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Pub Crawl: Christmas in Muleshoe
Posted: 23 Dec 2004, 19:58
Editor's Note: These stories that appear from time to time in The Pub are just a bit of silliness that has been a tradition at The Druid’s Head and at The Foggy Duck for many years. In this story you'll see names of people you may recognize. Just because you don't see your name here doesn't mean that you can't participate. Please write yourself in if you'd like, and in that way we may get to know you. The only "rule," if there is one, is that we try to pick up the story from where the previous poster left it, and to include at least some of those elements in whatever comes next. Storytelling is a bardic pursuit, and although it’s hard to imagine Taliesin telling stories quite like these, it is entirely possible that by your participation, you could be immortalized in The Attic.
“Laurel, where in tarnation are ye, ye little heifer? It’s time to rattle our hocks and git in the truck and start drivin’ on up to Muleshoe. I sent that rabble o’ druid hippies a real nice invitation, and a bunch of 'em are meetin’ us there. In fact Saille sended me an e-mail from DFW airport awhile back, sayin’ that she’d done landed in Dallas and was gettin’ on the Muleshoe bus. Now we don’t want to be late, so why don’t ye stop yer primpin’ and come get in the truck!”
“Okay, Billy Joe Bob, I’m ready now,” breathed Laurel as she emerged from the bunkhouse bathroom. “A girl wants to look pretty for her mansy-wansy.”
And Laurel did look beautiful, breathtakingly so, and Billy Joe Bob felt his heart melting. But then she said, “Tell me, honey bunch, do you think CelticDao will be there in Muleshoe? We had been having such an interesting conversation back at Santa’s coal mine, but he left so suddenly. I’d love to have an opportunity to finish our talk.”
Billy Joe Bob harrumphed. “Well I shore dint invite the boy, but you know how word gits around, so it wouldn’t surprise me none if he showed up. Say, yer not still sweet on him, are ye Laurel?”
“Oh Billy Joe Bob, of course not, you’re the only man for me, sugar. CelticDao is just a wonderful friend from my past, and we have such nice talks, and I love his beard. Can you grow a beard, snookems?”
“Naw, I ain’t growin’ no beard on account of I don’t like it when my tobaccy juice gets matted in there,” said the lanky Texan as he shifted his chaw to the other cheek. “Now come on over here and give me a kiss.”
Billy Joe Bob aimed a kiss at Laurel’s lips, but she deftly moved aside and Billy Joe Bob planted the kiss on her cheek instead. She brushed the side of his face with her own lips, then grabbed her purse and headed out the door, while the cowboy followed, struggling with four suitcases, three of them belonging to Laurel.
The battered blue GMC pickup truck was outside, a horse trailer hitched to the rear bumper. From inside the trailer came the bumping and thrashing sounds of a lovelorn pooka.
Billy Joe Bob threw the luggage into the truck bed and climbed behind the wheel. Laurel was already sitting on the passenger side and had pulled down the sun visor, using the little mirror there to fix her hair.
The truck engine started with a throaty roar, and Billy Joe Bob called out the window, “Hang on back there, pooka feller. We’re goin’ to Muleshoe, and I got a notion that me and my frens will soon find ye a lady pooka, and we’ll prolly have her for ye in time for Christmas. Now here we go!”
Billy Joe Bob eased out the clutch and the pickup and trailer rolled out of the yard, bumped over the cattle guard and out onto the highway. The Texan turned left onto U.S. 70 West, and the truck picked up speed as it headed for Muleshoe.
Laurel was already half asleep, and the cowboy wondered who, besides Saille, would be there waiting when they got there. From his inquiries about pooka females, he knew that he’d need all the help he could get. But he felt a little ashamed about one thing: He hadn’t been entirely honest with everyone when he told them why it was necessary to gather in Muleshoe, and he couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next …
Posted: 24 Dec 2004, 05:20
In the Horse Trailer attached to the back of the truck, the Pooka was staring through the back window into the truck cab. He saw Laurel dozing and could hear the small noises she made through her nose. He then turned his attention to Billy Joe Bob who was whistling "She'll be Comin Round the Mountain". How the pooka hated whistling. He shook his mane, his gold eyes alight with fire. He would not take this sitting down...okay, he didn't sit in horse form. He would escape, make his way back to his beloved Ireland and find that lassie with the red hair and the penchant for shoes that he had grown fond of.
Billy Joe Bob continued his inane whistling as the Pooka changd his shape to a hideous Goblin. Now with hands, he took off the reins and slowly moved toward the back of the trailer and opened the door. Before Billy Joe Bob could say, " Golly!", the Pooka now in Goblin shape jumped from the moving trailer with a giggle.
Billy Joe Bob saw the Pooka now Goblin jump and immediately put his foot on the brake, tossing Laurel to the floor of the cab of the pick-up truck.
"Jumpin Jehozaphat! That thar Pooka terned hisself into a monster and done skedaddled! Get yer cell phone, Laurel. We gotta call in the calvary."
And he now knew why his friend Crow was always saying, "I've got a bad feeling about this!"
Posted: 26 Dec 2004, 17:55
When the pooka leapt from the trailer, it was in the shape of a goblin that resembled a large goat walking on two legs, yet capable of running as fast as the fastest thoroughbred.
As pookas went, this one wasn’t a bad sort. Oh, he’d played his fair share of mean tricks on people in his time – he was well over 1,000 years old – but he’d also done plenty of good things, most recently allowing himself to be captured by EarthWard so he could help with defeating the evil GreenDruid.
After that success, the pooka had allowed himself to be taken by ship to Texas, where he lived for months in the guise of a horse on Billy Joe Bob’s ranch. And from a distance, he had appeared to be nothing more than a large, beautiful horse, not at all out of place on those wide plains. Billy Joe Bob was a simple man, yet kindly and knowledgeable about caring for horses. The pooka had been content there for a time, until the mating urge had struck.
Since the lifespan of a pooka is centuries long, they seldom mate, for otherwise the world would be overrun with them. But when the urge comes over them, which is usually once in every 200 years or so, it is exceedingly powerful, and it is during this time that things which ordinarily would not rankle, like whistling, become an unbearable annoyance, and also during this time that a male pooka will do its worst mischief.
And so as the goat-shaped entity that ran upright like a man, yet as fast as a horse, pounded back down the highway from whence he had just come, there were just three things on its mind:
1) I must get to Ireland.
2) No one better get in my way.
3) Only Beith can help me find a lady pooka.
Posted: 27 Dec 2004, 00:40
A few hours of running down the West Texas highway without coming to anything resembling a town made the pooka decide to stop and rethink his strategy. He was tired, both from the running and from dodging the large mechanical monsters that plied this lonely stretch of roadway.
Those things with all the wheels, he had decided, were driven by madmen who thought they owned the road. The mute testimony of dozens of squashed armadillos had convinced him that evasive action, while perhaps not the most valiant of courses, was necessary if he were to escape the same fate.
He left the smooth black roadway as he had done innumerous times already. Dodging among the scrubby vegetation, the pooka found a rock and sat down to think. How in the world was he ever going to get back to the green forests of Ireland? The pooka gazed across the seemingly endless brown plains and sighed.
Everything here, it seemed, was trying to kill him. Not only the 18-wheelers—he’d been stabbed by the thorns of the miserable excuse for a tree he’d tried to hide in once; his rough coat had tangled in the spines of the short, flat-lobed plants that seemed to be everywhere, and he’d have sworn that one particularly nasty thing with long spindly arms had jumped out and grabbed him. His body ached from the scratches and punctures that he’d sustained.
The short winter day was approaching its end. The sun was sinking toward the distant hills and the shadows were growing long. The air, already chilly, grew colder. The pooka sighed again. The urge to mate was still strong but the desolation of this place and his fatigue had induced in him a kind of melancholy that made him briefly wonder if a thousand years wasn’t long enough for one lifetime. As if sensing his gloominess, a few vultures trolling for a potential meal appeared and began circling overhead.
The pooka’s head snapped up. He snarled at the vultures and they retreated. What had he been thinking? He was a pooka, after all, not some mere animal destined to become carrion on the highway or in this bleak landscape. Besides, the birds had given him an idea. He arose from his rock and shook himself.
It was obvious that a trip on foot across West Texas was an exercise in futility, if not fatality. But, being a pooka, he had other options. He shifted into eagle form and sprang into the sky. He made a wheeling pass at the startled vultures, just to remind them who was boss, and, with mighty wingbeats, gained altitude and caught a tailwind that would carry him to the east and the sea.
Meanwhile, back at the pickup, Billy Joe Bob had commandeered Laurel’s cell phone.
“Crow!” he yelled into the mouthpiece, “I’m in a heap o’ trouble!”
Back in the Northeast, Crow eyed the telephone in alarm. It was happening again! He felt the whirlpool of fate start to swirl around him, but made what he knew was a futile effort.
“I’m sorry, you have the wrong number,” he said in a falsetto voice.
“Don’t give me that, buddy!” begged Billy Joe Bob. “I need yer hep bad! Remember all the things we’ve been through together…”
Crow closed his eyes briefly, fighting against his destiny, but heard himself saying, “All right, Billy Joe Bob, what is it?”
“The goldurned pooka’s escaped! He turned hissef into a giant goat and took off down the road!”
“I beg your pardon? A goat, did you say?”
“Yeah, a two-footed one! I need ye, Crow—kin ye get yerself out here rat away? I kin track him on the ground purty good, but a bird’s eye view o’ the landscape would sure hep me out. I got me one o’ them newfangled GPS thangs—I kin tell ye right whar to come.”
He started to tell Billy Joe Bob what to do with his GPS device, but at that moment Mrs. Crow stuck her head into the room.
“Don’t forget dear, my mother is coming tomorrow for a two-week visit. You are still planning to take some time off work, aren’t you?”
Caught between Scylla and Charybdis, he quickly covered the receiver with a wingtip.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I’ve just caught an emergency assignment—I’ve got to go out of town for a few days.”
Posted: 27 Dec 2004, 02:24
Crow suppressed a shudder at the thought of how close he’d come to having to endure a visit from his mother-in-law. In the early days of his marriage he’d tried hard to please her, but it seemed that he was never good enough in her eyes, and in the last couple of years he’d stopped even trying to be nice.
Now packing for a hasty departure, he made sure he had a couple of fresh reporter’s notebooks, a supply of pencils, his cell phone and the new GPS device he’d received as a Winter Solstice gift.
He looked in through the door to the kitchen where Mrs. Crow was rolling out cookie dough, blew her a kiss, then walked out onto the front perch and took wing.
Taking up a southwesterly heading, Crow flapped bravely against the prevailing wind and thought about recent events. It had been a long time since he’d seen any real action. He was still a little disturbed at being hypnotized by the image of Rancid inside the crystal ball at Night Hawk’s birthday party, but no real harm had been done, and he hadn’t been able to write a decent story for The Pagan Press, the party winding up as just a small notice in the Around the Grove column in the features section.
And now Billy Joe Bob was calling him for help. Well, thought Crow, that foolish cowboy didn’t know much about journalism, did he? No, if you called a newspaper reporter for help, you’d be sadly disappointed, because reporters didn’t come to be a part of the story, they came to cover the story, and there was a big difference. As a professional, Crow prided himself on never getting involved in the stories he covered – well, almost never.
With thoughts such as these, Crow flapped onward. As he flew toward the setting sun, night was overtaking him. He would fly through the night, he told himself, following the arrow on the glowing face of his GPS device. If the pooka was still traveling east like Billy Joe Bob had said, he thought he might be getting close to him by tomorrow afternoon. Until then, all he could do was continue to fly and wonder what would happen next …
Posted: 27 Dec 2004, 03:58
As Crow was flying west under his own wing power, Selene and Kat Lady were flying Delta Airlines to Dallas Fort Worth. Kat Lady had been visiting Selene In Baton Rouge when Selene received an embossed invitation from Billy Joe Bob to meet him and Laurel in Muleshoe for a “surprise”. Kat, a little miffed that she had not been included, called home where Kat-Storm assured her that her invitation was waiting for her. They booked the first flight out of Baton Rouge. Selene had a First Class Seat and to save money, Kat decided it best to stay in Kat form and remain in a cat carrier under Selene’s seat. Oh well, it was at least under a First Class Seat and she did have her favorite tinkle ball with her to pass the time. Besides, in first class they served chocolate milk.
Once the plane had landed and Kat was checked through, Selene and Kat Lady rented a 4 wheel drive Jeep Cherokee and began the 7 hour drive to Muleshoe. Just out of Abilene, they found themselves singing along to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” when they saw a bus up ahead that appeared to have broken down. As they drove closer, the could see Saille W standing there kicking the rear tire on the driver’s side while throwing her arms in the air in apparent frustration.
“Why Saille W! What on earth are you doing here?” asked Selene. Kat looked at Selene, a bit surprised that she had regained her Texas drawl so quickly.
“I was driving to Muleshoe as Billy Joe Bob had invited me and this darn bus broke down!” she replied, almost in tears.
“Leave it and come with us,” Kat said to her, “We’ll call the rental place and have it towed.”
Selene said, “You bet!” and pulled out her trusty pumpkin medallion which was not only a GPS unit but was a cell phone and Swiss army knife to boot.
So the three friends called to have the bus towed and Saille W climbed into the back of the Cherokee and they continued on their way to Muleshoe. Little did they know that the pooka was loose and all of Billy Joe Bob’s plans were destroyed as they sang in three part harmony to Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” riding down the long, empty road with nothing but cacti and tumbleweeds in view for miles.
After what seemed like forever, they arrived at “Moe’s Diner” where Selene and Kat decided they needed a kitty box stop and who should they find but Billy Joe Bob and Laurel looking like they had lost their best friend. The three ladies walked up to Billy Joe Bob and asked harmoniously, “What’s wrong Billy Joe?” To which he began to relate the long tale of the missing pooka.
Posted: 27 Dec 2004, 05:08
Billy Joe Bob was distraught. All he’d wanted to do was help the pooka, but now his plans were dashed. When he’d seen the creature jump from the back of the trailer, he had stepped hard on the brakes, leaving a smoking double line of black rubber on the West Texas asphalt.
He’d stepped out of the cab and called to the pooka, which was now in a rather disturbing shape of a two-legged goat, but the pooka, after glancing back once, started to run down the highway, and the last thing Billy Joe Bob saw of it was when it jumped a barbed wire fence and disappeared behind a rocky outcropping.
Billy Joe Bob was torn. He wanted to pursue the pooka and perhaps coax it back into the trailer, but he also knew that he was supposed to meet a bunch of druid hippies in Muleshoe, and they would be justifiably angry if he didn’t show up. Finally, it was Laurel who made the decision for him.
“Billy Joe Bob, sweetcakes, you know you can’t catch that dreadful thing, let it go. And besides, you said we were meeting people in this Muleshoe place, perhaps even CelticDao.” She batted her eyes at the cowboy. “We can’t disappoint all those people now, can we? Besides, we may be asking them to give us wedding presents some day soon, right?”
“Well darlin’, you’re total right about that of course,” said Billy Joe Bob, “But I just hate leavin’ that pooka feller. He ain’t from around here, and, well, he’s probably skeered and maybe he’ll get lost or sumpin. All he wants is a lady pooka, and o’ course I know how he feels, on account of he feels just like I felt a-fore I found you.”
In his heart, Billy Joe Bob knew that Laurel was right in that he couldn’t track the pooka, not with the pickup truck. He decided his best course was to go ahead and go to Muleshoe, but first he used Laurel’s cell phone to call Crow. “My old buddy will help us out, Laurel, just you wait and see,” he’d said before making the call.
The cowboy and his beautiful girlfriend drove on to Muleshoe, where they waited outside Moe’s Diner, which also served as the Greyhound Bus stop. It was a place like many others in that part of the world, with a large neon sign that spelled “EATS,” with a smaller sign underneath that read, “We sell home-cooked food, hunting licenses, cold beer, and barbecue.”
It was getting late, and Moe had just turned off the neon lights for the night. Billy Joe Bob was fiddling with the radio in the truck, but all he could pick up was a 250,000 watt station in Juarez that was playing a steady diet of Mexican music. Laurel was again complaining about being uncomfortable when they heard the crunching gravel sound of a Jeep Cherokee entering the parking lot.
There under the light of a full moon, Billy Joe Bob and Laurel met Selene, Kat Lady and Saille, and none of the women were happy.
“Well I’m mighty glad to see all of ye, I was gettin’ plum worried, and on top o’ all my other worries, I was about to have a conniption,” Billy Joe Bob said.
“It’s been a long day for us,” said Selene, the moonlight gleaming off her pumpkin medallion. “Now maybe you could tell us why we are all here.”
“He lost his horse, oh, I mean his goat,” said Laurel before Billy Joe Bob could begin his tale of woe.
“Naw honey,” said the cowboy, “It ain’t a horse and it ain’t a goat. It’s a pooka, doncha unnerstand? And well, she’s right about one thing, the pooka really did run away.”
“You mean you called us all the way to this godforsaken place to hunt a runaway pooka?” asked Kat Lady.
“What about me?” wailed Saille. “I came all the way from Amsterdam!”
“Naw, that ain’t it atall,” said Billy Joe Bob. “Well, mebbe it is now, but it weren’t a-fore when I called ye. I called ye on account of I’m tryin’ to find the pooka a lady pooka, and …”
“You’re pimping for a pooka?” said Kat Lady.
“Now wait just a galderned minute,” said Billy Joe Bob. “This is total clean and ain’t nothin’ dirty like yer makin’ it sound. Pookas need love too, and there just ain’t that many lady pookas around, and I thought my feller might need a little help findin’ one, and that’s when Patrick McGillicuddy down at the feed store back home tolt me about comin’ to Muleshoe to maybe find a lady pooka. But even if I’d a found a lady pooka here, it ain’t as simple as all that, and so I sent invitations to a bunch o’ ya’ll hippies to come on out here and hep me, and besides, it’s a chance for ya’ll to get away from them citified places ye live in and come on out here to God’s country and git some fresh air.”
Selene, practical as always, took over the questioning and eventually the story became clearer. After all, she was an administrator.
One day during a trip to the local feed store, Billy Joe Bob had talked with the proprietor, one Patrick McGillicuddy, who had moved to Texas from Ireland some 40 years ago. About a week before, McGillicuddy had been passing Billy Joe Bob’s pastures and had spied what appeared to be a horse, but to his Irish eyes was obviously a pooka. And so the old Irishman had talked with Billy Joe Bob about a pooka’s needs, and had learned that the creature was growing increasingly restive.
McGillicuddy had correctly surmised that the pooka needed a mate, and that was when he told the cowboy that the one thing female pookas cannot resist is shoes.
Billy Joe Bob went back to the ranch and he sat and he thought and he thought and he thought. And then when he thought he was finished, he thought some more.
“And after I sat there for hours and hours, then the idear just come on me clear as a bell,” Billy Joe Bob said, responding to Selene’s pointed questions. “Most of the time them pookas look like horses. And if a horse needs shoes, then natural it’d be a horseshoe, and that’s when I thunk of a little town not too far a piece down the road, and that would be this place, Muleshoe. Now I know it’s called Muleshoe and not Horseshoe or Pookashoe, but I figgered it was close enough, and they’re just bound to have some kinda shoes here that a lady pooka won’t be able to resist, and that’s why I figgered I’d call some of my frens here to help me find one and then help me get her in the trailer and truck her on back home with my feller. But now he’s gone, and I don’t know what we’re a-gonna do!”
Selene just shook her head, wondering how she’d been drawn into a situation like this. But now that they were here, there was no going back. She reached into the Jeep Cherokee for her laptop, switched it on, and wondered what would happen next …
Posted: 27 Dec 2004, 16:12
Well, ole CelticDao was no stranger to Muleshoe. He even lived just a bit west of there, back in the 70's. But he hadn't been back to the area since. He was just known as Bob back then - well, Buffalo Bob to some... One thing he did know about the area, however, that very few other people knew, was that there are Pooka's dwelling there. Seems he had stumbled across a small group of 'em, when he was lookin for rattlesnakes, back in the autumn of 79. He was up north of Broadview, New Mexico, where the earth just drops about 500 feet - the caprock - and came across the strangest darned animal, he had ever seen, all lame, from a fall. As he approached slowly, speaking in a low voice to calm the animal, he suddenly realized that there were six of them surrounding him. He moved slowly, and spoke lowly, and removed his pack, where he had a newspaper, and some rope. He used the newspaper to make a splint, and tied it up with the rope, and the critter was able to get up, and walk. As he mumbled "now what in blazes are
you, anyway?", the animal SPOKE to him, mind to mind, and said "I am Pooka. Friends name me Zxylondrahar Franduilos Marquestarena Gibberandorous Hecate Fellancindar Pwashterna - well for short, anyway." "Fine," said Bob, "I'll just call you Fuzzy. You can call me Bob."
At that point, one of the six Pooka's pawed the earth, as Bob heard a deeper voice saying in his head: "Healer, snakecharmer, rockwalker, open-sky...Bob we name you, and give you our thanks, and blessing. Pooka-friend we name you. Desert starlight we name you. And Pooka's never forget a kind deed."
With that, they parted ways, but the seed was planted. The seed that blossomed into the tree of life on the path which Buffalo Bob came to know as the Path of the Dao, and a Celtic path, at that. The seed that turned Buffalo Bob into CelticDao, was planted by none other than a Pooka.
Well, CelticDao got word, in a roundabout way (through Crow, and Fae), that there was a Pooka on the loose, and the news came with GPS coordinates. He saddled up the Gnewt, grabbed his flutes, and headed for Muleshoe.
Ashes, the Warrior King of the Universe was in the back of the Gnewt, as he hit the trail (it isn't exactly an EASY trail, to get to the highway, but they were on their way!)
Posted: 28 Dec 2004, 00:28
The eagle-pooka winged his way through the deepening night. He had made good time since his departure from the West Texas plains and was now following the Jet Stream on a northeasterly course. He'd kept his eyes and ears open when he was in Billy Joe Bob's pasture, listening to the conversations of humans, birds, and animals, and had decided that his best chance to find transportation back to Ireland was from one of the ports on the Eastern Seaboard.
It was a fine night for flying. The full moon was high in the sky and the pooka didn't even need his night vision, so bright was its light. But even magical beasties grow tired eventually, and the pooka had had a long and painful day to this point. He began to look for a place for a brief rest stop.
Around midnight, he decided to put down in a place the locals called the Quilted Hills, although he didn't know this, of course. The pooka had spied moonlight glinting off a lovely little lake with a tiny island in the center and thought that it looked like an ideal spot for a nap—peaceful, isolated… He banked sharply and folded his wings to dive, then pulled up as he neared the ground and settled gracefully into the top of a large red cedar.
This small farmstead in the foothills of the Ozarks was the residence of one Kernos, mild-mannered physician, grand druid administrator, and part-time horned god, but the pooka didn't know this, either. He did, however, realize that he was being barked at by an assortment of dogs. Well, he'd been barked at before…he tucked his head under his wing and thought dreamy bird-thoughts while waiting for sleep to take him.
Suddenly he was startled out of his doze—someone was whacking a stick against his tree and yelling at him. He thought about ignoring the impudent human as he had the dogs, but the streak of mischief that runs strong in all pookas suddenly flared and he was fully awake with a wonderful idea. He'd fly down, then shift into his horse-form and take this dude with the stick on the ride of his life!
The pooka knew all about running under low-hanging tree branches, leaping chasms and clearing them by mere inches, swimming into deep water and half-drowning his reluctant rider…all these things and more he'd done dozens of times in his long lifetime, and a hellride was one of his favorite ways to put humans in their places.
He glided smoothly to the ground on the far side of the tree and shifted into a sleek black horse with flowing mane. He looked good and knew it. He smiled to himself; no human could ever resist a ride on such a magnificent animal…The pooka picked his way gracefully among the thick underbrush to where he could still hear the human walking around.
As the pooka-horse came into the small clearing on the other side of the tree, the moonlight fully illuminated both him and his would-be prey and, to his shock, he saw that the one he had taken for a human bore a full antler rack on his head.
"Cernunnos!" he gasped, awestruck for the first time in his life.
"Ah, there you are!" exclaimed the Horned One who stood before him, hands on hips and looking stern. "I saw you land in my tree a bit ago and wondered where you'd gone. I heard you'd given Billy Joe Bob the slip and were on the loose, so I've been on the lookout for you."
"Um...your lordship," began the pooka hesitantly, unsure of the correct form to use when addressing a deity, but before he could continue the figure blurred and assumed the form of a bespectacled, middle-aged human who interrupted him with a laugh.
"No, Pooka," chuckled the man, "he's only a very distant cousin. Call me Kernos. Now, what's this about you wanting to get to Ireland?"
Posted: 28 Dec 2004, 03:41
Relieved to not be addressing deity after all, the pooka was now incredulous.
"Well if you’re just an ordinary man and not a god, how did you know that I am trying to get to Ireland?" asked the pooka.
"Who said anything about being an ordinary man?" asked Kernos. "But I'm not here to be contentious, my friend, and shall answer your question. I know that you are trying to get to Ireland because, not only am I a druid, but I'm also an administrator." Kernos pulled at the chain around his neck, and from behind his shirt a pumpkin medallion of his own was soon revealed to the pooka's wondering eyes.
"And as a druid, I can tell you that Gwers 973 is all about the life cycle of pookas, and how those magical mysteries can be applied to our everyday lives. It is therefore evident to one of my learning that you are a pooka who is searching for a mate, and since that is doubtless true, it must follow that you are also trying to get to Ireland, for only there do pookas breed. And even if all that were not true," the druid/administrator continued, "I would still know about your situation. Do you know how I know?"
The pooka shook his head in the negative, not knowing, but very much wanting to know the answer; it was not in a pooka's nature for his wants and desires to be so transparent.
"Did you note my apperance, before I shape-shifted into the form you now see before you?" asked Kernos. Without waiting for the pooka's answer, he continued, "Having seen me in that form then, my friend, it should be evident to you that I know a thing or two about being horny."
Kernos then erupted in laughter at his own joke, while the pooka stood mute under the red cedar trees. He didn't enjoy being made the fool. Was this druid making fun of his plight? Still, it was a long way to Ireland, and the pooka thought perhaps this silly human just might be able to help him. And if he didn't come forward with some help soon, then druid/administrator or not, he'd very shortly be in for the ride of his life.
Posted: 28 Dec 2004, 19:20
As Crow continued to follow the arrow on his GPS device as it led him on a southwesterly heading over the fallow cornfields of Indiana; as Billy Joe Bob spun out his tale of woe in the parking lot of Moe’s Diner; as the pooka debated with himself over whether to ask Kernos for help or do the druid/administrator a mischief he’d never forget, the first hint of dawn was in the sky over London.
Most people in the city were still asleep, but through the window of The Foggy Duck pub, a light shone out onto the sidewalk. Anyone passing by at that hour might have looked inside and seen an ogress standing behind the bar, and also might have seen the person who had drawn the ogress’ attention, a slender woman, sitting on a barstool, her red hair pooling around the teacup that sat before her.
The ogress, of course, was Gladys, proprietress of the Foggy Duck, and the slender woman was Beith, who was in the depths of despair.
“Well lass, you’ve said for the fortieth time that you have a problem, but I haven’t heard one word about what you’re going to do about it,” said Gladys.
“But Gladys, what can I do about it?” answered Beith. “I have a shoe addiction, I admit it freely, but there are no programs or agencies set up to help a person like me. There’s no Shoeaholics Anonymous, for pity’s sake! This obsession is destroying my life, chasing away my dearest friends, and, oooh, those are lovely purple clodhoppers you have on, Gladys, where did you get them?”
Anyone who had known Beith for any time at all knew about her penchant for shoes, especially styles with stiletto heels. She was in fact possessed by the spirit of Seamus MacLoafer, who first introduced shoes to Ireland generations ago. Beith had undergone an exorcism some months before, and the treatment had seemed to be successful. The redhead actually developed an aversion to shoes and, for a time, went everywhere barefooted. But her friends had watched in dismay as bit by bit, the shoe obsession had come back until it was as bad as before.
Like has been said by many with regard to other types of addiction, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can begin to climb back up, and this night at the Foggy Duck, Beith was doing some sole-searching, er, soul-searching.
“Beith, I like you,” rumbled Gladys. “As far as humans go, you’re not bad, and you always pay your tab. So I’m going to do something for you that I wouldn’t do for just anybody.”
Gladys reached inside her truly massive brassiere, pulled out a piece of folded parchment, and handed it to the redhead. Beith spread the parchment on the bar and smoothed it with her hands. “Gladys!” she exclaimed. “It looks like a treasure map! And I recognize some of these landmarks! Why this is back on the Olde Sodde, back in Ireland, and I see that an X is marking the spot! How exciting! Are you giving me this map? Are there shoes buried there?”
“Aye,” said Gladys, "there be treasure there, but I’ll leave it to you discover the nature of it. Now go, you’ve been in here wasting my time for long enough. Go on, shoo!”
With map in hand, Beith ran out of the Foggy Duck, intending to book passage on the next boat to Ireland. The prospect of digging for what she assumed would be buried shoes had chased away all thoughts of dealing with her addiction. She was like a junkie with her next fix in sight, and there would be no stopping her until she stood at the place where X marks the spot.
Posted: 29 Dec 2004, 18:45
While Beith was rushing to the docks to purchase a ticket on the next fast boat to Eire, Celtic Dao and Ashes the Warrior Dog, King of the Universe skidded the Gnewt to a stop in front of Moe's Diner scattering dust, small rocks and debris on the Foggy Duckers and friends who were gathered there. He deftly jumped out of the driver's seat, Ashes hot on his heels and flutes in hand ran to the friends gathered outside Muleshoe and said "There's a pooka on the loose!"
Billy Joe Bob, glared at him with a look that could curdle milk and said, "Ya ain't tellin' me nuthin' I ain't already knowed, ya durn hippie druid." Laurel slapped his arm as he finished his statement and stepped forward, batting her eyes at CelticDao saying, "Thank goodness you have come to save the day!"
Selene glanced up from her computer and stared at the floozy before her. Kat stopped cleaning her fur from the debris the Gnewt had scattered and stared, mouth open in that "what the..." look she was famous for.
CelticDao sidestepped Laurel and headed for Selene, much to Laurel's chagrin. "Did you find anything there yet, Pumpkin-lady?"
Without skipping a keystroke, Selene responded in the negative and continued her google search for "pooka". The first hit led her to a site with storm descriptions. "Hmmmm....nothing on Pooka as fae yet but apparently there is a class 5 tornado named POOKA that has been seen in the midwest and is sucking up everything in its path. Oh dear! I do hope no one is hurt!"
CelticDao, who had been a stormchaser in one of his previous lives, looked at the screen before him and said, "Hmmmm....That doesn't look like a normal tornado to me. Sure looks like some interdimensional portal." And he and Selene and the rest of the Foggy Duckers and friends watched the cyclone as it made its way across the landscape.
In the meantime, as Crow was flying over the corn fields of Indiana the GPS device started acting strangely and was directing him basially no where. He looked at the device as he was hit by something. Puzzled, he realized that while concentrating on the GPS he had flown into a hail storm. Cursing in Crow, he sped up to find shelter looking up just in time to see a dark funnel shape heading toward him. Beak open in awe at the massive funnel descending on him, he could barley utter one word as he became ensnared in the vortex, "Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii......"
Posted: 30 Dec 2004, 09:06
Beith boarded the first train out of London bound for the Welsh coast, feeling happy as she settled in her seat. Her passage was booked on the fast ferry that ran between Wales and Ireland—by mid-afternoon she would be in Dublin and ready to begin her quest for…whatever it was she was questing for. Shoes, she hoped, but Gladys had been decidedly vague about that.
She put those potentially troubling thoughts aside and got out the map the ogress had given her. She spread the ancient parchment out on her lap to study the markings in detail. The script was an archaic form of Irish, but she had studied that sort of thing and knew that the arcane letters spelled out Boireann.
Beith decided that it must refer to the Burren—those vast stony fields of County Clare. It would be a logical place to hide treasure, she thought; the area was full of dolmens and other megalithic tombs. Beith shivered in delighted anticipation—she loved the history of her native land and the chance to discover what could, she thought, be a cache of Neolithic shoes—if this map and its cryptic message could be believed—was like a dream come true.
She pictured the stir her impending discovery would make in archaeological circles—she would be invited to all sorts of events to lecture on her great find and for each she would wear a different pair of shoes…she leaned back in her seat, a smile of contentment on her face, and fell into a doze as the landscape of southern England passed swiftly by outside the windows of the train.
* * *
Back in Muleshoe, the group gathered around Selene’s laptop watched as she surfed from one news site to another to follow the news reports coming in of the devastating F5 tornado that was marching across the Midwest.
“Holdit jest a goldurned minit thar, young lady,” commanded Billy Joe Bob, peering over Saille’s shoulder to try to see the screen. “Go back to thet last pitcher!”
Selene raised an eyebrow at his tone but complied, hitting the “back” button on the browser to return to the previous site.
Billy Joe Bob pushed Saille aside and leaned closer to get a better look at the screen.
“Hey,” exclaimed Saille, indignantly, “you stepped on my toe!”
But the lanky Texan, normally the most mannerly of gentlemen, was oblivious. He was staring at the laptop screen in amazement and reached out a finger to point at the screen.
“Thar! Thar!” he shouted. “Thet ain’t no ord’nary tornado—lookit thet!”
“Look at what?” asked Kat Lady. “Nothing happened there—it missed all those buildings.”
“Thet’s what I mean,” insisted Billy Joe Bob. “Them ain’t buildings—them’s trailers—mo-bile homes they call 'em these days—and thar ain’t no tornado nowhere never that’s missed hittin’ a trailer park iffin it had the chance!”
Selene carefully wiped Billy Joe Bob’s fingerprint from her screen and studied the photo. As a transplanted Texan herself, Selene had seen her share of tornadoes and knew that the cowboy was right.
“No, it isn’t an ordinary tornado,” she agreed, “but—”
“That’s what I was just saying,” interrupted CelticDao, mildly irritated that no one had listened to him. “It looks like some sort of portal.”
As the gang nodded in agreement, wondering what a fast-moving interdimensional portal would do to the fabric of their universe, a breaking news alert informed the watchers that the tornado had disappeared from radar, as suddenly as it had formed.
* * *
Somewhere over southern Indiana, a tangled ball of energy and matter fell from the clouds and landed with a resounding “THUNK,” making a small crater in the remote cornfield.
After a stunned second or two, the remaining energy dissipated into the earth and the various physical components of the ball of began sorting themselves out. The bedraggled forms of a human, a horse, and a crow emerged from the dregs of the tornado and looked at one another.
“…iiiiitttttt!!!!!” finished Crow.
“Woohoo!” shouted Kernos. “That was some ride!”
The pooka said nothing—he was too astonished that a mere corvid could end one of the best rides he’d ever created.
Posted: 30 Dec 2004, 15:55
Branbeith was there - stick in wing - with a sheepish look on her face. -Well, as sheepish as a Raven could look. "oops I am still trying to get the stick/worm hole combination down. Hey, guys what are you doing in my portal?"
Mandahr had that long-suffering look about him. The rhino whispered to no one"ever since the birthday party she has been playing with the space-time continuum. "For a while, Cleveland was missing! Just gone!" Here he was, in a mess as usual, and no beloved laptop in sight.
His lap top had been totalled during one of the trips Branbeith had brought his on via the stick/wormhole vortex. He had never been two dimentional before then....And his beloved laptop was in that strange world...still two dimentisnal...A three dimensional circuit board could not become two dimentional without dire consequences.....
"Nobody noticed that Cleveland was missing..." Branbeith commented wisely. Bur she picked up on her beloved Rhino's sadness....and waved her stick..........
Selene and Kat Lady, who true to form was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and poor Billy Joe Bob who just would not have any luck when involved with the hippie-druid group,...., landed in an uncermonious heap at the Rhino's hooves. Branbeith sighed over the fact that her lovely portal was MUBAR (messed up beyond all recognition - what kind of story do you think this is anyway?!) Waved her stick, (Mandahr automatically ducked drawing a whithering look from the Raven), and the rest of the group found themselves on the ground at the hooves of a spotted rhino.
"This is why I try to stay out of these stories," Kernos commented. The rest of the group was nonpulsed. After a trip to Wonderland and the Knights of Nee this seemed quite normal.....
"She is great with the creation, but poor on control." The spotted rhino commented as if people appearing out nowhere was a common occurence, and not missing a beat he lumbered towards Selene and her Laptop. Circuitry's siren call had entranced him again. Somehow, the pragmatic rhino knew that Branbeith had, as usual, strayed from the grounds of common sense and into absurdity and he, as usual, would have to save the day via a lovely computer....
Crow closed his eyes and silently cursed the Karmic clause that was keeping him on the never ending assignment. One disaster after the other that was what his reporting career had become. And to think he he had been dreading a visit from his mother-in-law..Branbeith with a stick was much more scary.
The miffed Pooka picked up on the old bird's thoughts and transformed itself into a hideous demon ... a giant rendition of Crow's mother-in-law!!! Crow backed away from it. He couldn't help it....
Billy Joe Bob boxed the Pooka turned Mother-in-Law on the nose!
"Quit it! We need to git outta here, or at least figur out where here is!
They all looked around at the strange landscape.....
Posted: 30 Dec 2004, 21:43
Imagine for a moment that you had gone to sleep in your own cozy bed, and when you opened your eyes the next morning, you were sitting naked under the Arc de Triomphe while tourists pointed at you and laughed. That is how the group of friends that had been arguing in the parking lot of Moe’s Diner felt when they blinked their eyes and found that they were no longer in Texas in the middle of the night, but in a rock-strewn field at mid-morning. And it is also how Crow felt, who an instant before had been seeking shelter from a hailstorm over Indiana, and then found himself perched on a dolman.
After his initial surprise, Crow whipped out a pencil and his reporter’s notebook, because now an argument was breaking out that made the hailstorm look like a sunny day.
“Gal-dern it!” shouted Billy Joe Bob. “I had a hankerin’ to wait around till sunup on account of Moe makes the best danged cup o’ coffee this side o’ Poteet, and now look at us, in the middle o’ some godforsaken rock pile. I’m gettin’ total tired of this magical flyin’ all over the place. Where in tarnation are we anyhow?”
Laurel was clutching at CelticDao, Kat Lady and Branbeith were arguing, and Saille was screaming at no one in particular.
A clearly perturbed Selene, who had been hammering at her laptop, was mumbling, “I’ve seen this place in pictures before, I know I have.” Suddenly she yelled, “I have it now on Google! Folks, we’re standing in the Burren, in County Clare, Ireland. But how …”
“It’s elementary, my friends,” said Kernos, stepping forward and wiping his glasses on his handkerchief. “I’m not surprised that Selene was first to discover our whereabouts, as she is, after all, an administrator. I also am not surprised that she does not know how we got here, because, after all, she is a junior administrator. Just look at her pumpkin medallion, it still looks shiny and new, unlike mine which shows the wear from years of hard use.” He held his medallion out and did a little pirouette so that the circle of friends standing around could all get a good look. “And furthermore,” he said, “I am the only full druid here, and so none of you could be expected to have read Gwers 973, which is all about the life cycle of pookas. Now it is against OBOD policy for me to reveal the full contents of Gwers 973, but I will bend the rules just a smidgen and tell you what you need to know.” The druid/senior administrator sat down on a convenient rock, and, while Crow took notes, told an amazing tale:
“I was walking in my garden last night when I spied what to my experienced eyes was obviously a pooka in the guise of an eagle, and he was sitting on a branch in one of my magnificent red cedars. Well, he was obviously feeling the need to mate, and it was obvious also that he was thousands of miles from where he could expect to find any female pookas. As a druid, I felt obligated to help him, as he was so obviously in a rut.” Kernos erupted in laughter and wiped his streaming eyes with his handkerchief. Noting the stony faces surrounding him, his laughter soon subsided into a series of hitches and giggles. Soon he continued:
“Pookas are magical creatures, but during the rut, the males become so single-minded that they forget some of their powers. They retain their powers and can use them in an autonomic way, but they don’t necessarily think to use them. Pookas also become easily irritated during this time, and so what I did was intentionally provoke him to action with a crude joke. Now wait a minute, it gets better,” said Kernos, looking around to find Branbeith and Mandahr.
“I knew that Branbeith and Mandahr were coming to dinner, and in fact I saw them walking up my sidewalk just before I saw the pooka in the tree. I knew my timing had to be perfect, and of course, it was. You see, rhinoceros horn also has magical properties, and so when I provoked the pooka into taking me for a ride, I knew that he would probably run down the sidewalk, come into contact with the rhinoceros horn, and, when you read Gwers 973, you will learn that when a mischief-making pooka comes into contact with a rhinoceros horn, it sets up a time portal in the form of a tornado, and druids can ride this storm, direct it to a specific destination, and also draw anyone he wishes into its vortex. I wished to have my junior administrator with me, and knowing where she was from the GPS coordinates on her pumpkin medallion, which also show up on my pumpkin medallion, I sent out an attraction spell for her to be sucked into the storm, and, of course, all of you others who were standing around her were sucked in also. I then directed the storm to take us all to County Clare, Ireland, which is, I’m sure you know, the ancestral breeding ground of the pookas.”
Kat Lady was watching as a bus turned off the highway and drove to a nearby parking lot. A group of tourists started to disembark.
Crow didn't see the bus, as he was busy writing down everything Kernos had said. He was having real trouble believing any of it, but one thing the old reporter couldn’t deny: He wasn’t in Indiana anymore.
Posted: 01 Jan 2005, 22:18
Crow continued his scribbles with the stub of his pencil, the eraser worn to a nub. It wasn’t until Kat Lady said, “Um…people…there is a busload of people coming…” that he looked up from his writings. It appeared that Kat also had a penchant for stating the obvious as 80 or so “people” began to head toward the Foggy Duckers and friends. Crow looked and realized that one of those people was Beith and she was carrying a piece of paper in her hand and nothing else.
He cawed, “Beith!” Beith looked up and waived, beaming at the fact that not only was she going to get a treasure of shoes, but she would be able to see her good friends. She waived and yelled, “Hello! Have you seen a big X anywhere around here?”
The pooka heard her voice. The pooka sniffed the air. The pooka stamped his foot and snorted.
Kernos, amused as always, said “Uh oh. Sure looks like this pooka is about to get himself out of that rut with a little help from a friend.” And laughter shook him to tears.
Beith’s eyes grew large as she saw the Pooka, now in horse form, start charging toward her at full gallop. She was thinking as he came toward her, “I wonder what he wants. I wonder whose horse he is. I wonder if he wears designer horse shoes.”
The pooka was heading full speed toward her, the woman of his affection, this red-haired shoe-loving beauty and was within 3 feet of her when he was suddenly pulled to a hault by the magic lasso that found its way around his neck. He stopped just short of her, snorting in frustration. He turned to see Billy Joe Bob hanging on to the lasso saying, “Wa Hoo! That thar is some lasso, Kat Lady!” It seems that Kat Lady, had picked up the lasso in a magic shop in Mozambique and had kept it under her collar in case it was ever needed. Well this sure seemed like a time to use it so she pulled it out, threw it to the rodeo winning Texan who deftly lassoed the pooka.
Beith smiled and said, “Thanks Billy Joe Bob. Have you seen a big X like this one?” And she showed everyone the piece of paper with the big red X on it.
Celtic Dao said, “You mean like that one?” as he pointed to where Mandahr was standing.
Mandahr, in true Rhino fashion, looked down and said “Oh” and quickly stomped off the X.
Billy Joe Bob reigned in the pooka, who now was very docile as it turns out the lasso was a pooka taming lasso and Beith followed, her excitement showing on her face.
Selene said, “Beith,” in her best Administrator’s tone. “What are you doing?” To which Beith replied, “Finding buried treasure.”
Everyone gathered around the red X that was on the ground, wondering what it was that could be buried there.
Posted: 03 Jan 2005, 02:02
With Billy Joe Bob’s lasso around his neck, the pooka returned to some semblance of calm, though his quick mind was still working at a fevered pace.
I’m here, I’m finally here, thought the pooka. This is the ancestral pooka breeding ground, and that druid who calls himself a senior administrator actually helped me to arrive here. But there are no female pookas. Ah, but how could I have expected that it might be different this time? I have not mated in 400 years. Oh, my heart breaks. But here, here is the woman whose coming was foretold in The Holy Pooka Prophecies! I’d recognize her anywhere, and I know in my heart that it is she. But how can one who brings hope also bring pain? How can white be also black? I do not understand this, yet I must communicate with her. I must be calm. I wish Billy Joe Bob would stop talking to me like he talks to his horses!
“Whoa now, settle down. Everythin’s awright now, big feller,” said Billy Joe Bob, trying his best to calm the agitated creature that he held under a tight rein with his lariat.
“Now ye look like yer settlin’ down just a little bit, and I know ye don’t like this here rope,” said Billy Joe Bob. “So I’m gonna slip it on off yer neck real slowlike, and you just better behave yerself, on account of I’m gonna keep this here lasso handy, and you know I know how to use it, and I will if’n ye start to get riled up agin”
The pooka heard Billy Joe Bob’s words and did his best to remain calm. His golden eyes were riveted on Beith, who was on all fours and digging furiously with her bare hands in front of a dolmen, at a spot marked by a large red X. These humans could see the X, but had none of them stopped to think who had placed it there, or why? And had they not wondered why no one before them thought to dig at a spot that was so clearly marked?
Beith dug faster and faster, panting with the exertion. Not knowing what they were doing, Saille and Kat Lady bent to help, and then they were reluctantly joined by some of the others. Crow wrote in his notebook, refusing all entreaties for assistance.
The pooka just watched, satisfied to see that as fast as the humans dug, the dirt just flowed back into the hole even faster. The red X could not be obliterated, and no progress was being made. The pooka just waited for the humans to tire. Then it would be his turn. Then it would be time for him to take his big chance for the continuance of his species.
Posted: 03 Jan 2005, 13:51
Try as they might, the hole kept filling with dirt. At one point Branbeith became really perturbed, waved her stick, and the X became a X....She seemed happy with the change...no one else cared.
The dirt still kept filling up the hole - the digging efforts had proved futile!
Mandahr, who had been trying to located his beloved laptop in Flatland(but without success since all search engines seemed to occupy three dimentional space), looked over at his what-ever and said, "That wasn't too helpful."
Branbeith only silenced the curses that threatened to escape because she was a lady and this isn't that type of story. Instead she got another idea....and changed into a birch tree right one the X..
"I can feel it with my roots..there IS something down there....it is very warm to the touch..."
That discovery quelled the nagging doubts the foggyduckers were having about ever finding anything.....But how were they to get at whatever was hidden under the stubborn soil?
Posted: 03 Jan 2005, 14:48
What Beith didn't realize was that she had already hit rock bottom. There she was sitting alone in the Foggy Duck bar taking the advice of an Ogress which led her to Ireland and to the X. No matter how hard she dug the dirt kept piling back into the hole because the X marks the spot wasn't a real X it was a holographic image of an enticessm. The Pooka could see the enticessm waiting, floating above the X.
Enticessm, the opposite of exorcism needs a supply of joie de vivre or love of shoes will doo to exist. As Beith dug, the enticessm drew near and the pumkin medallions began to glow..
Posted: 03 Jan 2005, 15:54
At last the pooka took pity on the laboring humans.
“Stop!” he commanded.
They turned as one and looked at him, surprised.
Beith’s hallucination faded and she was back at the dig on the Burren. She blinked, trying to clear her vision. “B-But,” she stammered, “there’s treasure here…”
The pooka nodded sagely. “You have no idea how dear a treasure.” He walked over to the X. “Step back now,” he warned, and as the group backed away, struck the mark a sharp blow with a front hoof.
To everyone’s amazement, a vertical tunnel with smooth straight walls appeared where the X had been. Kernos used his pumpkin medallion’s flashlight setting to illuminate the depths and the group could see there the tunnel opened into a sizeable room perhaps 10 feet below ground.
“I guess we’re supposed to go down there?” Selene asked the pooka, who nodded. “All right,” she said, “Billy Joe Bob, we’ll need your rope here…”
“You don’t expect me to climb down that, do you?” Laurel demanded. “I might break a nail—”
“I can’t imagine that we’d need you for anything,” said Selene, somewhat disdainfully. “Please, do feel free to wait up here.”
“All alone?” asked Laurel, incredulously, looking around for some male to notice her plight.
But the druids were already gathered around the opening, anxious to descend, and no one was paying any attention to her.
Billy Joe Bob said, “Donchew worry none, darlin’. This big feller here,” he indicated Mandahr, “ain’t gonna fit in that thar hole. You’ll watch over her, wontcha, big guy?”
So, leaving Mandahr and Ashes as a rear guard, and Laurel sulking, they tied one end of the rope around a convenient boulder and the group of intrepid adventurers one by one descended (some with more grace than others) into the chamber below. When all the humans and were assembled in the underground room, the pooka shifted into eagle form and joined them, as did Branbeith and Crow.
As her eyes adjusted to the dimness, Beith spotted something on the wall.
“Kernos, Selene, could you give me a little more light here?”
The two administrators obliged with their medallion flashlights and Beith squealed with delight. “Look here!” she exclaimed, excitedly. “It seems to tell some sort of a story.”
For the walls of the room were covered in murals and it did, indeed, seem to tell some sort of a tale…but of what?
“Of the history of the pooka-folk,” said the pooka, in answer to the unspoken question. He had resumed his equine aspect and now stepped to the northern wall. “Look and learn.”
Beith and the others walked slowly around the room, gazing in wonder at the ancient artwork. The craftsmanship was incredible, the colors unfaded with time.
At the beginning of the pictorial tale there were many pookas, most in horse form. The males mostly appeared as large black stallions, but the females were smaller, daintier, and of various brighter colors so fair that they seemed to glow amidst their darker mates. By the end of the eastern wall there were fewer females shown; by the middle of the western wall there was not one mare-pooka for every two score stallion-pookas. It was obvious that the species was in serious trouble.
“What happened to them all?” asked Saille, of no one in particular.
Several of the humans glanced to the pooka for explanation, but he was standing with his head bowed and his eyes closed, in obvious pain from the memory of the tragedy that the pictures seemed to illustrate.
Kat Lady, examining a section near the floor with a flashlight of her own that she had found in her collar, had not noticed the pooka’s distress. “Hey, look at this ugly guy!” she laughed. “He looks like a gangster! And look, here’s what must be his gang!” She pointed to a large group of thuggish-looking men who seemed to be stalking a pooka.
As Beith turned to see, she was suddenly seized with dread; some half-forgotten memory left over from the time when she had been possessed by the spirit of Seamus MacLoafer had surfaced momentarily and she shuddered.
The pooka roused himself from his reverie. Walking to the middle of the room, he pawed through the dust to reveal a metal ring set into the stone floor.
“Open the trap door, Beith,” he said, softly. “It is time you learned why you are both our doom and our hope.”
Trembling, the Irish lass pulled on the ring, but the weight was too much for her. In a flash, CelticDao and Billy Joe Bob leapt to her assistance. As the two men lifted the heavy stone trap door, a chill ran through the watching druids—the already-dim room had darkened further and what dire event that betokened, no one could guess.
But it was just Mandahr, his rhino face filling the opening of the entrance tunnel. “What’s going on down there?” he called.
“Get out of the light!” commanded Branbeith, recovering her aplomb. “I’ll let you know as soon as we know!”
A bronze coffer with arcane sigils embossed on its lid now stood exposed. Beith traced a finger over the ancient markings. “I cannot read these,” she whispered.
“It says ‘This side up,’” translated the pooka. “Open the lid.”
With trembling hands, Beith complied.
The druids and Billy Joe Bob all leaned closer. Crow held his breath, his pencil poised over his reporter’s notepad. Kernos and Selene shined their flashlights into the coffer…
“Shoes!” shrieked Beith. “Shoes! I knew it! Antique shoes!”
She pulled out one pair after another and they all marveled at the sight of such artifacts. The workmanship was crude by the standards of today, but they were obviously shoes. Shoes of fine leather, still supple and bright after untold years, shoes of a texture and pattern that bore a suspicious resemblance to…
“Lady pookas!” gasped Crow, in spite of himself. “My gods, those shoes are made of pooka hide!”
Everyone looked at the wizened reporter, who suddenly remembered that he was supposed to be covering this story, not participating in it.
But the pooka nodded. “Thus it is,” he said sadly. “I sing for you now the Pooka’s Song*, our lament for our lost mates.”
And with that, and an amazingly fine tenor voice, he began to chant:
“See you the dimpled track that runs,
All hollow through the field?
O that was where they laid the traps
And Pookas’ fate they sealed!
“See you our stately woods of oak,
And crystal lake beside?
O that was where our hearts were broke,
The day the Pookas died!
“See you the rocky hilltops spread
O’er Eire’s emerald isle?
O that was where the Pookas fled,
When Seamus’ men came by!
“See you the meadows wide and lone,
Where faeries seek their kin?
O there were Pookas, fine and fair,
Ere Seamus took their skin!
“And will you, after hearing this,
Still haunt the shoe stores at the mall?
Will you still buy your sequined pumps
With knowledge of the Pookas’ fall?
“This is not any common Earth,
Water, Wood, or Air,
But Pookas’ grave in rocky soil,
Where you and I will fare.”
Beith was horrified. “You mean—?” she gasped.
The pooka nodded. “It has been the scourge of our kind for centuries, ever since Seamus MacLoafer—may his name be ever cursed!—” Here, he indicated the men on the mural, “—brought the concept of shoes and his squads of pooka-killers to Ireland. Even today the finest designer shoes, like the ones you wear there, dear Beith…” His voice caught in his throat and he paused for a moment to regain control. “Even today the slaughter continues. Every year we have fewer females, fewer foals—” He stopped, unable to continue.
The silence in the underground chamber was broken by Beith’s sobs.
“I shall never wear designer pooka shoes again!” she vowed. “How can I help undo the damage that I have done?”
*apologies to Rudyard Kipling