With the Fall of Night
The slow spell of darkness fell over the land spelling doom for any foolish enough to be caught outdoors. Shutters were locked and blinds drawn, as bolts barred doors from the fear without. Families huddled around the glow of the hearth drawing comfort in it's light and the presence of others. In one house the door remained unbarred longer than the rest waiting for a son they knew would not return but hoping otherwise. Eventually too, their door was barred amidst tears and sorrow.

Fear gripped young Siog as the dusk fell. So intent on his gathering of kindling had he been that he failed to watch the position of the sun and the length of the shadows, till they nearly engulfed him. Dropping the wood he set out for home in a panicked run. Long before he reached the village the last rays of twilight winked out leaving him completely in darkness. No longer able to see, Siog stumbled forward weeping bitterly. Partly from the thorns and branches that grabbed at him but mostly because he was stuck out in the dark and everyone knew that was when the gruagach came out to feast.

Finally, Siog made it to the edge of the village. A secret surge of hope empowered him as he ran to the first house. He knocked on the door.
"Please, let me in."
"Go away. You'll bring the gruagach."

It was common practice to deep one's door shut during the night even in denial of the sincerest pleas for one was never sure if it was the truth or merely the mimic of the gruagach hoping to catch an unwary family in their home. So despite all his cries and pleas Siog was kept out of each house he visited. Choking sobs of fear forced their way out as he stumbled away from the house and ran directly into something tall and warm. The scream Siog let out chilled the people of the village to the marrow of their bones. But not a one rose to unbolt their doors.

"Hush little one, you have nothing to fear from me."
Siog looked up at the tall cloaked woman.
"I thought you were the gruagach. Who... who are you?"
The woman cocked her head.
"Gruagach? That explains much. Tell me your name boy and I shall tell you mine."
"Siog. Very fitting. I am Eochaill. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

Siog smiled, for the moment forgetting the threat of darkness and the gruagach that lurked within it. The woman had a calming effect that made Siog feel secure, more secure than he could ever remember feeling. He took her hand and held on to it. She smiled down on him.
"Now, tell me about this gruagach." Siog's heart began to race again with renewed fear.
"Hush, calm thyself child."
And Siog was calm, once again soothed by the vibrant power of the woman's words. He smiled at her.
"So,"she continued,"will you tell me about the gruagach?"

And so Siog began to relate all the stories of the gruagach that he knew as if he were merely relaying the commonest of gossip to a friend. He told her of the disappearances of those that had tarried too long after the setting of the sun. Of scratching at the door and around the windows late at night and of the voices of loved one's calling out for help and the loss of those foolish enough to answer. During this outpouring Eochaill nodded serenely and held onto the young boy's hand sometimes gripping it comfortingly but always enshrouding him in an aura of calm.
"Well, we had best get you to a safe place. Then we shall see about making the nights safe once again."
Eochaill leading the boy began to walk in the direction of his home.
"Help. Help. Let me in." Cried the voice of Siog.
Siog froze as terror seized him in it's icy claw. Eochaill gripped his hand once again letting the aura of calm flow over the young boy.
"Gruagach. Show yourself!"
The voice went silent.
"Lone lurker of the dark. Hunter of child and parent alike. Show thy bony face. I would have words with you."
"Speak then foolish woman, for I shall be gnawing on your bones soon."
"Come, come to me. I await you. I call upon you. Come."
As she spoke she slowly let her power flow out riding upon the words.
"Draioght! You use your words to lay charms on me. Foul Dandraoi we shall snap and crack your bones for this."
Eochaill listened as the gruagach padded off into the darkness.
"Was that the gruagach?"

Eochaill looked down upon the boy who looked up at her with wide innocent eyes.
"It was... one of them."
Siog's eyebrows raise and he shuddered.
"There's more than one?"
"I fear so my little one. We must find a safe place for you. Perhaps we can find someone more willing to comply than your kinfolk."

Eochaill set off into the woods with young Siog in tow. They walked through the woods till they came to an oak grove. Once within, Eochaill reached into a pouch and produced a sprig of mistletoe. She froze in her tracks as a twig at the edge of the grove snapped.
"Snicker snack, boulder break and crack,"came from the darkness and as it did the boulder in the grove burst apart sending shards of rock everywhere. Siog leapt backward breaking free of Eochaill's grasp. He didn't even have time to scream before the hands behind him grabbed him and pulled him in.
Eochaill cried out as the rock shards tore at her. Regaining her composure she pulled herself to her full height.
"So you would pit your puny spells against mine gruagach. You face a fully initiated Dandraoi!"
The gruagach began to run.
"Weeds and leaves, trees and grass, clover and vines, bind my foe. Hold him fast. Stop his run. Cease his flight. Subdue his fight."
The gruagach let out an anguished cry as the plants grew and twisted grabbing first his ankles. He tripped, falling to the ground where the vegetation held him, pinned. Eochaill towered ominously over the gruagach.
"The child is gone. Where have your fellows taken him?"
"The mother will eat him. She'll boil him and throw us the bones. She'll make you pay. She'll feast on your bones."
"Earth and air swirl fast, twist hard. Turn flesh to stone and bone to rock. Let blood quicken and hair thicken. Let soul of stone be stone of stone."

The gruagach let out another cry and then another boulder was added to the landscape. Eochaill lifted her head to the sky and let her mind wander out, seeking the gruagach and it's lair, North, West, SOUTH! South it was. She strode on following the path to the gruagach cave. The entrance was overgrown and not very large. There was no way to make a dignified entrance; so Eochaill slid through on her stomach using elbows and knees to propel her forward. After a short ways the cave widened enough so that she was able to walk upright, though with a bit of a stoop. The stench was terrible. There was the tepid smell of rot and waste permeating the entire cave. It took Eochaill's will to keep from vomiting right then and there. Concentrating she deadened her smell sense and continued onward. As she walked on she saw light, the flickering light of a fire that caused the shadows on the walls of the cave to dance eerily. As she approached she could make out singing.
"Boil cauldron boil. Soon we shall have our supper. Dinning on a tender morsel. Sucking out it's tasty marrow. Boil, boil."
Suddenly the singing stopped.
"Home my son?"
Eochaill stepped forward boldly into the light.
"The Geas of the three goddesses upon you I lay. By the Sun and the Moon, and Earth beneath out feet, reveal to me where is the boy?"
The gruagach reeled back, shaken by the force of the spell.
"I don't know of any boy,"she found herself answering. Then she leapt at Eochaill knocking her full into the wall. Claws slashed her face as she struggled to get out from under it's weight. Eochaill was surprised, both by the attack and by the fact that the gruagach did not have Siog.
"My son, my son, have you hurt my son."

Eochaill shot up with her hand attempting to blind the creature's eyes. The gruagach latched onto her hand with her jaws. Pain shot through Eochaill and she could feel the blood running down her arm. Hastily she fumbled at her belt knife with her left hand. Grasping the hilt she yanked it free and drove it hard into the creatures belly. The gruagach howled in pain and Eochaill pulled her hand free. Leaping up in pain the gruagach released Eochaill and in the process wrenched the knife free from her hand.

Eochaill quickly scrambled to her feet and bolted for the entrance. The gruagach was immediately on her heels. Eochaill made a dive for the small hole, slowing down not one bit. It wasn't enough, however, as the gruagach sunk her long claws into Eochaill's left leg. She began to drag Eochaill back into the cave. She grabbed at the sides of the small tunnel and pulled hard against the gruagach. She gritted her teeth as flesh and tendons tore under the gruagach's claws. Desperately Eochaill pulled her right back and let fly a kick which struck home with great force. Then another. All the while pushing against the rocks. After many long seconds, her left boot came loose and her foot came free suddenly, a claw raking down the side of her calf and ankle. She rolled out into the open air.

"Gods of earth and rock, tremble and shake, crumble and quake. Seal this cave off till the end of time. Let nothing leave it. Let nothing outside. Tremble! Crumble! Shake! Quake!"
The hill let out a roar and rocks began to shake, the hill crushed down closing off the cave forever. Eochaill sat back with a sigh.
"Dianecht I ask your aid. Staunch my bleeding. Heal my flesh. Mend my wounds and clean them too. I thank thee."

Slowly her bleeding stopped, then the skin and tendons resealed themselves and she was able again to walk. Slowly, as she had used much power, she made her way back to the oak grove.
"Dryad. Release to me the child."
"As you wish Dandraoi."
The dryad stepped out of the tree holding onto Siog.
"I thank you for your intervention."
The dryad released Siog's hand who ran over to Eochaill.
"The honor is ours Dandraoi for the boy is favored among us."
She stepped back into her tree and was gone. Eochaill took the boy's hand.
"Come Siog. That was an omen if there ever was one."

Siog's family never did see him again. They assumed of course that he had fallen prey to the gruagach. There were, however, no more incidents and over time the darkness lost it's terror and one day it was forgotten completely, save as tales to frighten children. The last tale being that of the disappearance of Siog. It is unfortunate that they never learned the truth for it is a more compelling tale, it being of how a young boy was chosen to be a druid.