BY NED EGAN
“When we get over the Dungratton, Babs, we’ll have a bit of shelter going through Bilzies Wood. Then, to get to the Long Road Stile, there’s only the Oak Field to cross, after we leave the cover of the trees. That Stile is ‘the big one,’ Babs – I didn’t make much of it before, as I was afraid dadser or the Dacent might trick – or beat you – into divulging what you knew if they’d ‘collared’ you. Now I know you’re even cuter – and tougher – than I ever guessed!
“It all depends on that Stile; what we find there will change our fate – for good or ill – forever. But I have a feeling that ‘someone’ is watching over us, and that we’re going to win through. Still, we can’t leave it all to Mammy – she has her own Heavenly Life to live, up there behind Andromeda.
They were now close to the Tree-Bridge, and the cold water could be faintly heard, racing along towards the far ocean. Under the arch of oak trees at the approach to the fallen ash trunk, they stopped, and surveyed the dangerous timber ‘span’ over the frigid Dungratton. Nothing much could be seen on the other side of the swift current. Lucky enough, at this particular point, Bilzies Wood was set well back from the far bank – so no close-up dangerous cover for any potential attacker.
And now the magic doghound’s special sight and senses were suddenly more important than ever.
So, they now studied the Bridge – just an old ash trunk, the bark long gone. A whispered conversation now between the sisters – and the spirit Doggo standing beside them, his head cocked, listening. “I know you don’t think much of father’s advice, Babsie,” Molly said, softly, “but I think he was right about one thing – and that is letting New Barker lead the way. He can no doubt see far better than we can, and warn us of danger; and maybe hold off any attack while I get over with the Four Ten. Now, she carefully leans the Four Ten against an oak sapling, and takes off the clothes-bag she’s been carrying, hanging down her chest. Not much in the bag, reader: their ‘wardrobe items’ hardly worth talking about. She rummaged briefly in the lean contents, and pulled out a small jar. In it was an oily liquid, which smelt of rank butter and dripping. Which it exactly was – though ‘rendered down.’ Stank a lot, as it was a few weeks old.
She now hung her bag back round her neck at the front, gave the MeeMee’s pouch a shuffle, settling it for comfort, and picked up the Four Ten. “Right, lads,” she said, quietly – “here’s the plan. Madra – I want you to lead the way. You’ve indicated you don’t fear water, which is fine
Now, Babsie, you follow close up on Mr M; grab onto his tail or leg if you slip – I’m sure he’ll drag you across safe. I’ll have to be the rear-guard – and I also have to lay down this sloppy-slippy stuff behind me, in the middle of this Bridge. “Lucky enough, I have enough to cover about a yard – that’ll have to do. Anyone – including ourselves – crossing here tonight will have to take very short steps, for any safety at all. And any chaser who puts a spag on this smelly muck will be swiftly joining the brown trout in their deep and chilly home.
The time has now arrived to make the dangerous move. Babsie says something quietly to the madra – who gives a low rumble, deep in his chest. His great faint outline is now seen by Molly, as he steps confidently onto the bole of the Tree Bridge. Babsie has turned semi-sideways, half-facing upstream, getting her little feet a better ‘purchase’ on the timber. Or so she thinks, and hopes, anyway. Everyone deals with hard situations in their own particular way… The madra is well into his crossing, and Babs looks to have hold of an invisible tail. In the dim light, if you could see her dainty little chops – not the slightest shadow of fear would you spy.
The treacherous crossing of the Dungratton River, via the frost-slippery bole of the fallen-ash ‘Tree Bridge’ was over and they are all now headed to Bilzie’s Wood, where they would have a few moments to rest, and take stock of their situation – which is as far from a bed of roses as you’d care to imagine. They were now in complete inky darkness, which will throw the odds heavily in favour of any ambushing bowsie, or witchy wan. There were no other options whatsoever, so the Mollers sighed, and said – quietly – to Babsie. “This is going to be extra-dangerous, Babs. It’ll be much easier for a louser to wait for us, than for us to spot him. If the Dacent – with or without his witchy Ma – gets into the Wood before we get clear – we’re in for more trouble than enough. Our only hope then is the madra, he might save the day – or rather, night – for us. In the silence of the wood, not a stir was heard, not a rustle of a small animal, not a shake of a leaf due to the windless iron frost that was abroad. Now, the three – plus the ever-snoozing MeeMee in the bag slung over the Mollers’ shoulder – are in motion, drifting as silently as possible down the path that will lead them directly to the Long Road Stile – where Molly hopes a certain hidden message awaits them. And well she knows the importance of that item – knows exactly where it will be: if it’s there. “Christ!” she thought, rather irreverently – “it’d better be there – or we’re in bad strife”….
To be continued….
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Kilkenny Observer.