We're delighted to present an extract from It Rose Up: A Selection of Lost Irish Fantasy Stories, edited and introduced by Jack Fennell and published by Tramp Press.
A mystical battle between foreign gods and local saints is unleashed as idols are mistaken for garden ornaments; an ambiguous wizard spies on his neighbours from an invisible tower; a cursed duelling pistol influences its owners to commit suicide.... With strange combinations of occultism, electricity, magic and playfully Biblical archetypes, the fifteen darkly funny stories in this anthology illuminate a side of Irish literary history that is often overlooked. Edited and introduced by Jack Fennell, this collection of lesser-known works of classic Irish fantasy includes stories by Moira O'Neill, Dora Sigerson Shorter, Charles Stuart Villiers, Charlotte McManus and George Egerton.
From The Magic Spear by Violet Russell (1910)
After losing his parents to a dragon, Conor is taken in by another family and longs for revenge. We join the story as Conor visits an old healer to fetch medicinal herbs for his foster-parents...
"Isn't it a pity, Conor, that no young man around here seems to have the wish to confront the Dragon! If I knew one who had, I would be able to help him get his wish."
"What!" exclaimed Conor, grasping the wise man by the arm. "For years, I have wished to defeat this terrible beast! Tell me how to do it."
"Well, listen carefully to what I say now," said the old man. "On the day of the full moon, which will be May Eve, go down to Brugh-na-Boinne, which, as you know, is the house of Angus Oge one of the greatest of the faery chiefs. Near the door of his dún lies a clear, bright pool, and on the edge of this pool grows an enchanted hazel tree; from this tree, at the hour of moonrise, you must cut a long straight stick, and fashion it into a spear. Then dip the spear seven times into the pool, chanting these words as you do so:
"I have fashioned a blade from the tree,
I have carven it fair and with skill,
And I call on the folk of the Sidhe,
Be they here or in forest or hill,
To give power to my spear in the strife,
And give it lordship o'er both death and life.
"When you return from Brugh-na-Boinne, give the spear to me, and I will guard it for you until Christmas Eve."
The next few days passed and very slowly, but at last the morning of May Eve dawned. Conor rose with the sun, and when he had had his breakfast, he packed up some bread and meat to take with him, and started on a long walk. He walked steadily along, and at sunset he finally came to Brugh-na-Boinne. It was not yet the hour for him to shape the spear, so he sat down a little distance from the dún, and gazed at the ancient grey building where Angus the Ever-Young had his own. Pink and white blossoming apple and cherry trees grew all about it, and the air was sweet with their delicate fragrance.
Through the darkening twilight Conor sat quite motionless; no sound but the occasional twittering of a restless bird disturbed the silence, and the peaceful shade of evening lulled him into a curious mood – a mood in which all movements and actions seemed remote from him, and even the purpose for which he had gone to Brugh-na-Boinne almost slipped from his memory. Then he began to notice with every passing moment, the grey home of Angus stood out more distinctly, and looking up, he saw the golden disc of the moon sailing through the clear sky above him.
Conor started up and walked towards the dún, and near the entrance he saw the little pool in the clearing – its green banks dotted with wild rushes, and the hazel tree standing on its brink. He chose a straight, solitary branch from which the fashion his spear, and taking his knife from his belt he severed it from the tree and deftly carved its haft and point. Then, bending to the pool, he dipped the spear seven times in the water, slowly chanting the spell the old herb-doctor had taught him.
As Conor chanted, a strange wonderful music swept through the air towards him and floated up from the pool at his feet. A luminous mist, too, rose up from the water. Conor started back from it, half-afraid, not knowing what it may portend. Then he saw that the same gleaming mist encircled him as far as his eyes could see, and in the midst of it were hosts of beautiful tall men and women, stretching out their hands towards him and looking at him with grave, tender eyes.
A great awe fell upon Conor. He looked at these wonderful people for a moment, then crouched on the ground and covered his face with his hands. He had often seen fairies on the slopes of Kilmasheogue; but these beings, he thought to himself, surely belonged to the wise, ancient race of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who long ages before had covered themselves with the Veil of Invisibility, choosing to live unseen in the mountains and hills and quiet places of Ireland. After what seemed to Conor a very long time, he heard a low sweet singing about him, and raised his head to listen.
"From secret faery lands,
By spell-enchanted ways,
O’er gold and silver sands
And valleys wrapped in haze;
Through the quiet starlit night,
We have come on wings of light.
From afar we heard your call, and
Listening, we came
From many a Danann hall to
Touch your spear with flame;
When the night of dread is near,
We will guard your heart from fear."
Gentle hands took the spear from his grasp, and to his surprise, he saw a long shaft of flame shoot up from the ground and envelop it from handle to point. He jumped up, thinking it would be destroyed, but a fair woman with a dress like woven sunshine placed her hand on his arm and said:
"Do not be afraid. Your spear is being hardened in the flame, so that it may serve your purpose. After this it will not fail you, and no weapons of men or enchantments of magicians can prevail against you while you hold it. See, I give it back into your hand."
Conor took his spear, but before he could examine it the woman touch his eyes with her fingers and a sudden drowsiness overcame him.
It Rose Up: A Selection of Lost Irish Fantasy Stories, edited and introduced by Jack Fennell and published by Tramp Press, is out now.