Free Short Story:

Barnaby's Buried Treasure Troubles


Photo of a rainbow over a green pasture.
Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

“I’m blind!”


Barnaby woke in the strangest position. His tailcoat tucked uncomfortably under his hip as he lay curled up in a ball with his hands bound behind him. At least the carpet was soft.

“You’re not blind. We’re blindfolded,” a woman’s voice came from a foot or two away. She muttered just under her breath, “foolish leprechaun.”


“Holly?” he asked.


Barnaby didn’t think he’d be so ecstatic to hear the bean tighe’s voice - not after their big blow up this morning. She’d try to convince him it was all his fault, but he wasn’t wrong this time. Except about being okay with never speaking to her again. He wasn’t okay with it. In fact, he wasn’t okay with anything at the moment.


“Holly, are you alright?”


“I’m tied up, so no I am not, in any measure of the word, ‘alright.’” She sounded angrier than she’d been during their fight.


“Okay. I get it. Don’t go shouting at me,” after two hours and who knows how much time since he and Holly had been inside his clothing shop, the tailor had grown tired of arguing.


Holly grunted. The sounds of swooshing fabric followed.


Barnaby imagined her 3-foot frame, not much smaller than his, wriggling in her pink cotton dress, bound as he was on the floor. Her reddish-brown hair landed in his face. At least, he hoped it was her hair. It moved, tickling his nose.


Before he could move away, Holly rolled right into his back with enough of a thud to beat the air out of his lungs in a single groan. Barnaby bellowed.


“Would you quit squirming? You sucked the air right out of me.”


Holly stopped. She lay quiet at first. Then she murmured to herself.


“Used to tell me I took his breath away, now he’s telling me ‘I suck the air out of him.’”


Oh, how he hated when she spoke to herself knowing full well that he could hear her. He clenched his teeth. It was that or him saying something he’d regret. Like how he remembered now why they had broken up fifty years ago or what a mistake it was to get back together when she returned to Moss Hill.


He wanted to say it, not because it was true, but because he was angry and that was the most hurtful thing he could think of to say. But he kept his mouth shut because Holly might never forgive those words. And the years without her had been emptier than he’d realized.


A click and the creaking of a door caught his attention. He turned his head to the left side of the room, where the door now closed with a clack. He expected a man’s voice, gruff and tall sounding – because tall sounding voices were the worst – but instead, an even-toned feminine voice shaped the air into soft, curvy notes.


“Did they say anything interesting?”


Only then did Barnaby realize that there was another person in the room. Someone who must have been there all along responded.


“Still bickering. Looks like those two never stop.”


The voice was a man’s, not rugged but definitely tall. He might have been a giant. Or it might have been that Barnaby’s head was currently resting on the floor, so the sound came from higher than usual. Still, the cheek of him, talking about them as if they weren’t in the room.


Barnaby would really give them a piece of his mind - in a minute. Just as soon as he listened a little more to their nefarious plan, then, oh boy, they’d be in for a ton of trouble.


“Still arguing over this Tabitha person?”


“Nah, just about being tied up. They don’t much care for it.”


Barnaby’s wrists struggled against the rope and his fingers tensed. He didn’t much care for Tabitha. He would never actually wring a fae’s neck, but that tylwyth teg was the closest he’d ever come to feeling like strangling a person. She’d been the topic of their tiff today.


“She’s lonely,” Holly had said, “The new adder stones are finally ready, why not put them in your shop, and your home, and while we’re at it why not just carry one around with you so that Tabitha can drop in any time uninvited like she’s already been doing for two weeks!”


Alright, so that’s not precisely what Holly had said. But the giant adder stones had been placed in the Harbridges’ backyard in the otherworld, and one had been put at the end of Gorse street by his shop. And he did have an adder stone in his pocket, but that was only because there was still the possibility of troll changelings running about Moss Hill after a short invasion, and Holly had said it was a good idea to keep one, just in case.


Not that he needed it. Since a fae with changeling magic could use the adder stones as a portal, Tabitha’s already frequent visits had increased tenfold. And because she had changeling magic, and therefore could see right through any trolls masquerading as changelings in town, Holly thought it wise that she be able to move about town quickly. Barnaby didn’t mind the added protection. The problem was Tabitha had no social skills and no sense of boundaries.


She’d visit at the drop of a hat - usually a hat he was making in his shop at the time - with a look at this and a can you help with that? Holly didn’t seem to mind the daily interruptions to their work lives, home lives, and... love lives. Barnaby did.


“They use any magic to try and escape?”


“None. I think the faerie dust’s still working.”


Faerie Dust! So that’s how they were able to capture the two of them without them noticing. But of all the nature faeries in Moss Hill, who would go along with kidnapping?


None, that’s who.


Unless it was a pixie. Or unless it was trapped. Terror pried his mouth open and ripped the words from him.

“Chaos! Hiya? Cynth? Are you alright, little faerie?”


“Quiet!” said the man.


“Or we’ll gag you,” the woman’s cold voice threatened.


Barnaby didn’t know why he’d called out those names. He’d somehow imagined they’d captured one of his neighbor’s, Carissa’s, nature faeries. They could have kidnapped any tiny fae from the island. One thing was sure, if they had caught a nature faerie, it was scared enough for its faerie dust to create a knock out effect. That meant it must have been terrified.


“What have you done with the sprite?” Barnaby bravely demanded.


“Sprite?” asked the man. “Is that what they're called?”


“Would you shut your trap?” Holly whispered, “You don’t even know that they’ve got a faerie.”


“Oh we’ve got a faerie,” interrupted the woman. “And two leprechauns. I’d say that’s all we need.”

“Need for what?” asked Barnaby.


He could almost hear Holly rolling her eyes under the blindfold. She could scold him all day. He was quite brave under pressure if he did think so himself.


“We know all about you leprechauns. You’ve got a pot of gold, and it’s raining outside,” the tall man’s voice lingered over him. He smelled of fish. Fish-breath, that’s how Barnaby would think of him now, in the absence of a name.


“I don’t follow.” Barnaby shook his head. Fish-breath made no sense.


“Leprechauns stash their pots of gold at the ends of rainbows. Everyone knows if you catch a leprechaun, you get the gold. Now tell us where it is.” The woman said the words as if they were rational, when, in fact, they were well past offensive.


“That’s a stereotype. We haven’t got a -”


That half-finished sentence earned Barnaby a kick in the back. What hurt more was that the pointed shoe could only be Holly’s. What was she kicking him for?


The woman kidnapper’s voice bent low near his face. She smelled like honey. Her tone was anything but sweet.


“You can try to deny it all you like, but we know you’ve got buried treasure somewhere on this island. We’re not leaving here without it.”


Barnaby was afraid to speak. Half of him was scared of the tip of a knife touching the side of his neck. The other half of him was at risk of another kick from Holly. He was both grateful and confused when Holly spoke instead.


“Yes, you’ve caught a leprechaun. Congratulations. We are now, as your legends suggest, obligated to take you to the treasure.”


The pressure from the knife eased. As grateful as Barnaby was for the relief, he had no idea what Holly was planning. She didn’t really think he had a pot of gold, did she?


“I’m listening,” said the woman with the honey-scented perfume.


“We’ve buried the treasure in Vale Mountain. You’ll need us to get you there,” Holly said.


“You can’t fool us. We know faeries love forests. You’re leading us into an ambush.”


“Of course, there are faeries in the forests, nature faeries and dryads, gnomes and things like that. But they’re harmless. You know all about faeries, or it seems like you do, you wouldn’t be scared of them, would you?”


Holly was clever. But neither Barnaby nor her knew any of the forest fae – except maybe Tabitha. Unless she was leading them to Vale, but with their hands bound and the threat of being gagged, she couldn’t perform any spell to enter the otherworld quickly enough not to be stopped.


“We’re not scared of any fae. You’d do well to remember that. But I don’t believe in taking chances, so, you’ll tell me exactly where to find this treasure now, and you’d better tell the truth.”


“Certainly,” said Holly. Was she not scared at all? “It’s just east of the castle, in a clearing in the woods by the start of a brook.”


She was describing Tabitha’s house, or what it would look like in the human world. But now that she was allowed in Moss Hill, she was rarely ever home and with them missing she was probably looking for them all over town. On the off chance she was home, would she be looking in the human world? Barnaby didn’t say anything. It was their best chance, and he knew it.


“This had better not be a trick,” said Fish Breath.


“Of course it’s not,” Holly replied. She did a great impression of an indignant tone. Or did she have a secret stash of gold in Vale Mountain?


“It definitely could be,” said the woman, whom Barnaby was now thinking of as Honey, “it says in the book that leprechauns are tricky.”


“What book?” asked Barnaby.


“Faeries and Where to Find Them,” Fish Breath said.


“Look up a bean tighe in that book of yours and then tell me: Would a bean tighe lie?” asked Holly.


Barnaby fought a smile. She was amazing. What was he mad at her about again?


“It’s not important,” Honey said. She added, “What is important is that we get that gold and everyone goes home happy.”


“Just for our edification,” asked Barnaby, “what will you do with us if you don’t find any treasure from us?”


“We’ll start by getting rid of your nature faerie friend,” said the woman.


“Then your girlfriend,” said the man.


Barnaby paled. His head turned sideways toward Holly behind him. Even though he couldn’t see her, he reached out to grasp hold of her hand. His search yield a handful of fabric and a slap on his wrists. He wasn’t sure if it was Holly or the kidnappers who’d slapped him away.


“I think he gets the idea.”


He had an idea, alright. He thought of it at the moment. If they were going to go into the woods, he’d leave a trail of breadcrumbs -well, one breadcrumb: the adder stone. He was about to wriggle just enough for it to fall out of his pocket. He slipped it into his hand. When the opportunity presented itself, he’d let it drop.

Any Mossie would recognize the stone. They’d see Barnaby’s name etched into it and when they tried returning it, voila! They’d see he was missing and…and what?


That was no plan.


The woman made a ruffling noise. Then something like a backpack zipped. Two arms pulled him up like he weighed nothing. A second later he was surrounded by fabric.


“Am I in a duffle bag? Have you just stuffed me into a duffle bag?” He could hear Holly shouting. Then nothing.


“Holly! What’ve you done to her?” Barnaby popped up. He struggled as the man tried wrestling him back into the bag. His blindfold slipped just enough for him to see the room. It was a room in the Failte Abhaile hotel. The bag fell onto the bed, and the man held him down.


“Help!” Barnaby cried, hoping someone in the next room would hear.


But the blindfold was back on, and before he could say another word, he heard the faint chiming of fluttering wings and felt the sprinkle of fairy dust tickling his nose. Then it all faded to black.


***

A chirping woke him. He was moving. He struggled against the fabric. Then, a zipping sound came over his head, and the feel of fresh air sharpened his senses.


“Out you go.” Fish breath was even worse-smelling so close up.


Barnaby found himself standing upright. If his feet weren’t tied, he’d have kicked in the direction of the foul odor. As it was, his feet were inseparable, his hands bound behind his back, and his eyes covered. That changed the next moment when the man lifted the blindfold and Barnaby blinked in the sunlight. There wasn’t that much of it, though the gold sunset was brighter than a blindfold.


There were trees everywhere. They were in the Vale woods, right enough. It was getting dark out, and the trees took on their eerie shades. If there were fae so far out here at night, they weren’t any who took so kindly to their space being invaded.


“Where’s the treasure?” asked Honey.


She was a dirty blonde, literally covered in dirt, but also an obvious brunette with her hair colored. With a pointed nose and green eyes, she could have been a tylwyth teg herself. Only she was dressed like a backpacking tourist. Her partner was a mop of brown hair draped over burly biceps, stuffed into a tight tan t-shirt, and set atop a pair of tan trousers. He might have had eyes and a mouth, but he was looking away from them at the moment.


Barnaby held his eyes shut tight before the man could turn around. Honey noticed. So did Fish Breath.

“What are you doing?”


He was clearly asking Barnaby since the smell had been directed straight to his nose. The leprechaun peeked one eye open.


“Aren’t you afraid we’ve seen your faces?” Barnaby asked.


“It won’t matter if we’re dead,” said Holly. “Are you planning to murder us after you get your gold?”


She sounded a bit murderous herself.


“Not at all. What kind of monsters do you think we are? No, we’ll take you back to your shop and get on the next boat out of here. You’ll never see us again.” Honey gave a sickly-sweet smile.


Holly, understandably, did not look reassured. She nodded in the direction of the stream.


“Just over there. There should be a circular stone marking the spot.”


Circular stone. The adder stone? Yes, there it was at least 10 yards away.


“I’ll check it out,” said Fish Breath.


“Let me,” she walked ahead of him.


“What about them?”


“They’re tied up, what can they do?”


The two kidnappers bickered as they walked. It was an opportunistic mistake.


Holly and Barnaby looked at each other with the same single thought. Almost in sync, they said the spell to transfer them into the otherworld. Nothing happened. A tinkling sound made them look behind one another.


There was the nature faerie, shaking her head. She was a wild thing, almost pixieish, holding the bars with teary eyes. Her faerie dust must have had a lingering effect on them. The nature faerie looked up at them in a mix of fear and regret. She jumped back when Barnaby cried out.


“Drat!”


“Hush. At least, they’re falling for it,” Holly whispered, watching the pair