Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Prolog
The quest started, as many do, with a death bed request. Lord Paulferd, ruler of Casa de Fernandez in the capitol city of Left Coast, made his plea. His wife, the comely Ella, Lady of the realm, held her tongue, as Lord Paulferd gasped his law upon her ear.
“Twas our dream to cross the sea and visit the land of our ancestors,” he said. “But this wound from the dragon’s claw has taken my spirit hence. I will not accompany thee…”
Lady Ella held back her tears and hung her head.
“Do not look away, my Love. All will be well. Travel with companions strong to that bonny isle. Take what is left of me to the village of Dublin, find a pub if one there be and toast this warrior once then last. When all cheer ‘Hurrah!’ to the privy dash my ash. For you know if I would hence be with thee, more than part of me would have ended in that foul pit.”
Two summers passed. Lady Ella could not leave their land and the memories locked tight. The apple trees withered and blueberries failed to fruit. Her people starved. In her grief, she did not see.
Upon a blistering day, a message twittered in the air. It came from her cousin, Princess Thia of Diablo Mountain. Thia, a buxom lass, proven in battle, and cipherer of puzzles, said, “Cousin, do not be forlorn. We can return Spring to your land. Go this season to Ireland and do your master’s will. I will bring strength and support to your noble quest.”
Although Lady Ella did not want to journey from home, she felt the purpose returning to her soul as Thia spoke brave words. But who else could go?
Upon the heels of Princess Thia’s chat, came another message from the vibrating air. This came hence from the Castle Zilla of Vlad the Impaler and his new bride, Queen Brandy—a buxom woman, young and smart, maker of magic treats and wine. “Oh, Lady Ella,” Brandy proclaimed, “take thee to Cork County and lay my father, Lord Paulferd, to rest. I will help thee, Lady. Do but ask and I will defend thee to the edge of death with chocolate, cupcakes, and fine wine.”
Ella felt the power of caring add strength to her being. She thought. I am a warrior. Princess Thia is wizard of puzzles and spells. Queen Brandy can hold any enemy helpless with the tasting of her treats. One more needed to be included in the party to make their quest a valiant deed.
Lady Ella sent the fastest horseman of the land to carry a message to Swamp Castle in the land of Right Coast. The horseman rode for weeks, but it took too long, so a twittering of sounds was sent instead. Swamp Castle’s John the Builder and his buxom wife, Princess Carol were also cousins of the Lady, with Thia as sister to Carol. By study and deed, Carol was a cleric and a healer of all she loved. Legend proclaimed that Carol could heal lesions with a kiss and expel demons with a song. Such a healer would ensure the survival of all.
The party, thus chosen, set from their lands on the sixth day of the harvest in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen.
Blessings be upon their journey.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day One
SMFland held little but fields of grain and sunflowers. Lady Ella disembarked the carriage first. She wore soft leather boots, her red harvest cloak and matching felt hat. Carefully hidden in the stays of her woolen corset were two balanced daggers and four throwing stars. Her whip cleverly disguised as a belt about her waist.
Queen Brandy, less subtle, carried a crossbow and quiver of poison arrows on the back of her black leather gown. Princess Thia emerged into the morning light dressed as the feminine noblewoman she was—fluttering of lace and bows covered by a soft velvet cape. She carried her book of spells and poisons as a maiden carries a prayer book. They gathered by a solitary oak and waited.
The first of the magnificent birds arrived. A raven some six yards in length glistened purple black that matched in radiance Queen Brandy's flowing hair.
The Lady approached her familiar and cooed ancient words to assure the bird and fed him almonds from last moon's harvest. The gift accepted, Ella scaled her mount. Two other birds joined them. Her companions chose a mount, took to the air, and flew towards the rising sun.
At least full day’s travel led to Camelot, if bandits were not in wait. Lady Ella used her flight time well to pray for Princess Carol who traveled from the south on her own. Twas the sweetness and innocence of that fair lass that protected her. Yet Ella prayed for her safety and for those left in her home.
The company landed in a forest far from the walls of Camelot. Ill will held still by the King against the Dwyer clan for the deeds of Michael the Great. Retribution could fall against the clan, Lady Ella and her family. The troubles were hers by marriage and, by blood, her cousins’. They needed to cross the bridge to meet fair Carol.
Princess Thia set foot on the bridge only to be challenged by a smelly troll.
"Where are you going?" He yelled at the gate.
"To the town of Dublin," Thia replied.
"How long do you stay?”
"A fortnight." Thia circled the foul creature.
"What is your purpose?"
"Why, to dance and sing—there is no other," Lady Ella spoke resolved.
The troll cast a wary eye upon the three. "So how are thee related?"
Ella looked over the troll searching for his objective in this question. Did he know that the clan of Dwyer stepped on English soil? Or was there some other guile afoot? "Is that a question?"
Agitated, the troll screeched, "Of course, that is a question. You will answer now." He pulled his sword from the sheathe. But his posturing was for naught. Brandy let an arrow fly into his head, and killed the creature dead.
Ella quickly searched the body for his seal that gave free passage to travelers of the realm. Once found, she looked towards Thia to hide the rotting flesh. The diminutive wizard pulled out her book of spells and cast one upon the corpse. The troll changed into a nice piece of shrubbery.
On the other side of the bridge they searched in earnest for Princess Carol.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day Two
They stepped in haste across the bridge to the boats docked along the shore. As in any march, Brandy led with Princess Thia out-stepping her to be first. The Lady followed far enough behind to watch the trees and rocks for would be ambushers. She would not feel easy until Carol had joined the party.
A half day had passed when the three came to the wooden marker for Village Dublin. Princess Thia stopped to drink from her skin of water while Queen Brandy scouted ahead. Ella rested for a moment against a mossy stone. A high pitch whistle sounded from the East—Brandy's alarm. Thia and Ella dashed in sound's direction through the dark woods. They found Brandy bent over the lifeless body of a cleric. The pit of Ella stomach lurched ill. She knew the still shape was that of her cousin Carol.
Princess Thia screamed her anguish and dropped to her knees. Slowly Brandy pulled back the tan hood revealing the ashen face of the Princess. She found two dagger wounds in Carol's back but no signs of struggle. The cleric's money purse had been taken as well as her gold cross and wedding rings.
"Cowards…highwaymen." Brandy shook her head in disgust.
Pulling open her spell book, Thia fought back tears and rage. Her mind needed be clear to cast a resurrect spell. She prayed she was not too late.
Lady Ella circled the group like a hunting Eurasian Lynx. She sought the murderers if they be near. She slipped in and out shadows, finding at last the trail of the two men. Brandy listened for her step-mother's footfall amidst the wizard's chant. All prayed and held their breath as Thia cast her spell and requested God's intervention.
The sun slipped slowly through the trees as group established a camp and waited.
"Haa. Haa." The little cleric sucked air into her body.
Princess Thia cried for joy. Hugs and "Hurrahs!" were given by all. Princess Carol nearly crushed by so much love. When she gained balance enough to stand alone, she gave thanks aloud to the Spirit. The party joined in the celebration.
After a short rest and a meal of biscuits and cheese, the group walked towards Village Dublin. Lady Ella and the Maker of Treats, Queen Brandy, knew that they followed the same trail as the back stabbing bandits.
On the edge of the village, Princess Carol said, "Call me not Carol. I have been beyond the light. I spoke to my Sainted Mother. She blessed me in my childhood name. I will be called Tess, henceforth."
Weeping and hugs once more ensued. Love glowed from each face. At last they had reached Village Dublin.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Later that Evening Day Two
With a bottle of Tess' healing potion in hand, Queen Brandy headed to the kitchen of the Shelbourne Inn of Village Dublin. Lady Ella secured lodgings for the night while Tess and Thia found a wooden booth close to the fire. The landlord brought mead and ale. An hour later a feast of fish, cured pork, rump of lamb, and roasted roots was enjoyed by all. Queen Brandy fed them the healing cupcakes she had baked. Chocolate—of course.
Village Dublin was a grand town by most standards. Many shops lined the stone streets. Carriages with and without horses traveled many directions throughout the day. There was more than one pub to be found—a concern for Ella's completion of her quest. She sought something worthy of Lord Paulferd's ashes. She kept a wary eye out for the two foul men that had hurt her kin.
As Princess Tess rested at the inn, Queen Brandy found a man named Guinness who brewed beer. Anxious to learn a new recipe, she and her companions went to St. James Avenue brewery for accumulation of knowledge and perhaps a drink or two. After many hours of drinking, shopping, and eating, they returned to wake the sleepy Tess. All bathed and dressed for the flushing of their kin.
With a few silver coins, Lady Ella had information on a pub owned by the family Dwyer. She secured a carriage and waited for the others to join her. Queen Brandy, the first to arrive, wore her leather boots, pants, and coat made from a cougar her husband had killed for their betrothal. Although, Thia had brought a formal gown, she chose to wear a suit of blue felt wool, something that would wear well in battle. Since Tess' transformation, Thia was wary of Ireland. Ella wore the traditional black widow weeds. Princess Tess had out shown them all by wearing soft green silks, a gift from John the Builder upon the occasion of their anniversary.
The carriage dropped them at the opening of a small alley-way and left. Brandy sallied ahead of the party. Ella pulled out her whip and Thia opened her spell book. Both stood on either side of their fair relation, Tess.
Brandy hurried back. She exclaimed, "O'Dwyer's pub is no more. We must go."
The party turned and followed her to Marrion Park. Questions flew as they sought safety under the stone carved for Sir Oscar Wilde. "Ashes rest where the pub should be... Ruffians linger near the site."
Overcome by the long journey, the attack of Carol now known as Tess, and this widow's inability to find a suitable pub in Dublin in which to flush her husband, Ella wept. Queen Brandy petted her back. No words were spoken.
They were approached by local lass. "Hello," she said. "May I be of some assistance?"
"We seek a pub to celebrate life. Oh, and one with good eats and drink," Tess replied.
"I can help." She told of her Uncle Dan McGrattan, landlord and honorable man. His place was a few avenues away.
Concerned about Tess' strength, Ella asked about a carriage. No sooner had she spoke, a carriage pulled close to the park. The young woman halted the car.
"What is your name?" Asked Ella.
"Of course you are." Ella thanked and hugged her. The party left for the wake.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Irish Wake Day Two
McGrattan's Pub and Food held the scent of fine whiskey and hearty ale. The buxom lassies pushed through the tangled group of finely dressed merchants, money lenders, and honest workmen. The bar wench, Fiona, greeted them first then led them through the crowd to a table covered in white cloth. Queen Brandy ordered glasses of Jameson and settled with her back to the door. Ella chose the protective position against the wall with Tess at her side. Only five others sat in the eating hall. With the whiskey, all eased into the comfort of the house.
Fiona learned of Princess Tess' home in Swamp Castle and bowed with respect. Seems the wench would travel on Boxing Day to the Island Keys with a man who had promised her many things. Her liquid eyes and flowing words poured hope and joy over all who listened. She filled the table with fine foods—roasted roots, smoked fish, and steaming bowls of Irish stew.
The Jameson flowed as the plates cleared. "Well," said Thia to her cousin. "We are here."
"I know." Ella responded and removed the silver locket bearing a cross clasped around her neck. Thia pulled a thin dagger from sleeve and handed it, hilt first, to The Lady. Ella used the tip to open the back of the locket which revealed the dark-gray ash within the chamber. Tess took the small screw into her palm and chanted prayers over the remains. Ella stood. The companions moved in a tight diamond grouping through McGrattan's, protecting the precious cargo with each step.
Princess Thia, the first to reach the door to the men's loo, banged on the door three times and shouted, "Is anyone in there?" Without a reply she banged again and asked her question. Queen Brandy pushed open the door as each woman stepped through. Thia waited at the porcelain mounted on the wall. Lady Ella shook her head. She moved instead to the foul hole hidden by a door. When the four gathered, she said, "We must shout hurrah."
With one voice they shouted, "Hurrah!" Ella flipped the locket, tapped the back, and the flushed away the bit of ash.
Outside the stall a man exclaimed, "There are four women in the loo!" Thia turned to let him know that they were done and he could have use of the place. But in a panic he ran out of the room, through the pub, and into the night, repeating his cry, "there are four women in the loo."
Overcome with emotion of the ceremony, Brandy cried in the alcove until Fiona brought her many whiskies and comforting words. Thia, Ella, and Tess returned to their table.
Setting the locket opening-side up on the surface, Lady Ella said, "There’s still a small trace of Lord Paulferd in there. We will journey to Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow and bury the last bits of my Love at Dwyer-McAllister Cottage." With that she poured a drop of whiskey into the locket and sealed it with the silver screw.
Exhaustion crept through Ella's bones. Leaning on Tess, they slipped through the night to Shelbourne Inn.
Thia, the only truly unmarried in the group, shared her grief with barkeep and sailors in from the port. Brandy, a steadfast niece, kept a blind eye and then escorted her aunt home well after the legal curfew.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day Three
Fog moistened the path. The party rode the trail to County Wicklow. The pounding of the horse's hooves sounded a melancholy tune that made each lassie long for the safety of home. Princess Thia spied a gypsy caravan beyond the bend. Having left early without breakfast the smell of frying potatoes and bangers proved irresistible. One by one they came to the clearing, dismounted and negotiated with the sellers for food and ale.
A young ginger-haired girl approached the group with woolen caps, gloves and trinkets for sale. Tess cried out when she saw the ring. "My ring. It's my ring." The tiny gold signet bore the coat of arms of Swamp Castle. On this land, the ring could not belong to anyone else.
Ella and Thia drew daggers as did the gypsies within the camp. Queen Brandy pointed her crossbow at one of the three men that threatened her aunts' life. "Do not be hasty sirs. We came for food."
Tess spoke in her angelic voice. "Child, where did you find my ring?" The girl looked to the man that held a dagger a few feet from Ella then back to the cleric. "Child, I will buy back my ring. Pray tell me from whence it came."
Lady Ella flashed a few gold coins. Daggers and crossbow were lowered. The chieftain offered the signet ring, Tess' cross and wedding ring for sale. As money changed hands, a description of the bandits was proffered. Generally, information would not be given by the gypsies—honor amongst thieves and the like—but the bandits were distinctive in the land—English and not warmly welcomed.
Lady Ella mounted her ride and rode back along the trail to where the bandits were last seen. The group had little choice but to follow the flying clods of dirt kicked up by her steed.
From the knoll, Ella could see the bandits resting in a shepherd's field. Brandy held the horses in the tree line. Tess and Thia slipped alongside the Lady concealed from those below behind a rock.
"Cousin, pray tell me of thy plan?" Tess' hand sat lovingly on Ella's shoulder. Ella continued her gaze at the meadow and the foul bandits. She did not speak. "Would thee go and plow down the men with your horse? Perhaps have Queen Brandy dispatch them with her crossbow? Or Thia cast a fireball spell to burn them alive?" Tess saw the anger that flamed in Ella's face. With care Tess said, "Killing two men will not bring back thy dead husband."
Ella drew up to her knees and glared into Tess' face. "I know. Do you not care that these men stabbed you in the back and left you to die?"
"I am not dead. We are all well. The death of two men will not ease our journey."
"It will ease mine."
"If it's so, then ride down. Kill in cold blood. I will wait here and pray for your soul."
Lady Ella turned away, sat hard on her rump, and stared into the woods. The magpies chatted in the beech trees. Thia and Tess waited.
After some time, Ella stood and walked towards the horses and Queen Brandy. Mounting her steed she asked, "Where can we pass the night? It is too far to travel to ride to County Wicklow. "
After regaining the horses, each rode to catch the Lady. Tess trotted past her, rounded the knoll, and pointed west. "There."
The Rock of Cashel stood high above the village and fields. The Cross of Saint Patrick was a beacon that called the soul-weary and the lost. The ancient church, built upon a peak, hosted the religions of each century's faithful. Now it speaks only to the travelers that journey from Village Dublin and the town of Cork. Tess led them to the top of the craggy rock.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day Four
The four rode to the Rock of Cashel, a fortress surrounding a Medieval Church that once seated King Muircheartach Ua Briain—a majestic sight from the trail and awe inspiring from the gate. A young cleric ran behind the horses yelling in short breaths, "Princess Thia. Princess Thia." The stable boy took the reins of Thia's horse as she slid off the saddle. Almost as soon as her boots touched the ground the cleric pursuing her grabbed her hands. "I knew that was you. Even from a distance. How did you come to this place?"
Within the encounter, Thia recognized her good friend Jane. The two shared rooms last spring in Newporte in Country Left Coast. They studied potions and spells with the Wizard Almine. Thia gave a short bow and said, "I learned that you were in Ireland. I did not know you were to come to Cashel."
"Yes. Three moons. See there. Robert is with me." Jane pointed at the handsome cleric in the garden. Princess Tess touched Thia's sleeve. The wizard introduced her sister to her friend. After a formal bow, each spoke of their knowledge of each other.
Inside the hall, Brandy and Ella found wine, bread, and broth. Soon the others savored the meal. Robert, a cleric also and Jane's betrothed, sat next to the celebrated Princess Thia and her skilled cleric sister, Tess.
Bored with talk of spells and potions, Queen Brandy walked to the pub at the base the Rock of Cashel for a wee taste of whiskey. Lady Ella strolled through the grounds to think. She felt at this high place she could caress the stars.
At the end of a long prayer, she returned to the hall to find what had been arranged for sleeping. A cell in Cormac's Chapel held cots with straw and woolen blankets. Exhausted she slumped into the bed furthest from the door. A slit in the stone wall provided a window for air and moonlight. One by one, the travelers found a bed and a blanket. By midnight, all within the fortress slept.
"Ack." Brandy struggled against the dark figure. Tess, Thia, and Ella leapt to their bare feet. Another figure grabbed Tess' throat. Thia casted a light spell. A loud thunk and then another thunk were heard. The chamber grew bright. At feet of the warriors laid the two highwaymen.
"Did you hit them?" Brandy asked Ella. She shook her head.
At the doorway, stood a sheepish looking Robert. He still held his Shillelagh high. The stunned women looked at each other, at first snickered then burst into laughter. In the darkness, the man of prayers had dispatched the assassins with accurate blows from his walking stick. All took turns hugging and praising their chivalrous gentleman for his righteous deed. Queen Brandy trussed the unconscious bodies like gutted pigs.
Heady with the recent battle, Thia, Tess, and Brandy sought out mead and ale. Robert and Ella dragged the bandits to the chambers below. "The mayor can decide their fate in the morning," Said Robert.
"Do not forget the tale of Tess on the road. Justice is best served if they can no longer cause harm."
Robert locked the cell. Lady Ella walked through the gardens, past the cemetery, then to the ramparts. Seated on the wall facing east, she waited for the dawn.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Last Day
Smoked fish and mash in large bowls were served to the four buxom lassies on the occasion of their last day on the Emerald Isle. Queen Brandy tore off a hunk of brown bread, dipped it into the wine, and snagged a bit of salmon on her dagger. "When are we to Wicklow?" The others stopped eating and their eyes rested on Lady Ella for a reply.
Ella finished the spoonfull of mash in her mouth. "I've been pondering that very question." She looked at each of her kinsmen's sweet face. How proud she had been to have them at her side. "I believe our quest is done. Lord Paulferd's final law has been fulfilled. It is time to go to our homes and our families."
Princess Tess touched her cousin's hand. "Thee wished to be at Dwyer Cottage. Is that no longer so?"
"No longer so. We have done much to honor my Sainted husband. I wish only to pray at the foot of Saint Patrick's Cross, then leave."
"Then we shall."
They gathered at the cross on the highest point of the fortress. "My regret," whispered Ella to Tess, "is that the locket will not be buried on his ancestor's land."
"Would this holy ground not do?"
"Tell you. I have pondered the idea. In truth, it does not seem right. Yet, the silver now resists my skin."
Princess Thia, Queen Brandy, Princess Tess and Lady Ella gathered at the foot of the cross. Tess led them with the Lord's Prayer. Ella read lines from Dante's prayer.
When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Loreena McKennitt’s Dante's Prayer
They wept and hugged.
High above their heads, the sky filled with the color of feathers. A Phoenix of reds and blues perched on the ramparts. Ella smiled. "Heaven has sent the way home."
"What about the horses?" asked Brandy.
"They were lent for coin." said Thia. "The stable boy will return them hence."
First, Tess mounted the colossal bird. Her sister climbed behind her. Brandy started towards the ride. Ella placed her hand on her shoulder. "Hold. Pray, I wish to speak to thee."
Brandy's brown eyes sought out some understanding of this request.
"My heart has found a place for this locket." Ella touched the silver orb engraved with a cross that she had borne for two years. "I did not know until this moment that his daughter should have this remembrance."
Queen Brandy wept. Since the passing of Lord Paulferd, she had wished for a bit of ash to hold as her keepsake. She respected this widow too much to stake claim to her husband's remains. Here in this ancient place, Brandy was gifted without petition.
Lady Ella unclasped the chain and then placed it around Brandy's neck. She held Brandy's shoulders. "There," she said looking into her eyes. "It is right." She kissed Brandy's wet cheeks.
They joined the Princesses upon the Phoenix. They chased the sun to their homelands.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Epilog
Please meet the four buxom broads in our tale.
Princess Carol/Tess, Cleric AKA Cousin Carol Therese, Nurse, lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband John and her three grown boys. She was not stabbed by bandits but was sick upon her arrival to Ireland. We had a healing prayer and with medication Carol was able to join the adventure. She loved to eat caramel pie. A dessert made of a layer of dark chocolate, thick layer of caramel, topped with a layer of chocolate, then cut into a wedge like pie. She ate three of them.
Princess Thia, Wizard AKA Cousin Cynthia/Cindy, Programmer Supervisor, lives in Walnut Creek, California with her two grown daughters. Cindy does have friends, Jane and Robert, that live in Cork, Ireland. We visited them at their home and had a lovely tea. Robert did not assault anyone during the visit. Cindy did enjoy the whiskey provided in the land and became legend when she grabbed a gentlemen’s cheek to get him to move out of a doorway. We ran into him the next day. If you want details, contact Cindy.
Queen Brandy, Maker-of-Treats, AKA God-daughter Brandy, owner of a cupcake catering business, lives in Union City with her husband of four years. The newlywed skyped her husband every night from 1:00 A.M. to 3:00 A.M. and texted in between. They are in looovvvve. Brandy loved the food presented the afternoon tea at Jane’s in Cork. Jane took Brandy to the farmers market where most the meat and fish was purchased. Brandy did not dispatch any trolls. We did have a loud encounter with an immigration officer in London Heath Row.
Lady Ella, Warrior/Scribe, AKA Widow, Cousin, and God-mother Pamela/Pam, writer and insurance representative. I am blessed to have family to join me on such a crazy adventure. Paul’s ashes were flushed down the loo at McGrattan's Pub and Food, Dublin, Ireland. It happened pretty much as described in the story only the bartender gave me a screwdriver. I do not own a dagger. Brandy has the locket and I am serene.
The real story seemed as bizarre as the enhanced fantasy I wrote. It included lost keys, sunglasses, hats, missing persons—Carol, Brandy, and Cindy—one at a time, stolen rental car, President Clinton, and cigars. Each of the travelers had their own stories to tell.
We accomplished our goal and returned alive—no worse for wear. Ireland is a lovely place with warm, understanding people. We had fun.