Authors: April Wood
Blue Moon Shadows
(Book 1 of Shadow Bound)
All rights reserved in all media. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual people, places or events is coincidental or fictionalized.
Published in the United States 2015 by April Wood
I would like to thank Photo287 for the gorgeous picture on the cover of this book. It is wonderful when an artist can get in touch with the model they use. It has been my pleasure to share her beauty with the world.
Glossary of Terms
Tá brón orm: Sorry
Tá an-bhrón orm: I’m very sorry
Dia dhuit um thráthnóna: Good Evening
Tá beagáinín Gaeilge agam: I can speak a little bit of Gaelic
Grá geal: sweetheart, darling
Tá grá agam duit: I love you
I gcónaí: Always
Eitilt Anois: Fly now
Kneel síos go dtí mé anois: kneel down for me now
An-mhaith: very good
Tá fáilte romhat: You’re welcome
Go raibh maith agat: Thank you
“Hi.” That was all I could manage in the face of the boy I loved with all my heart. My cheeks turned red as his friends left and they all walked away from me. Great. My first real interaction with Tomlin and I’m all pathetic. Calling him a boy really wasn’t realistic anymore either. He was managing a farm and looking for a wife. Twenty five wasn’t old for a boy, but for me it was ancient. I was the town old maid. No one wanted me because of my history. I hated it.
I picked up my skirt, spun around and headed to my parents’ farm on the edge of town. I was the only one left at home. My brothers were gone five years ago. Even my baby sister was gone. She was married before her fifteenth birthday. I couldn’t imagine what it was about me that kept people away. Even my own parents were distant from me.
I ran my hands nervously through my long brown hair as I approached the house. Many years ago I gave up on trying to wear it the way others did. I could manage the long braids but not the pretty tied up hair that was fashionable. It didn’t matter anyway. Going to balls and barn raisings wasn’t really in my future. It was always my job to stay behind and protect the livestock. All my wardrobe required were drab work dresses and aprons. There was no need for more than a simple cinch and work boots.
I had to pick my eyes up off of the ground as the fence posts were coming up shortly. I gathered up my skirts and climbed them. It was something I excelled at. I hated this place. Anywhere else had to be better. I dreamed of crossing the sea someday. Though my parents always told me how hard it was when they came over. They left Ireland to give us a better life in the new world. Then they moved us out here to the wilderness. It didn’t make sense to me. We had plenty of wilderness in Ireland. I was little but I remembered that much.
As I got closer to the three room cabin and barn we shared, I could see the lights were all on. No doubt my being late was the topic of discussion in the kitchen. I was almost nearly always the topic of conversation. It seemed I was born under an ill favored moon. My siblings were born under beautiful waning moons. I was born under the biggest blue moon anyone had ever seen. Just my luck. It was a bad omen to my family. It wasn’t to me. I found the shadow of the blue moon followed me everywhere. It was my constant guide and comfort. I could almost feel it in my veins.
“Where have you been?” mother demanded. Her Irish brogue wasn’t as thick as fathers but it was close.
á brón orm
máthair” I replied.
“Don’t try to butter me up, Riona. Get in here. It’s already dark. You know it’s dangerous for a single woman to be out at these hours,” she replied. She stood in the door with her hands on her hips looking as cross as she could possibly manage. She was already dressed for the ball in town. Her red hair was tied up neatly on her head. Father had splurged and purchased her taffeta. She had made an elaborate gown. Her corset and cinch seemed ridiculous to me, but she was dressed appropriate for the event.
I walked passed her hopeful she wouldn’t hit me. I was wrong. Her hand caught the back of my head. It was painful, but I never gave her the satisfaction. Father was standing at the table in his best suit. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. My parents always dressed to the nines for these things. Even if we weren’t wealthy they wouldn’t give the people in the town a reason to talk about us. They did that enough in regards to me.
“Dia dhuit um thráthnóna, Athair,” I greeted, with a slight curtsey. I showed my father as much respect as I could. It wouldn’t do to just say hi to him. That would end with a belt or a cane across my calves. I knew better.
“Iníon,” he replied.
“Will you be leaving soon,” I asked, stepping to the stove to fill a bowl with stew.
“Our carriage will be here soon. Will you be on watch this evening?”
“As always.” I sat at the table and grabbed some bread. The stew was still very hot. I had to blow on it. He stood there watching me for a moment. He was always so intense. It was uncomfortable, but after this many years I could tune him out. Especially when mother had made her famous rabbit stew. It was my favorite.
“The rifle is loaded and ready. I expect we will be home after midnight. You will maintain your guard until then,” he demanded. He grabbed mother’s shawl and went outside. No more words were spoken between us. He slammed the door and off they went. Great. Peace and quiet. I finished my stew and took the gun down from the rack. I put a few more bullets in my pocket and then headed out. Father was afraid predators or bandits would come and steal the few sheep we had. If we had cattle I would be more worried. Not many people were interested in sheep. Father liked them because he said they were more versatile. You could eat them, their milk and use their fur for clothing. Far more than you could ever do with a simple cow.
I had a spot in a tree just beyond our land. It gave me a great vantage over all the sheep. They really only slept at night, so it wasn’t a hard task. I pulled my skirt through my legs and tucked it into my waist effectively making a pair of pants out of it. I slung the rifle over my shoulder and proceeded to climb the tree. I found my crook and sat down. It was going to be a long night. At least the temperature was fine. It had rained early in the day. That made the air smell like spring.
The past winter had been long with lots of snow. When father decided this state was the right one, I thought he was nuts. It was the exact same climate as home. Rain, snow, fog and the sea. I thought there had to be somewhere better than this.
The stew in my belly was making my eyes heavy. I kept fighting it, but the elements were against me. Before long my gut won out. Until I heard a scream. I woke up startled and scanned the horizon. All the sheep were still sleeping in their pen. I looked toward the house next. The light on the porch was still going. There didn’t seem to be anyone around. I looked to the ground below me and still saw nothing. Maybe I was just going crazy. Then I heard it again. It was a long way away from me. I wanted to jump down and investigate, but my father would blister me if I did. I set my eyes back on the task and tried to block out the woman’s cries. It was very hard to do. It was so high pitched. It grated on my nerves. After about an hour the noise was gone.
Another hour brought my parents home. They were visibly drunk. I didn’t want to head back to the house. I could sleep in this tree. Then I would be back in my father’s bad graces. Agnes and Edward were good parents, for the most part. They solidly believed in spare the rod spoil the child. Especially with me. I rarely ever saw my siblings beat. I just assumed that was because they were perfect angels. I was always mischievous and curious. It didn’t serve me well. I huffed and jumped down from the tree.
By the time I made it to the house they were already in bed asleep. I crawled into mine and pulled the covers over my eyes. It took me a minute to realize I hadn’t undressed. I checked to make sure they were really sleeping. My bed was in the main room. I had no privacy. A few years back I caught my father looking while I bathed. Now I make sure he has no chance to see me, naked or not. Satisfied, I pulled my skirts off and got myself down to my shift. I laid back down and closed my eyes.
It was never easy for me to sleep. This night was no different. I could still hear the desperate cries of the woman in the distance. I wish I knew what had happened. The questions were piling up in my mind. The closest house to ours was my brother Aidan. He had recently gotten married to a girl who had just come from home. She had been promised to him years ago. At their wedding she didn’t look very happy about the arrangement. I couldn’t blame her. Aidan matched Edward in his ability to be mean, especially to me. I had taken more than one beating from him over the years.
Maybe it was her. She could have denied him his marital rite. That would piss him off enough to beat her. I shouldn’t think that about my brother, but I couldn’t help it. He wasn’t the nice one of the family. My last thought before sleep took me was poor girl.
I woke to an empty house. It was normal. They would head out to the barn first thing and milk sheep, gather eggs and whatever else they did. I stayed away from the farming as much as possible. My brothers would all come and help when it was time to shear sheep. Other than that the farm ran itself. I was certain father had gone to town. He liked to gamble, though he never told mother. I saw him in the saloon once. He was playing poker. I didn’t let him see me. If she knew he was there at all he would be in trouble. I’m sure he would find his way upstairs with some girl or another. He was a man after all.
I threw on my skirt, cinch, and blouse. There were biscuits laid out on the table. Stuffing one in my mouth, I headed outside. There was no more schooling for me to take, so finding something to pass the day away was starting to become troublesome. I couldn’t afford to have another embarrassing run in with Tomlin. His blond hair and blue eyes drove me nuts. Maybe it was because I had the opposite. My entire family had red hair and green eyes. I had brown hair and brown eyes. My mother said that was another sign of how I was cursed. I shrugged thinking about it. She always said that. Maybe that is why my life has been such a struggle.
I tucked my knife in my waist band and headed for the woods. I was in search of a rabbit or a squirrel. If I could catch dinner she would be happy with me. Agnes didn’t like squirrel, but she would cook it in a pinch. I would rather have rabbit myself, but they were harder to find. I kept eating my biscuit as I walked. When I found a good tree, I tucked my skirt and shoved the biscuit in my mouth. I climbed up to the third branch. It was high enough for me to see around but not so high jumping down would hurt. It was perfect. I relaxed and finished my food.
The air was thick with pollen. The signs of spring were everywhere. Even this tree I was in showed how it was time. There were tiny buds on the ends of all the limbs. It was going to be a beautiful tree when it finally blossomed. I put my hand down on the bark and closed my eyes. I could almost feel the energy of the tree flowing into my body. The quieter I got the more intense the feeling became.
“What? Who’s there?” I was confused. I opened my eyes and saw no one, but I knew I heard my name. After a few moments of silence I settled a little. I closed my eyes and put my hand back on the bark.
“Yes I am here,” I answered out loud.
“I’m here.” I wanted to speak to whomever it was calling me. My desire to find them built with every sound. I wondered if it were the very tree begging me to answer.
“Riona, I’m coming to you, soon.”
“Who are you?” I asked. Then the connection was broken. I actually felt it when it severed. It was such a shock I fell right out of the tree.
My mouth was full of dirt. I spit it back out and rolled over. It was a good thing my knife was in a sheath. I landed on my stomach and could have been impaled by it. I sat up and put my back against the tree I had just fallen out of. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around what had just happened. There was no way the tree was speaking to me, even though I could feel its essence running through my body. It was still doing so. I felt powerful and connected to the earth.
I decided I would take this new power to my brother’s house. I wanted to see if my suspicions from last night were correct. He would be in town with my father. They were so similar. I brushed the leaves and dirt off and straightened myself. My brother’s wife was such a delicate woman I couldn’t present myself all messy.
I walked the mile in no time at all. When I reached their door I saw my brother’s horse was absent. Good. I knocked lightly. When she opened the door nothing could have prepared me for what I saw standing there.
Her long red hair was hanging down. Her feet were bare and she still wore only the shift she slept in. Though it didn’t appear she had slept. Her eyes were puffy from crying. Her lip was split open and there were marks all over her body. It was as I had suspected.
“Come in, Riona,” she replied weakly.
I followed her into the house. On the table were rags full of witch hazel and a tea set. I refilled her cup out of habit and poured my own. She sat down in a chair with pillow on it. It took her a good minute just to manage that. I couldn’t imagine how her back side must look. It was clear he had taken a cane to her body. It was my father’s favorite weapon. She sipped her tea and waited for me to sit down. I tried not to stare but it was hard.
“Been climbing trees again?” she asked, brushing a stray hair from her eye.
We sat there for a few more minutes in silence. She sipped her tea and I just stared. There was a war going on inside of me. I wanted to kill my brother for this, but I wanted to fix her more.
“Why?” That was all that came out of my mouth.
“You know why.”
“You won’t lay with him,” I replied.
“No I will not.”
“He’s a repugnant evil excuse of a man.” Her eyes were filled with anger. There was nothing she could do. My brother was six foot four. She was barely five foot and a hundred pounds. He could toss her around like a rag doll. This was the one time in my life I was glad to be tall and thick.
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“I can’t do this, Riona. I would rather die.”
“Hold on. Don’t do anything rash. We will find a way to get you out of this.”
“Well at least he won’t touch me for a while. These bruises will keep me safe,” she said with a sigh.
“Then I guess you don’t want any help with them?”
“Certainly not. He has a rigid rule. He won’t leave any scars on me because when he takes me my skin needs to be perfect. I wonder if he treats the whores the same way?” she said with a tear rolling down her cheek.
“You know about that?”
“Of course I know, Riona. He’s a man isn’t he?”
“I suppose he is. Though I don’t really count any of my brothers as men. However, you are the only one I’ve seen beaten. Marcus only slaps his wife when she is mouthy. Other than that they seem to be in love. Arden doesn’t hit his wife at all. The sisters seem to have met good men. Maggie is only seventeen and already has two kids. Emily is twenty four and has four kids. So, I guess I’m the only black sheep of the family,” I laughed.
“You aren’t the black sheep, Riona.” She smiled as much as her lip would let her and put her hand on mine. “What have you been doing?” She took her hand off rapidly and looked at me with shock.
“Nothing. I was just sitting in a tree trying to find dinner.”
“Did anything happen when you were in that tree?”
Her question made me curious. I wasn’t sure if I should tell her not. It was obvious she knew something. “Maybe.”
“Well I put my hand down on the limb and closed my eyes. I could feel the essence of the tree.”
“I have felt it ever since.”
“You are leaving something out,” she said. She squinted her eyes close together as she scrutinized me. I lowered my head feeling the weight of her stare. Instead I chose to focus on the dirt underneath my nail.
“Fine. Someone called my name,” I admitted after a few minutes of nail picking.
“And what else?” She grabbed my hand forcefully making look her in the eye.
“They said they were coming to me soon,” I whined. The pressure she had applied to my hand was crushing.
“Was it male or female?” she questioned, letting up on my hand and changing the level energy she used in her voice. It wasn’t quite back to the demure Carolyn, but it was closer. She was up on the edge of her chair looking me intently in the eye. It was kind of spooky. She was almost vibrating with electricity. Though I noticed she was attempting to control it.
“It sounded female to me and familiar. Like I’d heard it before,” I said.
“Really?” She fell back in her chair and smiled broadly. It was almost as if she hadn’t received a beating last night. She was tranquil almost as if the world was going to be okay now. I couldn’t believe my strange encounter had done all that to her.
“Are you going to tell me why all the questions?”
“Not now. Aidan is on his way back home. He will be pissed if he sees you here. Go out the back door. Don’t worry I promise I will explain what is going on. For now trust me, it’s a good thing,” she smiled warmly. Then she put up her hands to shoo me out the door. As I walked down the path toward home I could hear Aidan approaching. I wondered how she knew he was coming. There was no way she could have heard him that far away.
When I arrived back home it was already noon time. My mother was in the house frantically cleaning. Father would be home for dinner, but not before. I wasn’t sure why Aidan was coming home early, but I wasn’t confused for long. Sitting on the porch rocking back and forth in my chair, I could hear her crying again. The thought of him beating her again was more than I could bare. My lips pursed together and let out a sigh deep and long from my lungs. As it left me the leaves on my lawn started to kick up. It was more than something the wind would do. They almost danced toward the road. As they kept going I saw the direction they were headed. It was right to my brother’s house. When they reached the house the crying stopped. It just stopped. I stood up and looked in that direction. My hand clung to the middle post on my porch for dear life. My heart was pounding and my blood was flowing hard through my veins. Seconds later I saw my brother ride by on his horse. He was wiping blood away from his face. He looked scared and pissed. He never even turned to acknowledge I was standing there. Normally he would at least scowl at me. Whatever had happened must have shocked even him. When I could no longer see him I ran back to her. I had to see what happened.
She was coming out of the barn when I reached the house. She had fresh red marks on her wrists and cane marks on her neck. She was wiping the tears from her eyes and smiling. I couldn’t believe she was smiling. It was then I noticed the barn door was open. Hanging from the roof was an apparatus I had never seen but knew instantly what it was for. It should have been held up by two ropes, but one was broken. It had been sheared right off. I walked into the barn to find his cane on the ground. Around it were spatters of blood. I could piece together what happened but I wanted to hear it from her.
When I turned around she was on the ground. Her body was crumpled up but she was laughing. It was a bizarre scene to say the least. I bent over and picked her up off the ground. She put her hand around my neck and I cradled her. She looked at me and smiled. She put her head on my shoulder and I took her in the house. I laid her on her side on her bed. I sat down in front of her and put her hand in mine.
“You,” she laughed. I knew she was exhausted. She could barely keep her eyes open, but she laughed anyway.
“What do you mean?”
“You happened, Riona. You saved my life,” she replied.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“What did I do?”
“You sent a witches wind to save my life,” she breathed out. Then she was unconscious. Now I was even more confused. I covered her up with a blanket and left the house.
My head was so messed up it was actually starting to hurt. I couldn’t get over what Carolyn had said. There was no such thing as witches. There was definitely no way I was one. Someone would have told me by now. Or burned me at a stake. This entire day was becoming taxing on my nerves. I decided the tree was my only option. I could sit and relax my head.
I laid back and let the tree calm me. Once again I could feel its essence running through me. Then I could feel the ground beneath me. They were all reaching out to recharge me. It was starting to make sense. All this weirdness started when I felt connected to this tree. Maybe that one act awoke something that had been asleep inside of me. What it was I couldn’t be certain. I had a feeling witches were a part of this new life of mine.