Part 4 – Arrival of the Tops!
The fog was still hanging about but that didn’t deter any of the crew as they grabbed their stuff and set off leaving the ancient steps behind.
The girls all made their way over to the Monastery site a small distance away from the top of the steps and wandered around looking at the amazing beehive huts and the oratory built over 14 centuries earlier.
The well was spotted along with the outcrop of rock hanging over the edge of the island. Standing out there would be awesome Wookie thought longingly. Turning, she saw the same look on some of the other’s faces…
“Well, we could just…’ she started to say .
“Hold it right there Wookie. We are going to get ourselves organised and decide exactly what we are going to do. So NO going off half-cocked, right?” Hermione was in full Warrior Woman on a mission now. “We are going to make this trip one total Bratfest to the end. Are you with me brats?” she swept an imperious look around the crew as with one accord they yelled out ”Yes!” pumping their fists in the air.
Shortly after, the band of brats were seated around the main fire pit area happily eating and drinking the provisions Hermione had produced from…no-one knew but didn’t really care since they were starving!
They began to lay out their ideas for this incredible place!……
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Meanwhile back at the hotel certain brats were about to be missed!…
Shannon was inspecting the small holdall she had brought along. It contained all the accoutrements she needed to ensure her beloved English bulldog had everything she required for her wellbeing and comfort.
Checking her watch Shannon saw she had 10 minutes before the company delivered the dog to the hotel. Considering her dog did not like flying too well, Shannon had booked her into the fine emporium “Pampered Pooches” for a tranquil spa and relaxing two day stay which would do wonders for her precious pet.
Making her way down to the reception area she spied Willie sitting with Sparks in deep discussion over something they were viewing on her phone. Glancing up, Willie and Sparks both nodded and smiled at Shannon indicting she could join them.
Taking a seat next to Willie , Shannon spoke first “Hi, were your rooms satisfactory?”
“Yes , this is certainly an excellent hotel Shannon. Have you been to Ireland before? Willie replied.
“No, this is my first time so it’s all new to me. Right now I’m waiting get my dog returned from the spa treatment I put her on after the flight was over.” Shannon checked her watch once more seeing she still had a few minutes.
“Have you seen this site before Shannon?” Sparks spoke up as she passed her phone over to the Top.
Taking the phone Shannon viewed the screen, recognition dawning on her face along with a smile.
“Oh yes, this is the Paddle Palace site, a specialty shopping experience for the discerning Top! It’s excellent. Are you card-carrying members, if I may ask?” Shannon looked up at the two Tops.
“I’m not but Willie is. We are hoping to go visit the premises when we get to Cork where we are going to kiss the Blarney Stone!” Sparks grinned, excited at the prospect of both seeing the store and trying out the Blarney Stone.
“It is most definitely worth a visit from what I’ve seen of the merchandise. Would you be interested if I speak to the owner, a personal friend of mine and arrange a visit?” Shannon enquired.
Both women looked at each other. Their nods secured the arrangement.
Taking her phone Shannon made a quick call and after a couple of minutes she said goodbye putting the phone back in her pocket,
“That is sorted. Lucy has just extended a personal invitation to us all. She will meet with us and give a tour around the place then join us for coffee after we have had some time for browsing and such. I will call her with the day and time when we are travelling there. Is that acceptable?”
If Tops were able to look gobsmacked, that was the closest Shannon had ever seen them become. An enigmatic smile appeared on her face. However she was suddenly called over by the receptionist to say her dog had arrived.
“Excuse me ladies” Shannon grinned at the women who were still dazed as she hurried off to collect her pooch.
A few minutes later Willie, Sparks and now with Bubba, who had joined them, having received a call from Willie, were treated to the sight of a beautiful red and white English bulldog bitch walking by Shannon’s side. In her mouth she carried , what was obviously her favourite toy. All three dog lovers immediately approached, crouching down to greet the fine animal.
“Ladies may I introduce you to the Duchess of Swatham-over-Knee Brook, (Gloucestershire) fondly known as Swattie!” Shannon’s love for her dog was obvious as she looked down at the dog sitting there holding her toy tightly.
“My word, what a remarkable dog Shannon. She has a beautiful coat. “ Sparks enthused gently stroking the short hair.
“You are a beauty that’s for sure girrrl” Bubba tickled her under her chin.
“What a Top dog Shannon! I love her choice of toys…a wooden hairbrush, superb! I would expect nothing less from a dog of yours.” Reaching forward to scratch the dog behind her ear Willie glanced up at Shannon, admiration in her eyes.
Suddenly Shannon looked around the room. “Where are the brats? I know Wookie was looking forward to seeing Swattie again. “
“Come to think of it I’ve not seen Hermione in a while and that is unusual. She is normally talking about another wedding detail that I will just agree with. “ Willie stood up, also glancing around.
Sparks and Bubba rose, joining in with the fact that they too had not seen hide nor hair of their brats.
The women all stood silent for a moment staring at each other as their Top intuition kicked in.
“Hmm ladies we need to find them and quickly. I have a feeling about this…and it spells trouble!” Willie announced.
“I will check with reception, to see if they have gone out anywhere.” Shannon walked back to the desk and had a brief conversation with the clerk stationed there. Thanking her Shannon returned to the group, her eyebrow starting to rise.
“They headed out about an hour or so ago and by the sounds of it towards the Marina.”
“I would suggest we take overnight bags for all and head down to the Harbour Master’s office. If they have gone out on a boat it will be to the Island I believe. Would you agree ?” Willie surveyed the group receiving nods.
Within seconds the flight of Tops was heading back to their respective rooms to pack holdalls for themselves and their brats. Interestingly each Top also ensured they packed their preferred implement…just in case!
Meeting back down in reception they headed out the door, making their way down to the Marina and directly across to the Harbour Master’s office.
Willie led the determined contingent into the spacious, well designed office that looked out over the attractive marina. Approaching the genial looking woman behind the desk she paused, looking back at the others who all nodded for her to continue.
“Good afternoon we appear to have mislaid our bra…uh girlfriends and understand they had headed in this direction. There are 4 of them, one being 6ft tall ,so easily noticeable. We were wondering if you happened to see them about an hour to an hour and a half ago. Any information would be of great help.” Willie directed her gaze at the woman hoping she knew something that would help them. She was not happy with the situation and knew it was the same for the others.
“Hi there, I’m Karen Brady the Harbour Master. You must be the guests from the hotel?” she laughed as the women all looked slightly mystified wondering how she knew of them.
“Oh don’t worry it’s a small place here and word gets around when anyone new arrives. Yes, I saw the group you are talking about. They headed off to the far end of the pier and boarded a small cruiser that was moored there. I believe it was Robin’s new boat as she had brought it in last week sometime and was happily showing it to the dock staff. Do any of you know Robin?” she queried, looking around the group.
“Is she smaller than 6ft, happy, laughing girl with a great sense of humour?” Shannon spoke carefully.
“Yes, that’s the girl!” Seeing the look of relief on Shannon’s face she continued. “However I can tell you they headed out towards Skellig Michael although Robin hadn’t called in a route. I know she is very good at sailing but there is a fog warning out and all boat trips were cancelled due to the weather. Which means, right now ladies I cannot release any of the boats here for you I’m sorry to say.” She watched the women trying to assess what to do next, whilst her own mind turned over attempting to come up with a plan to help.
Abruptly Willie pulled out her phone and spoke briefly for a couple of minutes before she stopped, covered the mouthpiece and asked quickly if there was a place her friend could dock her boat long enough to pick them up. Karen mouthed ‘Berth 3 on the left side.’ Willie relayed the information and ended the call. Turning back to the Harbour Master she thanked Karen and informed the group that Stag would be bringing her cruiser down in about 15 minutes. Luckily she was on vacation in Ireland just up the coast a bit.
It wasn’t long before they saw the medium sized cruiser moor carefully in Berth 3. So thanking Karen once more they made short work of boarding the boat. Willie made the introductions all round and briefly outlined the situation to Stag, who wasted no time in slipping the berth and heading out into the Marina and off towards Skellig Michael…
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At last the brats had agreed on their plans and now to put them in action. Hermione ensured everyone had all the equipment they might need as well as running through their respective objectives once more just to check.
Robin and Wookie repacked their stuff and walked over to the well in the midst of the small clearing by the beehive huts. Both peered down the stone lined walls of the ancient watering hole.
“Do you reckon it’s strong enough to climb down Wookie?” Robin asked, her eyes already sparkling at the adventure planned.
“Since it’s been here from at least the sixth century I think it’s bedded in by now!” Wookie laughed feeling that same surge of excitement building.
“Right, ropes down and equipment lowered?” Robin queried.
“Hey Robin, you see how narrow it is across, how do you fancy trying the ancient way, you know arms and legs stretched across the sides you climb down by pushing yourself against the sides?” Wookie lay over the well so she could see how wide it was. She could easily push against the sides because her arms were not stretched out full so she had leverage.
“See what I mean?” she looked up at Robin, who considered the idea properly before nodding her head enthusiastically.
“Great, I’ll go first if you want then you can pass the gear down and come down after yeh?”
Once again Robin nodded getting the bags tied up ready to lower them down. Wookie retied her boots to tighten them securely and pulled on a pair of tough climbing gloves to help with gripping and protect her hands. Looking over she saw Robin was good to go so she high-five quickly and turned towards the well. Wookie jumped up and down a few times to loosen her body and try to settle the adrenalin that was kicking in. Once she was happy she moved over to the well, sat down and carefully lowered herself in bracing her feet on the walls and grabbing holds with her fingers. Taking her time she gradually moved a foot followed by the other then a hand followed by the other. It was almost graceful as Wookie slowly inched her way down the well like a star stretching her limbs across the opposing walls of the well. Once she got the hang of it the climb down was relatively easy. Luckily the well wasn’t too deep being only about 40ft before she reached a ledge that circled the wall. What was surprising though was a small opening, big enough for a body to climb through to the outside. Wookie knew she would have to go and have a look but Robin was waiting to lower the gear. Calling up to her to start sending the stuff down, Wookie waited watching the slow descent of the baggage. Once she could grasp it she swiftly untied the knot and shook it . The rope disappeared as Robin had the other stuff to send down.
Before long the gear was down and Wookie called to Robin to climb down. Watching the girl do exactly as she had done Wookie could see Robin should be all right as long as she took it steady. Slowly bit by bit Robin inched her way down moving one leg at a time followed by a hand at a time. Robin was loving it. So totally different from the normal body harnesses and belts and rigging that seemed to tie you down. This was awesome. She knew to be careful, after all it could be considered dangerous but, as Wookie said, this was how they used to do it so it was a bit like living history all over again. She made a mental note to tell Wookie that…you never knew if or when you might need a “very good reason” for experiencing new things. Even if certain Tops failed to see it that way sometimes. She grinned knowing Wookie would definitely store that one away for emergencies!! Glancing down she could see she wasn’t far from where Wookie was . Suddenly her foot slipped off the rock it was standing on, Robin let out a scream as her hand was unable to grab a firm hold and the next moment Robin felt herself falling …to land right on top of Wookie who fell to the floor underneath Robin.
“OMG Wooks are you ok?” Robin lay there stunned for a moment sprawled out.
“Umpphh..gerroff,,umphh…” came the mumbled response from the prone figure beneath her.
As quickly as she could Robin leapt up and grabbed hold of Wookie to help her up too. Dusting herself down Wookie grinned “Are you all right Robin?”
Robin just gave her the biggest hug and began dusting her down at the same time, rather enthusiastically making Wookie cough with the dust flying everywhere. Soon they were both coughing and then chuckling and finally giggling until they had to stop because they were laughing too much.
“Oh heck I thought I might have killed you Wookie. Thanks for saving me though.” Robin smiled gently punching Wookie on the arm.
“No worries Robin. I’m lucky it was you. If that had been EM she’d have landed on me, trampled all over me to get up and then moan that I was resting while everyone else was working!” Wookie said seriously, making Robin stare at her before she saw the twinkle in Wookie’s eyes and they were laughing once more!
Whilst Robin and Wookie were exploring the well Hermione had appropriated one of the beehive huts and was already kitting it out with a vacuum-packed foam mattress and a sleeping bag as well as setting up the food stores and drinks.
EM and Siobhan had wandered past on their way to another beehive hut, intent on getting the bbq pit going. Pausing they stopped to see what Hermione was doing.
“Where on earth did she get all that gear?” Siobhan whispered to EM, who was staring wide-eyed at the cosy looking hut.
“Fect if I know Siobh…” she shrugged her shoulders and motioned Siobhan to get along to their bbq setup.
The huts were awesomely constructed. Each stone was overlaid by another at a downward slant so the huts were watertight. Some had a small hole in the roof which allowed fires to be lit in them. One such hut was chosen by EM and Siobhan to set up their bbq fire. They dropped all the supplies they had lugged over from the store outside and settled down to build a decent sized blaze they could then tamp down to grill over.
Hermione saw the brats go past carrying the wood and lighting equipment and thought to herself ‘so far so good, they’re all working well together and EM and Siobhan are fine making the fire up… right? Hmm might be worth just going to check to see if they need a hand with anything. Best be on the safe side’ she mused as she finished the hut she had chosen. ‘ Yes a perfect little love nest” she smiled and thought of the gorgeous love of her life. She could not wait to be married to Willie! Hermione cleared up and made her way over to the two firebuilders.
Back inside the well the intrepid duo were inspecting the small opening in the well’s wall. Having both leaned out and had a look around they could see it opened out just beneath the outcrop rock.
Staring at each other they could see each had a myriad of ideas floating about. It wouldn’t be long before they came up with a plan…
“What if…” Wookie began just as Robin spoke “We could…’ bursting out laughing, the pair pulled themselves together and Wookie motioned for Robin to continue.
“What if we rigged up a harness that meant we could either climb up or down from the outcrop, you know just in case we needed it?” Robin glanced at her watch “When do you think the Tops will get here?”
“It will definitely be tonight but potentially within an hour!” Wookie also checked her watch confirming her timekeeping.
Robin’s eyes lit up.
“In that case, I could set up the mist pellets we brought with us on a timer. Then when we’re ready I could climb down from the outcrop, set the timer off and climb back up without anyone seeing me.”
“Awesome Robin, hell yeh which means we can use that cloak tucked in under the ledge there, improvise some means to raise it and have some glowing lights secreted in it. Those Star Wars people were really good at leaving stuff behind. It’s almost like they knew we’d need it!” Wookie’s grin seemed to light up the well area!
The two brats got to work.
Outside Robin sited where the optimum position was for the harness and hammered in secure footing pegs. Within minutes she had a simple pulley system allowing someone to step from the outcrop and almost glide down to the rock below without effort. In return, by locking three ropes in tight they could simply step up and on to the rock easily.
Wookie had dragged the cloak out, fastened the tie by the neck and then fashioned a simple scarecrow cross out of some nearby wooden sticks… Thank you Star Wars crew…which she inserted under the cloak, securing it with wire ties. Since they were strong enough to hold heavy duty wiring Wookie figured they’d be fine for the wooden figure. Searching their gear she pulled out the miniature cell operated green and red lights which she attached to the figure under the hood of the cloak resembling the places where the eyes and mouth would roughly be situated. Looping connecting wires together so they could all be switched on at the same time, she left the connector just visible through a slit at the back of the cloak. It was obviously where the Jedi had had a lightsaber duel and the rent was one result… again very handy for the brats!
Robin joined Wookie back on the ledge holding a handful of mist pellets. Wookie showed her the apparition and the connector wire. Robin grinned. Perfect!! Together the girls spaced out the pellets whilst Robin fitted the switch that would operate them all. She also brought the lights connector in with the same switch so they wouldn’t be forgotten.
The final piece was about to go in place. Wookie pulled out the self-inflating gas bag and with Robin’s help they secured it around the scarecrow frame, taping it wherever they could hoping it would stay in place. Once again Robin pulled the valve clear and placed it with the switches. This was going to be awesome!
Looking at Wookie she nodded…Wookie nodded back and very carefully they placed the cloaked figure in the water. Then hugging each other in their excitement they mumbled to each other about praying it would all work.
Once ready they cleared up the gear they hadn’t used and Robin made her way back up the well with Wookie tying on their gear for Robin to pull up. As for Wookie she went out through the gap and clambered up onto the outcrop as easy as you like.
“That’s an awesome job you did there Robin!” Wookie clapped her on the shoulder in appreciation.
“Thanks Wooks. Right lets see what EM and Siobhan have done with the fire. They started walking over…
Hermione had also gone over to the two girls in the fire hut.
EM and Siobhan had first examined and wondered over the amazing construction of the beehive hut. Finally they thought they’d best get on since it was possible the Tops could be here soon…though they both hoped the Tops took a very, very long time realising the brats were not ‘missing’ per se so much as elsewhere than they were expected to be!
Siobhan cleared the fire pit area and EM started laying out the coals, wood and anything else they could find in order to start a fire. Somehow they managed to get a reasonable balance of coals and kindling together and cleared the area prior to lighting the fire, so far so good. The girls were pleased with themselves. They knew Hermione would be over soon and they wanted to get the fire going before she arrived.
Once the girls had stopped arguing about who was going to light the fire they started cutting the deck of cards to decide who would actually light it…their idea being the highest card wins and it was best of 3, until EM won the first two hands so Siobhan called for the best of 5. When Siobhan won, EM went for the best of 7, except that she dropped her cards so they agreed the best of 9…. By the time they were on the best of 35 both girls were in hysterics and finally agreed they would light it together!
Siobhan grabbed some lighter fluid and spread it around the fuel then EM tossed a large match into the coals. There was a small flame and it struggled to catch hold…so Siobhan added some more lighter fluid. EM grabbed some paper and held it to the flame to spread it around a bit. Again the flames were small but gradually taking hold. EM looked up seeing Hermione approach and became agitated wanting it to be done by the time she got there. EM grabbed her flask of poitín (Irish moonshine) about to throw some on the flames…Siobhan saw her grab the flask, yelled out “Níl EM” (No in Irish) but too late…
Hermione had just reached the fire hut and heard Siobhan yell out as she saw the Irish spirit glint in the light as it was poured over the flames.
She ground to a halt…
There was a moment of stillness all around almost as if the fire was waiting for the precious liquid…
Followed by a “WHOOMPH!” as it burst into flames ! …
Wookie and Robin heard the noise and shot over to the hut where Hermione was about to dive in and rescue the two brats.
Luckily two figures staggered out of the smoke filled hut and over towards Hermione. As Wookie and Robin reached them, both the girls stood hanging on to each other before they looked at the rest of the crew. The sight of the brats, the shell-shocked expressions on their soot-blackened faces with their hair standing on end made Hermione, Wookie and Robin gasp…before EM’s comment “what the feck happened?” suddenly had them all in hysterical laughter. While behind them the black smoke was pouring out of the small hole in the roof. Very black smoke…that could be seen for miles!
It was some time before the band of brats could get themselves together but they managed it eventually! Hermione sent the girls off to get washed and changed into clothing she had produced from God knows where. All the brats looked at each other. Where did she store all her stuff, particularly as she was now wearing a fire protective suit, had successfully doused the fire and in the process of washing the hut down? This place was a World Heritage site so they needed to take care of it after all!
Despite their lack of success at lighting the fire EM and Siobhan were more than happy with the experience and since Hermione had cleared all the evidence away there was nothing that could come back to bite them!
Robin, fire lighter extraordinaire, soon had one blazing away ready to damp down in the other fire pit whilst Wookie prepared the bbq foods and marinading sauces from the cooler box that had magically appeared in front of her. Even Wee Donkey had her own bedding and comfort area with a snack bowl of birch chips, walnut slices and gnarled horse chestnut bites!
Finally order was restored and Hermione organised the huts. She had worked out rapidly that you never, ever give EM a choice!!! It was not worth losing that many hours of your life over the arguments!
As the band sat around, rested, the huts ready and food cooking it suddenly dawned on Wookie…
“Hermione how do you know when the Tops will be here?”
“Well, logic dictates they will have missed us within an hour. It would probably have taken a further hour to work out where we had gone and arrange to get to the Island. It’s an hour to get here. We have been here for just over two hours and the smoke signals that EM and her fire starter buddy Siobhan sent up would have confirmed our position. Plus there is a boat docking down at the jetty next to Robin’s cruiser and I know that’s my Willie on board! The least we can do is show we are already here and sorted so they have nothing to do. That should keep us out of some hot water with any luck!” she gave a beatific smile that lit up her attractive face causing the other girls to smile too!
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Back in the boat, the Tops were keeping a watchful eye on the weather and were pleased to see that the fog was gradually lifting. Hopefully it would be cleared by the evening which was not far off now.
Each Top kept her thoughts to herself, however there was an overriding hope that the brats were all safe and sound. After all that was what mattered in the end!
The trip across was reasonably smooth, with the odd flurries of waves. Soon the outline of the Island was in full view when Shannon abruptly pointed skyward “what’s that, is it smoke?”
Willie grabbed some binoculars hanging from the boat’s console. Peering through them she confirmed it was indeed smoke and she would say that was probably where the brats had gone. Sparks agreed, reminding everyone there was an ancient monastery site with beehive huts and a well area. So it would make sense that was where they would go.
Everyone gave an inward sigh of relief that they were heading in the right direction. Each one seriously hoping the brats had not done anything dangerous.
It wasn’t long before the boat reached the small jetty where they saw Robin’s cruiser already moored. Stag skilfully brought her boat in and tied it up whilst the Tops disembarked.
Willie asked Stag if she would like to join them as they would be staying on the Island that night. Stag thought it a fantastic idea and jumped at the chance, so grabbing her rucksack she shut everything down, ensuring the boat was secured and joined the rest of the ladies as they made their way to the formidable stairway!
If only the thousands of tourists who toil up the stairs year in and year out reaching the top eventually, for some, never to do it again or others only too glad to cross it off their bucket list…it was probably best they never got to see the prodigious display that the Tops unwittingly produced. The stairway was undoubtably intimidating. However it was more likely that anyone having the choice of facing the stairs or facing the Tops, all wearing ‘The Look’ on their faces , trust me no-one alive would worry about charging up the stairs!
Therefore, stairs were stairs, to be climbed and climb them they did, at a regular Top pace. No one Top said anything. They simply moved into formation and ascended the stairs. Their aim to reach the top as soon as practicable. They quietly chatted amongst themselves whilst climbing, not one of them even breathing heavy or wanting to stop for a break.
Within a very short time indeed the summit was reached. The Tops spent a moment enjoying the magnificent view and the sight of the sun making its journey towards the west. The sky was turning a rich red promising a beautiful day on the morrow.
“Ladies shall we find our wayward brats?” Willie gazed around the group seeing them all nod in agreement.
The group walked on keeping a careful watch on the ground in case of any loose stones or other bits that could cause an accident.
Hermione lifted her head up listening intently. “They are here “ she intoned in her beautiful alto voice. She couldn’t keep a note of excitement from shining through though as she stood along with the rest of the band of brats.
“So here you all are, finally!” Willie looked at Hermione with a mixture of love and sternness, the love winning hand over fist. Whilst the other Tops and brats met up again very happy to see each other once more.
Then Wookie looked down and started bouncing in sheer delight!
“Swattie, hey look at you, you beautiful girl” as she smothered the excited dog with hugs and kisses.
EM’s face was a picture!
“Uh Wooks,…… OI!.. WOOKS!” she shouted causing Wookie to glance up.
“What is that dog carrying in her mouth? Please don’t tell me it’s a..a…”
“Yep her favourite toy her hairbrush!”
EM looked as though she was going to faint.
“Swattie, yeh?” she confirmed with Wookie who nodded enthusiastically.
“OMG that just has to be Shannon’s dog!” she announced dolefully, causing the group to laugh, even Shannon raising a chuckle.
Then to EM’s utter horror Wee Donkey walked over, sniffed at Swattie who sniffed back before nuzzling up against the small donkey.
“Nooooooo!” EM cried “you traitor Wee Donkey, how could you?” then a thought occurred to her, regarding hairbrushes so she quickly began making great friends with Swattie along with Wee Donkey…an action not missed by Shannon who simply smiled to herself. EM did not know her dog like Shannon did, as time would tell!
To Be Contd….