Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Visitor – Fiction


Autumn 2010

There was a car parked in front of the grocer’s when Diarmuid came down from his apartments above the store to open for the day. It wasn’t a car he recognized, and no one was waiting outside for the store to open. He went on about his duties for a while, stocking some shelves with deliveries from yesterday and weeding out the bad produce.  The car caught his attention from time to time as he walked about the store. It was a Tuesday, so chances were it would be a slow day and he had time to wander over to see Barnaby to ask if he knew anything about the car. Diarmuid put a note on the door saying he would be back in a little while and began the short stroll to the post office.

It was a particularly lovely day. The sun was shining after several days of rain, and it promised to be a warm day. The pavement was steaming as the sun warmed it, which gave everything a dreamy air. The leaves were still piled high around the town, though most of them had finally fallen from the trees. The clear morning sunshine made all the colors sharp and brilliant. There were days that epitomized a season, and today was one of those: a perfect Fall day.

Barnaby was drinking a cup of coffee behind his desk in the post office and reading the newspaper. He looked up and smiled as Diarmuid entered.

“Morning,” he said.

“Good morning. Have you been out this morning?” Diarmuid asked.

“Not as of yet. Why?”

“There’s a car parked in front of my store, but no person to go with it.”

“Hmm. That is odd. School’s off today for Veteran’s Day, so it’s not one of their guests. Have you asked Cormag?”

“That was my next stop.”

“Well, then, let’s be about it.” Barnaby refilled his mug of coffee and made up another one for Diarmuid and together they exited the post office. Steaming coffee in hand, they discussed the coming end of the season and plans for the annual Thanksgiving dinner as the walked the short distance.  Cormag was just rolling up his gas station door as they approached.

“Gentlemen,” he said as he walked to turn on the pumps.

“Has anyone been by for gas or service?” Diarmuid asked immediately.

“No. I’m just opening, but no one has called or rung the bell. Was someone looking for me?” Cormag asked.

“Diarmuid says there is a car parked in front of his store, but no person to be found,” Barnaby clarified.

“School stuff?”

“No, they are off today.”

“So, where’d it come from?” Cormag asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Barnaby replied.

“I will take a walk and see if I can find anyone. Cormag, would you watch the store for me while I am out?” Diarmuid asked.

“Sure thing.”

“Then I take my leave of you both. I will let you know what I find.”

Barnaby and Cormag waved him off and he walked back to get his coat. It may be warm eventually, but here at just after eight in the morning, it was still quite cool. He expected to be outdoors for a while.  The walk into the woods took about and hour and a half round trip, and that was the first place he was going to check. He also picked up his heavy maple walking stick as he left his apartment. He didn’t expect to encounter anything untoward, but this was enough out of the usual that he decided to be cautious and prepared. In the time they had been in Harold, he could count on one hand the amount of times her had needed to employ any sort of force against another person. One on hand, that made him quite happy. On the other hand, much of his training had been going unused for decade upon decade. At times he felt sluggish and slow, like he was growing lichen in the absence of real things to do. Perhaps he should return to training again. Or maybe taking up jogging or trail running like some in the valley had taken to doing.

These thoughts brought him to Fancy’s walk. The house looked as it always did. Clean and tidy and empty. He continued down the sidewalk to path into the woods. He doubted anyone who was up to something shady would have left their car in the front of the grocery. The only time they had dealt with someone trying to use their woods for illegal purposes, they had brought their cars directly into the forest. Diarmuid was hoping that the car had stalled and finding nothing open in the small town, they had decided to walk on to the next town. But he still had to check.

The path in the woods was damp, but not muddy. It was shaded for most of the way, and the chill was penetrating. It was also not much of a path. As far as he knew, the three of them were the only ones who knew it. At most it looked like a deer trail, perhaps. The walk involved a lot of stepping through brush and pushing aside branches as one worked their way deeper into the forest. This was on purpose. If someone did perchance follow them into the woods, it was quite easy to vanish from view and leave the follower wondering what happened. With no discernible path, it was hoped they would turn back. It had never really been put to the test, however.

The entire forest smelled of damp leaves and decay. Oddly, it was a clean smell, unlike the smell of decay in the city. He had visited many cities in his years, and he never understood why people chose to live on top of each other that way. The presence of so much of everything and so little of the earth was overwhelming. The smells in particular nauseated Diarmuid. He preferred to experience only the smell of a fire without having garlic, fish, and flowers layered on top of it. No smell was ever singular in the cities.

A deer bounded across the path and Diarmuid halted for a second to wait for its offspring.  Sure enough, moments later, two small fawns followed their mother down the hill into the forest. He watched them disappear and then continued down the path. He had made this walk hundreds of times, perhaps more. Every time he found things to admire in the forest. Deer were not unheard of, but a doe with twins was unusual. He felt very privileged to have seen them.  Diarmuid often wished for a change in his life, but while he waited, he was pleased to have such a lovely place to call home. Of all the places he had lived, Harold had been the only one that felt like home in all these years. It was easy to see the good here. That hadn’t been the case with all of the places they had lived. He was a naturally positive person, but some places had tried even his ability to smile.

Diarmuid rounded a final corner and the forest opened up into a clearing. In front of him was a small valley, surrounded by low hills on all sides. As always, the sight of that valley prompted a deep breath and a sense of relief.  A grove of evergreens stood in the center. The cool green branches of the blue spruce trees looked so close as to be interlocked, but Diarmuid knew that there was enough space for a grown man to push through. That grove is where he was going. As he crossed the clearing he noted that it was unusually quiet. There was normally quit a bit of birdsong and the occasional squirrel barking. Today, however, aside from his footsteps crunching through the dry leave and grass, it was silent. He looked around for a hawk or other predator that would usually induce such quiet, but saw nothing.

He pushed through the needled branches and into a second smaller clearing. In the center stood a maple tree, its branches brilliant with vibrant red-orange leaves. Not a leaf seemed to have dropped from it. Much as today was a perfect fall day, this tree was a perfect fall tree. Tall, vaguely tear shaped, and robust looking it stood out strongly against the backdrop of the blue spruce grove that ringed it. A gentle breeze rustled its leaves. Diarmuid changed his stance to a guarded one, hands tight on his walking staff, when another man stepped out from behind the tree. Both men regarded each other with surprise. Diarmuid felt as though he had been poleaxed. How had anyone found this place?

“Hello, there,” he ventured.

“Hi. You’re Dermot, right?” the man asked. Dermot’s eyes widened in further surprise.

“Indeed I am, sir.  What finds you out here this morning?”

“I was here a few weeks back for the Harvest Festival. I’ve been coming for years now. The woods around here are spectacular,” he explained, “I had the day off, because of the holiday, and thought a hike sounded like a good idea.”

“It’s a lovely day for it.”

“It is! I parked in front of your store. I hope that’s okay.” The man seemed distracted and excited.

“Absolutely. Traffic is pretty slow on Tuesdays.”

“Great. Anyway, I followed a deer path here. Pretty old one from the looks of it. You get a lot of hunters up here?”

“Not really.” Diarmuid was keeping his expression carefully genial. In all the centuries the three men had been on this journey together, this was the first time someone had found their way to the tree.

“Huh. Anyway, I followed the deer path here, and I saw the spruce grove. I thought I heard someone crying in here. Nothing here though, except this tree. This amazing tree.” He looked up at the tree with awe.

“What’s your name, friend?” Diarmuid asked.

“Nolan. Nolan James.”

“Nice to meet you, Nolan. You say you’ve been coming to our little festival for years?”

“Yeah. My ex-girlfriend brought me up here one year. I loved it. I’d love to move up here eventually. Not Harold of course, there’s only the one house, right? But one of the other towns maybe.” Nolan kept his eye on the tree while he talked. “Why haven’t the leaves on this tree fallen yet? Everything else is bare.” Diarmuid’s trepidation was growing as the man prattled on.

“Probably just protected from the wind by the spruce grove. Don’t get much snow in this spot either.”

“Oh, yeah. I guess so. I wish I’d brought my camera. This tree is stunning. It’s… well, it’s perfect.”

Diarmuid smiled. “It is, at that. I’m about to head back to town, want to walk with me?”

“I think I’ll stay here for a while. This place is a good antidote for the city. Peaceful.”

The leaves on the tree rustled gently. Nolan smiled and took a seat on the ground near the base of the tree. Diarmuid watched this for a moment. The young man had no camera and seemed genuinely interested in just basking in the glow of the bright tree. He leaned on his staff for a while and chewed on his lip. He was hesitant about leaving him here with the tree, but he appeared harmless, if a bit excitable.  And Diarmuid needed to get back as quickly as possible to discuss this with Barnaby and Cormag. He was feeling a little excitable himself.

“Alright then. I’ll make sure to check back here if I don’t see you by afternoon, Nolan. Be safe.” He addressed this as much to the tree as to the man. Nolan waved his hand in goodbye without looking at Diarmuid.

His walk back to town was swift, and without stopping to gather up Cormag, he made a beeline for the post office.  Barnaby looked up in surprise as Diarmuid crashed the door open in haste. Without pausing to greet Barnaby he blurted, “A man has found his way to the tree.”

Author’s Note:

This is part five of a short story/novella. I will be posting parts every Tuesday until it is complete. It is by no means finished, so please share your questions/comments/suggestions.  

You can find the previous parts here:

Part 1: Population 3

Part 2: A Harvest Festival

Part 3: The Sentencing

Part 4: Journey’s Beginning

The Story continues here:

Part 6: The Tree

Part 7: Barnaby’s Task

Journey’s Beginning – Fiction


Spring 1221

Three men trudged up the hill and away from the small village. The large stone building of the council grew smaller, and less imposing, as they moved up the hill. Of the three, only one looked back from again and again. Cormag’s glance repeatedly returned to the village during the walk up the hill. His anger had abated when the complete support of the other two had become evident. At worst, he could now be described as grudging. At his best, though, he was a solid companion, who had shown himself to be dedicated to their task.

A cold, spring rain was just beginning to fall as they reached the top of the hill and the group paused. All three men turned to look down on the village they were leaving. In silence, their eyes fell on their former homes, already full with refugees from the most recent crusade. This small place in the country seemed a bastion of sanity in an ever less sane world, and good people were fleeing from the madness to settle here.

Barnaby was happy that they had a place to flee to, and grateful for the safety the Brotherhood could provide. A constant line of worry had become etched between his eyebrows of late. He watched the movement in the village as people arrived and were escorted to new houses. Builders worked steadily to add rooms to existing homes that had opened their doors to the refugees. Barnaby has been vocal about their duty to provide a haven for these people, and now, with it all in progress, he was glad to be leaving. The job of it was well underway, and these families would now be safe. He had more pressing things to attend to.

Diarmuid, far from his original home, was the least affected by this departure. He took it on with the same equanimity and grace that he met all challenges with. He had already left one home to journey to join the Brotherhood, and another when the Brotherhood had established this village, and leaving this home seemed, to him, merely another season in his life. He hoped someday that he would find a place that he wished to live and settle in, but for now, he was content to go where the wind of the Lords and Ladies blew him. He worried about this new wind he felt rising; this wind that carried crusades and inquisitions on its back. Diarmuid was relieved to be moving out of its reach.

Cormag stood, stony-faced, on the hill and stared at what was left of his home. During the Winter, he, Barnaby, and Diarmuid had performed the rituals for the dead. His two companions were the only ones who helped, giving him the true measure of them. They had burned the timbers of the house when they were finished, until all that stood was the stone foundation. He hoped that the spirits of his family could rest and that they, including his father, had found enough peace to move on. Burning the house had seemed the most complete way to release them, and even as he stood at the top of the hill, he could see workers moving the stones from the foundation and placing them, for a time, in a fire before moving them to a new home. The people of the village were not, by and large, a superstitious lot, but Lugh’s crime had been so severe and shocking that they were taking time to renew anything that had touched the tragedy. Cormag also had done more than was required to put their souls to rest. He would live until his dying day with the image of his family, bloodied and dead, while he held his dying father and asked why. All he could hope for now was that they were at peace and that he too may find a measure of it.

Cormag was still unsettled by the council’s decision to send him with Barnaby and Diarmuid. He had known Barnaby for many years and looked up to him. Barnaby had been a friend of his father’s despite being several years his junior, and had mentored Cormag when he first joined the Brotherhood. As a result, Barnaby has stepped into the role of Cormag’s father once the council had passed judgment. Cormag was at turns grateful and resentful over the attention. He was the youngest of the three by many years. Not quite young enough to be a son, but not quite old enough to be a brother. Now that they were held in time by their task, he would forever be this young man, in need of guidance and a father figure, and it chafed. He supposed it was better than having the task put on him when he was old and doddering, however.

At last, he turned away from the town and toward the start of their journey. The hills ahead became mountains, and nestled in those peaks was the place they were bound. He turned to ask the men if it was time to leave and found them in an attitude of prayer as they looked over the town. As quiet as the wind, came the sound of Diarmuid whispering.

“Benedicat et custodiat nos vicus absentis nomen reciperetur. Dimitte animas ad transigendum. Custodi in gratia perdita quaesisse atque confusa. Ordo Fratrum vepribus et sanitatem et pacem iis qui ad mensuram sanctuarii.”

(Bless and preserve this village in our absence. Let go the souls who are ready to move on. Keep in grace the lost and confused. Lords and Ladies, bring health and peace to the Brotherhood and all who turn to them for sanctuary.)

Cormag turned away from them, tears in his eyes as he listened.

“Nos tuendos susceperunt in prospero itinere pergerent. Laetetur cor cormag corrigendum. Tibi placeat facere simplex pro nobis. Permissum is negotium exsisto facile universa.”

(Keep us safe as we journey. Let your heart be mended, Cormag. Please let this task be easily completed. Let all in the Universe be at peace.)

Embarrassed, Cormag gruffly picked up his things and trudged a few steps further, out of hearing. He didn’t want them to be nice. He didn’t want them to pray for him. He didn’t even want to like them, these men he had been saddled with against his will. But he was grateful to them, and glad that of all the men that could have been with him, it had been these two who were kind and gentle. He looked at them once again, wearing the cloaks of the Brotherhood and saying gentle prayers at the top of this rainy hill, and felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment . In spite of being grateful, he had directed much anger their way over the last months. He began to quietly offer a prayer of his own.

“Tibi gratias ago pro munere fratribus. Tibi gratias ago, quod me in gratia. Gratias agimus tibi propter bonum mihi quia. Please Barnabae et Diarmuid bene in fide, tum in valetudini caveat, commodo in actiones.”

(Thank you for the gift of my brothers. Thank you for keeping me in grace. Thank you for seeing the good in my heart. Please keep Barnaby and Diarmuid well in faith, well in health, and well in actions.)

At the end of his prayer he rejoined the now silent men. Barnaby looked at him and smiled. In unison, the men moved off, turning their backs on the village for the final time and stepping on to the path that led into the mountains. They knew things would be different in the village if they were ever to return, and they knew it just as likely that they would never come back. As they descended the far side of the hill, they began to talk with one another. The talk was simple, but like the first steps on the path, it was a start.


Author’s Note:

Forgive any Latin translation liberties, as I am relying on several internet translators. 

This is part four of a short story/novella. I will be posting parts every Tuesday until it is all here. It is by no means finished, so please share your questions/comments/suggestions.  

You can find the previous parts here:

Part 1: Population 3

Part 2: A Harvest Festival

Part 3: The Sentencing

The story continues here:

Part 5: A Visitor

Part 6: The Tree

Part 7: Barnaby’s Task

The Sentencing – Fiction


Winter 1220

Once upon a time, there were three men.  Two of them were friends, the third was not.  In the winter, the council had convened and told them that they were now one, destined to be together until the task was done. The first nodded solemnly and stood steadfast.  The second smiled at his friend and clapped his shoulder in a hearty grip. The third, however, boiled with rage, but nodded as the first had and stood, shaking, off to the side. The council detailed the standards which must be followed: timeliness, secrecy, hope.  When the council was done with their pronouncement they left the chamber and the three men behind.

The first, called Barnaby, looked at the other two with doubt and fear.  Barnaby knew the second man, Diarmuid, was as trustworthy as one could wish, and would stand beside him no matter what. Chances were, Barnaby thought with a smile, Diarmuid would be smiling the entire time.  The smile on Barnaby’s face faded as his gaze reached the young Cormag. Cormag, who had been sentenced to this as punishment to make up for his father’s sins. Cormag, who shook with his anger and was holding himself together by the barest of margins. Cormag, whom Barnaby knew, despite his rage, would also be as trustworthy as any man could want.  He gave Cormag a look, a sympathetic smile, and approached him.

Cormag looked up from his clenched fists and caught Barnaby’s sympathetic eye. Seeing the look on Barnaby’s face intensified his rage to the point where the fragile thread of control snapped, almost audibly, and naked pain and rage showed on his face. Cormag held up a hand to stop him and took a step away.

“I will do this,” he choked out, “I will do only this. Expect no more from me than exactly what those monstrous men have locked me to. No more!” Cormag lost hold of himself and stormed from the large chamber, every heel strike reverberating off the walls like thunder.

“He will be a weakness,” Diarmuid said softly, “He will cause us problems.”

“No, Brother.  He will not. He is as much of this honorable order as we are.  The council reaches far in sentencing this child…nay, do not grumble, he is yet a child,” Barnaby began again, “They reach far in this judgment.  Who can say that their fathers or their children are free from all sin? To sentence one who is but a child to years, perhaps hundreds of years, of service because of what his father has done? It is doubtful.”

“Aye. Doubtful indeed. I do not agree that he is a child, however, he is a grown man.  Able to enter into contracts, able to join the Brotherhood, able to fight.  As long as he does not work against us, he is welcome, and will be one of us. We cannot allow him to falter though,” Diarmuid said sadly.

“I understand. I believe he will take his part as seriously as he should. I cannot fault him for his anger.  In his shoes, I would be just as angered by their decision. Perhaps more.”

“I cannot figure out why the council did it.  Why would they doom a young man who had no possible control over his father?” Diarmuid asked.

“To solidify his commitment to the Brotherhood. At least, that is the reason that they believe they did it.  I think that, in fact, they were so shocked and enraged by Lugh’s actions that they unleashed their wrath at the only person left.  Lugh had already taken his own life, so there was nothing left but to punish the son. I think, in some ways, it might have also been to remove him from this horror filled place.”

“Oh, aye. Leaving could do nothing but good for the poor wretch. To be here, day in and day out, knowing that his family’s graves lie over the hill.  To know that his father had taken leave of the sane world in that way, every time he passed his boyhood home, would be too much. I could not bear that, and he should not be made to. This decision will not seem like a reprieve to young Cormag, and I cannot find fault either, ” Diarmuid said,  “We should hold off our journey until he has had a chance to make peace. The Winter has hold now, and we will not be in full need for some time.”

“Agreed. I think that we should be there for him to complete the rituals. It can only help to further convince him that we are his brothers in this,” Barnaby nodded.

“I must ask, Barnaby, because you are closer to the council.  What happened to Lugh? We all heard the end, but not the why of it. What pushed him to such a dark place?” Diarmuid asked.

“The crusades, Brother, though this is only speculation. We will likely never know for certain. Our order seeks only to learn from the people of Mohammed. The other orders seek to convert by force. The horrors they have inflicted on people in order to bring them to a Christian God make all the things we have seen in our time pale in comparison. When you remove a man from his home, put him in frightening conditions, and convince him that all but the few he travels with are the enemy, you make for men who are scared and quick to overreact. Make the conditions short on food, high on illness and heat, and those overreactions turn into vengeance and cruelty. I have seen formerly sane men do things that, prior to leaving our country, would have made them retch in the bushes. Lugh saw so much violence, and then his son readying to join a brotherhood terrified him.  He felt that his family may be better dead than at the mercy of these people who lost their humanity so easily.  Cormag arrived at the end of the slaughter, to find his family dead from the wee babe to the grandfather. Lugh only managed tell Cormag of his love for him before died from his wounds,” Barnaby told him.  His voice became rougher as he progressed through the story.

“Oh, dear Lords and Ladies,” Diarmuid said quietly. “I thank the powers that be, daily, for the circumstances that prevented me from going to the Holy Land.”

“The horrors were innumerable. The the endless line of graves of the children Stephen and Nicholas attempted to lead to Jerusalem began the stress long before we reached our destination.  When it ended with fighting our own brethren to keep the knowledge of the Muslims safe, indeed to keep the Muslims themselves safe, many men faltered.  The men we fought, men from other orders, men who had taken vows similar to ours, were gone. We fought demons in their faces. Soon the traumas piled up into a load that not even Atlas himself could not have lifted without pain. I saw many men break under the strain, but none as horribly as Lugh,” Barnaby sighed, “And then, somehow, they – we –  were expected to come back here, and return to what? Nothing can heal some wounds.”

“We will care for his son as he would have, had his mind remained, Barnaby.  We owe Lugh that much.  We owe Cormag much more,” Cormag said and exhaled heavily, “Vile council for punishing the punished. It was a mistake.”

“Indeed. We will care for him as though he were our own,” Barnaby said while leading Diarmuid through the doorway, “For as long as it takes.”

“Aye.  As long as it takes.”

Author’s Note:

This is part three of a short story/novella. I will be posting parts every Tuesday until it is all here. It is by no means finished, so please share your questions/comments/suggestions.  

You can find the previous parts here:

Part 1: Population 3

Part 2: A Harvest Festival

The story continues here:

Part 4: Journey’s Beginning

Part 5: A Visitor

Part 6: The Tree

Part 7: Barnaby’s Task

A Harvest Festival – Fiction

Autumn 2010

Harold was bright with changing leaves and the yellowing grass in the park. The small park was raked and free of the falling leaves that covered the other parts of the tiny town.  The school yard alone had five piles of leaves, while the gas station held another two that were chest high on Cormag. Being situated on the edge of the woods, at one end of the valley meant that for such a tiny town, it usually had more than its share of leaves. This year, however, it seemed that there were much, much more than previous years.  The men had begun making and stuffing scarecrows with them and selling them from the grocery when they ran out of ways to get rid of them. It was likely that every resident in the valley, in all of the different towns, had a scarecrow decorating their front walk by now. Barnaby was having regular leaf burns and still they kept piling up in brilliantly colored piles.  They all agreed this was the most leaves they had ever seen fall in the small town of Harold.

Far from being dismayed, when they spoke of it their eyes lit up and they became a bit more animated than they had been the moment before. It was like watching a child talk about the impending arrival of Christmas. They whispered back and forth between each other about it being time, and about what else they had to do to prepare. Even reluctant Cormag seemed to have acquired an extra hustle in his step. Barnaby had become positively effervescent.

The valley people who were regularly in Harold noticed the excessive leaf fall as well.  Their towns didn’t have this many leaves, they told the men.  Everyone noted the excitement on the men’s faces when they talked about the leaves. Later, the passers-through wondered what could possibly be exciting them about the leaves, when clearly, it was just more for them to clean up, and who wanted more work? Some thought maybe the forest fire a couple of years back had somehow made the ground more fertile and this year all the trees in that part of the woods had more leaves. Some blamed a windstorm they were sure had blown the leaves off early and all at once, even though there had been no windstorm. There were at least a hundred, different, outlandish theories. Whatever was causing the leaf pile up was making a wonderful conversation starter amongst the valley folk. The three gentlemen’s excitement was contagious.

Pumpkins had been set out at the post office and the gas station and piles of the orange squash were available at the grocery.  Cormag had even consented to put up a few other decorations in his gas station.  The town was ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving after that. Barnaby hoped that the first frost would hold off until November, and Diarmuid wondered if the winter squash would come in soon. Cormag grumbled about having to shovel snow yet again this winter.

Every year they organized several quaint, rural festivals in Harold. Each season had something that warranted tourist travel to their little hamlet, and they capitalized on that to the benefit of all the residents of the valley.  The following weekend was usually busy with tourist traffic. The leaves were at peak fall color and that meant people driving up from the far off city to come and take pictures and gather perfect leaves for scrapbooks.  The whole rigamarole was slightly lost on the men, who didn’t understand how taking a few leaves from the valley back to your apartment surrounded by stone and steel would really help you feel the Autumn, but they indulged the visitors in their exclamations about how beautiful it was, and took their pictures in front of the vibrant trees. The tourists exclaimed over everything it seemed, from the beauty of the leaves (which they were right about) to how they just knew they couldn’t live out here so far from everything (which they were also right about). The three men knew that the tourists would exclaim over a harvest festival located so conveniently on the drive home as well.  After all, they did every year.

There were rarely any returning visitors to the festivals the men planned.  It seemed like it was a thing those from the city did once, to say they had. Sometimes it was to take their bored kids out in nature because, as they said, it was good for them. Barnaby had been taking note of those who did return, and so far, the longest stretch was three years, and then they never appeared again. The men kept hoping for someone who returned every year, someone who would learn their names.

Valley residents were enlisted to bring crafts, baking, and anything else they could think of to the festival, and on Saturday morning the small neatly raked park had a market and common area set up.  Shortly after Barnaby finished setting up the dance floor, and the band from four towns over began playing, shiny city cars began rolling into town. Enchanted as always with the picturesque town of Harold and the friendly locals who always doted on them, they bought food and crafts, danced to the band and exclaimed over all of it. By the end of the day when the last tourist had said their thanks and goodbyes, all had made a tidy profit. The valley residents packed up their part of the festival with tired, satisfied smiles and bid the men good evening.  Barnaby, Diarmuid and Cormag (who even seemed enjoy himself a bit) sat on the bench under the stars that were coming out and chatted over glasses of beer made by a woman from the next town.

“I’d say that was a sound success, for us and for the others, don’t you think?” Barnaby asked.

“I do, indeed, old friend,” said Diarmuid, raising his glass.

“I wish you would stop planning out these crazy things with no notice,” said Cormag. The other two laughed and slapped him on the back, causing his beer to slosh slightly in his cup.

“You are nothing if not consistent, Cormag,” added Barnaby.

“We’re all consistent, we’ve been here nigh on forever. How can we be anything but?” asked Cormag with a tone of irritation.

“Oh, dear boy, that is just the way it is. No need to fret, is there really?” Diarmuid said, “I do hope she liked it, though.”

“I hope so as well. Gentlemen, I believe our work this evening is done. Shall we walk?” asked Barnaby.

Nodding, the three men stood, cups in hand, and began their walk down the sidewalk.  They crossed the short distance to Fancy, and paused at her walk. Sitting in the front window of the house was a small Jack-o-lantern, a candle flickering inside. They looked at each other in turn, surprise in every line of their faces. They had not put it there.

“Well, dear sirs, I do believe she did like it,” whispered Cormag.

“I can’t believe it is time,” said Diarmuid.

“Nor can I.  I hope it goes as it should,” responded Barnaby.

Cormag smiled, “How else could it go? Because it must be done, and we are here to do it.” Barnaby smiled in response.

“That we are, reluctant friend, that we are.”

With small, yet formal, bows to Fancy, they turned and headed back to their homes together, in silence.


The men had indeed been in this town, or one just like it, for a very long time indeed. They had weathered many centuries together at this point, and moved in the well worn ruts placed by time. The latest events promised to throw big rocks into those ruts and bounce them right out of their quiet lives. For the first time in their nearly 800 years of ushering in the Autumn, they had a sign that their tenure may be ending. They knew things had to proceed quite carefully from now on, in order for things to return to order.  Their excitement balanced itself with meticulous attention to detail. They knew what should happen, but they didn’t quite know how it would. Also for the first time in nearly 800 years, they were doing something entirely new.

About a week after the harvest festival, and the day after Halloween, the Jack-o-lantern on  Fancy’s window disappeared.  Barnaby was surprised but not overly concerned. Cormag reverted to his surly self. Diarmuid merely got a small line between his eyebrows that let the others know he was concerned.  With the end of this journey seemingly near, all three couldn’t help but think back to how it began.

Author’s Note:

This is part two of who knows how many in this as yet untitled story, which began last week with Population: 3. and continues on with The SentencingJourney’s BeginningA Visitor, The Tree, and Barnaby’s Task. They are all grouped under the Changing Leaves category. This story is perhaps novella length, and just something I had fun writing. It’s certainly not finished, and I’d love to hear if you have questions, comments, or suggestions. I’m planning on posting parts of it every Tuesday until it’s all here.  Thanks for reading!