Authors: Melissa Sasina
Book One of t
Book One of t
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locals, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.
Cover Change First Edition: May 2011
For my husband Tim, thank you for listening
o my endless questions.
morning fog, which
had settled over
ra in a thick milky blanket, began to slowly drift
colors played across the sky, bathing the land in a golden hue. The soft murm
ur of cattle an
d horses stirring could be heard throughout
. Small wisps of smoke drifted up fr
om the thatch roofs of round
fires built to ward off the
early morning chill while t
he sound of a hammer clanging in a rhythmic beat was carried by the wind
cottage near the
of the Túath clan
carefully watched as her eight-year-old daughter sat at the loom. The child’s small fingers moved deftly, weaving the cloth with unusual skill for a child
e. The loom clacked as the girl
began to add a rich blue thread to the green, then, taking the shuttle in hand once more, continued to work.
ning from her daughter, Tríonna
tended to the hearth, poking at the fire wi
th a stick.
She felt tired of late, still grieving the loss of her husband Coughlin. Tríonna knew she should return to her elder sister’s side on Rúnda, so that her daughter might train as a priestess, but she found herself tarrying. Tara was her home
and would always be. After her mother turned her back on the village, after
her husband died
defending it, Tríonna could not bring herself to turn her back on Tara. And so, she found herself hesitating.
The steady clacking of the loom abruptly altered, slowing. Tríonna glanced down at her faltering daughter to see her eyes were no longer focused on the work before her, but beyond it. Following the girl’s gaze, she found her twelve-year-old son stepping i
nto the cottage, with a
boy of nine in tow.
Tríonna looked down at the younger b
oy, her own nephew
mly greeted him with an embrace. When she released him,
Tríonna watched with amusement as
he ran promptly
to her daughter
he two were nigh inseparable when
came to visit.
to her son
my elder sister come, or is
it her Fomorii lover who brought yo
hey both have come, mother
” he replied. “
has brought with her a young
bride for our chieftain Ainmire:
Deirdre of Cúlráid. She is mayhap sixteen years of age at most and has been tr
ained on Rúnda
Tríonna gave a small nod. “I s
ee…” she murmured. “A bride for Ainmire
…” Her voice trailed off
as she fell once more into her thoughts
asked a small feminine voice.
Tríonna turned to face her daughter, who had risen from the loom.
The girl looked upon her mother, eyes pleading. “May I? May I take my leave so that I may see Ainmire’s new bride?”
She considered the thought for a moment, and then nodded. “Aye,” she answered
with a smile
. “Go on, get off with ye before I change my mind.”
took hold of the girl’s hand. “
, come!” he said
and together the two ran laughing from the cottage.
Tríonna sat down roughly on a low bench with a heavy sigh. She could feel that her sister did not journey to Tara only to bring a b
ride upon Ainmire; it was never quite so simple with Réalta
Her elder sister was always strict in her manner as a priestess and mentor, and it had been that strictness that had caused their younger sister
to leave and marry a man far from their home. Tríonna did not want such a fate to befall her own daughter.
“Is something the matter, mother?” asked Mahon, stepping to her side.
a foreboding feeling…” murmured Tríonna. She shook her head and told him, “There is more to my sister’s arrival than a bride.”
Mahon only looked at her quizzically.
“Always be wary of the intentions Réalta brings,” she told her son.
to the shadows of
s as they made their way towards the
at the gates of the
to see Ainmire’s young bride. T
he girl, Deirdre,
stood meekly beside
’s mother, Réalta Dubh. Her eyes were adverted from Ainmire’s
, a man who could easily be her grandfather
focused intently upon her hands clasped nervously before her. Her long raven hair was unbound and woven with small white flower blossoms. A simple
torc adorned her neck, while a blue spiral curled by her left eye.
“She doesn’t look very happy,
whispered to her cousin
, her head cocked to the side
“That is because she but learned this morning that she was to be Ainmire’s wife,” the boy replied, keeping his voice low.
The girl frowned. “I do not think I woul
d like to be betrothed off,”
continued. “It does not seem like a pleasant thing.” She paused
looking from Deirdre to Ainmire
and back again
. “She can’t be but a few years older than Mahon…” she murm
ured in thought. “And Ainmire is grandfather
’s younger brother
cousin,” he said to the girl
. “Yet, what if you were to fall in love with that person?”
shook her head. “She doesn’t seem to love him, let alone even
“She’s spent most of
her life on
Her kin were
promised she would be married to a good man. Who better than Ainmire?
shrugged. “It is not in our hands
to decide who we wed. T
he privilege of our position to be betrothed off in the best interest of our elders. They choose mates for us which will ensure the well-being of the clan.
Lovers fill the role that arranged unions cannot.
” His face lit up abruptly and he began to dig
around inside his tunic, pulling
forth a necklace of shells strung u
pon a thin leather strip
. Somewhat sheepishly, he held it out to
. “This is for you. I made it myself from shells I found on Rúnda’s shores.”
A shy smile spread across
’s face. Placing the necklace about her neck, she thr
ew her arms around her cousin
and gave him a tight hug. “Thank you,
!” She pa
used to finger the shells. “I have alw
ays wanted to see the sea
and with these I will always have a part of it with me!”
beamed at her words.
“I wonder if Ainmire will give Deirdre a gift…?”
, grabbing hold of her hand
and pulling her to her feet
. “Let us follow.”
followed his gaze to see that Réalta had broken away from the gathering and was making her way towards the main cottage. Curious, she
They quietly follo
wed, ducking behind the Stone of Destiny
to stay out of sight. As Réalta slipped into the main cottage,
crouched outside the wickerwork door-lintel. They pushed it open slightly, only enough so that they might be able to peer inside.
Tríonna looked up as her elder
warmly. “Merry meet, sister,” she said.
Réalta nodded, sitting down at the low table beside the hearth.
“What brings you here, sister?” q
ueried Tríonna, her tone
“I know that you did not journey here merely to bring Ainmire a bride. I am no fool.”
Réalta’s eyes shifted to the loom. “Such beautiful and well trained work for a child of her age,” she said. “She’s eight and yet you do not foster her.”
“She is fine here,” replied Tríonna, a touch of coldness apparent in her voice and eyes. “She is doing well under my teaching.
It is unnecessary for her to learn on Rúnda.
“She was born during the new moon,” pur
sued Réalta. “There is
hiding within her
should further her training in the ways of a priestess
.” She paused, looking at her younger sister with gentle, but stern, eyes. “Her talent and ski
ll only prove this. She can feel the pull and push of the land. She can feel the power and use it
. You have trained her to your own limits. Allow me to foster her and
complete her training. Grant her the opportunity to become a g
reat priestess, a High P
Tríonna glanced away, refusing to meet her sister in the eye. “Could you not let her tarry a bit longer?” she pleaded, sitting down across from Réa
is but a child yet..
“She has tarried long enough, Tríonna,” stated Réalta bluntly. “As is, she will be past the age of marriage when she is finished
with her training. I will be forced
to arrange her betrothal
.” She paused
Outside the door,
’s gasp was muffled by
’s hand over her mouth.
“If she must be betrothed, then w
hy not Earnán’s son Naal?” inquired Tríonna. “The match would be well made. You did, after all,
hand off Earnán’s sister
to Ainmire. Or even your own handmaid’s son, Kieran. She simply adores him and they get along well.”
“Now is not the time for such decisions. What is important now is that s
he must come to Rúnda and train,” stated Réalta. “I have s
een a darkness brewing…a
threat that looms dangerously close. Since that man came to our shores,
the man who called himself Ith,
a foreboding feeling which I cannot shake. Our chieftains saw his great praise of Éire to be threatening. They feared he
to control it and for that
took his life and
sent his body
back with his companions
to where they came from.
It was meant as a warning, but I fear it only marked our doom
na sat quietly, face unreadable.