The Game

‘To every little girl who has a love & a dream!’

Chapter 10 The Game

The old wild cat made his way towards me and asked, ‘Now what is your choice of game?’ 

Immediately my mind went blank, a game, what type of game will test your strength and mind? I asked myself.

Spiorad could immediately see the blind panic on my face and slowly approached me to have a discreet word, ‘Think of anything, one thing that you are confident or skilled in, what can you out whit the Kelpie at? What up to now have you had great practise in? Not something you do from frustration, fear or guilt, anything soulless is pointless! Choose a game that comes from pure joy and passion and you will have a fighting chance of beating the Kelpie!’

Characters from The Highland Games by Denise McKeever

‘Remember Rhona!’ said Sonas softly, ‘You don’t need to try so hard! Look at the great Loch Achall how it lies low beneath the great hills and mountains yet watch how all of nature and the streams, rivers and everything flow to it. It knows its place and purpose, we all have our individual parts to play in every challenge of life. What comes natural to you?’ asked Sonas. 

‘Remember before you proceed, you may choose one item to assistance you in your next challenge!’ announced the wild cat. ‘Now lay out all your possessions!’  

A New Highland game

Instinctively I looked at Spiorad for approval, who instantly nodded her head in agreement.

Aware of the audience of onlookers I continued as instructed and emptied the contents of my bag. I laid out in front of me the Highland Dirk from Radharc, the leather & wooden sling from Misneachail, the piece of flint from Barail, the small net I received from Spiorad and the stinging nettle rope from Sonas along with my football that was wedged in the bottom of my bag along with all the supplies I had gathered from Gran’s cottage.

Confused and uncertain I looked at each of the items scattered in front of me. Instantly I had a stroke of genius, leaning down I reached not for the Highland Dirk, the rope, the sling, the piece of flint or even the small net. I reached forward and grabbed my good luck charm.

‘Let’s give them a run for their money, here’s a new twist to your so called Games!’ I announced assertively ‘Let’s give this Kelpie a thrashing!’ I grinned now confidently spinning my leather football in my right hand with one finger. ‘My challenge is what we humans call the game of football!’ announced Rhona. Looking across the field surrounded by its old dyke wall Rhona noticed two large openings on opposing sides of the field the width of a goal post. As Rhona continued to set out the details of the next challenge the old wild cat listened carefully and nodded approvingly.

 ‘The objective of this game is for the two opposing teams with only the use of their feet to kick the ball between the gaps in the walls defended by their opponents.’ Rhona continued to speak pointing to the makeshift goals to the left and right of the field, as the Gamekeepers and the Kelpies clan listened tentatively. ‘Each team can select one member to defend the break in the wall or what is known as the goals, this is the only individual of your team of six players who can touch the ball with their hands.’ 

‘The team with the highest number of goals by the time the tide reaches and touches the first post on the jetty is the winner,’ stated Rhona firmly looking at the old wild cat for his agreement.

‘The challenge has been set!’ announced the old wild cat. ‘Choose your team and take your places, and let the game begin!’

Let the Game Begin

Immediately the Kelpie and its band of mermaids made their way to the left side of the field where bar one mermaid, the remaining mermaids were disbanded back to the shore leaving the Kelpie, a mermaid and four wolves as our opponents. The mermaid immediately took her post between the break in the old dyke wall as the kelpie in his male form took centre position with its wolves lurking behind him to his left and right.

Simultaneously I called on each of the gamekeepers sending Brammer into goals while Radharc retreated to the jetty with the old wild cat keeping a close eye on the rising tide. As I took my position in centre of midfield Spiorad and Sonas spread out to my left as Barail and Misneachail took positions to my right. As I placed the ball in the centre of the field the old wild cat raised his paw and Radharc let out a high pitch whistle signalling for the game to begin. 

Without hesitation the Kelpie came sprinting towards me as I dived forward and with my left foot fired the ball to Spiorad who was now ten feet in front of me to my left. Spiorad with her massive paws immediately propelled the ball in front of her, with her stealth and speed she effortlessly out ran the Kelpie who was now running towards her. As Spiorad raised her head she aligned her focus on the gap in the wall, just as Barail let out a deafening howl warning her that two dark grey wolves were now bolting across the field from either direction like two battering rams about to pound her chest from both left and right.

Instantly Spiorad thrust back her front right paw and struck the ball with her palm propelling the ball in the direction of the goals and then with her hind legs propelled herself seven metres into the air. Dumbfounded and stunned by her athleticism we watched her in mid-flight as the two wolves suddenly clashed heads together forcing them both in a tangled daze to the ground. While the ball glided seamlessly past the mermaid and over her head securing our first goal.

While the Wolves launched into a brawl with each other we all erupted into jubilation. I briefly looked back for a second to take stock of the rising tide only to turn back to see the Kelpie running towards me with its fists raised in frustration. Instantly Barail leaped in front of me pouncing forward onto his front legs bringing the Kelpie to a standstill. Barail projected an almighty growl into the Kelpies face as his now over dilated black pupils stared back at him in a display of uncontrollable rage. 

In that instance the old wild cat signalled to the mermaid to continue the game instructing her to put the ball back into play. The mermaid hurled the ball to the largest wolf in the pack positioned to her left. The black wolf had a very distinctive scar which ran from its forehead down and across its cheek. As the Wolf lined up the ball in front of his paws I could distinguish an unusual dark coloured silhouette vibrating around him which in the light seemed to change from deep red to almost black. In that instance I could feel a gust of wind brush above my head and then in front of me above my line of vision was Radharc circling the sky cautioning the wolf of his presence. 

In a demonstration of defiance the Wolf hurled the ball to the wolf on his left and began racing head first to Barail who immediately prised his paws into the soil and grass and hunched his shoulders into a fixed and stationary stance. At once I began sprinting across the field as the wolf relayed the ball back to the scar faced wolf just as I threw myself into a slide tackle sliding under the underside of Scar-face and gaining possession of the ball with my foot. With one foot wedged in the grass I passed the ball in the direction of Sonas just seconds before the other wolf clashed against my back entangling us both in a tailspin. 

Dazed and shaken I opened my eyes to the wolf pinning my arms to the ground with his paws and his menacing teeth and mouth drawling with saliva above my face. Instantly from nowhere Misneachail came storming across the field and with his antlers charged the side of the wolf rolling and spinning him onto his back. The wolf retaliated immediately leaping onto Misneachail’s back and in one fail swipe ran its sharp claws across his back. 

Instinctively I began dragging my feet across the grass crawling backwards out of the way as Barail appeared from nowhere leaping between the wolf and Misneachail forcing them both into retreat. As I fumbled to my feet I turned to see Sonas tackling the Kelpie who had now gained possession of the ball. Simultaneously Radharc let out a whistle above us in the sky as he headed back to the shoreline to join the old wildcat as the tide was only a metre or so from the first posts on the jetty.

Battered and bruised but aware that time was running out I got to my feet and in a last ditch effort began making my way up midfield towards the Kelpie heading in Brammer’s direction. I suddenly went into overdrive while Sonas distracted the Kelpie from its left I appeared from almost nowhere and using my small frame and height to my advantage I ducked down in front of it gaining the ball instantly with one of my football tricks outsmarting the Kelpie with my tight footwork and impressive control of the ball. As I instantly gained possession of the ball Sonas blocked the Kelpie hindering its chase giving me the essential few seconds to retain possession of the ball and obtain our last opportunity of another goal. 

As Barail and Misneachail continued to fend off the aggressive Scar-faced wolf and his friend, Sonas and Spiorad closed in on the two wolves to my left. As I passed the halfway line I glimpsed Sonas from the corner of my eye clashing with one of the wolves toppling her to the ground as Spiorad held her pace keeping the wolf to her inside giving me a clear path to line up a goal.

As I passed a few metres from the halfway line I could hear the kelpie gaining on me due to its distinctive snorting. As the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand-up I realised that the Kelpie was but inches behind me. Realizing it was now or never in one fail swoop I tapped the ball in front of me and then with my eye clearly focused on the scrawny mermaid I mustard all my strength and propelled the ball to the left of her sending the ball straight into the goals. Instantaneously I felt the Kelpie at my back and in retaliation clip my feet from under me just as Radharc could be heard propelling out a resounding whistle announcing the end of the game. 

With my head now face down in the muck, I slowly and carefully rolled over to face the Kelpie standing over me and in a seething rage with its face inches from mine it whispered under its breath, ‘I’ll let you and your friends’ have this one but this day is not over yet!’

As the Kelpie finished speaking Brammer quickly appeared at my side dragging me to my feet as the gamekeepers made their way towards us and the Kelpie and its entourage marched off furiously in defeat back to the Loch side. As the Gamekeepers gathered around me all covered in dirt, scratches and scars I looked at Misneachail with three weeping scars across his hind legs. Instantly Sonas bellowed, ‘We will have to see to that before it gets infected.’

Immediately I remembered the gift that the fairies had given me and pulling the small pouch of lavender oil from my bag I made my way towards Misneachail. ‘Misneachail, this will help heal your wounds,’ and pulling a clean tissue from my bag I gently poured some lavender onto Misneachail’s open wounds.

As the old wildcat retreated with some of the clan elders into the tree line Spiorad spoke, ‘Let’s head back to the blacksmiths cottage before darkness falls.’

As we all made our way back to the cottage on foot Brammer cooryed up next to me and as he walked along side me said, ‘So when push comes to shove and you focus on one goal you truly tap into your instincts and intuition, maybe there is still hope for the human race, maybe after all you are not a lost cause. Maybe there is still hope for you all?’ smiled Brammer. 


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