by Rob Smales
Ten-year-old Ryan lay in the field, under a blanket of grass and reeds he had dragged over himself. The sun beat down strongly; sweat beaded on his forehead and ran down his nose as he clutched his string and tried to breathe quietly. Great Granpa O’Meara, Ryan’s namesake, said it would take patience, and he was doing his best to be patient.
Leprechauns are a crafty lot, and they’re as cautious as they come! But about some things, Boy, about some things they lack patience. If you ken what they are, and you can have a little patience yourself, you can outwit them!
His Great Granpa O’Meara had been a little boy in Ireland before he had moved here to America. He had countless tales of what he called ‘home’. Ryan especially loved his stories about Leprechauns.
When I was but a lad in my little village, I once met a boy who claimed he had captured a Leprechaun! I believed him, lots of people believed him, including the village Elders. They claimed the Leprechaun had given him things of the Devil! They stoned that boy, my village did, stoned him to keep him from infecting the village with the taint. Ever since then I’ve believed in the Leprechaun and collected the stories, even after coming here.
Ryan believed too. He had listened to all his stories of Leprechauns, and Faeries, and the Emerald Isle where they roamed. That’s how he had recognized the Ring.
He had seen the Faerie Ring while he was playing with his friends. A circle of mushrooms in the shade of a great tree on the edge of a field. He knew what it was instantly. He said nothing to his friends, but that was the day he began to plan.
Faerie Rings are like portals to another world, the world of the Faerie, his Great Granpa had said. The Rings give them a way to get from there to here and back again. If you ever see a Ring, you know there are Fae about.
So Ryan knew there were Faeries around. But he was only interested in one kind. He knew just what Leprechauns were least patient about. It had taken him time to get everything together, but now there was a foaming mug of Killian’s Irish Red in the middle of the Ring. A box, disguised as a bush, was over it, propped up by a stick. The other end of the string in Ryan’s sweaty hand was tied to that stick, and the boy was listening for a...
There it was. A small, quiet, slurping sound.
Ryan yanked on the string, then sprinted into the circle and took hold of the edge of the box. He lifted it a fraction and swept his hand beneath it with the speed of a striking snake.
In his hand was a cat. It was a black cat with huge green eyes, and it immediately sank its claws into his wrist.
Leprechauns are tricky, devious creatures, Great Granpa O’Meara had said. You have to remain steadfast in your purpose and refuse to be fooled!
Ryan ignored the pain and blood from his wrist and pressed the cat to the ground, inhibiting its struggles. He forced words through his gritted teeth. “I know what you are!”
Suddenly the cat was gone, replaced by a large, fierce dog! The boy threw himself upon its back, kept his arms around it and squeezed for all he was worth. He fell to the ground as the dog disappeared, only to find that a large snake was slithering from between his arms.
Ryan grabbed the snake with both hands and pressed down with all his weight, eyes closed in concentration. He kept repeating those words. “I know what you are! I know what you are!”
The struggles ceased just as he heard an answering voice. “Well, so you do, so you do. Would you do me the service of letting me go so that I might stand up, sir?”
Ryan opened his eyes. His hands were now locked about the throat of a man, all in green and smaller than he was. His grip started to loosen in surprise, but he remembered more of Great Granpa’s words.
Once you have a hold of him, never let go of the Leprechaun until he agrees to your demands. Just speak those demands carefully, as Leprechauns are vindictive, and they hate to lose!
Ryan bore down on the little man. “I’m not letting you go until you agree to my wish! Do you agree?”
“I can’t agree until I know what yer askin’! I need to know what yer askin’!”
Ryan remembered Great Granpa telling stories of people crushed under the Leprechaun’s gold, trapped with it, tricked out of it... and he thought he had worked out the perfect words.
“Give me access to your gold, safely, let me take what I can, and then let me leave safely, with no retaliation from you or any of your kind. Do you agree?”
The Leprechaun seemed to slump in his grip. “It seems I have no choice. I agree to yer terms, sir.”
As Ryan released his grip, the world seemed to dissolve and then re-form. He found himself standing in an underground tunnel, before a closed wooden door.
The Leprechaun pushed the door open and swept into a courtly bow. His voice was jolly, but his eyes were glittering as he said “Welcome to the End of the Rainbow, Young Sir!”
Ryan walked into a room with not one pot of gold, but what looked like hundreds! Wall brackets held torches, and Ryan wandered through the flickering light, filling his pockets and a small knapsack.
When he had as much as he could carry, he returned to the door to find the Leprechaun gone. He replayed the words of his demand in his head and realized that he had asked for safe passage, but not to be brought home.
“Oh well. With what I have here, I’m sure I can get home.”
He walked through the door and to the other end of the tunnel. It turned out to be a cave in a hillside covered with the greenest grass Ryan had ever seen! He walked up and over the hill to find a small town not far away.
“Who are ye?”
The voice startled him, and the accent was thick, and hard to understand. It came from a small boy, maybe seven years old, who was looking at him with wide blue eyes.
“I’m Ryan. Who are you? And where am I?”
The boy squinted at him. “I kinna unnerstand yer werds! Kin ya speak clear?”
An Irish accent? He was in Ireland! Well, he had asked to be brought to the gold.
“Leprechaun! Do you understand Leprechaun?”
The boy’s eyes widened further, and he took Ryan by the arm, pulling him toward the nearby town. “I’ll teke you to the vallage. Come!”
They entered the village and were immediately surrounded by people. His guide and the crowd conversed so rapidly he couldn’t keep track through the accent, but he did make out the word ‘Leprechaun’ a few times.
Wide, round eyes were turned his way. A man came out of the group to take hold of the zipper on the front of Ryan’s sweatshirt. He zipped it down, then up. His eyes grew even wider, and he retreated to the safety of the crowd. Someone else came out of the crowd to touch his wristwatch. The watch chose that moment to beep the hour, and the man fairly scurried for safety.
“What’s going on? Where am I?”
No one answered Ryan, and he started to look closely at the people for the first time. He saw no zippers. Not even any buttons; just these wooden toggle-thingies. He looked around the town and noticed that there were no cars in sight. No street lights. Not even telephone poles.
“Where am I?” he shouted.
A woman ran through the crowd, shouting. “Ryan O’Meara, you come here!”
The woman snatched up Ryan’s little guide and spirited him away, throwing frightened glances back at Ryan.
He looked about the village in confusion as an old woman touched his nylon knapsack, playing with the zipper and the Velcro fasteners. Then she poked at his digital watch again. When the numbers lit up she leaped back with a little scream. She scrambled backward, one finger extended toward him in accusation.
“Tha Devil! He’s from Satan! From Satan hisself!”
A voice came to him, sounding clear in his ear, though he couldn’t see the speaker.
“You need to be more careful, Lad.”
Ryan looked about and spotted a large black cat watching him from its perch on a fence. Its green eyes glittered at him in a familiar fashion, and he could swear it was smiling.
“You made me promise not to hurt ya,” the voice continued. “And ya made me promise to take you to my treasure and then to let you go. But, Lad, you never specified when!”
The first stone struck Ryan in the chest.
Copyright © 2011 by Rob Smales