“Enemies of Ghillie Dhu, be careful how ye trod – A fiery rage does lay beneath that green and gentle sod.”
The young woman threw the tea towel over her shoulder and leaned down to the small, tearful boy: “Hisht, now, be a good lad while I talk to ye’re, Da.”
“And where do ya think ye be goin’ this time a’night?” She said, as she stood and approached her husband.
“I cannae go to the Pub, if that’s what ye’re thinking. I’ve no money.”
“It’s nae what I was thinking,” the girl said, softer now. She touched his wild dark hair, curling at the edges of his ears and stared into mysterious, hazel green eyes. “Dinnae worry Gil – you’ll find work soon.”
“Sure, but in the meantime, me boy’s sick with the toothache.”
“Aye, but with the new Health Service, we’ll only have to pay a percentage, no?”
“Aught per cent of aught, Lass – is still aught.” He grabbed his jacket from the hook.
“I’m for a walk,” he said, and closed the door hard, leaving his wife to deal with the child.
The near-full moon shed light to Gil’s path as he strolled along Loch a Druing. If he walked three miles he knew he’d come to a large birch wood – northwest, in the highlands of Gairloch. True enough, about an hour after he’d set out, he could see the darkness of a thick forest loom nearer, contrasting with the silvery white of birch trunks seeming to support it. He meant to find an area he and his mates had used for a sleep-outs when they were lads but the trees were grown very thick. When he approached the glyndwr, he half parted the branches and stepped through, but his foot found no purchase and he went tumbling down, head over heels. He awoke some time later, head feeling sore but not as sore as his leg and the right side of his body. Sitting up he realized he was in a cage made of skinned tree branches. Nearby, there were three other cages beside his own of the same construction.
The one next to himself contained of all things, a Unicorn. At least he guessed that was what it was – it looked to be a young horse with a horn atop its nose. And there were two other cages that held creatures that he’d seen pictures of in books as a boy: a Brownie and a Faun – Faeries, both. All three of the creatures had wings.
At first Gill thought he must be dreaming, but the Unicorn spoke: “Is it you, then Ghillie Dhu?”
“D’ye no ken who ye’are?” The Faerie called Brownie, said.
Gil remembered then, as tales of Ghillie filled his head.
The tales were from his Poppy – told him when a lad – about a forest creature,who was hardly ever bad. His name was Ghillie Dhu, lived in the Scottish woods, an Elven sprite he spent his nights, and days for doing good. His dress was rather strange, Poppy had informed, with leaves and trees and such, his body he adorned.
He brought lost children home and other kind things, too; aye, for goodness he was known, was our Ghillie Dhu.
But someone hurt the wee folk and heaven help them all, ’cause Ghillie Dhu provoked, could grow – at least to ten feet tall. As fierce he was as friend, now he’d be a foe and Ghillie’d bring upon ye’re head a terrible kind of woe.
For the first time Gil, he noticed, his arms and thought them odd –
he wore a sort of cape with sleeves and hood made up of sod.
The cape had seedling trees, shrubs and moss, as well –
as to where or how he’d got it – Gillis could not tell.
Unicorn looked up and then pawed at the dirt.
Snorting out: “Wait, I say!” And his voice was curt.
“Leave him be, I tell ye now, he’ll be himself – soon, somehow.”
Gill scratched his head or rather moss – his former memory, become lost.
“But where am I and who are ye?” Gil was that perplexed.
“Here with us – ye’ Ghillie be,” Brownie sounded vexed.
“I’m not quite sure, I understand…
what is this strange and different land?”
“‘Tis writ in myth as olde as time,” the Unicorn went on,
“when the all talk, it be in rhyme, the Ghillie Dhu has come.”
It came to Gil, right there and then –
he’d come here now, to help again.