Chapter Three

Learning the Legend


It’s the World Cup Final and Brendan O’Neal was lined up to take the last shot on goal in Sudden Death.  The throngs of fans in Rio de Janeiro patiently waited for the two-time scoring champion from New York City to strike with cheers and singing.  Drumming and shakers resonated throughout the stadium and Brendan smiled to himself.  He had already kicked it past this goalie three times this game.  The next one was going to be cake.

Brendan wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and looked around the stands, soaking in the moment.  Fans from all around the world were cheering him on but that was to be expected.  He was, after all, the most popular player on the planet.  O’Neal was the new bar upon which all the others were measured and he sure set it the bar high.  There were so many movie stars and celebrities in the crowd on this night, but they were all there to see him.  Then he spotted her.  Dorian was there in red, white, and blue rooting for him even though he was just about to defeat the pesky Irish football team.  

He gave her a head nod for a little acknowledgement and then he focused back on the goal.  He considered his options and then charged forward.  He planted his left foot and drew his right leg back as his muscles rippled and cameras flashed.  Dorian began to smile and her dazzling white teeth began to glow.  They glowed brighter and brighter until they approached the sun’s intensity.  Brendan lost track of where the ball was but it was too late to stop the forward motion of his foot.  He barely clipped the top part of the ball and it weakly rolled to the feet of the goalie.  Brendan laid on the ground, blinded and humiliated.  He raised his arm to shield his eyes from the glare.

“Top o’ the morning to you,” Oscar mused after throwing the curtains back and exposing the living room to a flood of light.  

Brendan’s head was flopped back on top of the couch cushion with his rear planted numbly on the stained carpet.  He began to stir and raise his arm to block the light.

“Huh?  Sun…too bright!” he chortled like Frankenstein’s monster.

“I know, I know.  Keep it down,” Oscar said moving over to sit beside Brendan.  “Lizzie’s still sleeping.”

Brendan opened one weary eye towards his father and said, “Why am I awake?”

“I’m heading into town.  I’m going to their records building and then I’m going to talk to some of the locals.”  Brendan struggled to pull himself up to the couch.  Oscar continued.  “Go sleep in my bed for a while, but when you get up don’t forget to get Lizzie up and take her with you.  I’ve left some money on the table.”

Brendan glanced over and saw the bills and then he got to his feet.  Oscar led him to the bedroom doorway.

“Have a nice day,”  Oscar slipped away and out the door.

Brendan wobbled where he stood and then fell over into the bedroom.  Unfortunately, the bed was on the other side of the room.

Hours later, closer to the time where normal people start their day, Lizzie and Brendan stepped onto the front porch and found themselves in the company of Gordy and Mrs. Gordy.  They were once again rocking their lives away in their chairs.  Brendan guessed that they too had started the day way too early.

“So, Brendan, where are we going?” asked Lizzie.

“There are a bunch of places down the street, Liz.  I thought we could go down there today and then maybe drive around later.”

Lizzie shrugged.  “Whatever, as long as we eat.”

“If you would have been up at a decent hour you could have had some of my home-cooked breakfast, now couldn’t you?” chimed in Mrs. Gordy.

Brendan was taken aback by the old lady’s shrewdness.  “Oh, sorry we missed that.  I guess we’ll have to eat at the restaurant next door.”

Gordy snickered a little.  “I don’t think you will.  You see, that place has been closed for a while now.”

“You can go to the pub, though,” offered Mrs. Gordy.

“The pub?” asked Lizzie.

Brendan cut in and said, “We’re not old enough to go in there.”

Gordy assured Brendan that dinning in there was perfectly legal.  Brendan was adamant about being right with the law since he had heard such horrible things about foreign jails.  He wasn’t sure what crimes would lead to what sentence here, so better safe than sorry.

“Just be mindful of Finnagan,” warned Mrs. Gordy.  “He gets to talking when he’s had his fill, he does.”

Brendan and Lizzie thanked the Gordy and Mrs. Gordy and began to walk down the street towards the pub. 

It took a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dim lighting in Ewen’s Pub.  Brendan and Lizzie stood in the doorway a moment and listened to the chatter subside and silence replace it.  Brendan didn’t have to see the faces in the pub to know where everyone was looking.  They stepped inside and got a better look at the interior of the place and its patrons.

Lizzie was struck by all the characters in the bar and became a little hesitant.  She thought they looked like muggers and vagrants.  “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.”

Brendan smiled and leaned down to whisper, “I think it will be fine, Liz.”  He lead her forward to the bar where a forty-something barkeep was polishing a mug.

“Welcome to Ewen’s.  Come have a seat at the bar,” the barkeep said smiling broadly, gesturing towards a couple of stools.  He looked nice enough so the O’Neal kids did as he suggested.

“My name’s Ewen.  What can I get you?”

Lizzie smiled back at the nice man.  “What do you have, Ewen?”

Brendan shot his sister a look.  “Lizzie, don’t be rude.”

“She’s right, lad.  I haven’t told you what we have, now have I?”  Ewen bent down and started digging around in boxes beneath the counter.  He mumbled to himself and made a lot of racket.  “Now where did I put those menus?”

A waitress got to the bar at about that time and scoffed.  “Menus?  When did this place have menus?”  She winked at the kids and started unloading her tray on the bar top.

Ewen stood up and looked offended.  “Come now, Molly, this is a respectable establishment.”

“Respectable?  Ha!” Molly howled.  She left with her empty tray.

The man on Brendan’s right leaned forward over the bar to address the kids.  “Where did you say you were from?”  This man was grizzly and was badly in need of a shave.

Brendan felt uncomfortable and cleared his throat.  “We didn’t.”

“They sound American to me,” a fat man at table nearby called out.

“Right, right,” added his drinking buddy.  “What brings you all this way?”

“Our father is doing some research and trying to look up some family history,” answered Lizzie cheerfully.

Brendan couldn’t believe his ears.  Had she never about not talking to strangers?  “Lizzie!”

Ewen jumped up from behind the bar with some aged menus in hand.  “Ah-hah!  My menus.”

Molly returned to the bar, tray filled with empty pints and plates.  “Menus?  Looks more like napkins to me.”  She glanced at the kids and winked.  “Maybe even toilet paper.” 

The grizzly guy was still keen to learn more about the new comers and continued to press.  “What’s your last name then?”

Fat man chomped on a fried something and added through sprays of food.  “Yeah, we may know some of your relatives.”

Brendan looked back to Lizzie.  “Don’t.  We don’t know these people.”

Drinking buddy raised a glass.  “This isn’t America, sonny.  Everyone knows everyone here.”

Lizzie was satisfied with that answer.  “Our last name is O’Neal.”  She smirked at Brendan who was squirming on his barstool.

The pub fell dead silent for the second time since they had walked in only this time a collective gasp preceded the quiet.  All the heads in the room turned to the back corner which was covered in shadow.  The only light came from the end of a lit pipe that had a thin trail of smoke floating up and away from it.

“O’Neal, is it?” came the gruff voice from the corner.  The man emerged from the shadow with his pipe clutched in his teeth.  His long coat hung large on his shoulders.  “Oh, I can tell you about the clan O’Neal.”

The man stepped forward amidst the silence, his heels click-clacking on the wood floor.  His eyes were wild and he was beginning to frighten the O’Neal kids.  He stared at the kids and then stopped his march.  “We are talking O-N-E-A-L, right?”

Lizzie nodded.

“Lizzie!” Brendan admonished.

“Sorry, I can’t stop myself,” she replied.

“It’s a sad tale, it is.  I hate to be the one who has to inform you,” said the man.

Molly was standing near the bar rolling her eyes.  “No you’re not, Finnagan.  You love this story.”

“Fine then.  Let me tell it.”  Finnagan cleared his throat like a master storyteller preparing to amaze his audience.  “Many moons ago, the O’Neal clan founded a nearby town that they named Corways.  I can’t remember why, but they did.  Anyhow, several other clans joined them and they were living a right fine life.”

“All was well, it was,” added the drinking buddy.

“Then the strangest thing happened,” said Finnagan.

“Odd it was.  All the townspeople disappeared,” interrupted grizzly.

Finnagan gave him a look and then continued.  “No one knew what happened to these poor, poor people.”  Finnagan paused for dramatic affect.

Drinking buddy leaned forward and whispered, “Magic.  That’s my guess.”

“Yes, magic,” spat Finnagan, now getting a little frustrated by all of the interruptions.  “Since the cursed souls of Corways vanished, the town has remained empty.”

“Dead to the world,” added the fat guy.

“Now, there have been folks, sober folks at that, who’ve gone there and brought back all sorts of amazing stories.”

Lizzie, now getting into the tale asked, “Like what?”

Finnagan smiled, happy to have control of the story again.  “Most come back spooked by noises or claims of seeing things in the greenery, but many have come back with even more amazing claims that make us question their sanity.”

“Or their sobriety,” quipped Molly.

“What did they see?” Lizzie asked eagerly.  

“Well, when an Irish storm hits, the wind howls and the rain beats down drowning our beautiful land…”

“Seen it,” grumbled Brendan.

“…But on few occasions a ray of hope breaks through the clouds and lets us know that God’s still watching.”

“A rainbow, he means,” clarified drinking buddy.

“Yes, a rainbow, you daft twit.  Of course they knew I was talking about a rainbow, for heaven’s sake.”  Finnagan composed himself and continued.  “It touches down in the middle of Corways and something magical happens.”

Now it was Brendan’s turn to interrupt.  “Let me guess: There are little Leprechauns running around in green hats and suits with beards and a big pot of gold ripe for the taking.  That about right?”

Molly sent him a quizzical look.  “Are you sure you’re not from around here?”

“It’s true!” hollered Finnagan.  “I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  Little people in green, dancing around catching light.”

Grizzly nodded his confirmation.  “The truth, he tells.”

Brendan looked the guy in the eye.  “You’ve seen it too?”

Grizzly considered it and then said, “Well, no, but he tells the story so convincingly.”

Brendan chuckled.  “Well, thanks for the story.”

Ewen placed two plates in front of the O’Neals.  “I knew he would go on and on about that, so I fetched you the day’s special.”

Brendan eyed Finnagan as he returned to his dark corner, pipe still burning and bouts of coughing overtaking his mumblings.  “Leprechauns,” he scoffed.

“Doesn’t that guy know that smoking will kill him?“  Lizzie put her mouth close to Brendan’s ear and whispered, “Do you think our ancestors were really Leprechauns?”

“Sure.  It might explain why you’re so short.”

Lizzie’s eyes widened in absolute shock.  “What?”

He just shook his head.  “Just eat your food.”

The patrons of Ewen’s Pub were so enraptured with the tale and the interaction with visitors that none of them noticed his arrival.  Normally people would shudder and immediately move away from him, but not on this occasion.  The dark stranger had slipped into the Pub unnoticed and watched the entire scene.  The crazy man’s tale had confirmed his suspicions about the family and he smiled a rare smile.  The time had finally arrived and the O’Neal’s homecoming was the sign that he had been waiting on.

 An hour later the O’Neal kids emerged from Ewen’s Pub.  The food was a traditional Irish meal that neither one could remember the name of, but both found to be less than tasty.  They ate the dishes out of politeness.  They were not going to add to the rude American image.

“What I wouldn’t give for some chicken fingers,” commented Lizzie.

“I would have just taken chicken anything.”  Brendan looked down the street at the gas station and frowned.  “There’s that Ferrari that splashed us.  Lets go let the air out of his tires.”

“Yeah,” grinned Lizzie.  

They began walking that direction, but froze when they saw a behemoth, bodybuilder-type guy with a puffy blonde mullet arrogantly strut out to the driver’s side.  He had a beef jerky stick in his mouth and a bottle of water in his hand.

“Whoa,” said Brendan pulling up short.  “That is one big dude.”

“Yay, but let’s take him down anyway.”  Lizzie caught Brendan’s look of panic and added, “What?  He’s eating beef jerky and I am starving for something American.”

As the Ferrari peeled out and out of sight, Brendan turned back towards Gordy’s Place.  “Let’s go.”

Lizzie followed, a forelorned look on her face.  “Hey, you don’t think those stories we heard were true, do you?”

  “No, they’re just stories.  They’re probably just trying to freak us out.”  

Brendan walked on and Lizzie slumbered behind, the thought of beef jerky danced through her mind.

“Evening, kids,” greeted Oscar as he burst through the door to the living room.  He looked expectantly at his children who were too engrossed in their iPods and cell phones to notice him.  “Did you have a nice day?”

“It was great,” said Brendan sarcastically.  “We walked around for about an hour and saw the entire town.  Shocker, huh?”  He held a smug look on his face for a beat or two and then returned to texting his friends.

“We did get to go in a pub today,” interjected Lizzie with zeal.

“A what?  A pub?”  Oscar looked disapprovingly at Brendan.  “Come on, Brendan.  A pub?  You should know better than that.”

“It was fine.  There’s no rule against it,” sighed Brendan.  Seeing that his father was backing down from the high horse for a moment he added, “Oh, and you can stop all the research now because we know what happened to our ancestors.”

“Really?”  Oscar waited patiently expecting to be entertained by this tale.

“Tell him, Liz.”

Lizzie put her iPod down and adjusted her position in her seat.  “Well, there was this weird Irish guy with a real crazy accent who got all creepy and started telling us that the O’Neal clan were a bunch of Leprechauns from Corways.”

“Uh huh,” said Oscar with a goofy grin like someone was trying to pull a fast one on him.

“That’s what he said.”

“That’s right, Dad, Leprechauns.”  Brendan smiled broadly at his dad.  “Now that that mystery is solved can we please go home?”

Oscar began to poor himself a drink in the kitchenette and he chuckled.  “As solid as that sounds, I think we’ll go ahead and stay.  Not that the weird Irish guy isn’t a credible source and all, but I think I’ll look for more substantial leads in the records.”

Brendan heaved out the sigh of the anguished teen and Lizzie ignored him.  “Hey, Dad, while you’re doing your thing do you care if we check out Corways?  Its really not that far from here.”

“Mmmmm, I’m not sure.”  Looking at Lizzie he saw the familiar puppy dog eyes she often employed to get her way.  “Okay, if it’s not that far and you have a cell phone on you at all times.”

“It probably doesn’t exist anyway, Dad,” Brendan said giving a doubtful gaze in Lizzie’s direction.

“Yes, it does,” Lizzie spoke with a clear confidence.  “I can feel it.”

Brendan laughed.  “Is your Leprechaun sense tingling?”

Lizzie folded her arms and replied with the always witty, “Shut up.”  Though, she wasn’t sure it was Leprechaun sense or hunger pangs.  

The scenery in Ireland was green, fresh, simple, and in many ways, breathtaking.  Wardicon always felt that way.  Even as a young Sidhe, he found out quickly that he was one who enjoyed nature.  His mother, the former queen of the Sidhe, had instilled in him a love and appreciation for their home.

He liked to sit near the top of an old tree that was just on the edge of his forest and watch the stars and the moon move across the sky.  He liked to imagine how large the universe was beyond what he could see and many a night he would get so caught up in his thoughts that everything else around him faded out of his mind. It was consuming and in some ways very dangerous.

He was so lost in his imagination and ponderings that he failed to see the large human-like figure approach from the road.  He failed to see the being lift his arm with a gleaming hatchet in hand and fling it through the air.  It was too late to do anything by the time he realized that his branch had been cut from the tree and that despite the fact that he had wings that he wasn’t going to be able to catch himself before he hit the ground.  By mercy or command, the large figure snatched him from the air and rudely shoved him into a burlap sack.  Darkness surrounded him along with a distinct odor that he could not place.  His mind couldn’t think on it long since he was rendered unconscious and taken away from his starry night.