She had been walking for about an hour, when she heard a faint sound. She couldn’t figure out what it was, so she moved on, listening and wondering. It was only about fifteen minutes later when the sound was loud enough to be identified. There must be a large group of hunters ahead, because by the noise, there had to be fifty or more hounds baying. They couldn’t be too near yet, but still, it worried her.
Ten minutes later, she wasn’t just worried,, she was terrified. The noise was almost deafening, they seemed so close, yet she could see no sign of hunters or hounds. I t sounded like something large crashing through the forest, and it seemed to be coming straight at her. It was eerie, ghostly. Was it the wild hunt?!
“Oh, dear, what will I do?” she cried, as she looked around for a safe place to hide. “I can’t climb a tree; all the branches start too high for me to reach. Oh, some body, help me, please!”
“All right, calm down!” a voice said. It was the same voice that had spoken to her back among the toadstools.
“Who are you?” she cried. “Where are you? Can’t you show yourself? You are making me more afraid, not helping!” She turned in a circle, seeking the speaker. When she completed the circle, there was a small man, staring at her, and smiling. “Oh!” she exclaimed.
“I am O’Brien, Leprechaun of Meath. And have I not been requested to help you, and give you directions. And didn’t I think you should be content with just my voice? We Leprechauns do not like to show themselves to humans, at all, at all. It isn’t safe. Don’t we know that all humans think of is stealing our gold? But Arduinna, The Lady of the Forest, has asked me to help you. And don’t you seem ridiculously afraid of a disembodied voice? So here I am, though I don’t like it.”
“Oh, well, hello, and thanks for your help. I am not interested in your treasure, all I want is to get out of this…..whatever, and back to my Lindens home.” Lillian held out her hand. After a moment’s hesitation, O’Brien stepped forward and shook it.
“All right, then. First, don’t you know the sound of The Questing Beast when you hear it? And isn’t it of no danger to you? The Lady asked me to lead you to a glade, where you can rest. And isn’t it a safe and beautiful place? The water is as pure as a new born babe. Come, follow me.” He turned and headed along the path. After walking for a few feet, he turned off onto another path, and soon they were in the glade. It was as beautiful and peaceful as he had promised, and Lillian was happy to find a moss covered log near the spring and sit down.
“Isn’t it that the Lady will be joining you soon? Rest and drink, now. Are there not many arguments and troubles that I must arbitrate, waiting for me? I will go now about my own business. Farewell.” Before Lillian could draw breath to answer, he had spun in a circle and was gone.
She sat, enjoying the rest and peace of the glade, and pondering the oddness of leprechauns. Popping up out of nowhere, disappearing as quickly, and hardly ever saying anything without making it a question. She smiled at the thought, and remembered what she had learned about them in courses she had attended. It was so peaceful and she was so tired, that she didn’t notice, when the lady walked softly into the glade, until a gentle voice spoke.
“Hello, Lillian. I am sorry O’Brien frightened you. Leprechauns are all tricksters at heart, no matter what part of Ireland they come from. I should have been more careful in my instructions.”
Lillian turned, startled, and stared. The lady was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Her skin was smooth and pale, with a soft, pale rose in her cheeks, deeper rose lips and deep green eyes. Her hair hung in golden ripples and waves almost to her heels, and she wore a pale blue ankle length gown trimmed in and belted in gold. Lillian couldn’t speak she was so awestruck.
The lady smiled, and held out her hand. “Come, my dear, you need not fear me. I am here to help you.” Lillian stood and took the hand, and at once was at ease. She smiled, and said “Thank you, Arduinna, I do need your help. I don’t know what is happening, or how I came to be here.”
“You are here because the picture Ginger made has been imbued with magic. You need someone with you to help you find your way home again, and that is why I have come. I will call an Urisk from Scotland to be your help and guide. With him you will search for the Vorpal Sword, and a burning brand. Once you have them, you will meet your next challenge. I am not allowed to tell you what it will be, but I am certain that you will recognise it, and with the Urisk’s aid, beat it. Stay here until Jock comes, and rest. I must go now, but I leave my blessing with you.”
With a smile and nod, the lady turned and walked off among the trees, where she quickly disappeared. Lillian watched her out of sight, then sat again, and wondered. What kind of danger would she face next? It must be very dangerous, if she would need a sword.