This piece is an excerpt from a WIP tentatively titled The Hawthorne Grove, featuring a young girl named Marwyn Killeen, who discovers that her thirteenth birthday brings intangible gifts of magic, and a new world, parallel to the one we live in, along with it. I’ll leave the rest for you readers to discover, but the focus of the story will be on Irish myth and Celtic druid lore from Ireland. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
The Hawthorne Grove
Even as a little girl, the moonlight fascinated me. It was cool and rejuvenating compared to the sometimes blistering heat of the sun’s rays. In my dreams every night, the moon didn’t reflect the sunlight; she stole it from the sun, transforming her silvery beams into a veil bridging two places.
I saw my first glimpse of the Otherworld only a few days after my 13th birthday on my way home from my favorite bike trail. The full moon was low enough in the sky that I saw it shining between the massive tree trunks that lined the coast of Northern California. At the time, my parents were vaguely aware that I rode my new 10-speed mountain bike five miles to get to the entrance of the state park, and roam the trails until after dusk. My sister, Phoebe, and I were never given curfews for fear that our “creative spirit” would be crushed by the weight of over-bearing parents. No, my parents stayed blissfully ignorant of the fact that I spent more of the summer with the redwoods than my friends from school.
I rode my bike behind the staggering figure until he stumbled into a clearing that was used for campsites along the trail. Tents had popped up like weeds, invading every free patch of grass not being swallowed by the gigantic winnebagos that this summer’s horde of tourists brought with them. He looked like a gnome, a drunk gnome wearing clothes that were better suited for a Thanksgiving play than hot California weather.
“Honestly, who wears blue stockings and buckled shoes anymore?” I mumbled.
He passed the first couple campsites before “Mr. Gnome-aholic” ran headlong into a tree stump with a sickening thump and then tumbled backward onto the gravel path. I heard him grunt softly as he propping himself into a seated position using the same tree stump. I quickly dumped my brand new bike on the path, and rushed over to see if he was hurt.
“Oh my god, are you okay?” I whispered.
You can imagine my surprise when I lifted the wool hat from his egg-shaped head to find no bruises or blood despite the loud crack it made seconds earlier. His eyes snapped open when he felt the cool air on his head, trying to cover the pointed ears and wisps of copper hair sticking out in all directions. He grabbed for his hat with long, thin fingers and an empty bottle slipped from his grasp onto the ground.
“It’s okay,” I said, my voice as calm as possible. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t bleeding.”
“Clurichaun do not bleed from a bump on the head,” he said in a loud,. “Keep your hands off me, child.”
It seemed odd that he would be ashamed of pointy ears, but my only references to gnomes are Disney movies, so what do I know? Guessing by the sound of his accent, I assume a clurichaun is a type of Irish gnome—a pointy-eared, drunken Irish gnome.
“Sorry,” I said, sarcasm resonating in my voice. “I guess gnomes don’t bleed when they get hurt.”
The man jumped to his feet, his pudgy face as red as his hat. He barely reached three feet in height, making his anger more comical than terrifying. It took every ounce of willpower not to laugh at him. No need to make the little guy more uncomfortable.
”Gnome?” he yelled. “To hell with you for thinkin’ I’m one of those blithering eeijits. They be teachin’ you little birds to mock the fae instead of respect us.”
“Mr. Gnome-aholic” wobbled on his leather shoes over to the brown bottle, and glanced over his angular shoulder at me as if I was going to steal his empty recyclable. Maybe he’s an environmentally friendly gnome. Then again, they’re all probably conscious of picking up after themselves if they live in the woods.
With a flourish of his long fingers, the brown bottle shimmered in the dim light, filling with a fragrant liquid and he took a generous gulp before securing the bottle in one of his coat pockets.
“Did you just?” I asked, motioning to the bottle. “Fill that back up without…”
He turned on his heel to face me again, the fury replaced by an unsettling grin on his tiny face. I couldn’t help, but think that he had shown me his little trick on purpose.
“Are you going to tell me your name? Or do I have to guess like Rumplestilkin?”
“Ha,” he laughed, a sharp cackle breaking the evening’s silence. “That wee tale gets me every time. As if a name could cause the world to swallow me up. My name is Sloane, clurichaun of the Northwest.”
The small man bowed so deeply that he nearly lost his balance again, so I reached out to steady him. Once he righted himself, I dusted off the blades of grass indented into my knees, and with the help of the leftover tiki torches, I surveyed the area to find no one in the immediate camp had bothered to check on the tiny man yelling outside.
“I’m Marwyn Killeen, teenager of Myer’s Flat.”
“Well met now, aren’t we?” Sloane said, his tenor voice slurring the end of his sentence. “Since you feigned an interest in my well-being, you may take me to the nearest vineyard.”
“Well, Fruitlands is on the way to my house.Would you prefer my back pack or the front of the bike?”
A huff escaped Sloane as he said, “Do you take me for a pet? I shall ride in front.”
I shrugged my shoulders and picked my bike from the gravel waiting for him to climb on. Who am I to judge? The backpack would be a safer option, but he has so much pride for such a little person.
“Suit yourself,” I said.
With one hand on his hat, and the other holding the handlebars between his legs, I pushed the bike back onto the dirt path towards home.
“So if you’re not a gnome,” I said, “What are you?”
Sloane turned to face me with a wide grin more mischievous looking than the Cheshire cat. It stirred something in me–a kind of acceptance that he recognized something within me that I didn’t know I had. If it was meant to reassure me, it didn’t.
”Ah excellent question, my dear, but that answer you will have to earn in time,” he said, his voice soft and secretive all of a sudden. “Even if your hair does not burn with power, there is something in you, child.”
The way he talked was so strange; even with his strong Irish accent, he sounded as if he belonged in another era. Since we weren’t going to reach my neighbor’s vineyard for at least another two miles of back roads, I figured I might as well keep the conversation going.
“What do you mean my hair doesn’t burn?” I asked, glancing down at my brown curls. “If it burned I wouldn’t have any.”
He must have enjoyed the confusion on my face because the next high-pitched cackle knocked him off balance and almost fell from the handlebars onto the ground.
“You have much to learn about the world, little bird,” he said once he regained his composure.
There you have it, folks. A glimpse into a new story that’s been brewing in my mind since I started reading The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. By the way, you should check out the first book in that series, Hounded, if Celtic or other major myths interest you.
As a writer, I appreciate any thoughts on the overall feel or impression of the story/characters. I know I want to write the story, but I also would benefit from knowing if people want to read it.
Before I forget, here are a few kitty pictures to start off the day. Happy Reading and Writing!