Rory Mac Sween had believed that his father was dead and that his Mum Mary would never be happy. She was married now to his Stepdad John Grant, who owned Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. He was a drunken, violent and abusive man full of his own selfimportance and unnatural urges. He bullied everyone, as he could from his privileged position, and he targeted those who disagreed with him, especially Rory’s Mum.
Rory had the chance to change this and to protect himself and his Mum when he found the Hagpipe giving him the abilities of the Haggis, which included increasing his strength, speed and intelligence, and it gave him the ability to travel the Lay Lines through time from the connected point, and the Portal hidden below the castle.
But he had lost the Hagpipe and was just an ordinary boy again with no additional powers and he could not enter the time shift caves or call on his animal friends Hag, his pet wild Haggis, Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, and Ben the Giant Scottish Eagle, to assist him.
Saint Columba had a book detailing the premonitions of the future of Rory’s life and they had told him that his father was alive and that he would save him.
How was this going to be possible, as unknown forces were lining up against him to prevent the fulfilment of this prophesy?
Before he did anything, he had to remake the Magic Sword he had recovered from the Druids millennia in the past. It contained the opposite tusk of the Hagpipe and possessed great power, to be used for either good or evil!
Rory’s greatest enemy was time. The Spey-wife had foretold that he could not reclaim the Hagpipe until eight years had passed. Everything was against him, but he had to find a way as the clock was running down, with his Dad struggling to stay alive, a prisoner of the Vikings trapped in the past. Only with the remade Sword and the Hagpipe combined would he be ready to face the Vikings and rescue his Father.
But would he be eight years too late?
Rory was devastated. How could he rescue his Dad now, he felt weak and his skin was soft again, he was just an ordinary boy. He had searched all around the pool cave but the Hagpipe was gone.
Tears streamed from his eyes as he remembered the warning from Granny Grant to look after the Hagpipe and to never lose it. Eight years of hardship would face him if this happened, she had said. He left the pool cave and stepped onto the beach and he walked with an almost broken heart to Hag’s cave where the mound of ivory tusks of the Haggis Graveyard should be.
There was no shimmering curtain of time shift power at the entrance. He stepped into the cave which was illuminated by the reflective crystals in the roof and walls, but the cave was empty. No sign of the Haggis Graveyard or the circular rock nest where his pet Haggis Hag was born, or any sign that that she had even been here.
The only living thing in the cave were rats, loads of them scurrying about the sandy ground and up and down the access tunnels to the mountain and the castle buildings above. They squeezed through cracks in the tunnels into the castle store rooms, in search of food, of which there was a plentiful supply, but not for long, going by the number of them.
The tunnels used to be connected to the portals, enabling the dying Haggis to make their final journey to the Haggis Graveyard. Now they were only good for vermin to infest the castle. Without his pet Haggis to control them the castle would soon be overrun with rats and disease ridden rather quickly.
Rory felt distraught. He had lost everything! He kicked out at the rats at his feet who thought that he was a cheap meal. Rory was devastated, and he felt that he had no hope or future, what was he going to do?
He could hardly see through the tears that flooded from his eyes as he stumbled out of the cave onto the beach and right into the arms of the Abbot who embraced Rory warmly, letting him cry himself out. A large white cotton handkerchief was produced from inside the Abbot’s brown habit which he gave to Rory to wipe away his tears and the snot. Rory babbled about everything that had happened, to the Abbot. he would know what to do, he had the book.
Rory thought to himself as he tried to control his emotions, he understood now. He could confide in the Abbot and tell him all he knew about Saint Columba. He had said that he was going to save his Dad and then he had to go and see him at the Abbey in Iona. Saint Columba was fully aware of Rory’s future and Abbot MacCallum had his book. All that Rory knew was that he was helpless without his animal friends and the power of the Hagpipe.
He did not understand how he could fulfil these premonitions.
“I’ve lost the Hagpipe,” he cried out to the Abbot as more tears streamed down his face.
The Abbot consoled Rory, giving him a cuddle. He spoke quietly telling him that losing the Hagpipe was preordained for a reason, and that time and circumstances would restore it to him. They would work together studying the book of Saint Columba, and he informed Rory that he would now have to work very hard to be ready for the time when he would recover the Hagpipe and his power.
Rory understood that he had no advantages just now, and that he would have to rely on his own abilities.
The Abbot said, “I will now start work on a gift to help you, but you have to remake the sword first.”
Rory could not think straight, how could anything but the Hagpipe help him? He racked his now slow brain, questioning himself. How could the Abbot help him? Rory had concealed the sword from him, but the Abbot knew about it!
The answers to all his questions must be in the book!
But how could he fix the sword? He was just a wee boy and a trainee blacksmith just now. He only had the strength and the knowledge to make nails.
The Abbot saw the questioning look on Rory’s face and he told him, “This is going to take time and hard work, but you will get all the help that you need.”
Rory knew what time meant. Eight years before, that was what Granny Grant the castle Spey-Wife had said. Well he would just have to knuckle down and get on with it!
The Abbot placed a comforting arm around Rory’s shoulders as they both walked towards the spiral staircases which lead upwards to the temple above in Urquhart Castle. The Abbot explained to Rory that it was going to be a very tough predictable life of hard work, without the uncertainty and the thrill of adventure, and the power brought by the Hagpipe. Rory was painfully aware of this as he felt his soft skin and his sluggish mental ability, which seemed as if he was thinking inside a bowl of thick porridge, and not in super-fast speed like before. He did not like being normal and unable to benefit from the Hagpipe’s enhancements, with only himself and his own abilities to rely on.
Rory had counted on its power to travel to the past to save his Dad. He was stranded there, a slave of the Vikings for another eight years, due to his carelessness.
Could his father survive as their prisoner for that long?
The Lost Dad
Ruaidri Mac Sween (Suibhne) grew up in the ancient Sween Castle in Knapdale in Argyll, Scotland. He was the first born of the sixth generation of the Mac Sween Clan to inherit the Hagpipe from his father on his eighth birthday. On this day his father Aodh Ruadh (Red Aidan) relinquished the power of the Haggis which was transferred to Ruaidri, enhancing his natural abilities.
The Clan Mac Sween had grown very powerful thanks to the Hagpipe. They controlled land and power from Lochranza Castle on the Isle of Arran to Loch Awe in the North of the mainland, and Loch Fyne in the south. Their inf luence stretched all the way to Ayrshire and the estate of the powerful Earl of Montgomerie, where the Monks of Saint Columba were planning a new Abbey at Kilwinning. The Monks had their power base on the Isle of Iona, where all the early Clan chiefs were inaugurated and buried with their blessing.
The Clan Mac Sween had prospered so much that they had expanded into Ireland, controlling Doe Castle in County Donegal and large parts of Munster and Derry, where the Clan split, becoming Mac Sweeney and used other names like MacQueen. A descendant of this offshoot called Steven was transported generations later, across the Atlantic to the Americas. A later male child of his blood line called Steve would become famous for a Great Escape after a motor cycle stunt in a movie.
If only Ruaidri could escape!
All was not rosy in Scotland over this six-generation period which endured the first great War of Independence, followed by a civil war. Clan Mac Sween lost most of their power in Scotland and they had to retire to their lands in Ireland to survive, following major losses in battle to the English controlled armies of Sir John Menteith.
Ruaidri was a young man when he buried his father Aodh Ruadh (Red Aidan) in Derry, Ireland following his death fighting to hold onto his land from the descendant of Sir John Menteith known as Sir John the junior.
It was at this time when Ruaidri met and married the beautiful Mary (Maire) O’Neill who was a descended from the Milesian Kings of Ireland, and whose roots were traceable back to the family of Noah and his Ark. They had a son Rory who was the seventh generation of Mac Sween’s. Unknown to Rory, he was the culmination of all the previous generations of Mac Sween’s and he had inherited all their skills and gifts.
This was the happiest time of Ruaidri’s life and he decided that he would take his new family home to Sween Castle and free it of English rule, and the control of the descendants of the treacherous Menteith’s. He would use the Hagpipe and with its aid secure the castle for his son Rory to inherit his birthright.
Unfortunately, on arrival in Inverness at the winter equinox, Laird John Grant was at the docks on business. He saw Mary with Ruaidri and young Rory and he was captivated by the beauty of Mary. He was used to getting what he wanted and he wanted her!
He was filled with an unquenchable craving for her, and he decided there and then that she was going to be his at all costs. The fact that she was taken only made his desire for her stronger.
John Grant contracted a press gang of thugs loitering at the docks, to ambush Ruaidri and put him on a ship to America. He thought of a devious plan to rescue Mary when she was at her lowest ebb with no hope and in despair at the loss of her husband. He would be her saviour and worm his way into her affections and make her his.
This almost went fully according to his plan as Ruaidri and his family had left Inverness on route to a traveller’s inn he knew, where he was going to spend the winter months and then travel to Sween Castle. They were passing the extensive standing stones of Clava Cairns4 which were adjacent to the road, when the ambushers pounced!
Ruaidri told Mary to hide and she quickly grabbed young Rory and concealed themselves in the bracken at the side of the road, telling him to keep quiet. Ruaidri ran from the ambushers with his rucksack and his possessions, which he was sure the bandits were after, not realising their true purpose. He fumbled with his rucksack trying to get to the Hagpipe in its box to give him the strength of the Haggis to fight off his assailants.
He dodged in and out of the tall standing stones in the circle in an attempt to lose his pursuers. The setting winter sun hung low in the sky, sending a low beam into the entrance of the North East Cairn, illuminating its middle and catching Ruaidri in its spotlight as he was surrounded by the thugs with nowhere to go.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for Ruaidri, he took hold of the Hagpipe box as the ruffians armed with large cudgels (Wooden Clubs) converged on him. He was forced back into the passageway to the entrance of the Cairn. The portal on the lay line network did not need much coaxing to activate as the trapped sunlight within the Cairn burst out of the chamber drawn to the presence of the Hagpipe.
Ruaidri was bathed in the blinding bright light at this winter equinox on the twenty first of December. As he touched the Hagpipe the light shimmered around him and Ruaidri fell backwards into it, vanishing falling through a crack in time. The rucksack containing the Hagpipe still in its box fell forward, landing outside the Cairn, leaving it in the present. The superstitious thugs surrounding Ruaidri saw him disappear and they took to their heels, not wanting to face the same fate in the beam of light that shone out the empty Cairn entrance.