August 4th 2014 – Molly
If there is one thing you should remember about Ireland, it’s this. It’s really fucking green. There’s a bunch of other interesting stuff about the Emerald Isle. Ireland has a long history, a relatively high level of ambient magic, several native traditions of practitioners, and some very strange fauna, including a few fauns. It also has a pretty staggering unemployment rate, excellent beer, and a drinking age of 18. But mostly it’s just green. Anything that isn’t a road or a building is covered in grass or hedge. I cannot stress enough how much they weren’t kidding about the whole Emerald Isle thing.
Anyway, unreal levels of greenery aside, there actually was a reason why I was in Ireland. I was going to raid a tomb. No idea who’s tomb, or what I was raiding it for. Now, I’m not a total novice, I’ve done some research. The tomb in question was located in County Sligo, about thirty miles south of Carrowmore. Unfortunately, that didn’t really tell me much, Ireland has a long past, and Sligo has been inhabited by humans off and on for over four thousand years. And, according to the Wikipedia article on Irish mythology, by other things for much longer than that. From the Fomor to the Tuatha De Danaan, Ireland has no shortage of mythological humanoids.
Personally, my money was on the tomb being one of theirs. I was kinda hoping it belonged to the people, the Fomor would probably be more likely to leave behind nasty surprises in one of their burial sites. Not that any of my money was really riding on who’s tomb it was. I just knew where it was, and that I would be paid five thousand U.S. Dollars for retrieving any and all personal effects interred in the barrow. All I knew about the tomb itself was it’s gps location, that it was entirely below ground, and that it displayed clear traces of active magic. So, basically nothing.
Anyway, that’s how I ended up slogging through miles of mud-soaked foothills with grass up to my knees. Oh, there’s one thing I neglected to mention about Ireland. It’s always raining. I was wearing a poncho and had boots, but they were no match for the sheer volume of water falling from the sky and the sheer depth of the mud. Under my poncho, all my clothes were thoroughly soaked. And I didn’t bother to pack a spare set in my (Thankfully) waterproof backpack. After around eight miles of wet, muddy, and miserable hiking, it was finally starting to get uncomfortably chilly as the sun went down. I kept on walking, following the tiny gps beacon provided by my employer. For the trillionth time that day, I wished I had a car.
Unfortunately, you need to be 25 to rent a car in Ireland. And I can barely pass for 18, let alone 25. I’m also not all that great at enchantment. I had asked my anonymous employer to rent a car for me and leave it in a convenient location, but he had pretty much laughed me off. I think. The only communication we’ve had has been through email and spy-movie style safety deposit box dead drops. The tone of his email suggested he laughed at my request though. Asshole.
Since I didn’t have a car, I took a bus from Sligo to Ballysadare, and then I started walking. The first couple of miles weren’t bad, but then the roads started to turn into dirt paths. Then the paths stopped, and my only company for the the next six miles of hills were the occasional sheep. Some of which were nearly my size. Luckily, I didn’t encounter anything even remotely magical on my hike. No territorial druids, no mobs of Slaugh, no pre-christian ghosts, not even a leprechaun. It would have been nice if I wasn’t soaked, dirty, and itching in places I didn’t know I could itch. It was however, finally over. Or, about a third over I guess. I still had to raid the tomb and then get back to civilization, but I had at least gotten to the tomb. It didn’t look like much, but it was clearly a barrow. Cut into the side of the hill in front of me was a stone door-frame. It was covered about a third of the way with debris, but unlike everything else I’d seen today, it was clearly magical. I couldn’t really tell anything more specific about the spells on it at first glance.
So, I put it out of mind and started setting up camp. Even though it was only about ten miles of walking total, getting to the tomb had taken me most of the day. Thankfully, I had planned for that. My flight home from Dublin wasn’t until Friday, giving me three days to raid the tomb, walk back to civilization, take a bus back to Dublin, and get drunk enough to forget that I just desecrated a grave. I also had brought a tent. It wasn’t a big tent, it was only designed to sleep one person, two if they were my size. However, it was waterproof, non-flammable, and airtight, and therefore completely awesome. It also had some basic protective runes on it, which had come in handy on more than one previous camping trip.
Before I started to set up my tent, I took off my poncho and set it between some rocks to collect rain. If I went to sleep with this much mud on me, I’d probably wake up a terracotta soldier. Then I set to finding two square feet of hedge without rocks to pitch my tent on. It was impossible, so I found a mostly clear spot and piled the rocks off to the side. I could use to make a circle later. Or I could just leave them there. I wasn’t sure if laziness or paranoia would win out on that one. It didn’t take me long to pitch the tent, it was a canvas tube with clearly labeled holes for the fiberglass supports. Completely idiot-proof. I’d also practiced, you never knew when you’d end up in a situation where your life depended on assembling a shelter before nightfall. Especially in Europe, this continent has too many goddamn vampires.
I threw the rest of my stuff, a blanket, some food, and assorted magical gear, into the tent. Then I went to shower. It was still raining, I had a poncho full of water, and I really wasn’t all that worried about peeping toms since I left behind civilization miles ago. Ireland is weird like that, just a few miles off the road and you wouldn’t guess you were in an inhabited nation. Eventually I got the mud off me, it took a while, and I slammed my head into the rocks several times trying to wash my hair in the poncho-sink. While I washed, the sun finally started to dip below the horizon. The atmosphere changed almost the moment the bottom edge of the sun touched the horizon. Ireland is an old country, places like these aren’t safe for practitioners to be outside after dark. I hurried into the tent. After a quick wring, I zipped up the tent and hung my clothes on some little cloth loops attached to the ceiling on the tent. The tent was pitched on a bit of an incline, and the clothes hung over the lower side, so hopefully I wouldn’t get too wet tonight. Satisfied with my laundry, I cuddled up under my blanket and looked for dinner.
By dinner, I really mean two packs of those chocolate covered ‘digestives’ that Europeans call biscuits even though they’re clearly cookies. I’m pretty much the poster girl for why kids shouldn’t be allowed to buy their own food. I think I put some sausages in the bag too, but I really wasn’t all that keen on looking for them. Because chocolate. Between my ridiculously fuzzy blanket and those biscuits, today was finally looking up. Then I heard something rustle outside. I froze for a moment, then recovered and pulled out my lighter. I flicked it on.
The small flame cast eery shadows inside the tiny tent. The side of the tent I faced was brightly lit, but I could see the shadows I cast on the wall out of the corners of my eyes. Every time I turned my head, they shifted slightly. I tried to ignore the shadows and focus on my biscuits.
That’s when I heard the moaning.