Worlds of Obsession (Celtic Otherworlds)

BOOK: Worlds of Obsession (Celtic Otherworlds)
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Worlds of Obsession

 

 

A Celtic Otherworlds Novel

By Kella McKinnon

 

 

 

 

So many stories, so many auld tales, passed down for countless years before pen was ever put to paper, the collective memories of the British Isles are brimming with legend.  We all love the mystery, the cloying sense of endless time and sacred space that fires our imaginations, and our blood.  Because there is a little part of each of us that dreams such things are real… and perhaps existing amongst us even now.

**************

It has been ages since human-kind has admitted to itself that things don’t have to be seen to be real.  That they might not be alone, or even the most powerful race on the Earth.  Eyes closed, excuses at the ready, they go about their lives, never knowing how often they have been saved from certain death, or how close they have walked to the Evil that balances the Good in both their world and the other worlds that they cannot see.  All because of the warriors that have pledged to keep that balance, hunting down the primeval and deadly predators that have always hunted humans…

A
s a member of the ancient and powerful Fomoirian race, Bastien has become one of these elite warriors, and in truth his job is everything to him; his whole life.  There is nothing left for him but the small shred of peace that comes from killing monsters in the night and knowing that only good can come from their death. For all the rest of two hundred long years, he has been yearning for death to finally take
him
, as it should have the night that he lost everything. 

Everything but the stubborn beat
of his heart.

Now, after all this
time, out of the numbness of his existence he has felt the first stirrings of something more… and the past and the present are about to collide in a way he never could have imagined.  One seemingly chance meeting in a Glasgow alleyway will make him question everything he has ever known to be possible, and make him yearn to be brought back to life in a way he could never have imagined…

 

 

 

 

 

This book contains occasional strong language and sexual content, and is intended for mature audiences.  Reader discretion is advised.

 

 

 

Copyright 2014, Kella McKinnon

 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form without written permission

Cover Design
by Seductive Designs

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© Hot Damn Stock

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© Depositphotos.com/Norma Cornes

Prologue

 

Carman had worked for ages to build
a solid reputation as an evil Witch so that most other beings, especially humans, left her alone to do as she pleased.  Usually, it pleased her to fix the world’s greatest injustices, whether in the human or Otherworld, and she sometimes worked at them for years on end, as if they were giant puzzles.  Which they kind of were, if you took a moment to think about all of the little pieces of a plan that had to fit together just right in order to reach the desired outcome. 

If word got out that she pursued this particular hobby,
and with great success, her phone would never stop ringing with requests and pleas for her help, and so she was careful to make sure all the legends maintained that she was an evil Witch and goddess of dark magic.  Witch, yes, of course.  Goddess… yes, definitely.  Dark… well, not most of the time. 

She even disguised herself as an ugly old hag when she went out in certain circles; a highly convincing mask that hid her true ageless beauty.  Only her close friends knew the truth of her nature, and she aimed to keep it that way.
It was the only way a Witch could get any real, meaningful work done. 

She put the tea kettle on to boil as she waited impatiently for the knock on the door that would come any moment, just as she had seen this morning in her scrying mirror.  She had just finished her last project, and
her long-time friend and partner-in-crime Leanan was about to arrive with an idea for the next one.  Since Carman liked to keep busy, she couldn’t wait to get started on a new endeavor. 

When the kettle boiled, she poured out the tea and grabbed a plate of cinnamon scones she had baked earlier. 

At last!  It’s about time…
  Carman threw open the door to her cottage to reveal a woman standing there, hand raised and ready to knock.

             
“Hi Leanan, dear”, she said, enfolding her in a hug and then gesturing to the small oak table where two cups of steaming tea already sat next to two china plates and the platter of scones.  “And how many times have I told you that you don’t have to knock?  Just come in.”


Hah!  You’ve been telling me for thousands of years, and I still think it’s terribly rude to just barge into someone’s home.”

             
Leanan lowered her hand and stepped into the cozy room, shutting the creaking oaken door behind her.  With all the fortune she had amassed over the centuries, Carman could have lived in luxury if she wanted, but instead she chose to stay in this tiny ramshackle cottage that certainly
looked
the part of a Witch’s home.  Right down to the cobwebs in the corners and the shelves full of little jars full of things you were probably better off not knowing about.  Leanan had made the mistake of looking too closely once, and a label marked ‘puréed brain’ on a jar of gray slimy stuff had nearly made her lose her lunch. She hadn’t read any further to see what sort of brain it was, but she
had
asked what was in the sandwich Carman had just served her.

They sat down and Carman took a sip of her tea, frowned slightly, and added another spoonful of sugar
, stirring it exactly six times.  “Do you have some new cases for my consideration?”

              Leanan broke into a wide, sappy smile and sighed over her own steaming teacup.  “I do, Carman.  Oh, I have a good one for you!  You just
have
to take it on!  I think I’ll just die if you don’t, it’s
that
romantic.  And just
that
tragic.  If you don’t, I think
I’ll
have to, but I’m not nearly as good as you at these sort of things.  I’m much better as an accomplice.”

             
Carman rubbed her tiny, delicate hands together in anticipation.  “Ooo… do tell!  Oh, but where are my manners, would you care for a scone, dear?”

             
“Yes please, you make the best scones, I swear.”

             
Carman tucked her long black hair behind her ear, obviously excited. “Well?”

             
Leanan nodded and reached into the leather satchel which was slung over her shoulder, pulling out a plain manila file folder.  She snapped the folder down on the table and pushed it towards the Witch with a conspirational smile.  “A Fomoiri Demon, a lost love,
and
a certain demi-god and part-time jailor that you are none-too-fond of.”

             
“Ah, my pet… you have me intrigued already.”  Carman reached for the folder and flipped it open, scanning the first page in a stack of about twenty.  “You know I have a soft spot for Demons… and I’m thinking the demi-god you speak of
must
be Balor… am I right?”

             
“As always, Goddess-mine.”  Leanan smiled, knowing the long held animosity between Carman and Balor, the once great Demon King and demi-god of Death.  They were always trying to get one over on each other, and if Carman could pull off this fix, it would be the coup of the century, especially since the last century didn’t even have a coup.  Leanan would have her romantic ending, too.  She could hopefully even use it in her next book.  “Oh, but we’ll have to wait
so
long to see how it works out!”

             
Carman waved her hand dismissively, already concentrating on the file in front of her, the plotting and planning revving up in her mind.  “Nonsense, hon, time is irrelevant.  If you truly can’t wait, go to the Plains of Crim for a few hours.” 

A few hours in the Plains of Crim was the same as ten years or more in the mortal world,
and definitely an effective way to pass several years at once, but Leanan hated to miss that much time… or that much pop-culture.  If she so much as stepped foot in Crim for a few minutes, she would return not even knowing who the hottest new boy-band was.  No way
that
was happening.  One had to keep up with the times, and it was constant work.

             
Carman looked up from the papers spread before her and eyed Leanan consideringly, her blue eyes flashing with excitement.  “I’m thinking we might need some
Vampiric
help on this one.  Someone who could perhaps trace directly into Balor’s realm, by-pass the guards?  Any of your sons perhaps owe you a favor?”  Leanan was technically the mother of an entire race of Vampires, the good Vampire race, not the bad one, and she didn’t look a day over thirty.

             
Leanan tapped her chin thoughtfully.  She had dozens of sons, all of them, of course, Vampires like their mother, since Vampire blood was dominant over all others.  “Why
yes
, Carm, I seem to recall doing a
very
special favor for Dash about ten years ago.  He got himself into a bind with Scatha when he showed up late for training.  It wasn’t
really
his fault, mind you, because he had sort of a run-in with a psychotic Kelpie, but Scatha was going to punish him anyway.  Ten years at the bottom of the sea, that bitch!  But don’t tell her I said that.  Luckily she owed me from waaay back, and I called it in.  Yep, Dash is a good boy.  He’ll definitely help us out.”  Never mind that Dash was pushing four hundred, he was still her baby.

             
Carman clapped her hands together, her face lighting up like a young girl.  “Good!  Let’s get started right away.  And Leanan, Dash is almost four hundred years old… I don’t think he’d appreciate you calling him a ‘boy’.

Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

 

             
“Why?  Why!  By all the powers of the Gods, why am I still
here
?  Why won’t you
take
me? 
Destroy
me! 
Free
me!”

The desperate shout went out into the night, the words carried away by the uncaring wind, but
as usual, no response was forthcoming.  It never was.  There was no hope of dying.  No hope of escaping the hell he had lived in for two hundred years, a hell that never got any easier to bear.  Bracing his hands on the marble railing, Bastien dropped his head and gasped for air, his chest heaving.  Sometimes, it was worse than others.  Sometimes the futility of it all, the emptiness, was overwhelming.  Tonight was one of those nights.  One of
thousands
of those nights.  With even more to come. 

Bastien stood
on the rooftop of the house he had bought for himself, more as a place to go when he had time off, than for any other reason.  He had money enough to buy any house in the human world or nearly any of the Otherworlds, any jewel or other falsely precious thing he might desire.  But none of those things held any interest for him now, not when the one he might have given them to was lost to him forever.  He had learned the hard way just how useless riches were.  He could have every diamond in the world, every ounce of gold, and he’d still be alone.

Lifting his head with a bone-deep weariness, Bastien looked out into the night.  H
e knew that if there were more light, if it were day, he would be able to see the Mediterranean Sea in the distance, a deep azure blue against the sky that rarely clouded over.  This particular house was meant to be his own private retreat, a place to come to get away from it all and bask in the good weather.  A place where he could keep the few things he had grown to treasure over the years, and be alone with his thoughts.  And Southern France was so different from his native Scotia, maybe he had hoped for a little peace as well, as if the memories couldn’t follow him this far.

All around him, the stars filled the inky sky with sparkling diamonds of light, and a sweet
, slightly salty breeze tousled his long black hair.  He felt the primitive connection with the natural world rise up within him, unbidden, the source of strength and vitality for his kind.  Even now, the power of the ages flowed through his veins, and he knew that he could destroy or offer salvation at will.  And yet...he was utterly alone within his own mind, his body cold and unfeeling.  Nothing and no one could reach him now.

He
stood in the starlight, eyes closing tight as memories assailed him, memories that had followed him, after all.  They always did, no matter where he went.  Two hundred years… it had been two hundred years, and still the pain had not diminished.  As if it were yesterday, the horror and anguish of that one, single day still haunted him… never let him rest.  Never let him move on.  It was so long ago, yet such a frighteningly short span when he thought of how long he could possibly still live this empty, hollow existence.  There was no peace for him, no succor, only duty.  This house, as grand as it may be, was only wood and stone, and his possessions… merely objects to be held or discarded.  None of it had any meaning for him, because he had no one to share it with.  Now, the only purpose he still held to, the only thing that kept him going through the motions of living day after day, was his place in the Guild. 

It had taken him years to earn his way into the elite force
of warriors, but if he was going to be cursed with being alive, he could think of nothing better to do with the endless hours than fight and kill the Darkness that had taken everything from him.  He had actually been relieved when the call came yesterday for him to return to Glasgow.  Vacation was over, and it was time to go back to protecting humankind from all those things in the night that they so naively thought did not exist. Their ancestors had known, all right.  Long ago humans knew so much more about the world under their very feet, but now that knowledge had been reduced to children’s fables read by parents within warm, safe houses, as the very creatures in the wild stories patrolled the Earth to keep them safe.  They had no idea.

He would leave in the morning
; first he would try to get some rest.

             
That night, Bastien dreamed.  He was running so hard that he thought his heart just might burst, and he knew it still wasn’t hard enough.  A female was screaming, and he knew that sort of scream.  He had seen enough wars, known enough violence, heard that scream a thousand times before. But this time it was different, because this time the scream he heard was certain to herald his own death, if he did not reach her in time.  Gods, why had he let her go out alone into the forest?  He knew better, damn it!  He ran faster, certain that he would get to her in time if he could only want it enough, because for him, there was just no other option; he
had
to reach her. 

But it
wasn’t
enough, after all.  No matter how many times he dreamed it over and over again, it was never enough.  Once more, he arrived only seconds too late as the Demon dropped her lifeless body to the ground, blood still dripping from his black fangs, shining like obsidian and marking him as Dark Sidhe, a blood drinker, and cold-blooded killer.  The thing gave Bastien a mocking smile before he disappeared into the night under the cover of a thick, black fog. 

Bastien
charged to the female’s side,
knowing
, but still frantically praying to every god that would listen.  He rolled her limp body over and when he saw her pale face and lifeless eyes, he could deny it no longer.  A choked sob rose in his throat, his body’s visceral reaction before his mind could even process the truth.  Karis. 

Gone

A roar of
agony rent the night around him, bringing others running to see what had happened.  One of them was her father… oh god, the look on her father’s face when he saw her there, dead in Bastien’s arms as he cradled her and sobbed and howled his grief.  In the end, it took five warriors to wrest the body away from him so that her parents could honor her with a burning pyre of flame and light.  Bastien watched her body burn, knowing her soul had travelled to the Realm of the Dead in Anwnn, and comforted by the fact that he would soon follow her, because that was the way of things.  His own family would mourn him, and for that he was sorry, but he could not live in this world or any other without his mate.  That was the plight of a Fomoiri male, and why none had ever survived longer than a few days after his fated one had died.  The bond was just too strong, so strong that his very life force became entwined with hers.

Bastien woke
with a gasp, his body shaking and covered in sweat, the remnants of the dream still filtering through his mind like dark shadows. 

He hadn’t died that day. 

Or any day after.

By some nasty trick of fate, he hadn’t died at all. 
For two hundred years he had successfully kept all of those vivid memories buried so deep inside that on most days they were no more than a hollow, dull ache.  On other days they drifted a little closer to the surface, and he fed off of the rage banked within him and used it to hunt and kill the creatures that threatened innocent lives all around the world.  Whenever there was an outbreak of Dark Sidhe, he and the other warriors of the Guild were there, as warriors had been for thousands of years. 

But the strange thing was that f
or two hundred years, he could not remember ever having a single dream; the long nights were dark and cold and empty.  But for the last few weeks, images of Karis had filled his sleeping mind each night.  He didn’t understand why his dreams had chosen now to haunt him, but maybe a vacation by himself with only his thoughts hadn’t been a good idea after all.  He needed to get back to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

 

              It was the morning of her twenty-sixth birthday, and Liv Johnston couldn’t shake the feeling that today was no ordinary day.  From the moment she’d opened her eyes and suddenly noticed that the crack in the ceiling above her bed looked a lot like a galloping horse,
why hadn’t she ever seen that before?
  there had just been a strange feeling in the air, the kind of quivering tension just before something explodes all around you.  Sure, maybe it was all in her head, the wishful thinking of a girl who wanted more out of life than a tiny Boston apartment and an ordinary, uninspiring job.  But she had
always
had her head in the clouds, all her life, and today still felt
different

She showered and got dressed for work, popping a bagel in the toaster
, grabbing her first cup of coffee and checking her email on her phone, because her laptop was on the fritz again and she wasn’t in the mood to deal with it.  A bunch of junk mail popped up, and one forward from her friend Jess, a video of some all-male review, with the title Hot! Hot! Hot!  Typical Jess.  But yeah, she’d definitely be watching that when she got home from work later.  Checking the time, Liv poured a second cup of coffee into her favorite travel mug and searched for her shoes and purse.  That was when she heard a knock at the door.

T
he letter and a small package arrived promptly at eight a.m., hand delivered by private courier and requiring proof of identity and two signatures.  The white envelope was entirely blank, and not very thick or heavy, and the package was wrapped in plain brown paper and looked suspiciously like the size and shape of a book.  Had she ordered something and forgotten about it?  No… definitely not.  She didn’t order many things through the mail, but when she did, she waited for the package to arrive like it was Christmas morning or something.  Even if it was only a box of new underwear. 
But hey, today
is
my birthday!
  God, she really needed to get out more. 

Liv
glanced again at the clock on the kitchen counter.  She had been about to walk out of the door for work when the courier knocked, but no way she was leaving now until she knew what exactly she was holding in her hand.  She could run to catch the train if she had to.  Carefully, she broke the plain metal foil seal and opened the envelope.  Inside was a single sheet of paper, folded three times, and covered with a large, sprawling, hand-written script.  She spread the paper on the table and smoothed it down.

 

             
Miss Johnston,

             
I regret that I cannot be there in person to explain to you everything that is about to unfold for you.  I can only take comfort in your strength of mind, body and spirit, and know that you will use it to your advantage.  Though I wish I could be there to guide you, alas, I cannot.  Do not be afraid, but please travel right away to Glasgow, Scotland.  There, find the large stone house on Brighton Street, with two old oaks in the yard.  All of your questions will be answered in time, but I will tell you this now: you have much to learn, and a new life awaiting you.  The book will perhaps serve as an orientation, but is by no means complete, or entirely accurate for that matter.  Read it, but know there is so much more…

 

              It wasn’t signed. 

Liv
put the letter down on the table with a frown and a slightly shaking hand. 
What. The. Hell?
  Was this some sort of practical joke?  She eyed the brown package suspiciously before picking it up and turning it over a few times in her hands.  No markings of any kind.  She carefully tore open the wrapping and pulled out what was indeed a book. 

The Celtic Myths and Legends
, by C.L. Dryfus. 

It was old, that much was obvious by the worn leather cover
, and when she flipped through the pages, a musty smell floated through the air.  She shut the book and set it on the table with a shrug, then read the letter again, trying to remember if she might have any weird old aunts or uncles still around who might just be batty enough to have sent it.  Probably not, especially since she had been adopted by her grandmother when she was no more than a toddler, and all her older relatives, if she had ever had any, were most likely either dead by now, or she had never met them. 

The mystery
would have to wait though, because she was going to be late for work.  She grabbed her bag and the big travel mug of coffee and hurried down the block to catch the train, thankful she lived so close to the red-line. 

Her
job was awful… she would rather be doing just about anything else besides working in internet advertising.  All day long she thought about the role she played in annoying computer users all over the world with pop-up ads they didn’t want to see.  This job had to be really bad for her karma, but at least getting there was convenient, and the money was good enough that she had managed a modest savings while she looked for something better.  What that something better was… well, she hadn’t exactly decided yet.  She adored writing, and history, travel and adventure, art and music, but what kind of job had all that?  Or any of that, really… 

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