Read an Excerpt
Temptation of the Warrior
The Isle of Coruain, 981
"Merrick, I doona know how long we can protect Coruain with you and Brogan gone," said Ana, falling into step beside her long-legged cousin, who was newly invested as high chieftain of all the Druzai people. "Allow me to go in your stead while you remain here to guard the isle. I can search for the stone while—"
"You have taken no warrior's training, Ana, and my quest in the Tuath lands will likely be dangerous." His father never would have sent a woman on such an errand, nor would he.
They hastened from the Chamber of Elders as Merrick peeled off the official blue Robe of the Chamber and tossed it to a nearby servant. There was no time to waste. Even now, Eilinora, the ancient enemy of the Druzai, was gathering her powers and uniting her allies to attack. The witch had escaped her prison and murdered his father, Kieran, taking the high chieftain's scepter of power. Every Druzai knew there would be no stopping Eilinora without the ancient brìgha-stones, hidden centuries ago in the realm of the Tuath, the nonmagical people of the earth.
No one, not even Ana, knew how the wicked sorceress and her Odhar followers had escaped the numinous bonds that had held them quiescent for nearly a millennium. Merrick and his brother suspected 'twas through the help of some powerful sorcerer, a force unknown to the Druzai. Somehow, Eilinora and her Odhar had found Coruain, then managed to hide themselves from Kieran's dragheen guardians and the Druzai warriors. They'd invaded Coruain House . . .
Merrick stifled a growl of grief and frustration.His father's death at Eilinora's hands weighed heavily upon him. So did his newfound responsibilities.
"Can you see Eilinora?" he asked Ana.
Ana gave a quick shake of her head. "She has shielded herself from me, Merrick."
"So we can assume she has gone to Tuath to find the brìgha-stones herself."
"Or she has sent the Odhar to search, while she remains nearby to mount another assault on Coruain," said Ana, the sound of worry thick in her voice. "Merrick, the oracle's prediction at your birth . . ."
"Has naught to do with what I must—"
"But such sights are never to be ignored!"
There was no time to speak of the events foretold nearly thirty years before. They would come to pass no matter what he did. "Is my ship ready?"
Taken aback by her cousin's abrupt manner, Ana nodded. "Aye, it awaits you at the dock."
Merrick headed toward the sea, conjuring a leather satchel as he walked. He filled it with the items he would need when he arrived in the Tuath land called England, then cast a spell that would seal it against the waters of the Coruain Sea and the trauma of the time portal.
"I hope to return in a day or two."
When he returned with the stone, the Druzai sorceress whose fate was tied with his own would emerge, as foretold by the oracle. Together they would battle the powers that would destroy the Druzai. There could be no doubt that he would succeed with the beautiful and powerful Sinann at his side.
"Your brother believed he would be gone only overnight," Ana countered anxiously, "yet 'tis nearly a full day since he left and—"
"Aye. There's no telling what Brogan found."
"Nor what you will find, Merrick. But you must hasten. If Eilinora returns wielding your father's scepter before we have the blood stones and are prepared to deal with her . . ."
She did not need to finish the thought. Merrick knew that she and the elders would exert all their energies to protect the isles. He hoped it would be enough until he and his brother returned.
"What more you can tell me about my quest?" Merrick asked, anxious to leave, to find the stone and return.
"I can barely see the stone, Merrick," said Ana, closing her eyes and rubbing her knuckles across her forehead as if it hurt to think. She was the truest oracle Merrick had ever known, but she'd been hard-pressed to locate the brìgha-stones, the only weapons the Druzai could use to vanquish Eilinora and her mentor.
"Search for Keating," Ana said suddenly, looking up at him.
"Keating? What does it look like, cousin? Where will I find it?"
Ana shook her head. "I know not, Merrick. 'Tis something . . ." She frowned at the vagueness of her vision. "'Tis so unclear. You must follow the northern road to . . . to a place called Carlisle. There you will find Keating."
Merrick did not know this road, but he had spent time in England under many different guises, and once had visited England's northern coast. He knew he could find his way. He only hoped Ana's instructions to his brother had not been so ambiguous. Brogan did not know England as Merrick did, and he had such disdain for the Tuath that Merrick thought 'twas possible he had erred in sending Brogan to find the other stone. Should he have sent Ana or one of the elders?
He touched the copper bracer on his wrist, the Druzai mark of the high chieftain, bestowed upon him only an hour ago. 'Twas too late to rethink his decision. He had to believe Brogan would find the stone and return quickly.
Ana went with Merrick to the ship, accompanying him all the way to the Astar Columns, the ancient time portals that had been hidden far beneath the Coruain Sea. A quick displacement would not suffice here. Merrick and Brogan actually had to pass through the magical columns to travel nearly a thousand years into the future.
He paused, listening to the shrieking calls of the mighty wealrachs as they soared high in the skies above them, then turned to gaze one last time upon his beloved home, at the high cliffs and rich earth of the isle. He felt the weight of his responsibilities and knew this challenge would define his tenure as high chieftain. If he failed, 'twould be a first for the distinguished Mac Lochlainn line.Temptation of the Warrior. Copyright © by Margo Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.