The INN : Tony Kelly
Sometimes I could find my way and more often I couldn't, and I've a mind the magic was in it. I was a road like, if it were half as long as it was, then sure it wouldn't have been long enough at all, but then I didn't make it myself, or if I did the memory of it runs on longer legs than mine. And besides, if it were not as long, then you'll know without me telling you that it wouldn't have got from where it was coming to where it was going at all. So it was as long as it was entirely, and it's as long as it is, and I'll not be picking a fight with you if you'll say it'll be as long as it'll be. So now you'll be knowing about this road and I'll not be needing to tell you more about it except that it was Summer and the briars were in the hedges and the wild roses were all blooming in among the briars, which was very natural, for where else in the all the world would the wild roses be blooming on a Summer's day but in among the briars? And it's thirsty I was, like the thirst that gets up at you when you're on the road that's as long as it is and the wild roses are blooming in among the briar's and the Summer's laughing his head off up there in the haze where the road's boiling in the heat. And it's into the gateway I turned, with the roses growing over the arch and the bees all a buzzing in the air and ... By the Hallowed Horns! And the Mazy Dance! Isn't it the same gate that I never can find when I've a mind to find it? So I go up to the door and there's the Barman and "A Merry Midsummer to you" he says, and I sit myself down at the table by the open window where the wild roses are looking in, and there are two other men sitting at the table, and another besides, and you'll be after saying that that's three men, and I'll be after saying it's right you are. But if I wasn't right, you'd be no more right than I was, so we wouldn't be starting an argument about that. But I was thinking, like you might be thinking yourself if you were there in my shoes and I had another pair with me at the time, that the other one might have been a wizard for all he was a man if he were a man at all, and if he was not a man, then it wasn't for all he was a man that he was a wizard. He was one of those story tellers, with rhymes and rhythms, and his eyes were twinkling, and there were the scents of the roses, and in the rise and the fall of his dark brown voice the t ales wove all in and about themselves like woodbine round the rafters and there was the chirrup of the grasshopper coming in at the window and the grasses sighed of Summer but made never a sound till he stopped awhile for the green and the brown. Like the woodbine his words were winding, heady as the wood scents, thick as the briars, and the Barman said, "You'll be staying the night?" and the Moon said I would. Faith! He had talked the day away! So the three of us went to bed in the long room, and if you'll be asking why it wasn't the four of us, I'll be saying I might be asking you for all the answer I can give to that, but it was dreams all the night of the summer woods and the wild roses and the scents that merge and fade and grow and gather and swell and drift where the pollen goes, where the spore cloud flows, where the birdsong goes when you can't hear it anymore and where the wind comes from. And I got up in a hurry in the morning and had a hearty breakfast quicker than a man ought to eat a good breakfast and I made off along the road. And didn't I find it was the wrong man that had got up and it wasn't myself at all? So I turned round and went back to the inn, and this time I made sure I got out of the right bed.
Well, as I've told you before, when I'm looking for the place I never can find it, but I found it another time when I wasn't looking for it. Yule it was, and a raw wind coming down the road and the snow was just starting to come down and bits of it sticking in the hedges, and I'm thinking I must have opened my mouth when the wind went by and swallowed him because he seems to be rolling about in my belly, and there's wet snow aboen my eyebrows and running down behind my ears and into my collar and ... Sweet Mabh! ... There I was at the gate again! Now I've heard tell that if you go into the inn in Midwinter, it'll not be the wizard you'll see but the old witch. But I go into the inn and the Barman says "A Merry Yule to you" and I sit myself down at the table and there's a candle lit on it, and sure as I'm telling you this now, there's an old woman sitting there by the candle and the two men sitting there at the table alongside her. But I've heard more than I've a mind for of her dark tales and her story craft, and it's said, and I'll not say I doubt it, that if you hear the tales that she'll tell, it'll not be a wizard's trick she'll put on you. Never a thing! By the Black Night and the Ivy's Green! If she catch you with her runes, you'll never remember that it was another man you were before you set foot in the inn, and you'll never remember she told you a tale at all. So I didn't let her tell me a thing at all, at all.