Daily Lines: Here we go!

“I was once told my daughter would be a queen.
The man who said it had tears in his eyes as he kissed my fevered face. He stared at me as though he would burn the memory of me into his soul.
Goddess, he called me.
It was those words, and the look of loss in his eyes, which would eventually allow me to forgive him all that followed – which would allow me to forgive him for dying.
I think, when our small company parted ways, he lost so much more than I – though I can admit now that my life was never the same without him in it.”

D: . . . Well, way to start on a melancholy note, woman.

A: This is your story, D.

D: My story?  I’m pretty sure that’s Maureen speaking, my dear A.

A: It is. You put her through a lot.

D: I put–

A: Oh yes – you, Druid. You put – you continue to put – that poor dear through the ringer.

D: That poor dear, who would have brought down the British Empire with her bare hands? I’m fairly certain she can handle herself.

A: *No longer containing the ridiculous smile that accompanied D’s Return(TM)* That she can. So, what do you think?

D: I told you what I think – that’s a rather melancholy way to start!

A: Well sure, but it’s’ the third – and final – foray into your world. That is a little melancholy, even if it is wonderful and ridiculously exciting!

D: I saw you publish a “World of the Changelings” short earlier this year, A – don’t think you’re going to get rid of me that quickly.

A: *rolls eyes* heaven forbid. I’m not hoping to get rid of you – did you not see that grin when you showed up?? You’ve been a bit MIA, Druid.

D: I have not – I have simply been biding my time. A druid is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.

A: You just stole that from Tolkien.

D: I think you will find, given our respective timelines, that Tolkien stole it from me.

A: *eye roll* Right – my mistake.

D: Indeed, my dear A. Indeed.

Well, there you have it – Book 3, tentatively titled The Memory of Myth is underway. As I remarked to friends today – as a way to explain my sleep-deprived self – this is the

This trunk has been around the block a few times in the last 40+ years, but most notably – or recently – it’s seen 5+ books written on (or near) it’s surface

first time in about 4 years that I’ve written anything from whole cloth. Once upon a time, this book was slated to be the second in the series, and a stand-alone tale of Catherine McAndrew.

The threads of Niamh’s tapestry dictated, however, that it become the final story. The 120,000-word behemoth I wrote at this same yellow trunk 16 years ago while my then-baby boy slept is to be pared down and incorporated into a Möbius strip of timelines and stories that will bid farewell to the O’Malley, McAndrew, and McAlister clans, who have kept me company these last 25 years.

I hope you’ll join me (and D – who is indeed with me again!) – it’s been an interesting road, made even better by the people I get to share it with. I’ll share daily/weekly lines here and on Facebook, and as always, pictures of my world and writing buddies (otherwise known as my cats) on Instagram.


Welcome to the World of the Changelings. Pick your Poison:

It’s Here! Changelings: The Rise of Kings

Irish teens Maureen O’Malley and Sean McAndrew were lost in time. They fought at the side of a pirate queen, and raised the flag of a new nation. They defied the will of the Faerie king, and set in motion a revolution, which claimed the life of their friend and mentor – which barred them, the last of the Changelings, of from Faerie, forever.

Or so they thought.

Facing expulsion for their misadventures, Maureen and Sean are sent to live with Sean’s aunt, deep in the Scottish Highlands. There, Faerie whispers reach out to snatch them once more – and this time, returning home is no longer an option. This time, to thwart the king, they must become myth themselves, and fight a war none may win without dying.

Gods and rebels and kings, oh my!

The Rise of Kings is the second book in the exciting Changelings trilogy, and it is available in print and digital from Amazon today! And, lucky you, if you want a signed copy, you can buy one directly from me, using the products page on this site!

As an added bonus, the first book in the series, Into the Mist is available as an Amazon ebook for FREE today only!

 

Homecoming

“Changelings and foundlings – and chasers of faerie gold. Wanderers, the lot of you.”

The chills skittering up Maureen’s arms were at odds with the hollow ache in her heart and head.

Dubhshìth mac Alasdair was dead. The gateway between the realms of man and Fae was closed. There would be no more wandering now.

Two years she and Sean – best friend, fellow orphan, and Changeling – had spent chasing after the phantom warrior whose name changed with the century: Dubhghall, Dubh Súile, Captain Doyle and finally, Dubhshìth. Two years, which had sped by in the space of a day. But then, a night in Faerie was six months to the minds of men. That’s what Sr. Theresa had always told them.

Maureen glanced at the raw-boned nun who kept a protective arm over her shoulder as if shielding her once-young charge from the smoking ruins of the tiny chapel destroyed by faerie fire not a half hour ago. Ruined by King Nuada Silver Arm to rid himself of the last of the Changelings – the last of the descendants of Man and Fae.

Had Sr. Theresa known, all this time? Had the Benedictine nun, their guardian and teacher of ten years, been grooming her and Sean for their journey between the worlds? Had a secret part of her soul recognized in them the magic of the Fae – had she given them the tools they would need, in the form of stories and half-remembered superstitions, to guide them on their way?

She shook her head as she allowed herself to be guided from the chapel’s wreckage. She didn’t mind leaving it behind, and a quick look at Sean said he did not either. There was nothing left. The church had held only memories of who they once were – and of a birthright they would never be able to claim.

If Sr. Theresa had been grooming them, the smouldering remains were a testament to their failure.

Because Dubhshìth was dead, and the gateway was closed to them forever.

Get your copy today!

Other books by KM Sullivan

The Changelings Series

Signed paperback copies of the Changelings books can also be purchased direct from this site.

The Three Ghosts Series

Katie SullivanAbout the Author

Descended of pirates and revolutionaries, KM Sullivan is a lover and student of all things Irish. Born in the States, she is a dual US/Irish citizen, and studied history and politics at University College, Dublin – although, at the time, she seriously considered switching to law, if only so she could attend lectures at the castle on campus. She lives in the American Midwest with her son, two cats and a pesky character in her head named D (but you can call him Dubh). She can be found writing at her blog, The D/A Dialogues.

Connect Today!

The D/A Dialogues

Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

Check out The Rise of Kings on GoodReads

‘Twas the night before. . .

As I was putting the final touches on Rise of Kings a few weeks ago, a suggestion from one of my beta readers led me down the path of -gasp- prose I’d written as a way of getting inside D’s head. While I don’t consider any of it *good,* it is insightful. None of this made the cut in the book, but I wanted to share it anyway – there were plenty of easter eggs to be had, which I enjoyed and I hope you do, too.

Originally posted on April 17, 2014 as Lives Entwine.

Warning: Prose ahead! The Daily Post’s challenge-of-the-week was to write a post in prose. Now, I know quite a few excellent poets, and I know I am not of their number. However, as my brain steadfastly refuses to leave D’s world, I thought a bit of prose introducing the players in Book 2 might be in order.

As I said, prose ahead – you’ve been warned!

Maureen

I live.

Queen and goddess,

He said, the mother of kings.

Yet, power withers in my hand

And nothing to claim but portents and lies

Out of the way of history I step,

Out of the way of kings.

Let their magic die upon the Plain

I will be their pawn

No more.

*

Sean

I stand.

Stalwart and true

Hers is the gift of whispers

Twisting a song of power

While mine screams loud with terror.

For her I’ll taste the bitter sting of steel

In wars of men and battles of Fae

Yet his fate we will not echo

For our time, I swear,

Will come.

*

Dubh

I fall.

Crippled druid,

A thousand times I die,

A sacrifice, upon the Plain.

Now I move as myth amongst men – a god

Of terrible vengeance,

A father of kings.

At my call, the sleepers shall arise

And his tyranny will be

No more.

*

Niamh

I fight.

Daughter of gods

Weaver of spells, I see far.

Magic withers upon the Plain –

Death and decay mark his reign.

I will call to the heart of my people

And weave their songs once more.

With his champion at my side,

The age of peace

Will come.

*

Nuada

I rule.

Sons of mac Lir we were

And fierce were our battles

‘Till the day he graced my door.

Cloaked in mist and forgotten power,

He won for me my crown.

Lies I twisted, all to tame him

Until the day, he slipped from my side.

My kingdom is myth,

No more.

*

Mairead

I love.

I stand through the centuries,

A guardian and friend.

Mentor and mother,

The lineage of gods in my keeping,

And his word my only salvation.

I know when wars be over,

And kings awakened,

On that day my love

Will come.

***

Get your copy of Changelings: The Rise of Kings (Changelings, Vol. 2) today – ebooks and paperbacks available at Amazon, and signed paperback copies available here

On the Eve of Battle – The Rise of Kings

Well, 2 years after it was promised, Book 2 in the Changelings saga is finally here. It doesn’t matter that it was essentially written four years ago – which, coupled with my desire to expand the story – caused me so. many. freaking. continuity errors I nearly lost my mind – it’s here now. It’s here and I love it.

Oh, and FYI – forewarned is forearmed: Book 2 is totally the Empire Strikes Back of the series. Just in case anyone was wondering, or hoping for resolution – no. I mean, yes, in a way, but no. Sorry.

In the midst of editing, I realized the truth. While Into the Mist could *technically* be a stand-alone story, Book 2, The Rise of Kings could not. It demands you read the first book (which is free, on July 13!!), and it hopes you read the final chapter, Book 3 (which, I’m happy to announce, is tentatively titled The Memory of Myth).

That said, I love it. I love where it takes Sean and Maureen. I love the people they become in this story – and I love the side characters. If anyone wants to have an in-depth conversation about Martin or Mared (or Elisabeth, or. . . well, you get the idea) hit me up on Twitter or Facebook. I’m not kidding. I love them all and I hope you do, too.

So, here’s to an updated website (hey, we have shopping carts – you all know you want signed copies!!), and a book three years in the making.

Thanks for sticking with me.

. . . Oh. . . I almost forgot! Here’s an excerpt from Changelings: The Rise of Kings. Enjoy!

He came at them not with flame or trembling light, but through the hollow call of a judge’s gavel. His were no longer the shrieking voices of faceless monstrosities, but the sonorous tones of men who claimed to speak for God. With them, Nuada attempted to lay to waste the keepers of memories, the tellers of tales, and the wise women of the woods.

Sean tossed in his cot, aware he was caught in a dream but helpless to do anything about it. He could not force himself to wakefulness, and though he tried, he could not take command of the dream.

As the parade of men and women passed before him, each doomed to die for nothing more than sharing the glimmer of magic in his blood, his powerlessness turned to fury – to action. He would save them.

He had to.

He stood before judges, and attempted to put out flame, but they did not see him, and the flame merely rose higher.

Briefly, tantalizingly, others would see him – those who stood at the edges, neither jeering the condemned nor sobbing for their lives. They could hear his words, and they peered at him with concern in their eyes. He urged them to speak, to stand up for the hunched crone who could not have poisoned the Smyth’s cow. She who had brought their youngest into the world with those careworn hands, and cooled the fevered brow of their brother as he lay with the sweating sickness should not be condemned for imagined evils.

But those who could hear him and see him were almost worse than those who could not. Their concern turned to fear – to hatred. How dare he single them out?

Those who knew, who could sense his otherness, turned on him. They did not want to know. Not anymore.

Night after night he dreamed. All those who could see, and feel, and reach across the barrier to touch his heart – Maureen’s heart – were bright dots that lit the earth. And night after night, they winked out of existence.

The earth darkened – lit only by the fires of those who burned.

Get your signed copy today! 

Not in the market for a paperback? Preorder your ebook!

Pre-Order Changelings: The Rise of Kings!

Changelings: The Rise of Kings is now live for pre-orders in the Amazon Kindle Store! Between now and July 13, you can pre-order the kindle edition for $1.99! A print edition will be available on July 13 as well.

Ebook COverIrish teens Maureen O’Malley and Sean McAndrew were lost in time. They fought alongside a pirate queen and raised the flag of a new nation. They defied the will of the Faerie king and set in motion a revolution that not only claimed the life of their friend and mentor, but barred them, the last of the Changelings, from Faerie, forever.

Or so they thought.

Facing expulsion for their misadventures, Maureen and Sean are sent to live with Sean’s aunt, deep in the Scottish Highlands. There, Faerie whispers reach out to snatch them once more – and this time, returning home is no longer an option. This time, to thwart the king, they must become myth themselves, and fight a war none may win without dying.

And, to tide you over, you can download Hunted, from the World of the Changelings, at Smashwords for free AND check out how it all started with Changelings: Into the Mist, which is free on Amazon for the next five days.

But wait! There’s more (it *is* my birthday after all – treats for everyone!)! As an extra special bonus to everyone for sticking with me as publication of The Rise of Kings was delayed, below is a special ‘epilogue’ of sorts to bridge the gap between Into the Mist and The Rise of Kings. I hope you enjoy!

The Sleeper

Niamh stood at the head of a silent host whose bodies melted and blended with the mist as they passed through Mag Mell.

The fallen warrior lay sprawled where he took his last stand against the tyrant. Nuada Silver Arm had not even bothered to strip his foe.

Faint wisps of green and white pillowed the man’s head. The vines with their tiny flowers twined about his arms and legs, as if the earth would claim him for itself.

Behind her, awe-struck whispers rose:

“The Plain . . .”

“So much green.”

“Mag Mell – it lives again.”

Niamh crouched beside the Druid and murmured in his ear. “Fallen or sleeping, you give your very soul for your people, Dubhshìth – and yet you claim you are no king.”

No flicker of an eyelid or twist of the lips betrayed his stupor.

“Is he really–?”

“No, though it is well Nuada believed it so. He travels beyond us, but we can bring him back.” Niamh brushed a stray strand of hair from the warrior’s face. “The gods are not yet done with my Druid.”

She stood and allowed her followers to gather the fallen warrior.

“We must make haste. Mag Mell is watched.”

“Is it true, my lady? Do we really go to Tech Duinn? It is said none return from Donn’s domain over the dead.” It was the young healer, Miach, who spoke.

She put a hand on his shoulder. “There are ways.” She looked out into the mist. “Áine will teach us how.”

# # #

Head over to Amazon to get the rest of the story!

The World of the Changelings: The name’s the thing

First things first – how do you pronounce those names?

From Niamh Golden Hair and Nuada Silver Arm, Áine, Manannán mac Lir and Dubhshìth, to Tír na nÓg and Tech Duinn, the world of the Changelings is a challenge when it comes to cultural/historical/mythological accuracy and ease of reading. Not even for me!

The following is a true story.

The boy, who has just read the last two chapters because he was totally responsible for The Rise of Kings ending where it does: Ok, we have Nim… Nimeh? Nimmmm…

Me: “Neeve.”

B: But…

M: or is it “Nimuay”?

B: . . .

M: I don’t know how to pronounce them – I make up pronunciations in my head. Always have. To me, she’s “Neeve.” I’m pretty sure. Or is it “Nimuay?”  Whatever – it’s in the appendix.

B: (muttering to himself) oh my god mom…

M: I have to spell it like that. It’s her name! She’s a real mythological figure.

B: . . .

M: Don’t look at me like that. You know what I mean.

B: Ok.

M: (He has a look, so I keep talking) Don’t worry – aside from the real myths, I cut down on that authentic name thing. There are a lot of Martins, James and Roberts though.

B: And by a lot…

M: Well, see, names stay in families, and the story is cyclical, so it worked.

B: You’re going to have an appendix, right?

M: . . . .

B: (Forestalling the “is the pope catholic, and the sky blue” snark) Ok, so maybe put the pronunciation guide at the beginning?

From the mouth of babes. Even 16-year-old smart-arse babes.

So yes, I know the Irish-language (and some pict/proto-celtic) names can be a bit hard on the tongue to non-Irish speakers. Like I admitted to the boy, I make up pronunciations in my head anyway – you DO NOT want to know how I’ve pronounce words like Houghton Mifflin or even simple words like façade.

And because The Rise of Kings picks up right where Into the Mist left off, the mythology comes fast and furious. So yes, this time, the name guide will be in the front. Lesson learned!

Characters – and their pronunciation – from Changelings 1 & 2

Those with a slash after their name instead of parenthesis have an anglicized name by which they are also known.

Dubhghall, Dubh Súile, Dubhshìth, Dubh, (DOOgal/Doov Sul-e/DOO-she/Doov) Doyle – his name changes with the century, but he will always be the dark stranger, the warrior, monk, and prince.

Gods & Goddesses

Niamh Golden Hair (Neeve) is the rebel queen of Tír na nÓg, and Dubh Súile’s confidante.

Nuada Silver Arm (NU ah) is the king of Tír na nÓg.

Áine (AAN-yuh), Nuada’s onetime queen and Niamh’s mother.

Manannán mac Lir (MaNa-Nan mac LEER) is Nuada, Bres and Balor’s father and onetime ruler of Faerie.

Donn (Don) – brother of Manannán mac Lir, ruler of Tech Duinn, the Land of the Dead.

Lugh (Lu) – a warrior, craftsman, and bard – although known to man, Lugh is new to the pantheon established in Changelings.

The Dagda (Dada) – The father of Manannán mac Lir and Donn, he is the father of all, keeper of time, and god of the earth.

Fomorians (F’MoR-e-ans) i.e. the Fomorian Faction is the name used by Nuada’s enemies in the Fomorian War. Nuada’s brothers, Bres (BRESH) and Balor, led the faction.

Tuatha Dé Danann (TOO-ha da Dah-n’n) – at once old gods and historically, an ancient Irish race.

Warriors

Fionn mac Cumhaill/Finn McCool is the leader of the legendary group of warriors, the Fianna.

Oisín (Ush-EEN) is the son of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a poet, and a member of the Fianna. He tarried in Tír na nÓg for 300 years.

Cú Chulainn (Coo-hullen), the Hound of Ulster, a warrior who many believed to be the son of Lugh. (Listen to his name here!)

The Purely Fictional

Mairead mac Tadgh (Mar-EAD mac Teague) is the love of Dubhshìth’s mortal life and the mother of his child. She was thought to have killed herself when Dubh disappeared in Ireland.

Mártainn mac Aindriú/Martin mac Andrew is Dubhshìth’s rival for Mairead’s affections. He married her when Dubh was presumed dead in battle, and pledged his warriors to help win the war Dubh had been fighting.

Domnall mac Aindriú/Donal mac Andrew is Dubh’s son, who he thought had died with his mother, Mairead. He did not, instead he lived to be an old man whose descendants may or may not include Maureen and Sean.

Places

Tír na nÓg (TEAR na’nog), the Land of the Young, is one of many Irish mythological “otherworlds,”

Tech Duinn (Tec Doon), the House of Donn, which became synonymous with the Land of the Dead.

Teach na Clochach (Tcha n Cluh-hu) House of the Rock aka Cloak Tower – or, in Aunt Margaret’s words: “To me, and to all your ancestors sixty times removed, the keep – as it were – has been called Teach na Clochach – House of the Rock. Clochach sounds an awful lot like a guttural ‘cloak’ to those who’ve lost their native tongue.”

Into the Mist characters – they’ll be back for Book 3

Dian Cécht (deeAAn kay-cht) is the king’s healer.

Credne (KRA-na) is the silversmith who created the king’s silver arm.

Macha (mOH-ka) is handmaiden to Queen Áine.

Miach (ME-ik) is Dian Cecht’s son and a young healer.

Hunted: The End (And a Free Ebook!)

We’re here, at the end of all things – and at the beginning of others (a little melodramatic yes, but that’s what living in D’s head – instead of him living in mine – does!) It’s been a joy to relive this little slice of D – and Sean and Maureen’s – history – especially since it has a great many “Easter Eggs” from Changelings: Into the Mist AND the upcoming Changelings: The Rise of Kings. I hope you have enjoyed it as well! Visit Smashwords for your FREE copy, or download the PDF here.

Continued from. . . 

Hunted Ebook

Despite that I was Sergeant O’Malley’s aide, I was not allowed in the radio control room while my friends flew over Nuremberg. Only those with clearance – far higher than mine – were allowed, but they could not stop me from camping outside the door and chatting up anyone who would stop.

The news was not good. The Germans had been ready for the raids. As the night wore on, and more and more planes went down, and more names I knew were whispered as missing or dead, my dread deepened.

They would make it, though – they always had before. Four tours. It was unheard of. They were blessed by the angles, as some of the other pilots said.

I kept telling myself that, but as men trickled in with tales of being lit up by the German lights, of being hounded by the Luftwaffe, my heart clenched around the knowledge that Pat and Jamie’s blessings may have run out. Neither angels, nor the gods themselves could keep them from the fate of all men, it seemed.

But I had defied fate, part of me reasoned as dawn broke. I had not allowed time to march on, nor the hand of death to take me. If I could do it, so too could they – these men who were better than me by far.

But even my blindness to reality could not change facts. The sun was nearing its apex. No one had returned in over an hour. Anyone still out there would have been out of fuel by now, and forced to land – if they could even manage it – in enemy territory.

I gritted my teeth and took myself to Vice Air-Marshal Bennet. To my surprise, his aide announced me straight away.

“I was wondering when I would see you, Corporal McAlister,” Bennet said as he waved my salute away. “Sit. I have news.”

Bennet took a deep breath and even though I wanted to protest – wanted to deny the words I could see in the other man’s eyes – I did as I was told.

“Sir, may I ask if there has been news of—”

“You know what’s happened to them already, or you wouldn’t be here.”

“Sir, I—”

“I was waiting for a confirmation report, but I can say with some confidence that Sergeants O’Malley and McAndrew were shot down. They’re dead. I’m sorry, Corporal. I know O’Malley was responsible for your post here. He thought very highly of you.”

I had no words to defend myself against the sudden emptiness that opened up in my chest. My hand slid to my heart.

I had lost comrades in war. I had been forced to watch my father’s murder. I had lived through more battles than I cared to remember, but it did not make their passing any easier.

Pat’s letter to his infant daughter crinkled in my chest pocket. He hadn’t the chance to mail it and had asked me to keep it safe until he returned.

“Are you sending anything home, to their families, sir?”

“The telegrams have already been sent to Home Office. Someone will deliver the news to their wives later today.”

My face flushed and I welcomed the anger – welcomed the ability to speak without thinking.

“Sir, forgive me, but how can you just—just dismiss them like that? Telegrams? They deserved better than that.”

Bennet sighed and rested his hands on the papers that littered his desk. I had no business speaking to him like this, but I didn’t care. It was the truth. They had deserved better.

“You have to understand something, Corporal. Their wives are in Ireland – things being what they are there, Pat is already a traitor.” Bennet ground out the last few words and two bright splotches of red had appeared on his cheeks. “Us showing up and giving them honours will only make things more difficult for Kathy and Mary.”

He took a breath and flexed his hands which had turned to fists. The man was angry – furious even – but not with me.

Pat had explained – Ireland was neutral, to a point. Those who had been enlisted in the Irish Army and left to join the British in the war were now traitors. While Pat had never been a member of the Irish Army, but many would – and did – see his wartime activities as an act of treason.

“The girls were stationed with the Women’s Auxiliary back in ’40. They met here, you understand? I gave them leave so they could marry. If Kathy and Mary were smart, they would go to Cloak Tower. There at least, they’d have a place, and I know Jamie’s aunt has been asking for them. But I also know they won’t go. Ireland is their home, and the girls are stubborn – and brave. Always have been.”

He looked me straight in the eye. “Let’s not make this worse for them.”

I straightened and nodded. “No, sir. I understand.”

“I knew you would. Can I count on you, too, to continue the Sergeant’s plan to infiltrate the German line?”

“Sir?” The sound of our plans – made only the night before – on Bennet’s lips made the hairs on my neck stand on end.

“Sergeant O’Malley stopped by my office before he flew out.” He showed me a slip of paper with my name on it. It was a requisition request.

I relaxed, but only slightly. All through the night, all I could think was that I had been wrong, that there had been an informant in 8 Group, and I had lost him.

But even as that fear nipped at my heels, I knew for certain no one had exploited the secrets so rife at Castle Hill House. Not in the last month, at any rate. The informant had left before Pat brought me on.

And I would make sure the traitor was paid in kind for his treachery.

“I see, sir. In that case, yes. As soon as it can be managed.” I would honour their memory by finding out who had leaked the information about yesterday’s raid. I would honour them by helping to end this terrible war.

“Good – you leave at 0800 hours tomorrow. Captain Hardwick will make sure you’re kitted out.”

Bennet stood and I saluted him.

“Thank you, sir.”

“You’ll make them proud, Corporal. I know you will.”

* * *

“Hey, Corporal, wait.” It was Jack, the American pilot with the camera.

I turned and watched the man jog up to him with a mixture of curiosity and impatience. The car tasked with taking me to the harbour was waiting, as was the boat that would deliver me across the sea to occupied France, and from there, Germany.

“I thought you might want to have this.” Jack was faintly breathless when he reached my side, and he waved a bit of glossy paper in my face. “I took it when you boys were in the pub on Wednesday night.”

I was silent as I plucked the paper from Jack’s hand. It was a photograph. I had seen them, of course, but that did not lessen my shock at seeing my own face – or part of it – stark against the gloom of the pub. Jamie and Pat were on either side of me at a table littered with cigarette butts and pint glasses. Pat had a pen in his hand and under a protective hand was his letter to his daughter.

I slipped the picture into my pocket – next to the same letter. I bit hard on the flesh of my cheeks, but whether to stem tears or the rising tide of rage, I was no longer sure.

“Thank you, Sergeant. I appreciate it.” I saluted the American and the other man nodded smartly.

“Good luck, Corporal. Give ‘em hell.”

* * *

Faerie whispers had been chasing me for weeks, and for weeks, I continued to throw myself at the wolves of Germany. Sometimes I caught those who followed me – those who I had rallied to my side with calls for resistance and freedom – looking at me as though I was crazed, or perhaps damaged.

Maybe I was damaged, but they followed me regardless.

The traitor, the man ultimately responsible for the deaths of my friends, the man whose information had effectively ended the aerial war on Germany, had been captured.

When I saw him, I insisted I alone interrogate the prisoner. A glitter of silver haunted the man’s eyes, and he’d been filled with delusions of grandeur. Whispers of Nuada’s doing lingered on his lips and I knew the king’s dark power had turned this man’s heart.

Why? Had exile not been enough? Had the king wanted to crush my soul as well?

The traitor was mad, my men said.

I agreed, but I stayed their hands when they would dispatch him – leave him in a ditch where none would find him.

We would not become those men, I said.

The war was almost over. I could taste it in the air, feel the shuddering sigh of a world brought to the brink of destruction only to pull back.

Actions taken in these final days would stay with us.

It was March again, and still I pressed on.

I had honoured Pat and Jamie’s memory, yet those who struggled and died to bring freedom to the world of men called out to me. The beacons of their hope lit my dreams and haunted my waking hours.

I would bear witness to their fight, so we trudged on, my men and I, and we fought or liberated where we could.

And so, the whispers of Faerie followed me as I hovered at the edge of my despair. My year was up. Niamh was looking for me, begging me to return to Tír na nÓg.

That she knew of my pain I did not doubt, yet I refused to listen until my company was safe. I led them back into a liberated village on the French-German line, and gave them to the commanding officer there.

That night, I slipped into the fields and howled at the moon as I called the mists.

The world fell away and I vowed then, I would enter it no more.

* * *

I sat in the grove of my own creation and stared out at a world and a people descended of mine own. As I watched, trees gave way to stone and the Many lost their claim to the priests of the One.

Then the wheel turned. The sacred trees grew around my effigy of stone and the Many came out of hiding. I sat in my grove and watched a world outside my imagination, willing it to see.

She saw. She saw me with uncanny green eyes – the green eyes of my mother and her mother before her: witch’s eyes.

Joy rose in me. It was time – time to join the world after years of solitude, time to act after centuries of stillness.

I closed my eyes and reached across the barrier, to touch my future and my past.

Hunted, Part 4 (We're Almost There!)

Continued from. . . 

Hunted EbookI tried to hide my trembling legs by leaning up against the wood and canvas hide of the Mosquito which had been my chariot for the last hour.

Jamie wasn’t fooled.

“Aye, it has that effect. Did you know the first time I went up, I was green the entire time? Tossed my lunch, I did.”

I grinned at the young pilot. “Well, it’s a good think I missed lunch today, then.”

Jamie clapped me on the shoulder “Is that so? We’ll have to remedy that. To the pub, aye?”

* * *

I stared at the high-walled nooks filled with laughing men, and at the smoke-darkened beams that spanned the width of the low-ceilinged room. It was deceptively large, this cosy pub.

Cosy – and definitely more to my style. The draught may have changed some, and the method of delivery, but a fire flickered merrily along one wall and men still gathered over drink to tell tales. Here I could feel at home.

Here I could, most likely, fulfil Pat’s command that I unearth the double-agent who plagued 8 Group.

Pat ordered our supper and lagers with a shake of his head after I stared helplessly when asked what I’d like. Until Pat had wrangled my release, I’d been prisoner to the victuals deemed healthy by the good matron of Queen Mary’s Hospital.

As we ate, Jamie attempted to play spymaster himself. He peppered me with questions about the man I was supposed to be, despite Pat’s rolling eyes, and I deflected by asking him about his family – about both their families.

“Well, the girls share a cottage just outside Carrickahowley – easier with the two babes. Jamie’s aunt has been after them to come back to Scotland, of course, but Kathy’s mam is ailing. She’s not going to last the summer, and she wants to be on hand.”

I nodded – the names meant nothing to me but Pat’s eyes were shining bright in the pub’s muted glow.

“Maureen’s a bit of a terror – running already when she should just barely be crawling, her mother says.”

“She devils my boy something terrible,” Jamie added with a shake of his head at his friend. “But Sean’s devoted to her – or so Mary says.”

I grinned and let their chatter wash over me. The big offensive at the end of the month was their last for this tour, and every ounce of me wanted to find that mole and let them go home – these men who still had a home to go to.

“Speaking of Aunt Margaret – Corporal, do you know Edward McAlister of Dunn Ussie? I went to primary school with his son, Colin back in Dingwall – are they relations to you?”

I choked on the hunk of bread and cheese I’d stuffed in my mouth. They still called the keep Dunn Ussie? After all this time? And if Jamie had gone to school with a child of that clan, could he be—?

Pat clapped me on the back and I took a steadying breath.

“Distantly, sir – I believe? The names certainly feel familiar.”

Jamie laughed. “See Pat – told you I could surprise him. You’re a good one, Corporal. Welcome to the team.”

* * *

“You’re telling me the Germans just let them go?” Pat sounded like he didn’t believe a word Jamie was saying.

Jamie shrugged. “That’s the news coming over the wire.”

“Something doesn’t feel right.”

Dubh looked between the two men, hunkered over their lagers. Thick smoke filtered the pub’s already weak light, and cast shadows over everyone. One of the newly-arrived American pilots was complaining bitterly about it as he waved a bulky contraption he called a camera.

“What do you think, Doyle?”

“Pardon?”

“About the trade – have you no been listening, man? What is it – is Delia over there giving you the eye again?” Jamie asked with a wink.

I snorted. If Delia was giving anyone the eye, it was Jamie – not that the pilot would notice. He’d shown off the pictures of his lovely wife and son so many times they’d been worn thin with wear. It didn’t stop some of the younger Women’s Auxiliary cadets, or nurses, from swooning over his rakish smile.

Pat rolled his eyes. “He’s been listening, Jamie – he listens to everything. Did you know, according to our good Corporal McAlister, Johnny Hardwick snitches five paperclips a week from the supply office. And while that may seem sinister, it seems he’s building a replica of London Bridge.”

“Is that so?”

“Indeed,” I snorted. “And as you can see, Hardwick’s paperclip ode to British engineering has no bearing on your mole. You need someone in Germany, not Castle Hill House.”

“Are you volunteering?”

I hesitated, but only for a second. “Yes.”

There was nowhere else for me to go – the lands of Faerie were closed. I had tried to call the mists, to access the places where the veil between worlds was thin, to no avail.

The world was at war, and if going to Germany would help, then so be it.

Pat stared at me.

“Have you any German, then?”

“Mein Deutsch ist sehr gut. Außerdem bin ich begabt, wie Sie gesagt haben, mich gut einzumischen.”

Jamie burst out laughing and I gave him a droll stare.

“I know it is not that simple.” I kept my voice low but emotion crept into it anyway. “Yet, if by donning the armour of the enemy I help keep more of our boys safe to come home to wives and sweethearts such as Mary, I am more than willing to do it.”

Pat put a hand on my shoulder. I had only spent a month with these men, yet through their stories of home – of their infant children, their wives and boyhood exploits – I had come to love them as much as I had loved any brother-in-arms before. They were ten years my junior, but in every way they were my superior. They had lives for which to fight – and I would do what I could to ensure they could go back to those lives.

“We’ll talk about it after the run tomorrow night.”

“Then again, the war might be over after our run tomorrow night.”

Pat shook his head. “As much as I wish it so.”

His voice trailed off and he slipped a bit of paper from his pocket. It was a letter to his daughter. He wrote a new one every week.

He stared at the words scribbled on the page end then back at me. “You’re certain?”

“What is the point of a man with no memory hiding away, safe in the country while everyone else runs pell-mell into the enemy? I’ve told you – beyond your everyday rivalries and daydreamers hoping for home, there is nothing amiss here. My gut tells me my place is there.”

“And is your gut often wrong?” Jamie asked around a mouthful of lager.

I grinned. “In recent memory, I cannot say – yet I feel it has rarely failed me.”

“Then tell us, oh great magician who can see into men’s hearts, what is our fate on the morrow?”

I stared into the dark blue eyes before me. Patrick made noises for Jamie to leave off but I wasn’t listening to either of them.

Static filled my ears and tiny flashes like miniscule bursts of lightening etched jagged lines before my eyes.

“Dubh – Dubh!”

I shook my head, but it would not clear. The noise of the pub had ceased. Jamie and Pat, their hands wrapped around their pints, were still.

“Dubh Súile mac Alasdair!”

“Niamh Golden Hair.”

I spoke her name out loud without fear. The magic of Tír na nÓg had stopped time.

“Thank the gods we have found you – what possessed you?”

“Possessed me? Dear lady, I feared perhaps it was your magic that had done this to me – in retribution for my failure to harken to your cause.”

“You are a fool, Dubh Súile, if that is what you think.”

“I have been called worse by you, my lady.”

“Do not bandy words with me, Druid. You were exiled, as well you know, and not by me. I have found a way to bring you back.”

I tried to keep the incredulity out of my voice and failed. “Bring me back? For a price, I’ll wager?”

“Do you still hold onto your foolish notion that Nuada’s ways are just? That he has not changed and sullied the magic, which was his duty to protect?” Her disgust with her king and father, Nuada Silver Arm, was almost palpable. “He sent you there to die.”

“And I shall make the best use of the time I have here. These men need me more than you do, Niamh.”

“Those men’s lives will be nothing if Tír na nÓg falls to him.”

“You speak of things you do not know. They know nothing of you or your kin – their lives have meaning all their own.”

I thought I heard her snort, and I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. I had missed our banter.

“So you will not return?”

“Not until I have ensured their safety.”

“I cannot keep they gateway open forever, Dubh Súile.”

“Certainly, a day will not matter to you, Niamh Golden Hair.”

She laughed outright at that. “A year then, for you? I will see what I can do. If he suspects anything, I will have to close it, and you will be trapped there.”

“Perhaps that is as it should be – perhaps I should grow old and die, as is the fate of all mortal men.”

Niamh paused for a moment; when she spoke again, her voice was barely a whisper.

“Not your fate, Master Druid – not yet. We have need of you.”

The murmur of premonition crawled along my skin, and I shuddered.

“Good day to you, Master Druid. Should you have need of me, summon the mists. I will be watching.”

The noise of the pub came rushing back, drowning my senses in a heady wave of clanking glasses and the scrape of wood on wood. I gritted his teeth. Jamie and Patrick were looking at me, expectant smiles on their faces.

“Well, what is it man? What is our fate?”

“Ah, I do not deal in men’s fate – yet for you I see a great legacy. Your children will grow to do good things in your name.”

“Well, that’s all a man can ask for, I suppose.” Pat grinned and went back to his letter while Jamie sauntered up to the bar to order another round.

I watched the two men and wondered why my own words sat heavy in my heart.

To be continued. . . 

Hunted, Part 3 – And Some News

Hunted Ebook.pngSo… how are you liking “Hunted” so far? As with all things, I decided midway that, given how some don’t like serialized reading, I will be making “Hunted” available as a free downloadable ebook in a variety of formats! Stay tuned!

Continued from Hunted, Part 2…

“So, what do you think of her, Corporal?”

“She’s beautiful, sir.”

“You’re a funny sort, McAlister – you talk like you’ve never even seen a plane before.”

And so I hadn’t, but I wasn’t about to tell that to Sergeant Patrick O’Malley.

The twentieth century was rife with oddities, but aeroplanes were the most fantastic contraptions I had yet seen. Growing up, the Christian monks had claimed that their god ruled the heavens, but now it seemed man had invaded even that domain.

I had always been a warrior, a worshiper of the land, and student of the unseen things between worlds. Never had I dreamed to exist so high, with only the clouds and birds for company.

I tore my eyes from the twin-engine beauty called a de Havilland Mosquito to look at the young man who was now my commanding officer.

Pat’s red hair was bright in the spring sun and freckles stood out boldly on his pale skin. He was twenty-four – a good ten years younger than me, had I cared to count the number of mortal years to take their toll on my body.

“Keen for a bit of flying, Corporal?”

Jamie – Sergeant James McAndrew – nudged me in the ribs and gave me a rakish grin. He was always teasing someone, but his best friend, Sergeant Patrick O’Malley, was his favourite target. Considering they had been friends since their days at boarding school, and co-pilots for six years, he had every right.

Both men could have become officers – had they taken the offered break between their tours of duty and attended officer training. They were natural leaders and had the respect of any crew that worked with them.

Instead, they had gotten married and spent a brief leave in Scotland, at Jamie’s family home. Being reassigned to the Path Finder Force of 8 Group, under Air Vice-Marshall Bennett had been their reward. Together, the men had survived four tours of duty – two of them with 8 Group.

“You can’t take him up, Jamie,” Pat said now. “It’s against regulations.”

“Ever since they graced you with an aide, you’ve been all over these ruddy regulations.” There was laughter in Jamie’s voice and a merry twinkle in his blue eyes to take the sting from his words.

“Ah sure, and didn’t they offer you the same thing? You’ve more need of an aide than I do – your desk is a disaster.”

“Don’t tell me he has you filing papers while he’s dazzling the lasses doing loop-de-loops in the sky.”

“If anyone would know about that, sir . . .” I graced the black-haired Scot with a wry grin and Jamie barked a surprised laugh.

“The tongue on you – Pat did well to bring you on,” he said as he clapped me on the back. “Not that anyone will tell you anything, but I’m sure you have ways around that.”

“Enough, Jamie,” Pat warned. “You’re not supposed to know about that, either.”

No one was supposed to know I had been brought on to provide cover for the reconnaissance flights into Germany. There was some talk that 8 Group had a mole, and it was my job to find him – or her – and plug the leak before a big offensive set to take place later in the month.

On the train from London, Pat had explained the Intelligence Services had tapped him for work in 8 Group headquarters. He was not keen on the new role. He was still a pilot at heart, which was why he had enlisted me as his aide, and had “Corporal McAlister” transferred to the Administrative and Special Duties Branch. This way, Pat could take to the skies while I watched and listened on the ground.

Jamie nodded at his friend, but wasn’t done trying to get me in the sky. “Come on, Pat. The laddie here has been through hell.”

Pat looked between us and a small smile started at the corner of his mouth. “Ah, you’re worse than my nannie, God rest her.”

“Och aye, I’ve one of those myself.” Jamie grinned. He had won. “Just don’t tell Aunt Margaret I said so – she’d have my head for talking about her like that!”

* * *

I had no idea what it took to prepare oneself to fly, and was forced to stand by, helpless as a babe, while Jamie helped me pull up the jumpsuit, and strap on the helmet and parachute.

“Just in case,” he said with a wink and a mock-annoyed click of his tongue.

Seated in the plane, my palms began to sweat.

I had fought naked in hand-to-hand combat. I had crossed the sea between Scotland and Ireland in a tiny boat of leather hides. I had faced the boiling masses of a Fae army, which could not die, but when the ground fell away, all was noise and rattling sensation that gnawed at my bones.

The sky bent around us in stunning shades of blue as the plane soared.

My heart eased from my throat and my hands relaxed of their own accord. My soul filled with something resembling peace – fleeting and precious.

For the first time in a thousand years, I knew I could close my eyes and allow the gifts of the Goddess – gifts I had honed for years in the Druid grove and had forgotten at Nuada’s command – to flood my heart and make me whole.

I kept my eyes open.

There was too much to see.

To be continued. . . 

Hunted – A Changelings Short, Part 2

Continued from Hunted – A Changelings Short. 

“What do you remember?”

Dubh Súile mac Alasdair lifted his eyes to the red-haired man standing over him. He looked smart in his pilot’s uniform. He was young, yet his green eyes spoke of many battles.

Every day it was the same question.

Every day he said the same thing.

“Nothing.”

It was a lie.

Each of the 1200 years I had lived among man and Fae spread out before me – loves and lives lost taunted me whenever I closed my eyes.

Each moment of the war which had torn me from the world of men screamed at me in dreams, and the memory of magic, which had once been my reward, still lingered on my skin.

But that was not what the young man meant.

A broadsheet included with this day’s breakfast declared it was 1 March 1944. The narrow bed in which I lay belonged to the Queen Mary Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital just outside London, England.

I had not been in London for nearly 400 years. Metal-clad machines prowled the streets, their growl replacing the clatter of horses’ hooves on the cobbles.

It had been one of these—these things, which looked more like the monsters reserved for the unknown realms at the map’s edge than something man should ride within, that had put me at the mercy of the white-capped ladies of Queen Mary’s in the first place.

The only thing that remained the same was the endless war – only this time it wasn’t with the French.

“Nothing at all?” Pale eyebrows arched to etch lines of disbelief in the sergeant’s face.

“I remember nearly cracking your skull, even as I cracked my own.”

Not my finest moment, but Nuada Silver Arm had not meant it to be. In fact, I was fairly certain the king meant it to be my last moment.

“You and the cab came out of nowhere – if you hadn’t rolled me out of the way, I might have been hit by the bloody thing myself. Your reflexes are sound, at least.”

“Physically, perhaps,” I admitted. “My memory before that black cab is a little dim, however.”

“And yet, the doctors tell me the memory loss is a protective mechanism – depending on what it’s protecting, I would say that reflex is also very good, soldier.”

My left eyebrow raised of its own accord and the sergeant finally cracked a smile.

The sergeant’s smile turned into mock surprise. “What’s this, no retort? No denial? I call you ‘soldier’ and you simply accept it?”

I answered his smile with a wry twist of my lips. It was about time. At turns solicitous and stern, the sergeant had been trying for two days to uncover my identity.

“I have been a warrior – among many things – all my days. I could no more deny it than willingly stop breathing. And yet, I do not know for whom I fight.”

“For Queen and Country, that’s who,” the sergeant snapped. “I had a thought you were from one of the Highland regiments. A lad from the Black Watch had gone missing on his way back from the front. Deserter, they thought.”

Deserter.

The word slithered through the air, now sharp and sour. The sergeant’s eyes had turned to flint as he waited for me to twitch, blubber, or show any other sign that my memory loss – amnesia the doctors called it – was a ruse.

I stared placidly at him, and waited for him to continue. My mortal record – all my mortal records – had been lost to time for centuries, but creating an identity from whole-cloth was foolhardy at best. No longer did man rely on a messenger who might take days, if not weeks, to reach his destination. In 1944, a command from a faceless man half a world away could move – or halt – an entire army.

“A Corporal Doyle McAlister, late of Dingwall? I sent up your photo. Captain there says it was blurred – don’t know how that bloody happened – but it’s close enough.”

Breathing was suddenly difficult. My family name – and the name of my home – had changed only slightly. Was this more of Nuada’s machinations, or some other agent of fate?

I took care with my words. “The names feel familiar, sir, but I can’t say for certain that I am your man.”

“That will do enough for me.”

It was my turn to smile. “Why in such a hurry to tag a name to me, sir?”

“Because amnesia or not, you’re a canny one, Corporal. You watch, you wait and you keep your own counsel. I have need of a man with your skills.”

“And?”

If I was being tested, the matching grin on Sergeant O’Malley’s face said I’d passed.

“And I was only granted two day’s extra leave. I’m due back at 8 Group tomorrow. So, unless you would prefer to return to the front with your regiment…?”

O’Malley left the question hanging, but I didn’t leave it there for long. I’d seen the mechanical monstrosities man had made – and I had no desire to experience them any closer than I already had.

“You’ve cleared this with McAlister’s commanding officer, Sergeant O’Malley?”

“Indeed, Corporal McAlister, I have. How do you feel about aeroplanes?”

To be continued. . .