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Granpa's Halloween Story - Jeikor

2016 Halloween Writing Contest  

10 members have voted

  1. 1. Does the Story Reflect a Halloween theme

    • Definitely
    • Mostly
    • Somewhat
    • Its a stretch
    • Not at all
  2. 2. Was the story gripping and Enjoyable

    • Definitely
    • Mostly
    • Somewhat
    • Its a stretch
    • Not at all
  3. 3. Were you able to connect to the main characters

    • Definitely
    • Mostly
    • Somewhat
    • Its a stretch
    • Not at all
  4. 4. Did the Author develop a strong plot within the restrictions of the of the contest

    • Definitely
    • Mostly
    • Somewhat
    • Its a stretch
    • Not at all
  5. 5. Would you recommend this story to others

    • Definitely
    • Mostly
    • Somewhat
    • Its a stretch
    • Not at all
  6. 6. Bonus Question: Would you like to see this story continue?

    • Yes
    • No

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Granpa's Halloween Story


“Trick or Treat, Grandpa!” shouted ten year old Conner as soon as the door opened.

“I told you to just say ‘trick or treat’ when the door opened,” complained Conan who was also ten but only a month away from eleven. “Now he knows it’s us.”

Grandpa chuckled as he watched the cousins interact then stepped in, “Who do we have here? Hmmm! It looks like a druid priest and a warrior savage. What sort of goodies do you want?”

“We don’t care about that; you always have the good stuff,” enthused Conner walking into the house under his grandpa’s arm. “We want to hear the story.”

“Yeah,” agreed Conan as he too entered beneath the arm holding the door open. “Is Granddad here?”

“Yes, he is but he’s getting ready to leave,” answered Grandpa closing the door. “The story explains why you are a druid and a savage for about the fourth year in a row.”

“He gets ready to leave every year on Halloween,” retorted Conan.

“We did switch from last year,” Conner added. “Conan was the druid and I was the savage. We didn’t even have to get new costumes. With Conan being a little older and taller the druid costume fit me pretty good and the savage costume is revealing already so a little more skin showing isn’t a problem. Especially for Conan.”

“True, Granddad is on call every Halloween but this time he actually has to go to work,” informed Grandpa escorting the boys into the kitchen where they sat at the table. “I can tell you the story, although not as well as Granddad. Hot chocolate, anyone?”

“Yes, please,” said Conner excitedly. “You tell the story just fine, Grandpa.”

“I would like some too, please,” Conan answered more calmly. “I think you tell it better, Grandpa. Granddad sometimes tries to gloss over parts for some reason.”

Grandpa chuckled at that comment as he heated milk for the hot chocolate. “Where do you want your chocolate and story? We can sit here . . o-o-r-r . . we could go into the den where I have a fire going.”

“The den! The den!” shouted Conner nearly overturning his chair. “Can we turn out the lights and sit in front of the fireplace?”

“What do you think, Conan?”

“That sounds perfect to me, Grandpa.”

“Why don’t you boys run on to the den and get it ready,” ordered Grandpa stirring the milk. “Don’t forget to put your shoes by the door before you go in. I’ll bring the hot chocolate when it’s done.”

The boys went scampering into the den after leaving their shoes by the front door. They both settled into one of the two bean bag chairs near the fireplace leaving the other for their grandpa. A few minutes later Grandpa appeared with a tray of Cheese Nips and three steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

The chocolate-skinned man with black hair and very little gray in it gave his grandsons time to grab some crackers and take a few cautious sips from their mugs. He took a couple of sips from his own steamy cup while he waited. Then he set the mug on the nearby table and cleared his throat getting the cousins’ attention.

“Are you ready for the story to start?”

Luckily, their grandpa was looking at them when he asked since all either boy could do was nod with mouths full of cheese crackers. Giving a mirthful snort, Grandpa started, “Okay, then. Here we go.”

Keiran gasped for breath as he pushed his body to run even faster. He knew he was in front of all the boys in his starting group but that wasn’t good enough. He wanted to catch and pass any stragglers from the group in front of his. It was important to Keiran that he do his very best during the tests. After all, he was apprenticed to the head druid priest of his province.

Now, while he had worked his body hard, Keiran was small-boned and slender and he knew he couldn’t win the strength-based tests so he had worked extra hard on the ones his body was made for. The green-eyed redhead also paid attention and studied hard for the mental tests and although the results wouldn’t be revealed until the end, Keiran was positive he had done well.

Panting out loud now Keiran caught sight of three boys from the group ahead of him. He tried to pour on more speed but there wasn’t much left to give; still he gained steadily on the struggling threesome. With one hundred yards to go Keiran pulled alongside then surged ahead. At fifty yards Keiran picked off one more struggling runner while trying to ignore the growing stitch in his left side.

“Go, Keiran, go!” squealed an excited Conner nearly spilling his hot chocolate over him and Conan.

“Why do you always do this? You know the outcome,” complained Conan to his cousin then turned to their grandpa. “That’s what I was talking about earlier. Granddad sometimes tries to skip over a lot of this.”

“I’m sure Granddad has his reasons,” deflected Grandpa smoothly. “Shall we continue?”

Quick nods from the boys answered the question.

“Okay. Where were we? Oh, yeah. The race.”

Keiran was struggling with a stitch in his side but still he pushed himself on. With only ten yards to go Keiran stumbled and nearly fell but righted himself and finished strong. After crossing the finish line, Keiran was about to collapse from his efforts when he was grabbed by his older brother, Keane. Holding Keiran up Keane thrust a pewter mug of clear, cold water into his exhausted brother’s hand. Keiran downed the water and thanked his brother with a one-handed side hug.

Keane was Keiran’s biggest supporter especially since they had lost both parents two years before and now only had each other. While Keiran was considered on the tall side at five foot ten inches Keane stood about four inches above that and was broader in the shoulder than Keiran and was one of the provinces most promising warriors.

The younger boy looked up to his brother and did all that he could to make Keane proud of him. For his part Keane had always been proud of his younger brother’s intellect as well as the work he put into his body. Keane had taken after their father who was a large, broad-shouldered swordsman and stone mason. Keiran on the other hand favored their mothers’ slighter build but was still a well-muscled lad.

His intelligence had caught the attention of the local druids but it was his fierce competitiveness that caused the head priest to choose Keiran for his personal apprentice.

Recovered from the grueling run Keiran headed to the site of the next set of tests; strength.

“I bet you’d be good at the strength tests,” interrupted Conner again nudging his caramel skinned cousin in the ribs. “You’ve already got good muscles.”

“You’re no slouch in the muscle department either,” returned Conan patting the light-skinned strawberry blonde beside him on the thigh. “Even if you are four months younger than me.”

“Thanks, Conan,” whispered Conner leaning his head on the taller boys shoulder.

Grandpa smiled warmly at his two grandsons amazed as always at the way the two cousins continually held the other one up. It made him think of Granddad and how he was handling his call to work.

Shaking his head slightly to clear his thoughts Grandpa asked, “You ready for more of the story?”

“Yes, Grandpa.” “Sorry for interrupting, Grandpa.”

The first event in the strength tests was the hammer throw. The hammer was actually a heavy metal block attached to a handle by a short chain. Most of the bigger boys simply picked up the hammer, got it swinging then released it on an upswing. This got them adequate results with a few being better than the others. Keiran had worked with his brother on a different technique that combined his decent upper body strength with his better developed lower body.

He moved back from the throwing line, picked up the hammer and swung it in a circle making two complete revolutions approaching the line then released it sideways at the line. A few of the other smaller boys tried to copy his moves with mixed results.

After everyone had taken their turn and the marks were checked Keiran had managed a fourth place finish. Much better than he had expected!

The next event was the stone toss; here the contestants were expected to lift and throw a stone the approximate size of their head. Keane had also helped Keiran find a way to use as much of his body as possible to aid in the toss.

When it was his turn Keiran raised the stone to his right shoulder with both hands underneath. Then he bounced his knees a couple of times to get in a rhythm. The third time he bent deeper at the knees and coming up he extended all the way to his toes. At the top of this bounce Keiran shoved the stone off his shoulder with all his might using the created by the bounce to send it arching onto the field. When all were finished Keiran had the sixth best toss; only the massively built boys did better. Keiran was content with his placements so far.

Now it was time for the pole toss and once again Keiran was better than the boys his size and thanks to a slip by one of the brutes placed fifth behind the other four large-muscled contestants. The final strength test was the boulder run. Keiran hoped his speed would help him make a better showing after he got the boulder off the ground.

The apprentices lined up behind the practically identical boulders waiting for the start signal. At the starter’s yell Keiran attempted to get a good hold of his boulder but had trouble with it. When he finally had it off the ground only four others were still struggling to raise their boulder.

Now that it rested in his grip the weight was on his heavily muscled legs and he started them forward. With each step Keiran moved faster and faster hoping to catch a few boys before they reached the finish line. It didn’t take long for Keiran to catch and pass the other medium to thin built boys and he was gaining on a couple of the bigger guys.

By the time he crossed the finish line Keiran had passed all but three of the contestants to finish in fourth. Another good showing in an event he wasn’t expected to be competitive in. The tests were shaping up better than Keiran had hoped.

The doorbell ringing startled all three out of the spell of the story from another place and time. Conner set his empty mug down and jumped out of the beanbag chair heading for the front door.

“I’ll get it, Grandpa. It’s probably trick-or-treaters,” called Conner from the foyer. Opening the front door Conner was greeted with the common Halloween words of ‘trick or treat’ from two boys about seven or eight years old. One of them was dressed in a Star Wars Stormtrooper’s armor and the other was dressed as Ironman. Conner couldn’t see either of their faces.

“Nice costumes,” complimented Conner as he dropped candy into their bags. “I hope you like Kit Kat bars.”

“Thank you,” chorused the young boys then they headed back towards the street.

“You’re welcome,” returned Conner then added, “Be careful!”

Conner closed the front door and turned back to the den and stopped in the doorway.

“It was a couple of younger boys,” informed Conner. “Anyone else still thirsty? I can bring you soda or juice or something.”

“No, thank you. I’m fine,” answered Grandpa.

“Juice sounds good to me,” chimed in Conan leaning forward. “Is there any V-8 Fusion?”

“Did I know my grandsons would drop in on Halloween night?” asked Grandpa cheekily. “Of course there is!”

“Does it matter what flavor?” Conner questioned his best friend and cousin.

“Nah, you can pick for me and thanks, Conner.”

“Okay, be back in a sec,” said Conner on his way into the kitchen. In short order he had two Halloween cups filled with strawberry-banana V-8 Fusion and was headed back to the den and more of his and Conan’s favorite Halloween tradition.

Settling into the beanbag chair again Conner spoke, “Okay, Grandpa, please tell us more now.”

Nodding his agreement their Grandpa smiled at the two cousins and began to speak.

That was all of the tests for that day; tomorrow would bring the tests of weaponry. Keiran had practiced hard with every weapon that would be used on the tests. He again got lots of help from his warrior older brother, Keane, except on one weapon; the bow. In spite of only being sixteen, well almost sixteen, Keiran was the best archer in the province and felt he should be able to win that contest maybe even both the archery tests.

There were two archery tests one standing and one from horseback while riding. There were also swordfighting, staff, spear, and knife fighting tests to pass. Keiran had trained with the other apprentices during class times and again at home with his brother. He often had the bruises to prove how much work he put into learning the many weapons they were expected to be able to use.

The order of the tests was archery, spear, staff, sword with knife being the last weapon to be tested. As expected, Keiran won the standing contest with bow and arrow fairly easily with his closest competitor being the smallest apprentice taking his tests this time around. Connell had barely passed the strength tests as in he had just managed to raise the boulder off the ground and take the required five steps before it slipped out of his grasp.

The shooting from horseback test again came down to Connell and Keiran. Keiran was the better shot with a bow but Connell was a better rider. They were still even when it came to the last shot. Connell went first and was elated when he hit the center ring almost perfectly. Keiran gulped and readied himself to go; his horse was striding the smoothest it had all morning and his chances looked good for winning.

Then Keiran saw again the look on Connell’s face when his arrow buried itself into the center of the target. As much as Keiran wanted to win he knew this probably would be the only non-academic test Connell could win. With a smile on his face and a light heart Keiran took his shot hitting the outside of the center ring. The whoops and hollers from Connell left a warm feeling all over Keiran and he was ready to face the rest of the contests.

Spear throwing was next and was another contest Keiran expected to do well in. If it involved accuracy Keiran had a great eye for the target. This held true once again as when all was said and done Keiran had placed second behind Rory, one of the largest boys competing.

During the staff fighting Keiran used his speed and quickness against his opponents and managed to beat a few he might not have otherwise. However, a commotion in another bout distracted Keiran just enough to let his opponent through his defenses and wound up in fourth place.

Connell was in the bout that had distracted him; someone decided Connell shouldn’t be in the testing and had tried to injure him. Keiran didn’t see who had come to Connell’s aid but after his bout Keiran did see that arrogant brute, Toran, being escorted from the field.

Keiran was grateful he was in the second round of bouts for sword fighting so he could keep an eye on Connell who was in the first round. He was afraid a couple of Toran’s lackeys would try to hurt Connell since Toran was expelled from further testing.

Connell’s first round opponent turned out to be Rory who thankfully did not care much for Toran himself. However, it was going to be a tough match for Connell due to the major difference in size. Rory held nothing back and within three minutes had walloped Connell in the ribs scoring a killing blow with the wooden weapon. It was a fair shot and not malicious though Connell would still have some monstrous bruising.

Now Keiran could concentrate on his own match where his speed and accuracy soon had his first opponent disarmed with Keiran’s wooden sword point touching his sternum. Keiran worked his way through his half of the competition and Rory did the same in his half. The final match came down to Keiran versus Rory.

The two battled hard back and forth with neither able to score a maiming or killing blow on the other. Time ran out on their match with them still in a dead heat. After a five minute break the boys faced a sudden death round. Any wounding hit would win the match.

Two quick flurries of parrying gained nothing for either Keiran or Rory except wasted energy. Keiran could see that Rory was wearing down but then so was he. When they closed again Rory pressed hard using his greater strength. Keiran was barely able to hold him off but finally managed to twist sliding to his left. The power Rory was using caused his sword to slide down Keiran’s and broke off the guard on the pommel. As it continued its downward path the sword raked across Keiran’s knuckles removing the skin. Keiran had lost the match. But second place again wasn’t bad.

It was time now for the last of the weapons’ tests, knives. This was the only test that was split into two parts; one either competed in the matches with one knife or in the matches using two knives. Keiran and Connell both fought using two knives but Rory and Toran’s lackeys normally only used one knife. As they stepped into their rings for their matches one of Toran’s lackeys called Guthrie pushed Connell’s intended opponent out of the ring taking his place.

Several started to protest but Connell stopped them and agreed to face the larger boy for the match. Keiran was not happy but knew it would shame Connell for anyone to interfere at this point. Keiran did make a promise to himself and his god that he would punish Guthrie during the matches if he harmed Connell in any way.

Again the three guys gave a start when the doorbell rang out. This time Conan jumped up announcing it was his turn to get the door. Upon opening it he found three guys and two girls around his and Conner’s age.

“Trick or treat!” the five yelled out then one of them added, “Hey, Conan!”

Looking closer at the costumed kids Conan suddenly recognized their friends; Andrew, Bobby, Raul, Alexis and Deidre.

“Hey, guys,” said Conan high-fiving the boys. “I didn’t recognize you at first.”

“Wow, Conan,” spoke Deidre running her hand down his arm. “Your costume looks great!”

“Uhmm, thanks,” returned Conan his caramel skin turning darker as he blushed.

He quickly grabbed handfuls of candy dropping twice the usual amount into his friends’ containers.

“Thanks, dude,” said the boys in unison.

“Yeah, thanks, Conan,” added Alexis. “Tell Conner we said hi.”

“Thanks, hunk,” purred Deidre. “See ya around!”

“Bye, guys,” Conan yelled as they hurried down the walk to hit the next house.

Conan closed the door and returned to the den. Slipping into the beanbag chair up against his cousin, Conan explained who it was.

“Alexis said to tell you hi, Conner,” said Conan after he gave a rundown of who was in the group and what costume they were wearing.

“What did Deidre have to say?” questioned Conan digging his elbow into his cousin’s bare ribs.

For the second time in just a few minutes Conan’s skin darkened in a deep blush.

“Can we get back to the story, please,” pleaded Conan turning to their grandpa.

Chuckling at his grandson’s discomfort Grandpa started again, “The knife contest was about to start with a match between Connell and Toran’s pal, Guthrie. Everyone stopped to watch knowing Guthrie had a grudge after Toran got in trouble.”

All the other matches were on hold as all the boys and many of the druid priests wanted to see what would come of this match. Connell was the smallest boy testing and Guthrie was one of the larger teens in the group and had no scruples.

Keiran smiled as he shuffled around to where his brother stood ready to step in if necessary. The knife testing used actual knives rather than wooden substitutes. Leaning close Keiran asked to borrow a copper before the match started. Keane looked at him sharply before digging into his pouch and pulling out two reddish coins telling Keiran to bet one for him too.

Unknown to the others Connell and Keiran trained together on the double knife sparring under Keane’s watchful eye. Keiran found several takers for his bet before the match started and one of the druids noticed Keiran’s activities then made his own bets backing Connell.

When the signal to start was given Guthrie rushed forward in an attempt to intimidate the smaller apprentice but he was not used to using two knives. His rush emphasized his usual knifehand which allowed the smaller, quicker Connell to dodge around his offhand drawing blood with both knives. One on Guthrie’s arm and one on his back.

They were only flesh wounds but the blood loss would add up as the match progressed. Several more times Guthrie rushed in trying to use his bulk and strength but Connell always managed to weave and dodge out of harm’s way. Two more times he left his mark on the arms and torso of his opponent. The last cut leaving a trickle of blood running down making his main hand slippery.

Guthrie was beginning to realize Connell was not an easy target like he had thought. His attacks became slower and better thought out although Guthrie was no great intellect. The match had been going on for some time and Connell knew it must be getting close to running out of time. He wanted to end it with an outright win.

After breaking apart once again Connell turned his right knife into a backhanded grip then rested his hands on his thighs breathing heavily. He looked as if he was exhausted and had nothing left in his tank. The ruse worked perfectly on Guthrie who seeing his chance rushed forward again.

Without moving his feet Connell pivoted catching Guthrie’s knife head on with the one in his left hand. The impact caused Guthrie to loose his grip sending the knife flying. Connell finished his pivot bringing his right hand up allowing Guthrie’s momentum to carry his throat right to Connell’s waiting knife.

The judges immediately called the match. Guthrie couldn’t believe the small guy had bested him but looking down his nose he could see the knife poised at his throat. As Connell walked away Guthrie let loose a guttural scream and shoved the boy in the back switching his remaining knife to his right hand.

Before Keane or any of the other judges could react Rory snapped Guthrie’s head back with a palm strike to his nose. When he was certain Guthrie wasn’t getting up Rory turned to Connell, lifted him off the ground and carried him to the rest tent.

This last turn of events almost caused Keiran to forget to collect his and Keane’s winnings. Upon collecting from the losers Keiran deposited the coins with his brother and prepared for his own match. He won his match easily since he and Connell were the two best at two-handed knife fighting. They had figured on facing each other in the final match insuring they both placed high in this event. After his grueling match with Guthrie and the unprovoked attack in the back Connell had withdrawn from the contest.

When all the placements for the day were announced the druid in charge also announced that Connell was being given a high placement in the knife fighting based on his performance in his one match. The announcement wasn’t nearly as surprising to Keiran as the cheer from the other apprentices that accompanied it.

A weary Keiran found his brother and they walked together towards their small home. When Keiran stumbled Keane reached over wrapping his strong arm around his fatigued younger brother and they walked like that the rest of the way home. Keiran would need a good night’s rest before the last day of the testing. It would be spellcasting and could be just as tiring depending on what spells they were asked to cast.

“Sorry to interrupt, Grandpa,” started Conner quietly. “But can we have some candy?”

“Yeah,” agreed his cousin, Conan. “I would like a Kit Kat or two, please. You have lots. I thought there would be more trick-or-treaters than we’ve had.”

“It has been lighter than some years,” admitted Grandpa thoughtfully. “Maybe the ghouls of Samhain have kept them away. Take what you want; you know you two always get what’s left anyway.”

“Thanks, Grandpa,” spoke both grandsons as they rose from their chair. They each gave the older man a tight embrace before running to the foyer to grab some candy. Then they raced back to the den with Conner sliding into the beanbag chair less than a second before Conan. It took the two boys a minute to get situated after plopping down in such a hurry.

Finally they settled into the chair and began to open candy packages. Conan glanced up to see his grandpa watching them with amusement.

“Uh, did you want some candy, Grandpa?” Conan asked pausing in his ripping of the paper covering.

“No, thank you. I just enjoy watching your enthusiasm,” chuckled the older man leaning back in his beanbag chair again. “Should I finish the story?”

“Yes, please, Grandpa, “ answered Conner around the chocolate in his mouth. Conan just nodded his assent with his own mouth full of Kit Kat.

The next morning Keiran rose from his bed, had breakfast and did the few chores he had before heading for the location of today’s event. Arriving Keiran found everything already arranged and a couple of other apprentices that had gotten there before him.

For the spell casting event each tester chose one of the small tables already set up with supplies and a parchment laying right side down. They could not touch anything until the signal was given. Keiran walked up and down the row of tables trying to decide which to choose. At last he settled on one near the left end of the row.

Having chosen his spot Keiran began looking around again just in time to see Rory and Connell slide apart as they emerged from the woods. Keiran’s face wrinkled up in puzzlement. The two walked slowly forward until Connell’s searching eyes landed on Keiran. Then he said something quietly to Rory and they moved more quickly toward Keiran taking the two spots at the end. Connell took the table beside Keiran’s and Rory the one on the other side of Connell.

A little later Keiran had more to ponder when Rory’s best friend, Farrell, practically growled at the boy about to take the spot on Keiran’s right and took it himself. He grinned conspiratorially at Keiran then nodded to Rory. Keiran smiled back pleasantly then turned to Connell who just shrugged his shoulders.

After a few moments of thought Keiran realized what must be going on. For some unknown reason Rory must have decided to protect Connell from anymore attacks. Connell apparently had vouched for Keiran and they chose spots next to him then had Farrell claim the next spot for more protection.

Having thought through this Keiran turned his attention back to the upcoming task. While waiting he mentally ran through all the possible spells he could be asked to cast for the test. He ran through the words, the ingredients and the motions required for each spell he could think of. By the time everyone had gathered and chosen a table Keiran felt he should be able to acquit himself well in this final day of testing.

The head priest of the Druid Council stepped in front of the apprentices and clapped his hands. From the druids gathered to watch enough junior priests walked forward for there to be one standing at each table. They were to be the spell victims if one was needed to prove that it had been cast correctly.

Next the Druid leader called out, “Ready!” After a very short pause he then called out again, “Begin!”

Keiran turned over his parchment to find that the first spell was a sleep spell. An easy one but had to be done exact. He examined the table to find the ingredient needed for this spell. There were several possibilities but one Keiran preferred above the others and he hoped it would be available. He found two of the many herbs that could be used motherwort and balm.

He grabbed a motherwort flower, crushed it between the fingers of his left hand while incanting, “sleep in oblivion,” and making an eye-closing motion with his right hand. The junior priest by Keiran’s table dropped to the ground and began snoring instantly.

While one of the druid judges checked the sleeping priest and used an awaken spell Keiran went on to the next spell on the list; minor heal. This spell was slightly harder than the sleep spell but Keiran wondered who he would use it on. Looking up he was startled to see a cut and bruise on the priest he had put to sleep. The man must have hit his head when he was put to sleep by Keiran’s spell.

Picking up the balm leaves he was grateful he hadn’t used for the previous spell, Keiran placed them over the cut and pressed down with both hands. Next he took a deep breath and relaxed as he recalled the incantation. Having it firmly in his mind Keiran began to chant, “Pain end, wound mend; cut heal, stop the ordeal.” Keiran held his hands in place as he felt heat from his hands flow into the sore on the priest’s head. When the heat went away Keiran pulled his hands back and let the judge check the man once again.

Getting a nod from the judge Keiran checked the third and final spell required for this test. Then he checked it again hardly believing his eyes; a fireball spell. This was one of the hardest, most dangerous spells apprentices were allowed to learn.

Keiran looked to the judge with a question in his eyes. The judge closed the distance and said, “If you’re successful send it straight up and we will extinguish it before it lands.”

With clear directions Keiran set to work rummaging through the remaining items on the table to find the ingredients needed for the fireball spell. He found two powders that were the right colors and a quick sniff confirmed that he had found the charcoal and black powder he was looking for. He just needed one more item but it wasn’t on the table.

Checking the table again Keiran was about to panic when he glimpsed something bright red in the grass just under the table. He quickly snatched it off the ground and was relieved to see it was the hot pepper he needed to begin the spell.

Keiran first put the charcoal and black powder together stirring them to be sure they were mixed completely. Now that they were prepared he took the hot pepper between his hands and crushed it spreading the juice over the palms of his hands. Ignoring the burning sensation in his palms Keiran took the powder mixture and poured it into his left hand. Then he laid his right hand over the top of the left and rubbed the powders into each palm making sure plenty stuck in the hot pepper juice.

Tears were beginning to form in Keiran’s eyes from the fire in his palms now but he went on with the spell making. He held his hands about six inches apart with palms facing one another and the left hand over the right hand fingers spread as if holding onto a ball. Keiran began moving his hands in a counterclockwise direction looking like he was trying to form a sphere out of clay.

Spell materials completed, motions started now it was time for the incantation which was longer than the other two spells Keiran had to do for the test. Keiran closed his eyes causing a couple of tears to course down his cheeks, drew in a breath sharply and expelled it through pursed lips almost whistling. Now he began his chant.

“From the sun’s bright rays, let me summon forth a blaze. Between my hands now appear, in the shape and form of sphere, From the air and from the pyre, let me produce a ball of fire.”

By the time Keiran reached the end of the incantation his voice was booming across the clearing loud and strong. Nearly everyone there had stopped to watch what he was doing. They were not disappointed for as soon as the last word left his mouth a five inch diameter ball of flames rotated between his outstretched hands.

Keiran stared in wonder at the fiery sphere for a moment then remembered what he ought to do. With a huge grin that turned to a laugh of exultation Keiran launched the ball high into the air. All watched as it reached its zenith and began to fall back to the earth. The druid judge shook himself and finished the extinguish spell he had readied putting out the fireball before it landed in the crowd.

At the same time the junior priest hurried to Keiran’s table with a small bowl of milk and three balm leaves. With a quick thank you Keiran took the balm leaves dipped them and his hands in the bowl of milk and began washing the powders and hot pepper from his inflamed palms. The relief was instantaneous and very welcome.

Looking around Keiran saw the other apprentices go back to their spell casting; he had been the first one to complete all three spells successfully. As he continued to watch Keiran thought to himself that either he was the only one to receive the fireball spell or the only one to succeed at it.

When all were finished with the spellcasting test Connell, Rory and Farrell all congratulated him on his fireball. The latter with a hearty whack on the back; luckily Farrell wasn’t as thickly muscled as Rory being not much bigger than Keiran was.

The next day they gathered in the Great Hall to learn the results of the many days of testing they had gone through. The apprentices would finally learn how they had placed in the academic tests and the placements for the spellcasting.

For a third time the storytelling was interrupted by the doorbell ringing. Grandpa started making his way out of the beanbag chair when both Conner and Conan jumped up saying they could get it. Grandpa rose anyway saying.

“I’ve got to get out of that chair for a bit anyway. You two can go answer the door though.”

While the boys ran for the front door Grandpa picked up all the empty mugs and cups and the discarded candy wrappers placing them on the tray and carrying it to the kitchen.

In the foyer the boys opened the door to find a small boy and girl with makeshift costumes and an older boy behind them with no costume. A very subdued, ‘trick or treat,’ came from the two siblings that looked to be about six or seven years old.

The cousins exchanged a look then set to work. Conner knelt down to be on eye level with the tykes and gushed, “What neat costumes you have. Did your brother help you with those?”

The young girl nodded her head smiling shyly while the boy answered, “Yes. It ain’t much but he did what he could for us.”

“Well, I think they’re the best costumes we’ve seen all night,” spoke Conan as he drop handfuls of candy in each plastic grocery bag. There wasn’t much in either bag when they arrived.

“What about you?” asked Conner looking at the older boy who seemed about twelve or thirteen as he stood back up. “Don’t you like candy?”

“We always share with Michael,” answered the boy again as his sister just nodded.

“I got nothing to carry it in anyway,” replied Michael quietly tears forming in his eyes. “Thanks for being so nice about their costumes. It was all we had.”

“My grandsons were right. Those are the best costumes,” said Grandpa walking up with another bowl full of Jolly Rancher candies. “Anything made with love is better than store bought hands down.”

Conner and Conan dipped both hands into the Jolly Ranchers gathering as much candy as they could hold and dumped it into one of the bags held by the youngsters. Their eyes bugged out at the amount of candy they were getting from this one stop when most of the houses hardly had anything left if they even still had a porch light on.

“Thank you! Thank you so much!” exclaimed Michael with tears gently rolling down his cheeks. “There’s not many houses left. We got a late start because . . well, we got a late start, that’s all.”

“No problem,” replied Grandpa setting down the bowl and slipping an empty backpack from his shoulder. “I happen to have a backpack we don’t need. Why don’t we put some candy in it for you and you take it?”

Michael started to protest but Conner and Conan were already stuffing it with candy bars and Jolly Ranchers. Overcome with gratitude Michael grabbed the old man around the waist and buried his face in Grandpa’s chest. Conner and Conan each took one of the younger kids into a warm embrace as well. Then all thanked the three guys again, said their goodbyes and walked away.

Settled back in the den afterwards Conner mentioned, “That felt really good to do. I think Keiran would be proud of us if he were here.”

“Yeah,” agreed Conan. “He was always being kind to people in the story.”

“He will be very proud of you,” whispered Grandpa under his breath. Then out loud he asked, “Who’s ready for more story?”

The boys raised a hand high in the air and giggled.

Keiran, Connell, Rory and Farrell sat in chairs in the same order as they had stood at their testing tables the day before. Keane took a seat directly behind his younger brother and gave his shoulders a squeeze and a rub.

All the hushed chattering ceased when the head druid stepped to the front of the Great Hall. The silence was total as he began asking for the results from his judges to be handed to him.

First were the results of the spellcasting test; no one was surprised to find that Keiran had top placement. Connell and Rory placed well also and Farrell landed down in the middle of the pack. Next, the druid priest read the results of the academic tests. This time Connell took top spot followed by another of the smaller boys. Keiran looked to his left in astonishment when it was announced he and Rory had tied for the third spot. Again Farrell was closer to the middle of the group of testers.

The top druid handed the papers back to the judges and sat down while they checked each contest’s placements and added together everyone’s scores. There were occasional quiet whispers but for the most part it remained deathly silent in the room as they waited to see how they fared.

The boys were getting really antsy when one of the judges finally handed the head man a single sheet of parchment. The apprentices would be separated into four possible groups based on their overall scores. The top group could aspire to be senior druid priests which included a chance to be on the Council and even become the head priest. They would be sworn in as priests at the next Sabbat which at this time of year would be Samhain. The second group would also be sworn in at the following Sabbat but they would have a harder road to becoming senior priests and it was practically unheard of for them to make the Council. The third group could only be junior priests and might have to wait longer to be sworn in depending on the number from the first two groups. The fourth and last group consisted of those apprentices who failed to score high enough overall on the tests.

The druid high priest cleared his throat and began. Keiran’s was the first name called in the first group followed by Rory’s. Neither Connel nor Farrell were in this group. Farrell’s name was called near the end of the second group but still Connell’s name had not been called.

Keiran placed a hand on Connell’s shoulder for moral support and noticed Rory doing the same on the other side. Listening closely as the names in the third group were announced all of their small group were relieved to hear Connell’s name about halfway through.

Only four names were called in the last group of failed apprentices. Two were Toran and Guthrie who had been removed for attacking Connell. Of the other two; one had failed their spellcasting test and the other never got the boulder off the ground or cleared any distance in the pole toss.

About a week after the day of results and the following celebration, Keiran, Connell, Rory, Farrell and a few of the other priest initiates were called into the high priest’s office. In a move that was highly unusual but with clear precedence those called to meet with the druid head man were to be sworn in as new priests before the Sabbat of Samhain arrived. The reason given was because their spies had gotten wind of an impending raid three weeks before Samhain and the head priest wanted these to be in the defense as full priests.

Connell expressed his surprise at being included since those who could only hope for junior priesthood often had to wait weeks, months even years before being made a full priest. The priest explained with a raid coming Connell’s skill with a bow would be extremely helpful therefore he was being included.

The teens had three days to learn their part in the ceremony and to gather the supplies they needed. Everything was being hurried so they could be trained with the other junior priests for the raid. On the day of their swearing in ceremony Keane stopped his younger brother as he was getting dressed and showed him a new, well-made robe.

‘Luckily I commissioned this as soon as I knew you passed your tests,’ said Keane as he watched the run of expressions across Keiran’s face. He was almost taken to the ground by the exuberance of Keiran’s hug of thanks.

Gathering again in the Great Hall, Keiran noticed all the new-to-be priests were wearing new robes; every seamstress in town must have been kept busy to finish all of them on such short notice. After the rather lengthy ceremony the new druid priests were ushered into a smaller banquet hall where a fine meal had been laid out. This was their first official meeting with the druids and after eating they were given their assignments for facing the coming raid.

Keiran and Connell were, of course, assigned to the archers as there was no one even among the established priests who were as accurate with a bow. Rory and Farrell were to train with the militia and would be under Keane’s command. They trained harder than ever over the two weeks leading to the time of the raid.

One night earlier than expected, a messenger came running in with news that the raiding party had landed on the western shore and set up camp. They would be marching to the town the next day.

“Alright! The good part,” exclaimed Conan nearly bouncing in the chair with his cousin. The fight had always been his favorite part of the tale.

“Hey! You’re squishing me,” complained Conner giving his cousin a light shove.

Conan shoved back and soon a small scuffle had broken out between them. It wasn’t really serious and mostly in fun for the cousins really liked each other and rarely had a real argument. In fact the altercation ended in a tickling match and a fit of giggles.

Grandpa cleared his throat and said dryly, “Can I get back to the story now?”

The boys quickly straightened themselves in the beanbag chair by the fireplace, put innocent looks on their faces and chorused, “Certainly, Grandpa. Don’t let us stop you.”

Grandpa rolled his eyes eliciting another round of giggles and got back to the story.

From his vantage point behind the large boulders on the hill outside of town Keiran could see the band of raiders approaching. He quickly reviewed his orders from the high priest of the druids. His job was to take down as many as he could as they passed his location and to pick out one to take captive if at all possible.

Keiran checked again that all was ready for the fight. He had two arrows laid on the rock beside him and five more standing in the dirt at his feet so he could shoot with hardly any pause. There were two more stuck in the dirt along his escape path should it prove necessary. Satisfied that all was prepared Keiran turned his attention back to the enemy group drawing near.

When they were almost in his far range he took an arrow from his quiver and placed it the bow. As soon as the leading edge reached his farthest range Keiran counted slowly to fifteen then took aim at a large man in the front. He focused his mind on the job he had to do and released the arrow.

It struck the man he was targeting but lower than he had intended. Instead of a possible killing shot to the chest the arrow sunk deep into the man’s thick thigh causing him to stumble. He righted himself but had to drop back unable to keep pace with the vanguard.

Keiran cursed under his breath and grabbed the next arrow. Since the leaders were still in range Keiran again chose one of the barrel-chested men leading the group. This time he sighted higher, relaxed and released the missile hitting the man in the abdomen. The man broke off the shaft and walked as if nothing had happened.

Readying another arrow Keiran reviewed the results of his first two shots. This time he aimed for the head of a man straight in front of him toward the far side of the raiders. Again the projectile hit the targeted man but caught him in the ribs just under his arm. The man tried to break off the protruding wood but suddenly collapsed to the ground with a punctured lung. That was the result Keiran wanted.

His fourth arrow, aimed at a man in the midst of the raiding party, found its mark in the man’s neck dropping him at once. Choosing a fifth missile Keiran noticed two of the enemy stopped and looking in his direction as he took aim. When he let the arrow fly, the darker of the two pointed at the rocks Keiran was behind.

Keiran was elated to see another man drop to the ground with a shaft sticking out of his chest. He notched his sixth arrow and looked down the hill. Both the combatants that searched for his hiding place were climbing towards him.

He sighted along the arrow and fired as soon as the guy in front raised up to find him. Not a better shot could have been fired as the arrow went clear through the unfortunate raider’s throat barely missing the dark-skinned one behind him.

While Keiran grabbed the last arrow he had planted next to him the raider checked on his fellow then started up the hill again. Popping from behind the boulder, Keiran took aim then remembered his instructions to capture one of the enemy. He now had the perfect candidate since the man had separated himself from the main party.

Changing his aim to the invader’s legs he fired quickly but the target had switched directions and the arrow went wide. Keiran retreated to where his two escape arrows were planted and placed one in his bow. Aiming again at the legs Keiran made a sudden movement with the bow and the coming raider dodged again. Keiran then aimed anew and fired before his opponent realized his trickery.

Luck was with Keiran on this shot. It hit the runner in the right foot just as he put his weight on it and the chocolate-skinned attacker crashed. Hitting his knee on a weed hidden rock as he fell, the man couldn’t get back to his feet.

Sliding his bow onto his shoulder and pulling his sword Keiran cautiously approached the teenaged lad it turned out to be. The teen was quickly disarmed having given no opposition due to the agonizing pain of his foot and knee. Keiran sheathed his own sword then knelt at the boy’s feet. He pushed the head of the arrow out of the other side then broke it off the shaft.

Slipping the rest of the arrow out of the injured foot easily Keiran then bandaged the foot and used more strips of cloth to support the wounded knee. The young druid then helped his captive to his feet and tied his hands together then tied his arms to his body to prevent him from striking out.

It was slowing going to get down the hill then into the woods with the injured captive. The battle was well underway when Keiran finally had the teen tied to a tree and checked on how it was progressing. The defenders were holding their own and had the invaders stalled. Keiran slid his bow off his shoulder and pulled four arrows out of his quiver. He stuck three into the ground next to him and placed the fourth in his bow.

Looking over the battlefield Keiran found a priest beset by two attackers and having a tough time defending himself. Taking careful aim Keiran fired and struck an attacker with his sword raised high to cut down the priest from his unprotected side. The missile nearly buried itself in the man’s chest causing him to drop his sword, stagger back then fall dead to the ground.

Keiran grabbed the next arrow in line and scanned the battle again. This time he spotted his brother, Keane, taking on three raiders while standing over the injured body of another druid. He fired hastily with the result of merely hamstringing the one he was aiming for. This did give his brother some relief.

Again Keiran snatched the next arrow and taking a little more time fired at another of the invaders facing Keane. This shot went through the assailant’s sword arm causing him to drop his weapon and Keane quickly dispatched him.

As he reached for the last arrow he was pleased to see that the projectile that pierced the sword arm of one attacker found a home in the side of another causing blood to seep out of the wound in a steady stream. Searching the fighting again Keiran found one of the militia in trouble, aimed carefully and skewered the raider through the heart.

By this time his actions had been noticed by the invading force and four men were sent his direction. Reaching for his quiver Keiran found that both time and ammunition were getting to be in short supply. He drew an arrow and allowed the quiver to slide off his shoulder. Notching the arrow Keiran stepped forward, aimed and fired at the attacker at the front of the quartet dropping him at once. That left three to contend with and no time to fire again.

Keiran rummaged in his pouch finding what he was searching for just in time. He crushed the flower, motioned and spoke the incantation for the same sleeping spell he had cast during his test. He moved his hand as he made the eye closing motion managing to catch two of the advancing raiders with the spell.

Seeing his two companions fall caused the fourth invader to pause long enough for Keiran to draw his sword and take a defensive stance. The man swung at Keiran with no skill but a lot of power. The young druid parried easily and went on the attack. He slowly drove the savage fighter back until he bumped into a tree and had nowhere else to go. A few slashes later Keiran slipped his sword through the man’s awkward attempts to parry and pierced a lung.

Rushing back to the two sleeping forms Keiran arrived in time to use the pommel of his sword on their heads sending them back into a deep slumber. He used strips from their own clothing to truss them up before checking the fighting. It seemed to be winding down as the druids and town militia were successful in defending against the attack.

He reclaimed his quiver and bow, notched another arrow and took down a fleeing raider. He watched as Connell dropped two more with arrows of his own. Their actions convinced the other three to stop trying to run off. They tossed their weapons several feet away and dropped to their knees waiting.

When he finished seeing to the needs of the druid and militia wounded the high priest looked over the field at the three kneeling enemy combatants. Catching the eyes of two of his most trusted under priests the druid gave a curt nod, turned and walked off the field. The two priests approached the three captives with swords in their hands and lopped the heads from all three.

Keiran looked on opened mouthed in horror over what had transpired on the field. He had a hard time equating the man he had spent so much time learning the arts and crafts of being a druid from with the calloused merciless man who just walked away. He had almost convinced himself to set the three he caught free before the head druid knew he had them.

Before he could act on that thought one of the senior priests interrupted his musings.

‘High Priest Graden wants your prisoner brought to him now,’ commanded the priest looking at the two unconscious men at his feet.

Keiran looked up with a start then answered, ’I actually have three prisoners.’

‘I will inform Graden,’ said the priest as he turned and left.

The young priest was trying to figure out how to get the two knocked out men and the injured dark lad to the high priest by himself when his friends walked up. With relief Keiran asked Rory and Farrell to carry the two and took Connell with him to retrieve the third prisoner.

It was a good thing he had because the bandages on the lad’s feet were becoming blood soaked and the knee was swelling badly making it nearly impossible for the captive to walk at all. Between the two of them they did manage to get him to his feet and with one on each side helped him hobble to the high priest’s house.

Keiran knocked on the door after they lowered the injured teen to the ground and waited. The door was opened by the druid’s newest personal apprentice chosen after Keiran rose to priesthood. Keiran started to lift the captive again when he was told to leave them under the guard of the other priests.

Doing as he was told Keiran stepped inside the house, waited for his eyes to adjust then gave a short bow to the high priest. High Priest Graden commended him on his job during the battle then asked if he had chosen a prisoner, Keiran told how he had captured the dark-skinned youth on the hillside and went on to describe how he came to have two more captives by the end of the fray.

He was told to leave the two unconscious prisoners with the town guard but received detailed instructions on the one he had picked to be his captive. He was charged with healing the teen’s injuries and keeping him incarcerated at his own house. Although Keiran didn’t understand the reasoning he accepted the orders from the druid and after another short bow left the druid priest’s house.

Outside with his friends Keiran relayed the high priest’s instructions. Rory and Farrell set out with their prisoners to the the town guard’s jailhouse. Connell helped Keiran steer the dark-skinned captive down through the streets to the house he shared with Keane.

“Hold up, Grandpa,” interrupted Conner with just a tad bit of desperation in his voice. “I gotta go pee!”

“I could use a bathroom break too,” Conan added as he pushed the struggling Conner on his rear propelling him out of the beanbag chair.

“That’s fine,” agreed Grandpa rising from his own chair. “I’m going to make me a cup of tea. Anyone else want a drink or snack?”

“Not sure. Maybe we’ll stop in the kitchen on the way back,” answered Conan as he followed his hurrying cousin down the hall.

Grandpa had barely finished stirring the sugar and lemon into his tea when the boys ambled into the kitchen. They rummaged through the cabinets and the refrigerator at least twice before heading back to the den with nothing. Grandpa shook his head from side to side as he followed them out of the kitchen. He knew in a few minutes they would stop the storytelling again to find a drink or snack.

Once they were all comfortably seated in their beanbag chairs and Grandpa took a few sips of his tea Grandpa started telling more of the story.

As they neared the house Keane stepped out to meet them. He had been briefed by his commander on the situation and charged with helping to secure the prisoner until he was needed. When they were close enough Keane opened the door so they could get the dark prisoner into the house. Keiran thanked Connell for his help and told him to thank Rory and Farrell also.

After Connell left Keane asked his brother where he wanted to put the prisoner. Keiran replied that since he was to heal the teen as well as keep him captive his bedroom would be best. There were two beds in there already so one could be used by the prisoner.

Keane, being the big guy that he was, picked the boy up and started for Keiran’s room. Keiran hurried ahead of Keane to open the door then he turned down the covers of the extra bed. Keane placed the teenaged prisoner on the bed and left the room. Keiran checked the room for anything the captive could use as a weapon but found nothing.

He turned on his heel and went to their storage room to get the supplies he needed to work on the lad’s injuries. Returning to his room he found the prisoner sitting up and trying to move his injured leg off the bed. Keiran dropped the fags and herbs on his bed, rushed to the other bed and made the teen lay back down.

‘If you want to walk again, don’t try to get up.’ Keiran spoke rather harshly hoping to intimidate his prisoner when he was actually impressed with his tenacity in pushing through his pain to escape. Then he pulled his knife from his boot sheath and moved to the boy’s neck to cut away his tunic.

The captive’s eyes widened and his chocolate-colored skin paled as he tried in vain to push away from the knife. ‘I no run! I be good!’ The teen exclaimed loudly still trying to move up the bed although his head was already hitting the wall.

Keiran quickly moved the knife away from the frightened teen and said, ‘I wasn’t trying to threaten you. I just need to cut away your filthy clothes to clean you and see to your injuries.’

While the boy didn’t truly relax he did stop trying to push himself through the wooden wall. He also kept a close watch on the hand with the knife in it. He did finally breath a little easier as it sliced away from his neck. Keiran next sliced the sleeves so the tunic lay in one piece then jerked the destroyed shirt out from under the prisoner and dropped it on the floor.

That done Keiran turned his attention to the short britches the teenager was wearing and began making the necessary cuts to remove them. With it removed the boy lay in just his loincloth and the rags wrapped around his knee and still bleeding foot.

When Keiran touched the smooth, chocolate thigh to lift the boy’s leg and remove the wrappings he felt a lurch in his groin area. After he had removed the dirty rags from the swelling knee Keiran noticed the boy’s loincloth had plumped up some as well. Keiran looked up to the teen’s face and the look of confusion and wonder mixed mirrored what he imagined his face looked like right then.

Hearing his brother enter the room Keiran shook himself out of his trance and turned to take the pail of warmed water from Keane. Keiran took his time wetting a clean rag and wringing it out so that his brother would be out or the room before he had to hand wash the firm body of the captive.

Once sure his brother was no longer in sight Keiran gently washed the boy’s forehead, nose and cheeks. As he did Keiran couldn’t help staring into the eyes that were so deep a brown that they were almost black. With a start he realized he had finished wiping the lad’s face a few minutes ago but was still looking into his eyes.

Blushing a deep red Keiran started to turn away when he saw the prisoner staring right back at him. As Keiran rinsed the washrag the teen spoke. ‘You have very green eyes. Your hair is like flames.’ Keiran couldn’t seem to stop blushing.

Not knowing how to respond to those comments Keiran began to wash the teen’s shoulders and chest.

‘Mmmm! That is nice. Thank you,’ commented the boy. I am called Omarr by my people. Those who attacked you only called me Om.’

‘You are welcome, Omarr,’ answered Keiran as his hand moved down to the washboard abs. ‘My name is Keiran.’

Finished with the Omarr’s stomach, Keiran then lifted each arm by the hand and wiped them clean. His upper body was now clean but Keiran was reluctant to let go of Omarr’s hand. He had enjoyed the contact with the young captive and it appeared that Omarr relished it too.

To keep from embarrassing himself more Keiran went as quickly as he could while washing Omarr’s thighs and calves. After washing the uninjured foot Keiran went to the kitchen for fresh water to use on the wounded foot. With fresh water and a clean rag Keiran carefully unwrapped Omarr’s foot then gently cleaned the dirt and blood so he could examine the puncture wounds.

Satisfied with how they looked Keiran placed a mixture of herbs to prevent infection on each sore and wrapped the foot with new strips of cloth. From another bucket Keiran took pieces of cloth out, wrung them dry and placed the cold cloths over the swelling knee. Then Keiran made Omarr as comfortable as he could and pulled a light covering over the rest of his body leaving the injuries out.

‘In two days, if there is no infection, I will try a healing spell on your foot,’ Keiran told Omarr smoothing the cover. ‘Not sure about your knee yet.’

‘Okay. Thanks,’ replied Omarr trying to stifle a yawn. The raiders didn’t get much sleep on the boat ride over or while camped near the shore.

‘Go to sleep. I’ll wake you for supper.’ Keiran walked out to talk with his brother as he usually did.

“I just thought of something,” Conner interrupted yet again. “Granddad has very green eyes like Keiran does.”

“Yeah, but he’s way taller than Keiran,” rejoined Conan.

“Yeah, he is,” agreed Conner. “Sorry for interrupting.”

Grandpa just nodded to the boys keeping a very neutral expression on his face after the outburst.

Two days later when Keiran checked Omarr’s foot there was no sign of infection so he used the same minor healing spell he performed at the test with perfect results once again. Keeping the knee still and using the cold, wet cloths brought down the swelling and Keiran expected to start Omarr walking around the house the next day.

The foot was still tender and there was a slight twinge in the knee so after only ten minutes Keiran helped Omarr back into the bed. He piled more compresses on the knee and measured Omarr’s feet to make a pair of house sandals. The following day went better; Omarr was able to walk for fifteen minutes two different times.

After each walk Keiran still put cold compresses on Omarr’s knee so it wouldn’t swell up again. Each day brought new improvements in his health and in the boys’ relationship with one another. With Omarr confined to the bed or occasionally a chair there was nothing for the normally active teens to do except talk. It didn’t take long for each to know the other’s life story.

Omarr learned all about Keiran being chosen by the high priest of the druids and about learning magic spells. He also heard all of Keiran’s dreams for the future. Silently Omarr hoped those dreams and plans would now include him.

For his part Keiran listened to Omarr tell about his life as a young boy before the raiders took him from his homeland. He too was learning magic but as a future shaman of his tribe. He told how a good job on this raid would have earned him his freedom. Keiran thought to himself; if I could I would grant him his freedom right now as long as he promised to stay by Keiran’s side the rest of their lives.

Keiran did spend some time studying herb use, healing and magic spells from books borrowed from the druid library. When he tired of reading and the two were all talked out, Keiran started teaching Omarr how to read. Life was going great but Keiran had a problem with dreams of him and Omarr together. He didn’t know why Graden had told him to pick out an attacker to take as his prisoner.

Two weeks before Samhain Keiran was called to the druid high priest’s dwelling for a meeting. During this meeting Keiran learned why he was asked to acquire a captive and he was less than happy. As a matter of fact Keiran was completely devastated. Omarr was to be sacrificed to Saman, Lord of the Dead, on Samhain.

He took the news with a stoic expression while in the presence of Graden. Keiran walked home numbly barely noticing where he was going even failing to greet Connell when they passed in the street. Arriving at home Keiran did not speak to Keane or to Omarr but went straight to his bed and covered his head and cried.

Omarr tried to comfort Keiran only to get shrugged off repeatedly. When Keane stuck his head in the door with a questioning look Omarr could only shrug his shoulders and shake his head in answer. Finally Keiran fell asleep sobbing.

At some point during the night Keiran awakened and sat up. The movement roused Omarr from his own fitful dose. Seeing that his prisoner turned friend (and maybe more) was awake Keiran apologized for pushing him away and explained all that he had been told in the meeting.

Although in the back of his mind Omarr had halfway expected something like this, when the reality hit he went into shock for a moment. Then he realized that Keiran’s momentous reaction to this news meant his feelings for Omarr were as strong as Omarr’s were for him.

This thought gave Omarr the strength to be the one to slide across the space between their beds and embrace Keiran. The two clung to each other for few moments then Keiran pushed back, looked into those dark eyes and said, ‘Thank you, Omarr. Hold me.’

Keiran turned his back to Omarr and laid back down on his bed. Omarr slid in next to Keiran spooning against his back. The teen captor then pulled his captive’s arm over him and held the hand on top of his heart. The pair were soon fast asleep.

“I don’t blame them for falling asleep so fast like that,” put forth Conan. “It really feels good to have someone wrap around you in bed.”

“I’ll say,” piped up Conner. “I don’t think I slept any after getting caught in that storm and almost having a tree fall on me after it was hit by lightning except when you spent the night with me.”

“Well, what about when I took a knee to the side of my head in soccer a couple of years ago?” asked Conan. “I had a concussion and wasn’t supposed to move around but I kept thrashing around in my sleep. Momma said the only time I would lay still and sleep was when I could feel you next to me. You spent like a whole week sleeping at my house.”

“You two are the only ones I know who can argue while agreeing,” chuckled Grandpa interrupting them. “I think it’s great that you are close enough as cousins to be able to help each other out that way.”

“Yeah, I guess Conner’s okay for a younger cousin,” teased Conan while sliding an arm behind his cousin’s back.

“Hey! I’m not that much younger; only four months,” returned Conner. He slid his arm behind Conan while saying, “I like you too, Conan, in spite of your teasing.”

“Are you two ready for me to continue?”

The two cousins didn’t bothering moving their arms from around each other as they nodded for their grandpa to keep on telling the story.

When Keane checked on his younger brother the next morning he found them still spooned together in one bed. Keane smiled at the sight then frowned as he too knew what was in store for Omarr. He wished there was something he could do to spare Keiran the heartache sure to come.

Per the high priest’s orders Keiran started taking the prisoner out of the house to walk and exercise so he would be fit before the time for Samhain. The sacrifice had to be in top shape to be worthy of a blessing by Lord Saman. While Keiran enjoyed working out with Omarr he hated that he had to bind his hands whenever he was in the town.

About midweek, Omarr was doing well enough that the two friends started jogging then running. Keiran was pleased to find that Omarr could keep up with him and the seed of a plan began to form in Keiran’s mind.

Each night after supper the two practiced on magic spells and Keiran taught Omarr some of his knife fighting skills. Then, as they had every night since that first time, the two climbed into the same bed and spooned each other. Sometimes one on the inside and sometimes the other was on the inside of the spoon. They spent every minute they could doing things together.

Rory and Connell had started working out with them too. The two had been spending more time with each other ever since Rory came to Connell’s aid during the tests. Rory was helping Connell get stronger and have more stamina in payment for Connell’s help in passing the academic tests.

At least that was the reason they gave to Keiran when they asked to workout with him and Omarr. After seeing how often they found an excuse to touch one another Keiran suspected they were more like him and Omarr. This was confirmed when he caught them sharing a kiss after a long run.

They jerked apart with faces that looked like a deer caught in the torchlight. Keiran immediately took pity on them and called Omarr over taking his hand with his own. The two lovers nearly collapsed with relief. Then they were concerned for Keiran and how he would handle Omarr being the Samhain sacrifice. Keiran avowed he wasn’t sure but was coming up with a plan. Rory and Connell pledged their help without hesitation even though they all would be defying the druid high priest.

A week before Samhain found the four of them huddled up in Keiran and Omarr’s room whispering out suggestions. Every time Keane crossed the house close they would quickly hush and glance at the door. Keiran’s older brother wondered what they were going on about. An hour and a half later Rory and Connell left bidding Keane a good day.

The following day Keane found Keiran packing a couple of travel bags with clothes, dried fruit and deer jerky. Keiran jumped when he noticed Keane watching him then blushed.

‘You know you can trust me, Keiran,’ Keane urged,

‘I know but what you don’t know they can’t punish you for,’ replied Keiran tucking the bags under his bed. ‘When it happens we won’t be back unless they catch us.’

For the next three days Keiran, Omarr, Rory and Connell started varying the times and durations of their workouts. Sometimes one or more of them would carry a pack or bag and sometimes they didn’t. Keiran wanted people especially the guards to get used to seeing them with different gear and coming and going at a variety of times. Hopefully, when Keiran and Omarr made their bid for escape it would be too late before anyone realized there was something amiss.

When there were only three days left until the Samhain celebration Keiran and his friends put their plan into action.

“Wait, Grandpa,” Conner hurriedly interjected. “Do you think we’ll get anymore trick-or-treaters? I’m ready for some more chocolate.”

“I could do with more too,” agreed Conan.

Grandpa checked his watch and then suggested, “Why don’t we give a few more minutes then we can turn out the porch light and the two of you can dig into the candy.”

“Okay, but how long is a few?” asked Conner. “I want to be settled in before the next part of the story so we don’t have to stop again.”

“Yeah and I could use another drink, too,” chimed in Conan. “Do you have any ginger ale, Grandpa?”

“Umm, let’s go see,” replied Grandpa rising from his chair and retrieving his teacup from the table. “I need to warm my tea anyway.”

The guys all traipsed to the kitchen to get new drinks and the boys helped their grandpa wash the dishes they were finished with. When they were finally ready to head back to the den Grandpa deemed that enough time had passed. With boisterous cheers the two ten year old cousins raced to the front door, turned off the porch light and carried the bowls of candy to the den with them.

They all got comfy in their chairs and Grandpa checked to see if they were ready for more story.


“Check!” answered both boys loudly and with salutes.

“Good,” said Grandpa. “Just don’t eat so much you make yourselves sick.”

“Gotcha!” they responded.


“Check!” Again with a salute.


“Check!” Salute.


This time the boys giggled before chiming in with another, “Check!” and the now required salute.

“I think we’re ready for more of the saga of Keiran and Omarr,” declared Grandpa grandly which set off another set of giggles.

The teens were ready to try out their plan and this was the day for it. Rory and Connell headed for the wooded area outside of town where they had been working out right after lunch. Rory carried one of the bags Keiran had packed with him while Connell had a similar empty bag hidden under his clothes.

Keiran and Omarr waited an hour or so before they went to their workout with Keiran carrying the other bag he had prepared for their flight from the town and the high priest’s clutches. When they reached the spot out of sight of the town where Rory and Connell were already building up a good sweat the two started stretching as if preparing to workout alongside their buds.

After fully stretching Keiran reached down for the bag he had laid atop of the one Rory had brought which was on top of the empty one Connell had hidden on him. When he stood up he had both packed bags in his hand and slung them over his shoulder. Waving and shouting, ‘See you later,’ to his friends Keiran led Omarr along one of the trails they often used for their runs.

Keiran was one of the few people who knew that this particular trail had an almost hidden offshoot that took one deep into the interior. Only the hardiest of travelers ever dared this route, a fact Keiran hoped would discourage any trackers from following.

Keiran and Omarr started off at an easy jog so Keiran wouldn’t miss the trail they needed to take. It was not easy to find even when you knew it was there. In spite of how close he was watching Keiran almost missed the trail. The underbrush had really shot up since the last time Keiran had come this way with his brother.

They tried being very careful to avoid bending or breaking any plants to keep it being obvious someone came this way. Two steps down the trail Omarr stubbed a toe on the foot that had been injured and fell to the side flattening everything on his way down. After helping Omarr up Keiran tried to hide the imprint of his friend’s body as best he could but a good tracker would know someone had been there.

The two teens took off jogging again until the trail widened. With more room they increased the pace to a hard run which both were in good enough shape to maintain for quite some time. They hoped to put sufficient distance to keep any trackers from catching up.

Back at the town Rory and Connell kept working out until they felt sure Keiran and Omarr had plenty of time to be a long ways down the trail they were taking. Keiran didn’t tell them which way he would take so they couldn’t be forced to tell. On their way through town after their exercise Rory and Connell made sure they were overheard talking about Keiran really working the prisoner hard and not knowing when he would be finished. That way no one would think anything was out of the ordinary until it got to at least be dark outside.

After running hard for and hour and a half Omarr faintly heard the sound of running water and tapped Keiran on the shoulder. As they slowed to a stop he pointed off to the right telling Keiran there was a stream in that direction. Trying to catch his breath Keiran nodded and they followed the sound until they came to a small, quick-moving creek.

Looking at one another they nodded and grinned then shucked their shoes and waded into the water cooling tired, hot feet. They took a few steps upstream and while still facing upstream began to drink their fill of the cold, refreshing water. They returned to the bank where their shoes were and sat down to let their feet dry.

Getting sleepy they made the mistake of laying back holding hands. Keiran awoke with a start and panicked thinking they had lost all their headstart. He roughly shook Omarr to wake him. Omarr sat up checked the position of the sun shining through the trees and grabbed Keiran by the shoulders. When he finally had keiran still and paying attention Omarr showed him that it had only been about thirty minutes or so.

Relieved Keiran sat down and put his shoes back on and when Omarr also was reshod they found their way back to the trail. They decided to not eat until they stopped for the night so off they went at a hard pace once again. The plan was to put as much distance behind them as possible. By nightfall they had covered a good distance and found a place to bed down for the night curled into their normal spoon.

In town Graden was on the warpath when no one could find keiran and the captive he planned to sacrifice at Samhain. He had sent several messengers to tell Keiran he needed to talk to him tonight. An hour after dark he went himself to Keiran and Keane’s house looking for the two teens. Keane answered the door and the druid pushed into the house and began searching it.

When he couldn’t find them he practically stomped his way back to the front room where Keane was still holding the door. The high priest demanded to know where Keiran and the dark-skinned prisoner were. Keane truthfully told the man he had no idea and was getting worried with it getting so late.

Graden stared hard at the young militia warrior for several minutes before making a rude half growl and brushing past Keane as he left. He hurried to his best trackers and sent them into the woods where the boys normally exercised to find them. Then he went in search of the two young priests who often worked out with Keiran and the captive.

He went first to Rory’s house only to find the newly inducted priest was not at home. Next Graden tried the house where Connell lived. When he arrived and the door was answered, there sat both Connell and Rory going over an herbal collecting book at the kitchen table.

Upon questioning the two teenage priests Graden learned that Keiran had told them he was taking the prisoner on an extended run and they shouldn’t wait for them. The two said they didn’t give it another thought and when they finished their workout they came back to town discussing how crazy they thought it was to push so hard. They also explained that after they had cleaned up and eaten with their families Rory came over to study. Connell’s family confirmed his part of the story and Graden suspected Rory’s family would do the same for him.

High Priest Graden was sitting at his desk an hour later when a priest brought a report that one of the trackers had found their trail. Graden stood looked at his second and told him to have a party ready to chase them down at first light. The priest nodded and left with the priest who brought the report to select the members of the group who would go after Keiran and Omarr.

When the morning light hit their faces Keiran and Omarr stirred, smiled at each other and climbed to their feet. After taking care of personal business they rummaged through their bags for some jerky and dried fruit to eat for breakfast. With the worst of their hunger taken care of they hoisted their bags over their shoulders and followed the trail at a jogging pace until they had warmed up their muscles.

Half an hour later they stopped stretched out their muscles then took off at the same hard running pace they had used the day before. They kept at this pace for two hours then slowed to a brisk walk for an hour. From then until they stopped around midday they held to a jogging pace.

Graden met the assembled team and the tracker on the trail where Keiran and Omarr had turned off. The high priest had decided to lead the group himself and where Keiran had set the two of them a hard pace Graden started off at a grueling run. He wanted to catch them quick, make an example out of them and then kill both as part of the Samhain ritual.

When they stopped at midday Keiran and Omarr finished off the food Keiran had packed for them. They would have to make stops to hunt or gather edible plants to have anything else to eat from now on. Although it really hadn’t been enough to eat the teenagers set out at their hard pace again determined to cover as much distance as they could. They stopped once when they came across another wandering stream and drank as much water as they could hold.

This helped hold their hard pace for a bit longer but soon weariness and hunger caused them to slow somewhat. About an hour before dark they stopped running to walk while they searched for something to eat. A few late berries and an herb known as ratsbane that was edible were all they found. Keiran and Omarr’s stomachs were still growling with the need for food when they found a soft spot to lay down for the night.

The druid priests pursuing the two fugitives were pushed to keep going well after darkness had descended. Finally coming to a stop, the druids built a fire for warmth and set a guard rotation before rolling out bedding and settling in for the night. The last watch went around waking the group before the first rays of sunlight rose over the horizon and after a quick cold breakfast they were on the move again.

The two worn-out teens were late waking up and then had to walk a bit to find more berries and plants for their breakfast. They hoped to be able to hunt for some meat at midday. Keiran mentioned that it was now two days until Samhain; he hoped if they could avoid capture until Samhain had passed that the pursuit would be dropped.

After eating they set out jogging until they blood warmed up then they went at a harder pace that was not quite as fast as the previous two days. The lack of food was beginning to affect them. In fact they couldn’t hold their pace for as long and had to drop to a jogging pace then they would try to push harder again. This was their pattern until they stopped at midday near a larger brook than the others they had come across.

Rummaging in his pack Keiran found the sling he had thrust in at the last moment. Picking a few small stones from the bed of the creek he dropped them into a small pouch hanging around his neck. Keiran and Omarr his where they could see the bank and waited motionless hoping some small game would come for a drink.

Ten minutes of patience rewarded them with a good sized rabbit cautiously approaching the flowing water. Keiran silently took careful aim then released the sling sending the rock hurtling at the rabbit’s head. It made contact with a solid thunk knocking the rabbit onto its side where it remained unmoving. Keiran readied another stone just in case and rose to his feet as quietly as he could. The rabbit never so much as twitched.

Omarr started collecting dry twigs and sticks to build a small cooking fire while Keiran skinned the rabbit with one of his knives then cut it into strips. Finished Keiran started say they would have to eat it raw when he saw the small fire built ready to light. He started to ask how they would start a fire when Omarr murmured a few words in his native language and moved his thumb across all four fingers as if snapping his fingers. From his open hand a cascade of sparks fell onto the pyramid of twigs and sticks setting them afire.

Soon the two satisfied travelers were burying the bones and packing the dirt down so no one would notice.

“I wonder what rabbit tastes like,” voiced Conner in a thoughtful manner.

“S-h-h-h! Let Grandpa finish,” hushed Conan quietly.


Refreshed from their more substantial meal and another good drink of water the boys stepped onto the trail at their hard pace once again.

The chasing druids had spent much less time on their meager travel rations but could not hold to the grueling pace that had originally been set by Graden.

Neither party could hold to the pace they set right after their midday meal and slowed after an hour or two. Keiran and Omarr dropped to a jog while the druids continued to be pressed to hurry by the high priest. Come nightfall neither group were able to rest very well. Keiran and Omarr shared body warmth but had no bedroll to insulate them from the cold ground and wouldn’t chance a fire being seen. Frustrated by their slowing pace Graden didn’t allow a fire either but his men did have bedrolls to sleep in.

Morning saw both groups slow to get started. Keiran and Omarr spent time finding breakfast and were lucky to find a bush with plenty of edible berries not far from where they had spent the night. Graden set about getting his men up and moving even kicking a couple who were slower to rise than the others.

Grumbling among the druids was starting to be heard as they tired of the high priest’s obsession over capturing the two youths and getting them back to town for Samhain.

Keiran and Omarr on the other hand hugged each other tight and vigorously rubbed each others arms and legs to warm up. Keiran mentioned that that the next night would be Samhain so they might not need to push so hard today. With that statement they set their pace at a quick jog and held it until midday.

According to the tracker the druid’s group had closed some of the distance between them and the two teens. That announcement coupled with the grumbling Graden had overheard caused him to set the pace as fast as their first day on the trail.

At the midday stop the tracker had more good news for Graden; their objective was only an hour or so ahead of them and didn’t seem to be pushing their pace as they had been. The high priest again had the moving after a short break and pushed the pace as hard as he could.

Not finding much for their midday meal and knowing they were losing ground faster than they wanted. Keiran and Omarr spent some time during their midday break making preparations for when they were finally confronted.

Not long after they were moving down the trail again the two lads could hear the group behind them. They sped up as best they could but exhaustion and hunger was taking its toll. When darkness settled over the forest Keiran and Omarr knew they would probably be facing the druids before daylight. They found a place off the trail to rest while remaining vigilant.

It didn’t take long for the tracker to stumble upon their resting spot unexpectedly. He grinned thinking of the rewards he would be granted if he had them subdued before the others got there. As he advanced on the boys and pulled a cudgel from behind his back the man didn’t notice that one of his intended victims had two knives held in a backhand with the blades hidden by his forearms.

He swung wildly expecting Keiran to duck or jump back instead to his surprise his opponent ducked forward under his swing and passed his right side. Even after feeling the stinging along his side the tracker hadn’t yet realized the young man was armed.

Turning back to find Keiran the attacker swiped at Omaar catching him in the upper arm. An ugly welt rose almost instantly and Keiran growled with rage. Before the tracker knew what hit him Keiran had opened up three more cuts; two on his body and one on his left arm. The foolish man finally understood he had cornered a fully trained, renegade druid priest. Keiran pressed the attack again feinting low toward the man’s groin. As soon as the tracker lowered his guard Keiran switched directions and struck high right across the guy’s throat. He dropped his cudgel grasping at his ruined neck before falling forward dead.

Keiran opened the bag around Omarr’s neck and took out one of the leaf covered balls of black powder and charcoal they had made at midday. He placed it on the ground near the dead man then he and Omarr clasped hands and each spoke the words to a different spell. Omarr’s spell was the same one he used to start the fire to cook their rabbit. Keiran used a spell that delayed Omarr’s until living people were near.

Still holding hands the two teen fugitives snuck away from the area and doubled back to further down the trail. As soon as they heard the explosion they took off running hard as they could in the dark.

Graden took his group to the last place they heard the tracker moving. They found where he and the teens had left the trail and soon came upon the cooling body of the dead man. When nearly everyone had gathered around the leaf-covered ball exploded with a blinding flash. Now not only were they without a tracker but their night vision was shot for a while.

Waiting for their eyes to adjust frustrated Graden even more. He tried getting them rushing down the trail but the men kept stumbling since they couldn’t see well. The more he tried to push the worse it got.

Keiran and Omarr continued at the same pace when the sun peeked over the treetops. They had no food to eat for breakfast and no time to hunt for any. They kept going as hard as they could until midday when the went off the trail for fresh water, a few walnuts and a short nap after their sleepless night.

Feeling a little bit refreshed the two teens drank more water and set a brisk pace down the trail until nighttime. It was the night of the druid Sabbat of Samhain and Keiran refused to ignore it in spite of the danger behind them. He gathered as much dry wood as possible in the dark to build a fire. Finished, he begged Omarr to light the bonfire for him. Seeing how important it was to the guy he had come to love and who had risked his own life so Omarr could escape certain death the dark-skinned teen didn’t need much convincing to give in. Muttering the words for a third time he let the sparks trickle from his outstretched hand into the mound of wood setting it ablaze.

The druids were allowed a short stop at daybreak for a light meal then back to a hard run. Again at midday they took a short break for food and were able to sit down briefly. A hard pace was set again after the break and they held that pace until it got dark. Graden let them slow to a walk but they kept moving for a while after darkness fell. The high priest was contemplating stopping for the night disappointed that they hadn’t caught them before Samhain when flames lit up in the distance.

With a feral grin Graden got the druids moving again increasing the pace from a walk to a light jog. If they could reach that fire before midnight they could catch the escapees and have their Samhain celebration complete with sacrifices.

An hour before midnight Keiran were laying out leaf-covered bombs and readying other spells to defend themselves. They also prepared for the druid rituals associated with Samhain. Since they had no one to sacrifice the teens sliced their left palms and dribbled blood into makeshift bowls to offer to Lord Saman.

To Keiran’s dismay he saw the symbols of sacrifice begin to appear on Omarr’s arms and thighs. He didn’t know Graden had managed to say the spells over Omarr. If Lord Saman did show up at his fire he would take Omarr from him. Keiran, seeing no other way, spoke the spells passing the motions over his own body making the symbols to also appear on his arms and thighs. If he couldn’t stop it then at least they would go together.

The good friends held each other by the fire as they waited for either midnight and Saman or Graden and the other druids with him. About thirty minutes before the midnight hour the boys heard a throat being cleared behind them. They spun toward the fire in surprise.

Standing in the fire was a lean, strong young-looking man with a royal bearing. Keiran knew at once it had to be Saman, Lord of the Dead. He knelt down pulling Omarr with him and they bowed their heads.

‘I see the symbols of sacrifice on both your bodies but you have bowls of your own blood offered as well,’ spoke a rich, strong, baritone voice. ‘Tell me your story.’

Keiran quickly gave a shortened version of all that had transpired in the past few weeks with Omarr chiming in with certain details he thought were pertinent.

Lord Saman nodded slowly deep in thought. ‘I will accept your offerings if you agree to be my servants for all time.’

Keiran and Omarr glanced at each other then gave a slight nod. Keiran turned to Lord Saman and spoke for both of them. ‘We agree.’

The blood in the bowls disappeared at the same time that Graden and the other druids entered the light of the fire. Graden paused in his rush to grab the boys when he realized who was standing behind them.

He inclined his head as he spoke, ‘Lord Saman, welcome! I see you have come for my sacrificial offerings.’

‘They are mine but they come not from you.’ admonished the Lord of the Dead. ‘If you want them as yours then take them if you can.’

Graden motioned for his men to grab the teenagers. One was quicker than the others and was blown back into the darkness from one of Omarr’s spells. The others paused just enough for Keiran to grab the materials for the fireball spell. By the time they recovered and started forward Keiran was already holding a flaming sphere.

Several of them had been at the testing and knew Keiran was very capable of releasing the spell with devastating results. Graden found himself standing with only a couple of druids to back him. The others had slipped back into the darkness.

Keiran let the fireball go at the feet of Graden and his two loyal lackeys. When the explosion cleared they weren’t as loyal in the face of an exploding spell. Graden now stood alone.

Lord Saman lay his arms over the shoulders of his two newest servants and said, ‘Let’s go boys. Time to learn your duties.”

Graden screamed in fury, ‘NO!’ And lunged after the trio only to land in the suddenly flaring bonfire. He rolled out of the fire and rolled some more to vanquish any lingering flames and watched morosely as the fire just winked out of existence. Midnight had passed. Samhain was over and the boys were gone.

“I love that story,” Conner slurred unsuccessfully trying to stifle a yawn.

“Yeah, Me too,” agreed Conan not even trying to cover his yawn.

“You boys heading to bed or sleeping here?” asked Grandpa smiling lovingly at his wonderful grandsons.

“Here,” answered Conner as he rolled to his side pulling Conan with him by his arm. They were spooned together just like the boys in the story.

Grandpa heaved a sigh, pulled a blanket from the back of the couch and gently tucked it around the already sleeping lads.

Hearing footsteps Grandpa turned to see Granddad walk into the room and looking down at the two cousins asleep on the beanbag chair.

“Ah! I missed the end of the story, I guess,” commented the redheaded man with only touches of gray at the edges. “Did they make it to the end this year?”

“Yes, they did but barely,” replied Grandpa turning out the light. “Let’s go to bed, Keiran.”

“Want to spoon like we used to, Omarr?” questioned Granddad with a smirk.

“Yes, but first what did Lord Saman have to say?”

“They are old enough now. When they wake we tell them the rest of the story and begin their druid training.” Granddad started massaging his partner’s shoulders. “Will you light the fireplace? It’s kinda chilly.”

“Anytime for you,” returned Grandpa muttering the words and making the snapping motion across his fingers and letting the sparks fly into the fireplace.


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