The bar had closed for the evening and the big bartender was finally able to sit down and relax. It had been a very busy night and he was grateful for the chance to get off his feet. Sean was close to seven feet and two hundred fifty pounds, all of it muscle. His flame red hair and beard were so bright, they almost glowed, and his sky blue eyes twinkled with mischief.
"So you overgrown leprechaun are you going to tell me how you managed to get us that supply of Guinness on such short notice?" Moira asked as she came and sat down across from Sean. A fellow shape-shifter, she was in her anthropomorphic unicorn shape and her auburn mane curled softly down her back. She owned Horsefeathers, a country Inn and Pub.
"Now ye know I'm not a leprechaun and that I'm of elfin blood, but if ye want to hear about leprechauns I can tell ye a tale about how one man managed to get the better of them," Sean said.
Moira loved Seanís stories and leaned back and took a drink of her Irish Cream. "I'm all ears," she said.
As ye know leprechauns are a mighty tricky folk and they love good food and drink and are not above using trickery to get it. They also jealously guard their pots of gold and will bedevil any man trying to steal it.
Well one evening, this man were fleeing some mighty evil folks. He had to not only get away from them, but he also had to hide an amulet that these folks wanted back. The gold charm did nae belong to them and the man had been asked by its rightful owner to retrieve it, but that didn't stop these nasties from trying to get it back.
The man had been running for a fair bit and he was getting a wee bit tired. He was going through a series of good size hills during a pretty fierce rain storm. You can imagine his surprise when he got through the latest cleft between the hills and came out into a bit of sunshine. Better still, there was a rainbow and right in front of him was a pot of gold.
"Ah this be perfect," the man said, "I can hide it here and they won't be able to trace it because of the intrinsic magic. All I need to do is keep a homing spell on it and I'll be able to find this particular pot when it becomes safe to retrieve the amulet."
The man took a piece of the gold that was close to the same size as the amulet. It took him only a few minutes to enchant both of them to be attracted to each other. He put the amulet deep inside the pot and the piece of gold in his pocket and hurried away. He spent the better part of the night dodging and weaving around in an effort to confuse his tracks. Towards morning, he felt it was safe to stop, and when he came to an Inn he took a room and after a huge breakfast he slept round the clock until the next evening.
The man decided it would be prudent to wait for a while before retrieving the amulet, just to be sure that the nasties couldn't trace him and try to get it back. As luck would have it the Innkeeper was planning to add a room onto his place to help alleviate the crowding. The man was more than willing to help out.
The weather was balmy and the people friendly and it was a pleasure to work out in the fresh air. In this way he was also able to gather information and discover if there were any rumors of things stalking the land. He was relieved to find that there weren't. The man made friends easily and soon his own good nature and willingness to work hard made him a favorite of his fellow workers.
"Now the wee folks are nae to be trusted and if they can do you mischief they will," said Paddy O'Rourke who was the foreman of the project and who was a big, gentle-natured, mountain of a man. He was well liked and believed himself to be an expert on happenings in this part of the world and considering that he was a magnet for gossip, he was probably the best person to ask if you wanted to find out what was going on.
"I understand that if ye can get their pot of gold then ye can get them to do what ever ye want," said the man. The man was taking a lunch break along with the others and he and Paddy had become good friends and often ate together.
"True they are very possessive of their gold but trying to get it away from them is the big trick. It is almost impossible. Not that many haven't tried mind ye. It sure beats havin' to work for a livin'," Paddy said with a big laugh.
"Now I've heard a rumor that the Guinness plant has a leprechaun that looks after their place. Know what that is about?" the man asked.
"Well now that is a story in itself. Ask me this evening over a tall one and I'll tell ye," Paddy replied.
The men went back to work. The man was very strong and he was helping them to raise the heavy timbers that would provide the foundation of the walls. He were an amiable fellow and the men soon found out that he were also a Bard in addition to being a strong worker. They enjoyed it when he taught them new songs.
"Okay, I got a rousing one to work to today" the man called out. "It is called 'Mary Mac'.
Mary Mac's mother's makin' Mary Mac marry me.
My father's makin' me marry Mary Mac.
I'm goin' to marry Mary Mac for my Mary to take care oí me;
We'll all be feelin' merry when I marry Mary Mac."
And so the song rang out as they worked.
That evening they were inside the common room of the Inn and were relaxing after a delicious meal of corn beef and cabbage served with soda bread and plenty of Guinness. The man had entertained them with songs and stories both happy and sad. Finally he begged off doing any more for a while.
"I need to catch up with ye men in the Guinness department. Ye don't want me to be laggin' behind now do ye?" the man said with a laugh.
The men laughed and left him relaxing by the fire, after extracting a promise to do some more songs and stories later in the evening. Paddy O'Rourke came on over and sat down beside him.
"Now ye were asking about the Guinness plant and I promised to tell ye about their leprechaun," Paddy said. "Now as ye know leprechauns, during the day, are more interested in their shoes then anything else. In fact if ye can catch them unawares as they be workin' ye have a chance at gettin' them to take ye to their gold. But at night they cut loose and love drinkin' and dinin' and merry makin'.
As ye can imagine the folks at Guinness are very proud of their drink and they make a pretty penny sellin' it far and wide. So of course they want to be sure that their product is well protected. They have done the normal things to protect their plant, the security systems, the guards, etc. They also did the other things, ye know the runnin' water by the plant, the salt in stones with holes in them stacked near the door, the pig's head drawn on the door, the horseshoe over the door tied with a red ribbon, the type of things to protect them from other type of mischief, if ye take me meanin'.
For the most part it worked very well. Then one day when they opened up they noticed that a barrel of one of their best brews had been opened and emptied. Well they were mightily confused over this so they doubled the guard and the next morning they found the same thing. They tried for weeks to find out what was going on but they kept comin' up blank.
One day the foreman had an idea and he went to his bosses. It took a while to convince them but finally they agreed to try his plan. Before they left that evening they withdrew the extra guards and locked up as normal. Only a few trusted people knew that the foreman and president of the plant were hidin' inside. The hours crawled by but finally, shortly after midnight, the two men heard a small tap-tap of a hammer. Creeping out of their hiding place they followed the sound until they came to the storage room. There in the moonlight a leprechaun was sitting next to a barrel of Guinness. He was drinking out of a golden cup. His hammer was stuck into the side of the barrel and soon he pulled it out letting a stream of the amber liquid refill his cup. He replaced the hammer to stop the flow so that not a drop would be wasted.
The two men pulled back and sat down to wait keepin' the wee man in sight. Soon the little man was more then a little tipsy. He had lost his watchfulness and figured he was well on his way to enjoyin' another barrel full of Guinness.
After about a half of the barrel had been consumed the foreman and the president made their move. The president jumped up and startled the little fellow and when he turned to flee he was caught by the foreman. It was no use strugglin' because the man was not goin' to let him go."
"All right so you caught me you big oaf," the little man snarled. "Now what?"
"It is traditional for you to show us where your stash of gold is," the foreman replied with a smile.
"You people have no imagination. Take me to your gold that's all I hear. Just once I wish you humans would come up with something more creative. Are you sure you don't want me to produce a beautiful woman instead?" the leprechaun asked.
"He's got one and so do I." The president came forward. "No I think it has to be your gold."
The leprechaun looked at him with a sneer. "You have more gold then I will ever have. Surely you can't want more?"
"A man can never be rich enough," the president replied.
The leprechaun went through his whole repertoire of clever talk trying to trick the men into lettin' him go, but for once it didn't work. Seein' he could nae get out of it, he reluctantly took them to the hill where his gold was stashed.
The president looked at the gold and smiled. "You know, I think maybe we can come to an agreement. You are right, I have lots of money. So suppose in exchange for me letting you keep your gold, I put you on the payroll and you do some work for me."
Now the little man was more then a little confused at this. It turned out that the Guinness plant did have a problem with a pesky band of rodents and no matter how many cats they had on the premise these pests still managed to get into their grain. Now the president and foreman suggested that they could spare a large barrel of Guinness a week, if the leprechaun would find a way to get rid of these particular rats.
An agreement was made and the leprechaun promised to get rid of the rats and to leave the supply of Guinness alone in exchange for a weekly barrel of the brew and he got to keep all of his gold and since the men had also discovered the little man's secret weakness, the agreement was strictly kept by the leprechaun.
The man looked up at this with a puzzled expression. "Secret weakness?"
"Aye," Paddy said with a grin, "but I'll leave you to figure that one out. Now ye big lug ye have been chugging that brew long enough. It is about time ye gave us another song."
The man shrugged and grinned. "Sure why not." He picked up his small harp and began to play another sprightly tune.
"As I was goin' over the far-famed Kerry Mountains,
I met Colonel Farrell and his money he was countin',
I first produced my pistol, then produced my rapier.
Sayin', "Stand and deliver, I am a bold deceiver."
Musha, ring-dum-a-doo-dum-a-dah, whack fol-the daddio,
Whack, fol-the-daddio, there's whiskey in the jar."
The man finished the song and sang several more before he finally begged off and went up to get some sleep, but in his room sleep eluded him and the man sat in front of the window sipping a large Tullamore Dew. He thought over Paddy's story. He had discovered that the leprechaun who owned the pot of gold where he had hidden the amulet was in fact the same one that kept close to the Guinness plant.
"Now what sort of weakness could a leprechaun have?" he wondered. He went over the story carefully. It seems the plant had taken all the proper precautions yet the leprechaun had gotten in. Now leprechauns are part of the fairy family and supposedly they can't cross running water or be near iron. The pig's head drawn on the door and iron horseshoe over the door should have made it impossible for the wee man to get in, to say nothing of the red ribbon which should have also driven it away. It was very puzzling.
The men worked six days a week on the extension of the Inn but on Sunday they took the day off. That next Sunday, after hearing the story of the Guinness leprechaun, the man decided to take a good look at the place. The extension was coming along and soon the man would want to leave and take the amulet with him. The nasties who had been following him seemed to have been totally thrown off of his track. There hadn't been hide nor hair of them in these parts.
Early that evening the man was hiding near the Guinness plant. He had found a copse of trees on a hill that overlooked the plant. Being careful to make sure that there was no one in sight he pulled out a green crystal on a fine silver chain that he normally kept hidden under his shirt. Cupping the crystal in his hand he slowed his breathing and concentrated on the crystal. The crystal pulsated with a light that came from deep inside and made it appear to be alive. Soon the crystal was showing a close-up of the door that lead to the storeroom.
The man had found out that Guinness made their weekly payments on Sunday, when they knew no one would be around to see. They left it inside by a side door that was seldom used by anyone. The man was watching that door now, magnified so that he could see right down near the ground where the little man would come. While he waited for the leprechaun to show, the man took the time to look the place over carefully. He noticed the stream that ran around the place and the bridges that went over them. Over the door was an iron horseshoe that had a red ribbon tied to it.
Around midnight the man noticed a slight movement and soon into the crystal came the picture of a small wizened man wearing a leather apron and creeping up to the door. He walked quietly over the bridge and came to the door where he felt around and soon a small piece of wood slide aside to let him in. The man sat back amazed and started to laugh.
"I think his weaknesses are more of an inconvenience to the humans then to himself," the man said. He had noticed two things; one the leprechaun had worn the thickest glasses he had ever seen. The little man so nearsighted he wouldn't be able to see the water or the horseshoe, and as for the red ribbon, well he was wearing a red shirt. He was colorblind.
The next morning the man started to plan on how he was going to get the amulet back. He figured he would have to work either late at night or during Sundays because his presence would be missed otherwise.
The following Sunday evening he was back on the hill over looking the plant. As it got close to midnight the man shifted his form into that of a red tabby cat. He figured that even if someone came by they would not think anything of it because of the number of cats that hung around the place. The cat crept to the door and hid behind the pile of rocks waiting for his victim to come by. He didn't have long to wait for soon the leprechaun came walking up the path. As he was fiddling around with the door, the cat pounced.
"Eeekk!" the leprechaun shouted and tried to jump back but the cat had him firmly by the coat tails and wasn't about to let him up. "All right you shape-shifter what do you want? Surely your magic is superior to my own. I can't possible have anything that you want or that you can't get for yourself better."
"What makes you think I'm a shape-shifter? Maybe I just like little red coated rats." The cat said and grinned at him.
"Oh come off of it, you think I can't tell a changeling when I see one. You are obviously one of the Tuatha de Danann that left here many ages ago. Now why don't you let me up and you get back to where you were going before you decided to bother me," the leprechaun said disgustedly.
"Nae I think not. You see ye have got something I need back so why don't ye just lead me to your pot of gold," the cat said.
The little man was very quiet for a moment or two. "Why should I?"
"Well I am currently in cat form and ye know how they love to play with their food," the man said.
At that moment a big rat came running by. Well the cat suddenly found that instinct took over and he let the leprechaun go and turned towards the rat before he could stop himself and of course that gave the leprechaun a chance to get away.
"Bloody 'ell," the cat growled. He turned and ran back towards the trees and once he got there he changed back. Shaking his head he made his way back to the Inn. "I forgot that he was there to rid the place of rats. I'll just have to be more careful next time," the man said.
During the week the man thought hard on how he was going to trap his elusive little foe.
Finally he decided to try trapping the leprechaun in a heavy leather sack. The next Sunday he emptied out the leather pouch he was using to carry nails around with him while he was working. This time he decided to stay in human form and just hide on the other side of the building figuring the crystal would give him enough time to get around to where the leprechaun would be. The leprechaun was right in one thing, the man definitely had elf blood in him and could move as silently as the wind if he had to.
Shortly after midnight the man saw the leprechaun in his crystal and snuck over to the door where he threw the leather pouch over the little man and snatching him up inside tied the thongs tightly around the top.
"All right now, all I want is to retrieve something I hid in your pot of gold," the man said. "Now ye tell me where it is and I'll let you go as soon as I have it."
There was the sound of muttered curses inside the bag but the leprechaun grudgingly agreed to tell the man how to get there. The way was tough and steep and the man finally had to tie the pouch to his belt in order to use both hands. After about and hour the tired and hot man finally got to where the leprechaun had said the gold was. Looking at the series of rocks and caves he stopped and looked around.
"All right which one is it in?" he asked.
There was no answer. The man looked down at the pouch and saw that it was flat. Looking carefully at it he saw that the bottom of it had been carefully cut open.
"Oh blast! I forgot to make sure he didn't have his shoe making tools with him," he said.
The man made his way back to the Inn and turned in for the night. That night he dreamt of little men with scissors that were trying to cut his hair.
During the next week he racked his brain trying to figure out what to do next. He rejected using anything with iron since it would burn the little man. He didn't want to hurt the little guy, he just wanted to get his amulet and leave. The piece of gold he had taken from the leprechaun told him that the amulet was close by but it didn't tell him exactly where it was. Too much leprechaun magic was blocking its exact location.
"Maybe it would be better to try a new approach. Why don't I try giving something to him instead. Get his cooperation with kindness," the man muttered to himself.
That Sunday evening he was in his hiding place, along with a big basket containing lots of food and wine. He waited quietly by the tree watching down by the door. His plan was to wine and dine the leprechaun in hopes that he would then consent to show him where the pot of gold was, then he would exchange the piece of gold he had taken for his amulet, or so was his plan. As it got near to midnight he heard splashing down by the stream that fed the smaller stream that ran by the Guinness plant. The man was curious about what was going on but decided not to leave his hiding place. After all he didn't want to miss the leprechaun's arrival.
Suddenly there was a large splash and the voice of a young child cried out. The man rushed over to the place where the cry for help had come from. He couldn't see anybody but towards the middle of the stream he could see bubbles coming from beneath the surface and bobbing next to the area a small boat. The man threw off his heavy cloak and dove into the water. He made several dives into the cold water looking for the child but could see no trace of him. Coming up for air after his last dive the man saw a pretty little water sprite sitting in the boat.
"Have ye seen a child?" the man gasped.
"There have been no children on my stream for days handsome Sidhe," the water sprite said.
"I'm not one of your Sidhe little sister," the man replied" I belong to a folk that come far from here. But gettin' back to the child, I heard him cry out. Are ye sure ye haven't seem one?"
The water sprite reached over and ran her little hands through his hair. "No beautiful one, I haven't seen any children. Why do you think one should be here?"
The man told her about the leprechaun and how he was waiting for him when he heard the splash and a cry for help.
With a merry laugh she tussled his hair. "I think pretty elf, that you will find that you have been tricked again. He can throw his voice and make it sound like anyone he wants."
The man sighed and kissed her pert upturned nose. "Will ye wait for me while I check and see."
The man got out of the stream and ran back up the hill. Sure enough the basket was empty. Silently cursing under his breath the man headed back towards the river. Sitting on the bank was the petite water sprite.
"I don't suppose ye have anything on ye to banish the chill?" the man asked.
With a merry laugh she handed him a water lily full of nectar.
"Well at least the night won't be a total loss." The man sat down on his cloak next to the sprite. Modesty does nae permit me to continue with this particular stream in the story line. Let us just say that the man got home just before dawn and was a bit tired the next day around work but he was in a very happy mood. The big stream seemed to be gurgling rather happily too.
The man decided to take a week off and see if he could catch the leprechaun off of his guard, so the next Sunday he took up the offer of Paddy O'Rourke and spent the day meeting his large family. The man told many stories and sang many songs. Beatrice O'Rourke turned out to be an excellent cook and he enjoyed the large meal she prepared.
The next week found the Inn's new addition coming close to being finished. The man knew he wouldn't have more then a couple of weeks left to get hold of the amulet. During the nights he would sneak away from the Inn and try to follow the amulet on his own. The enchanted piece of gold could take him in the general direction of the pot of gold but he couldn't get a firm signal from there. He recognized the place he kept ending up at as being a fairy hill and knew that the magic from there was interfering with his own. He was getting very frustrated.
That Sunday he waited again on the other side of the building. Again he saw the little man in his crystal and again he crept silently around the side of the building. This time he threw subtlety to the wind and pounced on the little man. Unfortunately he was too anxious and the man slipped out of his hand and landed on his three cornered hat. There he started spinning around faster and faster until the man could no longer keep his eyes on him. The minute the man blinked the leprechaun disappeared.
The man was sitting dejected on the banks of the stream when the water sprite came up and rested her head on his knees.
"Why so sad my handsome elf?" she asked.
"Oh I need to catch that trickster and get me amulet back and I'm runnin' out of time," the man replied.
The water sprite looked up with sad eyes. "Does this mean you are going to leave me?" she asked.
The man gently reached down and touched her face. "I'll be back to visit. I wouldn't want to be without your charms forever. I'm a wanderer but even wanderers like to come back to places where they are kindly treated," he said.
The little sprite cheered up. "Well maybe I can help," she said. She climbed up on his lap and whispered for several minutes in his ear. The man's face broke into a huge grin and he gave her a resounding kiss.
"Little one you are worth your weight in gold," he exclaimed.
The next morning the man drew the Innkeeper aside and talked to him. "Ian, a friend of mine owns a pub a fair piece from here. Do ye suppose that the folks at the Guinness plant would be interested in sellin' to her if I were to arrange for delivery?"
"Well, me lad, I'm sure somethin' could be arranged," Ian replied. "Why don't I talk to the foreman. Tom is married to one of me little sisters and he owes me a big favor not that puttin' more money in his pocket would be a favor of course."
That evening the Innkeeper came over and introduced the man to his brother-in-law. Tom was a huge man himself but looked small compared to the man. He seemed to be the serious type but after a couple of drinks he started to loosen up.
"Ian tells me that ye may have some business for me," Tom said.
"Aye that I might," said the man. He went on to explain that he had a friend that was a fair distance away who had an Inn that would love to carry Guinness.
"Well we would love to sell but transportation may be a problem. We just aren't set up here to make long trips to deliver the product," Tom said with a sigh.
"Well it would be a little tricky but if ye have an open mind then we might be able to work out the transportation ourselves." The man said as he signaled for another round of drinks. "I understand that your plant has done some business with a certain wee folk," the man said quietly.
Tom looked around carefully to make sure they were not being overheard. "I'm not going to ask how ye know about that, but, yes," he replied.
"Has it worked out to your satisfaction?" the man asked.
"Well at first it was all right but lately he has been a bit lax about upholding his part of the bargain," Tom replied.
"Now I may be able to help ye with that if ye aren't opposed to a wee bit of magic," the man said with a grin.
Tom looked at the man and returned the smile. "Well now rumor has it that there is a bit of fairy in me wife's family, so ye might say, I've got an open mind on the subject."
"Okay now this is what I've got in mind." The man leaned closer and whispered his plan to the Guinness plant's foreman.
Late that evening the man popped up in front of the leprechaun holding the piece of gold that he had taken when he put his amulet in the pot.
"Just in case ye have had the feelin' that ye might be missing something, ye have," the man said with a grin.
"Give me that right now!" The little man screamed and hopped up and down trying to jump up high enough to reach the gold piece.
"I don't think so," the man said, "at least not right away but maybe we can negotiate something at a latter date," and with that the man disappeared.
During that week the man made nightly appearances with the piece of gold. The leprechaun was getting madder and madder.
That Sunday the leprechaun came to the Guinness plant to collect his barrel of Guinness. He went to open up his regular hiding place only to find that it had been barred by a piece of iron. The little man yanked his hand back, sucking on his fingers. He was trying to figure out what to do next when the door opened. The man stood there smiling. "Come in why don't ye," he said with a little bow.
The leprechaun glared at him as he stalked by and went to where his barrel of Guinness should have been waiting. Standing there instead was the foreman of the plant.
"Ye know, wee folk, we have been noticing a lot of mice lately. I'm not sure ye earned your Guinness this week," the foreman said.
The little man was hopping mad but nothing he said would dissuade the foreman to part with the agreed barrel of Guinness. Finally the little man stormed out of the door and was stomping up the path cursing loudly when the man came up next to him.
"That sure is rough for ye," the man said. "Ye know I might be able to help ye out with your rat problem so that ye don't have to do any hard work and ye could enjoy your barrel."
The little man stopped and glared at him. "You! You thief! You stole my gold piece and now you have come to gloat!" He stamped his little foot.
The man smiled and said, "now ye have me wrong there. I would be more then willing to part with the gold piece in exchange for me amulet and to show that there is no hard feelings I'll even throw in the spell to banish rodents for free."
The little man thought this over. He was trying to figure out how he could turn this to his advantage. Unfortunately, every solution came down to giving this man his amulet back.
"All right, but if I don't see my gold piece again you will be cursed unto the twentieth generation," the leprechaun declared.
"Trust me you will see it again," the man said.
"Okay, I'll retrieve this amulet of yours and bring it back here," the leprechaun said. "You get my gold piece and my barrel of Guinness ready for me when I return. And no tricks!" With that the little man disappeared.
The man went back to the Guinness plant and he and the foreman finalized details for shipments of the Guinness to his friend. The man also set up the wards that would keep the rodents from wanting to come near the place. His last stop was in the room where the packaging material was and he insisted on being alone when he worked in there.
About an hour later the little man showed up with the amulet. The man and the foreman were waiting with a large barrel of Guinness.
"All right here is your stupid amulet now where is my gold piece?" the leprechaun demanded.
The man smiled and handed him a gold piece as he snatched his amulet from the little man's hand. He carefully examined it and decided that it was none the worse for wear and had suffered no harm laying in the middle of a pot of leprechaun gold.
The leprechaun was also examining his gold piece and bit into it to make sure it was real. He eyes got huge as he bit right through it and tasted gingerbread.
::sputter: :choke:: "Fraud! This isn't my gold. Where is my gold!" the leprechaun yelled.
The man laughed and pointed to the label of the barrel of Guinness. "If ye examine it carefully ye can see that your gold piece is now part of the Guinness label. Every shipment of Guinness will now have a piece of leprechaun magic attached to it."
"You can't do that! That gold piece is mine. You said," the little man screamed.
"I said," the man interrupted, "that ye would see your gold piece again. And ye will. Every time ye come to collect your barrel of Guinness it will be right on the label in front of your eyes. Of course ye will need to keep up the wards that discourage the rodents from entering the plant to collect it. If ye don't no Guinness. No Guinness and no seeing your gold piece."
"That's cheating!" The little man's face was so red it was a wonder he didn't pass out.
"Well of course it is," the man said, "I nae said I was going to play fair. After all I had a good teacher in that."
"Oh yeah, who?" The leprechaun sputtered.
"You," the man said with a laugh.
Sean looked at Moira and smiled. "So that was how the leprechaun was finally tricked," he said.
"I see," Moira replied and smiled back at him.
Sean got up and walked back over to the bar to refresh their drinks. While there he picked up and sniffed the fragrance of a water lily that he kept behind the bar. He had a far away smile on his face.
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