Barnaby's Buried Treasure Troubles
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.
“Hush. At least, they’re falling for it,” Holly whispered, watching the pair of them circle the adder stone looking for marks in the grass.
“For what? Tabitha doesn’t use the human world to travel. Even if she comes through the adder stone, she’ll be in the otherworld!”
Fae in the dimension of the otherworld could see into the human dimension at will, but most didn’t without reason. The exception was the duegars. If only the troublemaking midgets were around to mess with the kidnappers, they could help. Unfortunately, they generally stayed closer to the path to Vale than to Tabitha’s house.
“We don’t need her, we’ll use the stone ourselves.”
Barnaby shook his head. “We’d need changeling magic.”
“But we have some. You’ve got an adder stone in your pocket. You go through the portal, and I’ll hang on to you. Not to give in to leprechaun stereotypes, but it should be easy enough to trick them.”
Barnaby didn’t want to respond.
“You have got the stone in your pocket, haven’t you?” Holly said it like an accusation: through her teeth and seething.
“Well, I, uh, see the thing is…”
“Barnaby!” She made a whisper sound like a blaring horn.
“I dropped it back in the room where they held us before.”
It had fallen on the bed when he’d been stuffed in the duffle bag. At the time, it had been both an accident and what had seemed like a good idea. One of the cleaning staff might still find it, see Barnaby’s engraving and realize the people in that room had kidnapped them. He wanted to point out that there was an off chance that someone was coming this very moment to rescue them. Though, right now, there was a greater chance Holly would strangle him herself before help arrived.
“Okay, just calm down. They don’t know yet that there’s no gold here,” Barnaby said.
“There’s no what?”
However she’d done it, Honey had managed to sneak up behind them while they were arguing. Her shadow fell across them as she moved in front of the pair. It was joined by the much larger, and decidedly angrier, shadow of her companion.
“What’s this? Have they tricked us?”
“No, not at all,” said Holly, “We were only saying that you might be surprised that it’s not gold that you’ll find among a leprechaun’s treasures.”
“So, what do you have out here?” Fish-Breath’s face came inches to the two of them.
“There you are! You’re here!”
Barnaby never thought he’d be so happy to see Tabitha in all his life. The green pointed eared, fair-haired fae was a sight for recently blindfolded eyes. Barnaby beamed.
“I’ll tell you what we’ve got, Honey, a friend to rescue us. That’s what we’ve got.”
But Tabitha didn’t seem to realize they were in danger. She did her usual carefree waltz up to them. Clapping her hands, she smiled.
“What have I missed? Oh, are those shovels? Are we on a treasure hunt?”
An observant thing to say for someone so senseless. She could figure out they were on a treasure hunt, but completely missed the fact that they were tied up? Honey and Fish Breath, despite their shock, looked self-assured. Fish Breath grabbed the nature faerie’s cage while Honey spoke.
“Why yes, we are. Why don’t you join us?”
“Love to! I’m Tabitha.” She held her hand out.
Rather, she held both her hands out, crisscross, to greet both of the strangers. By this time Barnaby opened his mouth to speak, but Fish Breath’s eyes gave him a warning. He held his open hand out to Tabitha. Honey did the same.
Barnaby should have known something was up when Holly smiled. Tabitha moved faster than he could follow, bringing the two kidnappers’ hands together in one swift motion. A green swirl knotted them together. It was like Tabitha’s magic had materialized into a rope.
“Hey!” Fish Breath exclaimed.
But before the kidnappers could make a move, Tabitha put one finger on each forehead. Her changeling powers included a sleeping spell, which she said in the single Gaelic word “codladh,” sleep. They both tipped backward. Unphased, Tabitha grabbed the nature faerie’s cage as Fish Breath fell.
Holly and Barnaby swerved to the side. Once Tabitha released the nature faerie, the grateful little fae swished above them sprinkling a faerie dust of a happier kind. Their ooziness passed, and their powers returned unaffected.
“My leprechaun friends!” Tabitha squealed.
She hugged them almost as tightly as the ropes binding them.
“Would you mind untying us?” Barnaby struggled for enough air to ask the question.
She let go.
“Of course,” said Tabitha.
She held her hands out, and the ropes uncoiled like a pet snake returning to its owner. It disappeared in her outstretched hands.
One of the humans groaned. Holly and Barnaby looked at each other as if sharing the same thought: The faster they could leave through the portal the better. Tabitha and the nature faerie seemed to have another idea. The little fae tugged at her sleeve.
“You go ahead,” Tabitha said, handing Barnaby his adder stone, “We’ll take care of them.”
“Perfect,” Barnaby exclaimed. He snatched the stone and turned to leave, reaching for Holly’s hand as he did so. She gave him a cold half-second glance.
“Thank you,” said Holly to Tabitha.
“Right, um, thank you,” Barnaby felt his cheeks turning red as he said it. He scratched his head awkwardly at the same time.
He wasn’t used to thanking her - or being polite to her, he realized. All he’d cared about is his own time to himself and his time with Holly. He could not be bothered with Tabitha’s strangeness. All he wanted was for her to be gone. When had he become so selfish?
Holly put her hand in his, as a necessity to get through the adder stone. Once back in his clothing shop, the scene of the kidnapping, Holly promptly used the telephone to call the Moss Hill authorities.
Barnaby’s guilt increased as Holly talked with an officer. She gave the details of the crime and location of the culprits, complete with a request that sounded more like an order, “and make sure the sidhe guard knows I sent you. I’m a personal friend of the captain, and he’ll want to know we’re safe.”
Barnaby chucked inaudibly. They were personal friends with Carissa Shae and Cameron Larke, the apothecary and her boyfriend, who happened to be the ambassador to Vale. Barnaby wasn’t sure anyone was friends with Varick since the sidhe captain didn’t let anyone get that close – except maybe Jane.
Holly hung up the phone. He turned to her, but she quickly dodged. There were still teacups on the counter and the thermos she’d brought, which had spilled onto the floor when they’d been knocked out. Holly put a hand over the mess, her magic worked slowly to reverse the spill. She did not so much as look at him.
“I know why you’re angry with me,” said Barnaby. No response. She was going to give him the silent treatment until he apologized.
Tabitha arrived before he could say another word. She popped into the shop in her usual manner, through the door like she had no care for proper conduct in a place of business.
“All set,” she proclaimed. “Varick is taking them to the Moss Hill police station. This wee one put them in a deep sleep with her faerie dust. No real harm to them, but they may have a few bad dreams and a headache when they awake.” She giggled.
Tabitha promenaded to the counter with the nature faerie twirling triumphantly around her. Faerie dust mixed with some of Tabitha’s green magic. His old self longed to yell no more faerie dust, please! Or to make some remark about how they were getting magic all over the floor. But he held back. She’d only deflate in a release of apologies, and the nature faerie would sulk. No, the only apology needed right now was one from him to her and Holly.
“Tabitha, I want to say thank you again.” He cleared his throat, “And I’m sorry if I ever made you feel unwelcome. I’m happy for you to visit us whenever you’d like.”
“Were you rude? Why would you be rude? I always thought I was welcome – oh! Did you want me not to visit?”
It was just like Tabitha to get an apology backward. Holly looked like steam was coming out of her ears as she paused to stare at him with the teapot in her hands. Barnaby pulled the collar of his shirt away from his now sweating neck.
“Er…no, not at all. I…um…I’m glad you were here for us today.”
Holly smiled, but when she bordered on laughter, his guilty feeling eased somewhat. Tabitha obliviously sat down at the table where the uneaten cinnamon rolls sat and helped herself to a bite. That was his breakfast. He knew she’d saved their lives, but he had to say something.
“Tabitha,” he began, “of course, you’re welcome here...”
“I know ‘anytime,’ you said.” She answered.
“Yes, but, well, no. You see when people say anytime, it’s just polite. I mean, of course, we do want to see you but, not anytime.”
Tabitha put a hand up. He stopped talking and dabbed his forehead with the back of his hand. The tylwyth teg tapped her chin as if giving serious thought to his words.
“What you’re saying is that when people say ‘you’re welcome anytime,’ what they mean is….no, sorry, I don’t get it. What do they mean?” She looked at Holly.
Barnaby waited for a curt response aimed at him. He closed his eyes, praying she’d at least see he had tried to apologize.
Holly sighed, “It means you are welcome anytime, but Barnaby would like to get a little notice first, to make plans or arrange a visit.”
Tabitha blinked and looked at Barnaby, “Is that all? You just have to tell me. I’m not practiced at this, you know.”
Barnaby smiled, gratefully. It had been wrong of him to want Tabitha gone completely. Holly’s suggestion was right and fair to make.
“Yes, that’s all,” said Barnaby.
Tabitha clasped her hands together and smiled. “Wonderful!”
“Come have some tea with us,” said Holly.
Tabitha’s hands shot out, “No, no, that wouldn’t be right. I just came in without invitation, and I have to practice making plans. I can do them, I think.” She nodded, “Like this: Can I come over in ten minutes for tea?”
Barnaby laughed. He looked at Holly, who was nodding kindly at Tabitha. But as soon as her eyes turned to Barnaby, she scowled again. The tylwyth teg disappeared out the door.
Tentatively, Barnaby picked his emerald hat off the ground from where it had fallen when they had been surprise-attacked. It gave him an excuse to walk closer to Tabitha. Now a couple feet away, he tried to catch her attention with good-humored gratitude.
“Thank you, for explaining to Tabitha. I think she understood, enough anyway.”
Holly kept cleaning. He cleared his throat. Then, he tried again, this time picking up his cup and wiping the counter as he spoke.
“I, um, I’m glad Tabitha will still be visiting. Good friends are a treasure. I see that now.”
No response. Holly had magicked the teapot and cups to be clean, except the one in his hand. He set the teacup back down and put his hands up in the air.
“I give up. I’m apologizing, but I’ve no idea why you’re still angry with me. Would you please tell me what I’ve done?”
Holly put her hands on her hips and walked over to him. Face to face, she put a hand on his collar and pulled.
“Just why were you calling another woman ‘honey?’”
She had a fire in her eyes. He was torn between a smile and a frown. The smile won.
“If you’re going to laugh…” she said, letting go of his shirt.
He wrapped his arms around her before she could turn away. He smiled as a blush began to form on her face.
“I’m sorry. It’s not what you think, just a silly old leprechaun’s words tripping him up. I promise to never call anyone that again. I only have eyes for you.”
“You promise?” She asked.
He nodded. “Promise,” he replied. “And a leprechaun’s word is as good as gold.”