"It all began with her," Clodagh said in her usual intriguing way, "she washed up on the rocky shore, just below Finnegan's Point.."
Sara could tell her friend Clodagh was winding up to begin the dramatic story of the person to whom the festival of Galen was named. This was the first time however, she had heard it surrounded by the origin place of the myth itself.
Clodagh had listeners there on the train, mostly tourists traveling to the festival with the train filling with more people at every stop.
"Just a wee lass she was, young and frail yet, she appeared to be the sole survivor from some ship run aground by a fierce storm. Yet, no news came of any wrecked ships at the time. As far as the people knew on the rocky shores of Finnegan's Point, the young girl who said her name was simply 'Gale' was a mystery.
At this point, Sara tightened her lips as she knew the more mystical part of the story was about to begin. She wondered which version she would hear, because Clodagh had quite a few.
Sara had heard her friend tell them all and silently hoped Clodagh would tell the better one. The worse ones being of Gale riding in off the sea from a 'gale' force wind, or the one of Gale having such an infectious 'gale' of a laugh, that all those around her couldn’t help but join in. This to Sara made the heroine's story less about a gifted musician and more about that of a lunatic.
Sara listened on with her jaws clenched tight and her eyes closed, wishing for the more sensible sounding myth to be told.
When her friend told the silly versions, with just a few people around, Sara felt free to openly protest but Clodagh had a rather large captured audience at the moment, so refuting her was not an option.
She thought for a moment, before a smile came to her lips. The younger ones listening were totally involved in Clodagh's telling of the tale. "At least they're quiet and not fiddling about," She thought as she closed her eyes for a quick rest. The train rolled on smoothly and smoother still was her friend's way with the story.
"Some thought she was a magical creature,"
Sara could hear Clodagh say, as she drifted off.
"Some say she was from no boat, but from the sea itself. For she looked far too wild to be from any place on this earth. She had skin pale and glossy as pearls, framed by loads of thick unruly hair, dark as storm clouds,and wild eyes as green as the seaweed when it's stirred up by the sea."
"It was the leaders of the village who made the decision that regardless of whether she was born of the sea or not, she would be made to stay at the home for girls on Finnegan's point. It was only an orphanage back then. When no relatives ever came to claim her and she never spoke of any kin, she truly seemed alone. All she had was the odd shroud like garment she had on at the time and a strangely carved driftwood flute she always kept close. "
"Gale never settled in at the orphanage. She never seemed able to be still. Gale scuffled and fought with the other girls, so they all feared her. Poor Gail, being lonely and unhappy, then began to run away. After a while though, the goodly women who kept the orphanage always knew where to find her. Gale would always be out on the main bluff, overlooking the sea, playing her strange flute. The headmistress named Madeleine, told the others not to rush to drag her back, but just to listen to her song. It was a sad and mournful melody, yet all who heard it were mesmerized by it.
With their hearts so touched by the music, Madeleine with the other ladies and the girls in the orphanage asked Gale to play her music for them all. When she did, they were all amazed at the beauty of her melodies. They found themselves all filled with a sense of peace, and contentment, from the oldest of the ladies to the youngest of the girls. "
"As Gale continued to play upon her driftwood flute, she was filled with peace too and the girls didn't fear her anymore.
It seemed even the very air itself would grow still to listen to the beauty of the melodies, yet the godly Matrons of the place feared it to be some sort of witchcraft. Once again, Headmistress Madeleine quieted their fears by showing them that Gale's music brought no one to harm, but imparted only feelings of peaceful joy, she convinced them that Gale's flute music could have possibly been divine in nature."
"Some time later, Gale was free to play to many people who came from glens and towns to hear this music. It wasn't long before all the girls asked for flutes of their own and once given, Gale taught them how to play. Though the sound of their flutes didn't have the same quality of tone as Gale's, the beauty of sound produced when they all played together seemed magical."
"There were twenty and one girls including Gale during that time and they all showed great talent in creating and playing their music.
People came from quite far away to hear them. In time, people began to give them gifts and money. Soon the little orphanage had need for nothing. The most marvelous thing was that parents brought their daughters to be taught by the girls to play music."
"The girls and Gale in time, grew and became teachers. The orphanage then became a school of music where any girl could come and study, whether they were orphans or not. All was going very well for them all, until…." Clodagh paused there and to wait for the questions she knew would come, for the dramatic story had to have an equally dramatic end.
"Come on," Sara whispered as the absence of her friend's voice woke her from light slumber. "Finish your wonderful little fantasy tale."
As if on cue, a little curly haired girl piped in with the predicted question, "What happened to them? What happened to Miss Gale?"
" Well it's a bit sad, but at the same time, there's some joy to it. Gale had just played the most beautiful music of her own creation with the other girls accompanying her. After the concert was over, instead of joining in the celebration of her great accomplishment, Miss Gale went for a walk on the cliffs of Finnegan's Point and…..disappeared."
A deep sigh of sadness arose throughout the train car.
Sara, eyes still closed, snickered to herself at how artfully and how deeply Clodagh had drawn them into her tale, emotions and all.
"Though they searched and searched, they never found a trace of her. Some say since the winds were unseasonably high that night, perhaps it was her summons to return to the sea from which she had come."
"But here's yet another part that is also a mystery. Gale was gone, though they searched desperately for her. Yet when they looked among her belongings, her driftwood flute was there. For a time they felt hope she would return, as they believed Gale would never leave without her precious flute.
"All the people mourned her, but no others mourned her like the twenty sisters she left behind. The flute remained, yet none of them dared touch it. All of them longed for a token of her to remember one who raised them from unwanted orphans to beloved sisters."
"Soon after, it was decided by the oldest among them, that they should memorialize Gale's flute by placing it where all who celebrated her could come to view it, and it would be preserved and kept safe, should she return."
"They had the flute placed in a clear, crystal case in the music school's central hall. But before it was placed there, the twenty young woman sent for a skilled craftsman, to carve working replicas of the flute, so that each of them would have one to treasure in memory of their friend and sister, Gale. So, by the hands of the most clever of flute makers, copies of Gale's strange driftwood flute were made and given to each of them.
"Those flutes were then handed down to the daughters of the twenty and as time went on to the daughters, daughters who are now those who play upon the driftwood flutes in honor of Gale’s last performance. It is a tradition that has lasted nearly fifty years."
"Despite so much time passing, it is still believed some day she will re-join the chorus of the twenty to make it twenty and one."
A soft sigh arose among the ardent listeners and then polite applause.
"Just in time," Sara said as she gently nudged her story telling friend beside her. "We're here."
Clodagh looked at her smiling, then rose from her aisle seat beside Sara as the train came to a full stop. She retrieved both her bag and Clodagh's bag from the overhead rack.
Just before they exited, Clodagh and Sara were stopped by an older woman clutching on to the arm of a small older man who looked slightly impatient to not be on his way.
“Shush, shush now the older woman said to him, this will take no time at all.”
Clodagh turned to her smiling as she recognized the woman to be one of those who listened to her story.
"If you please Miss, '' she began," I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your story and I wanted to know... well, since you told the story so wonderfully, are you one of the descendants of the first twenty girls?"
Clodagh's face lit up as bright as a noonday sun, " Why yes I am," she answered.
Oh my, she is one of them!" The lady exclaimed to her husband. “We will be so thrilled to hear you all play!" Turning to Sara, who stood off to the side, "And you are one of them as well?"
"No," Sara answered quickly, "I'm only here with my friend, this will be my first time hearing them."
"Well my dear, you are in for a treat,'' she began, " I heard them once as a child, the original Twenty plus One…. I believe it was back in 19…
"Margot," the impatient man interrupted, "We really have to go. You've taken up enough of their time." He tipped his hat, taking the woman by the arm leading her to the train's exit.
She however, had more she wanted to say, "It's a shame, my dear you don't play flute as well, for if my memory serves and it does, you are a ringer for that beautiful Gale."
The impatient man pulled on the woman with more force as she added, "With all that lovely lovely dark hair, too!”
Clodagh and Sara looked at each other and burst into laughter. Shouldering their bags, they disembarked from the train.
"Ready for the walk?" Clodagh began cheerily.
Sara didn’t answer, only smirked at her as they made their way through the many travelers to the station exit and then to the streets of the village.
“You know it really is a shame,”Clodagh began as they walked.
“A shame about what?”
“That you never learned to play the flute,Sara.”
Sara only smirked, saying nothing.
“You didn’t come with me when I went to the music school, I never understood why.”
“I wasn’t a descendant of a sister like you, remember?”
“And do you remember I told you it didn’t matter, that many other girls studied there as well.”
“Alright, I remember. But you don’t remember I told you it wasn’t for me,” Sara answered, her tone growing harsh. Stopping her pace for a moment, caused Clodagh to stop with her.
Sara looked her in the eye then, “I’m here now, am I not?
Sara nodded, “and I thank you for it. I know Mum is smiling down from heaven on both of us, because I didn’t have to come alone, my friend came with me.”
“If for nothing else,” Clodagh continued mischievously,” you really like the way I tell the story.”
Sara only moaned and began walking again, leaving Clodagh.
She laughed heartily as she caught up to Sara and threw an arm around her friend's shoulder, as they walked together."All these people!" Clodagh said, looking around them..
"Of course, silly. They're tourists." Sara answered
They soon veered off the main street of the village, towards the road leading up to Finnegan’s Point, the music school and the location for the concert. It had taken them some time before they were on course as Clodagh marveled at every food and trinket shop along the way. Sara was finally able to reign her back in with some taffy candy and a couple of iced lemon drinks so they could continue their trek up the winding pedestrian road.
The two women made it to their destination before noonday. Clodagh’s weariness vanished when she saw her friends, fellow musicians and sisters. Sara shyly greeted each person and left her friend to renew and catch up with the happenings of her old friends.
Sara wasn’t concerned when she was left alone. Of Course Clodagh had tried to invite her to come along with her and her ‘sisters’, but Sara found herself quite content in the small, neat guest room assigned to her at the school. There, she rested on the bed, enjoyed the sea breezes from the nearby window and was surprised how easily her memories of the place flowed through her mind, more memories than the combined ones of those presently there. Sara’s memories transcended time.
Sara Gale made ready to join all the others in the traditional celebration that had come to mean so much to so many people, even those far beyond Finnegan’s Point. Before joining the others in the outside theater set up for the concert, she crept to the main hall of the school. There in a crystal case was something that belonged to her and tonight she would join the descendants of her dear sisters in playing her songs once more in the company of the Twenty plus One.