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Reaching for the handle and drawing the violin case to herself, Eny flipped up the brass clasps. Gently she raised the beloved instrument from its red velvet nest. Cradling it in the crook of her left arm, she held its sleek, polished body to her cheek. She closed her eyes and savored the fragrance of wood and glue emanating from the f-holes.

Who needs an invisibility cloak when you’ve got music? she thought with a smile. Music is the only real magic in the world after all!

Then again, maybe that wasn’t strictly true. There was, after all, the magic of the miraculous bolg. And what incredible magic it was! Without the bolg she wouldn’t have the fiddle! How had the Bag People ever managed to contrive such a marvel? A small leather pouch capable of containing the whole world!

Inner space has no boundaries! she mused, recalling a line from one of Rev. Alcuin’s sermons. That’s the real miracle. The true marvel is that this bag is just like me—like a person’s soul! Lumpy, dumpy, and squashed on the outside. Unlimited on the inside! Who would have thought that somebody could put so much stuff in one little bag? Who can understand what it means to have a kingdom inside of you? Not the Morrigu!

As these ideas ricocheted from one side of her brain to the other, Eny felt her heart begin to stir. Within a few moments it was leaping and soaring. She picked up her bow, tightened the horsehair, and applied the rosin.

She put me in this hole. She thought she could lock me away from the beauty of the world. But she doesn’t know that the world is inside me—even here, in this dank pit where the sun never shines! And she can’t do anything to change it!

With that, she touched the bow to the strings.

What was that?

Letting the bow fall to her side, she cocked her head to listen.

Tap, tap, tap.  

A sound! A sound was coming from the other side of the wall!

(To be continued …)


The Sword of Paracelsus: Breakthrough, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

Eny opened her eyes and peered into the murk. So foggy and muddled was her brain that she no longer had any clear idea of what she’d been expecting her prison to be like. She only knew that what she saw before her now was far worse than anything she could have imagined.

Everything was dark and dismal. There was no window in the cell. The only light—a sickly, meager gray trickle—came from a small air hole high in the wall at the other end of the chamber. The air was dank and fetid, the floor wet and slimy. Every so often she heard tiny feet scrabbling over the stones. From somewhere in the corner came the sound of a slow drip, drip, drip.

Raising herself on one elbow, she sat up and leaned back against the wall. The dress! she thought, staring down into her own lap with a vague sense of repulsion and disgust. They didn’t even bother to take off the stupid dress!

Struggling to her feet, she slipped the linen gown off over her head. Immediately the cell began to spin. She had a dim memory of having been beaten. Perhaps that was why her brain was reeling. Slumping back into a sitting position, she leaned forward, closed her eyes, opened them again, and squealed with delight.

Her bolg was still attached to her belt!

The fools! she said to herself. The dear, sweet, wonderful idiots! Simon and Eochy were right! Fomorians are ‘none too smart!’  

A wild hope bounding within her, she opened the bag and rummaged around inside. No luck—the Feth Fiada was gone.

Then she remembered. The Morrigu has it. She took it on the isle of Ara. And I could have used that cloak to sneak out of here!

Fortunately—and this was no small consolation—the rest of her gear was still present and accounted for. The sling and the pouch of stones. The candles, the tinderbox, and the rope. The last of the oatcakes and raisins. Some spare clothing. Even the knife. Best of all, her fiddle remained safe and intact.

One by one Eny removed each of these items from the bag and spread them out on the floor in front of her. One by one she studied them, wondering if any of them might be used to engineer an escape.

The rope wasn’t likely to be of much help, she thought. Not without a window. If the door had a handle, she might have tried to force it open with some sort of a make-shift pulley or winch. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

She looked at the candles and the tinderbox. Well, at least she’d have light for a while. Until the candles burned out. Fire might be useful, too. If there were any fuel. Then again, fire could be dangerous.

Clothes. Eny shook her head. Good for keeping warm in a cold, damp place. Not much good for getting out.

The knife. Yes. Definitely. She remembered what Simon Brach had told them about his acquaintance with John Dee. She recalled how the two of them had tried to dig their way out of this very same dungeon with a couple of improvised chisels. It would take time, of course. Lots of time. Years, probably. She put the knife aside, resolved to revisit the idea.

Next she picked up the sling. Taking a smooth, round stone from the sack, she hefted it in the palm of her hand. Not much chance of knocking down walls with sling-stones. But suppose a guard were to come in? Hadn’t Simon escaped by overcoming his guard? Setting the stone firmly in the cradle-pouch, she got up on her knees, whirled the sling three times over her head, and let go. Whack! The stone struck the opposite wall and rebounded with a clatter.

Eny sighed. Weak, tired, sore, and sad, she fell back against the cold, stone wall. She reached into her bolg and ate a handful of raisins. Maybe the guard won’t come anyway. Maybe I’ll never get out of this place. Better stretch my food as far as I can.

That’s when her eye fell on the fiddle.

(To be continued …)