Conor Kelly and The Fenian King | An Excerpt

So sorry if anyone just received a blank post notification from me… somehow in the seconds between finishing this post and hitting the publish button, wordpress managed to lose my entire content. There have been some weird things going on at wordpress lately,,, gremlins in the machine?

Ali Isaac - Conor Kelly and the Fenian King

Hugh from Hugh’s Views and News has very kindly featured my book, Conor Kelly and the Fenian King as his Book of the Month… cue sparkly lights and glitter! Yaaay! Thanks, Hugh! In tandem with this, you can find the book at only 99c/ 99p on Amazon, and completely FREE on Smashwords and associated retailers. And now, here is an excerpt…


Chapter Forty Two – The Disappeared

the present day…

 

Conor coughed and spluttered as the dust rose in clouds around him, then admonished himself; his body and lungs were safe in his aunt’s little Micra at the bottom of the hill. As a free roaming spirit, he couldn’t be harmed by clouds of dust, or collapsing masonry, or landslides, or whatever it was that had caused Sidhe Finn to cave in.

But Ciara could. What if she was killed, crushed beneath a fallen orthostat? What if…

Conor felt waves of panic swell inexorably through him like the tides of the sea. He couldn’t find her. He couldn’t see her. Even with his spirit eyes and his supernatural senses, he couldn’t detect any sign of her presence. It was as if she had simply vanished.

But that was impossible. Maybe she had got up and wandered outside, dazed and confused. Maybe she had a head injury, and didn’t know where she was. She could be out there, floundering about in a state of bewilderment.

Oh my God! She could fall off the cliff and plunge to an untimely death in the quarry…

He had to get out, had to find her. He took another quick look around. Many of the orthostats had fallen inward, held up from the floor only by the central pedestal which supported the coffin. A couple of the ancient stones had cracked in two. The coffin had been smashed into matchwood, but Conor saw no evidence of bones. Fortunately, much of the loose rubble which traditionally comprised the infill between the chamber ceiling and the mound had been removed by Aylmer’s builders, and replaced with blocks and mortar, thus forming a secure foundation for the tower. The old mortar had cracked and crumbled in places, releasing some of its bricks, but had mostly held firm. The devastation was not as terrible as he had expected.

But his heart jumped into his mouth when he realised that one huge, carved orthostat had collapsed directly onto the spot where Ciara had crouched the last time he had seen her. Its fall had not been halted by the softness of a body beneath it; no pool of blood lay spreading on the ground around it. The relief Conor felt on observing that was short-lived. Where was she?

Beside the stone, the flagstone with the Ogham symbol lay smashed into several pieces. It had been lifted from its resting place, and placed beside a small pit. Which, Conor noted with disappointment, was completely empty. Had Ciara found the missing mouthpiece and removed it? Or had she lifted the flagstone to find only an empty space and a sense of despair? He had to find her. Where was she?

Convinced at last that the chamber was completely empty, Conor allowed himself to drift up through the ceiling and into the circular chamber above. The stairs leading down from the entrance had collapsed into nothing more than an unstable pile of rock. He floated over it and out through the devastated doorway.

It was dark. The weak wash of moon and stars showed Conor that the hillside was deserted. After the explosions and collapse of the tower, it was eerily silent, almost as if nature itself was shocked at this traumatic turn of events.

He wandered around the remains of the tower, dejected and overwhelmed with guilt. There was no sign of Ciara.

Am I to blame? Did I cause this with the ferocity of my lightning attack on the tower? Or was it the quarry? I’m surprised the hill didn’t collapse years ago after such extensive mining. Surely it was an accident just waiting to happen; we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time…weren’t we?

Pushing his way carefully between the yellow gorse bushes, Conor stood on the edge of the cliff and contemplated the drop. Was Ciara down there, broken and battered and bleeding? Far beneath him, a tear trailed down his face as, in the car, his inert body responded to his desolation.

The only way to find out was to leap down after her. Even knowing that he could not fall or be hurt, it took Conor a good few moments to find the courage to jump over the edge. He found it much easier to control his descent this time around. As the ground rushed up to meet him, he saw that the quarry men were running about in a panic. Alarms were sounding, people were shouting, but the drills were silent, and the trucks which transported rock and rubble lay abandoned.

Hmmm…looks like there’s been a bit of a disaster down here.

Conor levelled out a couple of metres from the ground and glided slowly along the base of the cliff, searching for Ciara. Eventually, elated, he had to conclude she had not fallen. His only other option was to search the path on his way back to the car. Perhaps she was already waiting there for him. With his spirits lifting, Conor retraced his journey. But Ciara was not there.

For what felt like the hundredth time, he wondered where on earth she was.

The car was waiting on the far side of the car park, just as they’d left it. Conor felt anxious now; for Ciara, and also for himself. His body was lying in wait for him on the back seat, but what if he couldn’t get back into it? He hadn’t stopped to contemplate how that part of the process was achieved. He might not be able to do it. What then? He had been outside of his body for quite a long time. He might not be able to readjust to its rhythms and limitations.

He went first to the front of the car, half expecting to see Ciara sitting there, impatiently waiting for him. She wasn’t.

What do I do now? Do I re-join my body, and wait? Or do I go out looking for her again? I’m really tied by my mobility if I re-enter my body at this stage. But the longer I leave it, the harder it’s going to get.

Conor wavered between his choices. Then the decision was snatched from him. When he looked in at the rear window, his body was gone.

smashwords-button  kindle-button


allen-collageAylmer’s Folly and Sidhe Fionn are real places. I visited them when I was researching for this book. You can read about them in my post, Almu | Home of Irish Legendary Hero Fionn mac Cumhall.


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I have been featured in Blackheath Dawn Magazine!

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I am the Guest Author featured in Blackheath Dawn Magazine today, and my Tir na Nog Trilogy is also represented in their Book Feature. So if you haven’t had enough Paddy’s Day fever yet, here is the link.

Irish Mythology | The Retreat of the Tuatha de Denann

Tree and reflection

For this week’s Monday Mythology, I have decided to give you a sneak peak into the opening of the third and final book of my Tir na Nog Trilogy, working title Conor Kelly and The Three Waves of Eirean.

This (unedited) extract is my telling of what happened after the Tuatha de Denann were defeated by the Milesians at the battle of Tailten, and were forced by trickery to retreat into their hollow hills. Although they still interacted with the mortal world well into Fionn mac Cumhall’s time (c C3rd AD), their time as Ireland’s rulers and Gods was over. For them, this was the beginning of the end, and the slippery slope of their decline into legend as the Sidhe.


Prologue – Denann’s Doom

four thousand years ago…

It was a wretched day. In the dark, blue-grey sky above, a shrieking wind tore water-sodden clouds apart, limb from limb. A long queue of people pressed slowly and dejectedly forward into the shadowy maw of a fissure in the mountain, clutching their few rescued possessions and the hands of their children. They consisted mostly of the very old and the very young, punctuated with the presence of the odd, injured warrior. The strong and able bodied were conspicuous by their absence. These were the pitiful remains of a people ravaged by war, defeated both in battle and in spirit. Recovery from such annihilation looked bleak.

Manannán stood and watched, his mouth pressed into a grim line of displeasure.

“I warned you mortals could not be trusted,” he muttered.

Beside him, Bodb Dearg, eldest son of the Dagda and newly elected High King, stirred from his silent reverie of sorrow and regret. “Aye, well that was long ago. Bridges were built and relationships formed since those dark days, connections strong and true that all thought unbreakable. None of us could have envisioned this.”

“You became complacent,” Manannán snapped, his eyes whorling alternately dark and light with anger, like the foamy-topped stormy seas of which he was Lord. “Humans have always envied and feared the Denann for their long life, their powers, their military prowess and grace, strength and beauty. It was a friendship doomed from the start.”

His companion bit back his own furious retort and shrugged, allowing his anger to dissipate up into the ether. What was the point of arguing? What was the point of anything, anymore? Their druids, their poets, their warriors, all their skilled crafts folk, every man and woman capable of fighting, yes even the children big enough to lift a weapon had been pressed into action. Their desperation had failed them. They were all gone. What chance had they of rebuilding? The mysterious knowledge which had once nurtured and sustained them was lost, had died along with those who had protected its secrets so well.

As a young man, Bodb Dearg had dreamed of one day wearing the King’s torc. Now, here he was, High King of the Denann, or what was left of them; a king without a land, his people once again homeless and displaced.

Generations ago, Nuada had led the Denann into Eire. Now he, Bodb Dearg, was fated to lead them away from the only home many of them had had ever known, tricked by the sons of Mil into a life of darkness below the gentle green hills of Ireland. It was not how he wished to be remembered by posterity.

“It’s still not too late.” The words encroached softly upon him, like the whisper of warm wavelets lapping on a soft, sandy shore.

He squared his shoulders and lifted his head proudly. “The Denann have chosen,” he said. His expression belied the trembling and uncertainty which fired within him, his voice sounding resolute as the great grey stones which guarded the Underworld’s entrance. “Many of us have kin here among the mortals. This land has become our home. We have given our bravest warriors to its defence. Our blood has watered its soil, our sacrifice has nourished its soul, our anguish floats in its air like breath. We can no more abandon it than we can our precious children. We have no choice, can’t you see that?”

The Sea-God cursed, his vehemence whipped up by his frustration, crashing down around them with the turbulent power of the three waves of Eirean. “Then there is only one thing left I can do for you,” he roared. “After that, I wash my hands of the stubborn children of Danu! Those of your people that wish it, I will take with me to my lands west beyond the ninth wave. As for the rest of you, you have chosen your fate, and I warn you, your persistence will not go well with mankind. They will fear and persecute you. They will defame you, and slander you. You will not like what they do to your memory, or your beloved land.”

With that, Manannán shook out his Cloak of Concealment and whirled it through the air. Bodb Dearg felt the leap and rush of powerful magic so ancient, even the Denann did not know the way of it. On the edges of his vision, a fluttering of mist began to creep forward, slowly obliterating the lie of the land beneath its white flimsy velvet.

Bodb Dearg caught his breath, choking back deep sorrow as he took his last hungry view of these sacred hills and vales. Who knew when it would be safe to venture forth in the future?

Manannán had done so much for them already. He it was, who had come to them in the depths of their despair, rallying and calling them to action, urging them to choose a leader and decide their fate, when their existence lay in tatters on the battlefield at Tailten. When the conquering Milesian leaders had mocked Denann integrity by choosing to rule that half of Ireland which lay above ground, dooming the defeated to what remained, he had found for them all the wildest, the most secret hills and valleys, where they could be shielded from human interference. There, they had built their palaces beneath the domed hills, their entrances to the forbidden land that Manannán had given them, the place to which mortals in time would attribute the label of ‘Otherworld’.

Now, as his final parting gift, he shrouded them in the Faeth Fiadha, the Master of Mist which would form the border between the mortal world and the magical realm, a boundary through which mortals would stray at their peril.

Bodh Dearg knew this new home of his, Sidhe Femen, with its lake at the summit, was only one of a number of sites around Ireland sinking into the fog of obscurity as the chosen Duns of his people, a network of fairy forts lost to human vision but connected by magic threads invisible and unfelt by dull mortal senses.

The dominion of the Denann was over, but Bodb Dearg knew that in their own way, the magical folk would always prevail.

 

The Forge of Seamus Dubh | An Excerpt from Conor Kelly and The Fenian King

Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina, Wikipedia.
Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina, Wikipedia.

Chapter Fifty Two – The Forge of Seamus Dubh

in the void of fairy time…

 

Conor leaned over the edge of his chariot and stared. He had never seen anything quite like it. Standing beside him, Ciara was equally entranced. Conor stifled a grin; she had been walking around in a daze with eyes as wide as dinner plates, and a mouth as big as a train tunnel ever since they had stepped through the portal.

“This is Tir na Nog,” she had told him at one point, as if he hadn’t yet worked it out, her voice wonky with wonder. “We really are here.”

His own feelings about the magical realm were rather more complex; he knew, as she did not, that Tir na Nog was every bit as dangerous as it was beautiful and enchanting.

After parting with Finegas in Ballyfin, they had gone in search of food to satisfy his body’s ravenous hunger. The only place open at that time of the morning was a roadside garage, but they had all devoured the stale sandwiches and chocolate as if they were a fine feast. They had then driven into the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, abandoned the car, and Conor had opened a portal directly into the clearing in Gori where Annalee’s cottage was located.

The hounds had gone hunting, anxious to renew their old skills and stretch their muscles in ways they had long been unable in the mortal world. Conor suspected they would all be eating wild boar that night for dinner.

A telepathic message to his friend Darra soon had a group of excited Sidhe milling about in the clearing, all delighted at his return.

Darra had hugged him like a long lost brother. “You have returned to us, and just in time,” he exclaimed. “During the weeks you have been away, Faolan has been in secret  negotiations with the City of Fal, and we ride to their aid within the week.” The young man’s cheeks were flushed with excitement.

“Weeks?” exclaimed Conor in dismay. “It’s only been a couple of days, surely?”

Darra gave him a puzzled look. “Your time-keeping is poor, to say the least. You want to get your body clock checked out, friend. Don’t you feel the passage of time in your blood?”

“Never mind that. We need to get to the forge, at once. We found the missing piece of the Borabu, and we need to join them back together.”

Darra gave a long, low whistle. “That is great news. I will send for a chariot.” He gestured to a boy hovering nearby. “Hey, Tiernan, fetch a chariot for the Treasure Seeker, will you?” As the boy skipped off, he turned back to Conor. “But the forge is very busy, I’m afraid. Seamus is in his element, I can tell you, preparing weapons and armour for war. He will not take kindly to interruptions of any kind, particularly to repair something as trivial as a musical instrument.”

Conor shivered. He was not looking forward to dealing with the angry Seamus Dubh again. “What is it with blacksmiths?” he complained. “I hear Goibniu was bad tempered, too. Is it something to do with the heat of the forge? I don’t know how I’m going to cope with the two of them on my case.”

“Ah, well rather you than me, my friend,” replied Darra sympathetically.

Conor eyed his new chariot with distaste.

“Try not to destroy this one, Treasure Seeker. We need it for the war,” Darra said with a wink at Ciara, as he bundled Conor unceremoniously into the vehicle.

“Destroy it? I think it’s more likely to destroy me; the suspension on these things is rubbish. I think it will be more than just my legs which are disconnected by the time we get there. I’ll be lucky if I have any teeth left in my head. Is it far?”

“Not far,” promised Darra, taking hold of the pony by its mane and leading it forward. Ciara walked beside the chariot. Conor had never heard her so silent.

He didn’t know quite what he had expected to find at the forge, but it certainly wasn’t anything on so grand a scale. In a vast clearing on the edge of the Sidhe village, the forge was a hive of activity. In the centre, a workshop stood open on all sides, containing not one furnace, but many.

As they drew closer, Conor saw that each furnace consisted of three low clay walls built around a fire in which the ore was smelting. The fourth wall of each furnace was pierced by a set of clay tubes attached to large bellows made from bags of leather.

“We call them ‘builg’,” explained Darra as he led them through. “See, some furnaces have two bellows being worked by two people alternately to keep up a steady flow of air; some have only one person working a double bellows with his feet. Thus are the furnaces enabled to reach the high temperatures needed to melt the ore.”

“Listen,” exclaimed Ciara in delight. “They’re singing.” The bellows workers sang as they pumped the bags, their complex harmonies twisting together and drifting with the smoke up into the sky.

Darra smiled at her pleasure. “Yes, it is how they keep their efforts in sync.”

The third member of each team, the smith, kept the furnace loaded with ore and fuel. Baskets of ore surrounded each furnace, along with piles of charcoal. These were constantly being replenished by workers who were producing the charcoal in fires beyond the forge, whilst others sat at large flat stones and broke the ore into small pieces with chisels.

“The ‘goba’, or smith, takes many years to learn his skills,” continued Darra. “Not only does he know how to obtain all the different metals from the rocks in which it is found, but he can tell just by the colour of the heated metal whether it is ready or not.”

They stopped to watch a particular team of goba at work.

“See here, as the metal melts out of the ore, the clinker that’s left is scraped out of the furnace. Watch now, as the goba lifts the glowing metal from the flames. That giant set of pincers he is using is called a ‘tennchair’.”

The smith set the lump of metal on a nearby anvil, where a team of three people stood ready and waiting with sledgehammers to beat it into shape.

“We call the great hammers ‘ords’. Shaping the metal involves much reheating in the furnace, and much cooling of the pincers in the ‘umar’, the water trough. The metal is turned, folded and refolded many times during the process, to strengthen it. It’s back breaking work,” explained Darra.

“And deafening,” added Conor.

Darra nodded. “Surely. Come, in the next cerdcha you can see how the metal is worked into tools and weapons.” He led them a short distance to the next workshop.

 “Here, molten metal is poured into clay or stone casts.” Darra indicated the smiths ladling liquid metal into prepared moulds. “You can see over there, some workers are heating and beating the raw cast products into their desired shapes, while beyond, still others give these objects their final polish and decoration. It can take many, many days, weeks even, to produce a single sword.”

“But it’s not just metal workers here, is it?” asked Ciara, taking in the hustle and bustle out in the clearing. “The whole village is involved.”

Darra laughed. “It seems like it now, because we are so busy preparing for the war.”

Conor noticed woodworkers scattered about the glade, carving, whittling and sanding, producing handles and spear poles and arrow shafts. Women and children were treading clay, mixing it with straw until it was the perfect consistency for building new furnaces. Men were chopping wood for making charcoal, and tending smoking fires where the charcoal was being formed. A chain of people were involved in fetching water from the nearby Silverstream. Conor supposed they got through quite a lot of water in the forge.

The heat was intense. Conor could feel the sweat trickling down his back and neck, just watching.

“The workers toil in short shifts, and are relieved by colleagues regularly,” said Darra. “They need to rest and refresh themselves often, for the work is so hot, thirsty and physically demanding.”

“Yes, I can see that,” agreed Ciara. “But, where does all your wood come from?”

Darra indicated the environs of the vast clearing. “Initially, we cleared the wood from this space to build the forge, and used the wood it provided. The forests of Tir na Nog are not fond of the use of fire, but it is permitted in times of war. In our current situation, the forest is dying off at a phenomenal rate, so we are using the dead trees to fuel our forges. When the war is resolved, we must plant many more to replace them.”

One figure stood out from all the rest; that of Seamus Dubh. He danced between furnaces like a whirlwind, shouting out orders, lending a hand here, offering advice there, inspecting the quality of the product, and praising a team when he was pleased with their handiwork. Judging by their reactions, praise was less easily come by than criticism, Conor thought.

“Father,” Darra called, leading them through the clearing. The old smith shaded his eyes and stared at them, frowning.

“So. You came back, then,” he said grudgingly to Conor as they approached.

Conor held up the horn. “The Borabu needs reforging.”

Seamus threw out his arm, impatiently indicating the flurry of activity in the clearing.

“You think I am going to stop all this for the sake of a horn?” he barked. “We go to war inside of a week. Come to me when the battle is over, and then we’ll see.”

Conor felt his anger rising, and struggled to hold it at bay. The old smith’s reaction was exactly what he had been expecting.

“Your war effort is as good as useless, if the Borabu is not repaired. You cannot hope to defeat the Morrigan. She is too powerful, and for all your magnificent weapons, you are not.”

Seamus Dubh snarled. “The magic I work here is of the highest order. I take the bones of the earth and transform them into shining metal through the application of fire. There is no greater magic than that.”

“Your magic is mighty indeed,” agreed Conor. “But I hear the Morrigan’s smiths are equally gifted. Your weapons may destroy your physical enemies, but the Morrigan works with magic more stealthy and ethereal than that. How will your blades of iron perform then?”

“We will kill her with them before she has a chance.”

“Don’t be a fool. You won’t get anywhere near her.”

The old smith and the disabled boy glared at each other. Around them, the activity slowed, as the Sidhe watched the stand-off with bated breath. Few came out victorious from a brawl with Seamus Dubh.

Conor played his trump card. “Do you want to be the one future generations will talk of as responsible for losing the war, simply because you were too full of your own importance to pay attention to a centuries old prophecy?”

Seamus snatched the Borabu from Conor’s hand. “This is delicate work. It calls for the services of a brazier, not a smith.” He thrust the horn back at Conor, and turned to his son. “Darra, take them to the brazier’s workshop. You may do the repair yourself; I have no one to spare, and your hand is suited to such work.”

Darra gulped. “But father, this work calls for a master, not an apprentice.”

The old smith rested his fists on his hips, and contemplated his son from beneath heavy lidded eyes. “True enough, but as you have reminded me often enough, we have no Master Smith here, so you will have to do.” Turning to survey his forge, he raised his voice. “The rest of you, back to work. The show’s over.” He strode off, yelling angrily, his voice soon lost in the clamour of hammer on metal and roar of fire.

“What now?” asked Ciara, looking worried. “Can you fix it?”

“Well, I can physically make the repair to the best of my ability, but whether that is good enough, I don’t know. Besides, there is more to this repair than just metal and rivets, and in that respect, I am sadly lacking,” replied Darra nervously.

“Leave that to me,” said Conor, rather more confidently than he felt. “That’s why we need this Tri de Dana. At least we now have a forge in which to work, and that’s a good enough place to start.”

They passed through the clearing to the far workshop where Darra commandeered a newly built furnace in the furthest corner of the building. “You two will have to work the bellows,” he said. Ciara helped Conor into position, then sat opposite.

“We don’t have to sing as well, do we?” she asked, her face a mask of horror.

“No, but it does help the time pass quicker,” replied Darra with a grin, as he showed her how to work the leather bag in a rhythmic manner.

“No it won’t. You haven’t heard her singing,” retorted Conor. “Anyway, I need to concentrate.”

“Why? What are you going to do?” Ciara looked suspicious.

“Imbas Forosnai,” announced Darra, before Conor could answer.

“Imbas for-what?” Ciara had replaced her look of suspicion with one of alarm.

“It’s something the Druids do, to contact the spirit world for advice or prophecy. ‘Imbas’ means ‘inspiration’, or ‘knowledge’, and Forosnai means ‘that which illuminates’.”

Ciara shook her head, her eyes pleading. “No, Conor, please don’t. Every time you try something like this, it all goes pear shaped.”

“It’s Ok. I’m not leaving my body, this time. It’s a kind of trance, that’s all. It’s just…”

“What?”

“I’m just not sure how to get started.”

“I hear they use sensory deprivation, and chew the raw flesh of a hound,” said Darra with gruesome enjoyment, to which Conor pulled a face of disgust. “But if you’re not willing to do that, we can always go and call on your best friend, old mad Orla Mor.”

“No way,” declared Conor emphatically. “I’ll work it out myself.”

He closed his eyes. Trance inducement. How hard can it be?

Congratulations to the Winners of my Book Competition!

Me and my book-babies
Me and my book-babies

The competition to win a paperback copy of my books, Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean and Conor Kelly and The Fenian King closed yesterday. There were plenty of entries, and the two winners were picked randomly by Feedaread, who have already posted out the prizes.


Congratulations to Anne Corcoran, who has won a copy of …

4TE front(3)print

 

 

 

 

 

 


Congratulations to Charlie McDevitt, who has won a copy of …

 

 

 

 

 

 


I hope you enjoy reading my books, and thank you to everyone who entered and took part. You can buy a paperback copy  if you like to do your reading as it was originally intended, or you can buy yourself a Kindle copy if you prefer.

 

The Friday Fiction | WIN a FREE Paperback Copy of BOTH my Conor Kelly Books!

Me and my book-babies

Me and my book-babies


Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean (Book One of The Tir na Nog Trilogy) and Conor Kelly and The Fenian King (Book Two of The Tir na Nog Trilogy) are now both available to buy in PAPERBACK! And to celebrate, I’m giving away a free paperback copy of each book.

To be in with a chance to win a paperback copy of Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean , all you have to do is follow this link to enter an easy competition.

If you’re after a paperback copy of Conor Kelly and The Fenian King, then all you have to do is follow this link.

Why not enter both? Closing date for both competitions is Sunday 2nd November.  Good luck!  Continue reading