A large eye rotated around a headless rider on a dark horse, called out, “Leanaaaa”. Her strangled throat gasped for breath. She tumbled from the bed, and her blood-stained steps smudged the floor. Leana screamed, but no one saw the stains as there were none. The more her thoughts revolved around her father’s unnatural death, the more pain she underwent with increased delirium.
The bequest stated that the reins of the mighty kingdom of Winsale in Clark County fell into the delicate hands of Leana, the only heir, after her father’s reign. The subjects rejoiced as the Princess ascended the throne through the capable guidance of her affectionate husband, Prince Sloan, and devoted spinster aunt, Ellen. They empathized with Leana’s hallucinations and suggested a vacation to their countryside castle.
The majestic towers rose from the highlands in the confidence of piercing through the saxe blue autumn sky. Melancholy embosomed Leana as the recollections of many unforgettable adventures during springtime with her father filled the crevices of her fragile mind.
Leana climbed the spiral staircase from her dressing room to her hidden den. Her father’s busy schedule made Leana spend hours in this chamber. This undisclosed place was only shared by the father and child, who knew where to find his daughter when unnoticed by anyone anywhere.
The harp sat next to the ornamental mirror that testified to her secret explanations, but now it looked strange. The mirror creaked, and the harp made an eerie noise. The air smelt pungent and suffocating.
“I’ve got to unravel the truth,” Leana blurted.
“My dear, I feel for you.” A sigh echoed all around.
She stared at the plafond. The intricate carvings gazed back, but it got filled with smoke.
“Leana, my love, where are you?” Sloan’s faint voice rose and fell.
Leana tiptoed down the stairs and closed the door soundlessly to her private room.
“I was in the bathroom, dear. Anything urgent?” Leana stepped out and smiled at Sloan.
“Aunt Ellen and I were planning a hunting spree. What do you advise?” He kissed her.
“I’m tired after the long journey. Why don’t you proceed whilst I rest and bring back my vigor?”
From behind the curtains of her bedroom, Leana saw the entourage leave the courtyard.
After an early dinner, Leana locked her bedroom door. There were uncanny whispers as she ascended to her personal space.
Leana picked up the harp and discovered a string detached from the wooden body. It made creepy vibrations when her fingers stroked it. A shockwave passed, stifling her sensation. She hurled the harp, and it crashed into the mirror.
A fog engulfed the mirror.“Beware, lest the flower withers.”
She ordered, “Get me the killer of my father.”
“SHHHH, winds have ears. Follow me.” An elf with a red coat and hat appeared.
The elf’s hawk snout, bright golden eyes, and skinny tail made a shapeshift into a white pony. Leana sat on the horseback. The dome creaked, and they vaulted out of a tunnel into the dense thickets.
Hiding behind the backwoods, Leana saw the regiment split in different directions chasing their target in the dark. Unexpectedly, an airborne three-headed shrieking creature charged violently at one of the horsemen. A beautiful woman wearing a shroud floated around. The woman lifted the dead man and placed him on her lap. A sinister smile dazzled as she bent and sucked the blood from his heart.
A squeal escaped her lips. Before it attracted any attention, the elf became a black colt, lifted Leana, and sped toward the castle. They reached her den, and she rushed to her bedroom.
A while later, Leana watched the somber looks and the hushed tones of all men in the front yard with no jovial merriment. The neighing of the mares indicated something dire. Hearing footsteps, Leana crawled inside the blankets.
Sloan and Ellen walked in. “She is in deep slumber, Aunt. Let’s not disturb her till morning.” Sloan whispered, dimmed the lights, and shut the door behind them.
Leana could still hear their murmurings, “….table….reveal….best…sh.” Their voices gradually died down.
The night was long and restive, but slumber overtook her tired frame. Her thoughts were to solve the mystery. A sing-song voice called her name, “Leanaaaa”, as thunder rolled, and the stale, intense breathing of someone stirred Leana. Her half-opened eyes met the same monster from the forest, a three-headed ghoul spitting fire from the cupola and blood splattered around.
Though terrified and choked, Leana mustered her courage this time and shouted, “My dagger is sufficient for your throat.” She quickly pulled out a scalpel from the drawer, but the beast swerved and vanished in the moonless night through the shut screens.
Leana couldn’t fall asleep anymore. Her heart raced like a horse’s hoofs. She wondered if it was an illusion or real. She noticed a fire engulfing the woodlands around the castle.
Sloan quietly entered, undressed, and crawled inside the bed. He was snoring softly in no time, with Leana wide awake next to him.
The mellow rays streamed. Leana felt a constant spasm as if someone was constricting her. Sloan had already left, but a shadow lurked behind the curtains. She darted and found blood stains splashed on the panes. Her head reeled.
At the breakfast table, Leana observed an uneasiness among Sloan, Aunt, and the servers, though they were courteous towards her in their greetings. They engaged in small talks and avoided any reference to their previous day’s hunting extravaganza.
“Hon, an unfortunate incident occurred last night.” Sloan cleared his throat as Leana sipped on her tea.
Leana’s looks bore the marks of her queries. Sloan glanced at Aunt and continued, “Jack, our ostler, was killed by a wild animal during our excursion.”
“Nooooo!” Leana squeaked. “He is a young lad, all of eighteen.” The previous night’s incident in the woods niggled in her brain. Sloan comforted her.
Aunt Ellen pacified Leana, “I know it’s difficult to acknowledge such unacceptable occurrences. Don’t worry, the family will be benevolently compensated.”
Leana retreated to her bedroom, asking all to respect her privacy.
She locked the door and went to her nook, “I haven’t harmed anyone. I’m already in mourning due to my father’s sudden departure, and now, Jack.”
“Strategies necessitate the hour, my girl.” The broken harp cackled from the cracked mirror.
“I’ve no clue about the gruesome happenings and the nightmares. What’s it you’re trying to convey?”
The mirror and the harp swayed in tandem, “In the blackness, they went and never returned. Again, in the glowing light, he’ll be gone. Be cautious. They’re pursuing.”
“Who is it?” Leana queried.
“The time is yet to come. Two down, three to go, four….hmmmm.”
It was the season for the Samhain festival. The entire countryside was in a celebratory atmosphere. The Druid lit the community fire. Every evening for the three-day entertainment, people dressed as giants danced and sang to the music with bonfires around their farms. Gluttonous feasts were arranged and offered to all, from neighbors to the Otherworld.
On the last day, another unprecedented event struck. The loyal porter of the citadel, a non-believer in rituals, was found dead near his ranch at midnight. He had neither ignited the hearth fire nor participated in any Samhain practices. An inferno consumed the entire farm of the deceased, with blood splattered around.
“Are the killings deliberate? Who’s doing it?” Leana paced the hideout in anguish.
“This is the only safe haven. They can’t reach you.” The harp heaved from the mirror.
“Who’re they?!” She looked straight into the mirror and visualized the small, murky silhouette of the elf that flickered and vanished.
“The new moon phase is crucial, you stay alert.”
Leana continued her regular functionary duties, hiding her deep-rooted anxieties and suspicions. She contemplated revealing the bizarre phenomena at the coppices to her only love and sharing her dilemma to unburden her torment. Sloan was always faithful and caring to her, so there shouldn’t be any deceptiveness between them.
A sliver of the moon peeped through the cloudy sky. The chilly breeze made her shiver. It rolled to a gust and dragged Leana.
“It’s final. Stay here.”A hissing voice commanded inside the nook.
Leana quivered with her sharp sword.
“We’ve to move promptly to my protected territory before they reach out to you.”
“Who? Where?” Leana’s bewilderment intensified.
The elf, her jinni resembled Leana’s favorite foal, Dusty.
“Hold tight, my child. We’ve got to ride fast. They’ll detect your getaway and follow soon.”
The stallion galloped through the howling gale with the crescent moon guiding the path.
From a distance, Leana heard a shrill cry. “Who is that?” She panicked.
“That’s the grieving call. They’re furious for losing their control over you, their bait.” The same human voice rang from the steed.
“Who are my enemies? What do they want?”
“To capture your worthwhile kingdom. Greed. They killed your tenderhearted father, sucked his blood till the last drop, and now they’re after you.” The colt sped.
“Leanaaaa….”The piercing call rented the air. She turned around and spotted the identical woman wearing a shadowy shroud gliding towards her and the three-headed shrieking fiend not far behind, sprouting fire from red, inflamed eyes and blood dripping from the corners of his lips. She swung her sword, but the long slimy tongue wriggled out and snatched it. The sharp fangs bit it into pieces.
Leana gasped in a daze. The foal flung her into midair and incarnated into a chieftain. “Let me teach your adorable prince a lesson for life, or he’ll kill you like Jack and allow Ellen to drink your blood. He is the devil in camouflage. Sloan and Ellen connived and snatched your father’s soul, but they’re not satisfied.”
The fire spewed around, the blood spilled, and the flames danced menacingly upward toward her.
Leana found her legs tied to invisible cords on the topmost branches of the Sceach Geal. A mist surrounded her. Her inverted head watched Sloan acquire demonic postures to reach her. She clutched the locket of Mother Goddess Danu that dangled from her neck, a gift from her beloved father.
The chief pulled a yew-wood sword from the roots of the Sceach Geal, which created a massive crater on the ground. He slayed the demon, buried him upturned inside the cavern, and placed a heavy stone on top of the newly dug grave.
“This is the correct method to kill and bury your evil prince, or else he would rise from the dead to follow you again.” He crowed to Leana and switched to his original elf image with a caliginous coat and tie.
The mist shrouded the fire, and a crystal brook flowed instead of the blood.
“Release me from this tree, now.” Leana appealed.
The elf mocked, “You’re not safe yet. The undead lurks around.”
“Let me take care of the restless, angry spirit. Her fate neither welcomes her in hell nor heaven and resides inside Ellen in disguise. She is called “the red-bloodsucker”, who metamorphizes into a one-eyed headless woman, a charming lady in a black cloak, and other appearances. Today, she planned to call out your name thrice to entice you to your death in the ardchríoch.”
“How many foes do I have?”Leana exclaimed.
“The elf chuckled, “The last one, excluding me.”
Leana ogled. The elf giggled, “Goodbye, Princess. Till we meet.”
“Free me from this suspended state,” Leana implored.
The elf guffawed, “This is my zone. You’re yet to learn the trade tricks here. Enjoy your stay up there. I’ll finish my job and take you back to your great empire if you’re still alive.”
He winked at Leana and zoomed off to oblivion.
Unseen whispers infiltrated the air.
“Are they the faeries or the witches?” Leana quivered to the mysterious swaying of herself on the branches.
“Who’s that? An old woman with horrific eyes, or a pale lady in a white dress? Or is it a delusion?” She enquired aloud, glaring upside down.
There are quite a few Irish mythological creatures that, vary in their type. Some are monsters like the Abhartach, The Dearg Due, The Sluagh, Ellen Trechend, etc. Some are harmless creatures like The Leprechaun, The Pooka, The Clurichaun, The Far Darrig, etc. Some were fierce warriors likeAbcán, AosSí, Aibell, The Fairy Queen, etc. Others are The Cailleach,The Muckie, The Bodach, Leanansídhe, etc.
The story is based on the above.
Samhain festival – Samhain is a pagan religious festival originating from an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition. The pagan aspects of the celebration on October 31 became known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, and contained much of the traditional pagan practices before being adopted in 19th-century America through Irish immigrants bringing their traditions across the ocean.
Druid -A member of the high-ranking class in ancient Celtic cultures. Druids were religious leaders, legal authorities, adjudicators, lore keepers, medical professionals, and political advisors.
Sceach Geal -A tree that grows in Ireland and throughout the north. It is also called hawthorn, the gentle bush, the lone thorn, the May tree, the hedgethorn, the Beltaine tree, the Gentry tree, the May blossom, the whitethorn, and many other names. In Ireland, it is best known as the fairy tree.
Mother Goddess Danu – There are several divine mother goddess figures in ancient Celtic mythology. Examples include the Goddess Danu the supposed mother figure of the mythical superhuman race called the Tuatha dé Danann.
Ardchríoch– Highland in Irish
This Post Has 13 Comments
Liked the vivid imagery in you story… I had guessed that the prince n the aunt might be the culprits but the way you came to the conclusion was commendable… good one!
An interesting story bordering on Celtic rituals and beliefs. The realisation of the princess and the environment of mystery won my heart.
Your story brought alive the customs and the vicious creatures that hold sway in the folklore of Ireland. I did guess who the perpetrators were but the way you narrated the sequence and the vivid imagery that brought alive Ireland make this a gripping tale. Kudos!
Waiting to read what happens next!
Vivid imageries, loads of fantasy elements, highly engaging narrative. Loads of characters made it rather interesting. Conclusion was a commendable one… Well done Alipi Das …
A well-written story with the right amount of Celtic rituals. This was new, engaging and highly informative for me.
This was an out and out fantasy tale, with creatures from Irish lore, a kingdom, a troubled princess, magic elements like a talking mirror and of course the array of magical creatures. Some parts were a bit confusing, or rather disjointed, but on the whole it was a good story.
Great fantasy tale filled with myriad, crazy, evil, and even witty creatures. Nice story. I only wish the princess was not suspended like this.
The concept and the setting of this story are fascinating. Ireland is mysterious enough as it is, and the rich culture and local legends that abound in the everyday lives of its people add to the beauty and mystery. heart
The plotline is intriguing, but the execution could have been better. There were many places where I felt lost and confused. The transitions were also abrupt, jumping from one scene to another with little context or connecting sequences.
For example, in the opening scene – called out, “Leanaaaa”// Who called out? The eye? The headless rider? Leana herself?
We also need to delve a little deeper into the relationship between Leana and the elf. Who is he? Why is he helping her? Is he really helping her, or does he have an ulterior motive?
The final revelation – “Let me teach your adorable prince a lesson for life, …” I feel would be more impactful if it comes from Leana’s POV, that is, she realises who the evildoers are without being told.
This story requires tighter editing (both developmental and line editing) to enhance readability and help it attain its true potential.
A well-conceptualised tale with a promising premise.
intriguing plot. the Irish names and vocabulary lend authenticity to the tale. I would have wished for a more refined story- both storyline wise as well as character development wise. Interesting read!
What an atmospheric read. The element of suspense kept the plot moving and the readers, along with it. It’s done beautifully. The ending was well plotted, I felt its execution could have been better if you had more words at your disposal for shedding more light on the motive of the elf/jinni and its relationship with Leana. I feel some more words would have also allowed you to work more Sloan and Ellen. It would have helped me understand if the elf’s accusations about them were true or just a strategy to do away with Leana’s well wishers. Yet, with few words to work on, the visual you created for the ending is stunning, and a perfect ode to the genre of horror. It was fun to read this…loved visiting the castle and the secret den, took me back to the stories my grandfather told us in the evenings.
This read like a very beautiful horror fable, so vivid, so realistic! Very well done!
Ireland abounds with customs, superstitions and vicious creatures that are also shape shifters. The writer has used vivid imagery and narration to make her saga one that brings Ireland alive, making it a gripping read. I guessed who the perpetrators were quite early, but the writing style is captivating enough to hold the interest till the end.