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DESIRESA Legacy Novel
By R. Rose
Abbott PressCopyright © 2013 R. Rose
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAncient Ireland Late Bronze Age
Cool and crisp, the autumn air signaled the change of the seasons. Rushing water broke the silence of the night as the River Boyne swirled around the bend. Tendrils of mist reached across the land as if to ensnare the unsuspecting and drag them into the Otherworld. Fallen leaves lie around the base of their near skeletal trees, remnants of their summer magnificence. The last of the day's rain drops gently fell upon them, their soft patter drowned by the sound of the river.
Illuminated in the glow of the full moon, the Irish countryside appeared serene—a deceptive ruse to hide the danger that was not seen until it was too late. A wise man would not have been found out on this night, when the veil that separated the inhabitants of this world from those of the Otherworld was at its thinnest. He would have been huddled in his home, the fire stoked against the terrors of the night as he waited the safety that comes with the rising sun. For the Blood Moon will rise on this night of Samhain. An ancient evil was seething in the Otherworld. A scorned Battle Goddess has been seeking vengeance, and desires to leave the mortal world in a deluge of blood in her search for retribution.
"Are ye sure we will see a specter tonight?"
The younger of the two boys asked as he bundled his cloak tighter. Hidden behind the large sycamore tree that had toppled in the last storm gave them a perfect view of the area around the stone circle, but did little to protect them from the wet ground and chilly air.
"Finn told me the specters rise up out of the stone circle every Samhain. Ye not be turning into a scaredy wee babe is ye? Di ye need youse ma to change youse nappie?"
Teased the older boy as he pretended to suck his thumb.
"No ... I just wanna be sure we're gonna see something since we missed out on all the great treats for guising. I had a great trick I been workin' on all year. I am not scaredy ... and I di not wear nappies."
The mist had started to spread in eerie thickness low across the countryside, enhanced by the clearly visible Blood Moon above. Suddenly, a spectral figure moved, over the hillside and through the swirling mist, toward the stone circle that lay shrouded in the darkness below the ancient oak. The two boys paused only long enough to look in each other's terror-stricken faces before they ran screaming into the darkness.
Greagoir chuckled as he watched the fleeing figures disappear into the mist. Tall and lean in stature, his blond hair and pale skin appeared a ghostly white in the moonlight. Draped in the tattered linen cloak he had gotten from the old hermit; he was certain his appearance would strike fear in even the bravest of men—especially on this night.
His memory sparked at the thought of the old hermit in the woods. He had gone to see him because dreams had told him that within this village he would find the way to summon goddesses from the Otherworld to serve him. Once there, the villagers told rumors of the old hermit in the woods that had strong magical power. It was said that he would help him for a fee. Having been born to peasants was not his choice; he was certain he was more suited to the life of a noble. He would summon the power of the Otherworld as enough of his life had been wasted in the service of others.
"Success will be granted—if ye follow the ritual," the old fool had told him as he placed the two magic stones in his hand.
"I have given ye all I own, including my pants and ye give me rocks?"
"These be magic stones boyo. Are ye suddenly a great sorcerer that ye can know the workings of magic? I think not, besides I have much more for ye than those stones—I have the knowledge of the summoning ritual ... in that lies the greatest expense."
"If ye have been false with me old man, know that I will return to crush youse skull with these very stones."
He looked down at the bare flesh of his legs that his long tunic could not cover; stung from the cold and covered in scratches. Soon he would have all that he ever needed or wanted, and with the power of the Otherworld to serve him, all others would kneel at his feet.
His mind drifted as he continued on toward the stone circle. Genovefa's beautiful face marred by revulsion filled his vision. Though an entire season had passed since Beltane, the wound to his heart was as if it were only inflicted yesterday. She had loved him ... he had felt certain of it. After all the times they passed each other in the village market; her smile had been only for him—hadn't it? When they had chanced to meet at the edge of the woods where she had allowed him to take her hand—of course, it was after he had frightened her horse and she had been thrown—but still she had taken the hand he had offered. Her touch was like a fire that burned all the way to his soul; which he thought she saw as their eyes had met for a moment before she turned away. She haunted his every thought; he desired no other. It was then that he had decided to ask her father, the High King, for her hand. What he could not give her in riches he could more than make up for in love; it was their fate to be together. Even though the lads in his village had said he was a fool, and it most certainly meant his death; he dismissed their warnings. After all, once the High King had seen the love Greagoir held for his daughter and her love for him; he had thought he would have approved their marriage.
He had planned it all so well in his mind and arrived in Tara during the celebration of Beltane. What better time for a wedding? All the Kings of Ireland had gathered, with their retinues, to pay fealty to the High King. The feasting hall was filled with tables. Enough for all the provincial kings, lesser kings, and ruling nobles, plus all their retinues; thousands had gathered within the hall.
The noise had been deafening as Greagoir made his way through the throng of guests, servers and entertainers. Seated high on a dais, the High King's table had a large open area in front of it, where the entertainers performed. Those Kings currently in favor were seated at the table closest to the activity. Clan banners hung over the tables and were repositioned before every feast, which depended on the High King's mood.
Greagoir had walked straight for the High King's table and led the two goats into the open area. His gaze locked on Genovefa; she smiled at something that had been said at her table. So intent was his focus that he failed to notice the table to the right of the entertainers' area. Seated there was the King from his home lands; among the retinue was the overseer of the peasants in his village.
"I am interested to see what he does with the goats," the High King remarked. "Well lad, do you juggle them or perhaps milk them with your feet?"
Greagoir blinked, the sound of the High King's voice brought his focus away from his heart's desire.
"I fear you have misunderstood my intentions my King. I have come to ask for your daughter's hand, the goats have been brought to pay fealty."
After many whispers had spread throughout the hall, a hush fell over the feasters; all waited to hear how the High King handled this insult.
"My King, this man is from the village I oversee; his parents were peasants until their passing—not very good peasants."
Howls and laughter followed that would forever ring in Greagoir's ears. As the High King rose from his chair, the laughter died down. Turning toward Genovefa, he shouted so all could hear.
"What say you daughter, do you wish for me to accept this suitor? Two goats are quite a bargain, and I dare say a little goat's milk might settle my stomach after such a rich meal."
He tried to maintain some semblance of seriousness in the reddening face of his youngest daughter, but alas, he could not contain his amusement and the great hall erupted in laughter once again.
"My love ..." Greagoir whispered.
He reached to accept her hand, but her beautiful face no longer smiled. Cheeks crimson with anger and embarrassment; she hurled her plate of food, which had hit him in the chest. Without hesitation, all the guests at the surrounding tables had begun to throw food while Greagoir's beloved Genovefa laughed. He could not move, he only stood there silently as they pelted him. Then the overseer from his village was upon him and grabbed the scruff of his tunic.
"My King, allow me the privilege of disemboweling the fool that has dishonored your daughter and insulted you."
The High King waved his hand dismissively.
"He must be a simpleton to have acted in such a manner that shows no self-preservation what-so-ever.
Take his goats as a tribute and escort him from our sight. Never let it be said that your High King is not a merciful man."
With the High King's "indulgence," the overseer tossed Greagoir out of the feasting hall with a kick to the seat of his pants.
He shook his head in order to clear away the flood of humiliation that threatened to consume him as he quickened his pace to the stone circle.
"This night will change my life forever," he said out loud as if he needed the words heard. "Never again to be laughed at or spat upon. I will crush the High King and his warriors and take his daughter from him by force. Then she would look upon me with respect."
A smile crept across his face at the vision that now darkened his mind.
Greagoir had glanced up at the moon before he placed the satchel on the ground near the circle of stones. He had much to do; the ritual had to be preformed precisely when the Blood Moon reached its apex. Druid priests had once used this site as a place of worship and ritual. Many of their sacred trees used for these ritual fires grew in abundance around the area; they stood as statuesque sentinels around the ancient oak. Greagoir went to the base of these trees to gather the fallen branches he needed for his own fire.
Wiping the musty smelling leaves away while he stacked the wood in the center of the stone circle, he worried that the wood might be too wet. It had rained earlier in the day, and there had not been enough sunlight that followed to dry anything out. Damp coldness had settled into his bones; this night could not be over soon enough. Pulling a small flask from his belt, he wished it still held its original contents. He poured the liquid over much of the wood—lamp oil—as wet as the wood was he needed it to start the fire.
Glowing eerily, the moon created dark shadows beneath the trees. It seemed as if all the demons of the Underworld were waiting in the obscure to witness what he was about to do. A twig snapped as if stepped on. Was that a silhouette in the gloom? Shivering involuntarily, he searched the darkness at the edge of the ancient grove. Bounding out of the underbrush leapt a hare; it sniffed the brisk night air for a hint of the danger that thickened it.
"Steady lad," he sighed aloud as he pounded his chest above his heart. "You are about to summon the
Otherworld, you will need stronger nerves than that."
But he cast a glance, once more, to the grove before he grabbed the satchel off the ground.
Stomach grumbling with a pang of hunger; Greagoir would like to have had a crust of bread to nibble on and perhaps a bladder of wine to have chased the cold away. Sadly he had given all he owned—including his fur leggings—to the old hermit for this satchel of magical items and knowledge of the ritual. Staring at the contents he had spread on the ground before him; he was hit with a twinge of angst.
"Have I been a fool," he murmured, "to wager it all on this?"
But he was here on Samhain, a night for sacrifices—this is all he had left.
Grasping the dagger firmly he drew two large circles, their diameters equal to the height of a man, in the ground next to the circle of stone. The circles were separated by the width of two hands with openings on the facing sides of each circle; once closed these would be the gateways to each realm. Greagoir gathered all his ritual items together, placing them within the circle nearest the stones. The moon overhead was reaching its apex, so with everything in place he was ready to begin. Kneeling on the damp earth at the edge of the circle he had stood within, Greagoir struck the stones the hermit had given him together in the direction of his stacked branches. Once ... twice ... three times, the sparks flew forth and ignited the pile of wood. Pop! Sizzle! Fire blazed forth filling the air with the smell of burning oak, ash and thorn.
He paused to absorb a little of the warmth before he moved to where the two circles were open toward each other. Taking a breath to settle his nerves, he held the dagger in front of him with the tip pointed toward the Blood Moon. Standing within his own circle he faced the opposing one.
"Earth, Air, Fire, Water hear me and obey my command. Let this circle be of the Otherworld and let this fire be the beacon that guides those summoned forth."
Using the dagger, he closed the circle; the fire flared as thunder rumbled in the distance. The wind gusted through the trees; they swayed as if dancing to a melody—only they could hear—that beckoned the spirits of the elements. Bursting through the brush, the hare ran swiftly from the flames. Startled by the interruption, he let the dagger fall to the ground with a soft thud. Overly anxious, Greagoir took a deep breath to settle his nerves as the thrill of anticipation rushed through him. I am truly invoking the magic of the Sí in Bhrú, he thought.
Taking care not to step out of his own circle of magic he retrieved the dagger.
"Earth, Air, Fire, Water hear me and obey my command. Let this circle be of this world and let this fire protect my soul within it."
Closing the circle with the line he traced in the earth; light from the fire seemed to surround the circle he stood within flooding it with a protective feeling. Confidently—almost arrogantly—he continued on with the ritual.
Taking the earthen bowl he drained the corked bottle's contents in it; lamb's blood—the blood of an innocent.
Moving to stand before the gateway to the Otherworld, he raised the bowl up in front of him.
"On this night of sacrifice—with the spilled blood of the innocent—I summon forth Amadan of the Sidhe to aid me in my quest," he declared as he carefully spilled a small amount of blood into the gateway.
Flames leapt into the night as the thunder grew ever louder. A dark haze swirled within the circle. Staring into the swirling mist he felt his skin prickle as a feeling of power washed over him. Ignoring the foreboding sign, he continued on with his task.
"On this night of sacrifice—with the spilled blood of the innocent—I summon forth Badhe, Crow Goddess and ancient War Fury—to aid me in my quest."
Once more he poured a small amount of blood into the gateway. Rolling dark clouds had begun to choke the clear night sky. Greagoir's breath caught in this throat as two separate forms took shape in the Otherworldly haze. The smell of death and decaying flesh thickened the air. Fueled by the desire to see those that he had been forced to serve over the years bowing at his feet, he continued the ritual—his heart pounded in a primal rhythm.
He raised the bowl high over his head—the heavy smell of blood and death forced him to swallow the rising bile that threatened.
"On this night of sacrifice—with the spilled blood of the innocent—I summon forth the Phantom Queen Morrigan—Goddess of War and Fury—Supreme Bringer of Fear and Panic—to aid me in my quest."
An explosive clap of thunder erupted overhead. A visceral feeling of terror seized him as he fought to continue. Hands trembling, he displaced some of the crimson liquid on the ground as he brought it down to pour the remainder into the gateway. The night sky, which had been darkened by the ominous storm clouds, crackled with lightening. He spilled a little of the blood between the circles as he dropped the bowl. Quickly he retreated to the center of the circle he stood within wiping the spilled blood from his hands on the front of his cloak; nauseated by the sight of it. Within the gateway before him three dark figures took solid form from out of the haze.
Amadan of the Sidhe, whose touch would cause his victim to have a stroke so devastatingly severe that it resisted all manner of healing, took the form of a great crow. Head and arms of a man, he was a hideous abomination to behold. As his form became solid, he stretched his arms to the sky releasing a blood-chilling battle cry. It took all Greagoir's courage not to cover his ears and cower on the ground.
Excerpted from DESIRES by R. Rose Copyright © 2013 by R. Rose. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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