Linda Delaney & Jane Daffron
The April day had started out dreary…just like it had been the entire week. Rain…soaking hard rain. Santa Barbara in April was supposed to be sunny, but the weather forecasters forgot to tell the Pacific winds that. As the rain pelted the wooden deck outside the massive brick home at the end of the grounds of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, the occupants inside went about their normal weekend routine.
Admiral Harriman Nelson sat in his study on one end of the house, grimly pouring over a myriad of paperwork that he’d brought home from his office. The most recent mission of the Seaview had been profitable for all concerned; however, the documentation had to be finished before his budget justification presentation to the Federal Bureau of Marine Exploration in two weeks. Suddenly he looked up and saw his five year old son, Sean, peering over the edge of the desk.
Putting his papers down, he sat back in his overstuffed leather chair and gazed back at the wide-eyed child. “Aren’t you supposed to be down for a nap, young man?” He swung his chair around and opened his arms; the little boy came around and climbed into his father’s lap.
“Not tired, Poppa. Couldn’t sleep,” he adamantly stated as he settled in. “’Sides…Poppa… I can’t go outside to play. It’s raining…”
“Well…it’s supposed to stop later on…Maybe if it does, we can have dinner out on the deck. Caitlin will be here…” Nelson assured the child.
“Tatie’s gonna be here?” the red headed child’s eyes lit up. The mere mention of his older sister always caused the child to smile.
Nelson smiled down at his young son. Tousling his red curls, he replied, “Yes, she is…now, if I’m going to get all of this done before dinner…whether we have it inside or out, you’re going to have to go in to your mother. I do believe she and Maria may have something special planned for dinner. If it’s what I think…they’re going to need your help.”
“Poppa! Come quick! Look!!! There over the hill…look at the rainbow!!!”
Several adults followed Harriman Nelson to the French doors of the deck at the Nelson home. Everyone had been driven inside by the sudden thunderstorm, and now that the storm had passed, the results of the storm had been found by Sean Pearce Nelson.
The five year old was beside himself with delight, and he threw open the doors and ran out on the deck, running to the back of the deck and pointing excitedly. “Poppa! Momma!… Everybody!!!!….Look!!!!!!”
The adults finally made it to a place on the deck that satisfied the child… several other children also crowded behind Sean. R.C. Crane poked him in the back, and declared with all of the authority of a nine-year-old, “So…it’s only a rainbow! Big deal!”
“OWW! Stop, R.C. and ‘sides, Chief says that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…and that’s a double one!” the younger child declared.
“No big deal!!”
Harriman Nelson smiled over at Lee Crane’s son. “Oh, yes, it’s a big deal, Robert! Rainbows are rare enough, but double ones are extremely rare.” All of a sudden, some of Robert’s bravado quietly disappeared in the light of Nelson’s words.
“Really rare, sir?”
“Yes, “ he said gently, “Really rare.”
Sean turned about to face his father, his eyes full of wonder, “Are there really pots of gold? Is the Chief right?”
There was a smattering of low laughs, and Lee Crane explained, “Let’s just say…the Chief tends to exaggerate a little…so no, no pot of gold…”Sean looked from his father’s amused face into that of Lee Crane’s. “But the Chief said, Uncle Lee, that….”
Smiling, Crane replied, “Sean, believe me….no gold…. The Chief really hasn’t seen any gold at the end of the rainbow…in fact, the Admiral can correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know, there is no end to a rainbow…”
“But the Chief…”
“…is filling your head with tales he’s spinning…” Nelson replied in a slight Irish accent and ruffled his son’s auburn curls. “If you really want to hear a story, well, Lee, Chip and I can tell you a few. And I’m sure that there are a couple of good tales as well, in Captain Nelson’s seachest…” He picked the little boy up, “C’mon, I think that the rainbow, and this talk of tales, brings to mind a mission we once had in the Irish Sea.”
“The one that the Chief told me about? With the red and green Lepre…leprechauns…?”
Lee looked at Nelson, and the Captain of the Seaview smiled, trying hard not to laugh, “No, Sean. Not that story… there was another time, however, when something truly strange happened to all of us and the boat…” His smile became a bit wary, “Admiral, why don’t you tell the children some of that story…Chip and I will help out when we can.”
Nelson nodded, and the group returned to the Great Room. He seated himself on the large couch, and Sean climbed up next to him. Robert sat on his other side, and the three Morton children sat on the floor at his feet. The other adults found seats around the room; Karen sat on the other side of Sean, near to Nelson. Lee sat in the large easy chair, and Chip and Matty sat on the other couch. Caitlin found a place near Lee, not too close, but close enough for him to be aware of her nearby. Nelson smiled at the group… He knew that he couldn’t tell the whole story…not as it truly happened, but what he would tell, would be more in line with what could be told to strangers… He’d have to ‘sugar coat’ a lot of it for the children and leave out a lot of very pertinent, and sometimes horrifying, details… Hesitating a moment, his memory of that trip clouded with the reality, and what he decided to tell would be a very abbreviated version of the real story.
“Well, this was about twelve years ago. Lee had just celebrated the end of his first year here on the boat….
Personal Log of Harriman Nelson, USN, ret.---
contained herein may never be revealed… As is with most of Seaview’s
missions, there are some things that if they were made known, would seriously
place in doubt the sanity of her crew and senior staff. Had I not experienced
and been privy to them personally, I would also wonder about my own sanity. This
boat and this crew have had several truly unique experiences; yet for me, as
well as my Captain, Lee Crane, this had to be one of the most terrifying. I will
carry with me the full truth…and hope to the God above that I never have to ever
be faced with it again.
Lee Crane looked again around the Control Room of the Seaview. They had just finished the shakedown cruise with the new modifications to the boat, and his project, the Flying Sub, had performed well also. He had found a few small problems in the FS1’s circuitry, and a minor need for a modification in the joystick control, but all in all it had been a successful cruise. He was pleased, and he knew Nelson was too. Chip Morton and the Chief had been moving about their duties with looks of satisfaction that he knew well… There would be quite a party for this crew, when they docked at the Institute.
Chip approached the plot table, clipboard in hand. He proffered it to Crane.
“Reports on all the new systems. Everything checked out A-ok. Great results on everything. The O.O.M.’s going to be real pleased with all the data. Congratulations, Captain,” Chip grinned widely.
Lee smiled back. “Yep… I’m sure he will be… The FS1 came through real well, too. All in all, a successful shakedown…”
“Skipper!” Sparks called over the PA. “Incoming message, from the State Department. For you and the Admiral, sir.”
“Very well, Sparks. Send it to the Admiral’s cabin, and notify him that I’ll be there ASAP,” then turning to Chip, “Chip, are those reports ready?”
“Yessir. In triplicate, I might add… Any problems?”
“Nope…Incoming from State for the Admiral and me. I’m going to his cabin. You have the Con,” he nodded to Chip, then took the clipboard, and headed up the spiral stairs to Officer’s Country and the Admiral’s quarters.
Lee knocked on the door to Nelson’s cabin. The deep voice from inside called “Come!” He opened the door, and entered the cabin. Papers, maps, and books were strewn all over the bunk, the desk, and every available space. Lee stopped in the doorway. “Admiral?”
Nelson looked up, blue eyes bright with the intensity of research. “Come in, Lee…” he gestured around the cabin. “…come in… find somewhere to sit.”
Crane carefully moved a pile of papers from the edge of the desk, giving himself room to set in his favorite place, the edge of the Admiral’s desk. “What’s all this? I thought that you were working on the results of the shakedown. This looks like a great deal more…”
“It is, Lee. It is. You’re here about the message from the State Department, right?”
“That’s the formal notification…I’ve been on the radio with Arthur Thees. He’s the Second Undersecretary. There’s a problem on the West Coast of Ireland that we’ve been asked to investigate. We’re to head to port, re-stock and then head out within the tightest possible parameters. If we sail at flank the rest of the way in…” He searched for, and picked up a small calculator, then did some fast calculations. “We should be able to head out in I’d say, 48 hours. Needless to say, time is of the essence here.”
Lee smiled at his CO, appreciating the scientist’s desire to find an answer to ‘something’.
“Well, are you going to fill me in…or leave me guessing?” he asked, half seriously.
Abstractedly…"Oh! Of course! Sorry… this just has me fascinated…” He rummaged through the books, and papers, muttering to himself. Finally, “Umpfh… Here it is! There’s an island that seems to have appeared suddenly from nowhere…in the middle of nowhere. Usually in these cases, the island just as quickly disappears…the legends call it ‘the Enchanted Island’. The other unusual factor in this case is that it’s been two days, and the Island is still there… Usually, according to the books, the Islands disappear as soon as the locals get near it…this time, the locals can’t get close to it…the closer they get, the further the island seems to be from them. The scientists on the scene have no explanation. It reads, on all the equipment, as a solid. A land mass, but no one can get close to it! The locals are saying they see an ‘Enchanter’ on the island. Some are saying it’s a druid, one of the ‘old ones’. Anyway, the government of Ireland approached the State Department for some strange reason, and we’ve been elected to go.”
Lee sighed heavily. “You know…we could get there a lot faster, if we take the FS1. We could go now, and have Chip and the boat meet us there. I just worry that it’s too much for the men… this has been a rigorous cruise…we pushed them and the boat to the limits…and beyond. They all need a rest, not another mission.”
“You may be right…why don’t you go ahead and get the Flying Sub ready for takeoff in two hours. I’ll notify State that you and I are on the way, and Chip can bring the boat as soon as he and the men can get there. That way we can begin to do whatever State wants us to do. I’ll have more details in this…” He held up the message Sparks had delivered. “And you and I can get some kind of a plan worked up while we’re enroute.”
Lee stood and proffered the clipboard to Nelson. “Aye, sir. By the way…here are the reports for the shakedown, and I’ll get on the FS1 right away. She should be ready in an hour.”
Nelson was looking in two of the books on his desk, as he waved abstractedly at Crane. “Fine, Lee… fine…I’ll meet you in the Nose in an hour or so.” Considering himself dismissed, Crane left the cabin, feeling concerned about the boat and the men, with this new mission. And a little puzzled by Nelson’s absorption in it. Shaking his head, he muttered to himself… “I have a baaaadddd feeling about this…” as he walked down the companionway.
Exactly an hour and ten minutes later, Nelson came down the spiral gangway to the Nose. He was grinning broadly at the anticipation of the new mission. There was something about investigating the appearance of a legend that gave him an extra bit of interest in this one… in addition to the fact that he had a history with the country and the people. His Celtic roots were calling to him, his Celtic soul intrigued by the pursuit of the myth, and the reality of the present. He smiled at Crane. “Everything ready, Lee?”
Crane looked up from the Plot Table. “Yes, sir. The FS1 is checked out and ready to go. Chip and I have been running some programs, and if all goes well, we’ll reach the Irish Coast in about four hours. Chip plans on having the boat rendezvous with us in a week.” He grinned a bit… “Maybe less, he pulls out all stops.”
“Good!! Sounds good! C’mon, Let’s get going then!” COB Francis Sharkey was standing at the hatch in the front of the nose. He helped Nelson into his leather flight jacket, and ventured, “Admiral, now you be careful, sir...”
Nelson looked at the Chief, surprised and amused. “We fully intend to be, Francis. What could you possibly be worried about?”
“Well, sir… it’s like this, you’re goin’ to Ireland, and there are the Little People… and you could be well, intruding, so to speak, and if you make the Little People angry, well…they do get back at you…make your life miserable, so to speak…”
The Admiral laughed. “There’s nothing to worry about, Chief… nothing at all. There’s a solid explanation for all of this… and we’ll find it!” He looked over at Crane, who was approaching the hatch. Sharkey automatically handed the Captain his jacket.
“Yessir, we will.” He took the jacket and as he shrugged it on, he winked at the CPO. “…And I’m sure that there won’t be a Pookah or Banshee in sight!”
Sharkey’s face turned bleach white, and he made a face that caused his eyes to bulge. “Skipper!!!” he gasped. “Ya don’t make fun of the little people and the Irish fairies and the like… If you’re goin’ to their Island, they’ll get you!”
Both Senior officers laughed, not at the sincerity of the Chief’s words, but rather at the unlikeness of them, neither man believing, for an instant, any truth in what he said. Both men continued to smile as they opened the hatch, and descended into the smaller craft. As Crane’s head sank beneath the coaming, Sharkey heard him say, “I’ll be sure to send you some good luck charms to protect you when the boat heaves to in Ballydonegan Bay!” He pulled the hatch shut, and dogged it shut. Sharkey looked at the hatch horrified, and made a sign against the spirits, then turned and looked at the Exec. He shook his head mournfully, and went to him.
Morton held a hand up. “I know, Chief… I have a bad feeling about this, too….”
“Yes sir… Yes sir!”
Crane took the Pilot’s seat and Nelson, the co-pilot’s. They quickly went through the pre-flight checklist, fired up the small reactor, and launched the small boat. Lee took her quickly into the deep ocean, and then set the sub to take off from the water to the sky. Once she breached the surface, he took her up several thousand feet, and began to head to the Irish Sea. Setting the controls on Auto-Pilot, he turned to the Admiral.
“Well, sir…what’s the itinerary?”
Relaxing back in the chair, Nelson shifted the papers on the portable desk in front of him.
“We’ll do several fly-overs of the Island, using the cameras for stills and
videos. Then we’ll put ashore at Alliles and make contact with the Irish that
will be waiting for us there. I was going to suggest we forgo the uniforms, so I
had Sharkey stow some civies, appropriate to the area. The more we look like the
locals, the easier it’ll be to get information… and once we’ve got what we need,
we make plans to land on the Island. I’m sure we’ll be able to make landfall
from the air if not the Bay itself. Here…look at the location of the Island in
relation to the Bay. It sits fully in the center of the entrance to it….There’s
some reason that it appeared there . I have to do some further investigations,
but this isn’t the first time an Island has appeared here for longer than the
time told in the legends. In 1934, an Island appeared in the same position, and
was there for at least a week. There were several disappearances related to the
appearance, and then the Island just disappeared again….along with the people.”
“Who and how many, Admiral?”
“Several fisherman, a pair of young lovers, two schoolgirls, and three teenage boys…”
“Interesting mix of locals… anything else?”
“Well, there are several other references to the appearance of an ‘enchanted island’ that remained in place for longer periods of time. The amazing thing of it all is, that when they appear, the locals have tried to approach, have gotten within what would seem to be landing distance and the Island disappears. Yet this time, the same thing happens, but the Island is still there according to the photographs and videos being taken from land when the boats approach. I want to do a fly-over, several times to get some good photos, and Infra-red pictures as well.” He shuffled the papers further. “Listen to this, Lee… a description of the Island…
…‘ and still they gazed, and still the wonder grew…for the day was clear, and the island could be seen as plainly as they saw the hills to the north. It was rugged, in some parts rock ,in others densely wooded; here and there were deep shadows in its sides indicating glens heavily covered with undergrowth and grasses. At one end, it rose almost precipitously from the sea; At the other end, the declivity was gradual; the thick forest gave way to smaller trees, these to shrubs; these to green meadows that finally melted into the sea, and became indistinguishable from the waves…’ *
Crane smiled at the description, “It sounds almost too good to be true. And a
bit of the blarney in the description as well….”
“I might have agreed with you if I hadn’t seen these pictures.” He handed Lee a pile of color photographs. Each one showed different views of an Island, one shot more beautiful than the next.
“This is a beautiful place, sir. But there are a couple of areas that look, well, dark and fuzzy…like the lens forgot to focus.”
“That’s right… the government analysts on both sides of the Atlantic have come to the same conclusion… and of course, the military thinks it’s something that the ‘enemy’ has managed to come up with and hide its very nature from us. We’re elected because we straddle the fence, so to speak… military enough to satisfy the governments, and scientific enough to satisfy the scientific community.”
“And just what are we looking for? Those Pookah, Banshees, fairies and the like?”
Nelson laughed heartily. “Maybe, Lee… just maybe. There has to be some bit of…mystery in all of this…we know there are many things unexplained out there… why not here, too? Don’t forget that there’s a grain of the truth in all of the legends. Some one small part of it is true, somewhere….”
Lee looked thoughtful for a moment, “Well, sir, I think I’ll leave the Irish History to you, and I’ll try to stick to the cold hard facts. ETA, Ballydonegan Bay, 1730 Zulu…”
At 1734 Zulu, the FS1 of the SSRN Seaview made its first sweep over the ‘Enchanted Island’. With the video and still cameras rolling, and Nelson making visual observations, Lee spent the next hour and forty five minutes crisscrossing the small bit of land in the middle of the Bay. When Nelson was satisfied that they had completely covered the island, he had Crane take the small sub to furthest, deepest part of the bay, near the small village of Alliles.
They donned SCUBA gear, took their civies in special waterproof pouches, and left the little boat, well secured with the alarm and detection devices well set. Swimming the short distance underwater to the low beach area, they came ashore in an area set apart from the general beach area by several clusters of bushes. They were able to secure their equipment and dress quickly. Both men wore local sweaters and tweedy slacks. Nelson wore a cap, perched jauntily on his head; Crane remained hatless. They wore walking shoes, and carried a variety of devices and materials on their persons, designed to be well concealed, and easily used by the Intelligence community. Using the maps and materials prepared for them, they made their way to the road, and moved toward the town.
They reached the center of the small Irish town, Alliles, looking like so many other townspeople, and went to the office of the Constabulary, as Nelson had been directed. Waiting there were several men, the town doctor, the chief of Police, and two men, agents that had been sent by the Irish Government.
Nelson extended a hand in greeting to the older man of the pair. “Inspector McNally…good to see you again, it’s been a long time.”
“Almost twenty years, if I remember correctly, Harriman. That escapade with British Intelligence was quite a learning experience. Congratulations on the stars, sir!” he grinned and shook hands warmly.
“No ‘sir’ between old friends, Liam. Harry works just fine…This is my Captain, Lee Crane…Lee, Liam McNally, formerly of the RIC, now of the Intelligence service for the Irish Free State.”
Lee smiled at the officer, and smiled, “Good to meet you, McNally… You and the Admiral know one another…?”
“Aye, we …ah…shared a mission, in Belfast… t’was a long time ago…” It was evident that the agent was choosing his words carefully, and Nelson felt it best to assure him.
“Lee’s ONI, Liam…Full clearance on this… and he’s also Captain of my boat…”
McNally nodded solemnly. “And he knows all the reasons that you’re here, Harry?” Lee looked at Nelson, a question on his face.
“…most of them. I haven’t briefed him on all of them…just filled him in on the legend part of this...”
The Operative continued, “Well, this is my partner, Donal O’Flaherty, and this here is the Constable, Aiden Burke, and the doctor, Daniel O’Malley. Gentlemen, this is Admiral Harriman Nelson of the SSRN Seaview, and his Captain, Commander Lee Crane.”
Handshakes and acknowledgements were made and exchanged, and the men sat down around the large desk that was in the center of the room. Nelson began, “Well, we know that the Island is something that is real and solid. The tests that the various scientific and military groups have done confirm that it has density, mass, and is displacing a million metric tons of water. There’s plant and animal life, several water sources, and signs of habitation. In our fly-overs, we saw evidence of fires, and more…here, on this picture, and in these two others, there’s at least one group of humans.” Nelson put the pictures on the table, the images of the three men, in flowing grey robes. One of the three was definitely a leader, walking several feet in front of the other two. From the photograph the lead man looked to be older, significantly older. He had flowing grey beard, carried a walking stick, and in one picture, where he looked up at the FS1, he seemed to raise the stick in defiance of the invasion of modern man.
Nelson looked at the Doctor. “Any doubt that they’re human?”
“None at all, Admiral… none… they look and carry themselves like some of the ‘Old Ones’…the Druids. It looks like a head druid and two of his initiates.”
“Well, I, for one, would like to meet him. He looks angry. As if he wanted to do away with us…”
“Maybe he does…yer treadin’ in areas that ye nay know much about, sir,” proclaimed a voice and Nelson looked at the Constable.
“I said…yer treadin’ in areas ye know nothing about… yer an American… Ye’ve no idea of how this Island is to the locals… I’m nae sayin’ that we’re ignorant here, far from it. But we have respect for the old ones, and the old ways. An’ all of ya comin’ here and stirrin’ the pot, well, yer lookin’ fer trouble. There, I’ve had me say. I’ll be helpin’ ye in all ways I can. That’s me job. But I’m not likin’ it.”
“Constable Burke, we’ll do our best to respect the ways of the locals. We’ve come dressed as civilians to cause as little upset as possible. But we’ve been invited in by your government, and we’ll do the best possible by all of you.”
McNally looked at Nelson, “You know that this isn’t the first time that an island has, for want of a better word, erupted in the bay. There seems to be a pattern here. Every fourth decade or so, there’s an appearance. We have it documented all the way back to the first appearance. When the damn English came to our land, the Islands began to appear. Not only here, but in other places all over Erin. There’s a rich history of appearances all over. Over all the centuries since that time…when the English came, they went after all that was Irish, and sought to destroy us. The old ones went deeper and deeper into the mists. Along with the rest of the fairies, and pookahs, and the like. Oh, a few things survived, like the Leprechauns, tho’ they became silly and simple, unlike the evil creatures they truly were. And the Banshee’ and Coche de Barre, because they were the harbingers of death, and too much a part of Irish life. But the rest was taken, and we were persecuted if we talked of ‘them’. So they went the way of the myths and legends of the people. And the Islands came back to remind us of our history, and what we had lost as a people. Now we’re bein’ asked to prove what it is… well, I don’t think this is going to happen, Harry, although you and your Captain there are going to give it the old college try!”
“I take it you’re here as a skeptic, then, Liam… and you and your colleague believe that you won't be finding anything concrete here. Not even a community on the Island.”
“Oh, you may find many things, my friend, I just don’t think that what you find…will be able to be proven in any way.”
Nelson laughed. “We’ll see my friend. I want to make landfall in the morning… we’ll take the FS1 in and see where we can land.”
“Ye’ll not be taking yer new-fangled machine onta the Island?” The doctor was appalled at the idea. “Yer trying to mix the old an’ the new… t’aint goin’ ta work….yer askin’ fer more trouble than ya ken handle, Admiral.”
Lee grinned at Nelson. None of the men in the room knew what the men and officers of the Seaview had faced in the last year. Much of their adventures had been kept secret from the general public, and much kept from the Intelligence community as well. There were things that had happened that just wouldn’t be believed, and they would also affect the credibility of the crew and the status of the Institute itself… so little was said of what really happened on the boat, and the world only knew what the Admiral wanted them to.
Nelson looked carefully at the doctor and the rest of the men at the table… with as much amusement as seriousness, he laid his hands on the desk and rose. He stood at his full height, cleared his throat, and spoke.
“Gentlemen, Captain Crane and I have been charged to meet with you to discuss this event, and make some plans. It seems to me that we have met, and my plans are to take my Flying Sub, and make landfall on this so-called ‘Enchanted Island’ at about 0800 tomorrow. Accordingly, we have been informed that we have accommodations here, in the village, and if one of you would be so kind, we would like to be taken to them, and have a good night’s rest. I would like to invite any of you to join us first in the pub across the street, so we can share a pint, and some food, and then we’ll find our way to our beds…”
McNally gave Nelson a murderous look, and rose. “The town has several small cottages that are rented. We’ve rented one for you and Crane, and one for O’Flaherty and me. The Pub is serving dinner, and we’ve taken the small back room for privacy, Harry. We still have much to discuss, and we’ll be needing some bit of quiet.”
Nelson laughed… “I’ve heard many things about pubs… a place for quiet discussion is not one of the things that Pubs are known for…”
“I’ll differ with you on that point of view… most of the planning of the Rebellion took place in the local pubs… so we’ll be movin’ this across the street… will you be joinin’ us, Doctor… Constable?”
Both men rose, the doctor offering his excuses… “I’ve a babe on the way with Mrs. Mahoney…it’s her fourth, and the wee one should be makin’ its’ appearance in an hour or so, so with that in mind, I’ll be goin’. Beggin’ yer pardon, gentlemen…” he tipped his hat, and left.
Nelson looked over at Burke, “Constable?”
The older man shrugged, “Far be it from me ta be refusin’ a bit o’ the brew. C’mon, gentlemen, the public house calls…”
As Aiden Burke led the way, the others followed, O’Flaherty pairing with Crane, and McNally joining Nelson. The Irish agent leaned to Nelson. “Is there something about this assignment that I’m not privy to, Harry?”
Nelson harrumped. “No, Liam… nothing at all. State sent us… and State wants an answer. Your government wanted help…so we’re here. Seaview will be arriving in a few days, and she’ll be at the government’s disposal as well. That’s all my friend…nothing else.”
“Then why the rush to land on the Island? Surely you can wait until your boat arrives.”
“Call it curiosity, then…” and he chuckled… “and a bit of the call of my Irish roots.” Nelson smiled and clapped him on the shoulder, “C’mon, Liam…let’s get that pint, and relax a bit…we’ve a few years to catch up on.”
Several hours later, the men left the pub, and made their way to the cottages where they were staying the night. Nelson had offered McNally and O’Flaherty a ride in the FS1 in the morning, and both men had steadfastly refused the offer. Accepting the refusal graciously, Nelson and Crane retired to the cottage, and planned the morning’s landing. Both men, tired from the long flight, concluded their plans quickly, and went to their beds, planning on sleeping through an uneventful night.
Crane heard it first. A long low wail, or what was referred to as keening… deep and sad…very sad… and he sat up in bed, at first uneasy. Then hearing the keening sound continue, he rose from his bed, and padded to the window. Looking out, he saw the Island, bathed in an eerie blue glow, and almost shimmering in the full moon… since it was not all that far, he looked hard, and saw what he swore were large bonfires. The sound continued and he watched the Island, almost mesmerized by the sound and the sight of the shimmering mass of land. So captured by it, he started at the sharp rap on his door.
He turned, and moved to the door, opening it. “Yes, Admiral?”
“You heard it too, did you?”
“Yessir… did you see it? The Island, the light….the fires?”
“The color… the fires on the Island?”
“Color, Lee? Fires?” He went to the window, and when he looked out, saw only the dark mass of the Island, no color, not a single suggestion of a fire. “Looks pretty dull and regular to me.”
Crane went back to the window, and saw then what Nelson saw… nothing… “But the sound, you did hear the sound, the wailing?”
“Yes… that I heard… clearly, too…like it was outside the window…” Crane shivered, tho the room was warm… “What is it, Lee?”
“Just felt cold, all of a sudden…”
Nelson smiled in the darkened room… “My Irish Grandmother would say someone just walked on your grave… but then, we Irish are prone to give even the slightest of natural reactions somewhat mystical reasons…”
Crane smiled back at his CO… “I think you’re getting a bit caught up in the mystery of all of this, sir.”
“Perhaps, a wee bit, Lad!” He winked. “I think we’d better try and get some more sleep… if we plan to get moving early, then the more rest, the better.”
“Aye, sir. It’s 0345… our plan was to get moving at 0700. Seems to me, we’d better try and sack out a little longer…” He saw the look on Nelson’s face, and shrugging, said, “… or not… maybe we can scare up some coffee in the kitchen. Then you can clue me in on all this legend business that you and McNally are talking about…”
Nelson nodded, and turned, “Sounds better than trying to sleep again. I’ll meet you in the kitchen…”
Lee threw on his robe, and tying the belt, thrust his hands into his pockets, and went into the small hallway. Nelson had gone ahead, and grabbed his own robe, treading into the small kitchen of the cottage ahead of Crane. Both men moved silently about the kitchen, finding the materials needed to brew coffee, and also pleasantly surprised the small refrigerator was well stocked. Finding some sliced beef, bread, and assorted ‘deli’ items, the two set about making sandwiches to accompany the coffee. When they were settled at the table, Crane looked at Nelson and asked, “Well, where do we begin? With the appearance of the Island? Or can you tell me about all these tales that you know so much about? Not being Celtic, I don’t have a clue to the difference between a pookah and a druid, an Irish fairy and a Leprechaun… and while we’re at it, what in all that’s holy is a Banshee and Coche de Barre…?”
Harriman Nelson smiled at his boat’s Captain. “A banshee is far from holy, Lee, and if you see a Coche de Barre, well you’d better be saying your prayers, and quickly… no one that gets in one gets out.”
Crane took a bite of his sandwich, “Well, I’m all ears, and I need to know as much as possible about all of this before we go to the Island tomorrow…”
As the sun rose that morning, two men finished off their second pot of coffee, and rose from the table. Scrubbing at his eyes, Lee said, “Well, at least I understand a little bit more of the background, and the terms that you all are using. At least…I’ll hit the shower, and then by the time you’re ready, we can see McNally and then get to the FS1. Although, I’d like to suggest a change in plans… I don’t think we should take the sub to the Island. I think we should lay off the Island maybe a half mile or so… and take a raft over… I dunno, something just tells me that it would be a better idea.”
Nelson laughed, “What’s wrong, Lee? Becoming nervous in the light of the supernatural?”
Crane smiled back. “Not at all, sir. Just a healthy respect for the unknown…why tempt fate, so to speak?” Nelson merely smiled back at him, and nodding, turned and went back to his bedroom.
Less than a half hour later, the two men left the cottage, and headed toward the beach where they had stowed their SCUBA gear. McNally and O’Flaherty were waiting for them, both men looking well the worse for wear. The Seaview men, for all their lack of sleep, looked far better than the Irish.
Nelson pushed his cap back on his head, and, grinning, asked, “Tough night, Liam?”
“Didn’t’cha hear it, Harry? The Keenin’… the ungodly keenin’ and the Island…the fires on the Island…”
“Yes, we heard the sounds…just wind… nothing else… and there were no fires…”
“No fires?!!! There were at least six bonfires… Maybe more… An’ ya didn’ see nary a thing?”
Quietly, Lee offered, “I saw them, and the Island… It glowed.”
“Aye, Crane, that it did. So you saw it, eh?”
Lee nodded, and shivered… “Yes…it was cold…very cold… I’ve never heard or seen anything like it, and believe me, I’ve seen a lot….”
Changing the subject, Nelson queried, “Decided to take me up on the invitation for the ride in the FS1, Liam?”
“No, Harry, hardly that…I just want to wish you good luck…I’m thinkin’ you’ll be needin’ it, by all that’s holy. An’ there’s nothing holy about that Island… So good luck, my friend…and you too, Crane. You’ll be having an interestin’ experience for a sub captain.”
Lee cast a knowing glance at Nelson, “Someday, when you have time, McNally, I’ll tell you some of the Seaview Stories that will surprise you… someday…”
“Mayhap, Crane… good luck then.”
McNally and O’Flaherty stood aside, as the American officers pulled SCUBA gear from hiding places, and quickly donned the gear, making ready to go the small yellow sub. As they finished dressing, Nelson turned to McNally… “Liam, we’ll be back in a few hours with a report… shall we meet you here, or at the cottages…?”
“The cottages, Harry… we’ll be waitin’ for ya.”
“Very well then, Liam…see you in a few hours, my friend…”
“We’ll see Harry…Again… Good Luck!”
Nelson nodded, and pulled his mask down, following Crane into the water.
In 45 minutes, they had reached the Flying Sub, changed clothes, and taken the tiny craft to the surface, skimming along until the beach of the Island was in easy eyesight. They turned her off, and took out the two man raft stowed for emergencies, inflated it, then sat out to row the short distance to the Island. As they rowed, they saw a fog roll in and over the entire Island, spreading its’ slender fingers toward the water, and them. The air, warm when they had taken the raft into the water, turned chill and clammy, and the beach, bright when they had first seen it, was now grey, and shrouded in silky slivers of mist. By the time they reached landfall, the FS1 was obscured from their view, and the beach, once inviting, now looked to send them away… As they landed, pulling the raft all the way up on the beach, and into the bushes, they heard movement on the far side of the site. Three figures came out of the misty green, an old man, graying, and bearded, and bent over, wearing a loose fitting tunic and shirt, over pants, and soft leather boots. A young boy, of 14 or so, with red hair, and freckles, dressed similarly to the old man, but in brighter colors… And a haunting familiarity about him to both Lee and Nelson. And finally a tiny young woman, perhaps twenty or so, with long blonde hair, piercing coal black eyes, and dressed in a simple green homespun tunic, and overdress. She led the trio to the Seaview’s officers, and extended a tiny hand to the Admiral.
“Yer not of this place, are ye?”
Nelson smiled at the tiny female, “No, we’re not…I’m Harry and this is my friend, Lee.”
“Pleased to be meetin’ ya. Me name’s Bride…this here is Donal,” she pointed to the boy, “and this gentleman, is our elder, Turlough mac Finn.” The older man nodded in acknowledgement, and the boy stepped forward.
“Why are ye here?” he demanded. “Why are ye on our Island… ‘tis a sacred place, it is, and strangers aren’t welcome…”
Nelson thought for a moment, “Well, Donal… It seemed to be a wonderous place…and we were fair curious…and thought to come exploring. I hope we aren’t bothering anyone.”
“Bother it is, sir, and more… Ye’re not of this place, nor of fair Eire either… ye be from afar… though you, sir, have ties here…” he gestured toward Lee, “and he has none.”
“Does that prevent us from looking about? Again, we don’t want to be giving anyone trouble. We’re just curious.”
“If’n we decide that we don’t want ye here, ye’d best be leavin’. We have ta talk… Turlough and us’ll be makin’ the decisions. Ye’ll have ta wait here on the beach… We’ll return in a while.”
Nelson doffed his cap… “Thanks. We don’t want to interfere, but we are interested in seeing this place.”
The three natives went back into the woods, leaving Lee and Nelson standing on the beach. Nelson looked at the Captain of his boat, his face a picture of interest, and amusement. “Well, Captain… what do you think?”
“Think I’ll reserve any judgements until we’re back on the sub.” He leaned back against a rock cropping, crossing his arms on his chest. “In the meantime, we wait… and see what the ‘clan’ over there has to say.”
Nelson laughed, “You’re an amazing skeptic, Lee. Why not just accept what you see…and then question it?”
Crane grinned back, “’Cause the man I learned from taught me to question first and accept the endings only after all the possible explanations had been given. So, Admiral Nelson, when did you become so accepting and complacent?”
“Me? Accepting and compliant?” he winked at his Captain, “’Tis the Irish in me, Lad! Willin’ ta see what the ancients have in store, wi’out questionin’ ‘em too much. ‘Tis only fair, bucko. The old ones, from Tir na Nog, have ta be havin’ their say.”
Crane looked slightly shocked. “Admiral, you don’t really believe all that nonsense!”
Still smiling, “And if I did? Would it make a difference? I’d still be the same Nelson that you’ve known for years, and served with… and if part of me believes in the Tir na Nog, and the old ones, and the powers of the druids, would that change your opinion of me in any way?”
When Lee didn’t answer right away, Nelson looked at his Captain more carefully…”Well, Lee? Would it?”
“Why…” he stammered, “No… I don’t think so…But how can you be a scientist and believe in all this…this mystical, magical nonsense?”
“It’s not nonsense, Lee. There’s some fact in all legend… for example, we know that a chieftain named Arthur existed… and that he did form a confederation of knights… Now, was there a Camelot? A Merlin? Mystical and magical happenings? Well, we don’t know, but we may all believe, depending on our persuasion. What do you think? Legend or reality?”
“Always thought of it as legend, and stuff of dreams….never, never gave it the credibility of reality. And in all truth, left it in the classroom… Knights in armor were never my ‘thing’. My mind was more under the sea, or at least on the beach…Now… Morton on the other hand…”
Nelson laughed hard, “Somehow that bit of news doesn’t surprise me at all, but I’ve always seen the both of you as knight-crusaders. So even if you don’t believe in Arthur, let’s say that you have Arthurian attributes. You and Chip!”
Crane laughed, and was about to respond, when the trio came back out of the woods. The girl was leading them… She approached Nelson…
“Sir, we’ve come ta an agreement… Ye and yer friend are welcome here… We’ll be happy ta show ya about the island, if’n ye want…an’ have ya be meetin’ some o’ the folks here an’ about. If ye be wantin’ we’ll travel wi’ye.”
“We’d be wantin’ it very much, thank you, Bride. My friend and I are most interested in your home here… We saw it from the mainland, and it seemed to appear, all of a sudden. We were wondering where it came from…”
“Came from? Why we are always here, just seen by some more often than others. There are other places like this Island, all over… here in Eire, in all the Isles… I’m thinkin’ that ye’ve heard o’ Avalon… the Isle o’ Glass… twas a home fer our people fer centuries, long after the king was gone… and here an’ there… There are many places like this… they jest need ta be seen by believers, or ones wi’ the blood of the believers. An we figured, if’n yer both here, then ye be havin’ the blood of the believers in ye. Sir, Turlough is one o’er elders, an’ he asks yer pardon, an asks if ye’ll be kind enough to answer some questions fer him, an’ he says he’ll be willin’ ta answer any fer you in return.”
Nelson gestured grandly, “Ask away! And can we be taking our walk as we’re talkin’?”
Turlough mac Finn looked at Admiral Harriman Nelson with eyes rheumy with age… he used a large tree branch, worn smooth with decades of use, to lean on as he walked. “Ye’re from afar. Not Eire, across the ocean and the land it touches.” He stated rather than asked Nelson. “An’ yer a man wi’ great learnin’.”
Nelson looked at the old man… “I am. And how did you know that, sir?”
“We’ve our ways, Harry. An’ I’m thinkin’ ye’ve many questions, considerin’ that the young one wi’ ya is not of our people, but yer loyal servant.”
“Well, not a servant…more a fellow warrior, and good friend.”
“Aye, I kin see that his loyalty lies wi’ ye… It will be fair tested here. We have many things to show ye…an’ ye have many questions that ye will find an answer to…tho’ the cost will be a high one fer the both o’ ye. Ye’ll nay be wantin’ ta tell of all ye’ve learned when yer thru here.”
“I see, and you…are you a druid, or one of the Tuatha da Dannan?”
The old man smiled a knowing smile… “Ye’ll be findin’ out soon enough, sir. Tis glad I am that ye are one of the otherworlders come here… I’m thinkin’ ye have an open mind. One full o’ questions. Tis fer me, Bride an’ Donal ta be doin the teachin, testin, an’ if’n yer survive it all, givin’ ye all yer answers.”
Nelson stopped, and mac Finn stopped with him. “Testing? Teaching? All we have come here for is an answer to our questions…”
“And ye’ll be getting them in good time, for all o’ the ones here want the otherworlders to know that we mean fer them ta know who and what we are…and to stay away!!!” As he spoke the last words, the gently aura that had surrounded him slid away, and he seemed to Nelson to rise in height, and grow, the gentle colors dropping, and his full power suddenly coming to the fore. The sky around them darkened, the wind picked up, and the Druid, raised his staff, of black wood, and, towering above Nelson, and Lee, who had moved to his side, began…“Ye will be the example to all the otherworlders…When we are done wi’ye, they will know to leave us be…we want nothing o’ your world, save the seeds we planted the last time we visited Eire!”
He waved the blackthorn staff…and lightening cracked, and thunder roared. A hard pelting rain, filled with a mix of hail and ice began to pelt the two humans. Both men now realized that their greeting had been designed to catch them off guard, and make them at ease, unprepared for the reality of the Druid’s magic. Through the wind and rain, Nelson looked at his Captain… Crane had a strange look on his face, and he was gazing in the direction of the other two members of Turlough’s group. The youth had changed… no longer a lad… but a thin, wisp of a female, and Bride, had also changed, into an older woman… a woman with ivory skin, and long, flowing, jet black hair… and lips that were blood red. Her eyes, black when she met them, were completely coal black with no white showing at all… her nails were long, and thin, each one looking like a razor. Her keening song melded with the wind, and her soft tunic had turned dark black, the neck line a plunging ‘V’ to a waist, wrapped in harsh, rough cord, the skirt, long strips of black, wrapping themselves around slender legs, that led to tiny feet that hovered above the ground.
“Lee!!! Lee!!” Nelson shook Crane. “Lee! Don’t! She’s Lhiannon Sidhe! Don’t look at her!!”
The Druid roared over the sounds of the storm… “’Tis only the beginning…if’n ye can survive the tests… we’ll see… Silve… she likes the lad ye’ve brung wi’ ye…’tis a long time since she’s fed… “
“No!” Nelson pushed Crane aside as the evil faerie made a wide pass at him with her long fingers. Crane fell to the ground, and Nelson felt the soft, cold touch of the Faeries’ fingers as they brushed him, in the effort to reach Crane. He felt the sharpness as the long nails cut through his sweater, and draw blood. He shivered with the cold… and the effort to protect Lee. And the Sidhe let out a horrific wail of anger, her cold voice crying out that she did not get to her intended victim. Lee had rolled aside, and lay, stunned, by the blow that had saved him... Nelson crawled to his side, aware of the keening, and the laughter from the small sprite that was watching the encounter.
“Aye, but it’s mad at ye she is….mad indeed… an ’fer that, she’ll be harder on the lad… Harder…fer she wants him, wants ta feed on him, and our Silve always gets them…there be none that kin stop her…” and the laughter rose over the keening, clear and evil as well.
Nelson scrabbled to his knees at Crane’s side. Roughly pulling on him, he called, “C’mon, Lee…you’ve got to get up…you’ve got to get moving… that vampire creature is after you!!”
The cold and the wet damp was penetrating and in a part of his mind, Nelson knew he had to move as well if he was going to be successful and get both of them out of this place. He knew they had to get to the beach, the raft and the FS1…but right now, it seemed impossibly far away… Continuing to pull at Crane, Nelson looked around, and deciding that the demons were at the other side of the rocky clearing, he would pull Lee to the wooded area just beyond the clearing. With almost a superhuman effort, he drew Crane to his feet, and pulled and dragged him to the edge of the woods.
Turlough saw and smiled… ‘They had chosen well in the humans they allowed on the Island. These two would teach them all much of the otherworld. Maybe they would leave some of who and what they were behind, to remind all in this land of what potential for destruction the otherworld had. If that could be channeled… the perhaps he and his people could all return to their rightful places in the otherworld. These two could be the key…He would let them think that their puny efforts to escape would hold some success, and then he would attack them again… Of course, if Silve wanted to weaken the younger one, and Deirdre wanted to torment the older one, they could of course… It would only serve to make them more ‘receptive’ to his plans… yes, the younger one would be better suited… Nelson, the older one was too strong in his mind…the younger man was already in Silve’s thrall…Yes… they were the perfect pawns for his plans…’
Turlough smiled and in the wind, rain, and thunder he laughed, loud and long… He and his people would use these two, and they would be free of their enchantment to live in the real world again!!!
Deirdre/Donal looked at the two men struggling to the wooded area. Part of her felt sorry for them. She knew Turlough’s power first hand. Once, eons ago, she had begged to be a boy, a real boy for a short time in the otherworld, and Turlough had granted the wish. What it really meant to be a human had not been explained, and Deirdre had nearly lost her connection with the Island, so close had she come to human death… Turlough had saved her spirit, and in doing so, bound them together for eternity, Deirdre forever sentenced to do Turlough’s bidding. Admittedly, some of it was great fun. It was only at times like this that she regretted her wish so long ago… regretted that she had to torment, rather than be a friend. She wanted to be a friend to this human… there was a strength and kindness in him that drew her… and the love… he had a large capacity for love. Because of her connections in this place, she also knew that he had lost a love… a short time ago for her, but years for the human. And that saddened her. Maybe, she could help him, just a little… maybe Turlough wouldn’t find out…maybe… She floated toward them, hoping she might be able to help…
Silve was angry!!! She was hungry and wanted to feed…the dark-haired man, he would make a good meal… several, if she was careful… and his strength… He was the stronger of the two physically… She had already entrapped him… all she needed to do was to get closer and draw from him … Hunger!!!!! The blood lust was strong! And it had been long…so very long since she had fed! She circled…seeing the slender sprite also nearby, she moved in another direction… She could use the sprite, and her foolish care for humans… She hovered, and then dove for the red-haired man, knowing that the sprite would try and protect him, and that would give her access to her target…
Nelson saw the two female spirits approach. He hunkered down, pulling Crane with him. Lee had been moving with him toward the woods, on his own power, still groggy, but at least aware. They had said little to each other, but joined in the common goal to seek safety, with Lee following Nelson’s lead.
Crane saw the Sidhe circle them, saw the smaller sprite watching, and as the older one poised to attack Nelson, he threw himself in her path…
The she-thing shrieked in delight as her long nails caressed Crane's shoulders and back, shredding his sweater, and causing rivulets of blood to join the rain rolling off his lean body. Several more passes, and he was shirtless in the cold biting rain, though he was unaware of his condition. Silve moved closer and closer, and then, floating in front of Lee, reached long hands, and pulled him to her, in a carefully planned embrace. Her ivory white skin melded with his, her tongue slowly rolling over his lips and face, as if she was tasting him. She bent her head to his cheek, and moved to his ear, and then down his neck, her tiny tongue sliding , hungrily over him. Her hands were caressing his back, the razor like nails slicing his skin where ever they touched him. And he was oblivious to it all, held in the thrall of her keening, and mesmerized by the powerful images in her eyes.
He was being drawn back to the beginnings, the early times, of battles and blood and war… and he couldn't… be drawn away… Her keening was like a lullaby to his ears, he was lost in the enchantment she had around him. The enchantment was a soft and warm, mellow touch, wrapping his body in the cocoon of the sound. She pulled him closer, her tongue and mouth continuing to explore his face, as the rain continued to fall on them. She moved to his neck, seeking the spot where she could attach and feed. She pulled his body even closer to her. He lifted his arms in response to her, encircling her waist, and tilting his head in such a way as to give her access to his neck… She smiled, and wailed, and sank her fangs deep into the artery of his neck, drawing out the blood she so desperately wanted. He moaned once with the pain of her attack, but did not fight her. As she drank of his warm life force, he slowly weakened his embrace, his arms falling limply to his side. His body began swaying as internal systems fought to stabilize the loss of blood, and the dropping of body temperature, as his body began to chill, and some systems began to shut or slow down. Finally she released him, smiling, as her tiny tongue began to lick lightly at her bloody lips, like she had been with a lover She wrapped her arms around her body, and her keening took on a new sound, one of pleasure…almost sexual pleasure.
And then she looked at Nelson and laughed…laughed long and hard at him. Waving her hands in front of her face, she looked at the Admiral, as he fought his way to Crane, and she called out in the wind…. "He's mine now… all mine… Ye'll ne'er have him again… he'll feed me once more, an' then we'll use what's left o’ his shell in the sacrifice…an' then, I'll be keeping his spirit wi' me… fer eternity…fer I'm fond o' him…he's a strong one… his mind keeps fightin' but he won't win… He won't win!!!" And she began to spin around slowly at first, then faster, and faster until she vanished. And with her went Turlough, and the storm, tho' Deirdre remained with them.
Nelson himself had been caught in a spell of his own, unable to move, to help Lee, and the more he fought, the less able he had been to move. Now, suddenly…he was free and he moved up the rocky incline to where Crane's body had fallen.
A small hand on Nelson's shoulder broke his telling of the story. He glanced around the room, and saw Sean's face close to his, looking puzzled and concerned.
"Poppa, were you and Uncle Lee okay? The evil faerie…she wasn’t like in Peter Pan, was she?"
Nelson laughed a bit, though uneasily. "I guess so, Sean. We're both sitting here, aren't we? And no…she wasn’t….she was a bad faerie…not a good one." Sean nodded solemnly. Nelson saw Robert move closer to his father, and lay a hand on his shoulder. Nelson watched as they exchanged soft words, and then looked over to Lee, catching his eye. Both knew that the story he was telling was the softer version, yet neither wished to remember all the truth. The look between the two men was not missed by Karen and Caitlin, or the Mortons.
Nelson took his son's hand, and laid his on top of it. "Let me finish telling the rest of the story, Sean, and you'll see that it turned out alright." He smiled at his son, and ruffled his curls. "Now, back on the boat…the Chief and Chip were about to have an experience all their own…"
In the brightness of the false day on the SSRN Seaview, Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton ran a hand through his blonde hair in complete exasperation. Chief Sharkey looked as unhappy as his superior officer. Still new to the boat, and the Senior Staff, he was finding it a challenge to get acclimated, and used to the body language of the men in charge. He had been a good friend of Curly Jones, and had mourned his death. He had also been surprised when Harriman Nelson had tapped him for Curley's old position as COB. Sharkey knew he was good at what he did, but Nelson's call had still surprised him. He had a lot of adjusting to do, and of all the Senior Staff, he was having the most difficulty with Morton. He just couldn't read the man, for all that he tried, and found it frustrating. It seemed to him that Chip Morton hid behind an unemotional façade, that he allowed no one to get through… except Curly Jones. The rapport between the two men was well documented, and he was finding it difficult to work with the man. To Sharkey, Morton was stand-offish, and by the book, and the COB didn't know how to take him most of the time.
This time was different, however. Both of them were developing a real concern over the Admiral and the Captain, and Morton was allowing Sharkey into his carefully constructed fortress, his worry for his friends causing the chink in the wall.
"Any word yet, Mr. Morton?"
Chip shook his head, his expression bleak. "No, Chief. Not a peep since we last heard from the FS1, as they were setting her down off the Island. And their contact has reported that they can's see the sub, that the Island is surrounded by a fog bank that extends almost as far as the mainland. I just don't like it at all. And here we are, hung up on the restock." He slammed his hand down in an uncharacteristic display of anger. "Damn!!"
Sharkey started, and then offered, "Mr. Morton, can I make a suggestion, sir?"
Chip looked at the COB, and answered, "Sure, Chief… anything that you can think of that will help."
"Well, sir, we didn't need to take on too many stores, and we don't need a full Crew's compliment. Why not stop the loading now, and go with what we have aboard. At least we're here at Norfolk, and it’s only a day, day and a half to the Irish Sea. If you push her, maybe less… and we only have to get to the Skipper and the Admiral… we don't have anything else to do. We don't need a month's worth of stores… the boat's ship-shape, and ready to go…so why don't we just do it?"
"Sharkey, I like the way that you think…" Morton began to look at the COB in a different light. He began to bark orders, "Chief, secure the loading, and make ready to get underway. Mr. O'Brien," he shouted into the mike, "Contact the harbormaster, for clearance. Contact the OD on the dock, and tell him we are leaving port at 1650, and tell the men we're going after the Admiral and the Skipper, so get ready to cast off…ASAP!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" came the simultaneous crisp replies, and the boat, at that moment, still suddenly burst into motion. The intercom crackled with orders and directions, the Control Room and the rest of the boat humming with activity.
The Seaview had come to Norfolk with half her normal crew, and the men on the boat doubled up on their work in order to take her out. In short order, she was at the ready, and Sharkey reported to the XO, "Mr. Morton, the boat is at the ready, sir. We can sail at your word."
Bob O'Brien handed Morton a clip board, "Sir, Clearances are issued. The Harbormaster has cleared us to leave, and the OD gives his clearance as well…"
"Then the word is given, Mr. O'Brien. Take the boat out!"
"Aye, sir. Engineering, take the her out!"
She hummed to life, her reactor's silent strength giving her the ability to pull away from the dock, and head out to the open sea. The men at their stations stood watch, monitoring her systems, and watching gauges, and the great boat slid quietly from her berth into the Elizabeth River and then into the Hampton Bay.
Once they cleared the Bay, they followed the channel toward the openness of the Atlantic Ocean. The men and officers watched the depth as it slowly increased, and as soon as 150 ft was reached, Morton gave the order to dive the boat. After she obtained her cruising depth, they took her speed to flank, and prepared to sail Northeast for the Irish Sea.
The boat now at flank speed, and all systems operational, Chip called Sharkey to the Nose of the boat, closing the crash doors, leaving O'Brien at the Con.
Chip stood at the windows, his arms crossed on his chest, staring out as Sharkey saw that the doors were closed.
"Chief, you and I have a job to do when we get to this Island that the Captain and the Admiral are investigating. We have to meet their contacts in the town of Alliles and then proceed with them to the Island. From my perspective, we have to get to this Island as fast as we can. No one has heard from them in more than 24 hours and we were the last contact. Now…if we push the boat to her capacity, we should make Ballydonegan Bay in 28 hours. I just hope we can find them in time."
"Me too, sir. You know, I didn't like this from the start, and you know how the Skipper can attract trouble… the Admiral, too."
Chip managed a small smile, "You're only with us a short time, but you’ve already got Lee's number, as well as the O.O.M.'s!!"
Sharkey looked at Morton sheepishly, "Well, Mr. Morton, you can't help but notice…"
Chip held up his hand in mock self-defense… “I know, Sharkey. Believe me, I know…"
The XO of the boat looked at the COB, and said, softly, "Chief, this has been hard on you, and I do apologize. Curly was a friend of many years, and I miss him here, on the boat. But, well, you're doing a fine job, here…Thanks…" He paused. "Now, round up some volunteers for a landing party, and let's pull out all the stops and get to that Island, and the Skipper and the Admiral…."
Harriman Nelson made his way over the rocks to Lee Crane. The Captain lay motionless, in a heap on the rocky incline. When Nelson reached him, he found Crane deeply unconscious. Examining his neck, he found a wound, a bite, oozing blood and fluid, and as he lifted him, he felt and saw the wounds on his back and chest, also oozing blood. Unable to rouse him, he lifted the younger man in a fireman's carry and moved towards the wooded area. The small fairy watched his struggle with his friend, and flew towards them. She moved in front of Nelson, and gestured, directing Nelson to follow. Somehow, he decided to trust the sprite, and shifting Lee's dead weight, followed her. They moved deeper into the wood, and saw a wattle and daub cottage with the thatch roof falling in, and the door and shutters hanging loose. But it was a shelter, a place that Nelson could protect Crane, and see if he could help him.
He kicked open the door, and pushed a shoulder in, looking quickly around… He saw the stone fireplace at the far end of the tiny room. Next to it was a pallet, long abandoned, but a pallet nonetheless. He moved quickly to it, and as gently as possible, laid Lee down on it. He was further disturbed by the lack of response from the injured man as he settled him. Nelson became aware of the presence of Deirdre, and turned to face her.
“I don’t think you’re like the other two…”
The sprite shook her head, “Nay… I’m not… I canna do what they do… I was human oncet… I know what ‘tis was like ta be a human. I ‘like’ ya… yore…” she searched for the right word “…yore kind, and ya care fer yer friend, tho’ that may be the undoin’ of ya both. Ya know there is na hope for him…once Silve has a human, he dies… and she claims his spirit. He’s hers now.”
“No! I won’t allow it! She won’t have him! I’ll figure out a way…”
“There ain’t a way, sir. Ya can’t save ‘im,” she shook her head sadly. “He’s hers.”
“If I can get him out of here, off the island, my doctor on my boat can help him!”
Deirdre laughed at him. “An’ how would ye be doin’ that, sir? Yer too far from yer little ship. Silve stands between ye and that craft. And ye be thinkin’ that she’ll be lettin’ ya go? Tisn’t goin’ ta be happenin’”
Angrily, he replied, “I’ll get us back to the boat, or die trying! Now, enough!”
The sprite started, surprised by his strong anger. Nelson continued, “Can you show me some wood, some water… is there anything here that I can use as a blanket. His body’s cold… he needs warmth. And water…some food…Dammit!! Help me, will you? Tell me where to find what I need to help him!”
“Peace, sir. I’m workin’ on helpin’ ya. I’m needin’ ta concentrate…Hush! Fer all yer strong points, yer shur kin make a great deal of noise!!! Now- psshhht!!!”
Nelson was slightly surprised by the sprite’s words, and he quieted down, watching her. She raised her hands and spread them widely over the small room. Softly saying words in the oldest of tongues, she flew softly around the tiny space. Waving her hands gracefully a second time, she spun twice more, and there was an immediate change in the room… the fireplace began to crackle, the roof, door, and shutters were suddenly whole. On the hearth, over the fire, a black pot simmered, fragrant odors emanating from it. A cupboard, that had been built into the wall long ago, opened, and blankets, and pillows were visible. Pieces of crockery and utensils lay on a tiny table beneath one of the windows. A bucket of clear water stood nearby a pile of cloths and several crockery bottles. The pallet on which Lee was lying was suddenly plumper. Nelson looked at the Deirdre.
“You did all this…?”
“Aye…tis a bit of enchantment. ‘Twill help ye an’ yore friend. The bottles there have some oils, an’ herbs, ta ease his wounds… the stew is a rich ‘un. If’n ye kin get him ta take some, twill help him greatly… Silve is a hungry one, an’ her feedin’ leaves ‘em weak as a newborn babe. She’ll have at him agin… Ye’ll be wantin’ to help him gain his strength. An’ he’s gonna have ta be willin’ ta fight her power… I’ll be leavin’ ya alone fer a while… The cottage is protected by an enchantment. No one will be findin’ yer here fer several days, if ye be needin’ the time. Me powers aren’t as great as theirs, but I’m havin’ a few secrets o’ me own.”
“I don’t know how I can thank you , Deirdre… I am… grateful for your efforts. For me and my friend. Thank you …”
“Yer welcome. I’m growin’ tired of all the plots and plans… All I’m wantin,’ me, an’ many like me, is peace, sir… mayhap, my helpin’ ya will help find that… I dream o’ that day…” her voice was soft, and somewhat wistful, and she shook her head, nodding towards Lee. “I’m hopin’ he’ll be strong, fer Silve is bound ta have him. There’s no way ta tell if he kin fight her off. May the roads rise ta meet ya, sir. Ye’ll have ta have the luck ta beat them.”
Nelson nodded. “Thank you again.”
The sprite slide thru the wall, leaving the warmth of the enchantment behind. Nelson didn’t know if it was all a trick or not, but at least for the time being he could help Lee. He went to the bucket of water, and the crockery bottles, picking them up, and moving to the pallet where Lee was lying. He knelt next to Crane, putting the materials on the floor around them. He examined the wound on Lee’s neck, and taking one of the bottles, poured a small amount onto a piece of cloth. He placed it over the wound, and tore several strips to hold it in place, carefully tying them around Lee’s neck. Then he carefully rolled him on his side to get a better look at the wounds on his back, and chest. The she-creature nails were like razors, and had cut many slender wounds in Lee’s skin. Nelson took a piece of cloth and wet it again from the bottle, and applied the potion to the wounds. Then he gently wrapped the soft cloth around him, binding it closely, and eased him onto his back. He went to the cupboard, and took several blankets and a pillow and covered Lee, placing the pillow beneath his head. He was disturbed that the injured man did not react or even make a sound during all of his ministrations.
Once he finished settling Lee, he went to the bucket and drew some water to drink, and went to the cauldron, and stirring the delicious smelling mixture, ladled some into a bowl, intending to give it to Crane, if he could rouse him. However, unable to resist the fragrant blend, he tasted and then ate a bowl. Justifying the act by saying he allowed Lee to rest comfortably for a while, he then got a bowl for Crane, and moved to the pallet. His color was still pasty, and his skin still felt cold to the touch, but Nelson thought he looked slightly better. He sat at Crane’s side, and slid the bowl next to him. He put down the cup of water he had drawn as well. As he sat there, he watched as a pitcher formed at the head of the bed. Looking into it, he saw a frothy brown mix, looking much like the rich ale that the local populace drank… he poured some into to the stone cup that had appeared next to it, and touched it to his lips. He tasted cautiously, and found it sweet, but refreshing. Wondering, but accepting its appearance, and willing to use it to help Lee in any way, he raise Lee’s head supporting it with one hand. Softly, he called his name.
“Lee…. Lee, lad, wake up… C’mon… We’ve some food and drink, thanks to a friend. C’mon….wake up…” his voice took on a sense of urgency…”Lee…you’ve got to wake…”
Crane moved slightly, and a small moan escaped his lips. He sighed, and then moaned again as the stiffness, and pain in his back and neck made him aware quickly. He tried to speak, but his mouth, dry and dehydrated, could only croak a weak, “Sir…”
“Here, Lee, try and drink some of this…” Nelson held the cup to Lee’s mouth, and he sipped at the mix, slowly , and then more quickly, until he finished the contents. Nelson laid his head back on the pillow… and waited for further reaction. He didn’t have to wait long.
“Admiral… what happened to me? Where are we…?”
Nelson ran his hand thru his red hair, and shook it slowly, “You don’t remember any of it?”
Crane’s hand went to his neck, feeling the bandage, and dropping his hand to
his chest and the bandages there, too. “I feel so weak… thirsty… hungry, too…
What smells so good?”
“This…” Nelson offered him a spoonful of the stew, and he tasted and took the spoon, finishing the contents quickly. Nelson rose and went to the cupboard, and took the other pillow. He helped Lee sit, leaning back against the pillows, against the wall. The small effort seemed to exhaust him, and he sat, gathering in his reserves. As Nelson handed him the bowl with the steaming meal, he opened his eyes, and amber hazel looked deeply into azure blue ones.
Lee lifted a spoonful to his mouth, and asked, quietly, “Well… what happened to me?”
Harriman Nelson cleared his throat, and spoke slowly. “You were… attacked…enthralled by the Lhiannon Sidhe, Silve, and she…’fed’ on you… cut you up badly as well.”
Crane put down the bowl, and touched the bandage at his neck… “Guess she won the first round.”
“Do you remember any of it? Anything at all?”
Crane shook his head slowly. “No…I … I remember landing with you on the island. Meeting the locals, and following them for a while. I remember a sound…like the one I heard in the cottage… the druid growing in size, and the other two, changing form… and the woman…dark-haired woman… she was… beautiful… I remember you pushing me away from her… and I don’t’ remember anything else…” His hand touched the bandage at his neck again.
“How do you feel. Lee?”
“Tired…weak… My throat hurts…kinda sore all over…my back hurts like hell! ”
Nelson nodded. “I’m sure. I don’t know how they do it, but I know that in addition to the wounds on your back and chest, she…‘took’ a lot of blood from you. She’s a vampire-faerie, Lee. With her own agenda… hers and Turlough’s. When I brought you here, you had barely a pulse. I think that the best thing that you can do is rest, right now… Try and drink some more of that ale, and then sleep. I’ll stand guard duty, tho’ I don’t know how much good it will do against powers that I don’t understand… Still, forewarned is forearmed… now, drink this, and try and sleep.” He held out another cup of the ale, and Crane drank the potion, looking at Nelson apologetically.
“I’m sorry, sir…jus’ tired…so tired…think I will…sleep.” He leaned back against the wall, and his eyes quickly closed. “… so…. tired…” he murmured. Nelson leaned over, and helped him lay down, once again easing him onto his side. He slept, drawn into the dark waters of unconsciousness by the weakness of his body from evil’s invasion of him. Nelson sat on the at the foot of the pallet, and studied him. His body temperature was lower than normal, and his skin still had a ghastly pallor. He felt for a pulse, and found one immediately, light and thready, but present. He shook his head, saddened. He didn’t have a clue how to escape from this… Lee was too weak to run anywhere, and he knew that they would be discovered when Turlough was ready for them. There had to be a way out… he thought that Deirdre was the key… but he was tired, bone tired… and the room was warm, the food had been surprisingly good. He would close his eyes for a few moments….
A small hand touched Nelson’s again. Blue eyes questioned, “Poppa, you fell asleep? Why, Poppa?”
Nelson again laid his hand on his son’s head, looking down into his eyes. “It’s hard to explain, Sean. I was tired, and I didn’t feel too well…I really couldn’t help it…”
“There’s more to the story, Sean… but even the ‘good guys’ have to sleep sometime.”
“Oh… more story, please?”
The adults smiled among themselves, and everyone sat back to listen further….
When the SSRN Seaview surfaced in Ballydonegan Bay, hundreds of eyes were drawn to her sleek, grey form. Within minutes, a small boat, with four men aboard made it’s way to Nelson’s dream, and Crane’s Lady. The small craft made good time, and soon the four men were being ushered to the door in the sail, and below decks….
In the Nose of the great boat, the four Irishmen looked about. The two natives, the constable and the doctor, were awed by the sight from the windows, the two operatives, used to unusual things, were more accepting. The four men waited, as the boat began to shut down her systems to lay at rest in the bay. Chip Morton came down the circular gangway, followed closely by the COB.
Moving directly to the four men, Seaview’s Exec was blunt and forthcoming.
McNally stepped forward, “That’d be me…and you are…?”
“Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton, XO, and Acting Captain of the boat. Where are the Admiral, and Captain Crane?”
“Why…they’re on the Island, and we’re thinkin’ that you may want to list ‘em as missing, an’ close the book… the Agency in Dublin has decided to forgo any further investigation, and O’Flaherty and I are bein’ recalled. The Constable, and the Doctor here have all the information you’ll be needin’. As far as our superiors are concerned, this here matter is closed.”
Morton was taken aback that anything so absurd would even be suggested. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not! And with your help…. or without it, I will find them!!”
“Commander,” McNally’s voice was now rather condescending, “There really isn’t anything anyone can do. There are forces at work here that none of us understand, much less can do something about.”
Chip was now aware of what was really transpiring here and stood steadfast in his resolve. He was well aware of how to play this little ‘game’. In a very cool, calculating voice, he locked eyes with McNally. “Look, Inspector, or whatever you are… you don’t seem to understand me. My Admiral and my Captain are on that Island at the invitation of you and your government. With that in mind, you all will help me, or I will go to the World’s press, and tell them how you managed to lose a world famous scientist, and humanitarian, and further managed to lose the much honored and respected Captain of the Seaview, who alone has saved the world from destruction any number of times… need I go on?”
McNally looked at Chip, appalled. “You’d have us the laughin’ stock of the world…chasin’ rainbows, and ghosties…You wouldn’t….”
Morton calmly extended his hand to Sharkey. “Chief….?”
“Aye, sir. Here’s the tape…”
He set a player on the table, and pushed the play button. Morton appeared on the small screen, and began to speak, “Ladies and gentlemen of the world…”
The Irishmen listened, aghast at what the man on the screen was saying… when he was finished, the screen went blank, and Morton said quietly, almost unemotionally, “I don’t make threats, gentlemen…I simply state facts. That tape will be sent to CNN in ten minutes if I don’t get the help I want right now!…”
“You can’t release that, Commander! It will make us look like we’ve lost our minds.”
A sly smile graced his lips as he dryly stated, “Personally, I don’t care! All I do care about is finding our men…Chief!”
“Aye, aye…sir!” Sharkey took the tape and went to the Radio Shack where Sparks was waiting for him. Chip looked back at the guests and then at his watch… “I see eight minutes, gentlemen…The choice is entirely up to you. Care to change your minds?”
“Morton, my superiors aren’t going to be happy with this!”
“Frankly, I don’t really give a damn. My superiors are on the Island, McNally, and I’m not happy with it…or your attitude…at all! Seven minutes!”
McNally looked at the other men with him… Seeing that the tall blond officer
would not back down and realizing that he fully intended to carry out his
threat, he reluctantly stated, “All right, Commander, let me
explain…but…just…call off your man… I…I need some time to relate it all to you…”
“Sharkey, stand down…but remain in the radio shack, we still may need to send that tape.”
A reluctant COB replied, “Aye, sir,” and waited at rest behind Sparks for further orders.
The group of men sat in the chairs of the Nose, and began to tell the story of the Island to Morton…
Forty minutes later, the locals left the boat, unhappy but with the knowledge that they had done what was best for their government, and the locals… Ten minutes after that, two rafts were dropped over the side, and into the water… an officer, a Chief, and several men in fatigues climbed in and began to row toward the island. Remarkably, the heavy fog bank lifted in one place, and allowed the two rafts through it before it closed around the two small crafts.
The men of the Seaview rowed to the small beach… they were silent, the only sound was the sound of the oars sliding into the water… the swish of the oars, the sound of the men’s breathing. As the fog surrounded them and cut off the sight of the boat, they caught a collective breath, and held it. The eerie envelope that the fog made served to heighten their fears, for themselves, and their officers. They slowly released their breath when their rafts made the beach. With landfall, they scurried about, making sure the boats were secured, and attempting to get a lay of the land. Chip had taken copies of the Island pictures that Nelson sent to the boat by satellite relay, and had used them to create a mosaic map. They would head to the center of the Island where the photos showed a large ring of stone.
In the cottage, Nelson had slept thru the night, and into the next morning. Crane hadn’t stirred from the place where Nelson had settled him. As he stretched and looked about, he saw the pot on the fire bubbling and a pot of hot water nestled in the coals. Smiling to himself, Nelson rose, and found a dish with a towel wrapped about it on a stool near the fire with a pot of clotted cream next to it. Unwrapping the towel, he found a loaf of fresh baked bread, and looking into the pot, found oatmeal, and tea in the metal hopper next to the water. Moving quietly, he set about fixing the food into a breakfast that would be filling and hold them in good stead for the day. He then went to Crane, and roused him.
At first, he had difficulty recognizing where he was. Then, as the recognition settled in, he looked at Nelson, a question in his amber-hazel eyes. “Admiral? How…?”
“I suspect that our friend, Deirdre had something to do with this…” Bending over Crane, he helped him sit up. A hiss of pain escaped from Crane’s lips. Once he was sitting, Nelson asked, “Let me take a look, there’s more of the balm that she left for us to use, and I can tear up some more of the linen.” Crane didn’t say anything, but allowed Nelson to care for his back, and chest. When the older man moved to touch the neck wound, Crane held his hand up.
“No, Admiral…. Let that be. It’s not that uncomfortable…I’m okay…”
Not wanting to spur an argument with the injured man, Nelson dropped his hand from Lee’s neck, and just nodded. He then rose, and gathered the simple bowls, and cups and fixing food for the two of them, brought it to the side of the pallet.
Lee reached for the cup of steaming tea, ignoring the rest of the breakfast food. Nelson was about to give him hell, when he said, quietly, “Admiral, if I eat anything right now, I’m going to be ill… My stomach’s in knots… No reason, just is…feels like it does before I leave on an ONI mission.”
“Lee, whether you feel like it or not, you have to have something to eat. That she thing took your blood... you’re drinking, but you’ve got to build up your reserves. We both know that it’s not over, and I shudder to think of the consequences of additional weakness on your part, if you don’t at least try to gather some strength…”
“I’m feeling lucky that I can keep this tea down, right now… if there were broth of some kind, well…maybe… but nothing solid…I just can’t… ”
He no sooner spoke the words then, hovering in the center of the fireplace, was second cauldron. This one was smaller, and steam was pouring out it…Nelson smiled, “Thank you, Deirdre.” Then a little louder… “Thank you, very much!”
Grinning at Crane, he said, “Lee, this is probably the only time of your life that the words ‘ask and you will receive’ will have an immediate result! And now that you’ve received, you had better partake of the gift!”
Crane nodded as the Admiral settled the pot on the hearth, and spooned the thick, rich broth into a bowl. “Here, lad… have a go at it.”
He handed Crane the bowl and proceeded to help himself to the rest of the food the sprite had left them. He watched Lee surreptitiously, and was pleased to see him slowly drinking the bowl of broth.
When he had finished eating, Nelson looked at Lee… “Have some more, son?”
Crane shook his head, “No, sir… I mean…it was good, welcome actually, but I don’t think I could hold any more down… thanks…” He shifted, and Nelson reached for the pitcher of ale. “At least have some more to drink, Lee… You do need to replenish fluids…”
“Yeah, like when you donate blood, and they tell you to drink quarts of fluid…but believe me this wasn’t a voluntary donation!!”
He placed a reassuring hand on his Captain’s shoulder as he handed him the goblet of ale with the other. “I know… now, at least drink this…” Crane took the goblet, and slowly and deliberately forced himself to down the contents. He handed it back to the Admiral, and said, again, in a low voice, “I know we have to get out of here, and soon, but if I could have just a few more minutes to rest…”
Nelson’s reply was immediate. “Of course, Lee… a few minutes more shouldn’t make a difference…” and he helped the injured man lie down, noting that Lee was asleep as he stretched out on the pallet.
Harriman Nelson was worried, and scared. There were few things that frightened him, for he firmly believed that everything had a scientific explanation, even if he did not see it at the time… Right now, however, he was hard put to figure out what science this whole nightmare had its basis in. He knew, like any good scientist, that there were other dimensions, and things that went on without good solid fact behind them. He knew that this was one of those times, and that he and Lee were living one of those events. He did not fear that… what he feared was not being able to save Lee Crane’s life…
There had been times in his own childhood that he had been visiting with his relatives here in Ireland, and they had filled his young head with all the tales of the otherworld; of the Firblogs, the Tuatha da Dannan, of Tir na Nog, of the Faeries, Leprechauns, Pookahs and the like. They had him believing in the Banshee and the Coche de Barre. What the elders didn’t tell him, his younger cousins did, and he learned what so many American Irish didn’t at the time. He learned of the darker side of the myths and legends, and of all of them, the tales of the Lhiannon Sidhe, the evil female spirits that sucked men dry, that stole their souls, and if they let them live, stole their hearts so that they would never love another.
He had learned that they were vampire-like creatures, that took their victims, and had no care for the shells of the men that they left.
He had heard the darker tales, too… Of the Druids, of the ancient rites, the sacrifices of men and women, and the erotic, sexual tales that the old ones thought the younger ones didn’t know of… And he had heard one particularly dark story, of the day when the Druids would take a seed, from the world of the living, and in a final conflict, pit the real world against the otherworld, with the otherworld being triumphant, and taking over the real…
Nelson shook his head… he had feelings about this that he couldn’t share with Lee. The younger man would think his friend had gone completely over the edge…
He sat, thinking and watching… he didn’t know what their next move would be, but he knew that the forces out there were holding all the cards, and that he had to play the game with Lee’s life at stake. He would fight ‘til he gave his last breath, but he did not want Lee to become one of the spirits so unhappy in this world. Then and there, he resolved to kill Lee himself if he saw such a thing happening. Jiggs Stark’s words came back to him… “One day, you’ll be sorry Harry…’ Jiggs was wrong, he wasn’t sorry, never would be, that Crane was his friend… He sat up, as the room became noticeably darker, and colder… the look of the cottage was no longer warm and welcoming, but the colorless, bleak room the sprite had led them to the day before. The food disappeared, all the bedding, pots, etc. One thin blanket remained in a heap by Lee, who now lay on the poor pallet of the earlier day. Strangely enough, the bandages remained. The door lay inside, on an angle…the shutters hung off their hinges… the enchantment was gone.
Nelson bent over Lee Crane, and woke him… the glaze in Crane’s eyes told the Admiral that the help the enchantment had given Lee was also gone. Lee was again in pain, and now there was nothing that could be done about it.
Lee sat with Nelson’s help, and said, simply, “It’s gone…”
“Yep… which can only mean that we have to be on the move. Turlough must have found her out. God only knows what has happened to her….”
In the windswept circle of stone at the top of the tor, Deirdre stood defiantly in front of the chief Druid. She knew what her fate would be, and she didn’t care… she had helped a good man and his friend, and if it kept them from Silve and Turlough, if only for a bit, then she was glad. Very glad.
The voice of the druid boomed over the ancient stones… “Ye have deceived me, Deirdre of the Stones… deceived me and given the humans succor and hidin’. Whaddya have ta say fer yerself?”
“What is there to say, Lord. I ‘ve done as ye say. An’ ‘tis glad of it I am. The plan that ya have is wrong… there’s no need to conquer an’ destroy the otherworlders. They’re good an’ they have a care for the world they’re livin’ in… this man, the older one… he’s a good’n… an’ the younger one as well… ya shouldna’ be doin what ya doin’, you an Silve…”
“That’s enough, young one… ye’re too young to be makin’ judgements about the way we’re doin’ things… we’ve much ta accomplish.”
“Lord, yer’re wrong… I’ve known the otherworlders… they kin be good and kind….”
“They drove us from our lands… our people became the otherworlders to them… We only seek that which is our’n… an’ we will be takin it , wi’ help from the young otherworlder…”
At the mention of Lee, Silve licked her lips, and her face took on a dreamy expression… “He’s a fine one, he is.. sweet ta taste… but strong… an’ brave…he’d make a good mate, if he were so inclined, but he is a good feed… I’m hungry…I need ta have him agin… and bind his spirit to me… then we kin have the ritual… The initiates await…. And the people have been told there is to be a convocation… the fires will be lit.”
“Aye… they will… the otherworlders are in a cottage not far from the cove…go to them, Silve… take the younger one… he is yore’n… I’ll keep the older one from getting’ in yer way… He will play his part.”
The fairie vampire left, and Turlough turned to the sprite… “I am done with ye…forever more, ye will cease to be… nothing will remain of ye but that thing we call spirit… ye’ve betrayed yer own kind fer an outerworlder, and ye can nay be fergiven of it again!!”
He lifted his arms high in the air, and crossed them, muttering words lost to the world in ages past. He uncrossed his arms and extended them towards Deirdre, who remained fixed in place where she was, eyes closed, her face peaceful. Bolts of electricity shot from Turlough’s fingers at her, and she began to spin round and round. More bolts, and she spun faster still, her form disintegrating in the air, till all that was left was a fine sparkling dust…
“BEGONE, DEIRDRE OF THE STONES…BEGONE FOREVER FROM THIS PLANE…SPIRIT IS ALL YE WILL BE E’REMORE!!”
Lightening cracked, and thunder roared, and the remains of the faerie dust were spread to the four points, assuring she would never again have mortal form….
Turlough smiled a satisfied smile, believing that the fates would be good to him and his people, giving them the way they needed to reclaim what they had lost eons ago.
Nelson helped Lee to rise, and they made their way to the doorway of the cottage. Stopping for a moment to get his bearings, Nelson took the younger man’s arm, and began to guide him towards what he believed was the way to the beach and the FS1.
Lee was weak and every movement was difficult. They had not gotten far, when he stopped, and told Nelson, “Admiral, I can’t do it. I won’t be able to make it, and all I’m doing is slowing you down. You can get back to the FS1, and take the information you have, and destroy this Island… there isn’t anything good here. You have to leave me… it isn’t an option, or a choice. I can’t make it, and you have to.”
“Lee, I won’t leave you … you…”
“Admiral, we both know what you have to do… and if ‘she’ comes back, she wants me, not you… and you can get away… Go… now, while you can…!”
“Admiral Nelson, you have a duty, sir. And it’s not to me. I’m a liability for several reasons. Both of us are trained to do away with liability… and if ‘she’ makes me into one of them, then you would have to destroy me anyway… this way, it’s a one shot deal… and I won’t even know one way or the other…”
Nelson looked at the Captain of the boat, and knew that Lee was right in his assessment. He didn’t want to leave him, alone, to be victimized, maybe even killed, but there was only one choice, a choice Nelson didn’t want to make, but had to…“Let’s just get over to that outcropping of rock, and then we’ll decide how to…”
His voice was drowned out by a crash of thunder, several bolts of lightening driving into the ground around them. A low keening hummed in his ears. Nelson looked at Lee, and saw what little color there was drain from his face, and his eyes take on a glazed look. He shook him, but to no avail. Nelson looked up and saw Silve hovering above them, her face a masque of evil desire. And Nelson knew then that the evil faerie desired Crane for more than his blood. He dove at her, and she laughed, rising above him, so that he was unable to reach her, and he fell forward, his momentum carrying him away and causing him to fall and roll down the hillside.
Silve slowly moved toward Lee Crane. Smiling, she extended her arms toward him. He stood, immobile, caught once more by the enthrallment of the keening. She circled him, like a hunting animal, teasing her quarry. Lee offered no resistance, merely standing, eyes watching but not seeing. Her keening increased, and she dove at him, floating in front of him. At eye level, she circled again, her hands flying about him. The bandages fell from his body, as her long nails raked them into little more than shreds. Fresh blood, from new and old wounds, mixed with the old, and she laughed. She halted in front of him, and looked into his eyes, raising the pitch of her keening, and running her tongue around her lips in anticipation of her feeding. One finger snaked out, and cut the strips holding the bandage to the wound on his neck, and it fell… around them, the wind began to rise, whipping her black garment about and causing his body to shudder in the cold. She moved closer, reaching to pull him into an embrace, and he went. She planted her lips on his, and kissed him, deeply. Then she kissed his cheek, his jaw, and then she kissed the wound on his neck. She raised her head, looking again at his face, and smiling, plunged her fangs into the wound, drawing the blood from him once again.
Harriman Nelson watched the attack, unable to do anything to stop it. He had scrambled up the hill, and reaching the top of the hillside, found himself unable to move further. It was as if an invisible bond had dropped itself around him. He could see, and hear, but could not move. He watched, horrified, as Silve once again used Lee to satisfy her unearthly hunger. He watched as she circled, teased, and tortured him. He watched as new wounds bled along with the old, and as she fed on him, he cried out, “NO!” in useless protest. When she finished, she let his body drop to the ground, and flew towards Nelson, laughing.
“He is mine, now… Mine!!!!! Your puny ways cannot save him…He belongs to me and mine, and when the ceremony is over, you will be, too!” Her laughter, and her keening melded in a terrifying sound, and Nelson scrubbed at his eyes, for in the distance, he saw what he thought was the Banshee, waving her hands toward him, bidding him to join her in the Coche de Barre and wailing the wail of impending death. Silve dissolved into the clouds, the Banshee slowly faded, and Harriman Nelson shuddered, and watched as six women, in druid robes moved to Crane, and lifted him to his feet. He watched as they supported him, and began to lead him away. Suddenly the invisible bond released him, and he started towards Lee, when several pairs of strong hands gripped him, and then blackness took over.
He was never sure of what happened next. The images were blurred, the pictures distorted by the realization of what was really happening to him, and to Lee…
Chip Morton led the Seaview men thru the path that went thru the wooded area. As they moved through the trees, they became aware of all sorts of beings moving around them, passing in the same direction they were heading. The men of the boat said nothing as all sorts of strange sights passed them by. Trolls, leprechauns, faerie kings and queens, sprites, druids, humans and half humans…all heading toward the temple on the tor. The closer they came to the site, the larger Sharkey’s eyes became. Occasionally he would nudge Kowalski or Patterson, whichever rating was next to him at the time. He had tried to get Morton’s attention, but Chip had studiously avoided the COB, fearing he would waste his time yelling at the man, when he knew he would need his energy to be focused on the task at hand…
Morton didn’t know what to make of what he was seeing, he only knew that for the time being, no one, or thing, around them seemed aware of their presence. Pushing the men as hard as he could, he took them to the opening in the trees, that looked down on the ring of stone. He saw the women, and a single man there, and looking around saw another man, the auburn hair a clue to the presence of the Admiral. Seeing both men in close proximity to the ring of stone allowed him to plan their rescue…
The blonde XO and the Seaview men watched the ritual unfold, but because of their newness to the Island, they were not caught up in the enchantment of it. They watched, appalled at what they saw, at what was being done to their Captain, and carefully set about getting to him, and Nelson. In a rush of the encampment, they stopped the final part of the ceremony, and managed to hustle Nelson and Crane away, before the shock of the interruption caused the beings to seek and destroy them. They quickly bundled the two men in blankets, and carried them to the rafts, making for the FS1 as the small sub was closer than the Seaview.
Strangely again, the fog parted, and allowed a way for the rafts to find and make their way to the yellow craft. The Captain was the one obviously in need of urgent medical care, but both men needed to get to the Seaview quickly. The tiny craft was filled with the landing party, and the two injured officers, and Morton had his doubts about getting the craft back to the mother boat, but he activated the systems, and saying a quick prayer, dove the tiny sub and began to maneuver her home…
On board the boat, Jamison worked feverishly to save Crane’s life. His body had been depleted of more that two-thirds of its blood supply, and Jamie had to push fluids into his body, both whole blood and saline solution What blood was left held a mix of things that Jamie had only read about in books. Primitive drugs, hypnotics, narcotics, hallucinogens, and many more that he cared not to speculate about. There were markings on his body that no one could explain, and two wounds, one on his neck, on the artery, and one in his chest, a deep stab wound. He had many, many long slender cuts all over his torso. There was also a strange wound, almost like a brand on his lower torso. Jamie hoped that if the Captain survived he could help fill in the explanations. Unfortunately, Will Jamison himself wasn’t sure of the outcome.
Nelson was nowhere near as bad off. He was deeply unconscious, but Jamie believed that was due to a blow to the head. The tox screen had also shown a number of substances in his blood that Jamison didn’t recognize. Nelson also had several wounds on his back like Crane's, but nowhere near the number of them. He stabilized both men, did what else he could for Crane, and then sat back to wait it out.
Later that night, Chip stole into Sick Bay. Jamison was asleep at his desk… several monitors clicked and pinged, for both men, and Corpsman Frank Lerner moved between the two gurneys, watching. He nodded to Morton, who pulled a stool to Crane’s bedside to begin his vigil.
“Lee, buddy, I don’t know what you got yourself into, but State’s been on the horn with the Irish Government, raising holy hell over your condition and the Admiral’s… McNally and O’Flaherty have been put on administrative leave. And after we got back here on the boat, the Island disappeared… just plain out disappeared…didn’t sink…just…vanished. The Irish government won’t say anything else, and have closed the book… but after what I saw…well, I guess your report will be a colorful one, to say the least…”
Morton shook his head, his mind still refusing to accept all the things he’d seen there…he sat and listened to the monitors, their sound like a lullaby to his frayed nerves…
He had started to doze, when he heard a quietly resonant voice call him. “Chip…”
Nelson’s eyes were open, and he was watching the Exec…
“Admiral!” his voice was one of surprise and pleasure with Nelson’s awakening…“How are you feeling?” Chip moved quickly to Nelson’s side, and stood by the gurney.
“Lee? How is he…will he make it?”
“Jamie doesn’t know…he’s baffled by Lee’s condition… muttering about if he didn’t know any better he’d believe it was a vampire that did this…”
With absolute clarity, Nelson replied, “It was…a she-vampire faerie… a Lhiannon Sidhe. An old Celtic spirit.”
Chip shook his head, “If you had told me that 24 hours ago, sir, I would’ve had you sent away for a while. But, after what I …we…saw on that Island…”
Nelson shifted his body to look at Morton. “And it’s something that we will record in the logs, and write the report, in an appropriate manner, and providing Lee survives this, never speak of again. The men on the mission with you are not to speak of any of this at all. Top Secret! I’ll debrief them…and you… when I’m out of here…” He paused taking a deep breath, “…and I’ll see what Lee remembers, and what he needs to know…” The blue eyes looked at Chip, and he saw deep pain, and unhappiness, but he also knew that the time and place for those questions was not now. “Call Jamie over, will you? I need to know how Lee is….”
Chip nodded and went into Jamison’s office, placing a hand on the doctor’s shoulder. He sat up with a start.
“What’s wrong? Oh, Chip….when did you come in?”
“A while ago, Will. I was sitting with Lee, and the Admiral woke up. He wants to see you…and to ask about Lee.”
Scrubbing his eyes, he rose from the chair. “I’ve got quite a few questions for him, and you, as well….” He walked into the main cabin of the Sick Bay, and stopped at Crane’s gurney, checking the IV lines, and the monitors. He called softly to the corpsman, who was in the corner of the Bay. “Frank, set up another two units of blood… we’re going to need some volunteers for donors on the next watch. Make the arrangements. And get those two units hung now.” Lerner nodded, and moved about briskly and efficiently doing his tasks, and Jamison moved to Nelson’s bedside.
“How’re you feeling, Harry? You look like hell.”
The resonant voice replied quietly, “I feel like hell…and I know that I’ve been there and back. How’s…Lee?”
“Alive…barely. Can you tell me what the hell happened to him? If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was attacked by a vampire.”
Again, the reply was a quiet one. “He was.”
“C’mon, Harry you can’t expect me to believe…”
“Technically, it’s called the Lhiannon Sidhe. This one’s name was Silve. A faerie that entraps a man, and drinks his blood, and uses him for her needs.”
“Even so, how can you explain the rest… the dye, the wound in his shoulder…his lower body…”
“I can’t tell you. It’s classified… all I need to know is…will he be alright?”
“Harry, I can do what I can. The rest…well…God… the fates…whatever you believe. His recovery will be up to them…and to him. I can’t tell you anything else.”
Nelson nodded. “I want to sit with him.” And he attempted to rise, only to find that firm hands kept him lying down on the gurney.
“Not now, Admiral Nelson. Do you think that you’re here because you had a light walk in the park? You were hurt… you’ve got a concussion, some wounds on your back, and a really weird mix of stuff in your blood… you’re here, on your back for the next 48. And if you try and bust orders, I’ll keep you here for a week! Is that clear?”
“Agreed, doctor. 48 hours. After that, I will leave.”
Will Jamison automatically felt the Admiral’s forehead. None of the Senior
Staff liked the Sick Bay, and keeping them confined was always a challenge. For
Nelson to agree so easily to his demands made the medic uneasy and suspicious.
“Harry, what are you up to?”
“Nothing, Will…I just want to be close…to see how it goes for Lee. And if I have to be here, well, then it serves my purpose. Besides, my back does hurt, and so does my head. I’ll sleep and I won’t give you any trouble. I promise…I’m too tired to.” Quietly, to himself, he reflected, ‘And my heart is heavy as well.’
“Alright, Admiral… I’ll take your word that you won’t give me any problems. I’ve got my hands full with our Captain. I don’t want to have to worry about you too.”
Nelson settled back into the pillow. “You won’t doc, you won’t.”
Jamison left the bedside. “I’ll be checking on you in a couple of hours, Harry. This had better not be trick on your part,” he warned. He checked on Crane again, making further notes on his chart, and went back to his office, leaving Morton and Nelson alone.
“Alright, sir. Now can you tell me what happened there…what we saw… we heard…what went on with you, and Lee…My God!!”
“Sorry, Chip…but I can’t… It’s too hard…and if we lose Lee, well, no reason to tell anyone anything…No…maybe at some point, but not now…”
Morton was about to say more, but held his tongue. He knew that he would find out the whole story in good time. So he waited until the Admiral was sleeping, and then he moved back to the stool next to Crane’s gurney.
The next 48 hours were touch and go for Lee. Several times during that period, his systems seemed to go into a decline, and Jamison fought to bring him back. And eventually, his systems stabilized, his blood pressure began to rise, and he turned toward recovery. Most of the marks on his torso had begun to fade, and the neck and shoulder wounds began to heal. The other wound worried Jamison because of its location, but eventually that, too, began to heal. Now all the boat was waiting for the final sign that things would again be right, waiting for his return to consciousness.
They had to wait yet another 48 hours until he began to show signs of that return.
Consciousness came upon him slowly… a sound far off, a whispered voice, rustling of sheets, a hand on his shoulder, and gentle touches on parts that caused waves of pain to radiate from them. His throat hurt, inside and out. His neck was sore. His shoulder hurt, his back… he sighed … He was, definitely, alive. Thankfully, gratefully alive… now, if he could only remember what had happened to him…
A familiar voice called his name, and he slowly opened his eyes, to find three pairs of eyes looking into his…two blue pair, one brown looked carefully into his. Jamison spoke first…
“Lee… are you with us, Skipper?”
He tried to speak, but his mouth and throat were incredibly dry in addition to the pain. “Yes…” he croaked. “Will… water…”
Jamison nodded to Morton who handed him a small paper cup. “Try this, Skipper. A few ice chips first…then a few sips of water…”
Lee took the ice, and let it melt in his mouth, the coolness soothing his throat. He tried again to speak, and his voice was clearer, although still low in timbre. “The Admiral?”
“Right here, Lee. I’m fine… To answer the next question before you ask it, the boat’s fine, the men are fine, and the mission is completed and we are headed back to Santa Barbara.”
“The Island…I…don’t remember…after the cottage…I…”
“Chip and the men landed, found us, and brought us back. The Island disappeared. Report written…end of story.”
“End of story? I don’t even know what the story was, Admiral.”Nelson laid a hand on Crane’s shoulder. “When you’re feeling better, Lee… I’ll tell you the story. But not now… just rest, and recover. When we get home to Santa Barbara, there’ll be plenty of time for stories….
“Is that the end of the story, Poppa? Were there really faeries and Leprechauns, did you and Uncle Chip, and Uncle Lee really see them?”
“Yes, we did…and yes, young man, that’s the end of this story, and the end of this night for you… My storytelling has taken you way past your bedtime…”
Nelson looked around the room, seeing several of the heads of the youngsters nodding. He looked at Karen, and almost in a tired voice, said, “And, Mrs. Nelson, I think we’d better let everyone go home… too many young ones here who need their sleep…including Master Sean. Seems that I have gone on just a wee bit too long with my tale…”
Karen smiled at her husband, and the adults in the room, and children were gathered, good nights said, and the Nelsons were soon putting their own son to bed.
Karen looked at her husband, “That was quite a tale, Harry.”
Quietly, almost reflectively, “Not a tale, Karen. It happened. I can show you the report, at least what I really can show you. You can ask Lee, and Chip. It happened.” He slightly smiled, though. “Although, I did soften it quite a bit for the children. Silve was more than just the evil faerie that I said she was…The truth would have been way too…horrendous…for the children.”
Karen couldn’t help but notice the somewhat unsettling mood shift that her husband had taken on. Slipping her arm into his as they walked down the hall to their bedroom, she solemnly replied, “Well, someday, my dear husband, you can tell me the whole story, and not the sugar coated version you told the children…”
“Yes, Karen… Someday…” he answered, though he wasn’t sure that even she would ever really understand.
Years before… in another plane of existence, a horrific storm raged… thunder rent the skies, and lightening tore at the sky and ground alike. In the midst of the storm, shrieks of rage and pain cried out, mixing with the loud keening of many voices. And in the midst of it all, a louder cry was heard… the cry of a newborn child, and with the cry, the keening grew louder, and laughter was heard above all the sound….
For further explanation and
information on the legends involved in this story, check out the following link:
* Irish Wonders, by D. R. McNally, Jr., Weathervane Books, N.Y.
Linda Delaney and Jane Daffron, 2001. All rights reserved.
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