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AUTUMN GLIMMER / The Crogall Cú

Janet is in trouble, and only the Queen of the Fairies can save her. Otherwise, Liam would never risk a ride with a witch beneath a lake terrorized by an ancient and hungry monster.

*******

Below the bubble, the water brightened to lustrous cobalt blue. Stars seemed to shimmer deep in the lake. A forest of vegetation waved on the lake bed. The impossible sight of crystal towers emerged beyond the greenery, and Liam wanted to dance.

Janet raised a hand to her face. “It’s lovely, but why does it smell so bad?”

She was right. A nasty whiff of something vile had seeped into the bubble.

Becula raised her arms. “Hasten!”

The bubble’s downward speed increased. The stench intensified. Trying to pinpoint its source, Liam scanned the ghostly lake. An amber mist glowed in the inky water beyond the light and seemed to be pursuing them.

“What is it?” he asked, dreading the answer.

“The Crogall Cú,” said Becula, her nonchalant tone at odds with the stiffened sags and bags on her face. “The Crocodile Hound. When it hunts, its nostrils blow foul vapors to confuse its prey. Fear not, young prince. It shall not harm us.”

A terrible roar tore through the bubble. Janet yipped and clung to Liam. Squashing his lips to keep from yipping himself, he hugged her to him.

The mist billowed into to a putrid fog that poured like custard to sully the water. Another roar, much closer this time, jolted the bubble.

Janet screamed. Liam’s heart leapt into his throat. A blood-red eye as big as an autumn moon stared in at them from the water. How could such a behemoth exist in the little pond? Liam tightened his hold on Janet and hoped the Invincible Orb lived up to its name.

“I thought mortals couldn’t see it!” she cried.

“You are in the domain of the sídhe, child.” Becula raised the sealskin bag. “Begone, vile demon! Begone in the names of the Blessed Danu and the Shining Druids, Trosdan, Mogh Ruith, Lobas, and Nuca. Depart and plague us no more!”

A prolonged growl rumbled from the creature’s unseen throat. The eye drifted back, replaced by a hideous smiling jaw whose conical teeth gnashed and snapped in defiance.

Undaunted, Becula shook the bag. “The united tribes of Erin command you! They of the mystic arts and omnipotent incantations command you! Begone or suffer their burning rage!”

The monster inched forward. Patches of wiry black fur on a scaly green torso as big as a whale slid by and angled upward. A paddling paw came into view. Wicked black claws tipped its five long fingers. The beast slithered off, leaving the stinking fog to dissipate in its wake.

Liam’s knees wobbled with relief. “Nicely done, dear lady.”

Becula tittered. She sounded relieved. “I find little enough opportunity to practice my art these days. Though I must admit, I’d prefer to practice upon other subjects. Ah, we’re here.”

Too engrossed with the monster to realize the bubble had nearly reached the palace, Liam gazed at the sparkling glass walls before him. Becula guided the orb to a gauzy white square that appeared to be the main entrance. The bubble popped through and entered the home of the Daoine Linn.

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