Daniel Cormac rushed back to the family farm and swiftly changed into the green and purple costume of Jack O’Lantern. After slipping the dark mask over his head, the hero reached over to remove a battered and rusty old lantern, then reached inside the bulky relic and lifted out his smaller magical lantern. I’ve always liked the idea of hiding the magical one inside a plain old ordinary one that no one would look twice at, he thought.
Jack O’Lantern looked at the clock and said, “I won’t be at full strength until midnight due to the enchantment of the fairy lantern, but I’m strong enough now to do what must be done.” He concentrated, and the magical lantern turned him invisible. It wouldn’t do for one of my neighbors to see Jack O’Lantern fly out of Daniel Cormac’s home, he thought. I’m the subject of enough tongue wagging as it is!
Soaring over the farm, Jack swiftly crossed the town until he reached a large house on a hill. “Hanrohan likes to look down on us all in a literal sense as well as a figurative one,” he said. “Well, I’ll give him a closer look at Jack O’Lantern than that bully can stand!”
He walked directly through the wall of the house and found the burly man slumped down on a sofa with three of his drinking pals nearby. They gasped in shock as the weird figure seemed to materialize before their eyes.
“Saints preserve us!” gasped Jasper O’Malley.
Bryan Hanrohan stood up slowly and said, “He’s no wraith! That’s Jack O’Lantern. He’s a hero. Don’t you read the papers?”
“The just have nothing to fear from me,” said Jack. “You have much to answer for, Hanrohan!”
“You know my name?” said Hanrohan. “But then you know everything, don’t you? Your magic power is legendary in this country!”
Jack raised his lantern and let the light increase until it blinded the four men. “You can’t see because your kind can’t stand the light of truth!” he said. “My lantern can show me the dark corners of your minds and hearts! My lantern can show me your secret sins!”
The lantern’s glow held the four men in its power, and Jack frowned as the glow revealed much he suspected and something he had only feared.
“I didn’t want to lose Andrea. It ain’t proper for a man to have his wife a parading in front of drunken louts in a tavern,” said the entranced Hanrohan. “A couple days ago, I hired a wise old man to cast a spell on her. He made it so when she sings, folks get sick. I wanted to get her to stop her performing and stay here as my bride!”
Jack nodded grimly. He knew the bully could not help but speak the truth while under the influence of his magical lantern. He also couldn’t deny the fact that the man spoke the absolute truth. Andrea was responsible for the illness, although she was innocent as well. She had no idea that a curse had been placed upon her.
I thought it was idle talk, but the locals are right in their way. Andrea does have the Banshee’s cry in her voice! thought Jack. I guess Hanrohan is immune to it since he was the one who hired this so-called wise man to work his dark spell. My own connection to the Good People must have shielded me as well! “You’ll regret your cruel actions. Look deeper into the light!” he said.
Hanrohan’s eyes grew wider, and beads of sweat broke out on his now-ashen face. He saw himself surrounded by ghastly figures with skeletal bodies and clutching hands. They were as cold as the grave, and none of them had any heads. These Dullahans of Irish lore were Jack’s enemies, but he could easily use their image to frighten a foe.
“No! No! I’m sorry!” he cried. “I’ll never bother the girl again!”
Jack lowered the lantern and said, “The horrors you just saw in my lantern will return to your mind should you ever harass or bully anyone else again. Be happy, man — you’ve just turned over a new leaf!”
He flew off as the four men blinked in the now-fading light and finally looked at one another in surprise.
“What the–?” gasped O’Malley. “I had a nightmare standing up!”
Hanrohan nodded and said, “Aye. I think I did as well.”
O’Malley said, “Shall we pay a call on your girl?”
Hanrohan shivered and said, “No! I am tired of locals. Let’s take the car and find some new action!”
Beneath his bluster, Bryan Hanrohan still felt the power of Jack’s magical compulsion. He would not risk reliving the nightmarish images Jack’s lantern had imprinted upon his brain. In truth, the bully was now a changed man. Just the thought of Andrea made him turn pale, although he didn’t understand why, nor did he recall Jack’s visit as more than a fading nightmare.
Jack’s lantern had revealed an unsettling truth behind the spell placed on Andrea. The magic came from some wise old man, but this mysterious wizard had rather powerful abilities. To link poor Andrea with the power of the Banshee would not be an easy task, he thought. I hate to think that this type of power is in the hands of a rogue!
He used the lantern’s magic to illuminate an unseen trail that led him directly across the country to a rather nondescript house. “The place looks grim,” he said. “I suppose that’s fitting, since the occupant dabbles in dark magic!”
The hero frowned as his light dimmed slightly. “That’s odd. Although using so much power back at Hanrohan’s would naturally weaken me, the passing of night should in truth bring me closer to my peak level of power. It’s now eight o’clock. Why do I feel so weak?”
Landing, he knocked at the old faded door. A withered old man in patched clothing opened the screeching door and gazed out at the hero with an odd amount of aplomb. “Jack O’Lantern!” he said in a thin, reedy voice. “I expected you might be dropping by.”
Jack entered the old house and said, “You know why I’ve come. I want you to remove the curse you placed for Hanrohan.”
The old man grinned wickedly and said, “Aye? I expect you do. I will gladly do so just as soon as you’ve done me a small favor. I only cursed the child in order to lure your attention my way.”
“This is not exactly a request,” said Jack. “You’ll remove the spell, or I’ll remove you!”
The old man stopped laughing and stared balefully at the hero. “Will ye now?” he said. “I rather doubt that. You see, I won’t free your lovely friend unless you protect me from something that threatens to undo me this very night!”
Jack frowned and said, “I wager I could force you to free Andrea, but I’ll listen. What do you fear?”
The old man said, “Tonight the Coach-a-Bower is coming for me. I don’t want to be a’ takin’ that final ride just yet! When the Death Coach comes for me, I want you to take me place!”
“If it is your time to die, then I can’t stop it,” said Jack. “Besides, the Coach only comes for those who still believe in the old ways. If you knew as much, why did you dabble in dark magic to begin with? Obviously, the spell you placed on Andrea was not your first venture into the supernatural!”
The old man nodded and said, “What is done is done! I don’t have power enough to resist the dark coachman, but I do have enough to make it necessary for you to fight the final battle for me! Now, what do ye say? Will you take my place on the trip to the other side, or shall I leave my curse upon your lovely singer?”
“I’ll go you one better than that!” said Jack. “I’ll summon the Death Coach right now!” He referred to the legendary black Coach-a-Bower in which the dead were carried off to their final fates. He knew it would be suicidal to attempt to take the old man’s place in such a dread and unholy vehicle.
“No!” cried the old man. “It will come for me at the proper time. Wait until the stroke of midnight! That’s when it will appear! You’ve heard the legend before, surely!”
“I’m a man in a hurry,” said Jack. “I’ll use my lantern to summon it right here and now!”
The lantern glowed brightly, and the old man cursed in a voice that was far too deep to be the one he had been using.
“You saw through my disguise!” he said as his body shimmered, and he became a young man in a hooded purple cloak. “You even realized my goal was to get you here and trick you into entering a mystical trap in the likeness of the Coach!”
“Dubh Magus!” said Jack O’Lantern, recognizing his old enemy. “Your power has a dark flavor all its own. You could trick a blind novice like Hanrohan into thinking you were a harmless madman, but I’m felt your unique magic at work here for a while now! You didn’t want me to enter the real Coach-a-Bower, and it’s not coming for you now anyway! All you wanted to do was occupy me here until midnight when my power reaches its peak! You wanted me to stay here until then so you could drain all my magic at its strongest!”
His old enemy smiled in agreement. “Very clever of you to realize my true nature and my true goal! However, I’ve been tapping into your lantern’s energies since you first used it earlier this night! I have leeched enough of your power already to kill you here and now!” Dubh Magus cried as he brandished a twisted staff.
“Ah, your beloved black thorn staff!” said Jack. “You never leave home without it, do you, lad? Too bad I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve as well!” Jack darted forward and ducked beneath the glowing staff’s magical nimbus, willing a surge of magical light from his lantern to block the staff’s own lethal energy while he slugged Magus with all his might.
Dubh crashed to the ground and said, “I don’t understand! You should be as weak as a kitten by now!”
Jack kicked him across the floor and grabbed his cloak. “I don’t rely totally upon my magic. My physical strength is still great enough for me to settle this man to slightly battered man!” he said as he pulled Magus to his feet.
Dubh cried out as the black thorn staff was knocked out of his hand. “Stop! This is savage!” he yelped.
Jack slapped him to the ground and said, “You magic types can’t stand a good right hook. I’d say this should be a grand lesson to you, Dubh. Draining my magical energy isn’t enough to beat me! You better toss out your magic books and join a gym!”
“Stop!” cried Magus. “I lift my curse! Now don’t strike me again!”
Jack grinned and said, “Fair enough! Now, shall I take you to jail without your magical talisman, or should I call the Coach-a-Bower after all?”
Magus scowled and said, “Bah. You’ve won. Don’t gloat. It little becomes you.”
After ensuring that the wizard was securely locked up, Jack O’Lantern flew out of Ireland across the Irish Sea.
I started to feel weak when the sapping of my energy first started, he thought to himself. That led me to question exactly what was going on around me. It was simple enough to see through Dubh’s ruse with a bit of thought. The folks who became ill due to the Banshee spell will all recover now, and now that Andrea can sing again without harming anyone, I need to give her a chance to win that recording contract with Mr. Waterbridge! I didn’t have time to tell her about him or take her to London, but thanks to my knowledge of the executive’s flight schedule, I can improvise a bit myself!
He caught up with the private plane from the night before just as it started to descend toward England. Raising his lantern, he allowed magical light to swallow the plane for a moment, and then, as the light faded, the plane appeared over the Cork Airport.
The plane landed, and a shocked crew joined the famous Waterbridge in expressing their confusion.
“I tell you we were over England!” sputtered the pilot.
Making them end up somewhere different from where they intended to go is just a variation of the old fairy trick called the stray sod! thought Jack. I hated to scare them, but if it will get Waterbridge to Andrea, then both of them will prosper in the end! Luckily, the fairies that gave me my lantern enjoy such mischievous acts!
Jack remained concealed in the clouds and casually used his lantern to shut down the plane’s engine. It won’t fly again tonight, which means Mr. Waterbridge won’t make the London auditions, he thought. He’ll also need a place to stay and the Bull’s Head will be his logical choice. Now, to persuade Andrea and her siblings to go there and do their show.
He flew off to find Andrea, and as Daniel Cormac he managed to convince the girl and her family that they were free to sing once more.
“Daniel, I never knew you to have the gift of gab, but if you say Jack O’Lantern himself vouches for me and assures you that all those people will be fine, then of course I’ll sing for Mr. Waterbridge!” she cried as she embraced him.
The band and Daniel made their way to the Bull’s Head in time to see a weary Waterbridge walking up the dark lane toward the tavern.
“Be playing when he comes in,” said Daniel.
The three girls and their brother obeyed and soon launched into some of their uniquely traditional yet pop-sounding compositions.
Waterbridge entered and said, “I need a room and something to eat.”
Daniel winked to Cathal and said, “The house special will be ready soon, along with the finest room in the place. Now, sir, enjoy the music. After all, you’ve found warmth and sustenance, and what more could a man want?”
Slowly, the tired and frustrated man began to listen, and he liked what he heard. Daniel watched him go over to Andrea during her break, and he saw the family erupt into happy cries as they received good news.
Andrea came over and kissed Daniel as she said, “He’s going to sign us! I can’t believe my good fortune! If that curse had not been removed and he had not ended up here somehow, this might never have happened! Somehow, I feel like you had a hand in it, Daniel!”
Daniel Cormac took her hand in his own and said, “Oh, I’d say you could give a bit of credit to the Good People! I have it on good authority that they’re crazy about you, like I am!”