Despite the fact that I don't have the book ready for you yet, I do have the cover art AND the entire first chapter (and then some, since anyone who purchased the digital edition of Dolmarehn already got a chance to read the first chapter of Luathara). I hope you all enjoy this teaser and please keep hanging in there. Luathara is almost here!
Some quick, other news:
I started working on a short scene from Cade's POV (what happens between the end of Dolmarehn and the beginning of Luathara). I'd like to post that here on my blog when I'm done, and include it in the Omnibus once the trilogy is complete. Stay tuned for more!
Here it is!! The cover for Luathara! Hope it meets your expectations ;)
And now, without further ado, I give you the new, slightly expanded, Luathara teaser . . . (Just keep in mind, this still needs some more editing, so don't let the typos and such scare you away ;))
The creature was utterly disgusting, whatever it was. Faelah, yes, but I didn’t have a name for this unfamiliar beast. Not yet, at least. So, what to call this one . . . I’d have to come up with something creative, some new word to describe the half-dead creature resembling a possum, coyote and rabbit all rolled into one. Perhaps I could combine the first two letters of the names for each of the animals: po-co-ra. Huh, pocora. It even sounded like an Otherworldly term.The thing, the pocora, jerked its head up from whatever poor creature it feasted on, bony jaws dripping with gore. My stomach turned, and not just because of the brutal scene. The faelah was eating one of Mrs. Dollard’s cats, the chubby one that obviously hadn’t been able to outrun this particular enemy. I gritted my teeth. I wasn’t attached to my neighbor’s cats, despite the fact I once spent a summer caring for them, but the poor thing hadn’t deserved to die at the mercy of an Otherworldly monster.
I took a deep breath, pulling an arrow free of the quiver slung across my back and deftly positioned it in my bow. I’d become quite good at this in the past several weeks; arming my longbow with an arrow quickly and without making a sound. I stretched the bowstring back and aimed the arrow’s tip at the creature, steadying my arms while trying to concentrate. With a twang, I released the string and fixed my face with an expression of satisfaction as the arrow pierced the mummified hide of the pocora. The creature squealed like a pig and fell to the ground, kicking and clawing and attempting to remove the hawthorn arrow. If I had used any other wood, the faelah might’ve stood a chance, but even as I watched the small monstrosity struggling to regain its feet, smoke lifted from where the hawthorn shaft burned through nonliving flesh. I crinkled my nose at the acrid smell and turned away. Generally, I didn’t like killing anything, but the faelah of Eilé were an entirely different matter. And they weren’t technically alive, either.
The creature’s screams ceased and it went still. I waited a few more moments before moving close enough to pull the arrow free. I always kept the arrows from my hunts. It wasn’t like I could go down to the local sporting goods store and ask for arrows made with hawthorn wood. I wiped it on a nearby patch of grass out of habit. Whatever remained of the faelah would already be gone, however, burned off by magic. I glanced back over my shoulder as I left the small clearing behind, but the pocora had already disintegrated into ash, its glamour no longer keeping it alive and whole in the mortal world. I sighed and turned my eyes to what was left of Matilda Dollard’s cat. I would pay her a visit later and tell her I’d found her pet’s remains in the swamp. Another poor victim of a coyote attack.
Clear, a bright thought said in my mind, forcing my thoughts away from the gruesome scene.
I shaded my eyes and glanced up into the eucalyptus leaves only to catch the brilliant white flash of a small bird of prey darting through them. She had been scanning the forest for more faelah. I grinned.
Did you catch anything? I sent to my spirit guide.
Meridian chittered and sent back a joyous, Tasty.
That would be a yes.
I heaved a deep breath and pulled my quiver back onto my shoulders. Mid-morning had become late afternoon and I knew Mom would be worried if I didn’t get back soon. After having confessed to my family I was Faelorehn, an immortal being from Eilé, the Otherworld, and that a vindictive goddess was out to get me, she had been a little more protective of late. I guess I couldn’t blame her.
Meridian finished up with whatever she had caught and then set her focus on accompanying me back to the house. The walk home took a good fifteen minutes, but I didn’t mind taking my time this afternoon. I had a lot on my mind, after all. Actually, there had been a lot on my mind since my junior year in high school when all of this stuff concerning the Otherworld got dumped on me like a ton of bricks, but for the past month I had even more to worry about.
I made my way back to the main trail leading out of the swamp and thought about what had transpired just before graduation. It sometimes made me sick with anxiety, but I couldn’t help that. The Morrigan had tricked me, once again to my chagrin, into thinking she meant to go after my family. A few years ago, she would have been happy just to kill me. Now that she knew I possessed more glamour than the average Faelorehn, she was intent on using me as her own personal supply of endless magic. She probably would have succeeded if Cade hadn’t stepped in. Cade . . .
A pang of regret cut through me and when I reached the spot in the trail where a fallen tree blocked my way, I leaned heavily against the rough trunk and pulled a well-worn note out of my pocket. The message wasn’t from Cade, but from his foster father, the Dagda. I unfolded the edges and began reading.
Cade is improving every day, yet he is still very weak. I know you wish to see him soon, but please give him a little more time and don’t cross into the Otherworld. The Morrigan has been lying low; no one has seen her lately, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t lurking in the shadows, waiting to cast her net. For now, you are safer where you are. Cade will come and get you as soon as he is recovered.
The note should have made me happy, and it did when I first received it a week and a half ago, but I longed to visit Cade so badly I ached. I needed to know he was safe and I needed to witness with my own eyes that he was healing.
I folded the worn paper into a perfect square and returned the note to my pocket, then climbed over the log and kept on walking. Last May I’d been all set to go to prom with the guy of my dreams, Cade MacRoich, the gorgeous Faelorehn boy from Eilé who appeared one day like some guardian angel to save me from the Morrigan’s faelah and to tell me all about my strange heritage. Unfortunately, on the day of the prom, we both got tricked into running headlong into the evil goddess’s trap. Only, Cade wouldn’t let her have me, and right before he took on almost a dozen of her monsters, he told me he loved me. And then he died.
I stopped for a moment and craned my head back and leaned on my longbow, soaking in the filtered sunlight trickling down between the leaves above. I shut my eyes and tried to tell the knot of worry in my stomach to go away. Cade had died, he died defending me and the trauma of such a terrible experience forced my power to surge forth, scaring the Morrigan away, at least for the time being. The sudden rush of my glamour had soon faded and the reality of what had happened slammed into me like a train. I was convinced my heart would tear itself asunder, for Cade had sacrificed too much.
Only after recovering from my hysterics did I remember Cade’s foster father, the Dagda, an ancient Celtic god-king, happened to own a magical cauldron with a reputation for reviving the dead. A frantic horse ride against a driving storm later and I dropped like a fly at the Dagda’s door, a lifeless Cade in my arms. I’d arrived just in time; Cade would recover. But he never got to hear me tell him I loved him, too.
I had returned to the mortal world, an emotional and physical wreck, only to finally confess the truth to my family: I was an immortal from the Otherworld, the daughter of a Celtic goddess and the high queen of Eilé, and one day I’d be going back to the world of my origins. Let’s just say after such an ordeal, I needed something to keep me distracted, to give me purpose so I wouldn’t lose my mind completely. Thus, I had taken up hunting for the faelah on my own. Heck, before the Morrigan’s attack, Cade constantly pestered me about practicing my archery and this way I could kill two, maybe three, birds with one stone. I was getting some much-needed practice in, I was keeping the swamp clear of dangerous faelah, and I was keeping my mind occupied. Yup, three birds.
I fingered the note in my pocket once more as I stepped onto the equestrian trail leading to my home. I hoped the Dagda was right; that Cade was recovering. I so desperately wanted to turn around and head for the dolmarehn in the heart of these woods, to travel back to the Dagda’s home and see Cade, but like the Dagda said, I’d be an easy target in the Otherworld. And I agreed with the other thing he’d mentioned as well. I had no doubt the Morrigan would be looking for me.
Gritting my teeth, I turned my mind away from those dark thoughts and picked up my pace. By the time I reached the end of the path, I welcomed thoughts of a shower and a sit down with a good book and some hot chocolate. Summer was in full swing, yes, but the coastal fog was already creeping in and the early evening would turn chilly. I planned on crossing our backyard and slipping in through my sliding glass door, but a barrage of young boys accosted me before I could even step foot on the lawn. Apparently my brothers had been waiting for my return.
“Meghan!” Logan whined as he rushed forward. “We wanted to go with you this time!”
He crossed his arms, and yes, actually stomped his foot.
I blinked at him and my other brothers as they gathered around me, a small army of Elams.
“Huh?” Despite my claims that my hunting ventures helped purge my mind of everything Otherworldly except the faelah themselves, my wandering thoughts still found ways to wrestle free of the bonds I’d placed on them. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. I’d been too busy reminiscing.
“We want to help you hunt!” Bradley offered, thrusting out a fist which happened to be clutching a small bow.
Oh. That. I cleared my throat and took a breath. When would they realize no meant no? I was still getting used to the fact that my parents and brothers knew about my Faelorehn blood. After keeping my identity a secret for so long, I found it easy to forget I had told them (and shown them) what my Otherworldly power could do.
I squatted down so I would appear less imposing to them. Hah, me, imposing . . .
“I’m sorry guys,” I said, feeling only slightly guilty. “But you can’t go faelah hunting with me. It isn’t safe for you.”
“You go,” Bradley put in.
I rolled my eyes. “I’m Faelorehn Bradley. I have magic, remember?”
Not that it would make any difference. Whatever power I managed to store up in Eilé during my last visit had most likely burned out after my battle with the Morrigan. I was running on empty and it would take another extended stay in the Otherworld to get me back up to a level where I could do some real damage. But they didn’t need to know that.
“And I’m glad you didn’t come with me,” I continued. “I encountered something really creepy today.”
And just like that, their scowls were replaced with wide eyes. “What?” Jack and Joey, the twins, whispered together.
I grinned, despite the fact that the encounter had been more ghastly than usual.
“Well, I’m calling the faelah I killed a pocora, but I’m not sure what it’s called in the Otherworld.”
They remained silent, waiting for me to continue. “It looked like a cross between a rabbit, a possum and a coyote, and I think it might have been mummified.”
I had explained early on, right after telling my family the truth, that anything concerning Eilé would have to be kept top secret. I made all my brothers double swear, spit and shake on it (tantamount to a blood oath, or in the Otherworldly sense, a geis). They were not to repeat a single thing they saw or heard to their friends or classmates. Having to keep this promise, and not being able to go on my hunting adventures with me, was practically killing them. So, whenever I came back from one of my faelah target practices, I distracted their disappointment with a detailed description of whatever I happened to kill. Worked every time.
“Did you shoot anything else?” Logan piped in, forgetting his previous irritation at being left behind while I got to have all the fun.
“No,” I said.
Their shoulders slumped, so I thought the conversation was over. I started to stand back up and nearly fell over when Bradley blindsided me with a completely different question.
“So, when do we get to meet your boyfriend?”
After regaining my balance, I blinked down at him. “What?”
“Your boyfriend,” he crooned, “the guy in the Otherworld you always talk about. When do we get to meet him? Or is he imaginary?”
I blushed and gritted my teeth. I did not always talk about Cade. Always thought about, yes, but I only ever talked about him with Mom, long after my brothers’ bedtime. Little, eavesdropping cretins.
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I grumbled, glaring at Bradley.
Then I paused. Or was he? Before the Cúmorrig had overtaken him, Cade had told me he loved me, but the last several weeks had given me plenty of time to think about it. Did he really mean it, or had he only said so because he realized he wouldn’t survive the fight? Did it mean he might have acted rashly? Of course, it didn’t change the fact that I loved him . . .
“Sure he isn’t,” Bradley snickered.
“I bet you let him go hunting with you,” Logan muttered.
I scowled at him again. I’d have to try and analyze my scattered thoughts later. “He’s my friend, and he’ll meet you guys when he’s better. He’s very sick right now.”
That’s right, because being brought back to life and recovering from what had killed you in the first place could be considered a sickness . . . sure.
To my immense relief, my younger brothers decided not to hound me about Cade anymore. We all headed back up towards the front of the house, but before we even got clear of the backyard, Meridian dropped from her perch in the eucalyptus trees above and came to rest on my shoulder.
The boys all started arguing and crowded in again, forcing me to stop so I wouldn’t trip over them. They absolutely adored Meridian. She used to use her powerful glamour to keep herself hidden from them, but now she understood it was safe to be seen and she no longer bothered with the disappearing act. Besides, I think she was rather infatuated with my little brothers as well, and I often wondered if she thought of them as her own little merlin chicks.
Chase game! Meridian sent as she chittered excitedly, leaping off my shoulder and darting around the backyard as my crazy brothers ran after her. She loved playing this game with them. Even Aiden, all too often happy with simply watching from the sidelines, joined in. My heart warmed at seeing him play like a normal boy, but a painful lump rose in my throat again. This was all temporary. I couldn’t stay with my mortal family forever.
Feeling rather morose, I reached into my pocket again and brushed my fingers against the thick paper of the Dagda’s note.
Be safe Cade and come back to me soon, I thought.
I turned to sneak back into the house, but the sudden presence I detected near my leg made me pause and glance down. Aiden. Apparently he was done playing chase. Yes, I would be leaving the family who took me in and raised me so I could live in Eilé, where I belonged. In Aiden’s own quiet way, he was telling me how we all felt about it: none of us wanted to let go. I wasn’t human, though; I needed the safety the Otherworld and its magic would grant me, especially now that my power had shown itself. Moving to Eilé would be hard, and I think I would miss Aiden the most, but I had to be brave.
Fighting the well of pain in my chest, I removed Aiden’s hand from my shirt and curled my own fingers around his. He looked up at me, his blue-green eyes trying to tell me something, but like always, his autism kept him from saying what he needed to say. Luckily, I’d become rather good at reading his face.
Taking a deep breath, I stood with him as my other brothers kept at their game with my spirit guide. I set my quiver down and leaned my bow against the house, then bent over and pulled Aiden into a rib-crushing hug.
“I know buddy, I know,” I whispered as he wrapped himself around me. I managed to hold on a little longer before a tear escaped. “I’ll miss you too.”
-Two-The next morning I woke up feeling groggy and slightly dejected. I didn’t know exactly when I’d be going back to the Otherworld, but I knew it was inevitable. I wanted to go, don’t get me wrong, and not just because it meant more one on one time with Cade. There had been something about feeling the full extent of my very own Faelorehn glamour that urged me to return, almost like a drug I couldn’t get enough of. Despite the terror and anguish I had felt when facing down the Morrigan, the whole experience had been exhilarating. It was almost as if the magic of Eilé itself was crying out to me; coaxing me to cross over into the Otherworld and soak it in like warm sunshine.
Yet, there was also that part of me that hated leaving my friends and family. Not that I would leave and never come back, but to not wake up and see my brothers every day? To find my dad reading his newspaper while the house erupted in chaos? To wake up without the smell of my mom’s cooking filling the kitchen? The ache that swelled next to my heart threatened to overwhelm me, but I quickly got a hold of it and banished it away. All children left their parents’ houses at some point in time, whether to go to college or start a life of their own. How was this any different? Okay, most young adults weren’t going to live in a different dimension full of magic, monsters and goddesses bent on destroying them, but hey, most people my age were human.
Sighing to dispel some of my negative mood, I rolled out of bed and headed to my shower. I took my time this morning, letting the steaming hot water pour over me, imaging it was washing away all of my worries. After the shower I brushed my teeth, combed out my unruly hair and threw on a pair of old jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt.
It was still foggy out and I planned to go down in the swamp to get some more practice in with my longbow. I wasn’t about to slack off, despite the fact that I’d found only the one faelah creature the day before. I located the torque and mistletoe charm Cade had given me on my desk, placing them around my neck as if they were pieces of armor. Ever since the day I’d returned from Eilé in late spring, I’d been wearing them almost constantly. I had been questioned by Robyn almost immediately about the torque (let's face it, the piece of jewelry kind of stood out and Robyn knew her Celtic stuff), but I had merely brushed her off and told her that Cade had given it to me. She was still the only one of my friends who had actually met him. Of course, she thought he was human, a conviction I wasn’t about to correct. Soon I'd have to tell them the truth, or at least some version of the truth, but for now I'd let them go on believing the lies as long as possible.
I sighed and placed my hands loosely on my hips, scanning the room for my spirit guide. Meridian, another gift from Cade, snoozed in the corner, making soft chirruping sounds as she slept. I grinned. I hated to wake her, but she was my bodyguard on mornings like these.
Meridian, I sent to her.
She snoozed on. I smiled and tried again.
She woke with a snort, well, her version of a mental snort. Up! she sent as she ruffled her feathers and tried to act as if she had been alert the whole time.
I laughed, threw my quiver over my shoulder, grabbed my bow with my left hand and held out my forearm to her.
Ready for practice? I asked
She landed on my sleeve, then crawled up my arm to settle herself on my shoulder, tucking her head back under her wing.
I turned towards my sliding glass door, expecting to see the fog-dimmed vista of our backyard and the eucalyptus trees that trailed down into the swamp. But something else was there waiting for me and my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. There, standing on the concrete slab that served as a small patio stood a huge, white wolfhound.
My bow thlunked to my carpeted floor as I dropped it, my eyes wide and my jaw hanging open in shock. The dog panted and scratched at the door, his tail wagging. But all I could do was stand there, frozen. The memories of the month before flashed through my mind: the Morrigan, the faelah, Cade dying, Fergus nowhere to be found. He had fallen somewhere during the battle, dying when his master had, and we’d been forced to leave him. But if he was here now, alive and eager to get my attention . . .
“Cade!” I cried out, barely even a whisper.
My senses returned to me in a rush and I bent down to scoop up my bow, nearly tripping over its length in my rush to get to the door. Meridian dug in with her claws as she got jostled about on my shoulder. I dove for the handle of my door, flipped the latch, slid it open and tumbled out. Fergus took a few steps to avoid me, but he wasn’t fast enough to escape the hug I threw around his great neck.
“I’m so glad to see you!” I proclaimed as he panted next to my ear.
I let go and he gave me a quick canine grin before trotting towards the horse trail. I didn’t even hesitate to follow him, my heart lurching once again when he didn’t stop at the oak tree to indicate Cade had left me a note. Could Cade really be here? I shook that thought from my mind before I tripped over myself in a jumble of nerves, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. My heart sped up even more. The last time I’d seen Cade, he’d been lying in bed in one of the Dagda’s rooms, barely alive. Would he be glad to see me? Would he regret what he had done? I bit my lip and tried to move faster to keep up with Fergus.
We came to the point in the trail where the path led over the small land bridge and between two thick rows of willow trees. On the other side was the small meadow where my normal, well, somewhat normal life had all started to go downhill. I passed it without giving the memories of my first meeting with the Cúmorrig a second thought. I walked a few steps further down the road, and then stopped dead in my tracks. There, leaning against a tall eucalyptus tree, stood a tall young man. Caedehn MacRoich.
For a few breathless moments I merely stood there, my eyes taking him in, my heart galloping in my chest as my emotions tried to settle. He wore the clothing of the Otherworld; brown leather pants with knee-length boots and a loose, cream colored shirt beneath a beautifully worked leather vest. Instead of the old trench coat he had worn when we’d first met, he wore a long green cloak lined with fleece, the hood thrown over his head. But I could see his face well enough. He was pale, but not as pale as he had been after fighting the Morrigan’s - his mother’s - monsters. His green eyes met mine and he smiled, but it was guarded, as if he was unsure of how I would react to his presence. He looked worn down, weary, older almost, but I had never seen anything or anyone more beautiful in my entire life.
Finally he spoke, only one word, but it was enough to make my scattered emotions burst forth.
“Meghan,” he said, his tone so quiet I barely heard it.
That was all it took. The sob that had been hovering in my throat broke free and I dropped my bow and quiver. Meridian took off in a flurry of white feathers and irritated chattering as I sprinted across the small space that separated us.
* * *