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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Adventures of Fish and Chips - Book 4

“Class, please gather around. Most of you have grown up in Inverlarich and know about the Standing Stones of Dubhtach, but for those of you who are new to the village, I'll tell you a wee bit about them.” Mrs. Redfearne spent the next half an hour telling Fish and Chips and the other students in the school class everything they did or didn't want to know about the Druids and standing stones.

Fish scooted back on the grass, leaning his back against one of the stones. “This is so boring.” He whispered to Chips. “Living in a small village makes it so our field trips are major boring. My cousin in Edinburgh gets to go to the zoo, or down to Princes Street Gardens. We have to come to standing stones.” Fish sighed.

“I think it's interesting. I love learning new things.” Chips nudged Fish with her elbow.

“And over here, class,” Mrs. Redfearne continued, “is one of the more unusual stones. If you look closely, you can see a face carved by weather.” She caught Fish and Chip's attention.

“Did you hear that? A face in the stone.” Fish stood and walked over to the others.

“There are legends of men turning into stone, old Druid myths. I would imagine several of them were once humans. They say it can only happen on nights where there's a full moon with a halo. Tonight is the full moon.” She chuckled at the expressions on the student's faces. “Have a look around.” Mrs. Redfearne stood back to watch what they would do.

“Wow. I can see the face. Look. This one here has it too. Do you think it's true, Fish? Do you believe these stones were once men?” Chips ran her fingers over the mossy rocks. “I've got a brilliant idea. Let's come back tonight, while the moon is full and see what happens.”

“No way, Chips. Are you mad?”

“I'll tell my mum that I'm coming to your house for supper and you can tell your mum that you're coming to my house. They'll never find out.” Chips' eyes glowed with anticipation.

“I'm not sure about that. What if Mum finds out?”

“Fish! You're always worried about that sort of thing. What's the worst they could do to us? We're not doing anything bad. We just want to come and see what will happen here during the full moon.”

“Class, it's time to head back to school. Fish, Chips, hurry along now.” Mrs. Redfearne marched across the hill toward the small school building.

“Meet me down at Chossach Beach at six tonight, bring a torch and don't bring Harry.” Chips ran ahead to be with the other students.

After a hearty supper of mince and tatties with hot scones and orange marmalade, Fish excused himself. “I've got some school lessons to do. Good night, Mum, Dad, Harry.”

Ten minutes later he stood on the beach, watching the waves roll in.

“You're here. Good. I thought you might chicken out,” Chips said. Her heather-colored cardigan buttoned up the front, kept the breeze out.

“I'm here, but I don't want to be. The moon is full all right and there's even a halo tonight.” Fish gulped. “Here.” He handed her a torch. “I brought one for each of us.”

“Thanks.” She flicked it on. “Some people call them 'moon dogs' or 'moon rings'. You're such a coward, Fish. I can't believe you. You're a boy and more afraid than I am.” Chips ran away from the water. “I'll beat you there.”

They kept to the side streets as they walked through the village, avoiding the few residents that were out shopping or having something to eat at one of the local pubs. Huffing and puffing, they stopped when they reached the stone circle.

“Let's look at some of these other stones. I wonder what Druids did in this stone circle. Do you think they murdered people?” Fish shone his torch around from stone to stone.

“Maybe. That's what the legends say,” Chips said.

“The moon is behind the clouds right now. I don't think I want to be in the middle of this circle when the clouds clear off.” Fish gazed up, searching for the hidden luminous orb.

“Me neither.” Chips turned to leave when a dark shadow stepped out from behind one of the man-sized stones. “Whoa! Who are you?”

Fish tensed; his fingers dug into his thighs. “You don't ask a ghost who it is, Chips.”

The figure ran towards them, arms out to the side screaming. When Fish and Chips ran off, Harry rolled on the grass laughing. “Gotcha! You two are so easy!”

“Harry?” Fish stopped when he heard his brother's voice.

“Harry!” Chips folded her arms across her chest and walked back to the circle. “Why are you here?”

“I'm not stupid, Fish. I followed you the moment you snuck out your window. What are you two up to?” Harry turned in a circle. “You've come to meet my friends, have you?”

“You're friends?” Fish's brow furled.

Harry walked over to one of the stones, caressing it with his long fingers. “This here is Cathbad Torsdan. He's been a stone figure for thousands of years.”

“How do you know that, Harry?” Chips didn't believe anything Harry said.

“I learned about it from auld Mr. McAllister. It seems that Cathbad came to the stone circle to watch an ancient druid ritual of some kind. He hid in the bushes, but they found him. Spying on Druids wasn't a good thing to do back then. They dragged him into the center of the circle on a night, just like this. The sky was cloudy and the moon was full. One of the Druids chanted a spell and when the moon burst from behind the cloud, one of the moonbeams landed on Mr. Torsdan and turned him to stone.” Harry's face stayed emotionless.

“It's just a story, Chips. Don't believe him.” Fish shook his head back and forth.

Harry moved to the next stone. “This one is Ginvarra Tylwyth. He was an old codger who moved to Inverlarich from Wales. He was good friends with our gran and granddad. One stormy night he wandered to the stone circle and poof, he turned to stone. Look at his face. He was scared.”

Fish and Chips moved in for a closer look.

“The moon's about to appear from behind the clouds. Do either of you have the courage to stand in the middle of the circle and see if it's true?” Harry chuckled.

“Not me. I don't want to turn to stone,” Chips said.

“Oh come on, Chips. It's all a load of rubbish.” Fish grabbed her by the arm. “Let's go home.”

“I'll do it. I'll stay right here. You two go and hide, since you're both cowards, and I'll show you. By the way, if it does work and I am turned into a stone pillar, put me next to Ginvarry Tylwyth. I've taken a fancy to him.” Another snort escaped his lips.

The moon broke through. Fish ran to the stones and Chips followed. “We'll watch from here.”

Suddenly Harry started gasping. He put his hands to his throat, like he was choking. “Run! Run or it will get you too!”

Fish and Chips took off running. “We've got to get my mum and dad,” Fish said.

They ran down the streets of the village. “Stop, Fish. Something's not right here. He's just pulling our leg. Let's go back.” She headed back to the stone circle.

“Chips, let's go home.” Fish hesitated, but when Chips ignored her, he ran after her.

After his brother had ran off with Chips, Harry dashed to a bush. He dragged out a wagon with a stone pillar in it. Pulling and tugging with all his might, he finally reached the center. He tipped the stone out of the wagon and stood it upright. When he heard Fish and Chips returning, he ran to the bush and hid again.

“Harry? Harry?” Chips stopped near one of the pillars. “Was that stone in the middle of the circle when we left?”

Fish gulped. “No. Harry?” Seeing the moon behind the clouds once more, they rushed to the stone. “It's Harry. He turned into a stone.”

“It's not possible. It's an awful small stone pillar. This is odd.” Chips rubbed her hands over the bumps and grooves.

Both of them circled the pillar, looking at each other now and then in disbelief.

Just then Harry jumped out from behind the bush. “Argh!” Unable to control his laughter, he fell to the grass, holding his stomach. “You fell for it. You thought it was me. I love it! You two are so gullible.”

“That wasn't funny, Harry. You frightened us to death.” Chips snapped at the older boy.

“Sick, Harry,” Fish sighed.

After pushing the stone back into the bushes, the three of them went home. That night Fish lay awake, thinking of the events of the evening. He climbed out of bed and stood at the window. The moon ring glowed, a circle of dirty light. “There's a storm coming in three days,” he whispered.

Up on the hill the Standing Stones of Dubhtach stood, sentinels of history, guardians of the past and a mystery to all those who wandered within their circle.

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