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Authors: Robert David MacNeil

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IONA PORTAL

 

BOOK ONE OF THE SYNAXIS CHRONICLES

 

 

 

By Robert David MacNeil

 

 

 

INTERACTIVE TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

PART ONE:  ENCOUNTERS

Chapter One:  Lysandra
Chapter Two:  Kilauea
Chapter Three:  Volcano House
Chapter Four:  Mystery

PART TWO:  PILGRIMAGE

Chapter Five:  Patrick
Chapter Six:  Across Mull
Chapter Seven:  Sylvia’s Story
Chapter Eight:  The Island of Iona
Chapter Nine:  Aftermath

PART THREE:  SYNAXIS

Chapter Ten: Piper and Holmes
Chapter Eleven:  Revelations
Chapter Twelve:  More Revelations
Chapter Thirteen:  The Shades
Chapter Fourteen:  Synaxis Begins
Chapter Fifteen:  Before the Storm
Chapter Sixteen:  Erin’s Story
Chapter Seventeen:  Mendrion
Chapter Eighteen:  Angel Dance

PART FOUR:  PORTAL

Chapter Nineteen:  Haggis
Chapter Twenty:  The Search
Chapter Twenty-one:  Kidnapped
Chapter Twenty-two:  Ben
Chapter Twenty-three:  Lys’s Story
Chapter Twenty-four:  The Fionnphort Gun Club
Chapter Twenty-five:  Releasing the Angels
Chapter Twenty-six:  A New Beginning

EPILOGUE

 

 

 

 

"There is no question that there is an unseen world.  The problem is,

how far is it from Midtown and how late is it open?"
   

 

– Woody Allen  (
Without Feathers
, p. 11.)

 

 

 

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

 

– William Shakespeare 
("Hamlet", Act 1 scene 5)

 

 

 

With a few minor exceptions, all geographical descriptions in this book are accurate, including McCaig’s Folly, which really is perched on the cliff above Oban. 

Aidan’s Pub is loosely patterned after Aulay’s Bar, which is located on Airds Crescent in the city of Oban.  

The Torosay Inn is loosely pattered after the Criagnure Inn on the Isle of Mull.  (The Craignure Inn was also featured in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel,
Kidnapped
.  Stevenson called it the Torosay Inn, and I have followed his example.) 

The only major departure from geographical accuracy in this book is the description of Lady’s Rock, which in modern times is topped with a light tower to protect shipping in the Sound of Mull. 

All historical references in this book are accurate. 

All present-day characters in this book are fictional, and are not intended to represent any persons, living or dead. 

The SYNAXIS, of course, is real.

 

 

 

Visit me on the web at http://ionaportal.com/

Email me at
[email protected]

Or follow me on Twitter at @RDavidMacNeil

 

 

 

© 2011, Robert David MacNeil

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

This book is dedicated to
Keith
, whose gift of “second sight” prompted the writing of this book. 

 

And to
Susan
,
Pam
, and
Margie
for reading and re-reading the manuscript, and making many helpful suggestions and corrections.  (I’m privileged to be in Synaxis with all of you!) 

 

And most of all, this book is dedicated to my amazing wife
Linda
, for her patience and continual encouragement, and for believing this book should be written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART ONE:  ENCOUNTERS

 

Chapter One:  Lysandra

 

 

 

FLAGSTAFF MOUNTAIN ROAD — WEST OF BOULDER, COLORADO – 1:35 AM

 

 

The speeding BMW’s blue xenon headlights burned fiercely in Lysandra Johnston’s rearview mirror.  “They’re coming after us again…” she said, trying in vain to control the tremor in her voice, “…
faster
this time!” 

Clutching the wheel tightly, she slammed the accelerator and let a wave of inertia drive her deep into the seatback.  The soft, leather-trimmed upholstery enfolded her body, cocooning her in a protective embrace; but the increased speed brought no illusion of safety—her Corolla could not outrun the BMW.  Her pursuers’ low-slung coupe was effortlessly carving a path through the dark, twisting curves, relentlessly devouring the pavement as it approached.

With one eye on the mirror, Lys careened through a double hairpin turn, dropping down a low hill to an extended straightaway.  Tall Ponderosa Pines flashed past as she accelerated hard, mashing the pedal to the floor. 

Coming out of the straightaway, she squealed through a tight S-curve, barely keeping four wheels on the road.  Her fading hope rekindled as the pursuing lights winked out of sight behind a massive granite outcrop.  But that hope was instantly crushed when the BMW re-appeared around the bend moments later, closer than before.  The sudden burst of acceleration had temporarily increased her lead, but the men were now playing catch-up and overtaking her rapidly. 

A flood of cold, unreasoning fear crept up her spine.
  
“They’re almost on top of us,” she said, glancing nervously at her companion.
 “This has gone on
way
too long!”

Gritting her teeth in frustration, Lys
looked for a place of refuge, searching the road ahead as it wound through a dense forest of Douglas fir
… a convenience store… a bar…some roadside café… any place with lights and people!  
She saw nothing but cold, desolate pavement fading into darkness.

With no escape in sight, she fixed her gaze on her pursuers as they inexorably closed the gap.

The mysterious black BMW had come out of the gloom twenty minutes earlier and with no provocation engaged Lys in a harrowing game of cat-and-mouse—hurtling past her on the lonely mountain roads, then slowing, almost to a stop, to force her to pass.  She’d tried to tell herself the men were just toying with her, but the looks on their faces made her skin crawl.

Her stalkers were almost on her rear bumper and still accelerating; the throaty growl of the BMW’s engine reverberated in her ears.  She gripped the wheel firmly, bracing for an impact, but in the last instant the men swerved to the left and roared past.   

As they sped by, Lys saw a now-familiar face pressed hard against the BMW’s passenger-seat window.  By the pale light of the near full moon, the man’s face appeared wraithlike, almost skeletal, with coal-black hair falling in oily tangles down his back.  His blood-dark eyes were locked on Lys, staring at her hungrily.

Lysandra Leigh Johnston was no stranger to the longing gaze of men.  At twenty-six, with an easy smile, carefully-toned body, and light, ash-blonde hair tumbling loosely across her shoulders, Lys had often held the starring role in a man’s romantic fantasy.  But she sensed nothing amorous, or even sexual, in this man’s leer.  What she saw in his ashen face was a terrifying look of bone-chilling brutality. 

She shuddered involuntarily at the sight of him—a tremor of revulsion snaking through her core.  She struggled in vain to delete his lurid image from her memory.  The cruelty in his eyes gave her little doubt of the sadistic fury playing out in his imagination.
  He’s abusing me…
Lys knew…
raping me in his mind.

She let out a sigh of relief as the BMW sped down the road to finally disappear around the curve ahead.  She eased up on the gas and felt her body relax. 
Maybe it’s over…
she looked hopefully into the darkness …
maybe they’ll leave me alone now. 
She wiped a bead of cold perspiration from her forehead.

Rounding the bend, her heart sank as a familiar set of brake lights flared brightly on the road ahead. 
If I can just get by them one more time
… she thought... 
in ten more minutes we’ll be back home in Boulder.

Her fingers shifted nervously on the wheel. 

The BMW was still two hundred yards away, but the driver was pumping his brakes, rapidly decelerating.

Lys envisioned the cadaverous man in the passenger seat waiting for her—obscene eyes following her approach.
 She lifted her foot from the accelerator.  Her breath caught in her throat and an icy knot formed in her belly.  

Get a grip, Lys!  
She scolded, struggling to shake off the disquiet.  

She drew a deep breath, held it several seconds, then blew it out slowly, consciously attempting to rein-in her emotions
.  We’ll get through this...
she assured herself, inhaling deeply again …
Just stay focused ...  Take it one step at a time.
 

As the receptionist for the biggest law firm in the Colorado Front Range, Lys was well-accustomed to handling stress.  At the office she’d built a reputation on her ability to thrive under pressure—always maintaining control in any crisis.  Right now, though, she was far from her comfort zone.

“I know it’s a cliché, Kareina, but I’ve got a really
bad
feeling about this,” she said, almost in a whisper, as the BMW loomed closer.

“Don’t worry about it… ” her companion smiled condescendingly, brushing a long strand of jet-black hair from her eyes.  “They’re just
guys.
 They saw a pretty blonde driving and are having a little fun with you.  You’re much too suspicious.”   

Tall and gangly with a plain face and pallid, almost sickly complexion, Kareina Procel had dropped by Lys’s desk three weeks earlier, looking like a lost puppy.  As the two spent their afternoon break talking, Kareina said she’d just moved to Boulder from a small town in New Mexico, hadn’t yet made any friends, and felt totally lost in the big city.

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