by Judie Chirichello
Copyright ?2003 by Judie Chirichello
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Published by Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 6280 Crittenden Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana. Copyright 2003, Judie Chirichello All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Mary (Leahy) Moynihan
12-22-1902 (Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland)
03-27-1984 (W. Hartford Connecticut)
To the members of the Paradise Bar Critique Group: Dr. Don-"I like it and I'm keeping it"-Argo, Jim Harris and his color-coordinated editing style, and Captain George Harrison “It really happened that way"Reid.
I will be forever grateful for their constructive criticism and liberal use of red ink. To my steadfast critique partner Jonell Kirby, for her honesty and female perspective. To Cricket Pechstien for her knowledge,
encouragement and advice. To my editor, Karen Babcock for her attention to detail and infinite wisdom.
Learning to fly can be hard work.
Thanks for the wings, guidance and patience.
Thank you to my husband Carmine for understanding my need to pursue my dream even when doing so meant putting up with dirty dishes in the sink, fast food for dinner and hearing me say, “Just one more sentence", -a lot! To my children, Angela and Carmine for putting up with their mother “the writer", not that they had much choice. To my Aunt Marygail
for reading my very first, rough draft manuscript and still encouraging me to keep writing. To the members of the Space Coast Writer's Guild, the many generous writers I have met along the way, to my friends, and to my many co-workers and library “Friends” throughout the Brevard County Library System, especially June Bell, Rita Fetterhoff, and Evelin Reid-thank you for your friendship, support and honesty. You are my wind.
Thank you to Orlando Sentinel Op-ed page editor Michael Murphy, for giving me my first break, the chance to spread my wings, and for the space to soar.
Without a place to fly, what's the use in having wings?
And a special thank you to Linda Eberharter
for turning my dream into a reality.
The view is great when you're flying high on the wings of a fulfilled dream!
St., George's Channel
off the Coast of Eire (Ireland)
An agonized cry shattered the calm. The grisly sound lingered, its unspoken promise of agony and despair seeming to echo through the night sky like a Banshee's mournful wail.
As Galynne MacFarlane lay sprawled on the crowded deck of the wayfaring vessel Leachlainn, straining to bring forth the precious life from her exhausted body, she refused to believe herself capable of producing
such an ungodly sound. Aye, denial and resolve had gotten her through so far, but she had to face facts; female pride and determination had their limits.
Even Galynne's unruly mane of vibrant, auburn curls appeared defeated as wet clumps of hair clung to her head, face and shoulders like russet-colored seaweed. Her damp woolen plaid no longer offered protection from the elements, and her skirts lay bunched beneath her, soiled with an offensive combination of bodily secretions. Fleeing her homeland in the dark of night due to the threat of a Norse invasion had been difficult enough. Enduring twelve hours of labor amidst a crowd of weary kinsmen and strangers was taking its toll.
At least the tingling sensation in her thighs had ceased. The exposed flesh had finally gone numb, and for this alone she was thankful. As if escaping Norse raiders is na‟ bad enough? Curse the dreaded Fin-gael!
Now me own child refuses to cooperate. Indeed! What have I done to anger the gods, so? What will become of us all?
White light flashed in Galynne's mind as if in answer to her thoughts. She recoiled from the intensity, then squeezed her eyes shut and bore down. Blurred colors and shapes melded in her mind's eye and she knew it was only a matter of time before they developed into sharp images, clearly depicting the future. It always happened that way; her abilities as a Seer relied on such vivid, foretelling visions. This night, however, Galynne resisted her gift of divine knowledge. She knew it was a selfish and lame attempt, at best, to forestall her own, tragic fate. Death seemed inevitable.
Galynne's husband, Kendahl, sat holding her close while supporting her back. “You're doing fine, love. A strong, bonny lass you are. Try to
hold on. Just a bit longer, now.” He brushed a kiss against her temple.
Galynne sighed, thinking it impossible to love him any more than she did at that instant. Aye, at times like these, his brutal, Highland-warrior image paled in comparison to the love and devotion expressed in his tender actions.
“Spread your legs, lass. Wider!” Nedda demanded, dragging Galynne's thoughts back to reality. The aged mid-wife sat perched between Galynne's thighs. Two more women, both strangers to Galynne, firmly clasped her knees, spreading her legs wide. The other weary passengers crowding the ship's deck had long-since ceased to matter. Aye, modesty was the least of Galynne's worries.
The cramps seizing her back and womb were still gaining momentum. Unfortunately, her progress had slowed and her stamina was failing. Breathing deeply, she tried to relax, but the lingering scent of salt-laden air made her queasy stomach churn in protest. The ship's constant rocking motion only added to her misery. The birth of her second child looked grim at best. Even worse, Galynne believed that a hostile
essence was drawing nearer.
Calling upon her innate Sidhe-magic, she freed her spirit, releasing it into the universe.
Almost immediately, the cold, dark atmosphere seemed to penetrate her soul, chilling her to the marrow and invading her spirit. The threatening entity was too strong to be ignored, but its essence managed to remain concealed as if purposely eluding her efforts.
Opening her eyes, she glanced up at the heavens. Could me powers be failing?
Dense fog cloaked the evening sky like a death shroud, obscuring the waning, crescent moon and the eternal, twinkling light of ever-present stars. The thick misty air felt heavy, almost oppressive, and Galynne realized that the gloomy atmosphere suited her dismal mood. When the gripping pain seized her womb again, she moaned, thrashing her head from side to side. The unrelenting cramps twisted her gut like a falcon's mighty talons tearing her flesh from the inside out. The desire to surrender festered within her for a moment before her maternal instincts won out. Inhaling deeply, she held her breath and pushed. Kendahl eased her forward. “That's it, love. You can do it. Push,” he said.
Galynne knew better. She no longer felt comforted by the familiar timber of Kendahl's deep voice, or the distinct, soothing sound of his Highland burr. His hands felt suddenly tense—no, demanding. His praise proved
disheartening. Galynne groaned and leaned back against Kendahl's chest. “'Tis no use.” She shook her head. “Your child simply refuses to cooperate."
“Me own child, alone, is he now? „Tis a true miracle, indeed,” Kendahl said. “Och, before you know it, you'll be cradlin‟ our lusty bairn in your arms. Aye, we eluded the Fin-gael, and soon we'll all be safe in Wales.” He pressed his lips to her cheek and hugged her close.
Kendahl's optimism, warmth and tenderness touched Galynne's heart. She tried to savor the pleasant moment, but a chilling sense of trepidation invaded her soul. She gasped, and looked up, her gaze frantically scanning the horizon. Though a wall of dense fog obstructed her view, she sensed an unearthly, spectral presence lurking beyond the gray mist. Closing her eyes she cleared her mind of all thought.
Her body grew tingly all over, as if needles were prickling the surface of her skin. The sensation confirmed her already nagging suspicion. Black magic! Galynne trembled. “Dear God,” she mumbled, knowing that in her weakened state, her white spell-craft would be impotent against such demonic sorcery.
“Be brave, love,” Kendahl said. He stroked her cold, stiff arms. “Surely, „tis almost over now."
“Aye.” Looking down, Galynne caressed her stomach. “One way or another,
it will be over soon enough."
“Do na‟ despair, so. You can do it. I know you can."
“Nay.” Galynne shook her head in protest.
Kendahl gently grasped her chin and forced her to look at him. “You can, I say. A hale, hearty lass you are. And a fine healthy lad we'll have, indeed. He's just a wee bit stubborn. Why, I'll wager he's got a full head of red hair just like you. And a temperament to match.” He smiled and winked.
Galynne managed a wry smile for Kendahl's benefit. “You must surely be speaking of me sweet, gentle nature,” she said. Then she winced suddenly as her stomach grew harder. “Damn and blast!” She squeezed her eyes shut as the grinding cramps intensified. Clutching Kendahl's plaid in her hand she writhed against the pain, denying the urge to scream. When her cry of sheer agony finally rent the air, however, Kendahl uttered such a vulgar string of curses that Galynne's eyes grew wide and her mouth fell open.
She panted breathlessly and blinked up at him, her subsiding pain momentarily forgotten. After all, Kendahl had survived many fierce battles and witnessed much bloodshed. He was a mighty, Highland warrior who relied on his even temper and nerves of steel—except, apparently,
when it came to the birthing of his own children. She still remembered experiencing an odd sense of pleasure from Kendahl's distraught behavior, nearly five years earlier, during the birth of their daughter, Seerah. At the time Galynne had found it most satisfying to learn that, in their own way, men suffered through the birth process as well. Now, she found the concept thoroughly heart-warming. She sighed, knowing how fortunate she was be to be loved so completely.
Then her womb contracted again.
Galynne glared at Kendahl and practically tore the wool plaid from his back. “Damn your virile rod and fertile seed to the Devil!"
The color drained from Kendahl's face, an astonished look of pure disbelief momentarily freezing his expression. “I ... me ... squeeze me hand, love.” He held his hand out to her.
Galynne sucked in a deep breath and nodded. She released his plaid and clutched his hand. Then she looked deep into his eyes, hoping to find the strength she so desperately needed.
“I've got you.” Kendahl stared intently back at her as her crushing grip tightened about his fingers.
Galynne pushed until her lungs burned from a lack of air and Kendahl's pained expression blurred before her eyes. When the punishing cramps finally subsided, she could barely hold up her head. “Seerah? Where's Seerah?"
“She's safe with Izebeth, love. Remember?” Kendahl stroked her cheek. “'Twas a wise choice to send them on ahead, I'm thinking. Your mother
would have her hands full trying to keep Seerah from you now. And I promise, I'll bring them both to you the moment we set foot in Wales. Aye, we'll all be safe together, soon enough,” he vowed.
Galynne replied with a slow accepting nod, but Kendahl's optimism and compassion only added to her misery. She wanted nothing more than to gift him with a fine, healthy son. She also yearned to arrive safely in Wales, and to be reunited with her mother and young daughter. Unfortunately, Galynne knew better; Black magic was difficult enough to oppose even under the best conditions. Deep in her soul, Galynne knew that she would never see the coast of Wales or watch her children grow to maturity. Even so, there was a much greater issue at stake. The integrity of the Light must be protected at all costs. But how? What can I possibly do now? Here? Tears trickled down her cheeks as she released a shuddering breath. “Th-there's nothing, n-nothing else
I can do."
“'Tis all right, love. I'm here with you. All will be well,” Kendahl said.
Despite his calm words, Galynne sensed his distress deep in her soul. Aye, his unspoken fears of losing her were obvious from his tense demeanor and pacifying tone. His fears were also more valid than she cared to admit. And time was running out. Her contractions were coming one after another now, with scarcely a moment's rest in between. Yet she no longer cried out. She was simply too tired. “Nay, Kendahl. I can na‟ go on. I...” Galynne moaned with despair as the pains began building again.
Kendahl glanced at the mid-wife, his expression a telling combination of compassion, worry, and pure helplessness. “God's blood! How long can this go on, Nedda?"
Nedda looked up and sighed. “The poor lass. She's overly fatigued, and
the bairn is quite large, I'm afraid."
Galynne felt the muscles in Kendahl's lean body tense, as if his nerves were stretching to their breaking point. But Kendahl lent no voice to his obvious indignation. Instead, he took a deep calming breath. “You
can do it, love. Just a wee bit longer, now,” he said.
Galynne clutched his arm. “Nay! I beg of you. Let me die. I can na‟ go on. Even if I could—'tis useless. „Tis me fate, I'm afraid."
Tears glistened in Kendahl's eyes as he gazed down at her. “Hush, me
darlin'. Do na‟ speak so. The fates would never be so cruel. I could na‟ bear to live without you. Please, you must try.” He stroked her matted hair.
Galynne looked away from his pleading gaze and glanced pensively at the horizon. The damp, static air stirred ever so slightly as a cold essence encompassed her spirit. She believed that it was only a matter of time before the hands of death would come for her, and she prayed
that the gods would show mercy by swiftly ending her life. Reaching up, she caressed Kendahl's cheek. “Pray, forgive me?"
Kendahl clasped her hand tightly in his own. “Nay, you must go on. If na‟ for me, for Seerah and our unborn child."
“'Tis no use.” She withdrew her hand.
Kendahl glanced at Nedda. “Do something!"
“There be nothing I can do now. „Tis obvious she's already given up. The poor gel.” The old woman shrugged.
Galynne closed her eyes, surrendering her soul to the mother goddess Anann. “Thy will be done,” she whispered.
Kendahl grasped Galynne's shoulders and shook her. “Nay! You'll na‟ be givin‟ up, I say. God's eyes! How could I ever have loved such a pathetic creature?"
Galynne shivered in response to his condemning glare. Aye, she understood his fury and frustration, but not his brutal wrath. Her bottom lip trembled and she lowered her head as tears filled her eyes. Kendahl shook her again, forcing her to look at him. “Fine! Die if you wish. Simply lie down and give up so I can wash me hands of you. But, you'll na‟ take me child with you!"
She blinked at him. “Your child? Simply give up? I've labored for nearly twelve hours. You have no idea.... Why, I...” she faltered, moaning as a cramp seized her gut.
“I see his head!” Nedda declared. “He's got a mighty big head, he does. Push, m'lady. Push real hard now."
“Forget it, Nedda. She's right. She can't do it,” Kendahl said. “Just let her die so I can go about finding me a new wife. Aye, a strong, healthy, Highland lass who knows how to bear a man sons. Indeed, I should have expected as much from such inferior stock. „Tis no fault of her own, but the mix of Irish and Welsh blood, added to her pagan, Druid beliefs. Aye, her inferior ancestry is to blame for producing such feebleness."
“Inferior?” Galynne glared at Kendahl. “Pagan beliefs? Why, you
ungrateful, swaggerin‟ ... Scot bully. I should turn you into a ... a...” She grunted and bore down with all her might.
Kendahl held her tightly.
“Good, good. Here he comes, now, he does. That's a good gel,” Nedda praised.
When the infant's head emerged, the mid-wife gently cradled it in her palms, helping to ease the child's way into the world. “It's ... a boy,” she cried softly, but her words held no joy.
After tying the umbilical cord, she cleared the wee babe's mouth and nose. Next, she worked fervently, poking, prodding, and even pinching his blue-tinted limbs.
Galynne collapsed against Kendahl with a muffled groan, her body
drooping like a rag doll. Her gaze settled on the tiny lifeless body she had already come to love, and she felt suddenly empty. “Forgive me, love.” Kendahl tenderly kissed Galynne's forehead.
Soft, howling wind echoed in the distance like a tortured spirit. Churning waves slapped lazily at the ship hull, causing the aged wood to creak in rhythmic defiance. The eerie night-sounds seemed to grow louder with each passing second, and Galynne felt certain that she would die of heartache as she watched Nedda bundled the lifeless babe in swaddling clothes.
When the muffled noise finally broke the strained silence, everyone froze; the frail cry sounded strangely familiar, almost like the distant bleating of an angry lamb.
Looking down at the bundle in her arms, Nedda tugged the swath from the child's face.
Kendahl squeezed Galynne's shoulders. They glanced at each other, their hope-filled eyes wide and questioning. When they turned to Nedda, her expression was a mix of disbelief and stunned fascination. “Praise be, m'lady,” Nedda croaked. She issued a brief, confirming nod and held the precious bundle out to Galynne.
Galynne stifled a sob and held her trembling arms out to accept her wailing son. “Praise God."
“And stubborn, female pride,” Kendahl whispered.
Galynne elbowed him in the ribs. “And foolish male trickery—knave."
“Enchantress.” He kissed her cheek “Soon, we'll reach Wales. Then, all
will be well.” Kendahl brushed his thumb across the infant's chin, then he kissed Galynne on the lips.
Galynne sighed contentedly, snuggling against his chest as her eyes remained riveted on the tiny perfection of her son's red, wrinkled face. He rooted against her bared breast until his tiny lips found her nipple. As he suckled greedily, she felt blessed indeed. However, a nagging fear remained in the pit of her stomach; she had not perished during the birth. The threat of impending doom still lingered. Closing her eyes, she finally willed the foretelling vision to come to her. Galynne trembled, tensing as the vivid premonition swiftly developed in her mind's eye. She saw the Norse ships descending upon the Celtic crafts. Then the raiders attacked, ravaging everything in their wake. The violent impressions of death and destruction filled her with an overwhelming sense of dread because she knew the images would soon come to pass. She also knew that nothing short of death would deter the evil beings who stood motionless in the dark, anxiously waiting for their prey. “Seerah,” she whimpered.
“Seerah be safe enough with your mother. You're still shivering.” Kendahl pulled his plaid closer about Galynne and kissed her cheek. “Tell me, honestly, how do you fair, love?"
Galynne snuggled closer, trying to find warmth in his comforting embrace. “I ... I'm a wee bit tired, don't you know?"
“Aye. „Tis surely understandable. But I know you well. Something else troubles you.” Kendahl tilted her chin up and looked her in the eye.
“You know in your heart that I would never treat you so cruelly, unless ... I didn't mean—"
“Aye.” Galynne held her fingers to his lips, silencing him. “I know."
Kendahl caught her hand in his and kissed her fingertips. “What, then?"
Galynne glanced at the child. While he nursed contentedly, sorrow and despair seeped into her spirit. “'Twas a grueling ordeal. Though „tis over now, I'd feel better if I knew how Seerah and Izebeth were fairing. Seerah will be devastat—uh, disappointed."
Kendahl frowned. “We will all be together soon enough. And I'm certain Seerah will forgive us for missing her brother's arrival the moment she sets eyes on him. But ... you are keeping something from me, Galynne. I know you too well. Something else is troubling you"
Galynne smiled and batted her eyelashes with feigned ignorance. “Troubles? What troubles could I possibly have with me fine, handsome husband and strapping son by me side?” She sighed wistfully, trying to appear serene and content. “He'll be needin‟ a name, now. But, not just any name will do."
Kendahl cocked his brow at her as if seriously considering her words. Then, glancing at his son, he smiled like the proud father he was. “You can na‟ fool me so easily. Aye, he's a strapping lad, just like his
“Mmhmm, just like his da,” Galynne said. “Handsome, stubborn, and greedy, too. Why, there's no denying he's yours. Just look at the way he cleaves to me bosom.” She kissed Kendahl's chin.
“I love you, too.” Laughter rumbled deep in Kendahl's chest as he held her close and nuzzled her neck.
Galynne felt guilty for deceiving Kendahl. She knew what the fates held in store for them. The dark energy was closing in. Soon her family, as well as her people, would suffer at the hands of the dreaded Fin-gael; the deadly images of the Norse raiders that she'd witnessed moments ago had been vivid, their goal clearly outlined. The true prophecy had been set in motion, and nothing, not even her full, unfailing powers could alter the future now.
“What say you to Kevin?” Kendahl asked.
“Hmm? Kevin?” Galynne said, “Kevin, who?"
“'Twould would be a fine name, I'm thinking."
Galynne frowned at Kendahl. “Name?"
“For our son? „Tis what you were just thinking so earnestly about, was it na'?"
“Oh, aye!” Galynne nodded. “A name for our son, indeed. Kevin, you say?
Hmmm, one who is gentle. Though „tis sweet, I rather like Anwil. It means beloved."
“Aye, and beloved he is, but ... Anwil MacFarlane? It has no ring.” Kendahl shook his head. “I know. Dempsey."
“One who is proud, aye.” Galynne nodded, smiling half-heartedly. “'Tis
fair, but Dempsey MacFarlane „tis na‟ exactly what I was after."
Kendahl scowled. “Naming a wee bairn is harder than I thought.” Glancing down at his son, he sighed. “However, there is one name I was quite partial to ... before I gave up me childish beliefs in witches and fairies."
Galynne slanted him a dubious glare.
“Now that I know better.” Kendahl chuckled. “I think Boyce would be fitting, indeed. Boyce MacFarlane, now that be a good stout name befitting his ancestry."
Galynne glanced down at the child. “From one who dwells in the woods. Boyce. Aye. „Tis fitting and proper, indeed."
“He will accomplish great things,” Kendahl said.
“Aye.” Galynne closed her eyes and savored the tranquil moment, knowing it would be brief. She also knew that if the evil forces prevailed, her ancestors, the Tuatha De Danann, would suffer for all eternity beneath the wicked and oppressive underworld forces. She could only pray that her efforts to pass the true power of the Light to another would prove successful. Now, her own fate, and the survival of the entire population of immortal beings, depended solely on her five-year-old daughter.
Galynne breathed deeply. May Dagdha keep you safe, Seerah. * * * *
A woman's shrill scream suddenly pierced the air.
The shriek permeated the atmosphere as the Norse raiders attacked with a vengeance.
Holding her fretting child close, Galynne sat unmoving as if detached from the scene. She watched the battle unfold for the second time, knowing that this time it was real, not merely images in her mind. Their dark forms barely visible, the Norsemen swooped through the murky darkness like ghostly pirates. Even before the first battle cry had pierced the air, Galynne knew that the destiny of all those present had been sealed; evil forces were in control of the universe now. Everyone whom she cared for would suffer greatly before her true destiny could be fulfilled. Sitting huddled in the shadows, she glanced at Boyce. There still be hope for both me children. I must find a way. But how? As Kendahl stood valiantly before her, fending off the enemy, Galynne glanced desperately about, hoping to find the answer. That's when she spied Nedda.
The mid-wife's body lay face up, as still and limp as death itself,