The Sword of Paracelsus: The Washer at the Ford, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

With a leer, Cundri turned on her heel, lifted the wilted lily in her hand, and began shuffling back up the aisle towards the door.

Instantly a tumult erupted in the Tellach.  Swords flashed from scabbards.  Spears rattled on shields.  Torches flared, cups pounded on tables, and angry voices were raised.  A few demanded the emissary’s death.  Some cursed the Morrigu while others blamed the Overlanders.  Still others wailed and cried aloud upon the name of Eithne.

In the midst of the confusion Morgan jumped up on the bench, vaulted over the table, and caught hold of the arm of Ollamh Folla, who was standing on the edge of the platform, watching the messenger exit the hall under the protection of two guards.

“Aren’t you going to stop her?” he shouted above the din.

The Danaan King regarded him solemnly.  “She came under sign of truce.  We owe her a safe conduct.”

“But the Morrigu wouldn’t play by those rules if she were in your place!”

“Probably not.  Are you suggesting I follow her example?”

“No, but—”  Morgan’s vision blurred as he groped for words.  For a moment he felt like he was choking.  At last he blurted out, “I wish I’d never come here!  I only did it because I wanted to find my dad!  I never meant to put Eny in danger!”

“You haven’t,” Ollamh said quietly.  “And you didn’t come.  You were brought.  Didn’t I tell you?”

“Yes, but … we have to do something!  There’s no way I’ll ever hand Eny over to that woman!”

“Fortunately,” observed Ollamh, “the decision isn’t yours to make.”

Morgan bit his lip and stared down at his toes.  “Still, we’ve got to get her away from here somehow,” he said.  “Why don’t you send both of us back where we came from?  Wouldn’t that be safer?”

“Not if Eochy’s right.  In any case, I can’t.  It’s not entirely up to me.  Besides, there’s your father to consider.  What do you want to do about him?”

Morgan didn’t know what to say.  Never in his life had he been faced with such a choice.  Eny or his dad?  It was impossible to answer.  His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.  His head felt as if it were about to burst.

“And your friend?” the King continued.  “Where does he fit in?”

“Him!”  Morgan pursed his lips in exasperation and blew out a puff of air.  “I told you he wasn’t my idea!”

“Perhaps not.  But he was somebody’s.”

Morgan looked away and said nothing.

“I know much of the Morrigu and her schemes,” Ollamh went on after a pause, “but I must admit that I never expected her to come against us with something quite like this.”  He looked at the boy out of the corner of his eye.  “Do you have any counsel for me?”

“Me?”  Morgan considered.  “How about sending an army to rescue my dad?  I’ll go with them!  I’ve got—” he hesitated “—I’ve got courage and determination.”

Ollamh Folla smiled and shook his head.  “I know you do.  But Lugh fell in just such an assault.  Tur Morraigu is strong and closely guarded.  Tory Island is an impenetrable rock.  We can hope for nothing from a direct attack.  Not even from the air.  A more subtle approach, on the other hand …”

But Morgan was no longer listening.  His eager brain had seized upon on those two names—Tur Morraigu and Tory Island—and he was revolving them over and over in his mind.  In that instant he realized that they were what he’d been seeking all along.  Now he knew where to look for his father!

True, at that moment Tur Morraigu and Tory Island were only words to him.  For the time being, he had no idea in what direction they lay.  But he could find out.  And then he’d be able to rescue his dad and divert the Morrigu’s threat from Eny.  Both at the same time!

With a cautious sidelong glance at Ollamh Folla, who was saying something about the folly of rash decisions, Morgan felt for the pommel of the miraculous sword.  Yes—it was still there, safely tucked away inside the marvelous bag.  Then he turned, shoved past Baxter, who was just creeping out from under the table, and called to Eny:

“Don’t worry!” he said.  “I’ll keep you safe!  I’m working on a plan!”

But Eny was gone.

 *  *  *  *  *  *

(To be continued …)

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