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When Owen hears that the ancient Greek God, Zeus, has chained Prometheus to a rock for stealing the Olympic Torch, he decides to go back in time to set him free

 

OWEN AND THE OLYMPIC TORCHMiss O’Reilly was not having the best of days. Some of the more mischievous members of her class had been acting the maggot all day long, and now she had two of them standing in separate corners of the classroom, as she tried to teach the rest of her wonderful pupils about the history of the Olympics.


“You naughty boys are lucky I’m not the ancient Greek God, Zeus,” she declared, “or else you would have had a punishment far worse than standing in the corner!”


Owen, who, as always, was on his best behaviour, was very interested in what she had just said. “How do you mean, Miss?” he asked quietly.


Miss O’Reilly cleared her throat.


“Once upon a time the Greek Gods had stopped the people in Greece from having fire and light in their lives. The story runs that the Gods kept it like this so that people wouldn’t become too strong, and be in a position to challenge their power.


“However, a young man called Prometheus sneaked his way to Mount Olympus and stole fire from Zeus. He carried this torch, which would later become known as the Olympic torch, back to the people in the dark caves. There he lit fires for them, and they were delighted.


“When Zeus heard about what Prometheus had done, he was furious. He chained poor Prometheus to a rock, and sent one of his eagles to peck at him everyday.”


The children in Miss O’Reilly’s class were shocked into silence at this revelation.


“Poor Prometheus,” Owen whispered to his great friend, and time travelling companion, Alberto.
“Maybe we should take a trip back in time and help set him free?”
Alberto nodded. This sounded like a great reason to crank up Owen’s dad’s time machine, and set off on another historical adventure.


Only three people in the world knew about the powers of the time machine – the professor himself, Owen and Alberto. Oh, and Owen’s dog, Noodles, of course. Noodles went on every adventure too.

That night, shortly after eleven o’clock, Alberto met Owen and Noodles by the shed in Owen’s back garden. They set the time machine for thousands of years ago and then buckled up, as their latest time travelling adventure got underway. Anyone who happened to look out their bedroom window at that particular moment would have seen the shed light up in an explosion of the most majestic colours, as the boys and their dog disappeared into the past. Then, the shed sat silent in the darkness.


Thump! The time machine came to an abrupt stop when it reached its programmed destination. Owen creaked open the door and had a look around. They had landed at the foot of Mount Olympus.


From the distance they could see a number of the famous Greek Gods lying around, sleeping their heads off after what appeared to be a huge feast.


There were empty glasses of wine, crumbs of food, and lots of animal bones left lying around. On the throne at the top of the table, Owen recognised a sleeping Zeus. “Wow,” he whispered, “he’s even bigger than in the pictures in our history books.”


At the side of the mountain, they spotted another big muscular man, chained to a rock.
“That must be Prometheus,” whispered Alberto. “I’ll get the metal cutters, and let’s go release him.”


Alberto climbed into the time machine and grabbed the metal cutters – it was his idea to bring them with them, and no time could be wasted searching for the key to the chains. The boys knew that if Zeus woke up, then they could very well end up in chains themselves.


They crept up to where Prometheus was sitting patiently on the rock. “Who are you,” he asked, curious about their strange clothes, and the unusual looking beast by their sides.
Owen spoke first. “I’m Owen, this is Alberto, and that’s our dog, Noodles. We come from a land far away and heard about what happened to you. We have come to set you free.”
Prometheus’s face lit up. “Thank you so much,” he said. “I am getting quite weak. Those lazy Gods have a lot of feasts and more food to eat than would feed a whole town, but  they only throw me a crust of bread and one glass of water every day. They are afraid I will get too strong. And they make sure I use all my energy to fight off that eagle.”


“We heard about the eagle too,” said Alberto.


“Well you can meet him yourself now,” said Prometheus, “for he is right behind you!”

The boys and Noodles spun around, only to see a giant eagle flapping its wings as it swooped towards them. It was screeching as loudly as it could, and the noise it made woke the sleeping Gods. Zeus could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the boys trying to release his prisoner.


“Seize them,” he roared, and stumbled to his feet.


Noodles jumped into action and started barking fiercely at the approaching eagle. The baffled bird, who had never seen anything like Noodles before, changed direction and flew towards Zeus. Alberto grabbed his metal cutters and cut Prometheus’s chains free. Prometheus jumped to his feet and ran towards a shield that was lying at the foot of the banqueting table. He threw it to Owen, “Run for your lives,” he ordered them, “and keep the shield for protection.”


Owen caught the shield and they started running back towards the time machine. “Wooooh, how cool is this,” panted Owen as they ran, “this is Zeus’s very own shield, it’s called the Aegis. It can fight off any weapon that tries to break through it.”
Zeus saw the boys and dog running towards the strange metal object at the foot of the mountain.


He ordered the startled eagle to fly after them, while he raised his hands and powered up two mighty thunderbolts. “You wanted fire, well have some of this,” he roared, and shot the balls of fire in the direction of Owen, Alberto and Noodles.


They reached the time machine in the nick of time, and Alberto and Noodles managed to jump inside.


Owen, who was carrying the Aegis, turned just as the thunderballs were about to strike him. He covered his body with the shield. To Zeus’s amazement, and horror, the balls of fire bounced off his own shield and back in the direction of the Gods themselves. The eagle screeched again, and flew off in the direction of the sea. Zeus jumped under the banqueting table, for shelter, as did the rest of the Gods.


 Alberto fired up the time machine, and reset the date for August, 2016.


Just before they disappeared, they looked out the door and saw Prometheus waving to them as he ran into a forest, towards freedom. Then there was another flash of white light, far brighter than any thunderbolt that Zeus could summon.

The time machine was gone.

The next day, at the National Museum of Greek Artefacts, Professor Claude Santropolis found a parcel with a note attached to it, outside the front door. The note read, “To Professor Santropolis, inside you will find something very interesting to add to your collection of Greek artefacts, signed Anonymous.” Professor Santropolis unwrapped the parcel and his eyes opened wider than the Aegean Sea when he saw the Aegis. He recognised it as being the shield of Zeus. Excitedly he took out his phone, and the first of a thousand questions began. 

Read about Owen and Noodles’ Time Travelling Adventures every month in Ireland’s Own

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Owen was having one of those days in school that you just cannot beat. He scored an A+ in his Maths test, was top scorer in football training, and now his teacher was talking about favourite subject – dinosaurs.  


“Many scientists believe that birds are descendants of the dinosaurs,” said Mrs O’Reilly, to the astonishment of her young pupils, “though unfortunately there is no one alive from 80 million years ago to prove it.”


Owen’s ears pricked up when he heard what his teacher said. His classmates had no idea, but Owen, and his dad, were the keepers of the best secret in all of Ireland.
His dad, who the neighbours considered a bit of a ‘mad scientist’, had created a time machine, one that really worked. He kept it locked in the shed in their back garden. Owen was forbidden to go anywhere near it, but kids being kids, he couldn’t resist being curious.


Unknown to his dad, Owen often crept into the time machine when his parents were fast asleep, and travelled back through time to many exciting places. He met some of the most interesting characters in history from Christopher Columbus to Joan of Arc, and tonight he was planning a trip back to the age of the dinosaurs.


“I’ll get Mrs O’Reilly all the proof she needs that birds are related to dinosaurs,” he thought to himself.

That night, Owen lay awake in his bed, pretending to be asleep, until he heard the snores of his mam and dad rumbling through the house. He opened his bedroom window, and whistled out the secret code. Through the darkness of the still night came a swift response. His best friend, Alberto, who always came on all Owen’s time travelling adventures with him, whistled back that the coast was clear. Owen smiled; every great adventurer needed a first class wingman.


There was one other companion who travelled through time with Owen, his faithful dog, Noodles. Noodles had been pretending he was asleep in his kennel too. When he heard his master coming, he scampered to his side.


Then the three intrepid explorers crept into the shed, and climbed into the time machine.
“Eighty million years ago, here we come,” whispered Owen, and checked that Alberto and Noodles had their safety straps on. “Hold on to your hats boys, it could be a bumpy ride…”

A blinding white light shot into the night sky as the time machine disappeared from Owen’s garden shed.


The boys yelled with excitement as year after year went flashing by in a kaleidoscopic blur. Then suddenly there was a thump, and the time machine bumped to an abrupt halt.
“Where are we?” asked Alberto in a hushed tone, as Owen creaked open the time machine door.


“By my calculations we landed in an area that is known as Mongolia today,” Owen replied, “you see, in the time of the dinosaurs there were no countries, just one big wide open planet.


“Remember, Mrs O’Reilly said that birds are believed to be relatives of the velociraptor and it was native to this area of Mongolia. We need to get close to one and grab a feather from his arm if we can.”

OWEN'S STORYThe three adventurers climbed from the time machine. In the distance they could see mountains and trees, and a river with some of the bluest clearest water Owen had seen in his whole life.


“So this is what the world looked like before pollution,” he sighed.


Just then his thoughts were interrupted by a high-pitched screeching sound. He turned around and ducked his head as a flying dinosaur swooped down, grabbed Alberto by the shoulders, and flew away with him.


“Help meeeeeeeeeeeee,” Alberto shrieked, as the dinosaur flew up towards the mountain.


“Wooooh, a pterodactyl,” cried Owen, with a mixture of fear and excitement in his voice, “and he has just dropped Alberto into his nest. Come on Noodles, we need to get him out.”

Owen and Noodles ran towards the base of the mountain where the pterodactyl had taken Alberto. Hiding behind a bush, they watched as the flying dino took off from its nest again, searching for more prey, more specifically…Owen and Noodles!


“It’s ok guys, I’m up here,” called Alberto, as he popped his head out over the edge of the nest. “The pterodactyl thinks I’m one of its babies. She dropped me in here with three more eggs and they are all the same size as me. She even gave me a lick, but I think you guys had better get me out quickly. I don’t want to be here when she realises that I’m not one of her offspring.”


“Ok, stay right where you are. I have a plan,” said Owen. “Noodles, can you run about and let the pterodactyl chase you while I run back to the time machine and grab a rope? Then I’ll be able to throw it up to Alberto and he can climb back down from the nest?”
Noodles nodded his head and ran out onto the open plain. The pterodactyl, who had been hovering in the sky spotted him straight away, and set his sights on the sprinting dog.

Noodles ran like lightning, and led the dino a merry dance. He galloped under tree branches, cartwheeled into bushes, and the dino just couldn’t catch hold of him.

Meanwhile, Owen got a rope, and bow and arrow, from the time machine. He had been on so many adventures through time that he learned what he needed to bring with him to get him out of a tricky situation. He attached the rope to an arrow and shot it up into the pterodactyl’s nest. Unfortunately, the arrow pierced one of the eggs, and to Alberto’s horror, it began to hatch.


“Errrrr,” stuttered Alberto, “I think a real baby pterodactyl is about to be born.”


A tiny cry was released from the egg, and the mother pterodactyl stopped chasing Noodles.


It turned its head up towards its nest, listening for the cry of its youngling, and saw Alberto swinging his way down the rope, like a zip-wire. The sky boomed with the angry roar of the dinosaur. It charged its way back to the nest to check that its baby was ok, just as Alberto landed safely on the ground.


“Let’s get out of here,” cried Owen.


The three time travellers ran faster than they had done in their whole lives towards the time machine.


Once the pterodactyl had seen that its baby was ok, it turned its attention back towards the strange beings that had suddenly entered its world. It fixed its gaze on them, and shooting a war cry up into the clouds, flapped its huge wings. Then it shot downwards, arrow-like, ready to finish its enemies off.


The three friends were just in reach of the time machine when another creature, one that they recognised from their schoolbooks, jumped out from behind a rock.
“It’s a velociraptor,” said Owen, as he stopped in his tracks in awe of this magnificent beast. “I don’t believe it. Look at its feathered arm. Mrs O’Reilly was right!”

The velociraptor, which was around the same size as a turkey, froze. Instead of attacking the strangers, it was a bit wary of them. Noodles saw his opportunity and bared his teeth, releasing a deep growl. Then he started edging his way towards the velociraptor, giving Owen time to yank open the time machine door. As the seconds ticked by, the flying pterodactyl swooped closer and closer to its prey.


“Quick,” cried Owen, “everybody into the time machine.


Alberto jumped into the machine, and Owen summoned Noodles to jump in too. Owen quickly reset the date to the year 2016, and the time machine spluttered into action. Just as they were about to leave, Noodles did one last clever thing.


The velociraptor had scarpered away in such a hurry that a feather had blown from its arm, and landed at Noodles’ feet. Noodles gobbled it up into his teeth and leaped through the time machine door, just as Owen slammed it shut.


There was a flash of white lightning on the open plain, as the time machine disappeared into the future. The pterodactyl crashed into the earth, and stunned itself. It swung its head around, searching for the strange beings, but could find nothing. It squawked, and made its way towards the river, opting to catch some fish for its new-born baby instead.


The next day, Mrs O’Reilly arrived into school and found a nice surprise waiting for her on her classroom table – a feather. There was a note left anonymously beside it and it read…“To Mrs O’Reilly, a genuine velociraptor’s feather from 80 million years ago. You were right about the birds!”


 “I knew it,” she whispered to herself, and she felt a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Just then, the school bell rang, and the kids bundled in for the start of another exciting day. 

Read more of Owen and Noodles’ adventures in Ireland’s Own magazine

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The House At The End Of The Street

By Saoirse Ni Fhogartaigh (Cashel Community School) (Age 13-14 Category)

I live in a small town in Ireland. It’s a safe environment; in fact, nothing really happens here. My sister and I are originally from Brooklyn, in New York. We moved to Ireland after a break-in near our apartment. Mom knew the person. It was terrifying, and Mom feared for our safety. I was only six, and my sister, Tanya, was nine.


Dad didn’t want to scare me so he told me that we were going there to be closer to my grandfather on Mom’s side, in his old age.


Tanya told me the truth on the plane, and Mom said that it was safe and happy there. I agree.


My grandfather is tall and scruffy. He has a pasty, grey face, wears dark trousers, boring sweaters and has a few teeth left. He also has bushy eyebrows over his bright green eyes. To be honest, when I met him, I was terrified of him.


He doesn’t live with us. He does spend a lot of time with us but insists on going home every night, at eight o’clock.


Something about him is mysterious. For example, we have never been to his house, which peaks my curiosity.


One afternoon it was warm outside. I came home from school to find Grandfather pacing back and forth, twiddling his thumbs and clicking his tongue. He was obviously bored.
“Tanya, why don’t you and your grandfather go for a walk around town while I start cooking dinner?” suggested Mom. Tanya moaned, and looked at me.


“I’ll go,” I said, unenthusiastically.


Grandfather told me that when he was a lad, he lived around here. “Why don’t you want us to visit you at your house?” I asked.


I never heard the reply as Grandfather’s head turned to greet Lily. Lily was our neighbour. She was wearing a light sweater and a long, red skirt. She had that elderly people scent, mixed with cheap perfume.


“Lily! How are you?” Grandfather asked enthusiastically.


“Ah sure, I’m grand, grand now.” You know when you’re shopping with your mom and she sees someone she knows and they end up talking for ages? This was one of those times.


“I’ll see you, Lily,” Grandfather said, blowing her a kiss. She blushed and walked on.

We were at a crossroads. I started walking one way but then I saw Grandfather walking another way, so I quickly followed him.


“Where are you going?” I asked anxiously. “I thought ye wanted to see where I lived,” he smiled.


We went down a steep path and I saw a road. There was only one house at the end of the road.


It was quite dark at this stage and a breeze caused some branches to shake. The closer we got to the house, the more nervous I felt. It was huge and crooked and gloomy.
Grandfather fumbled through his pocket to get an old skeleton key. He tapped his nose with his finger as if to say “our secret”.


I had seen this hundreds of times in movies and the people always end up the same. Dead.


I was so scared that I was shaking. I was prepared for anything. Bats, ghosts, zombies, you name it, but what happened next, I was not prepared for.


The door creaked open to reveal a beautiful home. Instead of old creaky stairs, there was a lift. No creepy paintings or statues, just framed photos and Mom’s trophies from school.
Best of all there was no freaky little girl. There was Cailín, my grandfather’s maid. This place looked like a hotel.


My grandfather told Cailín to take a break while we chatted. I talked with Grandfather for ages.


He told me about the house. It turns out my great-great-grandmother was quite wealthy.
She grew up in this house, and it had all their great gadgets. She didn’t trust people because she was worried that people would only like her for her money. She met my great-great-grandfather when she was twenty, and the two were inseparable. When he died, she soon followed and left the house to her only grandchild – my grandfather.


He had an artist design the outside of the house so that it would look old and worthless.
 I told him that we should head back so that my mom wouldn’t worry. We both wanted to stay but we knew that we should leave. We trudged down the road and turned for home.
 When we reached the door, Grandfather turned to me and said, “This is our secret.” I was torn. I really wanted to tell Tanya, but I agreed.


We got back just in time to hear the end of Tanya’s temper tantrums because she couldn’t get the latest iPhone. Mom just ignored us and called everyone for dinner. I wolfed down my chicken and spuds.


“So how was the walk? Did you see anything cool?” my mom asked.
“Nope,” I replied. I turned to grandfather and tapped my nose. He smiled. Obviously glad that I knew his secret.

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The House At The End of The Road

By Niamh Buck (Coláiste Na Maighdne, Waterford) (Age 15-16 Category)

 

The train journey to my aunt’s great house in northern England wasn’t too long from central London. Three hours and forty-five minutes isn’t considerably long when you are preoccupied, with your head stuck in a book.


The whoosh of the passing train was distracting, especially when it bore a beautiful view after it had passed. The hills and fields glimmered in the afternoon sun, appearing especially beautiful. One could not simply resist the essence of its beauty, only to stare and stare until it was no longer in sight. The early summer air was lingering around and a gentle breeze was causing flowers to sway with its flow.


I wasn’t accompanied, unlike on most of my travels when usually a friend, either just made, or long-term, was there to keep me from reaching my supposed boredom. But summer was different. Central London was the place to be during the summer, unlike northern England, except for some people like me who enjoy the company of a book, and a scenic view.


I was never much of a people person. I found that I got on better with books, and nature. However, when the time came and I had to be pried away from my books and luxurious view, I became quite a sociable person and found myself getting along well with other people, which brought me on my present journey. It gave me an opportunity to do both, read and socialise.


I have always loved the smell of the country air. The smell that reminds me of my childhood with my aunt. It all reminded me of the excitement that I would feel on the journey. Getting there was half the fun.

I could never sit still on long journeys, not until I found myself devouring a book, eating into the pages, unable to stop until the train came to a halt which left me with no other option but to put my book away and venture out into the wilderness of Northern England with my mother.


From the train station, it usually didn’t take too long to get to the guest house, better known as the ‘House at the End of the Road’. Only half an hour. I would be so excited to see all the things that I missed while I was away.


To re-experience every part of nature that I had missed; to hear all of those stories from my aunt, about all of the amazing people she met. To be able to experience everything again for myself. I simply couldn’t wait.


The minute I would step out of the car, the fresh air would hit me, envelope me, and soothe my lungs with cleanliness. The sun would kiss my skin through the leaves of the trees overhead. The excitement could all be let loose. I could enjoy it, explore my surroundings. I could relax and run free.


What I loved the most about staying there was getting to experience the season’s change. Watching the young summer age, melting in with the early autumn, experience the crunching sound under your feet as you step on the beautiful fallen leaves that have turned into a mass of golden crisp. A small part of my heart stays with those leaves, fallen and trodden on.


Getting to experience the trickle of the stream getting louder and the feel of its liquid getting colder. It was all a part of the placidity of the merging seasons. Watching each morning greet you with more layers of crystals on each individual blade of grass, feeling the cold air tickle your lungs with the first few breaths. Seeing your breaths fading out into the world. It was all such a sight to be seen. It was nothing more though, without the company of a book.

It made reading all the more magical, and nature all the more lovable. My mother would have to search to find where I was hiding out with my book. Some days, in the middle of a meadow; other times by the stream. More times accompanied by the leaves while sitting under the tree. A few times in the garden, where my aunt had prepared afternoon tea. I loved every sight that nature presented me with.


My mother once asked what it is that I found to be so amusing, being awake at the rise of song of the birds while sitting out in the cold air, reading a book. I told her that my answer was simple – to see nature as a gift. Its beauty is indescribable. Its presence is peaceful. Its colours are refreshing. Its sounds cleanse our whole body and its whole being is nurturing us at every sight, without even realising. People say that they don’t believe in magic. I say that we live in it.


My aunt often enquired about how many books I have read, and to how I haven’t become bored. The answer is many, more than I have kept track of, and I can always find something that I haven’t yet explored. There is always a story untold.


I stayed there all summer, until late August. Until I finally had to be pried from the area of comfort. I cried my eyes and heart out, begging to stay just for a little longer, and prayed that she would give in. Hopeless of course, and futile it was, really. I knew deep down that I did have to go, and she was as stubborn as a rock. The one good thing about leaving is that it means that there was less time until the next visit. I stood up and stretched out as the train came to a halt, signalling the end of my journey. I reached for my bags and carried my book as I shuffled my way towards the exit. The doors opened. The fresh air hit me. I was home.

The House At The End of The Road

By Elle McMorrow (St Mary’s N.S. Leckaun) Co. Leitrim (Age 7-9 Category)

“No one has lived at the house at the end of the road for over thirty years,” my grandmother told me. Granny often told me stories about fairies, elves and pixies living in the old brick house. I used to believe her when I was smaller, but now I just laugh at the thought, but today it was different!


As I walked past the old house on my way to the bus stop, I saw a ray of silver sparkles through the broken downstairs window. I could also hear faint singing. I paused to take a closer look, but the next thing I heard was the beep, beep of the school bus.
I said “great timing” angrily to myself and ran on to get the bus.


When I got there I was out of breath. There were so many questions running through my mind. On the bus I told my friend about the sparkles and singing and she said, “No offence but I don’t believe you.” And I left it at that.


The school day couldn’t have gone any slower, I could hardly concentrate on my work.
The bell rang once for small break, the second time for big lunch, and finally, it rang a third time. HOMETIME.


I raced down to the bus. Finally it reached my stop, and I jumped off.
 I got to the old house, threw my school bag off, and with heart racing climbed over the wall to get a closer look. There, in front of my eyes, were five sparkling fairies.
Oh Gosh. Granny was telling the truth!


One was playing a piano in a denim skirt and a green top, her long blonde hair flowing on her shoulders. She had little green diamond shoes, and green diamond earrings.
The second was wearing black tracksuit bottoms and a grey hoodie. She had black hair in a ponytail, and she was playing the drums.


A third fairy was wearing orange shorts and a blue top. She had short blonde hair in pigtails, and she had a lovely gold star necklace. She was playing the guitar.
The fourth was in a purple dress and a pink cardigan, she had a purple and pink bow in her hair. She had long brown hair, and she was singing.


The final was in a yellow t-shirt with blobs of paint on it, and dungarees. She had short brown hair and a big blob of green paint in her hair – she was painting a picture of them all.


 I tried to stay still but I couldn’t control my excitement. I leaned to get a closer look, but my foot creaked on a piece of wood. Everything fell silent – the fairies were staring at me. I couldn’t move. I felt like I was frozen to the spot.




Next thing, the fairies flew out and magically lifted me through the broken window of the old house. I was scared. My hand was shivering, I tried to speak but nothing came out.
“What are you doing here?” asked one fairy.


“I’m very sorry but when I saw the sparkles I was very curious. Please don’t hurt me,” I replied.


“It’s ok, little girl, we’re not going to hurt you,” said another fairy. “We know your name, it’s Elle. We often watch you running for the bus”.

I nodded my head. “Only children who need our help can see us, what is bothering you?” asked the fairies. “I sort of said a lie today at school, just to get into the school Christmas concert,” I confessed.


“What sort of lie?” said a fairy.


“I told the teacher that I could play the piano, but I have no clue, and practice starts tomorrow.”


She said, “Don’t worry, we can help you with this, but I think it’s about time we introduced ourselves.


“I’m Selena, I’m the singer.
“I’m Melisa, I play the piano,”
“I’m Hannah, I play the drums.”
“I’m Ariana, I play the guitar.”
“And I’m Emma, I’m the arty one. Together, we’re the Sparkle sisters, but our band is called ‘The Sparkles’.”
“Wow, you’re all really sisters,” I said in astonishment.


“I can teach you piano,” said Melisa.


“Oh gosh. Mum will be looking for me. I have to go home but can I come back later,” I said. “That’s fine,” said Ariana.


I ran home and did my homework as quickly as possible. I grabbed some treats and my old doll’s house for my new fairy friends. Then I ran back to the old house. The fairies were waiting for me, and were delighted with my gifts. We all had a little tea party.
After tea, Melisa took out her little piano and with her wand made me smaller so I could learn it. It was wonderful. We practised lots of Christmas tunes and in no time I was playing like I was a pro. I gave Melisa a big hug – she was like my new best friend.
The next day at school, Mrs Dungan was very impressed and I got the part in the Christmas concert. I was so happy.


The day flew by after that, and before you know I was back at the old house. I thanked Melisa a million times, but even that wasn’t enough.


We all shared a big smile and that’s how my friendship with the fairies started.
Since then the fairies and I have had a lot of great adventures. But the best have yet to come.


And that’s the story of the house at the end of the road.

The House At The End of The Road

By Lauren Carroll (Our Lady of Mercy Primary School) Kells, Co. Meath

(Age 10-12 Category)

“We’re home again, Grandma,” yelled James, as they ambled through the door.
“Children, you must have been frozen to death out there,” worried the frail old lady. “Come sit by the fire and I’ll get you some hot chocolate.”


It was Hallowe’en night, and the dense fog hung low over the calm street. April sat on the deluxe cream couch that was placed just beside the roaring fire.


“Thank you, Granny,” she smiled, as she was handed a mug of hot chocolate.


“Dares?” smirked James, with a sly twinkle in his eye, as soon as his grandmother had left the room.


April nodded, and sat on the wooden floorboards beside him. “I dare you…” he grinned mischievously, pausing to take a tiny slurp from his beverage, “…to go in to the house at end of the road.”


“What?” exclaimed April, “are you insane?”


“Come on, April,” coaxed James.


“I heard that evil spirits live there and possess children!” hissed April.


“Has anyone come back out of the house to tell you that?” inquired James.


“Well, no,” April said quietly, “but…”


“Come on you big chicken,” teased Jenny.


“Fine!” April agreed, flinging on her lilac coat, “but you are doing my laundry for a month!”                

                          
                  ******************                   

                                                             
“Hello?” April yelled hoarsely, as she crept through the mansion cautiously.


She scanned the dim room briefly, and saw the wood louse-infested staircase with the coarse ebony carpet. She staggered up it, and saw a huge balcony with its dark curtains swaying gently in the soft breeze.


She could see the amorphous image of a dreamy moon through the thick fog. She stood still, taking deep breaths of cool air into her lungs. Suddenly, she heard a sinister cackle boom from the dark sky.


The gentle breeze rose into a vexed storm that battered against the fringed window panes all around her.

April leaned over the balcony’s edge and saw swarms of broomsticks zooming through the air. “Witches,” thought April. She hear the great oak door burst off its hinges and a gang of witches barge into the room. April stood there, paralysed with a mixture of fear and excitement.


The witches gathered around a long table, helping themselves to spoonfuls of toad eyeballs and platypi liver, which according to the scrawny witch chef was the best meal she had cooked up in her cauldron.


“Quiet!” thundered an obstreperous witch, as she thrust her broom on to the cold floor.
“Being a witch sucks!” she screeched. “Everyone hates us. Have you ever heard a story where the witches win? No. I don’t know about you but I have had enough of this codology!” She then took a deep breath and sat down calmly.


“I agree,” shouted a witch from the rear end of the table. “Do you know how many frogs I spent on plastic surgery since that wretched Dorothy dropped her house on me?”
“Yes,” screamed another, “that revolting prince took Rapunzel off me.”

“We should rebel,” roared the witches from ‘Hocus Pocus’. Sarah was now on the wooden table kicking and punching the air viciously.


“Too right,” bellowed the Witches of Eastwick.


“Maybe we could just try being nice?” squeaked the tiny voice of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. All eyes faced the pretty little girl.


“Be quiet, you silly princess,” spoke Jadis, the Witch of Narnia. “You shouldn’t even be here.”


“Wait, wait, that might actually work,” shouted the Wicked Witch of the West. “At midnight, grab your wands and broomsticks and throw them in the bonfire I will provide for you in the back yard. Finally, the whole world will like us! From now on, I am the Wonderful Witch of the West!”

The other witches stared at her with utter disbelief. April stood flabbergasted. “Witches turning good!” she thought. Anger bubbled up inside her, and all of a sudden she found herself scolding the witches for even suggesting such a vacuous idea.


“I know you didn’t win in every book or movie but without you there would be no story!” she exclaimed. April saw a nod of agreement spread like a virus through the lustreless room.


“Well, I suppose Mr. Shakespeare would have found himself in a right pickle if it weren’t for us,” the witches of MacBeth cackled.


“Yes,” smiled April. “Don’t let the likes of Dorothy, meddling children or princes bring you down.”


“The movie ‘Snow White’ would be a bore without me in it,” declared Queen Narissa.
“So let’s continue our wicked ways,” barked Malificent.


Soon the whole room was whooping and screaming with joy. “I knew you would understand,” smiled April. Then all eyes turned to her and grinned viciously…


…As April sat at the bottom of the cauldron with lumps of strange ingredients being dumped on her, she wondered if it was the best idea to help the witches after all!

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By Joan Zambelli

Young Melanie McNamara had gone on holiday to the seaside with her mummy and daddy.  This meant that Marmite, her kitten, was missing her a lot.


Mrs Wilson, the lady next-door, very kindly fed Marmite while they were away, but she didn’t make a big fuss of him like Melanie always did.


This wasn’t because Mrs Wilson didn’t like cats. She loved cats, especially Marmite, and wished she could make a fuss of him. But unfortunately, she was allergic to cats, which meant that each time she went anywhere near Marmite, she began to sneeze. And Mrs Wilson sneezed very loudly indeed!


The sun was streaming in through the windows, so Marmite decided to pad around the garden in the sunshine. With a bit of luck, he wouldn’t be able to hear Mrs Wilson’s loud sneezes out there!


Of course, he didn’t realise that the minute he went away from her, she stopped sneezing anyway.


Once out in the garden, the first thing Marmite noticed was a beautiful butterfly. He watched as it fluttered gracefully from flower to flower. Then, when it reached a big colourful rose-bush, it stopped to rest on a beautiful yellow rose.

Marmite padded slowly and quietly over to the rose-bush, as he didn’t want to scare the butterfly away.


“I’ve been watching you flying around the garden and dancing among the flowers, Marmite told the butterfly. “You fly so gracefully.”


“I’m very lucky.” The butterfly fluttered. “With my beautiful wings, I am free to fly away to anywhere I want to go.” Then off it flew to be near the beautiful multi-coloured roses which were climbing up the archway in the middle of the garden.


“If only I had wings!” Marmite sighed. “I’d then be able to fly away to the seaside to be with Melanie.”


As Marmite stared at the ground, deep in thought, he noticed some ants.  Some of the ants had wings, too!


They all seemed to be very busy.  Marmite watched as they carried tiny pieces of straw which they needed to build their nests. Some of the ants clambered over stones. Being so small, this must have felt as though they were climbing mountains.


“I’ve been watching you while you’ve all been working so hard,” Marmite told them. “You must get very tired building your own nests. I don’t have to build a nest because I live in a house with Melanie and her mummy and daddy. I just sit and watch everyone else working.”


“That sounds rather boring to us,” the ants chorused. “We’re very proud of the way we work.”


And they carried on working.


A short time later, Marmite heard the sound of beautiful singing high up in the tree-tops, as the birds began to sing at the tops of their voices.


They seemed to be very happy by the sound of all their singing, even if they had to build their own nests, too. But then Marmite began to wonder if the main reason they were so happy, was the fact that they had wings.


After all, they could fly away to wherever they wanted to go, just like the butterflies.
“If only I had wings!” Marmite sighed once more. “It’s not fair!”


By now though, Marmite was feeling rather weary, so he decided to take a little nap. He fell asleep in no time at all, and it wasn’t long before he began to dream. And in his dream, it seemed as if his wish was coming true.

Suddenly, he had wings!  But, strangely enough, having wings didn’t make him happy after all!


You see, each time he tried to fly, he found that he couldn’t! He tried to fly over and over again, but each time, his paws stayed firmly on the ground. In no way would he be able to fly to the seaside to be with Melanie.


Luckily, before he became too disappointed, he heard the sound of a familiar voice, and woke up.


“Hello, Marmite, dear,” Melanie was saying.


“I’ve had a lovely time at the seaside, but it’s nice to be home because I missed you such a lot.” Then she took Marmite in her arms and stroked him gently.


Marmite purred loudly, although not as loudly as Mrs Wilson sneezes!  This was his way of letting Melanie know that he missed her, too.


He knew now that he didn’t need wings to make him happy.  Besides, there wasn’t any point in having wings, if he didn’t know how to use them.  And in any case, now that Melanie was back home with him again, he didn’t want to fly away anywhere at all – not ever!

Read new stories for children every week in Owen’s Club

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The man with the portable microphone kept saying ‘one-two, one-two’, sometimes even in triplicate. He kept at it for the best part of five minutes. And all the time there was loud chattering as though preceding a concert in the parish hall.

Except that it wasn’t a concert; it was Christmas morning in church and the prelude to Holy Mass!

The priest, of course, welcomed everyone and said he was glad to see so many in the congregation. Indeed, every pew was filled to capacity. The priest then welcomed the children, as it was the birth of the Child Jesus. He told the parents to relax. It was OK, he said, for the children to run around and cry and make noise. I have no problem with that, he assured them.

Now, that is where I draw the line. It is one thing to have to endure noisy children during Mass or Sunday Service; it is quite another thing entirely to give them carte blanche, to have the priest actively encouraging them to misbehave. It is, after all, the House of God.
But it seems that respect has evaporated, not just for the liturgy but also the silence in which the words of scripture nestle. Without proper stillness, there is little or no sense of the sacred.

Outside, it was quite the sunniest Christmas morning seen in a long long while. The stain-glass windows came alive with the coloured garments of apostles and prophets, the nimbus around the heads of saints seemed to grow in brightness. A shaft of sunlight seemed to point to the crib by the Sacred Heart altar. The sound of the occasional passing motor car, subdued by evergreen oaks, seemed a natural part of the world outside.

When the sexton pulled upon the rope sending peals from the great metal bell-tower, the call to Christmas Mass must have sounded the same as it had done for maybe a hundred years, as it came to the ears of village folk and those at the furthest reaches of the big parish.

And I can picture the forest of bicycles leaning against the graveyard wall. Maybe a motor car or two. Folk still hurrying forward at the end of their long walk, dipping their finger in the the big free-standing stone font and disappearing into the church.

I wonder what they’d have made of the tumult of talk within the church itself, as the echoes of the bell died away and the congregation rumbled in their pews, awaiting the arrival of the priest upon the altar.

For one thing, the priest and his Mass-servers did not process. Nor did the Mass begin immediately. “We’ll be starting in a few moments,” the priest said, informally. One might be forgiven for thinking it was a concert that was toward, rather than the Mass.

We must preserve a sense of ritual, if we are to maintain a sense of the sacred. The prevailing laissez-faire attitude must be reined-in. The problems reside mainly in loose interpretations of Vatican Two, that seem to vary from parish to parish.
When I was a boy, we always knelt in prayer. Now, even when we’re kneeling, say after the Eucharist, we have to stand up to pray. It all seems to have been turned on its head. Also, in the same church a few months ago, the organist, during the reception and distribution of Holy Communion, played one of Moore’s melodies.
Much as I love the melodies of Ireland’s ‘national poet’, they are not appropriate as a sort of organ voluntary or ‘Communion music’. There must be a thousand pieces of church music and common hymns which he could.

More disconcerting still, one of the congregation to whom I mentioned this after Mass, saw nothing wrong with this, and any way, she added. “it was his favourite piece of music.”

Tom Moore must be turning in his grave at 78 rpm. ■

Read Dan Conway every week in Ireland’s Own

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By Joan Zambelli

It was one of those lovely sunny days when everyone usually feels happy, especially if you happen to be a duck. Overhead, fleecy clouds drifted along in the blue sky. Whilst below, the reeds swayed in the gentle breeze and ripples danced on the pond.

But, Dulcie Duckling was unaware of her beautiful surroundings. She was too busy preening herself and gazing at her reflection in the water.  She liked what she saw.
In fact, she liked what she saw very much indeed!

Then she shook herself and stretched out her webbed feet before gazing at her reflection again.   

The other ducks always invited Dulcie to play with them in the pond. But it seemed she preferred to gaze at her reflection, rather than go into the pond and have fun playing in the water with them. They couldn’t understand her at all.

But then, none of them knew that Dulcie had a BIG problem. You see, she couldn’t swim. Just imagine being a duck and not being able to swim!

“Come on now, Dulcie, dear!” Mummy Duck would encourage her.  “It’s time you could swim. You’re not a little duckling now. Danny is a strong swimmer already.”

Danny Duckling was Dulcie’s twin brother. He was always boasting what a brilliant swimmer he was, especially each time he won a race. And just like all the other ducks, he couldn’t understand Dulcie, either. Perhaps that is why he often teased her.  Luckily though, Dulcie didn’t really mind at all.

What nobody knew was that Dulcie was AFRAID of water.  She thought that if she went into the pond, she would sink right down to the bottom! And this was the reason why Dulcie just sat and watched the other ducks swimming on the pond, instead of playing in the water with them.  Of course, she looked at her reflection in the water every so often, too!

“If I had a face like yours,” Danny teased, “I’d never look at my reflection, in case it scared me.”

“Now, that wasn’t very nice,” Mummy Duck quacked sternly.  “Tell Dulcie you’re sorry.”
Danny didn’t hear her though.  Being such a quick swimmer, he had already swum right over to the other side of the pond.

One night, when the ducks were all fast asleep, there was a terrible storm. Luckily, the ducks slept so soundly they didn’t hear the wind howling, the thunder crashing, or see the lightning flashing.

Next morning, when Dulcie went down to the pond to see how pretty she was, she had such a shock, and wondered whatever had happened. There were small branches of trees, twigs, and leaves, floating on top of the pond. These made the water so dirty, that Dulcie’s reflection had disappeared completely!

“Oh dear!” Dulcie sighed, near to tears. “Perhaps I’ll never see myself again.”
Then she noticed a branch floating near the edge of the pond. If I jump on that, she thought, I can float around the pond looking for my reflection. So that is what she did!
“Look everyone – I’m on the pond!” Dulcie quacked excitedly. “I’m looking for my reflection.” All the ducks rushed down to the pond to have a look.

Soon Dulcie was blown into a clean part of the pond. She looked down into the water and – lo and behold – there was her reflection! She certainly wasn’t going to let it get away from her this time.

Without thinking, she dived head-first into the pond…SPLASH!

Of course, Dulcie didn’t catch her reflection, but suddenly that didn’t matter any more.
Now, for the first time in her life, she was swimming.

“Look at Dulcie!” the other ducks quacked excitedly, hardly able to believe what they were seeing. “She’s swimming. Bravo, bravo, Dulcie.”

Next day, Dulcie hurried to the pond. She was pleased to see that the water was crystal clear once more. When she looked down into the water, her reflection looked up at her. She couldn’t wait to swim and play in the water with her friends again, so she ran into the pond as fast as her little webbed feet could carry her.

Each day, Dulcie practised swimming until she could swim further and faster. And then one day, she actually beat Danny in a race!

“Your swimming has improved a lot,” Danny praised her. But Danny couldn’t stop himself from teasing her as well.

“With a bit of luck, your face might improve one day, too!” he quacked, but not loud enough for Mummy Duck to hear! Now that Dulcie was able to swim well, too, she simply ignored Danny’s teasing.

After that, she could always be found swimming on the pond and having fun with her friends. In fact, she hasn’t felt sad since, not even when, at times, her reflection disappeared!

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“That’s a horse of a different colour,” stated Dolly Harney one evening recently in her Select Lounge. I can’t remember what she was referring to, but the phrase itself got me thinking. I could feel the old Conway cognitive mills begining to grind beneath my hat, and a myriad of horse-phrases galloped across my mind.

I’m not a great aficionado of horses, but I don’t entirely agree with Ian Fleming’s quip about horses being uncomfortable in the middle and dangerous at both ends (it would perhaps seem that the esteemed author didn’t excactly ‘bond’ with his trusty steed). I’m more inclined to agree with the picturesque ancient Arab saying, ‘the wind of heaven blows between a horse’s ears’.

There are horses for courses, of course. But then again there might not be, if it is a two horse race. In that event, it could be altogether a horse of a different colour. Foinavon was grey, I think. And he emerged from an even greyer mist at Beecher’s Brook to win the Aintree Grand National. Some say he hid in the shrouds of mist, and made only one circuit of the course.

Subterfuge or not, Foinavon pulled off one of the greatest upsets in racing history, winning at sixty-six to one, according to Johnny Begley, who claims to have backed him. Anyway, he was a bit of a dark horse, wasn’t he?

It was the subterfuge of the Trojan horse, otherwise known as ‘the wooden horse of Troy’, that led to the cautionary phrase, ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts’. It seems the Greek army was often worth a trick or two.

When Croton Greeks were outnumbered three-to-one by the rival city army of Sybaris, in the southern Italian region of Calabria, some one came up with the amazing strategy of playing loud music at the advancing enemy. Someone had remembered that the horses of the Sybaris were famed for being trained to dance to music Still, one imagines the Greek soldiers were more than a bit nonplussed at this strange order to play dance music on their flutes. No doubt they were as surprised as any when all of the Sybaris horses started dancing and threw the cavalry into confusion. Faster and faster played the flutes, and faster and faster danced the horses, thus allowing the Crotonian Greeks to complete an unlikely military victory. No doubt, when the music stopped, the Sybarians had to face music of a different sort. Or so the story goes.

Horse-racing has been big business since the earliest days of the Roman Empire, and probably long before that. The notorious mad emperor, Caligula, built a stall made of marble within which stood a manger made of ivory, and all for a stallion named Incitatus, and then he went even further by granting the horse the status of senator (Mister Ed, eat your heart out).

That senatorial appointment, needless to say, met with strong disapproval among the Senators themselves, who no doubt, knowing their Caligula, had nightmarish visions of an equestrian takeover of the Senate while they were ‘put out to pasture’, so to speak.
Nowadays, top racing horses get our modern equivalent of marble stalls and ivory mangers. ‘Stars’ such as Arkle enjoyed the limelight, having twice consigned Millhouse to second place. SL Crawford’s painting of Arkle, Red Rum, and Desert Orchid, three of the greatest steeplechasers in history, hangs on the wall of my living-room. It is captioned ‘We Three Kings’.

Other horses had less pampered lives, as we’ve seen from the plethora of WWI horse articles and documentaries following upon the success of the film ‘War Horse’. And then there was the fictional work-horse in George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, which was rewarded, not with ‘grass years’ but a one-way trip to the glue factory.

I’ll leave you with the thought that Anna Sewell’s much-loved ‘Black Beauty’ paved the way for a greater understanding of animal welfare.

Read Dan Conway every week in Ireland’s Own

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