“I’m here, Dad!” shouted Morgan as he pounded down the sandy beach and came panting up to the spot where his father and John Dee were shoving their currach into the water. “Don’t leave without me!”
“Leave without you?” John Izaak clasped his son to his side. “After everything we’ve gone through to find each other? Not a chance!”
Morgan hugged him back. It was hard to believe that all this was actually happening. The morning sun was bright and all his prayers had been granted. His dream was coming true. Here he was, his arms wrapped around the father he’d never known and sought for so long. He smiled to think of what his mom would say when she saw them together. He wondered why Eny had taken such a dismal view of things the night before.
“Jump in!” his dad said. “You don’t mind if Baxter rides along, do you? Ollamh—I mean, Simon—has decided to reduce our fleet by one. You and I are teaming with Dee and Baxter. Sengann, Slanga, and Crimthann travel together from this point forward. More bolgs for storage that way. Amazing how these leather currachs expand to accommodate the load, isn’t it?”
“It was actually Sengann’s idea,” grinned Baxter, who was already seated in the boat, lounging against the gunwale with his hands behind his head. “By the way, Izaak,” he added in a low voice as Morgan climbed in beside him, “your dad’s a great guy. So who knew?”
Morgan glared at him. “I could’ve told you,” he said.
By the time they pushed off, Simon’s boat was already halfway across the bay. Morgan could see Eny leaning out over the bow, her eyes riveted upon the floating Stone. Hoping to catch up to her, he struck in with his oar and started rowing with all his might. But it soon became apparent that his efforts were superfluous. Just as it had happened on the previous afternoon, so this morning Lia Fail seemed to pull the three little boats along by means of a power all its own. Glancing aft, Morgan caught sight of Sengann’s craft bounding along behind them.
Ahead lay the extreme tip of the Point of Taman, a wooded promontory that plunged abruptly into the sea just where three opposing currents collided in a boiling, churning jumble. Once beyond this spike of rock, the Stone picked up speed and bent its course abruptly back towards the land.
“Watch it!” yelled Baxter as the currach lurched sharply to the right, throwing Morgan into his lap. “You don’t need to get that close!”
“Don’t worry!” said Morgan, quickly righting himself. “I don’t intend to!”
Looking up, he saw that they were now skimming along under the lee of a steep pine-clad ridge. High cliffs, dark near the water’s edge but rimmed with gold at their bristling crest, loomed overhead. The jostling currents, so violent and jarring out on the open sea, now smoothed themselves out and joined forces. Driven by the waves and drawn by the irresistible attraction of Lia Fail, the three little currachs flew along the coast at an exhilarating rate.
“This is great!” whooped Baxter as the boat bounced over the water. “Kind of like wind-surfing! Lots more fun than my dad’s yacht!”
But Morgan, whose pulse was already racing in time with the precipitous flight of the Stone, was all but deaf to the other boy’s outbursts. His head was full of another sound—a terrible, deafening roar that had rushed down upon them the moment they rounded the Point. He turned and looked out to sea.
“Look!” he cried, grasping his father by the arm.
Even as he spoke, a picture flashed across his mind’s eye. In a flash he knew exactly what he was seeing. Eny had described it for him many, many times: a small island rising out of the ocean like a rocky thumb; and between the island and the shore, so close to their fragile boat that the wind of its gyrations whipped his hair around his head, a swirling, booming funnel of dark green water—a deadly vortex half a mile wide and a thousand fathoms deep.
“Charybdis!” exclaimed old John Dee. “The Maelstrom!”
“The Morslogh!” countered Morgan. “Eny called it the Morslogh!”
“To your oars!” shouted his father. “Everyone lean to starboard and pull towards the shore!”
Morgan did as his father said. But it didn’t take him long to realize that every paddle stroke away from the Morslogh was taking them closer to the treacherous rocks at the foot of the cliff. Though hot and sweating with the strain of rowing, he felt chilled to the core with fear. For a few moments the only question in his mind was whether they would be sucked to the bottom of the ocean or smashed to pieces on the razor-backed reefs. But then, in a heartbeat, it was over: almost before he knew what had happened, the invisible magnetism of Lia Fail had snatched the little boat out of danger.
(To be continued …)