Grace Logan and the Goblin Bones268
Grace Logan and the Goblin Bones268
Sixteenth century Ireland is ruled by men and Faerie and to Grace Logan, a fifteen-year old forced into an arranged marriage, it seems like nothing will ever change. Grace doesn't want to marry. She wants to become a pirate like her father. Before Grace's marriage, her father is kidnapped by the Goblin Lord and a sleeping, death-spell is cast over her castle.
To free her family, and despite knowing that a misstep would mean her death, Grace enters the underworld of the Goblins with outcasts: a changling abandoned by her Faerie mother at birth, and a mysterious young man who harbors a dark secret.
As Grace becomes embroiled in the world of Faerie, she discovers her own strength, and ability to lead. But in a race against time, Grace will need to risk her life, and those of her companions, in a battle against the forces of Faerie itself.
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|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.56(d)|
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Ireland, sixteenth century
Word of my arranged marriage spread over our land faster than mice abandon a sinking ship. Warlords, chieftains, and curious land-owners from as far away as Galway poured into our castle. The only clans missing were the O'Briens. They, and my betrothed, would arrive on the day I turned fifteen, the eve of Samhain, one week from today.
Wearing the gown Mother had chosen for me for tonight's celebrations, I headed down the path along the cliffs that led to the shadows of the forest. An arranged marriage was the least of my worries. I was determined to find my best friend. If anyone knew the meaning of what I'd seen last night, it was Síofra.
I avoided the bonfires that ringed our castle like golden beads on the necklace of a fairy queen, their glow unnatural and cold as though they were enchanted. It was dusk, at summer's end, and the first day of the seven-day festival leading to Halloween. We Irish call this day All Hollow's Eve, or Samhain. This time of year, we were most afraid of the dark. The fact I'd heard a Banshee's wail last night and seen the image of the Dullahan, Ireland's Headless Horseman, race across the moon didn't help.
The Banshee is a herald of death and the Dullahan captures the souls.
Father said every Irish clan of importance had a Banshee. We called ours Cally. He never talked much about the Dullahan.
My formal name is Granuaile Logan, but everyone calls me Grace. I am tall for my age, and Mother tells me that if I don't stop growing I'll tower over Father. I have green eyes and red, curly hair I tame into a single braid during sword practice or when I'm pretending I'm a pirate. But today I feel that my dream of sailing my own ship will never come.
The sky darkened over the jagged cliffs as though reflecting my thoughts.
The rock wall formed a natural barrier along the ocean side of our castle and discouraged attacks from the sea. I hesitated near the cliffs and stood on tip-toes to try and catch a glimpse of Father's ship, the Red Branch, named for a legendary army of Irish knights. Despite my pleas, Father refused to take me on his voyage. It was the first time I hadn't waved goodbye when his ship left the dock.
Generations of Logans had built their wealth by the motto "Fortune Favors the Bold." I doubted we were the only ones to live by those words, but my father took them seriously. Every step he took, every word he spoke, and every battle he fought, he weighed against our motto. Except, of course, when it came to his daughter. For a girl, being bold was a flaw, not a virtue.
A cat wailed out a protest.
I smiled. I'd recognize Ella's distress-meow anywhere. Directly below on a narrow ledge, Ella was tangled in a bluish-green Gorse shrub, bursting with prickly spikes. The more she struggled, the more the branches tightened around her.
The tips of her fur were the color of rust, as though she'd spent too much time bathing in the sun. She followed me around as though it was her personal duty to protect me, but it was a toss-up as to who was protecting whom. I'd rescued her from trees, and when my small boat tipped over, I'd pulled her out of the water. And she was the perfect watch-kitty, alerting me when my mother had hired a new tutor.
"Don't worry, little one, I'm here." I flopped down on my stomach, reached below, ignoring the scrapes across my hands, and disentangled her from the branches. If I didn't free her, she'd plummet to the rocks and sea below.
I scooped her up in my arms and nuzzled my face against her fur. "You push the limit, little one. Remember, you have only four lives left."
She gave a meow of thanks, jumped to the ground, and bounded off toward a new adventure. There were times I envied Ella's freedom. No one told her what to do.
With a sigh, I picked up my skirts and resumed my search for my friend, Síofra. I knew where to find her. All I had to do was locate a circle of mushrooms that we called fairy rings. The best ones were found near the tower ruins on the hill overlooking our home. Síofra appointed herself the official guardian of the rings and placed palm-size stones around their perimeters. The stones helped identify the rings so humans wouldn't accidently stumble into one. According to Síofra, the Sidhe didn't like humans entering their world unannounced.
Legend predicted that time slowed for anyone who entered the circle, and if they stayed too long, they risked disappearing into the Fairy Realm forever. There were days I thought that wouldn't be a bad thing. Being a Logan meant heavy responsibilities.
I turned off the path and headed toward a copse of oak trees. Just as I'd suspected, Síofra was near a fairy ring. Although the day was as gray as a newly forged sword, Síofra looked like she was bathed in rainbows. Her tunic-style dress was her design and made from panels of dyed wool. Shades of green apples, lavender fields, and the hues of blush-pink roses collided together in perfect harmony. Matching ribbons cascaded through her white-gold hair like glistening streams.
She never questioned me about how I could read the currents and the wind, or why I never got lost, and I never questioned her about how she knew so much about the fairies. She was our castle's expert when it came to the Sidhe, probably because it was whispered she was a Changeling.
I never liked the word.
Changelings were said to be deformed fairy children who were exchanged for a human baby. Some believed they brought bad luck. Mother called it superstitious nonsense. She said she took one look at Síofra's heart-shaped face and knew we couldn't abandon her like her own mother had.
Our cook, Mary Mac Duff, had found Síofra on our doorstep when she was only a few weeks old. She had been wrapped in a multi-colored blanket with her name embroidered in gold. The villagers believed she had been abandoned because of her withered right arm and hand. I never understood their reasoning.
We understood each other perfectly, finished each other's sentences, and shared our most secret dreams. Síofra wanted to be queen of the Sidhe, and, no surprise, I wanted to be a blood-thirsty pirate.
She moved aside enough for me to notice that she wasn't alone. She was talking to John Dee, a student from the school located on a large meadow outside the castle walls.
The school was named after the Celtic god, Oghma, who invented the early forms of writing in Ireland. Its formal name was Oghma Grain Aineach University of Bardic Champions. Naturally the students shortened it to Oghy U.
A wide variety of classes were offered. For those interested in becoming politicians or lawyers there were advanced classes on Brehon Law, Latin, Greek, writing, and mathematics. History and philosophy were taught, as well as the seven steps necessary for aspiring poets and bards.
The King of England, Henry VIII, wanted to close our school and others like it across Ireland. It didn't seem to matter to him that the Irish had kept the written word alive during the Dark Ages, when Europe had preached knowledge was dangerous and heretical. During that time, people from all over the world visited Ireland in order to attend the universities.
Mother said the King, after executing his fifth wife, and although in poor health, intended to marry again. I didn't know why this was good news until she explained that if the King were busy sorting out his personal life, he'd leave Ireland and our schools alone.
In one of the few times my parents had agreed on anything, they had announced that I was forbidden to attend Oghy U. And yes, not going to school with children my own age was as lonely as it sounded.
I stomped down the old wound and focused on my friend.
While Síofra reminded me of springtime, John Dee looked like winter had come early. He blended into the shadows and looked more like a shriveled old man than a lad of fifteen. He wore ankle-length, priest-like robes, had shaved his head, and was as thin and brittle as a dried birch twig. We didn't know his whole story, only that his father was a tailor to Henry the VIII and that he had been sent here against his will. Maybe that was why he said he preferred books to people.
Last year John Dee had lent me a book on the topic of how to foretell your future by charting the stars. Headmaster Mac Elatha reported the incident to my parents and they forbade both Síofra and I from further contact with John Dee. After that, the three of us were inseparable.
But for some reason John Dee avoided the topic of star charts, and I dropped the subject. If he knew my future, he kept it to himself.
John Dee clutched a leather-bound book in his arms and seemed agitated. "I won't give it back," he said to Síofra, his voice rising in panic.
"You must," Síofra insisted. "You stole it from Headmaster Mac Elatha."
"But that's just it," John Dee said. "Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Book of Invasions is not ..." He must have heard me approach, because he stopped talking. His gaze shifted behind me. His eyes widened as though he'd seen a ghost. "I have to leave. You must meet me later tonight."
He took off down the hill in the direction of the school. His legs tangled in his robes as he ran, but he never lost his balance. Until today, I hadn't known he could move that fast. He was a little bookworm creature that did everything as slow as the seasons.
I was about to ask what she and John Dee had been discussing when I heard a familiar voice.
"After him!" Cooley, the village bully shouted. His brothers, Dun and Duib, raced down the hill after John Dee.
Cooley shoved his red cap farther down his forehead, shading his eyes while the other two raced after John Dee. He turned on Síofra like the barrel of a cannon. "What did the little insect tell you?"
Síofra held her withered arm close against her waist. Her lower lip trembled as she raised her chin. She was the kindest person I knew. Before today, the Herding Boys had avoided her. For some reason that had changed.
I stepped between them. "Leave my friend alone or I'll ... I'll ..." I couldn't think of any threat he'd believe, and my voice shook so badly I doubted I'd make sense even if I could come up with something clever.
They were from a village on the west coast of Ireland. Their chief form of entertainment was to corner and bully students and small animals. Ella hissed whenever she saw the trio. We'd nicknamed them the Herding Boys for the obvious reason that they liked to herd things — animals, people, insects. They were always together, wore mud-colored tunics, and despite their varying heights, looked exactly alike. They had bushy hair that hung over their faces and eyebrows that grew together in one continuous line.
Nobody liked them, but when we complained to the professors, Headmaster Mac Elatha said we had to try and get along as we were all Children of Danu. That meant the subject was closed.
I'd never confronted Cooley or his brothers before, and that made me feel like a coward. I'd seen what happened to students who had. Some ended up in trees. Others were forced to eat earthworms. Nothing life-threatening, but scary all the same. One day, we thought they'd cross the line and someone would get hurt. Even Mother was afraid of them.
"This does not concern you," he said evenly, turning on me. "You should leave while I'm feeling generous." And then he laughed, scaring a flock of starlings out of the trees. He leaned in until he towered over me like the shadow of a menacing giant. "My business is with Síofra and John Dee."
I felt her hand on my shoulder and her whispered plea for me to leave. Did I mention they liked pulling wings off butterflies?
"I'm not leaving you alone with Cooley," I said to my friend, but I knew my voice didn't sound as brave as my words.
Dun and Duib returned out of breath. "John Dee disappeared," they both said at the same time.
Cooley hesitated, tearing his gaze from mine long enough to cuff the brother closest to him. Duib flew through the air as though he were no heavier than bird feathers and slammed against the trunk of a tree.
Síofra and I stepped back.
"This is the last time I'll ask nicely," he said. "What did John Dee tell you? Was it about the Book? If you don't ..."
The bells in the castle tower tolled. They echoed over the valley like the voice of doom. The sound drowned out the waves crashing against the cliffs below and the pounding of my heart. A new fear took hold.
Our bells tolled for only one reason.
We were under attack.
Cooley and his brothers took off in the opposite direction of the castle, while Síofra and I stood paralyzed with fear. My father had said our home was safe.
"You must leave at once," Síofra said in the gentle way she had. "I will find John Dee."
I shivered. I had the strangest impression that John Dee and the attack were connected.CHAPTER 2
I raced across the cliffs and entered the castle. Normally, the guards would have nodded a quick greeting or called out to me by name. Not this evening. Their grim expressions did nothing to calm my growing panic as I skidded to a stop in the Great Hall.
Our castle was fortified, and our root cellars stocked for a long siege. Even so, attacks from the sea were one of our greatest fears. A well-aimed cannon blast could crumble the walls to dust and leave us vulnerable. But fear of an attack vanished as another one took its place.
It was too quiet.
Fires were built to chase away the autumn chill in twin hearths large enough to roast a full-grown cow with room to spare. They faced each other from either side of the room like angry warriors trying to out-blaze the other.
The large trestle table where we took our meals stood barren. Somber-faced warlords gathered at the far end of the hall. My first thought was war, but the chieftains weren't raising their fists or clanging their weapons against their shields as I'd seen in the past.
They were afraid. I could taste it on the air. It was charged with energy like the calm before a storm.
I stretched on tiptoes to my full height but couldn't see above the men huddled in a tight circle. One thing was certain: they were talking to someone and becoming more agitated by the minute.
My mother stood off to the side, as regal and calm as a queen expecting nobles from the Spanish court. Her gown was made from yards of heavy worsted wool with thick tubular folds. It was the color of saffron and brought out the gold highlights in her red, waist-length hair. Worry lines creased her smooth complexion. Her gaze told me everything I needed to know. Something had happened to Father.
She turned away and disappeared into the tight circle of men.
I walked across the stone floors. Each step echoed, drawing me close. The hum of conversation turned to grumbling and angry words. When I reached the gathering, I thought the warlords would block my path. I needn't have worried.
Their shouts scorched the air.
"Brain-soaked boy," a bear of a chieftain yelled.
"Fool," said a man with only one arm.
"Impossible tale," said a third and received a mumbled agreement from the group.
"Goblins are stories to scare little children," said a fourth man with an eye patch. "They do not exist."
All the other comments had drawn fevered debate. The last one was met with stone silence. Ireland, despite its outward protests, believed in its legends.
I drew in a breath.
A few of the warlords made the sign of the cross, and the rest mouthed prayers.
I shouldered my way past the chieftains of the Burke and O'Tool clans. These men were Father's closest friends. They gave my mother a troubled glance and then followed their comrades retreating from the Great Hall.
As I reached her side, I noticed she was talking to a young man and handed him something that he palmed and slipped into his shirt. He was seated on a chair and looked around my age. She gave him a mug of steaming buttermilk and placed her hand on his shoulder. The gesture troubled me more than the chieftain's words.
Mother had a generous nature, but over the last few years she'd grown distant and spent more and more time alone. When I was little, she'd cared for strays of every kind, both men and beast. I wondered what had rekindled her kindness. As she stepped to the side, she seemed to notice me for the first time.
"Granuaile." My mother's voice was strained and her face pale. "You should not be here."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Grace Logan and the Goblin Bones"
Copyright © 2018 Pam Binder.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
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