Adventures in Ireland: To the Rainbow

by Jackson Duckworth / Dec 09, 2013 /
Jackson Duckworth's picture

I woke up suddenly—cold, wet dew from the grass soaking into my clothes. Something didn't feel right. Sleepily, I looked down. My eyes opened wide. Instead of the pajamas I had put on moments before, I was wearing a lightweight white tunic with a leather belt and thick, scratchy stockings. I looked around wildly, my drowsiness completely gone.
    
I was lying in a grove of wet grass. Surrounding me on all sides was thick woodland; the sky above was dark and stormy. Suddenly, I felt something stir right next to me and I turned my head to investigate. I nearly jumped out of my tunic as I scooted backwards and hastily leaped to my feet. Lying on the ground—it had been snuggling next to me—was a small creature with human-like features, yet too small to be a human. It was about three feet tall, and it had a hooked nose and pointed ears, with a finely groomed red mustache and beard. It wore a suit of red velvet, wet from the morning dew, a crooked green cap, and golden buckles on his black shoes and belt. Then I realized where I had seen one of these strange creatures before—in story books.
    
“A leprechaun!” I exclaimed loudly.
    
The leprechaun's eyes shot open, and it jumped to its feet much faster than I had, a panicked look in its eyes. “Where!” he cried in a voice thickly laden with an Irish accent, before looking down at himself.
    
“Oh...right,” he said sheepishly before looking up at me curiously. “So, what's your name then, lad?”
    
Still in shock, I didn't reply, only able to gape at the leprechaun standing before me. He scratched his chin, looking me up and down. “Lost your tongue, eh? What's the matter? Have ye not seen the likes of me before?”

 

Leprechaun

Wikimedia Commons: Jean-noël Lafargue

    
I stuttered a response.  “Yeah, I, uh, I have.  K-kind of.”
    
“You talk strangely, lad. What land do you come from?” the leprechaun asked, his bushy eyebrows furrowing. Then, as I struggled for an answer, he held up a small, gloved hand to silence me. “Never mind that. We've got ourselves an adventure to go on, and we are already running late!”
    
With that he scampered off towards the trees. He stopped right at the edge of the glen and looked back at me, where I was standing frozen to the spot. “Well, are you coming, lad? We've got to catch the rainbow!” he called.
    
I looked down at myself, at my sopping wet uncomfortable tunic and leggings. Weird clothing, leprechauns, and why the heck is he talking about a rainbow? I thought. Then I sighed. Well, I might as well follow some insane vision, since I'm here anyway. I ran to the Leprechaun, who nodded approvingly before darting into the woods. I trailed after him, lagging behind as I looked around at the surrounding woodland. Thick undergrowth greeted me, with ferns brushing my tunic and the sound of trickling water in my ears. I spotted a small, thatched hut in the distance and peered at it for a few seconds before running to catch up with the leprechaun.

 

Standing Stone. Wikimedia Commons: Richard Webb

Standing Stone. Wikimedia Commons: Richard Webb

    
“The name's Cray—Cray McKnob,” he said, stopping for a moment to look back at me as I caught up. “What yours?”
    
“Jack,” I said shortly.
    
Cray's eyebrows came together. “Unusual name. But you also have strange talk and manners, so I guess it's all part of wherever you come from. Let's keep going, eh?”
    
He scampered off again and I followed, my long legs easily carrying me fast enough to walk at an even pace with Cray. As we went along, questions bombarded my brain. I asked one of the first ones that came to mind. “What do you mean by 'catching the rainbow'?”
    
Cray continued to scamper along, but he glanced at me like I was some kind of strange animal.  “Why, we've got to get the pot of gold of course!”
    
Then the pieces snapped together. Leprechaun. Pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Lots of green stuff. Could this be Ireland?  I continued to follow him as he ran this way and that through the forest. I was sure we were completely lost. “So where exactly is this rainbow?” I asked. We began to climb a grassy hill.
    
“I don't know. That's why we have to consult the Blarney Stone! It will guide us. That's what I'm hoping, at least.” Cray suddenly came to an abrupt stop. “Ah, here we are.”
    
I came up next to him and found myself looking over the edge of the hill; the trees petered off rapidly as the hill sloped downwards towards a lake. Then I saw the castle. Not a pile of rubble, but a fully functioning, bustling castle. Yep, this is Ireland all right! But I also suddenly realized I had gone back in time, as well. On the other side of the lake, made entirely of carved stone, this massive fortress was incredible to behold, with large walls and a massive keep in the center. Knights in armor strolled along the battlements, and many other people went to and fro from the castle, walking along a hardened dirt road. I could hear people laughing and shouting from the castle.

 

Blarney Castle, Co Cork, pub by Lawrence of Dublin, 1905-1915

Blarney Castle, Co Cork, pub by Lawrence of Dublin, 1905-1915. Wikimedia Commons

 

Then I noticed something. Out of all the people around the castle, I couldn't spot a single leprechaun. I turned to Cray.
    
“Have the people, uh, seen leprechauns before like you? Would they mind you just walking in to consult this Blarney Stone?” I asked.
    
“No, they haven't seen any of my kind, and they won't. Which is where you come in! All you have to do is act normally, and go kiss the Blarney Stone upside down. And don't look so doubtful.”
    
“So you want me to sneak into a castle and kiss a stone,” I said flatly.
    
“The Blarney Stone, lad. And remember to kiss it upside down. Yes, that's it!” Cray said cheerfully. “Oh, one more thing. The guards don't really want you getting anywhere near the Blarney Stone, so you may have to dodge a few of them. And watch those sharp steel things they carry. One of 'em killed my cousin's aunt's brother's nephew.”
    
Great. I just have to sneak into a castle, avoid a bunch of guards armed with swords, and kiss a stone that I'm not supposed to touch. “Well, good luck!” Cray said as he suddenly pushed me out of the brush thicket we had been hiding in. I rolled down the hill and fell into the middle of the dirt road. People looked at me strangely but continued on around me, not paying much mind to the dark haired boy lying in the middle of the road. I stood up and brushed the dirt off my clothes. The castle gate was straight ahead, propped wide open. People dressed in clothes similar to mine were flowing in and out freely. I began to feel more confident and I continued on to the wide entrance. A guard with wild red hair and a similarly wild red beard stopped me with a hand on my shoulder.  His armor flashed in the morning sun.
    
“Where is it you come from? I haven't seen you around here before,” he asked with a thick Irish accent.
    
For a second I froze, wondering what to do. “I come from Southern Ireland,” I said shakily.
    
“You are in Southern Ireland,” the guard said, his eyes narrowing.
    
“I come from a long way away. I don't know the customs of this place,” I quickly said, trying to improvise. I kept eying the sword sheathed at his waist.
    
For a moment longer he looked at me suspiciously, before thrusting me away. “We are at war, lad. Spies and enemies get their throats cut.”
    
I walked into the castle shakily and looked around. I'll just find this stupid stone and get out of here, I thought. I walked among the people and tried to blend in, all the while looking out for a glowing stone or something of the sort. I climbed a long stairwell until I found myself at the top of the castle, standing on the battlements and overlooking the beautiful green forests that stretched far into the distance. The dark clouds above me seemed to writhe about, waiting desperately to dump rain. I looked around, trying to find this Blarney Stone. Then I spotted something. Several guards stood around a stone, their weapons ready. The stone was attached to the wall, but I could tell that it wasn't like the rest of the wall. It almost seemed to glow, and I felt myself strangely drawn to it. But how was I going to kiss it? The guards were constantly on the alert, looking around with their swords out, ready to strike down anyone who came near.

 

Window, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Window, Blarney Castle, Ireland. Flickr Creative Commons: Sean MacEntee

    
As I pondered what to do, a boom suddenly sounded on the North side of the castle. The soldiers cried out and flocked to the edge of the wall, looking down. Even the guards watching the Blarney Stone left their posts and rushed down the battlements to investigate the commotion. This was my chance! I rushed forward, knelt down, and kissed it—the magical Blarney Stone. Nothing happened. Why isn't it working? I did it again. Nothing. Then I remembered Cray's words. I flipped over on my back and painfully arched over backwards. Then I kissed it. Feeling incredibly silly, I flipped back right-side-up and looked around. Still nothing. Another boom sounded against the gate of the castle, and the guards began firing arrows into the enemy who was attacking.

 

Blarney Castle, Ireland

Blarney Castle. Flickr creative commons: L. Bernhardt

   
A cry rang out from the soldiers, “Lord Broghill is breaking through! To the caves!”
    
As the people rushed past me, screaming and yelling, I was swept along down the battlements.  In the courtyard of the castle, we wrestled our way into a tower and descended spiral stairs until we reached a set of iron gates. The guards pushed through the panicking people and unlocked the gates, shoving the heavy bars of iron wide open. People pushed past into the dark passage beyond, lit only by dim torches. As the the last of the people entered the tunnel, the guards ran in and locked the gates behind them.
    
“This way!” One of the knights called, taking a torch in his hand and leading the large crowd of peasants down another passage that branched off the main passage.
    
I began to follow when I felt a gloved hand wrap around my arm. I jumped and looked down wildly. Cray stood there, holding a finger to his lips. He pulled me into another passageway and led me a ways into it before turning around to look at me, his face glowing with pride.
    
“Great job, lad!” he said, patting me on the arm.
    
I looked at him with a scowl, annoyed. “You know, you could have told me that Ireland was at war.
    
He grinned sheepishly. “I don't usually keep up to date with 'war' news and such. But come lad. We have a rainbow to catch!” With that he turned and sped off deeper into the tunnel.
    
I ran after him, and after a minute I spotted light up ahead. Cray pushed past a thick curtain of vines and we emerged into brilliant sunlight. Blinking to get used to the light, I looked around. We were standing overlooking a clover field, the dark clouds above beginning to thin. In the middle of the clover field a rainbow suddenly formed in the mist, creating a brilliant flash of colors. I stood frozen as I watched the amazing spectacle, but Cray—seemingly unaffected—rushed down towards the clover field.

***
    
My eyes snapped open. I was lying under thick, heavy blankets, sweating. My hair was matted to my forehead, and I could feel my heavy cotton pajamas pressed against my body. I sat up and flung the blankets off of me, sitting up on the corner of my bed, breathing hard. I looked outside my window, where snow fell in thick, white layers from the night sky above.
    
I could remember in the back of my mind a bright flash of colors, like those of a rainbow. I remembered faintly a little leprechaun and his Irish accent. Then another thought occurred to me and I jumped off my bed. I rushed over to the light switch and flicked it on, looking around my room before locating my beautifully carved cedar bookshelf. I ran over to it and ran my hands along the spines, reading the titles of the books and searching for something. Then my hand stopped on a travel guide to Ireland. I slid it from my shelf, hardly daring to breathe, and flipped to the index.
    
Blarney Stone, Blarney Stone, Blarney Stone, I thought as I searched. Then I stopped, looking closer at what looked like...
    
“The Blarney Stone!” I exclaimed, forgetting that my parents and sister were probably still asleep.
    
I flipped to the page number that had been provided, and smiled widely as I read the caption below a picture of the stone I had seen in my strange dream.
    
'Visitors from all over the world flock to this ruined castle to see the legendary Blarney Stone.  Kissing this stone is a long standing tradition, intended to confer a magical eloquence. It is set in the wall below the castle battlements and, in order to kiss it, the visitor is grasped by the feet and suspended backwards under the parapet.'
    
Even though the dream was fading, I could still remember bits and pieces of it. The Blarney Stone, the rainbow, and the leprechaun named Cray. As I crawled back into bed, I wished I would be visited by Cray again sometime in my dreams. And, hopefully, he will have that pot of gold on him.

 

 

 

 

Jackson Duckworth is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

 

 

 

 

Share