The McDannagh banshee
Rory was having a tough day, it was to expect considering the weather, the group he was guiding and the fact that his boss had been barking at him the entire morning for not having been «cheerful» enough the day before. Apparently a good guide was “cheerful” and “polite” at all times. The boss could quite literally go fuck himself with a twig, Rory had worked at this site for fifteen summers and some winters too and he knew his trade. If people did think he was too sombre then fuck them too. The rain was drizzling down and the wind so strong it was hard to stand upright. The group was huge, two entire boatloads, which meant that he had to roar to be heard over the wind. It was a wonder the boats had managed to get to the pier, the waves were both tall and unpredictable here in the sound and in special when the wind came in from the west.
He had put on a good raincoat and he wore a thick wool jumper underneath it, leather pants and high boots, he wouldn’t freeze but he would bet his ass some of the tourists would. This was the last stop on the journey along the coast and before they had visited a museum, a whiskey still and a village where they could buy all sorts of souvenirs. The swimming expression on the faces of some of them did tell him that they had said yes to tasting some of the whiskey, it was like liquid fire and he knew that the guides there loved to get people indecently drunk before they went on with the boat ride. There was a bet going on how many of the tourists would be forced to puke before the trip was over, he knew that one of the guides had won several times in a row.
The castle was of course the grand attraction on the tour, and Rory was proud to be the main guide there too. He was an expert on the history of the place and he was proud to say that he knew everything there was to know about both the area and the castle itself. The group was made up of two busloads of people, from two different travelling agencies. Most were probably Americans, a few could perhaps be French and then there were some Asians and two oddly tall guys dressed in clothes Rory only had seen in them magazines for “alternative lifestyles”. In short, they did look like hippies and they had to freeze their balls off in them loose hanging pants and flowery shirts. Well, it was their own fault and judging by the overly pretty faces and long flowing hair he wouldn’t be surprised if these two were more than just friends. He didn’t mind, as long as everybody paid their entrance fee he was happy and he braced himself.
He just hoped that the huge group didn’t contain the types of tourists he hated, the kind who would ask all sorts of silly questions, the type who did question every bloody thing he did say or the type who just veered off. The cliffs around the castle were dangerous, in fact many had fallen to their deaths there over the years and Rory never failed to tell them all the gory details. It was such a joy to see them go green in the face and he was sure that he just gave them what they were after, a good shiver down their spines.
He did walk up in front of them, he did wear a huge sign on his chest saying “guide” in bold letters and the group did fall silent. He did grin, being a bit rough looking with quite a beard and unkempt hair did make him look just right for this job. The tourists expected a ragged Scotsman, not some groomed office worker. “Aye ya all, listen up good people. I am Rory, and I will take you on this tour of the castle.”
Everybody were listening up and Rory felt a bit relieved, he could tell right away whether or not this was gonna be a good group to guide or nor. Everybody was giving him their full attention and that was grand, in this fecking weather he didn’t want any sort of trouble. He did toss his hair back and put on his most serious expression. “So, first of all, do not stray off the path, the last dude who did ended up on the cliffs, a very nasty death. The paramedics said he was like a bag of wet noodles when they managed to pick him up, not a single bone left in that body, all crushed!”
The group did gape and stare ahead, the path was rather narrow over the ridge between the mainland and the castle. It was placed on a cliff and the only connection to the island itself was a very narrow stone ridge which was no wider than twelve feet. Rory did walk ahead, he didn’t like this at all but the railing they had erected was solid and made it almost safe to cross over. “Ya all, use the ropes to stay in balance and do not stop to admire the view. You can do that whence we reach the other side”
He wandered off and the group did follow, like a flock of sheep behind their shepherd. The walk over the ridge wasn’t long and as soon as they reached the tiny open place in front of the castle itself he did turn around again. “Welcome to McDannagh Castle, better known as the screeching tower. This cliff is known as Himreng’s cliff, why nobody knows for the word isn’t Scottish or any other language we know off. The only thing we do know is that this site is old, goddamn old.”
He pointed at some rocks which lay half hidden in the ground. “These are probably a part of the original foundation and they are a type of rock which cannot be found around here at all. Some think the original building was erected so long ago the ice age was barely over”
Some of the people did look a bit doubtful and Rory flashed them a grin, “That would of course be insane for we all know that people back then couldn’t build anything this grand. The rocks are however cut and formed with remarkable precision”
One of the group, a teenage lad with one lock of long hair dyed blue did sort of whisper to himself. “Ancient aliens”
Rory tilted his head. “Aye, that is one theory, some say it was survivors from Atlantis, others that it was the famous giants of old. Here they say it was the faeries of old.”
He did turn around again, the castle was little more than a ruin but still very impressive and he made a gesture as if to embrace the whole thing. “What we do know is that this cliff was a part of the island once, it has even been under water. The entire coast here has been submerged for centuries. The castle as we see it now was first built in the 700’s, by some local lord”
He did take them through what had been the gates and people were staring at the enormous rocks and the simple and yet elegant architecture. “Some do connect this castle to the legends of Arthur and the knights of the round table but I doubt that they were Scottish”
Some did chuckle and Rory felt that the wind had died down a wee bit, that was grand, he didn’t have to roar to be heard. “Then the castle was rebuilt in the 14’th century and finally in 1768, the owners have been the McDannagh clan the whole time.”
Everybody’s ears did perk up, they were coming to the interesting part. Rory enjoyed this a lot. “The first owner we do know something about was a man known as Tavish McDannagh, he lived from the early 13 hundreds and he was infamous for oh so many reasons”
The lad with the blue hairlock did nod knowingly but he didn’t say anything, he appeared to know the story but Rory did notice that the two odd gentlemen did throw some almost sad glances at the ruins. “This Tavish was said to be a sorcerer, so powerful he was able to make the devil do his every bidding. They said he kept a demon chained in the basement and that any enemy who entered the ridge would be driven insane”
People did chuckle and Rory did grin, a sinister grin. “The castle was of course almost impossible to take so somebody has to be blamed right? The castle can be defended by a few men, the ridge is the only path anybody can use and as long as they had arrows they were safe.”
Everybody did look at the ridge and imagined it in a storm and darkness, the prospect of crossing then would be enough to make everybody think twice and decide to turn back, a sort of “fuck this, aint worth it” sort of reaction.
Rory started to walk through the ruin, he was glad the sea wasn’t too fierce this day, the cliff was tall and way above the sea level but once a rouge wave had hit the cliff while he was guiding a group and everybody had been soaked, and terrified too. If you got swept off you were dead, easy as that. He did stop by one of the elegant archways and pointed at them, said a few things about the technique behind this and then some about the strategic importance of the castle and a wee woman with a French accent did flutter her eyelids. “I have heard that more of the owners were strange too?”
Rory nodded “I am coming to that my lady, yes, they McDannaghs were known as people who did play with dangerous forces. Tavish had a grandson who got reported to the Vatican for having practiced the dark arts. They said that he was conversing with demons and that he had captured a mermaid and kept it captive. Apparently its tears would keep him forever young”
Rory chuckled. “Oh, and then we have Lady Anbeth McDannagh, she lived a very unusual life for a woman of that age. When she died in 1656 she had gone through no less than five husbands and she owned huge parts of this area. The church hated her for she was no devout believer, they said that she was in contact with the fair folk and that she rejected the bible. If she hadn’t been nobility they would have burned her at the stake for sure”
Many shuddered and Rory lead them towards the one tower which was still standing. “Now, this is the most famous part of this castle, the so called screeching tower. They think it is the reason for the legend of the McDannagh banshee.”
He did pet one of the rocks, it was dark and old and worn and the tower was rather tall and wide, it was very solidly built but no longer safe to enter. “The banshee is said to have followed the family for all time and each time somebody is to die it can be heard wailing and crying”
Some were taking pictures, over the entrance there was a sort of figurine carved into the stone, it did look like a wailing gargoyle and it was rather ghastly. “They think that this is an attempt at describing the banshee”
Rory entered the room behind the tower, here there was no roof and holes in the wall indicated where the second floor had been. “This is the great hall, it has seen some action. They say that the founder of the McDannagh clan did behead all his enemies in here and gathered their blood in barrels, shipped it back to their clans with their bodies. He kept the heads and hung them from the cliff.”
He saw that some of the group did look a bit wide eyed, but people loved this, the grotesque facts of the past. The two odd guys did look bored, well, he hadn’t forced them to join the tour. “During the black death this place became a refuge, but it didn’t save them. Only two of the clan did survive since they were somewhere on the mainland and they didn’t catch the plague. Everybody who had walled themselves up here did die, guess they couldn’t keep out the black death after all”
The lad with the blue lock did look intrigued. “The banshee, they have explained it now haven’t they?”
Rory nodded. “That is correct young man, they have found out why the legend lasts to this day”
He did walk around until they reached the tower again. “The cliff we are standing on has lots of cracks and there are caves under it too. When there is a full moon and high tide the water does press the air out of the cracks and they work like organ pipes, it makes a very nasty sound”
One of the men did look eager. “Is there a chance that we may hear it today?”
Rory did look at his watch. “Possibly, the tide is coming in and the moon is full too tonight, I wouldn’t expect too much of a show but we may hear something”
Everybody did look excited and even the two long haired hippie guys did look pleased. Rory did lead the group around, the castle was rather large and there was much to tell yet, he told the story of the man who was found in the pig pen on his own wedding night, of the daughter of Duncan McDannagh who jumped to her death from the tower when she found out that the man she was pregnant with and to marry already had a wife. The castle had a long and spectacular history and Rory told them everything they wanted to hear. In 1789 there had been a wedding and they had slaughtered no less than 65 bulls to feed the guests and 150 barrels of ale and 50 of whiskey had been consumed along with two tonnes of bread and vegetables and probably a godawful load of haggis. Back then weddings were serious stuff. It was soon getting dark and Rory saw that the tide was coming inn, the shape of the bay did force the water inn very high and he was rather sure that they would hear the banshee this night. They were heading back towards the ridge when they heard the first sounds, it was a sort of low rumbling sound followed by a burping noise which made some of the tourists giggle. “No wonder people believed it to be a bad spirit or a vengeful demon, it does sound rather awful right?”
Everybody was listening and there came an awful wailing sound, it did sound almost human but Rory knew that the cracks and voids within the cliff could do odd things with sound. It became a shriek which made many cover their ears and Rory was impressed. It was in fact going to be one of those nights? Wonderful, sometimes the “banshee” did outdo itself and the current had to be perfect tonight. There was a deep roaring noise which did rise and rise until it did die down with a sound which did remind everybody of somebody barfing. A couple of the people did turn a wee bit green. Rory tried to joke. “Sounds as if the banshee has a slight stomach problem”
Most of them laughed but the two long haired dudes did look very serious, here was definitely something odd about them. He hadn’t seen anybody moving this smoothly before and had he heard them walk at all? Hard to tell, the group was making so much noise but they did move as if they were given some sort of special treatment by whoever was responsible for the force of gravity. There was a sound which could only be described as farting and the boy with the blue hair did burst into laughter. The sound was surprisingly loud and also very intense, Rory had rarely heard it worse. The shrieking and wailing did increase, it did sound so freakingly human, like somebody crying out in agony and anguish. It was just air trapped within the cliff, but this time Rory had to admit that he was almost tempted to believe that something in there was wailing all the sorrows of this world.
The group stood there for a good half hour and eyes were huge and ears shielded, the banshee hadn’t made this much noise in years and Rory wondered if there was some sort of weather change coming. The two odd men did stare at each other and their gaze was content, as if they had found something they had been looking for a long time. Perhaps they had a kink for nasty sounds? The wailing and moaning did die down and Rory did lead the group off the cliff again, he was hungry and rather cold and longed for a cup of coffee and his bed. He did live in a small cottage not far from the ridge since he was responsible for maintaining the small harbour and he did go down there to bid the travellers goodbye. He did empty the trash bins and made sure that the harbour was ready for the boats to return the next day. The trash had to be taken away right after the people left for they threw just about anything. Once he had arrived just in time to see that a seal did tear into one of the garbage bags and it did chomp down on one of those rubber toys shaped like a huge cock. He was stupid enough to tell the guy in charge of the local wildlife and there was a huge operation set into action to get that seal and remove the dildo from its gut. They did find the seal, and the rubber dong too, the seal would probably have shat the whole thing out again but the idea gave Rory the heebie jeebies. Well, it wasn’t his job to tell the wildlife authorities what to do with the tax money did receive.
He did return to his cabin and listened to the wind roaring around the cabin, there would be a storm tomorrow for sure and then there would be no guiding. Good, he needed a break. He did make himself dinner and decided against going to the local pub this evening, the wind was just too bad. Instead he did find a bottle of very fine old whiskey and enjoyed a glass before bedtime. The cottage wasn’t large and it was rather old too but it had an undeniable charm. Rory was living there alone if one didn’t count his two cats and a barn owl who had chosen to build a nest under the roof of the south wall.
Rory went to bed listening to the roar of the wind and he fell asleep fast, he was tired and it had been a long day too. He usually didn’t dream much but this night he did dream of a cave deep underneath the cliff and within it was some unknown horror worthy of Lovecraft, howling and screeching, hungry for some sort of vengeance, or perhaps blood.
He did woke up with a start, at first he had no idea of what it was that had awakened him, then he did notice that it was quiet outside and that was not normal. The wind was gone, completely. He had never experienced that before, it was impossible. He got up and walked over to the window and then he froze. There were light over at the castle, not much but he did see some sort of flickering light behind the tower. Rory swore, they had encountered idiots before, people who believed that the castle did hide some sort of treasure and others who thought that perhaps they could find antiquities there. The castle didn’t contain anything of value, the museum had funded a thorough dig years ago and there wasn’t anything left there except stone and earth. You couldn’t even find a horseshoenail over there now.
Rory contemplated calling the cops, but it was no good idea. Constable Dougal was in his sixties, used a bike and would never dare to go out to the castle at night. Rory wasn’t some coward, if there were robbers over there they were in for the surprise of a lifetime. Rory did put on his clothes in a hurry and then his boots and hat and then he did bring out Mathilda. Mathilda was a shotgun, double barrelled and sixteen gauge, she did kick a punch. He did find some cartridges and swore as he left the cottage. He had come across people who sought out the castle for a whole other reasons though, teenagers who thought that it was secluded enough for them to either do drugs, drink or fuck. Rory had once had to sneak up on two kids who were going at it like rabbits at a very dangerous spot, one wrong move and they would have plunged to their deaths. The cliff was very unstable in some places and even though cables and thick steel bars had been placed there to prevent any avalanches one could never be too safe.
Rory did sneak across the ridge, it was very dark but he knew that path like the back of his hand, every rock and every slippery spot and he made it across without losing his footing even once. He did see the flickering light again, it wasn’t very strong and rather soft looking too. Probably no flashlight, a cell phone perhaps? No, that would be too faint, it was a powerful light source for sure. Rory got curious, he did hold Mathilda ready and did peek out from beneath a rock. What he saw made him freeze up. It was the two guys from the group but now they wore some sort of elaborate robes and they were glowing! Sweet Jesus Mary and Josef, they did glow as if there was some sort of fire inside of them and he could hear something which resembled singing, and it was so beautiful it brought tears to his face. They did look angelic and Rory remembered how his grandma had dragged him off to Sunday school each week, he had hated it but now he did remember everything he had learned. Were these angels?
They stood there and appeared to be remove earth and stone but they didn’t use shovels, they just moved their hands and the material did slide aside, like the red sea when Moses split it. Rory was shivering, why were they here? He was trembling, he realized that he was seeing something humans have no business getting involved in. He swallowed a whimper and saw that a sort of hatch did appear. It was buried deep, no wonder the dig hadn’t uncovered it. It had to have been deliberately hidden sometime a long time ago. What were they doing?
Rory was praying, he suddenly remembered all the prayers his grandma taught him and all the saints too, a long row of them. Some were probably not saints though but childhood idols, actors, football players and such but that didn’t make his prayers less heartfelt. He didn’t want to leave this earth yet, he wasn’t finished with this life by far!
The two angels, if that was what they were, did lift the hatch as if it was weightless. Rory did hold his breath, there had to be something important they were after? He couldn’t just burst forth and try to arrest two angels for breaking an entry now could he? He shivered, he had never been superstitious and the legends and tales of this castle had been entertaining but nothing he had put any faith in, until now. He heard a wail, a sort of hollow horrible shriek which made him cringe and he did see some sort of light coming from below. The two angels were calling it forth and Rory almost lost it. What was this? Had there been some sort of restless spirit trapped there after all? A demon? A banshee? The goddamn mermaid everybody spoke about?!
Where the angels there to take some poor unfortunate soul back to heaven? He did sweat and wished that he could just leave but his feet were glued to the ground and he couldn’t move at all. He was sure that if he tried he would piss himself! The light from below was faint and oddly coloured, almost green. It was something wrong with it, Rory couldn’t describe it otherwise. He almost screamed, a horrible apparition did appear through the hatch, a ghost for sure, almost completely transparent and he felt his heart beating like thunder in his chest. There is no such thing as ghosts! His rational mind was screaming but he couldn’t listen to it for he saw what he saw. The apparition did wail and cry and scream and the voice, by God, it was dreadful for even if it was a most distorted and gruesome sound there was beauty within it, a most terrible and cruel beauty.
Rory did moan, he suddenly saw things he couldn’t possibly see for he had never encountered any of it but it was clear to him like the light of day. A man clad in armour, so beautiful it hurt to look at him, wounded and obviously dying. Another man, very tall and with long flaming red hair, falling slowly into a chasm filled with lava, clutching something shiny in his hand. A city burning, tall towers falling, monsters and death everywhere and the screams, God the screams! Rory thought he was going to go insane! He saw a battle, what could only be dragons were spewing flames and fiery eyed warriors did charge forth on huge steeds, chopping down the grotesque monsters but they were so many, they could never win. He saw two trees, enormous beyond description, glowing softly with light and underneath them a city like none other he had ever seen. Beauty he couldn’t even comprehend.
He saw faces, felt these lovely people sweep by like fragments of a long lost dream and he wept. He saw an enormous wave rise out of the waters and envelop an island, he saw a battle against a horrible figure clad in black armour and he saw a volcano burst into flames, walls and towers crumbling. He was clutching his head, it was too much! It was way too much. He was loosing his mind, everything he had believed about the world did crumble before his eyes and he felt his soul scream in denial for who was he if everything he had been taught was wrong?
The apparition was still wailing but the two angels did raise their hands and it fell silent. They did step forth and put their hands onto it and started to glow so strongly Rory had to look away. The ghost did look like a skeleton with terribly long tangled hair and dirty skin, a most ghastly sight and Rory did think that a banshee ought to look like that. The light was soft, gentle, it held love, compassion and understanding, a complete empathy he couldn’t even begin to describe and he could only think of it as the true light of God, if he did exist.
When the light did die down the ghost was transformed, it wasn’t a transparent ghost anymore, in its stead was a very tall slender young man, and he was so beautiful Rory had a hard time believing it. His hair was thick and black and reached his knees and he had some of the same glow as the two angels. Rory saw that his ears were pointy and remembered his other grandmother who always did spoke of the fair folk, the elves and that they were those who had inhabited the land before man came. He could believe her tales now. The two angels did speak, Rory didn’t understand a single word for the language was like flowing music, like listening to the soft chuckle of a small forest stream, like birdsong and whales singing. He was in awe and still terrified.
Eonwë was staring at the ellon in front of them, having restored him to his former beauty and given him a new hroa instead of the old faded one had been a challenge for he did fight them. Still he believed himself to be unworthy of any sort of mercy and understanding but they had been given their orders and none of them were to doubt the wisdom of their masters. He was shivering and looked at them with shock, Olorin did shake his head. “Oh Maglor, for ages we did wait for you to return, and for ages you turned a deaf ear to the callings of the valar. You are forgiven child, have been for millennia. This torment should never have been inflicted upon you”
Maglor did let out a thin whimper and he was staring at his hands and arms, not truly understanding what this was. His mind would need a whole lot of healing. Eonwë did smile. “They are all waiting for you now, even your father has repented and paid for his sins. You are the last one, come now, leave this misery behind”
Maglor did blink. “So dark…”
Olorin did embrace him and a soft white cloak did appear and wrapped itself around the naked ellon. “Yes, you were trapped here for a very long time, caught by someone who sought to harness your talents but they couldn’t break you now could they?”
He did swallow visibly. “Is my brothers…”
Olorin nodded. “Alive and well, they wish to see you again. We have tried to find you for such a long time but the world of man and our world is drifting even further apart now by every year. There is no choice this time Maglor.”
He did lower his head. “I…I do not deserve it”
Eonwë tilted his head. “You have suffered, more than anyone else ever have. You deserve it, of all of Eru’s creations you deserve his mercy the most”
Maglor sobbed and they both embraced him. “Come now, let us take you home”
He nodded and a shimmering road appeared in front of them, leading off the cliff towards the west. Eonwë did wink. “Go now, Olorin will lead you, I am coming too, there is just one small thing I need to do first.”
Olorin did lead the trembling ellon onto the straight road and Eonwë got a wicked expression upon his face. He did walk over to the opening and peered down. Then he did reach into his robes and pulled out what appeared to be a tiny bead of light and he dropped it unceremoniously down the hatch. He grinned as he did it. “By orders from Namo, enjoy your stay here, it will be your new home until the breaking of Arda”
He did a gesture and the hatch did shut itself and the stone and soil did return to its original position. The one who made that tiny chamber down there in the darkness had done a very good job, it was a suitable prison and they wouldn’t want to rob the humans of a priced attraction. After all, who could possibly deserve this better than this one fëa?
Eonwë did turn around and stared at the shivering man who was trying to hide behind the rocks. He was rather visible and the maia did walk over towards him and smiled. “Mortal, you weren’t supposed to see this”
The man did tremble so bad the shotgun under his arm did rattle like a kid’s toy. “Are…are you an angel?!”
Eonwë did sigh and roll his eyes. “You may say that yes. We did just free one of our own, a poor soul trapped here for centuries.”
Rory did wet his lips, how could any creature be so beautiful? “Was that the banshee?!”
Eonwë did tilt his head. “You can perhaps call him that, his sorrow has laid over this place for a long time but now you will have a new banshee, one who is way better for that role. It is perfect really”
Rory did frown, he didn’t understand and the angel did smile and placed a hand on his forehead and suddenly he was asleep. Eonwë did send the man back to bed, tomorrow he wouldn’t remember any of this and the castle would never reveal its new secret.
He snickered as he followed Olorin and Maglor along the road, it was indeed deserved, Namo had given up on that one and this was the perfect place for a fêa like that. At least he couldn’t torment the other maiar anymore with his constant outburst of rage. The mortals would never find the crypt since it was hidden by strong magic and Eonwë was sure that the replacement would be satisfactory to say the least.
Rory did wake up the next morning, feeling very well and rested and he didn’t remember anything at all after he went to bed the previous evening. It was all wiped from his mind. For a few days the banshee wasn’t heard from at all, but then suddenly all hell broke loose and the roaring burping sounds were louder and more violent than ever before. It became so much more active than previously and you could hear it everyday, even when the tide was low. Some thought that there had been some sort of undersea avalanche which had opened new channels since the sound had changed this much. Now it did sound more like some raging giant than a wailing banshee.
But Rory didn’t care, people were flocking to the castle to hear the banshee and as long as they did show up and paid he was a very happy man indeed.
There was only one odd thing, for some peculiar reason people kept losing their rings while visiting the castle, and nobody could quite explain it. So now Rory did explain that not only did the castle have a banshee, it had a kleptomaniac one and thus it became even more renowned and people were coming there by the score. What a banshee would need rings for was beyond anybody’s guess but who cared, Rory warned people wearing very valuable rings and it only added to the mystery.