The Ogre Wars

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CHAPTER 3 PREPARATION

Derry met Niamh outside the city wall at the foot of one of the small hills the city’s defenders had built two years prior.

‘We’ve only two hours, so we should make the most of our time,’ Niamh said, as she pulled a small book from deep within her pocket and passed it to Derry.

As soon as Derry took hold of the book, Niamhmuttered the magical words, et crescere aperire, and i nstantly the book began to glow a golden hue.

Derry watched as it grew in her hand, until it was the perfect size for her to read. She admired the beautiful black leather-bound book with the words Advanced Arcanaengraved in fire-red ink on the cover.

‘Look inside,’ urged Niamh.

Derry looked at Niamh, then back at the book. She carefully opened it and found to her surprise she could read the strange words inside.

‘It’s a spell book,’ Niamh said excitedly. ‘It’s full of very powerful spells, and I think you’re ready to learn them.’

Derry flicked through the pages of the book, captivated by its contents. There were spells of exploding balls of fire, bolts of electrical energy, sudden water bursts, and others that would make her enemies susceptible to her bidding. ‘Let’s get started, Niamh,’ she said eagerly.

Hours later, Derry and Niamh entered the fairy council chambers where they found everyone waiting for them.

‘Nice of you to join us,’ said Strahan, slight sarcasm in his voice.

‘Sorry, it was my fault,’ Derry said apologetically, blushing slightly.

‘How is your student coming along?’ the fairy king asked Niamh.

‘She is by far my most gifted pupil, as I always knew she would be,’ Niamh replied, winking at Derry.

Strahan – who had initially forbidden Niamh from teaching Derry magic, as he was worried it may endanger her – simply nodded at Niamh. He then changed the subject.

It is time to turn our attention to pressing matters. Finn, the map if you please.’

The fairy prince walked over to the table in the centre of the chamber. He unrolled a map so large, even the leprechauns could read it clearly.

‘The crosses mark the sites of the ogre attacks,’ said Strahan, getting straight to the point.

Dougal looked down at nearly two-dozen small crosses dotted along the fairy coastline. ‘How many have died?’

‘At least one hundred, but there are still another twenty or so villagers unaccounted for.’

‘How can a race as large in stature as us attack a farm, kill and maybe even take prisoners, without leaving any trace of where they have come from?’ Dougal asked, astounded.

‘I’ve tried to track them with magic but to no avail,’ said Niamh. ‘Our only hope is to catch them in the act, take a prisoner, or follow them back to wherever it is they came from.’

Dougal sighed. ‘Trying to find them would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.’

’While Niamh was away,’ said Izzy, ’Cameron, Finn and I did some research. We studied the maps and spoke tothe few who survived the attacks in Sarasidhe. We also read the reports from those in Caledonia and Tudorland, and we think we have stumbled across a pattern.’

‘I’m surprised you haven’t been recalled to Caledonia with all this happening,’ said Derry.

The small brownie smiled a wide smile at her leprechaun friend. ‘My cousin, King Robert, finds it easier to rule his kingdom with me out of the picture. Cameron and I are more than happy with the arrangement. Now, as I was saying, we’ve studied the raids, and we believe the next attack will come within the next two weeks in this area here.’ Izzy pointed to the position on the map.

‘Liam left four days ago with five of his best trackers to monitor the situation,’ Strahan added.

‘Isn’t that a little bit risky?’ Cait asked.

‘For anyone other than Liam, his druids and rangers, it would be,’ Finn replied. ’He’s been ordered not to engage the ogres under any circumstances, and to stay well-hidden and monitor any enemy activity in the area.’

‘What if they see him?’ Derry was somewhat concerned for her friend, and it clearly showed on her face.

Adam, seeing her expression, reinforced how safe Liam was. ’If Liam doesn’t want to be seen, you don’t see him. You know that, Derry. He’ll be fine.’

‘When do I leave, and who’s coming with me?’ Dougal asked the fairy king.

‘Are you sure you’re willing to risk your lives again on our behalf?’

‘I can only speak for myself, but I’m ready to leave right now.’

‘As of course am I,’ Derry was quick to add.

‘Me too,’ said Cait eagerly.

So, are we,aren’t we, Fearghus?’ said Turloch, giving Fearghus a commanding look, suggesting this was a rhetorical question.

Fearghus, who had had no intention of volunteering, took one look at Turloch’s expression, and simply mumbled, ‘Yes.’

‘Thank you,’ said Strahan sincerely. ’You leave at dawn tomorrow, and will be accompanied by Niamh, Adam, Dylan and Phil. That is, if it pleases you to do so, Phil?’ he added.

The proud and regal fairy dragon bowed his large scaly head in confirmation.

‘Do we get weapons and armour like Dougal and Derry?’ Cait asked enthusiastically.

‘I’m afraid we haven’t had time to make you any chain mail, but by the time you leave in the morning, three suits of magically protected leather armour will be ready, as well as swords and longbows.’

The assembly broke up shortly after, with Derry and Niamh heading back outside to continue Derry’s studies.

It dawned on Derry that she had not yet seen Amber, so she asked the wizard where Amber was.

‘I’m glad you didn’t ask me that in front of Strahan,’ Niamh replied with a wry smile.

‘Why?’

’She’s in Huntingdon on a diplomatic mission. In fact, since the war ended, she’s spent more time in Tudorland than she has here. Although Strahan hasn’t said so to anyone, not even Finn, he’s obviously unhappy about the time she is spending with Sir John. He’s worried about her renouncing the throne.’

‘So, Finn was right?’

‘Yes. Any member of the fairy royal family marrying a non-fairy immediately surrenders any claim they have to the throne.’

‘Why doesn’t the king change the law?’

‘He cannot expect his subjects to obey our laws if he changes the ones he doesn’t like.’

’But it’s a ridiculous law,’ Derry argued.

’Is it? Two years ago, I would’ve agreed, but now I’m not so sure. If it stops someone like Rupert seizing our throne and enslaving my race, then it’s for the best.’

‘But John’s a good man, and would never willingly harm Amber, or any other fairy for that matter.’

‘Laws like this are meant to protect us from evil, and there cannot be compromise, no matter how pure the intent.’

‘You’ve thought this through, haven’t you?’

Yes, I have, and Amber and I have discussed this in depth on several occasions.’

‘So, what’s she going to do?’

‘She doesn’t know. If Amber chooses her people over her heart, she will be a good queen. If she chooses her heart, Finn will be a worthy king. Either way, the fairies will have a great monarch. Now, I think it’s time to return to your studies, don’t you?’

Derry nodded as she opened her book at a page headed ’Circle of Fire′ and began to read the magical text.

Dougal, Cameron and Izzy gave the three newcomers a guided tour of the city. Dougal was pleased to see that, apart from the changes to the landscape, few other signs of the battle from two years ago remained.

As they came across a large botanical garden, Dougal stopped and said, ’I’m sure this wasn’t here last time I was in Sarasidhe.’

‘It wasn’t,’ said Izzy. ’They only started it eighteen months ago, and for the most part, it’s still, as they say, a workin progress”. When it’s finished, it will be truly remarkable, as will the gardens currently under construction in Tantallon and Huntingdon.’

‘There are plants here that I’ve only seen in Caledonia.’

‘Very observant, Dougal,’ said Izzy, impressed by his eye for detail. ‘The gardens have been created to celebrate the new bonds between the brownie, fairy and pixie nations by planting native plants of all three nations together in memorial gardens.’

‘You still don’t trust the pixies, do you,’ said Dougal. It was a statement, not a question.

Izzy was silent for a moment. ‘Is it that obvious?’

Cameron smiled at her long-time friend. ‘Only to those who know you well, but if it makes you feel any better, I still feel the same way.’

’As long as Sir John and his council of knights control Tudorland, I believe our nations can work together, buta lot of pixies would rather return to the days of world conquest, and I’m still not convinced Rupert’s submission is anything other than an act. Let’s just say that Cameron and I are keeping our guard up.’

‘I think you’re wise,’ agreed Dougal. ‘If it had been my call, I would never have released Rupert in the first place.’

As they approached the garden’s centrepiece, Dougal stopped, flabbergasted by what his eyes fell upon. It was the most beautiful rose garden he had ever seen. There were at least a thousand rose bushes of every colour and variety imaginable, from climbing roses to flowering carpets, tea roses to miniatures, and so many more. The air was filled with a sweet perfume, and a quiet tranquillity enveloped the area.

As Dougal stood to let the experience flow over him, he heard a strangely familiar voice singing a song. He looked around to see where the tune was coming from and saw an old fairy gardener tending to the plants.

Izzy, seeing Dougal look at the gardener, explained who he was. ’That’s old Paudie, the “keeper of the roses”. I think more people come to hear him sing and listen to his stories than to look at the roses.’

‘He sings a wonderful ballad he wrote himself about a certain leprechaun and his sister, and the part they played in the war,’ Cameron added, as she grinned openly at Dougal.

The old gardener rose to his feet and limped over to the next bush he was about to tend.

Dougal saw the side of his face and instantly knew who it was. ‘It’s the old soldier,’ he gasped, a feeling of relief and happiness swelling in his stomach.

The one you searched for after the battle?’ asked Cameron.

‘Yes, but I thought he was dead.’

The old fairy looked up, instantly recognising Dougal. ‘Ah, to be sure, the leprechaun has returned, and he’s brought friends. That’s not your sister, though my word, look at that hair. She is beautiful, isn’t she?’

Paudie gave Cait a warm, crooked smile.

Dougal gently hugged his old friend. ‘I tried to find you after the battle.’

‘I was wounded – still got the limp.’

‘But I checked all the infirmaries.’

’Not one for healers and the like, I just went home and let the wife take care of me. She had me out and about after a couple of months. The king personally appointed me keeper of the roses as a reward for my years of service. I do so love looking after them. Before this garden was planted, I had the finest rose garden inSarasidhe,’ the old fairy said proudly.

Dougal, and the others, spent the next two hours with him, exchanging many songs and stories, whiling away the afternoon. Paudie even sang the song he had written in honour of the leprechaun and his sister, which left Dougal and Derry slightly embarrassed, but both blushing with pride.

It was left to Adam and Dylan to finalise the arrangements for the upcoming expedition. Their first stop was the weapon smith and armourer to make sure the leprechaun’s magical armour and swords would be ready in time for their departure.

Next came the difficult task of gathering the necessary supplies. It had been decided that with five giants accompanying them on this mission, they would need a wagon full of supplies. They would abandon the wagon if they were forced to travel anywhere it couldn’t go.

The day was almost over by the time the fairy brothers had finished their assignment, and they joined their companions for what was to be their last night in the fairy city.

Much to the disappointment of Turloch and Fearghus, Dougal insisted that they turn in early so they would be well rested for the following morning’s early start.

On their return to their chambers, Cait, Turloch and Fearghus found their weapons and armour already waiting for them.

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