Urban Fantasy / Celtic Fantasy
Date Published: April 1, 2019
Publisher: eSpec Books (Paper Phoenix Press imprint)
Mortal. Immortal. Musician. Mage.
On a journey from the boroughs of New York to the heart of Tir na nÓg, from innocence to the deepest darkest crevices of her soul, Kara O’Keefe found power and strength in the discovery of self. But with that peace came a hard truth. As a bridge connecting many worlds, none of them held a place for her.
She must find her own way, forge her own path.
To honor a vow to Granddame Rose, a matriarch of the Kalderaš Clan, Kara joins the Romani caravan, only to find herself even more of an outsider than before. While she strives for acceptance, and to honor her vow, little does she know she has once more become a lure to an ancient and deadly enemy, drawing danger into the midst of her unsuspecting hosts.
Once savior of the world, Kara must now save herself and the innocents around her.
She has come into her legacy, but where will destiny take her?
Based on the Eternal Cycle Series of Novels:
Includes six bonus short stories.
As Kara O’Keefe followed Sveta through the portal leaving Tir na nÓg she staggered and nearly fell to her knees. At the heart of the Land of Youth, in Goibhniu’s court of Mór Halla, she had not grasped the scope of the change the Naming had wrought in her, but upon crossing into the mortal world it became clear. In joining the pattern of her life to the Great Wall, she had also connected her soul to the race of Tuatha de Danaan. She had known this but had not felt the impact earlier, deep as she had been in their magical realm. Beyond those bounds, she felt the links like silken threads trailing back to each and every one of her new kin. Not restricting, just connecting.
To think months ago she’d been nothing more than a simple, if gifted, music teacher from Queens, New York, struggling to save the house she’d grown up in. About as far as one could get from joining the magical ranks of immortal elves.
It was one thing to know she bore a Sidhe soul, their second-most cherished one at that, but to feel the connection to her people…to know to her very core where they were, in rough direction and distance, if not precise location…the awe nearly overwhelmed her.
She drew a sharp breath and resisted the impulse to examine those threads more closely, in search of one in particular.
Sveta looked back at Kara’s gasp, concern and confusion mingled in her gaze.
“It’s okay,” Kara murmured. “I just stumbled.
“Thank you for waiting for me,” she added.
Sveta nodded but said nothing, clearly anxious to be away. Kara followed the young woman down the path leading to the Romani camp, fascinated by the long fall of her blue-black hair and the swish of her full skirt. As beautiful as it was with its bright colors and bold patterns, Kara couldn’t imagine wearing such a thing in the day-to-day. But this wasn’t New York or even Dublin. Things would be different among the Rom. Kara did not have the first clue just how different.
A little nervous, she reached up and fingered the rune-engraved copper pendant hanging from its leather lanyard around her neck. She wore it in memory of Granddame Rose, a reminder of both her promise and Rose’s sacrifice. The case containing Kara’s violin, Quicksilver, lay comfortingly across her back and the sprite, Beag Scath, had settled down to cuddle beneath the curtain of her hair. The rest of her scant things had already been taken to the caravan.
It felt odd to leave her parents behind. In many ways, she loathed to leave them or Tir na nÓg, but, even if not for her vow to Granddame Rose, leaving was the prudent thing to do. Everyone needed time to come to terms with this reordering of their reality—herself included.
Though born mostly human, Kara O’Keefe possessed a Sidhe soul. And not just any soul, but that of Anu, twin to the goddess Danu, from whom all other Sidhe had been reborn. It was difficult to come to grips with that, particularly when in the midst of the Tuatha de Danaan—the Children of Danu—not all of whom were pleased to welcome her as one of their own, despite evidence they could not refute.
After the Battle of the Knock—where the demigods Olcas and Dubh attempted to besiege the gates of Tir na nÓg—Granddame Rose had offered Kara a place with the Kalderaš Clan, an offer seconded by the rest of the clan on the night Kara had first played for them. Astounding, really, given the insular nature of the culture. Accepting that place now seemed the best way to distance herself, as well as to fulfill the vow she had made.
Rose’s grandson, Tony DeLocosta, had been possessed by Olcas. At the same time as Rose had offered Kara shelter with the Rom, she had also made her vow to free Tony. Physically, Kara already had when she defeated the demigods, but Tony’s soul remained in torment at the memory of the atrocities committed using his body, including the murder of his grandmother by his own hand, if not his will.
The Rom had already collected Rose’s remains…and her grandson. Kara had the sense that none of the clan were too happy about that, but the Rom took care of their own. That was one of the first things Rose had ever said to her: Family before all others.
The Rom clearly weren’t too comfortable about honoring their offer to Kara, either, but hadn’t denied her. She wouldn’t have blamed them if they had, given the turmoil that seemed to follow her. First in New York, then again in Tir na nÓg. She never invited it, but it came just the same.
As they approached the caravan, Kara was puzzled by the faint haze and scent of acrid smoke on the air. She reached out and gripped Sveta’s shoulder. “What’s going on? I thought we were leaving…”
The woman flinched and her gaze shrouded further as she turned to look back, her eyes darting to view the far side of the clearing. Kara spied a fresh cairn just this side of the tree line, and beside it, Granddame Rose’s traditional wagon, or vardo, engulfed in flame. One of the Sidhe stood beside it, containing the sparks and embers with a mage shield.
Kara’s brow dipped down and her grip on Sveta’s shoulder tightened. “What’s going on here…and where is Tony?”
“Dinlo gorgio,” —stupid outsider, Sveta muttered beneath her breath as she spat on the ground, her tone sharp and her expression offended. “That one is already tucked in his wagon, ready to leave. As we should be…” She looked like she might say more, but Markos, leader of the Kalderaš Clan, called out harshly in Romani from the head of the caravan. At the sound of his voice, Sveta shrugged Kara’s hand from her shoulder and continued on.
“Now is not the time,” she muttered. “We must be away before night falls.”
Frowning, Kara glanced back at the burning vardo. She waved farewell to the Sidhe guarding the flames then followed, climbing into the wagon Sveta indicated. Kara still felt the leader of the Rom scowling back at them from the seat of his vardo. Inside Sveta’s wagon, three young boys stared at Kara from the built-in bunks lining the walls. She jumped as the door closed sharply behind her, but the boys did not laugh or even giggle. They continued to watch her with dark, solemn eyes as the wagon lurched and began to move. Grimacing, Kara braced herself against the wall before moving to sit at a bench inside the wagon.
She wondered if claiming a place with the Kalderaš Clan had been wise after all.
The urge to howl gripped her. The need to turn back and fight shook her, but the fleeing one resisted. In their kind, the instinct for survival ran stronger than any other impulse. She broke the bond of her pack to preserve her kind through the young within her. As rarely happened in their long existence, one of the Bás fled lest their race meet its end. Slinking through the brush, she dropped her jaw and drew hard on the air. She tasted nothing of those who hunted her, nothing of choice prey, but something tinged the air temptingly close. Huffing slightly, she crept forward, parting the brush to peer out. A corporeal creature knelt in the clearing, arranging sticks in a peculiar manner before kindling a flame and settling into a sack upon the ground. The Bás narrowed her gaze and watched. This one was a pale shadow of their chosen prey. No power well. No essence. Just a hint of energy not worth the effort to claim, and most certainly not sufficient for nesting the Bás’s young. Still, the creature drew her. Tickled the memory of the Black One and how he had hidden his spirit within another like a whelp returning to the nest. The Bás were mostly creatures of spirit, not earth. Could she hide in such a manner? Such a concept filled her mouth with a foul, bitter taste, but the need to survive gripped her harder and shoved. The Bás dropped low and slinked forward. Muscles rippled in subtle waves, and a low trill sounded deep in her throat, unbidden. The Bás stilled and dropped her belly to the ground, but the not-prey did not bounce up or flee.
She watched and drew herself forward. Again, she sampled the air. This one had the faintest of flavors that spoke of shared blood with the Daoine Maithé—in their own tongue, the Good People. To the Bás they were the cursed ones; just as to the cursed ones, the Bás were the Namhaid—or enemy.
The not-prey likewise had no sense of self-preservation, unaware that death stalked nearby. The Bás crept closer yet. Close enough to touch. She ran light fingers over soft, weak flesh and rough coverings. She leaned forward for a closer sampling of scent. A gentle tugging came as spirit clung to spirit.
On impulse the Bás hissed and drew back into a crouch, razor-sharp teeth bared and claws extended. The creature slumbered on, faintly snoring, as if safe and secure in its own den. It took long moments for the Bás to calm. She moved about the clearing in a not-quite stalk, skin twitching beneath its pale, velvety pelt and eyes searching for other threats.
Slowly she settled, again squatting close to what had become now-prey, of sorts, for instinct now spoke to the Bás most insistently. Again, memories of the Black One rose. Might the Bás hide within, as he had? Reaching out, she laid a hand to the other’s flesh, once more felt the tugging of their spirits as they twined. Following an impulse, she lay herself down upon the slumbering one, form aligned with form. The now-prey twitched as if deep in a dream. A moan flowed out on labored breath just tinged with fear. Limbs thrashed in jerking, uncoordinated motions. The Bás’s purr increased as the now-prey sought to free herself from the melding. Too late, the hunter murmured as she gripped that captured soul tight and sank deeper into the other’s body. She savored the bite of her host’s panic as they became one.
About the Author
Award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com).
Her published works include six novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, Between Darkness and Light, and Eternal Wanderings, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and In an Iron Cage. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.
In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.
Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail and three extremely spoiled cats.