The Split Rock
Chapter Twelve - The Contest
"HAIL to you Chieftain," Melo bowed to the old man, "stand over there beside that rock that once was Tharoc's club, you will come to no harm."
The Chieftain did as he was bid, his daughter and Sean followed him.
"Do not bother about the mortals, tell me of this plan."
When Melo was sure they were safe but within earshot, he turned to Tharoc. "First, you must agree, whoever wins, stays, the other must leave this land forever."
Tharoc drew himself up to his full height, towering above Melo. "I agree."
"We will each pick three stones and from those we will choose one. This, we will throw it as far as we can. The one who throws the stone the greater distance will stay."
Laughter filled the valley, sending birds fluttering into the air. "You want me to play a child's game?"
Melo remained silent. Tharoc looked at him and stopped laughing. "No tricks?"
"No tricks, the mortals will be our witness."
Tharoc spat. "I trust no mortals, a handshake will do."
Solemnly they shook hands, then went in search of stones.
Sean watched them line up rocks as big as houses on top of the ridge. When they were ready Melo pointed in the direction of the sea.
"We will throw that way so we do not hit the village. Pick a stone."
Tharoc shook his head. " I will not be tricked that easily, you have the first choice."
Melo smiled and beckoned to Sean. "Come my friend, I have need of you."
He drew him aside so the others could not hear them. "I want you to touch each stone. You will know which one I am to throw. There is no hurry."
Puzzled, Sean did as he was told. He walked to the rocks and put his hand on the first one.
It loomed huge and black above him. He reached forward to feel the surface but it was rough and unwelcoming.
He turned to touch the second one. It was still wet from the lake and mud oozed from some cracks.
From the third one Sean felt warmth, as if it had a small fire within. He ran his hands over the smooth surface, resting his face against it.
"At last we meet, Sean - welcome."
Sean jumped back. The soft voice came from within the rock!
Melo smiled at him. "Fear not Sean. Go back to the stone."
Carefully, Sean put his hands on the rock.
"Close your eyes and step forward," the voice instructed.
Under his hands, the rock felt as if it were a cloud between his fingers!
" Keep coming - now open your eyes."
A small man with a long grey beard sat on a red cushion in the middle of the rock. His eyes sparkled under his bushy eyebrows as he held his arms out in greeting.
"Hail to you, Shanahee. I'd offer you a cushion but as you can see there's only one. Rocks are very hard if you're sitting on them all the time"
"Who are you," Sean stared down at the man. He touched the solid sides and realised he wasn't dreaming.
"Me? Why I'm a Leprechaun - they call me Sha."
"What a funny name. It means yes."
"Aren't you the smart fella! Well done. It means I can never refuse, I cannot say the other word."
"You mean - no?"
"That's the word!"
"But if somebody asked you to do something you didn't want to do, what would you do?"
"Aha," the Leprechaun rubbed the side of his nose, "they'd have to find me first! That is why I live inside rocks. I only show myself when I want to show myself!"
"Can you help me choose the right rock for Melo?"
The little man beamed. "That's what I'm here for!"
Sean knew Melo was waiting for an answer. "Well, which one?"
"Sure yer standing in it - this is the one! Now, out you go! We will meet again."
Sean blinked in the sunlight.
"Where did you go my little friend, one moment you were here, the next gone."
"I was inside the rock! and I met this little man..."
"Tell me - is this the one?"
"Well done my little friend. Tharoc, you may now choose."
Tharoc tramped up, nearly stepping on Sean as he picked up a rock. "I do not need the magic of mortals to choose a stone, I will throw first!"
Sean raced back to where the chieftain stood and watched as Tharoc moved to the peak. The sea, was just a silver blue line in the distance.
The Giant drew back his arm and with one mighty heave threw the rock high into the air. Sean followed its flight until it was lost from view.
"Ha! See where it has landed. Get ready to leave this place and look! your club has floated to the surface of the lake, ready to travel with you!"
Melo looked down to the water's edge where his club rested. "I will have no further need of it. Take it Tharoc, for you are the one who has to leave!"
Melo weighed the stone in his hand, drew back his arm and hurled it into the air.
"Methinks your puny throw has ended up behind us! See, there is mine but yours is nowhere in sight." Tharoc picked up the club and charged down the mountain in a hurry to celebrate his victory.
"Little friends, climb into my pocket, so we can join Tharoc beside his stone."
As the Giant lifted them up Sean strained his eyes searching the empty land around Tharoc's rock.
"Oh, Melo, I cannot see your rock anywhere!"
To be continued
© John W. Kelly