This book is a work of fiction.
People, places, events and situations are the product of the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
© 2020. M H Pierson. All rights reserved.
All work is fully owned and is the property of the author.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieved system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
‘Look!’ cried a young voice excitedly. ‘It’s a baby dragon!’
‘And there’s another one, with two tiny people!’ an equally excited child’s voice shouted.
‘Let’s catch them!’
Dougal watched, more for amusement than anything else, as eight human children screamed as they charged towards them wielding their weapons as if to slay the mighty dragons. Three of the boys were armed with wooden swords and carried wooden shields to match, the other two carried bows without strings. One of the girls also carried a wooden sword, while another was dressed like a wizard. Dougal had no idea what the third girl was supposed to be.
‘We surrender!’ Dougal yelled in good humour; his hands raised with open palms.
‘I don’t,’ said Maighdlin. ‘They’re only children.’
‘And we would hate to see any of them get hurt,’ Derry replied firmly as she raised her hands following her brother’s lead.
The gold dragon was about to argue when her eyes fell upon one of the boys waving his wooden sword. He wasn’t the biggest of them, he didn’t even appear to be their leader, but there was something about him that reminded her of Dougal. For as long as Maighdlin could remember she had seen things in others that no one else could. In this small child she sensed greatness, but it would not come easily, or without great cost.
‘All right,’ she sighed. ‘I surrender too.’
‘Who is it that has captured us so valiantly?’ Dougal asked.
After a few minutes of mutters and giggles, the others pushed forward the small boy that had attracted Maighdlin’s attention.
’My name is Mithel,’ he said gallantly. ‘And we are The Company of The Flaming Sword. Who may I ask are you, and what are you doing in Caerleon?’
’I am Sir Dougal O’Shea of CaerGorias, Knight of Sarasidhe and Tudorland,’ Dougal replied, using his formal titles to add to the children’s enjoyment. ‘This,’ he said turning and introducing Derry, ’is my sister, the Arch Mage, Lady Derry O’Shea, also of Sarasidhe. The red dragon is Prince Philproinnsias Tuatha De Danan of Connaught, and the gold dragon is MaighdlinCinealFógartaígh.’
Before Dougal could continue, the golden dragon shocked her companions by saying, ‘but you may call me Maggie.’
‘As to why we are here, we are on a pilgrimage to the home of our forefathers.’
‘How can you have four fathers?’ asked one of the boys who carried a bow, a quizzical look on his young screwed up face.
Dougal smiled kindly at the boy who couldn’t have been any older than seven, eight at most.
’Forefathers is what my people call their great, great, great, great, grandfathers.’
‘I think he means his ancestors,’ said the girl dressed as a wizard as she shook her head, confident by what she said. She then looked at Derry and asked, ’are you really a wizard because he doesn’t look much like a knight to me? He isn’t even wearing any armour.’
‘Yes, I am very definitely a wizard,’ Derry replied. ‘My brother left his armour behind because we come in peace, and we don’t want anyone to be threatened by our passing.’
‘Wow! Can you show me some magic?’ the young girl asked eagerly.
Derry looked at the animated faces before her and laughed.
‘Who do you want me to turn into a frog?’ she asked.
‘Your brother,’ the girl replied, without a moment’s hesitation.
Derry looked at Dougal who nodded his approval while saying telepathically, ‘but make it quick.’
’Inclinocreatura,inclinocreatura,’ Derry uttered as she waved her hands wildly around, more for entertainment value than purpose.
Suddenly there was a great puff of smoke, and when it cleared, standing where Dougal was, was the largest green frog the children had ever seen.
‘Wow!’ eight little voices screeched in delight. ‘Do it again, do it again!’
Derry flicked the fingers on her left hand and after another even greater puff of smoke Dougal reappeared, crouched on all fours as if a frog.
The leprechaun’s reappearance was greeted by a great deal of disappointment from the children.
‘Bring back the frog. We want to see him again,’ the little girl dressed like a wizard said.
‘No, not now, maybe later,’ Derry replied.
‘Now then children, we’ve told you who we are,’ Maighdlin purred sweetly. ‘Can we ask you do the same?’
‘All right,’ Mithel replied taking charge. ’I am Mithel, as I have already told you.’
‘He’s the king’s cousin,’ added the girl, who was neither a warrior nor wizard, in a singsong voice.
’That is Sevi, she’s our bard,’ Mithel stated, as he glared at the girl as only an eight-year-old could. ’And she should stick to singing instead of talking. The knights are Ciaran and Perce. Our archers are Peder and Ibon. Jowanet is Paladin of Saint Derwa, and the mage is Aingeal.’
As Mithel introduced Aingeal, the would-be mage attempted a curtsy, but as she slightly bent her knee and placed her right foot behind her left, she tripped over her own feet and landed flat on her face.
The other children sniggered and giggled at her misfortune but Mithel silenced them by giving them his most ferocious glare. He then went over and helped the young girl to her feet.
Dougal smiled at the serious way that Mithel introduced his friends, but more importantly he was impressed by how quickly the young boy had hurried to the aid of his fallen friend.
‘What’s a Paladin?’ asked Derry.
‘A holy knight,’ said Maighdlin in mock concern. ‘And I’m afraid they have a history of slaying dragons, so I think it’s time to reinforce the fact that all gold dragons are good and although red dragons are evil, Phil is an exception to the rule.’
‘Are you sure he’s a good dragon Maggie?’ asked Jowanet who had a grave look of concern on her tiny face as she tightened her grip on her small wooden sword.
‘Yes, I’m sure he’s a good dragon,’ Maighdlin replied reassuringly. ‘But it wouldn’t matter if he wasn’t because he’s pretty harmless. He can’t even breathe fire.’
’Can you breathe fire?’ Jowanet asked in awe.
‘Of course, I can. I am a gold dragon.’ Maighdlin was really starting to enjoy herself. ‘And all gold dragons can breathe fire. Would you like me to show you?’
’Yes please,’ gasped the eight voices, all in harmony.
’Maighdlin,’ warned Dougal sternly. ‘Be careful. The last thing we need is to set fire to the woods.’
The beguiling gold dragon rolled her eyes at Dougal in response then blew a huge jet of red orange fire directly into the air much to the delight of the human children.
When the fireball had dispersed Dougal asked, ’are we still your prisoners Sir Mithel, or are we free to go?’
The young boy looked at Dougal wide eyed and said, ‘you were never really our prisoners. We were only playing.’
‘But you were so convincing,’ said Phil. ’I really did think you were knight’s intent on slaying the nasty gold dragon.’
‘Maggie’s not nasty,’ Jowanet replied, leaping to Maighdlin’s defence. ’She’s lovely, and very pretty.’
Maighdlin looked over to Phil and smiled as she fluttered her long, beautiful golden eyelashes.
‘Yes,’ added Aingeal. ‘She’s very beautiful, and she’s our friend, so you shouldn’t say horrible things to her if you want to be our friend too.’
’I’m sorry Maggie,’ Phil sacranly said, hoping to annoy the gold dragon without upsetting the children. ’I hope I didn’t offend you when I called you a nasty dragon?’
‘Not at all Phil,’ replied Maighdlin derisively. ‘Everyone knows that red dragons have always been a little bit jealous of their golden cousins.’
‘I knew that!’ shouted Sevi. ‘I’m sure I’ve even heard a song about it.’
‘Do you know a lot of songs?’ asked Dougal, quickly trying to get the conversation away from the dragons before they really had a set to.
‘Yes, lots and lots,’ Sevi replied eagerly. ‘I’m a bard and bards sing songs and play musical instruments.’
‘What do you play?’
‘Well, nothing yet,’ Sevi answered, as she scraped the toe of her boot in the dust. ‘But I’m learning how to play a lute and my teacher thinks I show a lot of promise. Would you like me to sing you a song?’ she added eagerly.
Sevi stood as tall as she could, pulled her shoulders back and cleared her throat before giving a rendition of a song about a small spider climbing a wall and getting washed away by the rain. Although she was very young, and the song was very simple, the leprechauns and dragons marvelled at the clarity and sweetness of her voice.
’That was wonderful Sevi,’ Derry said when she had finished and taken a bow.
‘I know,’ Sevi replied matter of factly. ’That’s why I’m the bard.’
‘Dougal and Derry were nearly bards,’ Phil said, ‘before they became a knight and a wizard,’
‘Really? What instruments do you play?’
‘We both play the tin whistle and the fiddle,’ Derry answered.
‘What’s a tin whistle?’
Derry smiled kindly as she put her hand into one of the magical pockets inside her robe and withdrew a tin whistle. She then put the instrument to her mouth and played a quick tune.
When she was finished, she handed it to Sevi.
The young girl took the whistle, examined it closely, and as she did this Derry waved her hands over it, causing it to shimmer and grow to become a human sized instrument.
Sevi nearly dropped it in shock.
‘Why don’t you try it?’ Derry gently urged.
Sevi looked at her, then sceptically at the whistle before gingerly putting it to her lips and giving it a shallow blow.
Again, to the amazement of the twins, within minutes the young bard had taught herself to play a simple tune.
‘I love this!’ she squealed in delight. ‘I absolutely love it.’
‘Then it is my gift to you,’ Derry said.
’Really,’ Sevi gasped, wide-eyed and ecstatic.
‘Yes, really. A true bard like yourself should always carry a tin whistle.’
‘Are you sure?’ asked Peder. ‘Because I’ve never even seen or heard of one before.’
’All the bards in CaerGorias carry one,’ Derry assured.
‘I don’t care if I’m the only bard in the whole world who has one,’ said Sevi. ‘Because I love it.’
’Where is CaerGorias?’ Mithel asked.
‘It’s a long, long way away,’ Dougal replied. ‘It’s taken my friends and me many months to get here.’
’Is everyone in CaerGorias as small as you and the dragons?’
‘Yes. Once, a long time ago, the big people like you used to visit leprechauns like Derry and I, but it doesn’t really happen anymore.’
‘I don’t really know. I guess they have more important things to worry about now.’
‘Leprechaun is a funny word,’ Ibon giggled.
‘I’ve always thought so,’ said Maighdlin, agreeing with the laughing child.
’I guess to you and Maighdlin it is,’ agreed Dougal.
While Dougal continued to talk to the children, Derry heard Maighdlin’s thoughts enter her mind.
‘Can either Phil or you sense magic in the young one playing wizard?’ she asked.
‘A great deal,’ replied Derry telepathically. ’If she chooses to, Aingeal could one day become quite powerful if she studies hard enough. Why?’
’The boy called Mithel,’ Maighdlin answered telepathically. ‘I believe he has an important role to play in his future, but I think his road is a difficult one, and one he will not survive without a guardian angel, or powerful friends at the very least.’
’Then Aingeal is well named indeed,’ replied Derry.
‘That she is,’ said the dragon out loud. ‘That she is.’
’Aingeal,’ said Derry. ‘I have something for you as well.’
The small girl looked down at Derry, her huge blue eyes gleaming with wonder and excitement.
‘Thank you, but I don’t need anything Miss.’
‘I know you don’t, but I want to give you something. A gift from one wizard to another.’
‘I’m not really a wizard.’
‘Do you want to be one day?’
‘Yes,’ she answered without a second’s hesitation.
‘Then I have no doubt that one day you will be a very powerful one, and every wizard needs two things.’
‘What are they?’
‘Firstly, you need a robe,’ said Derry, as she pulled an emerald green robe with gold embossed runes out of one of the secret pockets of her own identical robe.
‘I’m far too big for that to fit me,’ Aingeal sighed in bitter disappointment as she eyed the marvellous gown.
‘Ah, but you’re forgetting one important thing.’ Derry could barely suppress her smile.
’Yes. This is a magical robe that adjusts to the size of its owner. It’s made from a magical fabric that will never wear out.’
The young girl stared at Derry wanting to believe her, but not sure if she did.
’See for yourself Aingeal. Try it on.’
Aingeal carefully took the robe from Derry as if she was picking up a red-hot coal. She opened the robe to find the sleeve and then gingerly poked her fingers into the small opening. Instantly the robe began to grow as she pushed her arm through and eventually donned the entire outfit.
’It’s beautiful,’ she exclaimed, as she clapped her hands in sheer delight. ‘I look just like you. A real wizard.’
‘Now,’ said Derry, as she pulled a small book from yet another of the many pockets of her robe. ‘The second thing every wizard has to have is a spell book, and I think this one will be perfect for you. You won’t be able to read it yet, but as you become more powerful you will start to understand more and more of what is written in the book.’
‘Thank you, Derry,’ Aingeal said, almost in a whisper. ‘Although I don’t really understand why you have given me these wonderful presents.’
Derry smiled warmly as she replied, ‘because it’s a wizard’s job to guide up and coming mages in any way they can.’
‘I promise I will read it and try to understand it when I get big enough,’ Aingeal said with the absolute sincerity of an eight-year-old child.
’I know you will Aingeal, I know you will. Now, I just need to have a private talk to you,’ Derry said, as she started to lead the young mage away.
‘Have I done something naughty?’ she asked, her huge blue eyes beginning to fill with tears.
‘No, not at all,’ Derry replied quickly. The last thing she wanted to do was upset Aingeal. ‘It’s just that I have a secret to tell you that only wizards can know.’
Her eyes widened, drying instantly.
‘Really?’ she exclaimed.
‘Yes really. Come over here so the others can’t hear us.’
The young girl skipped merrily after the wizard as Derry walked to the far side of the clearing.
‘Right,’ she said, when she was certain they were far enough from the others. ‘Before I continue, I need you to promise not to ever tell anyone what I’m about to tell you.’
‘I promise, I promise.’
’It’s very important that you keep your word,’ Derry stressed.
’I really, really promise,’ said Aingeal, as she made a cross sign on her chest. ’Cross my heart and my toes. I won’t tell anyone, not even Mithel.’
‘Good. Now I need you to do something for me.’
’I need you to look after Mithel and make sure no one ever hurts him.’
‘Is that the big secret?’ Aingeal asked, the disappointment in her voice obvious, as was the raised eyebrow look, she gave Derry.
‘Yes, that’s it.’
‘But I do that anyway.’
‘Because everyone needs somebody to look after them,’ she answered in a very matter of fact manner. ’I look after Mithel, and he looks out for me.’
’You’re a good girl Aingeal, and I promise that one day you will be a powerful wizard. Mithel is very lucky to have a friend like you.’
‘I guess we’re both lucky then,’ said Aingeal so seriously it took Derry all her self-control not to laugh. ‘He’s the best friend anyone could ever have.’
As Maighdlin watched the wizard and Aingeal walk back to join the others she nodded happily to Derry, her sixth sense telling her that the young girl and prince would be ready to face the coming challenges together.