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The Stag Lord

BOOK: The Stag Lord
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The Stag Lord

Darby Kaye

Spence City

© 2014 Darby Karchut

Sale of the paperback edition of this book without its cover is unauthorized.

Spencer Hill Press

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

Contact: Spence City, an imprint of Spencer Hill Press, PO Box 247, Contoocook, NH 03229, USA

Please visit our website at
www.spencecity.com

First Edition: December 2014
Darby Kaye
The Stag Lord/by Darby Kaye–1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary:
Description: A Celtic warrior and his young son go hand-to-horn with a New World shapeshifter in modern day Colorado, aided by a beautiful Healer, her loyal-unto-death dog, and a clan of immortal Fey.

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this fiction: The Avengers, Broncos, Charmin, Coors, Dumbo, Fat Tire, Formica, Glenlivet, Guinness, Hallmark, Harry Potter, Hummer, Lucky Charms, Rambo, Sigg The Lion King, This Old House, Tilt-A-Whirl, Transformers, Trojan, Tylenol, Tyrconnell, Vise-Grip, X-Men

Cover design by Errick A. Nunnally
Interior layout by Errick A. Nunnally

978-1-939392-41-1 (paperback)
978-1-939392-42-8 (e-book)

Printed in the United States of America

Also by Darby Karchuc
(Darby Kaye)

Middle Grade Books:

Finn Finnegan
(Spencer Hill Middle Grade)

Gideon's Spear
(Spencer Hill Middle Grade)

The Hound at the Gate
(Spencer Hill Middle Grade—January 2015)

Young Adult Books:

Griffin Rising

Griffin's Fire

Griffin's Storm

Nonfiction Books:

Money and Teens: Savvy Money Skills
(Copper Square Studios)

Essential Money Guidebook: Simple, Sustainable Personal Finance for Real People
(Copper Square Studios)

Words and Phrases

Tuatha Dé Danaan (TWA day dhanna) - an ancient warrior race of mythical beings from Ireland

Amandán (AH-mon dahn) - goblin-like creatures

bodhran (BOW-rawn) - Irish frame drum played with a doubled-headed stick

Céad mile fáilte (kad MEEL-a FALL sha) -
A hundred thousand welcomes

Codladh sumh (culla SOVH) -
Sleep well

Fáilte (FALL-sha) -
Welcome

Faugh a ballagh (FOW-an BALL-ah) -
“Clear the way!”

Gle mhaith (GLAY moth) -
Very good

Long-son -
A descendant

Mo chara (muh KAR-uh) -
My friend

Poc sídhe (POKE shee) -
fey or fairy stroke

Sláinte (SLAWN-cha) -
health

Tír na nÓg (TEER Nah Noe-g) -
Eternal Land of Youth/Afterworld

“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

—Irish proverb

1

T
HE STORE CLERK EYED
the dark-haired boy who was staring at the deer head that was mounted behind the counter just above her head. She never liked where her late husband's trophy had been hung—it always made her feel like the thing would topple off the wall and impale her as she rang up a purchase at the cash register. Once, a customer to her curio shop, which was barely a level above a tourist trap, had joked that it looked like she was wearing the thing on her head, like a costume from a second-rate production of
The Lion King
. After that, she had moved the register a foot to the left.

There was something in the boy's stare and rigid stance, the way his right hand hovered near the pocket of his grimy hoodie. It reminded her of a dog standing tense and alert when it sensed things that go shit in the night. Things with unconsecrated faces that stared in from the other side of a black windowpane.

“Cor?”

Both the boy and the clerk looked over at the tall man walking toward them from the display rack at the front of the store. He held a map of Colorado and a pamphlet advertising the nearby nature park and campground. The clerk noticed he had the same too-blue-to-be-true eyes as the boy, eyes that were accentuated with sweeping lashes that, on a less rugged man, would have looked feminine. On this man, they just made his blue eyes bluer. His thick, chestnut-brown hair was swept back to reveal a stern but handsome face, jaw dark with a day's worth of stubble. Just like the boy's messier mop, a few strands flopped over one eye.

Father and son
, she guessed.

“Are you all right?” The man's deep voice held the whiff of an accent, as if he was working hard to cover it with a flat-as-the-Platte Midwestern inflection. The boy nodded, his focus back on the deer head. “Fetch yourself a treat, then. No more than a dollar.” The man gave the boy a nudge toward the nearby rack of candy bars. “Off you go.”

It's the way he says his r's
, the clerk decided. And something else. A lilt? It took her back to the memory of her great-grandmother, a woman she scarcely remembered, who had emigrated from Ireland in the early part of the twentieth century to escape religious persecution for being Roman Catholic. The clerk recalled Great-Granny complaining about all the
Irish Need Not Apply
signs on too many businesses' doors.

Reaching the counter, the man placed the map on the wooden surface and slid the park brochure closer to her. His hands had the look of someone who knew their way around a toolbox—clean, but ropy with muscles and veins and tendons, and sans a wedding ring. Not even a faint cheater's ring. He tapped the brochure. “Would you kindly tell me how to find this place?”

Kindly
? thought the woman.
Who talks like that anymore
? “Sure. It's easy—just stay on this street and go west two more blocks, then turn right on Kissing Camels Road.”

“Kissing Camels?”

“You'll understand when you see the rock formations. Now, you'll go through a neighborhood, but just keep following the signs north and they'll take you to the main entrance.”

“Right. Thank you.” Studying the brochure's list of campsite facilities, he spoke over his shoulder. “Cor. Come along.”

The boy lingered in front of the rack, feet never still as he jiggled back and forth in a way that suggested too many hours in a car and not enough breaks. He flipped a few more bars over, checking the prices, than gave up and joined the man. The clerk noticed the silent question from the man and a shake of the head from the boy.

Something in the practiced
it doesn't matter
expression on the boy's face made the clerk blurt out. “Everything on that rack is seventy-five cents. Today only. Forgot to put up a sign earlier. Guess I'm getting old.”

While the boy dashed away, the man caught the woman's eye. “Today only, eh?”

She found herself blushing. For being caught in the lie as well as other reasons she thought she was too old to even think about.

He leaned closer as he dug through a pocket for the change. “I thank you for your generosity.” The formal tone contrasted with the man's cheap long-sleeved T-shirt, faded jeans, and the don't-fuck-with-me hunting knife the length of his forearm he carried at his hip in a leather sheath.

“You're welcome.” The clerk leaned an elbow on the counter and studied them as they left. The boy was already half-finished with his Three Musketeers bar by the time they reached the door. A smile tugged at her lips when he held up the remainder of the treat to the man, who took a small bite, then handed it back before ushering his son outside. Moving over to the store's display window, she watched as they climbed into a beat-to-the-gates-of-hell truck pulling an even more beat-up camper behind it. The rig eased away from the curb, merging into the late-afternoon traffic under a sky sullen with clouds, a rarity in early October in Colorado.

“How much for one night?” Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, the man waited as the park attendant standing next to their truck checked a sheet of paper on his clipboard. The truck idled, complaining about how many miles it had covered today while dragging that fat-ass camper behind. A faint reek of gasoline wafting through the open windows of the cab reminded the man to check the carburetor. Again.

Next to him, Cor leaned out the passenger window, craning his head around to stare up at the red sandstone cliffs forming a towering gateway. Hoodoo rocks, tall sandstone formations that looked like upright spires of frozen pink cotton candy or soft-serve ice cream, were scattered along both sides of the gravel road leading into the park. To the west, mountains formed a rampart, protecting the city of High Springs.

Standing on the seat, the boy twisted around, his wiry torso disappearing out the window to get a better view. One foot kicked a much-loved, much-read copy of
Shiloh
onto the floor.

With a growl, the man reached over and grabbed the back of his son's jeans. “Sit your arse down.” He reeled Cor in with one hand, careful not to whack the boy's head on the frame.

“Dad, I was just looking at—”

The man raised an eyebrow. “Arguing with me. Now, would that be prudent?”

Cor shrugged. “I don't know. What does
prudent
mean?”

It means I'm weary to the point of insanity after driving this bleedin' truck for eleven hours straight
. “What do you think it means?”

“Some kind of fruit?”

The man hid a grin. “That would be
prune
. Think about the way I used it in the sentence.”

Cor rubbed a hand back and forth through his hair, rumpling it even more. “Um…smart?”

“Or wise. Sensible. Practical.”

The attendant cleared his throat, interrupting the impromptu vocabulary lesson.
About all the schooling he's gotten this past week
, the man thought. He glanced down at the book on the floor by the eight-year-old boy's foot.
Although I should be grateful for a son who will read anything, as long as it's about dogs
.

“Well, it's cheaper if you stay two nights,” the attendant continued. “We've got a special rate for after the tourist season.” He handed the man a pen and a form with the words
Garden of the Gods Park and Campground, High Springs, Colorado
printed across the top of it, with a list of amenities and fees.

The man studied the paper, then began filling it out. “Will cash be acceptable?” he asked as he wrote.

“Sure.” The attendant took the clipboard as the man reached behind him for his wallet, then glanced down at it. “‘Bann Boru,'” he read. “Unusual name.”

“Yes.”

“See you're from Pennsylvania. A long way from home.”

“Yes.”

“School vacation?”

“Yes.”

“In October?”

“Yes.”

The attendant gave up. “Well, you should have the place to yourself. I'll be here until six if you have any questions.” He motioned at the gatehouse behind him, then eyed their rig. “But it looks like you know what you're doing.”

“We do.” Bann gave a nod, then passed the campground map and stamped permit over to the boy.

He drove westward into the rocky labyrinth, the gravel crunching under the tires and pinging against the belly of the truck. In between the slabs of sandstone, junipers, pines, and spruces, mixed with scrub oak sporting balaclavas of bronze and gold, fought for room wherever they could take root.

Ten minutes later, Bann spotted their assigned camp. He pulled off the road, wincing when the trailer hitch grated along the ground as they bucked and rolled into the vacant site. A piney-spicy aroma, like sweetened turpentine, wafted through the cab's half-open windows from the juniper trees fencing the site on three sides. A picnic table and a fire grill were located in the most sheltered corner of the site. Across the street and down a slight incline, a tiny cinderblock outhouse, clearly a one-holer, squatted in shame behind another screen of junipers and man-high chamisa bushes the same shade of tarnished gold as the aspens dotting the sides of the mountains.

BOOK: The Stag Lord
7.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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