As jagged streaks of lightening illuminated her unfamiliar surroundings, Alainn O’Brien swiftly ran to take cover behind a nearby bush. As she crouched low, hoping to remain concealed, a deafening crack of thunder rumbled ominously across the dark sky. She was nearly breathless. Her soggy garments felt heavy and frigid against her skin. She shivered uncontrollably and fought to stem the angry tears brimming in her eyes. The rain continued to pelt down with a new ferocity and soon the raindrops were replaced by ice pellets that bruised her arms as she shielded her head.
“Use your abilities woman!” A mighty voice boomed above her nearly as loud as the thunder. “Protect yourself and show me these great powers I have been assured you possess.”
Alainn’s fury grew at hearing the demanding arrogance of the male voice.
She had vowed he would not compel her to reveal her abilities. She heard the whizzing, popping sounds before she smelled the unusual scent upon the air. A streak of fire flashed through the black sky and hit the bush beside her. She watched in horror as it burst into flames. The sleeve of her garment sizzled as though a hot iron had just been pressed upon the wet cloth. She flinched as the heat burned her arm and she quickly jumped away from the flaming brambles.
“You are admittedly assigned to be my guardian and protector and this is how you would protect me?” She raged. “Was I taken against my will from my home… from my beloved husband on the very day we were wed, simply so that you might inflict fear and pain upon me?” Her voice shook as she screamed.
“You have forced my hand, woman. It is you who have brought this fate upon yourself…you and your stubborn insistence to keep your alleged abilities hidden… and your constant attempts to escape and hide from me.”
“I will not partake in this absurdity simply to amuse or entertain you. Not ever!” she replied in a voice that shrieked with emotion.
“Are you so damnably simple or dull-witted that you will not be driven to protect yourself, woman? Though it is true enough humans are undoubtedly weak and inferior with limited intelligence, I was led to believe you were of a higher breed than most. Perhaps I was misled or Aine was biased in her opinion because of her blood connection to you!”
“You pompous coward!” She stood now holding her arm where the tender skin continued to sting unrelentingly from the deep burn. She stared up at the rumbling clouds and bellowed. “So brave are you to send your thunder and lightning, to create your unfavorable weather, but you remain hidden away. Are you unattractive to view, unappealing to the eye, so hideously disfigured, if a mere human were to witness your deformity the repulsion would cause certain death… is it that you are simply plain and unimpressive, unworthy of the great status given to you? Could it be possible you actually fear me and wouldn’t dare to be close enough that I might actually use my powers against you?” She baited.
Her outburst was followed only by silence. However, she did notice the sky had finally begun to lighten, and the wind and rain had abruptly stopped. She hesitantly called upon her own powers and willed her garments to dry, and her damaged skin to heal. Feeling more in control of her disposition and her abilities, she decided to truly put them to use. She created a swirling veiled mist that enshrouded her completely before she wished herself away from the prying eyes of the obstinate and unpredictable god.
Alainn had hoped to be transported to Aine, the fairy princess and Celtic goddess who was protector of women, the being who had taken her to this realm of the gods. But regrettably she found herself outside the grand castle where she had first wakened when she arrived in this realm. Allowing her anger to abate and her fear to lessen, she glanced around at her foreign surroundings.
This location was not without appeal. In truth it was remarkably lovely and if she allowed herself to feel anything beyond loneliness and resentment, she would grudgingly admit it was stunningly beautiful here. The trees were surely ancient, the trunks massive, twisted, and gnarled in intriguing displays, the branches unbelievably immense. The grass was of the deepest shade of green perhaps akin only to the variety found in the fairy glade. She bent to touch it and found it was unusually soft. She sat down upon it and inhaled deeply, taking in every detail of her unusual surroundings. The ground was dotted with a scattered array of peculiar, yet beautiful, wildflowers in brilliant shades. Their perfume was soft and delicately pleasing to her keen sense of smell. She glanced skyward and noted the most unusual sight of the four suns, one in each direction.
The sky was now a softer shade of blue and huge fluffy clouds appeared to nearly touch the ground. A new peacefulness enveloped her. Though she was hesitant to trust it, she took several deep breaths and warily relaxed.
She was uncertain how long she had been in this realm, and her memories of how she had happened to arrive here were muddled and nearly incomprehensible. Even if she’d known how long she’d been here, she couldn’t estimate if time was measured the same in this realm or altered as it was in the fairy glade. She distinctly recalled waking in a large bedchamber. She had been entirely alone and what unnerved her most was the complete absence of sound. As she peered out the open window in the chamber, she could detect not a chirp of a bird or even the rustle of wind upon the grass.
She was no longer clothed in the gown she’d remembered wearing, but in garments that were most unusual. Although there were many flowing layers, they were nearly transparent and most assuredly not of a fabric Alainn had ever seen before.
She recalled the first time she’d heard the now displeasingly familiar male voice speaking to her.
“Ahh, beautiful enchanting woman, you have finally awakened! What a deep slumber you were in! I have taken immense pleasure in watching you sleep for so many days now!”
“Days?” she replied. “That cannot be!”
“I assure you, it is so.”
“Who are you? Why do you not show yourself?” She spoke to the emptiness.
The response was a deep and audible sigh. “I have been instructed to remain hidden.”
“Instructed by whom? By Aine? Who are you?”
“So many questions, woman; I am the mighty Celtic god, Lugh, god of the sun, a skilled champion of a myriad of endless abilities. For now I am to be your instructor, your guardian, and protector! That is all you need know at this time.”
“I do not require lessons or desire your protection. What I do require is to be returned to my world and to my husband. I have much to contend with there!”
Alainn’s mind went to her new husband, Killian O’Brien. He was nephew to the Chieftain Hugh O’Brien, ruler of Castle O’Brien and the entire chiefdom. Alainn was healer at the castle and when Killian was but two and ten and she a small child of only seven years, by way of her magical abilities she had healed him from a wound that most certainly should have been fatal.
From that day forward, they had remained close friends and allies, and although it felt like she had been in love with him for as long as she could remember, it was only months ago they had begun a romantic relationship. Because she was merely a commoner and Killian was from a noble family, they had been forced to keep their love hidden. They had each been promised to others; she to a local farmer, and Killian to a dark haired Scottish lass of wealth and position, but they had purposely gone against Hugh O’Brien’s orders and recently been wed. The chieftain had yet to learn of their marriage and would undoubtedly strongly disapprove of their union.
Killian and his uncle were already at odds, for Killian had learned of his uncle’s misdeeds toward her. Hugh had attempted to rape her in retaliation of Killian alerting him to his intent to end his arrangement of marriage to a noble to be allowed to wed a commoner. When Killian had learned of his uncle’s unscrupulous and unforgiving deeds, he had challenged his uncle to a battle to defend Alainn’s honor. Her mind went to the upcoming challenge between her young courageous husband and his uncle, the chieftain, and to his uncle’s recently discovered madness. The chieftain had been consuming vast quantities and unsafe combinations of herbal potions, which had surely caused his mind to become adversely affected.
But even these many nagging vexations were not as great a cause for worriment as the devastating O’Brien curse! Years earlier, Mara, the glade witch, whom Alainn had recently discovered to be her mother, had placed a harrowing and seeming irreversible curse on the O’Brien line. As a young woman already carrying Alainn, she had been viciously raped and abused, severely mistreated by Hugh’s father and she had uttered a vengeful curse in hope of causing the old man to suffer. The curse ensured the O’Brien line would die out. From that day forward, all O’Brien wives either suddenly became barren, their babies were stillborn or lived only hours. Hugh and his wife had lost five babies of their own, and his brothers had lost many newborns as well.
Mara had not been killed for issuing her malevolent curse for she’d assured the old chieftain that if she died before the conditions had been met to undo the curse, then it would truly remain a blight upon his line until the O’Briens lived no more. Instead of putting her to death, the chieftain had banished the glade witch, as Mara was referred by, to live in the caves past the fairy glade and through the stone close.
She dwelled in the lonely and desolate location entirely alone, but for the old farrier’s severely disfigured and malformed son whom she had raised as her own as was agreed upon in the arrangement she had made with the farrier and his wife. They were to raise Alainn as their child, but after the farrier’s wife’s death, and the discovery of Alainn’s magical abilities, he had taken her to live with Morag, the old healer.
Now Alainn was in a most unenviable position for she carried Killian’s child, an O’Brien child who was surely ill-fated due to her own mother’s retaliatory curse. She lightly pressed her hand to her belly and was rewarded with a welcomed movement. She experienced great relief at knowing for now the child within her remained safe.
The boisterous resonant voice of Lugh interrupted her thoughts. “Your unborn child has most certainly not been harmed, woman!” The god assured her in an insulted tone. “You have been brought here to keep protected and to ensure the alleged powers Aine claims you possess, though surely minimal since you are, after all, only human, are tested and honed so they may aid you in times of need.”
“I have no time for these irksome trivialities.” She ignored his maligning comments. “You must allow me to return to my home straightaway! I am needed there most assuredly.”
“There are those with dark associations who have shown much interest in you and your magical abilities. It is the decision of the gods you will remain here and so therefore it is not to be questioned, it shall be so!” He declared in a voice laced with distinct superiority and conceit.
“I wish to have private audience with Aine, immediately!” Alainn demanded as she struggled to push through the weighty wooden portal that led out of the chamber.
“Aine is not here in this location at this time.” The voice grew louder and less patient.
Alainn felt her heart lurch at hearing this and her fears continued to escalate as she stepped out and found herself literally amongst the clouds. She gasped and held tight to the stone archway fearful she would fall through the mist. She heard the condescending chuckle coming from somewhere above her.
“You, the powerful witch, descended from druid, fairy and the line of Aine, quake in fear to step amongst the clouds? Surely your abilities have been greatly exaggerated, perhaps even fabricated.”
Alainn’s temper began to flare as she placed one foot forward and gingerly stepped, when it held her weight, she attempted to conceal her relief and calm her fury.
“Aye, I have entirely no powers and I know nothing of magic! I possess no abilities whatsoever; surely I am of no interest you. Therefore you must send me back to my world. I demand it!”
“No, that is not a possibility and clearly not my decision to make, woman! I am only to watch over you.”
“So you are but a servant to greater gods then?” She challenged in a haughty tone.
“I am a servant to no one, woman, and there are no gods greater than I!”
“Then allow me to return to my world and be done with me!” she reasoned.
You may be beautiful and perhaps even clever for a human, but I will not fall prey to your enchantment, or your trickery.”
Alainn raised her eyebrows and detected the slightest hint of uncertainty in the god’s voice. She smiled to herself, closed her eyes, and vanished amongst the clouds.
Apparently her disappearance had greatly displeased and infuriated Lugh and from that time forward he’d followed her unrelentingly and though he never allowed himself to be seen, he was unwilling to leave her alone or give her even a moment’s peace.
When she had refused over and over to reveal her abilities, she had seen firsthand what consequences resulted from his enragement. He had created the forceful thunder storm accompanied by his perilous fire balls that echoed his violent temper.
Though her arm no longer burned quite so viciously, her skin remained raised and deeply reddened. If she should reveal her abilities to Lugh, surely he would wish for her to remain here so that he might instruct her in the ways of further developing her powers. She knew time was short and she must somehow get back to her world. She would need to be much more cunning in her dealings with this god if she hoped to be allowed to return to Killian any time soon.
End of Excerpt