I have two groups of friends planning trips to Ireland, a location I know well from many virtual visits. It is the setting for much of my novels THE ENVIRONMENTAL WARS: VOYAGES and ANTEBELLUM.
Here are two chapters from the first book for anyone who is interested in visiting that delightful land. Enjoy!
Every time that I open these files, I find additional text to change; I suppose I should thank my friends for the impetus to polish my work in an effort to make it better.
A trip to the Park
“How do you feel?”
“I feel just fine now. That was so weird, the smell of the kitchen just made me want to retch. I’ve never before become ill from the smell of food.” Comments a pale Folletti.
“Probably just too much excitement is all.” Offers Achmid in a casual manner.
“Hmmm, that’ll be it, too much excitement. I guess I should lay off the love making for a while?” Replies Folletti with an acerbic tone in her voice.
“Now let’s not get too hasty, you only felt ill for a short while, right?” Achmid counters.
“Yeah, felt fine once I lost my delicious breakfast.” Folletti responds.
“We’ll be leaving to go to the Park shortly, are you sure you’re up for day hike?” Asks a concerned Achmid.
“Oh, I’ll be fine, I’m fine now. It was just the weirdest thing. Did you know that Killarney National Park is the first park of its kind designated in Ireland? The Park in Gaelic or Irish is Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne and is a short thirty-five minute drive from Castle Ballyseede. It is located beside the town of Killarney in County Kerry. The park has since been substantially expanded and encompasses over 102.89 km2 (twenty-five thousand four hundred twenty-five acres) of diverse ecology, including the Lakes of Killarney, oak and yew woodlands of international importance, and mountain peaks.” (45) Announces Folletti, changing the subject from her morning discomposure.
Propping her bare feet up on the dashboard in front of her, Folletti continues her edification of her fellow elemental. Rolling her eyes at the parts she finds most informative. She is delightful to behold and Achmid drinks in every moment he spends with this young sprite, a pure joy that only a soul in love can appreciate.
“It has Ireland’s only native herd of red deer and the most extensive covering of native forest remaining in Ireland. The park is of high ecological value because of the quality, diversity, and extensiveness of many of its habitats and the wide variety of species that they accommodate, some of which are rare. The park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981. The park forms part of a Special Area of Conservation.” (46) Folletti offers.
“How do you know all that?” Inquires Achmid amazed at Folletti’s newly acquired knowledge.
“It was in this tourist brochure I picked up at the concierge’s desk and read while you were getting the car, what did you think I had gone native while you were away? You were only gone twenty minutes or so; you know I get bored easily so I had to do something.”
“Now then, Miss Irish Naturalist, I’ll expect to be kept well informed regarding the natural flora and fauna here about and then and I expect to be equally knowledgeable as you by the end of the day.”
“Pay attention then because I have facts galore to tell and I’ll only say them once. There will be a quiz so listen up, me bucko.”
The two elementals were in high spirits as they drove through the gates of Ballyseede Castle on their trip toward the park. They come into Killarney on the N22, turn right at the first roundabout (with Lidl on their right) and take the 2nd exit on the next roundabout onto Port Road. At the end of Port Road, they park opposite St Mary’s Cathedral and enter the Knockreer Demesne through the big metal gates. The itinerary that Folletti has laid out is to begin at the northernmost access of the Park, at St Mary’s Cathedral and drive through the grounds along the Ring of Kerry (N71). The plan calls for them stopping at interesting viewing locations along the route until they arrive at the southern exit, at that point they will be forced to reverse direction and backtrack along N71 until returning back in Killarney town.
“Folletti are you open to a suggestion about our trip?” Achmid asks.
“How about we make it a two day getaway and stay at one of the hotels located right here in the Park. We have to leave Ballyseede this weekend anyway to take up residence at the cottage down on Valentia Island this Saturday. That way we can explore the park at our leisure, perhaps even on horseback if you would like, and not feel rushed. What do you think?” Achmid enhances his suggestion.
“I love it, saves on gasoline too I’ll bet. Before we enter the Park can I look at this huge structure with the long pointy thing on top?” Folletti responds to Achmid’s proposal positively but is immediately distracted by St Mary’s Cathedral.
“That would be Saint Mary’s Cathedral, built in the early 1800’s I believe. Yeah, come on I think that you’ll be impressed with the inside. Oh… and that pointy thing on top is called a steeple.” Achmid clarifies, showing that he is more than just a student.
Folletti gasps when she walks into the great hall and looks up, confirming what was the intention of the original designer, Augustus Willy Pugin. She quickly looks all around attempting to determine the purpose of so great a structure. The church is empty at this hour on a Thursday morning, early Mass ended an hour or so ago and the Faithfull have all returned home, gone off to work, or school. Achmid and Folletti walk along the hallowed halls that once housed victims of the Great Famine. (47) Walking to the front of the space, they pass the Alter with its lit sanctuary lamp indicating the occupancy of another Spiritual presence. They continue walking along the isles admiring the statuary located at intervals throughout the building; carvings in what appears to be stone of revered religious figures. In the still silence they take seats in the hard wooden pew across from the Traditional Confessional Box; the seats creak when they settle their weight and cradle their backsides. All is peaceful and still.
“This is tremendous. Whatever were they thinking of when they built this, it’s so cavernous?” Asks Folletti.
“They were thinking of the Creator. You see Folletti, humans believe that the Creator lives here, in this very building and they have constructed many of these buildings all across the globe, well in Christian countries that is. They come here to perform ceremonial rights, rituals that they call worship. They worship Her in these places.”
“But the Creator is everywhere, in everyone not just in here, that’s just silly to believe that She would live in a building, even one so magnificent as this.” States Folletti announcing her beliefs.
“Well I told you that mankind is inscrutable. They make huge efforts to build edifices like these all for the glory of God and then turn around and commit unspeakable acts against one another, sometimes in the name of that very same deity.”
“How many of these cathedrals are there?”
“Oh Hundreds, Thousands depending on the religious belief, I would imagine.” Clarifies Achmid.
“You mean there’s more than one?”
“Oh Yes, the number varies but I believe the major creeds count their membership out of a total world population of just over seven Billion souls; Christians with about a third the population, divided between Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, then there are the Muslims who number roughly a quarter. The rest is split between Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Baha’i, and other religions or non-religions and atheists.” (48) Achmid relates.
“What kind is this church?”
“St. Mary’s is Roman Catholic.”
“And what are those wooden booths against the wall over there? They look like boxes with doors.”
“Those are confessionals, where Catholics go to confess their sins to a Priest and receive forgiveness for their transgressions.” Explains Achmid.
“What are sins? And what’s a transgression? Such strange words, I don’t understand.” Complains a bewildered Folletti.
“According to human religious beliefs of the Roman Catholic Faith, if you do something against one of their rules, you’ve committed a sin, which is synonymous for a transgression.”
“Oh you mean breaking the law?”
“No that’s a different set of rules. These are places to confess their sins against the laws of the Creator; they sometimes can also be crimes against the law, but not usually. One is religious the other is secular. Understand?”
“Not completely but I think I get the general idea but what is this forgiveness you mentioned?”
“That has to do with a concept I don’t think we should delve into right now; it has to do with the idea of redemption and a heaven and a hell.” Achmid senses that he has opened the proverbial can of worms.
“Oh come on Achmid, just give me the condensed version; I’ll look up the details later, I promise.” Pleads a knowledge hungry Folletti.
“OK then. Christians believe that the Son of the Creator became a man, came to earth, and was crucified, redeeming humankind from their sins. Catholics believe that the Creator sent Her only son to earth as sacrifice for them so that when they die their souls will go to heaven with the Creator. It suffices to say that if one of the faithful comes here after doing something bad and they confess their transgression to the priest, they are given a penance and their sin is forgiven, both here on earth and in heaven also. Forgiveness is the result of feeling sorry for something that you regret doing, saying you’re sorry for it and then the person you harmed gives you forgiveness.” Achmid concludes his sketchy theology lesson.
“What if that person is no longer around to give you forgiveness, what then?”
“In that case I would forgive myself.” Replies Achmid.
“I never knew this about humans that they held these beliefs regarding good and bad, rules and laws, and asking for forgiveness. Their lives must be so complicated, no wonder they act so strangely toward one another, it’s no wonder they build these huge structures to house the Creator, She must get awfully aggravated with the rule breakers.”
“Tell me Folletti, what is the worst thing that you have ever done?”
“Hmm, let me think. Well the act I most regret and the thing that weighs most heavily on my mind is seducing a boy from my village in Italy, using my charms to make him fall in love with me. Then over a few months, I mistook his melancholy for disaffection for me, and out of fear that he would abandon me, I told him that I no longer wished to see him; I broke his heart. I feel most badly about that because he eventually died from that broken heart, so in a way I’m responsible for his death and I never want to feel that way again.” Confesses Folletti.
“And you Achmid what do you most regret?”
“Regrets? I have no regrets, I move hot air, and there can be no regret in that.”
Not willing to let her lover off the hook so easily Folletti asks the question another way. “Well then m’Lord let me ask you this. What is your worst transgression?”
Knowing he has been outmaneuvered Achmid answers honestly. “My most deepest regret and one that returns periodically to vex me is that I’ve never made a commitment to another being, never surrendered my heart to another, until now that is.”
Looking directly and deeply into Achmid’s eyes Folletti sees the truth of his statement along with the pain but does not feel comfortable asking details from one who just shared so much with so few words.
After spending a brief period looking around the inside of St Mary’s the two beings walk outside into the Autumn Sunshine. The sky is momentarily clear and they resume their excursion. There are many visitors despite the early morning chill of Fifty-four degrees and Folletti is glad for the sweater she imagined for herself. Achmid takes no heed of the weather as he checks to make sure the car doors are locked and through the entrance, he walks. He carries a light blue jacket slung over one of his broad shoulders. Reaching for Folletti’s hand they walk along the Muckross Lake Loop with a group of other visitors. The morning fog, though having lifted, is still patchy up on the hills in front of them, the landscape is brown and dull at this time of the year, and autumn is definitely in the air.
“Alright then dazzle me with your facts Ms. Folletti.”
“Over here we have a sample of some of the rarer species of flora that are located within the park. The main reason for this is the effects of the Gulf Stream on southwest Ireland’s climate. The park has been designated a biosphere reserve because of the presence of such rare species. Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) flourish in the park, due partly to the area’s mild oceanic climate.”
“What makes bryophytes so special then? Darlin’” Achmid asks with a fake brogue that causes Folletti to giggle.
“Many of the bryophytes found in the park are not found anywhere else in Ireland. Mosses, ferns like filmy ferns, and liverworts grow luxuriantly. Many of them live similarly to epiphytes, growing on the branches and trunks of trees.”
“Sorry I canna’ git overly excited ‘bout mosses, ferns, and the like. Any old ruins, castles, or Keeps? Ghostly haunts and such?” Achmid asks continuing his phony accent but without Folletti’s accompanying snigger.
“Actually, there are several but first we’ve got to drive down toward Ladies View. Between there and the Upper Lake are the Mulgrave Barracks and Derrycunnihy Church. There is also the Tower Lodge used by the gamekeepers as a lookout point for poachers.”
“Ladies View, now that sounds interesting. Is that where we get to look at all the ladies walking by?”
Folletti gives Achmid a swat on the shoulder to let him know that he has crossed a line then answers his provocative question.
“No you creep; it takes its name from Queen Victoria’s Ladies-in-Waiting who made an excursion to this spot during a Royal Visit to Killarney in Eighteen Sixty-one.”
“Let’s go back to the car then I’m getting bored with all this brush. Seen one bush seen ‘em all. I thought this was supposed to be a driving trip anyway?” Achmid complains techily.
“You’re too used to viewing the world from lofty heights, Achmid. You need to get close to the real live living world. Life happens down here among the ferns and bushes. Just look over there, that would be Muckross House, built in the 1840’s. Come on let’s look inside.”
Achmid opens the front doors for Folletti and they continue on to the Upper Terrace. Folletti, ever the ardent reader, collects many brochures and maps, stuffing them neatly into her carry bag.
“Did you know that the paving that we’re walking on, this pink stone, is called “Killarney Marble”?” Remarks Folletti.
“I’d no idea, and frankly I could care less what these creatures call the material that they build with; nice view though.” Achmid draws Folletti’s attention away from her collected papers to look down on the almost enclosed waters of the Dundag Bay, part of the Muckross Lake with the small limestone cliffs of the Dundag Point to the left, overshadowed by Torc Mountain.
“Straight ahead of us is the gap between Torc and the Eagle’s Nest, through and over which a glacier flowed during the last Ice Age. Geesh, talk about climate change that must have been a wild time to be alive?” Folletti musses aloud.
“It was quite dramatic as I recall it, quiet though, no humans around then to blame for what was occurring; just the planet doing what it does. Now of course, the reasons for the erratic changes in climate can be laid directly at the feet of that carbon emitting species who have laid waste to the world, with only these tiny pockets of Parks and Reserves that remain for other living creatures to call home in the beauty that once was everywhere.” Achmid voices his disdain for the actions of humanity.
“Come, my maudlin South Wind, there’s so much more to see.”
Passing along the sign posted route from the 19th century Muckross House, Achmid and Folletti stop off to discover the traditional working farms and elegant formal gardens along the way. Quiet green paths take them away from the Estate and down to small beaches and rocky coves of Muckross Lake; there they stop to watch a heron hunt for a meal. They follow the trail to Muckross Peninsula, with a spur of land separating the Muckross Lake from the larger Lough Leane. Here, they enter Reenadinna Wood carpeted by moss and ferns. Scampering across their path, a red squirrel and a majestic red deer come into view. Folletti stops to watch these two gentle residents of this lovely forest paradise.
“Aren’t they wonderful Achmid? I wish I could capture this scene to save for ever and look at it periodically from time to time.”
“Yes it is delightful and there is. It’s what humans call photographs. These clever creatures have created a process that allows them to record an image and keep it for later viewing.” Explains Achmid.
“Is it magic?” Folletti asks her interest piqued.
“No, not at all; originally it was chemical, using a box that contains a series of lenses that focused light to create an image of a scene, but today’s photography, instead of focusing this light onto a piece of film, it focuses it onto a semiconductor device that records light electronically. A computer then breaks this electronic information down into digital data. (49) I told you these human’s have knowledge of the Natural world that makes them dangerous.” Details Achmid.
“That hardly seems dangerous, Achmid. I should think it quite beneficial actually, and a neat trick to boot. How marvelous, can we obtain one of these boxes? I’d love to have something to remember this time and place with you.”
“I’m not sure if this box can record images of sprites and elementals like ourselves, but we can give it a try if you like. There must be a place to purchase lunch and other commodities around here, if not we can pick one up at the Hotel when we get back. However, Folletti realize this, you cannot take the photo with you when you leave; it will not transform with you when you assume your natural form.”
“Oh, now that’s disappointing but can we try it anyway; I would like to see how it works?”
“Sure, you are a curious creature, Folletti.”
Continuing on this path they come to the western end of Muckross Lake and the 200-year-old Dinis Cottage. Here they obtain refreshments and a disposable camera before heading behind the Cottage to a short path leading to the Meeting of the Waters – where Killarney’s Upper Lake flows down to join the lower loughs. Lakeside tracks and wooded paths lead them back to Muckross House. Shortly before they arrive, an optional side-trip leads to the top of Torc Waterfall, the perfect photo opportunity for the two lovers to immortalize their trip on film.
“Let’s see now, how does this work? Give me a moment to read the directions. OK got it. Achmid you stand over there and look at me.” Folletti orchestrates the shot while she points the camera at Achmid and the Falls that he is standing in front of for a backdrop.
“Ok now you take one of me. Achmid, there is a problem here with this photography box. How can we take a picture of the both of us together?” Folletti complains.
“Ah that’s simple; we have to get one of the other hikers to take the picture for us. It’s a common practice, I understand.”
Fortuitously, another couple just happens by at that very moment and offers to take their pictures. Niceties were exchanged and the other couple moved on. It was now well past midday and so the intrepid explorers decide to return to their vehicle to continue their trek. Strolling back down the road arm in arm the paratactic couple enjoy the early afternoon air and each other’s company. Most of the other tourists have walked on and they have the area to themselves. Achmid wraps his arm around Folletti’s shoulder and pulls her close. She nuzzles closer into the side of his body. Seen from the proper angle they appear to be one being with four legs. Continuing the sightseeing excursion with Achmid still behind the wheel, Folletti is content to peruse her guide books, brochures, and take on the responsibilities of navigator and tour guide while they drive on toward Looscaunagh Lough. Along the way, they are treated to scenic views of the Owenreagh River in the valley below. They pass Erik Bog located on the same side of the river.
“This is called “Erik Bog” it is a classic example of a type of bog that is an intermediate between a raised bog and a blanket bog. Part of this bog is protected and designated a National Nature Reserve.” Narrates Folletti.
“What’s the difference between a raised bog and a blanket bog?” Achmid inquires.
“I haven’t the boggiest. Heh heh, but I believe it has something to do with the geology of the area.” Giggles Folletti, pleased with her pun.
Stopping at a convenient place to park their car they walk up to the viewing area known as Ladies View. They stop to sit on a bench under a denuded yew tree and gaze down a long valley. Mist is still hanging along the sides of the hills. They take more photos, Folletti enjoying her role as photographer.
They drive south and see the stream draining the lake while the road makes its closest approach to the water.
“Folletti are you getting tired yet or would you like to explore more sites?”
“I’m exhausted but would like to continue, how about you?”
“I’m thinking that if we turn around now and start back we’ll be able to find accommodations before it gets too dark. After all we have the whole weekend to scramble about.” Achmid suggests.
“So be it then, captain. Ready About.” Folletti commands playfully.
“I didn’t know you were into sailing. Where and when did you pick up that skill?” Achmid inquires.
“If truth be told, Achmid. I’m not a sailor and have never been sailing, why I’ve never set foot in a boat ever, can’t swim a stroke either. I’m quite sure that I’d sink like a stone were I to attempt to tread water.” Folletti confesses.
Achmid finds a safe place to make a u-turn on N71 and reverses direction back toward Killarney.
They book a room at the luxurious Muckross Park Hotel & Spa. This Victorian style hotel has been embellished with all the most modern amenities and conveniences a tired sprite could possibly desire. Achmid has chosen it thanks to its well know services and reputation but also because it boasts one of the finest spas for pampering the body, mind, and soul. Having left Folletti to her books and brochures he completes some shopping of his own, he has plans for his companion this evening and he is giddy with anticipation. Meeting up with each other in the lobby they proceed to their room.
“Our Deluxe Room is located in the Victorian Wing of the Hotel. The rooms are designed to a high standard with large King beds, free wifi, 24 hour service, Bathrobes & Slippers.”
“What is wifi?” Asks a bewildered Folletti.
“Wifi is access to the internet and before you can ask, the internet is a collection of interconnected computer networks hosting millions of sites, data, academic, governmental, and businesses all over the world that humans can search to find information, purchase items, and communicate with each other.” Explains Achmid.
“Sounds boring why don’t they just talk to one another?”
“You can read books and articles on it also.” Adds Achmid.
“OK how do I use it? Not another box is it? Humans and their boxes. They have a box for images, a box for weather, a box for sins, and a box to keep food cold, now I suppose I have to have a box to see the wifi too?” Whines Folletti, wondering if gaining an education about the human world is truly worth the effort.
“It sounds like someone is tired, hungry, and a little cranky. I have the solution but it requires that you go down to the concierge desk and reserve us some time in the spa.”
“Achmid” griped Folletti. “What’s a spaaah?”
Handing her a brochure on the Spa from the Hotel’s Information folder a loose leaf binder containing a wealth of information, Achmid ushers Folletti out the door on a mendacious errand that could have easily been accomplished by phone. It is a benevolent ruse intended to get her out of the room so that he can prepare a surprise for her. He carefully positions scented candles around the room, sprays scented oil on the pillowcases, sprinkles the rose petals on the turned down bed, rose petals that he ordered from the florist shop in the lobby, and then orders dinner for two and a bottle of wine from room service. When Folletti returns from her errand, she will be greeted to an evening of pampered delights. While Achmid is finalizing his preparations Folletti is down in the lobby asking the clerk about making spa reservations. The friendly hotel clerk directs her down to the spa itself, located below ground level. Folletti follows the directions and enters a large cavernous room containing a long shallow pool. The room is very warm, almost humid and smells divine; although Folletti cannot place the scent, it is pleasing to her senses. She is intrigued with this place and curious about what its function could possibly be, so she asks an attractive young woman standing behind a desk.
“Hello, my name is Folletti my companion and I are guests here and I would like to make a reservation for one of your treatment services.” Pleased with herself that she has successfully repeated the question that Achmid had tasked her with asking; she is fascinated by the reply.
“Yes mum we offer several treatments from which you may choose for your relaxation. Might I suggest a rub by one of our masseuse?”
“That does sound wonderful. Is later this evening available?”
Mission accomplished Folletti proceeds through the labyrinth of passageways that comprise this resort. Losing her way she finds herself in a murky wine cellar, a quite extensive one at that. Long rows of dusty wine racks and large wooden barrels line the walls. She is not alone in this rather large, dark room.
“Can I help ya mum? Are ya lost, tis easy enough to lose yer way down here?” Asks a disembodied but pleasant voice.
“You startled me is all, my name is Folletti. I’m staying here for a visit with a friend in room 306. And who might you be?” Folletti recovers quickly from her minor shock, not the shy sylph that she was a few short weeks ago.
“Oh and I’m that sorry to have forgotten me manners, miss, I’m Denis, Denis O’Fare. I sort o’ look out for the contents of the cellar; you might say I’m the guardian.”
Sensing that she is in the prescience of a nonhuman, Folletti asks the obvious question.
“Are you an elemental being, because I’m sensing something more to you than a mere mortal?”
Denis answers in the thickest Irish brogue that Folletti has ever heard besides Aine’s, the old woman she and Achmid had met in the Forrest on Valentia Island, and a far better one than Achmid’s contrived, faux accent. “Och, and that clever you are miss to pick up on me nature. Sure, I’m a clurichaun, a leprechaun as some would say, it is my duty to look after the wine here, and make sure it remains in good state for our guests, o’ course that requires a bit o’ sampling from time to time, but just to do me duty, ya see. And while we’re standing here confessing our natures; I’m noticing a peculiar thing or two about you also.” (41)
“I’ve told you, my name is Folletti. I’m a Wind Knot, a sylph from the Italian Alps visiting here with Achmid Huchmid, the Lord of South Wind. We’re here on a holiday. Do I need to fear you?”
“Traveling with Himself are you now, His Lordship the South Wind, are you now, my, my, I’d no idea we’d a Noble in our midst. Why no miss, you need have no fear of me. I’m employed by the hotel, ya see, wouldn’t do to be harming the guests, now would it? But if ya ever need a sprite to guard your valuables you’ll never find better than Denis O’Fare.”
“Well thank you Denis, I’ll keep that in mind. Now would you be so kind as to show me the way back to the lobby?”
An Evening of Pampered Delights
Returning to the room, Folletti uses her plastic key card to unlock the door. Upon entering her olfactory senses are treated to the most delightful aromas imaginable. The fragrances are definitely floral, rose she thinks but walking down the suites hallway she is treated to a candle lit sitting room and a roaring fire. Aromas of the cherry wood fire and scented candles are marvelous and strangely soothing.
“Welcome back, I was about to call out a search party to find you. Here, try this.” Achmid hands Folletti a wine glass containing a golden liquid.
“What’s all this?” Asks a surprised Folletti.
“This is a particularly delightful chardonnay I though you would enjoy and what you see before you is my effort to provide you with an evening of pampering that I’m sure you will also enjoy.”
“Oh Achmid, I’m overwhelmed, how very thoughtful of you. So this is why you sent me on that false errand to the spa? You know I should be angry with you but how can I be now that you’ve gone to the trouble to do all this.” Folletti gracefully accepts the glass and tilts her head up to give Achmid a kiss. “You know what? I met the most interesting being down in the wine cellars just now. His name is Denis O’Fare, and guess what, he’s a leprechaun, can you believe it? A real live leprechaun, right here, here in Ireland. Ermph, I’m starving, let’s order room service and eat in tonight.”
“Way ahead of you darling; dinner is on its way, it will be here in about an hour or more. You just sit back, relax, sip your wine while I draw your bath. Now tell me all about your adventures down in the cellars.”
“A bath, I don’t believe I’ve ever taken a bath; we’ve always showered since beginning this trip. This should be interesting.” Notes Folletti.
“Bathing, soaking in a hot tub of soapy water is one of the more civilized activities humans have devised to clean themselves; and to think a hundred or so years ago most of these creatures rarely bathed at all. Savages!” Explains Achmid.
After listening to Folletti’s exploits in the hotel’s bowels below ground Achmid escorts his young sylph into the large well appointed bathroom, he lends her a hand while she unimagined her clothing and assists her entry into the waiting bath water.
“Not too hot I trust?”
“Umm, it’s just perfect, thank you.”
The bath is a round porcelain bathtub with a modern design, sitting in a raised platform in the center of the room. It’s equipped with Jacuzzi jets that the elementals will not use tonight. Instead Achmid reaches for the complimentary shampoo, a very expensive product not found in the average hotel but this is no ordinary hotel, and commences washing Folletti’s hair.
“Achmid you are going to spoil me, I may become so accustomed to this lifestyle that I will never be able to live without it and that would not be good. I feel somewhat guilty enjoying this opulence when most of the world could never afford this decadent lifestyle.”
“You won’t spoil my sweet and it pleases me to treat you well. Besides; this hotel is well within the reach of most of the middleclass.” Achmid speaks softly while he gently washes her back with a soapy wash cloth. “It is only for a short while, so enjoy this while you can. Soon we will resume our quest and who knows what style of living that will force us into, so relax soak in your tub and try not to concern yourself with the cares of the world.”
Achmid kisses Folletti’s wet forehead and then leaves her to soak away her aches, pains, worries, and hopefully forget, for at least a little while, her recent loss in the soapy, fragrant bath. He walks back into the main salon of their suite to check on the fire and dinner. All is prepared and Achmid is quite pleased with himself aware that he has fallen hopelessly in love with his beautiful companion. He ponders what the upcoming days and months hold in store for them once they resume their committed path. Shaking off his concerns he forces himself to return to the here and now; after all they still have the rest of their trip to look forward to and there is no gain in worrying about the future, right.
There comes a knock at their door and Achmid goes to open it to allow the server to enter.
“Yes right in here, thank you.”
The server quickly lays out their meal on the small yet adequate dining table in front of the fire. It smells delicious.
They are having Rabbit & Foie Gras Terrine and Castletownbere Crab salad for starters. For the main course, since Folletti asked to try it at their last dinner, Achmid ordered grilled Fillet of Irish Beef for them both. It is served with a Wild Mushroom Duxelle, Confit Shallot, Foie Gras, and a selection of baby vegetables and veal jus. And for desert, he ordered Chocolate Pave, Dark Chocolate, Passion Fruit Caramel, Sea Salt Ice-Cream, and Olive Oil for Folletti. For himself, he had ordered Mascarpone Mousse and Pistachio Sponge, knowing of course that they would share. Once the table is laid out and the meal ready to eat, Achmid signs for the check, assigning the server a generous tip, and sees him out, and receiving the perfunctory “will that be all Sir?”
Folletti enters the room covered in the white terrycloth robe provided by the hotel just as the waiter closes the door. She uses a towel to dry her still damp hair. Her eyes behold the romantic feast set before her and she becomes overwhelmed with emotion and begins to cry.
“Oh Achmid you amaze me. This looks fantastic and I’m so hungry.” Folletti quickly recovers and sits down genteelly, just like the lady she isn’t. Achmid pours another glass of wine for her and sits down across the table watching her intently.
“Achmid, do remember our conversation about Markets and Money that we had back in New Orleans?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about what you said, that everything is for sale in the human world. Does that apply to environmental pollution also?”
“Where are you going with this line of questioning? Why would anyone desire to buy pollution, people want to rid themselves of it, not obtain more.” Achmid replies testily, somewhat irritated that Folletti would focus on those annoying human activities during his impressively orchestrated dinner.
“That’s just it. If not producing Carbon has value then why not sell the right to pollute and use the money elsewhere to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere?”
“Intriguing idea, but that concept has been tried already; in the form of carbon credits, that is. At the Kyoto Accords conference in 1997, that proposal was demanded by the United States, the world’s largest polluter who ultimately did not ratify the accord. (51) The US representative insisted that in order for any worldwide limits on carbon emissions to be agreed upon, a trading agreement must be included. (52) Essentially every country would be allotted a firm amount of carbon credits that they could sell or exchange with other countries allowing them to emit a certain amount of carbon if they had the credits to do so. For example: If the US could purchase or trade credits from say a country with little or no carbon production then the US would have the ability pollute up to that level, thus avoiding the cost of reducing carbon emissions at home. Alternatively the US could use its vast wealth to restore a rainforest or modernize a factory somewhere and avoid forcing their own citizenry to purchase lower polluting automobiles.” (52) Explained Achmid.
“So what became of the idea?” Asks Folletti.
“Well like I said, the US ended up not signing the accord and the largest polluter went its own way effectively negating the conference. Other countries have made some headway though. The UK, for example, has instituted some questionably effective programs. The British Petroleum Company (BP) along with several Airlines (BA) has offered carbon offsets in the form of money. These companies have calculated the individual cost of the average driver’s or passenger’s contribution to carbon pollution. If you wish to reduce pollution, the public may pay a fee to BP or BA to offset the pollution emitted by any person’s individual flight or drive. The money would then be used to build a wind farm in some remote area.” (53) Outlines Achmid.
“Hmm, the more I ponder this idea the less appetizing it sounds; this is just a means to avoid dealing with pollution altogether. If a human has cash on hand then they can ease their conscience by buying their way out of cleaning the environment, forget I mentioned it. Let’s eat.”
The meal proceeds to its ultimate end and the two sprites, their hunger now satiated, enjoy each other’s company and conversation while sitting on the carpeted floor in front of a warm fire. The fire dies down and the embers glow, emitting a soft light illuminating the two elemental’s faces, and the conversation turns to more immediate topics.
“Achmid, what shall we do tomorrow? I would like to continue our exploration of the Park, we have yet to see much wildlife and I understand that there is quite a lot. The park has Ireland’s only remaining wild herd of native deer, comprising approximately 700 individuals and those are increasing in number. They can be found in the upland areas of the park, mostly on Mangerton and Torc mountains. There are many species of birds. Several species, which are otherwise rare in Ireland are present there, notably the woodland species of Redstart, Wood Warbler, and Garden Warbler. The Red Grouse and Ring Ouzel are on the IUCN Red List of species of high conservation concern. The Greenland White-fronted Goose, Merlin, and Peregrine are listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. Other noteworthy species found in the park are the Chough, Nightjar, and Osprey. The Osprey sometimes pass through the park while they migrate between northern Africa and Scandinavia.” States Folletti, indicating her extensive knowledge of rare and endangered species of indigenous fowl.
“Folletti you amaze me. I had no idea you were a birder. Where did you pick up that practice? And of course we can continue in the park, to your heart’s content my sweet.”
“Back in my home, in Italy, my sisters and I would count the migrating flocks when the seasons changed. We always loved it when the weather was nice; we would assume human form, come down into the valleys and lowlands, and watch the birds land on the many ponds and lakes to rest before continuing their arduous trek over the mountains. It is a peaceful activity that does no harm; it only brought joy to my sisters and me.” Folletti reminisces.
“Do you miss your Alpine home?”
“Sometimes but not enough to wish I were anywhere else than here with you. There are some memories of my time in the Alps that are not so pleasant to recall, perhaps one day I’ll share it with you but not tonight, OK?” Replies Folletti unwilling to expand on her revelation at this time.
“Alright my sweet as you wish.” Achmid acquiesces to his companion’s wishes.
In the warm glow of the dying fire they embrace, kiss deeply, and make sweet, passionate love to one another. Passion and love is the tune they sing to each other in front of the dying embers, in their suite on the third floor of this beautiful hotel, in the most romantic of locations that either could wish to be.
Folletti awakens very early the next morning with Achmid still deep in sleep next to her. Rising out of their warm bed she assumes clothing and walks down the hall to where they had spent so amorous an evening. Thankful for maid service, she looks out the sitting room’s spacious window, and gazes out on to the Lough below. Drawn to the outside, she quietly leaves the room and ventures out onto the wide lawn. Leisurely strolling down the walkway away from the main building toward the lake stretching out before her, Folletti sees an amazing sight, rising up out of the water is a man dressed in strange clothing, riding a beautiful white horse. The man is dressed in a warrior’s ancient costume replete with sword, shield, and lance. His long flowing golden hair marks him as an ancient Celt. The warrior, looking directly at her, leads his mount up onto the grass in front of her. They silently observe one another for a short time while the Morning Sun rises over the mountains. Then, without a single word exchanged between them, the man on horseback mysteriously rides back into the lake and disappears beneath the waves. Folletti is beside herself with joy, she can hardly believe that she has just been visited by yet another native supernatural being. First Aine on Valentia Island, then Denis O’Fare down in the wine cellars, and now this vision of a Celtic warrior, what’s to be next? She runs back to the hotel room to tell her tale to Achmid, who is equally amazed.
“I wonder what it means, if anything, oh it must mean something; I mean this sort of thing just doesn’t happen to everyone? Hey, I wonder if Denis would know. He sure seemed friendly enough, I’ll ask him.” Folletti’s excitement is so palpable that she can hardly stand still. Waiting for any reaction from her lover is torture.
“OK, let’s go find O’Fare and listen to what he has to say about your visitor, vision, or whatever.” Responds Achmid.
The two curious elementals find Denis where expected, down in the wine cellars, sipping on a glass of the finest wine the house has to offer. His round red nose indicates he’s been fulfilling his duties expeditiously.
“Mr. O’Fare, I presume?”
“Yes and who is it that wants to know? Oh m’Lord South Wind! This is an honor indeed, sir. How may I be of service?”
“I understand you assisted my companion Miss Folletti early last evening.”
“Er, yes sir. And that happy I was to be of service to the young miss, I was m’Lord. And what might I do for you, m’Lord?”
“Miss Folletti witnessed something strange this morning. A man riding a white horse came up out of the lake. We were hoping that you could shed some light on who he is and why he would be around the grounds at this hour?”
“Oh ya don’t say? You’ve seen him then? Well isn’t that good fortune for you miss, sure it is.” States a very excited Denis.
“Do you know who the man is Denis? What sort of being he is?” Folletti asks directly with a tone that will broker no excuses.
“I’m thinkin’ that the phantom you saw miss, is none other than the Chieftain his self.”
“Denis I need you to tell me clearly the whole story, all that you know about this man, do you understand?” Folletti spoke gently but firmly to the frightened leprechaun.
“Yes, miss I do. Are you familiar with the legend of Tir na N’og by any chance? Course he don’t usually show himself until May Day but it would seem he’s made a special appearance just for the likes of you, it’s that grand it is.” Denis was so pleased with himself that he took the liberty of dancing a little jig right on the cellar floor; he twirled twice with his hand on his rather large head and then reached for the bottle he’d been sampling prior to their arrival.
“Denis, will you tell us this legend of Tir… or whatever it’s called? Now please!” Folletti was losing her patience and Achmid noticed. He was surprised by her emotional display; anger not being one of Folletti’s usual reactions.
“Sure, sure miss gimme a moment would you please; this sort of tale requires a moist palette, to be sure.” The leprechaun downs his glass and settles himself to tell the story of The Land of Youth
“One day the Fianna, the ancient Irish warriors, were hunting on the shores of Lough Leane when a beautiful woman rode out of the lake on a white horse. She invited Oisin (the son of Fionn, the leader of the Fianna) to return to her home which she said was under the waters of the lakes and was called Tir na N’og (the land of youth) where nobody grew old and there was eternal spring.
Everything was as Niamh Cinn iir (Niamh of the golden hair) had promised but after what he thought was three years Oisin wanted to visit his family. Niamh warned him that 300 years had passed since he left the shores of Lough Leane. If he ever got off his horse’s back he would immediately become a very old man.
All had changed in the land of mortals. There was no trace of the Fianna. St Patrick had come to Ireland and many churches were being built.
One day watching five men making heavy weather of moving a huge rock Oisin said one of the Fianna could have done the job.
Challenged by the builders Oisin was moving the rock with one hand when his horse’s stirrup broke. When he fell to the ground his body was subject to all of the 300 years he had been away. It is said that for the short while he lived he was a great help to St Patrick filling him in on the ancient history and customs of Ireland.
It has been claimed that the Chieftain O’Donoghue makes his grand appearances on May-Day morning because this is the anniversary of his disappearance from this life. An early nineteenth-century account states that ‘a favored few only are in general permitted to see him and this distinction is always an omen of good fortune to the beholders. When it is granted to many, it is a sure token of an abundant harvest.
A description of the vision has the rising sun beginning to gild the lofty summit of Glena when, amid showers of spray, O’Donoghue suddenly appears on his proud white war-horse which springs after a great wave. He is followed by mirthful youths and maidens, with beautiful garlands of Mayflowers, dancing to the strains of an enchanting melody.” (54, 55)
When he finished reciting the legend, O’Fare again reached for his bottle to pour himself another glass.
“Telling stories is thirsty work. That one is one of my favorites. So you must have questions, ask away.”
“Do you know anyone else who has had a similar experience? Ah, like Folletti of course not O’Donoghue.” Achmid stumbles over his words; his amazement and curiosity get the better of him.
“Why sure, there was a young American lad here with his young bride, O maybe ten, twelve year ago, I think.” Answers the inebriated elf.
“And what happened to him?” Asked Folletti with look that would scare a bean sidhe back to her bog.
“Well they went back home after a lovely honeymoon here in Ireland, don’t know what happened to them after that.”
“Come on Denis you must know more about this legend? What it means? What will happen to Folletti?” Now Achmid is becoming impatient with the besotted elf.
“It’s a sure sign that good luck and good fortune is coming your way miss, which is what it means. Nothing bad, I assure you. You’ve been blessed by the Chieftain his self and that can only and always mean the stars will align in your corner and shine down happiness upon you.” Offers the leprechaun, Denis O’Fare.
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