The year was 1850 the great plague and potato famine was coming to an end in Ireland at last. The potato crop failure that had caused such widespread devastation throughout the isle was at last finished and all the attending illnesses associated with it were dying out. Many folk were sorely tempted to leave and immigrate to the new world in America and many had. Not only to escape the blight but to start new lives with a chance of a fresh beginning. They said a million or more folk had died in illness and hunger, a figure so staggering that Podraig could not comprehend it; his counting was judged well by all standards. But as a shepherd, his counting was limited to the few sheep he had to keep and watch over on the small hill farm owned by his father Seamus. Who had been lost only a year ago to the Cholera? A disease the doctor had told him he had caught in the local market town while down trying to sell a few sheep to buy other provisions for the family. Podraigs father Seamus had seemed a giant of a man, out on the bleak hills with Podraig during lambing time. Sometimes with the late snow burying the sheep, under snowdrifts that were higher than a man while they were giving birth. The animals had to be cared for and Seamus on one occasion had carried a sheep back down the mountain to place it in the barn near the homestead to be looked after by Podraigs mother and Sister Aileen and Moira. How could such a man have succumbed to the disease so healthy one day and dead as near the next? Well life went on chores had to be done sheep had to be looked after, all the day to day things still mattered. Podraig had thought about immigrating with his mother and sister to the new world. America they called it many of the local lads had done it some earning fortunes and returning to live like lords, others never heard of again. But Podraigs mother would hear none of it she wouldn’t leave the home she had brought her children into the world in and the home she had shared with his father for so long. No America was for others and not her. Sitting outside the lean to hut used when he was up on the high meadow Podraig was enjoying the evening it was still bright and the day had been mild for the time of year. Podraig was sure he was seeing shooting stars in the skies away above Scotland, lots of them. Then something else this was bigger, getting even bigger by the moment it looked like a fireball now it was so close, and Podraig could see the immense size of it heading straight for him afraid for his very life he ran for the side of the old cliff to take shelter as best he could. The fireball was gigantic now and passing just overhead the heat was blistering, the old lean to seemed to erupt in fire as it passed then fell into the valley with a loud explosion that took Podraig off his feet and stunned him for several minutes. Recovering his senses Podraig was up and running towards the valley over the hill, many of his sheep had been grazing there sheltering from the night air and dew. Cresting the hill and looking down on a scene of carnage, he noticed the fireball had ploughed a great gash in the ground down to the bottom of the valley and settled into a small shallow lake. Most of the water had boiled off and extinguished the fire leaving an immense structure sitting hissing and rapidly cooling in what was previously the centre of the lake now no more than a large puddle. Not sure what the thing was Podraig hesitated about going any closer to it. Then noticing that sheep lay all around the hillside dying mutilated and dead, this was enough to galvanise Podraig to action maybe he wasn’t to sure what the thing was but sheep were sheep and if any could be saved then he must do what he could. Overcoming his fear of what the great object might be he roamed closer and closer to the thing checking for signs of life among the sheep nearest to it. Finding none that could be saved Podraig was distraught, so many dead, his only form of income to keep and feed his mother sister and himself, what was to become of them? It would take years to build up the flock again. Sitting on a small outcropping of rock and lost in a deep pit of despair Podraig failed to notice a part of the structure had just opened up. Something or someone was coming out the opening. My God protect us what are you? Fairy folk? Leprechauns or what?
The few beings that had started to emerge from the opening were collapsing on the ground; some black evil looking smoke was escaping from the door behind them.
Podraig didn’t hesitate these folk whoever they were needed help and Podraig rushed to assist them as quickly as he could. The carrying of them was a simple matter with his large weather worn hands he could lift as many as ten of them at a time but more and more poured out the door trying to escape the evil fumes and smoke belching from inside.
Podraig looked around the ground and found a large piece of silver metal that had cooled rapidly and fallen off the immense craft, using this to carry them he placed as many of the stricken folk from the craft as he could and carried them to safety away from the heat fumes and smoke.
How many trips back and forth he made he could not count, but with every trip more and more were saved other openings had appeared as well and Podraig rushed to the ones that looked most in need of help, some of the escaping folk were fit to walk on their own these he left to fend as best they could.
Exhausted Podraig lay on the ground, heaving and coughing from the smoke he had inhaled from the burning craft. All around him on the ground lay the Little Folk as he thought of them for they were very small compared to Podraig.
With his limited knowledge he could think little else other than they were Fairy Folk.
After half an hour or so Podraig felt he could breathe again the smoke was still in his lungs but now he could breathe without coughing and retching. Looking around he could see many of the Little Folk weren’t moving sadness came over him like rushing in like a wave breaking on the shoreline.
For sure these unmoving folk had passed into the next life. A few of the Little Folk all dressed in white were moving among their brethren, and those that had lain unmoving before the visit seemed to come back to life. Many of the group were carrying strange items putting some sort of mask on the faces of the fallen and soon after they were up and about.
The Magic of it amazed Podraig so much he didn’t notice some of the folk about his feet. Stepping carefully back he leaned closer to the ground to hear what they were saying, but try as he might he did not understand a word said.
That’s when it happened for the first time, Podraig staggered as if he had been punched from behind as he lost balance his mind was still on the little folk ” Don’t fall on them ” Came the thought. Lying full length on the ground Podraig could make out the small tinny sound of someone speaking. Very musically, lying there gathering his thoughts he realised the words were coming from the little folk and now he could understand them.
2. Meeting the Ami
The sun was just sinking on the horizon the day had been very pleasant and quite warm and balmy
Kevin relaxed in the bottom of shallow the sandpit he had dug for himself earlier that morning. Attempting to make lying on the sand as comfortable as possible, shaping the sandpit to the contours of his body.
He shifted his weight slightly as he tried to find a more comfortable position. Having lain in this one so long, and trying to recover from his self inflicted wounds of the night before. Spending the night with a group of old friends and having had one more whiskey than he actually needed was on reflection not the best idea.
An old saying reared its head “Never again, well at least a week till the next time”
Lying there he started to think about Inge and the kids; they had reached Manchester all right and had a good journey on the way there. They had flown on one of the new cheap bucket seat airlines cropping up all over the place the kids had loved the experience. Kevin and his family had just moved over to Ireland from Manchester leaving a job with lower pay and poor hours and much time away from home. The jobs offer from an American company Mechcorp with the offer of a new house with a company mortgage, and good prospects for promotion within the company plus he was near all his old roots most family and friends. “Eight months now they had been living in Northern Ireland, and Inge feels homesick, this trip will do her some good “. Kevin’s wife Inge had come to Manchester and settled with her own family from Germany as economic migrants during the time of boom and bust finances. The best part about the job was the lack of an office to report in to. His work was all generated through the parent company then e-mailed or faxed to him, sure sometimes it meant spending a few nights away but most of the time he slept at home in his own bed. Inge Had decided to take the kids to visit her folks back in England leaving Kevin at home to sort out the redecorating Inge had asked for, two weeks without them. He would have some peace to work over a few projects he had in mind for himself.
It was just starting to turn chilly, and long shadows from Ballygally Head were reaching out to smother the beach dusky light of early evening, it was nearly eleven o’clock.
Just then something in the water caught his eye. It was another of those wooden box pallets. Remembering he had noticed one further around the headland on his walking session to clear the spinning head syndrome he had suffered that morning from the night before, with tracks leading up the sand from it, ” probably some sort of crab trap, that had broken free from it’s moorings at sea. “He sat up to get a better look at it.
Then the whole world seemed to light up, everything dimmed again deeper and down further into the dark his senses seem to recoil at whatever was happening. It was now pitch black he could see nothing; his whole body was tingling with pins and needles. Head spinning, stomach churning with an all too familiar feeling, one thought shot through all the others “I’m still conscious. What the hell was happening, “the pressure on body and mind was becoming intolerable to an extreme, then normality. Something wasn’t right. It was dark, there seemed to be a carpet underneath, no not a carpet a towel but this was immense, it was the size of a football field. There on a corner of the towel was the bottle of sun tan oil Kevin had used earlier in the day it now towered above him. “What was going on”? “Information started to filter through the fog of his situation; it wasn’t as dark as he had first thought. Kevin was sitting in the shadow of the sandpit he had dug. Something was moving down the side of the pit, no not something someone, more to the point several people slipping and sliding in the loose sand more the size of small pebbles now in his reduced height. Reaching the bottom now they fanned out as they came towards him. They were taller than Kevin but not as heavy in body reaching a good head above him Kevin being six foot one he estimated they might have been about seven foot tall but for all that quite thin. The shortest of them was staying back behind the line of the others, they were calling to him, he seemed unable to grasp the words, and they were softly spoken like the language was in song and very musical. Kevin turned towards the short man higher on the slope, and as he turned the group stopped as one. Then the short man started to speak again the strange melodic song of speech the tingling started all over his body again not as intense this time or was it as disorienting. It cleared as quickly as it had started, but now he could understand the men whispering in front of him. The leader stepped up to him “Be quiet bigger, no sound till I say or we will bind and gag you “. The short man in the dark robes watched him intently from the slope. Well he thought of him as a man but there was something different about him. There was something quietly disturbing about him, something he just couldn’t put his finger on apart from the strange angular shape of his face and the extremely long fingers. The rest of the group deferred to him in some manner not as a leader, but likened to an elder who is treated with respect!
Kevin disorientated as he was and still feeling none the better for his drinking the night before decided to wait and see what was to happen before attempting to rush forward and try to grapple with several well armed and strangely dressed men.
Most of the group including the one who appeared to be the leader moved to the rim of the sandpit leaving only one guard and the dark robed man who had now come down the side of the sandpit.
They spoke quietly and near musically. Both turned to Kevin as he moved closer to them. The dark robed one spoke” Stay here bigger and no harm will come to you, we prepare a little welcome for the Asov when they land .I am Harris, surveyor and guide magician to this expedition“. “MAGICIAN! ” He swore that Harris knew what he was thinking, Kevin had a slight amused quirk to his lips and his eyes were smiling, “Now you’re going to tell me you’re all Leprechaun’s. “ Said Kevin and started laughing”. “Quiet now, no were not leprechauns, we are the Ta-Ami. You may know us by some other name in your common language when we speak among ourselves we call ourselves Ami. We are all in some real danger. A band of Asov wild beings more animal than anything are aboard that craft that’s shortly to land on the beach .If we don’t succeed in ambushing them before they organise, and then they could destroy us by sheer force of numbers.” Harris started to walk off as if looking for something. “Wait a moment, if these Asov of yours travel in those wooden pallet’s you could be in a little more trouble than you think. And could I have something to wear I feel a little naked here my name is Kevin by the way.” Kevin’s head was beginning to clear as his predicament became clearer he moved towards the edge of the towel to be closer to Harris. “And what do you mean more trouble”? Harris seemed to be a little irritated by Kevin’s intrusion on his thoughts. I have seen those pallets before, earlier this morning in fact just about Ballygally head with what I thought was a crab track coming from them “Harris spun in the sand” Call the commander quickly “. The guard who had supplied Kevin with some rough robes turned and ran towards the rim of the sandpit .The commander slithered down the slope towards Kevin and Harris. ” Ah commander I think Kevin is about to tell us we are in an ambush and not as we thought the other way round, send scouts out North South and West, and be ready to move on their return. “ The commander bowed” I have skirmish groups in those very directions and they have just returned this very minute. There are large war bands of Asov coming from both North and south, my scout’s estimate about 1000 in each group. About one hour’s March from either direction but as yet no word from the West. “Harris seemed almost stricken with panic.”. Then we must move Commander but I want your men to bring this band of metal I believe it belongs to our new friend Kevin if I am not mistaken. When I used my magic to shrink you to our size it didn’t work on the band, enough now let us be away before those damn Asov find us and we lose all “. At his command the Ami lifted the band. Kevin recognized it as his grandfather’s ring. The company started moving west up the beach. Kevin walked along in the front with Harris and the Commander. They were on top of the beach now heading for the crossroads and the reasonable safety of the Forest Park on the other side of the road. An Ami came running towards them from the direction of the park. “Asov are behind us to the West on the other side of the road in the forest, one possibly two thousand of them as best we could make out they mean to encircle us” reported the returning Ami. The Commander turned to Harris the mage and smiling said. “A spell of invisibility would prove your worth to us now Mage “Harris irritated by the commander and his seeming sneer at him shook his head and replied.” Even that my gifts of mage craft
Lay in that direction you know as well as I that there are just too many of us here to cover, there must be another way. Kevin you see our predicament have you any suggestions. “Kevin thought for a moment. “ Yes of course, back down the beach a little towards my house is an outlet for an old sewage drain running into the sea. Some little way up the beach there is an opening where it is broken; we could enter it there and follow it up to the pump house. It’s well into the forest but not too far from the river. “Harris turned back to the Commander and smiled”. Not quite what we had in mind but it should suffice for what we need.
Our invisibility spell to hide us from the Asov and get us back to the river, from there then to Ta-Amihome and report our findings to Corta our High mage“. “All very Well but we cannot carry this ring and hope to stay ahead of the Asov for very long, they will find our trail eventually”. Said the Commander Kevin was standing listening to the exchange between Mage and Commander. “What if you did your magic and returned me to normal, then I could take you where you need to go, and there would be no interference from these Asov’s, at my full size I could easily outpace them and deliver you home. ” Kevin looked to Harris expectantly. “You can’t can you”. Harris shook his head “I’m really not sure how I did it in the first place to be honest and the result of normalising you without knowing how could be disastrous if not fatal “. Kevin’s hopes seemed to shatter in that instant “Ok then I must join you; how far into the forest must you go to be safe or get to this Ta-Amihome,