Ferd opened his eyes, his head throbbing. Scrambling up to his feet, he remembered the rock slide. That was no accident, he thought. Someone tried to kill us. Us. Where is Cassia? He couldn’t see through the dust, but she had to be there.
“Cassia!” he shouted.
“Ferd?” The faint voice came from the direction of the cliff. “Ferd! I can’t get up!”
Ferd edged his way to the precipice and looked down. Through the dust, he saw Cassia. She held onto a branch over the chasm. He reached for her, but she was too far away.
There was a soft cough, coming from back up the slope. “You’ll both be finding yourselves in a huge crock of something, methinks?” a strongly accented voice suggested, its thick brogue placing it’s origins somewhere back in a land much renowned for shillelaghs and shamrocks.
“I meant, you look like you might be needin’ a little help.” The miniature man finished piling some broken branches over what looked like an battered pot before skipping across to stand beside him. “Maybe you’d consider making a bargain with me,” he suggested. “I could certainly lend a hand, if you needed it.” He raised his hat and bowed, grinning widely. “Maybe if I introduce meself first. I’m Finnegan McIlroy and I’ll be at your service, Sir. Now, what was it you were going to be asking o’ me?”
“What did you say, little guy?” Ferd shook his head, wondering if he’d developed a concussion. He knew he felt groggy but he didn’t feel like he was hallucinating. But then again, would you know if you were?
“Hmmm. Already makin’ with the heightist comments. I’ve a good mind to leave you both to it.” The leprechaun stamped his foot and gave his pipe a determined suck, making its contents flare redly. “Now, mebbe if you apologised, I might find it in meself to help you out.” He glared up at Ferd, his eyes flinty and mean. “Just maybe.”
Ferd took a quick breath. Then he remembered Cassia clinging onto that branch over what was probably a fatal drop.
“Yes,” he said, deciding not to question where his help came from. “Yes. I humbly apologise, Mister Leprechaun. Now, would you please rescue my friend? Right now?”
The little man drew on his pipe, sending up a series of perfectly executed smoke rings. “I reckon I can,” he said. “But there’s a certain form in these matters, Sir. I’m a leprechaun and you always have to wish to get what you want from me. Them’s the rules, I’m afraid.” He grinned again, suddenly finding something interesting inside the bowl of his pipe, hurrying seemingly the last thing on his mind.
“For Chri..” Ferd looked back to the precipice, seeing Cassia’s knuckles whitening on the branch and wondering why he couldn’t hear her shouting any more. “Okay. Please, Mister Leprechaun. “I wish you to save my friend. I wish it. I wish it now. You hear?”
“All right, all right. No need for that. Now, what can I do?” Finnegan stepped back a pace and snapped his fingers. The bowed branch suddenly straightened, a cloud of leaves shooting up from it as it snapped back into its original shape.
“Oh my God! Cassia!” Ferd ran back to the precipice, falling to his hands and knees and scanning the slopes below. “Where did you go?” He jumped up and rounded on the little man, seizing him by his collar and lifting him until his feet dangled. “What was it you did to her?”
Finnegan’s lined face gazed levelly across into his. Totally calm. But definitely looking amused.
Ferd swore and then lowered him to the ground, readjusting his jacket’s collar. “Okay. I’m sorry. Now will you tell me where you sent her?”
The leprechaun glowered up at him, obviously enjoying the change in circumstances. “I might.” And then he waited several long seconds more. “I put her somewhere safe. Somewhere you’ll never find her, Sir. Not if you spend the rest of your life looking. And I’m not ever gonna tell you where.
Ferd’s spirit fell. He’d thought he could save her and now he’d lost Cassia forever. What could he do?
And then he had a thought.
“Mister Leprechaun,” he began. “The stories say you owe me three wishes and so far, I’ve only had one.” He began to smile, his confidence growing.
Finnegan stared back up at him, his face impassive.
“Okay.” Ferd clapped his hands, knowing he’d won this trick. “I wish us to be together. Right now.”
He fell hard on his hip, the gold coins digging into his side. Cursing, Ferd looked around, the light dim but still bright enough to see Cassia lying on her side some feet away.
“So he got you too.” Cassia shrugged. “Now we’re really in a mess.”
Ferd nodded. He looked up toward the light, seeing the rim of the leprechaun’s crock far above them. And then something else.
Finnegan’s huge face appeared, his lips twisted into a gleeful smile. “I’ve got you both now,” he gloated, his voice booming out above them. “And there’s nothing you can do. You’re mine. Mine. Mine.”
“Wait!” Ferd pulled himself up, the mounded money slipping beneath him. “I’ve one wish left. So I can stop this from ever happening. I wish that you’ll warn me before I make my first wish. And that way, you’ll never fool me.” He motioned about in the half-light. “And then this will never happen.”
The leprechaun chuckled, his laughter shaking the metal of the pot around them. “But Sir, I did tell you. I clearly remember me saying you’ll both be finding yourselves in a huge crock…?”