Lore of Tir Nan Og

Samantha Pascarella with Risë Logsdon


The Tree, The Halfling, 
and The Mage
By Samantha Pascarella 
with Risë Logsdon
Hadrian’s Wall
Humanworld, 123 AD
On a summer night, Anno Domini 123, soldiers of the Roman legions guarded the border wall in Britannia to establish the boundary with the Celtic community. Jovian stood watch at his post, alone, tired, and far away from his home in Italy. 
The twilight had spread its soft glow of light when Jovian glimpsed a movement at the edge of the wood, roughly a meter away from him. He squinted, trying to bring the shadowy images into focus, but they were too tiny for him to make examination, a crown of dancing lights accompanied them.
He moved closer and stared in wonder as an elegantly dressed miniature procession moved in what seemed to be a funeral march, perhaps honoring a fallen comrade who lay in a tiny horse-drawn cart. They looked to be about a quarter meter tall. Could these tiny creatures be the Faery he’d heard legends about? They continued toward a brook lapping at the roots of an elm tree. Jovian hoped that in their preoccupation they would not notice him. He kept to the shadows of the treeline mindful of keeping his armor quiet. 
The moon’s shimmery light on the miniature procession and the hypnotic music of their longneck lutes mesmerized Jovian, irresistibly drawing him along.
One by one, they disappeared into a small grassy mound near the flowing brook. Jovian inched forward, crouching down to see the last faery noble pass through the greenery. He reached in to pull vines aside, hoping to preserve his sighting of the faeries. As his hand grasped the plants, he was instantly transformed. Jovian’s strapping frame shrank and his armor dropped to the ground around him. Now the size of the faeries, dressed simply in his tunic he could fit through the portal entrance unnoticed. 
This was a crossroad like no other in his young life. Forsaking his armor, he followed the trooping faeries with abandon, unmindful of the possible danger that his training ordinarily would have alerted in him. Edging forward into the darkened hollow in the mound, silently finally, the last faery in the procession was in sight again. 
A faint quivering light illuminated the flat path. Shortly, splashing echoed throughout the tunnel. As he progressed, the splashing got louder and the stone path became soggy. A fresh breeze brought tiny droplets of water bouncing across his face. He looked up. A massive wall of water rushed down from a height above his viewpoint. The procession of faeries moved along the inside wall of the tunnel where another luminous opening appeared as they crossed behind the cascade. Jovian followed unnoticed.
He was no longer in Britannia at the Celtic border. He was in Tir Nan Og, ‘The Land of the Young’, an island in the Otherworld of Faery.
Halfling Offspring
Saturday, June 10, 2017 
Mira’s thoughts went round and round like a hamster racing on an exercise wheel. She headed downstairs to her Grandma’s room. The locket around her neck bounced to the rhythm of her steps. She took hold of the locket to keep it steady. The emblem on the front was almost like the one Noni wore every day.
Last Christmas, six months ago, was when Mira received her locket. That was the first she knew about Noni’s other heirlooms. Then she had a stroke that night. Finally, on this summer night, they were going to explore the rest of the objects kept secure in a metal strongbox tucked away in her closet. 
The bedroom door was open, so Mira went in. “Noni, are you ready?”
Si, tesoro.” Noni was in her wheelchair next to her closet. 
Tesoro. Mira always felt treasured when she was with Noni. 
“I didn’t expect you for another hour. Where are the little ones?”
Mira confessed, “I fooled them into going to bed early. It’s been a long hot day. They were cranky and tired from swimming at the beach all day.”
Noni sighed, “The prerogative of the big sister. Regina is out late tonight… playing Bunco with her group?” 
Before Mira could answer, Judy, Noni’s dog, took the opportunity to sneak in. She made a beeline to Noni’s pocket with dog treats. “No, Judy! Judy geet oudeee.” said Noni.
“I’ll get her ‘oudee’,” Mira said as she scooped up the little cocker spaniel and set her outside the door. Geet oudeee was a family catchphrase. 
“Mom’ll be out ‘til 11:00,” said Mira. 
Noni pointed Mira to the shelf at shoulder height above her slacks. “The strongbox is just there, on the shelf behind those purses. It’s heavy, you may need a stool to get it.”
“Maybe, but I think I can get it down.” Using a hanger to move the purses aside, Mira perched on her tiptoes, then used the hanger to hook the handle of the strongbox, pulling it closer to the edge where she could reach it. “Got it!”
Sitting cross-legged on the floor next to her Noni, Mira offered it to her grandmother. Instead of reaching for it, Noni handed Mira a key. “You want me to open it?”
“The heirlooms in the strongbox will be yours someday. Avanti, open it.”
Quivering with excitement, she carefully fitted the key into the lock and turned. Opening the lid of the plain metal box, she gently lifted out the contents one by one.
 “A gold ring, some Roman gold coins. Wow! Look at this bracelet,” said Mira. “Those stones don’t look fake!” 
Noni picked up the jar of dried seeds, “These seeds came from Tir Nan Og. All of our faery gardens over the years have been planted with some of these seeds.” Mira picked up a tiny hat and pants. They both smiled over the endearing impression of the clothing. 
The next treasure Mira reached for was an elegantly crafted wooden box, etched with unfamiliar symbols and small enough to fit in the palm of her hand. As she lifted it out, a subtle electric current flowed through her hands. She paused and looked it over, then shrugged, probably, I’m just excited.
At the bottom of the strongbox, was a leather folder. Mira’s breath caught. Before the stroke, Noni had told her about the journal. Written by a faery ancestor, her trembling hands ran over the well-oiled soft leather. The journal was the best place to start in her quest for proof of the truth that their family included faery. It was a first-hand account of Veteo and his parents, Jovian and Etta. 
The faeries are real, thought Mira. She opened the journal to the first page. Scanning the pen scratches on the vellum pages, faded and difficult to decipher, was the window into their shared heritage. She looked up at her frail Noni. Her stroke six months ago had limited her. Translating the journal from Italian to English would be hard; I don’t want to push, but we gotta do this. 
Noni’s dancing eyes caught Mira’s attention. “Noni, why are you smiling like that?”
Noni held up a sheaf of papers. “I translated the journal before last Christmas,” she said. In the thrill of the moment, her post-stroke voice came out. “It was so much work! I would not be able to do it now. I wanted to have it completely finito before I gave it to you. Things are moving… si muovono in fretta.”
“Wait, Noni, ‘things’? Is that what you just said? Things are moving so fast?”
Everyone in the family tried to stay on top of their Italian, but Mira wasn’t fluent yet.
“Yes. I was planning on showing you the translation after the Christmas festivities. And then…the stroke. I was too weak.”
Stunned, Mira accepted the translation. She sat on the bed and took a deep breath.
I began writing this account of our lives after my mother Etta passed. This is our story. My Father, Jovian, my mother, Etta, and me, their son, Veteo.
Father’s hands, aromatic from the wood he carved, always looked calloused, a contrast to the sensitivity of his touch in shaping fine woodwork.
I loved watching my father as his steady hands shaped a graceless piece of wood, shavings falling to the floor, to reveal a marvelous sculpture.
Noni interrupted Mira’s reading, “Remember, Jovian, was a Roman soldier, and Etta, a faery. They gave birth to a son, Veteo, half human and half faery.”
“This all happened—when? During the Roman Empire?” asked Mira.
“Yes. Jovian was among the soldiers garrisoned at Hadrian’s Wall that separated the Roman territory from the Celtic lands,” said Noni. “It was the early 2nd century when this happened. Continue reading tesoro.” 
Father joined a woodworkers’ guild in the Faery Market of Tir Nan Og and in a short while he became part of the community—no one cared that he was human. He was a proportionate size to the fae folk, and his temperament blended well with everyone.
Mother said they met at a Haggis festival during a darts contest. Father often told our friends that the conversation was as pointed as the darts they threw. The dart board was the matchmaker that enabled a bullseye into each of their hearts. 
They lived joyfully in ‟The Island in the Mists.” A place afloat outside the dimension of time. A Garden of Eden, where the natural and the supernatural co-exist. Until …
When I was little, a neighbor brought over fruit my mother had not seen before. Elf travelers newly returned from human lands had carried back several of these fruit trees. They said, ‟Look. They’re so full of fruit that the branches slump with the weight of them.” 
The dark pear-shaped fruit Father held in his hand was tender to the touch. He broke the thin outer skin with his thumb and sunk his teeth into the reddish honey sweetness of the inner fruit. The moist and fragrant bite of fig lit up a forgotten room in his mind.
Father’s breath caught. Everyday recollections of boyhood and his parents and home flooded over him. He remembered loading little rocks into slingshots with his younger brother to shoot green warblers out of their fig trees. His mother picked through the bird-bitten fruit, putting the salvageable ones into a basket to make into jam. She always muttered, “Bruti brigandi, ugly thieves—they bite, bite, bite, then on to…” He could even hear his father’s voice coming from the family’s woodshop, talking and laughing as he and the artisans worked. A deep longing to be with his family rose in Father’s heart and would not be dismissed.
My mother and father sought out a wise and trusted friend, my Uncle Cato. “Uncle” was my father’s first friend in Tir Nan Og. He confirmed what my mother had said, “The food is laced with a forgetfulness enchantment affecting humans. A necessary guard against people who might return to mankind and lead unchosen humans into Tir Nan Og.” 
Pondering our circumstances Uncle Cato said, “Like others before you Jovian, that was no accident! “You saw the trooping faeries just before crossing the portal into our island.” Uncle said, “You were lured into following them and succumbed to forgetfulness after eating the faery food.”
For the next few days, Father ate nothing but the figs brought in from the Humanworld and drank only fresh rainwater. As his mind became free from the forgetfulness enchantment, Mother and he resolved they would go to his childhood home in Italy. She confided, years later, that at the time, she was certain they would be returning to Tir Nan Og.
“Noni, how much time do you think had passed while they were in Tir Nan Og?”
“I have wondered that too. Maybe fifteen to twenty years. It’s the Otherworld. A dimension that can’t use clocks as we do. That’s why Tir Nan Og is called ‘the Island in the Mists’ and ‘Land of the Young’. It seems to float in a timeless sea.
Keep going, Mira.” 
Despite deep affection for Tir Nan Og and our many friends, we secretly left using the same tunnel behind the waterfall that Father had used when following the trooping faeries. Just as we got to the tunnel entrance, my Father, always the woodworker, saw a bundle of quality wood, tied with ordinary twine, lying on the ground. Without stopping or thinking, he scooped up the bundle. He threw it over his shoulder and continued into the tunnel. 
As we approached the tunnel exit, Mother asked, “What is that up ahead?” 
Startled, Father said haltingly, “This is my armor, la lorica segmentata. I was a soldier.” He moved closer to the armor, now huge compared to his 20-centimeter height. At eye level, he examined the circular bands of metal strips fastened to internal leather straps. Reaching up to touch one of the leather straps, he exclaimed, “I can sense how it felt on me when I wore this.”
Mother and I started coughing just as he asked, “Why didn’t the armor shrink along with me and my clothes?”
At this point, he had his back to Mother and me, unaware of how the metal armour affected us. Mother quickly distanced herself and me from the armour. We rushed past Father coughing and gasping for air, and out the portal opening, overcome with nausea and dizziness. 
“What’s happening?” he asked in alarm. She pointed to the metal. We recovered quickly once we got far enough away from the armor.
“The portal incantation must have blocked the metal  from crossing into Tir Nan Og,” she said. “It’s toxic to the faery, as you can see. I didn’t come prepared with a safeguard against metal. I’ll find one of the faeries peddling in the Humanworld to get a salve to keep from becoming sick.”
Once firmly on Humanworld soil, Father suddenly became a giant! He had reverted to his former 183-centimeter height. I remember being frightened and confused.
Mira stopped reading. “Is Jovian like Goliath? What are centimeters to feet?”
“Jovian was a little taller than six feet,” said Noni, “a normal tall man. Etta and Veteo were still their faery size. Go on—keep reading.” Mira found her place where she left off:
Mother used the ‘glamour’ ability—a shapeshift—transforming her and my appearance into average human sizes. The bundle of wood Father had picked up remained in its original size and now filled one hand. On seeing his disappointment, Mother patted his hand, and said, “Oh well, easier to carry a handful of wood than the bundle you had on your back.”
The three of us traveled many kilometers and countries from Britain’s Celtic borderland to my father’s home village, now known as Calabria, in Italy. The weather and terrain had been craggy and difficult at times. While Father loved eating familiar foods,  I had to get used to the flavors. This was the first time I had seen certain animals. It was very exciting but very hard—suffice to say, we were like weather-battered mice. We finally arrived at Father’s childhood home.  
My human grandparents and relatives welcomed us with great joy and many tears. They thought Father had died four years ago on a distant battlefield and considered his return a miracle. Mother and Father decided not to mention Tir Nan Og to them—maybe later—maybe, turned to never.
Father had fallen in love, courted, and married my mother. They built our home, traveled with our friends, and had me. The fact that they had me prompted occasional remarks: “Jovian’s army must not have been in combat all the time.” 
The bundle of wood Father had picked up on our way out of Tir Nan Og had been cut from the World Tree. It embodied supernatural power none of us were aware of at the time. 
There were hints of “something special” about the wood. My parents would work delicate inlay designs on their tables and various woodcrafts. The tiny bits of  wood, no bigger than an almond sliver, seemed to have a “blessings magic”, people would say, ‘I’m so happy sitting in this chair,’ or ‘Gatherings at our home have never been as joyful as when we are around the table you made for us.’
On special occasions, family members would receive one of my parents’ prized masterworks and, in turn, pass it on to many future generations.
I know of at least one precious heirloom. A chair was passed down through me to my sweet daughter Neeve, then to the children of several future generations, and ultimately to Natalina before it was destroyed.
“Noni!” Mira gasped, “Veteo is talking about you! Jovian and Etta made your chair all those generations ago!” Noni nodded yes.
Fae scouts appeared from the Otherworld looking for missing World Tree wood. The tiny bits of enchanted wood inlaid into the chair had been detected by them. The profound magic embedded in The World Tree cuttings was not intended for ordinary purposes.
“Such a shame it had to be destroyed,” said Noni. “My chair survived almost 2,000 years before it came to me,” said Noni. “On that day my father became troubled and set fire to it in our burn barrel.” 
“Why would he do that? I don’t understand! And how did Veteo know it was destroyed? Noni, are you saying Veteo was alive when you were a little girl?”
At that moment, they heard the garage door open. The bedside clock read eleven pm. Mama would be checking to be sure everyone was tucked in. “Can I put this translation in the drawer of your nightstand—so we can get to it easily?”
Certo, of course—but everything else needs to go back in the strongbox.”
With care, Mira picked up the tiny artifacts on the floor between Noni and her. Upon locking the metal chest, she hastily pocketed the tiny wooden box. It shocked her again, like a quick bee sting. Mira thought, I know I felt something. 
She and Noni sat looking at each other for a long moment; Mira was speechless over what she had just read. She slid her arms around her grandma’s neck. ‟Noni, Noni, Noni,” she whispered. Noni signaled, a finger to lips, stare zitta—stay quiet. 
Mira helped Noni to bed and gave her one last kiss. On her way out, she touched the small wooden box in her pocket. Zing! Another electric shock. “Sheesh! Again,” she said under her breath.