What has gone before: Andrew Weazle, the owner of a failing coffee shop on the University of Alberta campus trades what he believes to be the final Friday night deposit in return for 'magic coffee beans' from a homeless man. After dumping the coffee made by the magic beans into a potted bonsai tree, a massive ash tree mysteriously grows overnight inside the shop. Following a series of dark adventures culminating in the near destruction of the shop, a group of leprechauns arrive, with the enigmatic request to travel the Tree to rescue the Easter Bunny...
This episode was originally published at MagikBeans.com on March 22, 2007.
The sensation of traveling the Tree gave one the simultaneous impression of walking in a wide open space and feeling like the walls were closing in on you. Andrew could sense the vastness of the Tree even beyond the distance he and the Leprechauns had covered in the 16 hours since they'd left the shop. At the same time, the Tree's foliage had given way to what now seemed to be a dense, dark forest grown up on either side of the path.
Andrew had stopped dead in his tracks when, after walking alonside Finn for the first hour, he'd looked down and seen, not the wood grain of the Tree's massive bough, but soil, and grass. A path in the forest. When he pointed it out to Finn, the leprechaun had just winked and smiled.
He'd stopped asking Finn questions early on anyhow. He never got anything approaching a satisfactory answer. Like why the Leprechauns wouldn't just bother to charter a helicopter or airplane to take them to the North Pole.
"You've got enough money obviously," Andrew had said.
"Aye, but no matter how long we'd fly, we'd never reach where we're headed," Finn had replied. "You canna find the Pole just by travellin'. You have to use magic."
Once they reached the first fork in the path, Finn stopped talking with Andrew anyhow, intent on finding the fastest route through the Tree. Andrew had walked in silence, listening to the Leprechauns joke with each other or sing. They often spoke in their own tongue, which was unintelligible to Andrew, though it's sing song quality was still enjoyable to listen to.
About five hours into their march, Andrew stopped and stepped towards the wood on his right side. Before he reached it, a firm grip had seized his hand and pulled him back. He looked down to see Coll, an older Leprechaun with streaks of grey in his red hair.
"I need to take a piss," Andrew said.
"Then ye piss here," Coll said. His voice sounded like he was working on getting something solid and substantial out of his throat. "Ye nae be gawin in the woods."
"That's a fact," James, the youngest of the group, said in agreement. Unlike the other Leprechauns, he didn't have a thick accent. "You leave the path in the deep dark woods, and you never come back."
"Why, what's in the wood?" Adam asked. "The big bad wolf?"
"A few of them," James replied. "And worse."
"But...isn't this all inside the Tree?"
"It is," James said.
"Well...isn't the Tree good?" Andrew asked.
"It is," James said. "But not everything in the Tree is."
Andrew had peed off the side of the path.
By the time Finn told them to stop and draw up camp, they'd be walking for nearly twelve hours. Andrew's legs ached. He was certain the only reason he'd been able to keep up was that his stride was double that of the Leprechauns.
They camped at a crossroads, since the space of the path was large enough to spread out and start a fire. Andrew collapsed on the ground, rolling his jacket up as a pillow.
A bundle of bedding thumped down onto the ground beside him. He looked up to see James smiling down at him.
"One of us has to take a watch while the others sleep," James said. "So there's always an open bunk."
"Thanks, but won't it be a bit small for me?" Andrew said as he unfolded the bedding.
"They don't make Leprechaun sizes at Mountain Equipment Co-op," James said, laughing. "And the adult ones cost as much as the kids, and are easier to sell later."
"I take it you guys do this a lot?" Andrew said.
"Whenever someone hires us," James replied. "We do whatever job comes our way, so long as the customer is willing to pay our fee."
"That's why you have all the gold?"
"Nah, we get all of that at the end of rainbows."
"I'm not sure if I should take that comment seriously or not."
"Well, it's half true," James said. "Only I won't tell you which half is the truth."
"I notice you don't have an accent."
"That's because I'm second generation American leprechaun. My dad's the one currently trying to light the fire," James said, pointing to one of the older leprechauns who was placing a chemical fire-log in amongst some branches that had been hanging far enough away from the woods to be deemed safe. "So I grew up in Chicago. That's why we wear the red jackets instead of the green."
"I see," Andrew said. "So there's different sorts of leprechauns?"
"Don't be tellin' him all our secrets," Finn said, stepping up and standing over them. "Next thing you know he'll be wantin' me lucky charms."
"Okay, that one was definitely a joke," Andrew said, smiling. "And not a very good one."
The jokes told over dinner though, were very good ones, or at the very least, seemed to be. Andrew laughed so hard his stomach hurt. He couldn't tell if that was because of the quality of the humor or the richness of the mead the leprechauns were drinking along with the food. While they'd bought their camping gear at MEC, the food was the sort you read about in fairy tales. Roasted meat on a spit over the fire, fat loaves of bread and slices of a delicious cheese which lingered around the taste buds long after the eating was done.
Light headed, Andrew staggered back to his sleeping bag and laid down, a dopey smile on his face. He could hear the leprechauns making jokes about his inability to drink like an Irishman, but he couldn't summon the energy or wit to make a comeback. Instead, he rolled over and looked up into the boughs of the forest's trees, which formed a canopy over the path.
"Almost expected to see stars," he murmured, and fell into a deep, rich sleep.