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A Witch’s Life

An Irish Witch Romance

Leigh Ann Edwards

 

 

A Witch’s Life

Copyright © 2018 Leigh Ann Edwards

Smashwords Edition

The Tule Publishing Group, LLC

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN: 978-1-947636-87-3

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Dedication

I would like to dedicate book 5 in my series – A Witch’s Life to the many treasured female friends I have been so fortunate to “gather” through the years. I have always been a bit hesitant to mention friends in my acknowledgements for fear I might cause hard feelings by neglecting to mention someone, but at the same I want to recognize your importance in my life.

We probably all have those friends who have been there with us for a time, as it is often said… for a reason, or for a season…those who were once very close. Perhaps someone moved away and we didn’t maintain the friendship, or we simply drifted apart over time. Not that they didn’t mean very much to us or that they won’t always hold a significant place in our memories, but now we have lost contact.

Because including all of those friends would make this dedication far too lengthy, I have decided to simply mention the names of the friends who have been in my life and stayed in my life for years, through thick and thin from the time we met.

I am not including relatives in this dedication even though some of my dearest friends are my daughters, sister-in-law, and cousin. This list of friends isn’t connected to me by blood or by marriage.

To Vicki, my first and longest friend. We met as pre-school children and shared many happy, and some not so happy times as children and teens. You were like the fifth sibling in our family. It is important to know there is someone from my childhood who will always remember when…who I can giggle and cry with and reminisce about the simpler times growing up in our amazingly special little town of Medora.

To Nancy, my best friend through our junior high and high-school/teenage years. We shared so much laughter and had many conversations trying to figure out what life was about and what it might hold for us. Even though we usually only see each other once a year, it is always like we are fourteen again, and I love that.

To Brenda, in Neepawa, my dearest friend through the years when our children were young, we kept each other sane and I adore the memories we made. Though distance keeps us apart, when we are together, it’s as though no time has passed.

To Marlene, Betty Lou, Janis, Donna, Shirley, Sandi, Tallie, Kelly, Linda, and Randi, my Alberta friends… listed simply in order of when we met. I am grateful for the special and unique relationship I have with each one of you. You all hold a very special place in my heart for the many times and ways you’ve supported me in my life.

To Linda, although we became close through our grief and immeasurable sadness in losing Darla, you have become a cherished friend. To share the memories of her, to be able to laugh and cry in the same moment without judgment no matter how much time has gone by…there are no words except thank you and “ditto”.

There are so many inspirational quotes and lovely clichés about friends, but I simply want to say I am so very glad all of you have been on this wonderful journey with me!

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

The Irish Witch Series

About the Author

Acknowledments

Once again, I would like to sincerely thank, Meghan Farrell, Michelle Morris, and Sarah McDonagh at Tule Publishing. It is very reassuring to know each of you are there to answer my numerous questions and assist me in so many ways. Even though this is book five in my series and you would think I might have this all down pat, inevitably there is always something that I need extra help with. I am very appreciative of all you do.

To my content and copy editors, Sinclair and Monti, I thank you both for seeing my manuscripts with fresh and experienced eyes, and assisting me to make my stories better.

To Ravven, your covers are beautiful, and I remain in awe of your creative talent. I am beyond thrilled with how aptly you have visually brought Alainn and her world to life.

To my wonderful family, though I may not actually say it often, I truly do acknowledge your continued support especially when I stress over time constraints and deadlines or obsess about my struggles with technology. Thanks for listening, helping with sales and promotions, attending book launches and just being there for me.

To my amazing friends, please see the dedication page.

To the loyal fans of The Irish Witch Series. Thank you. I am really so very happy you continue to be invested in Alainn and Killian and their many joys, sorrows and adventures. Please recommend the series to friends and fellow readers. I welcome your support and I hope you enjoy A Witch’s Life.

Chapter One

Ireland 1536

The night air pulsed and crackled with mystical enchantment as Alainn O’Brien soared through the star-filled sky. She rode upon the horse that had mysteriously transformed into a winged-creature capable of flight during this magical time of Samhain. The enormous golden moon hung low in the sky, illuminating the surroundings below. Alainn inhaled the unusual yet comfortingly familiar scent upon the air, the enticing smell of pure and powerful magic.

She glanced far below at the wonderment of the night as they glided past the rolling hills, gentle valleys, and craggy cliffs, all clearly evident by the light of the bright autumn moon. She was awed by the moonlight glistening upon the calm sea, and she reveled in the beauty and the bewitching magic all around her.

The creature simply flew on and Alainn was both unaware and uncaring of how much time had passed as they continued their enchanting magical flight. Her long blonde unbound hair was tossed about in the wind as they ascended. Though they were now far above the land, the air remained unusually warm. The shrill sound of a night owl calling out from somewhere below finally pulled her from her trance-like state. She was startled by a voice.

“Where is it you would desire to go to this night, young Alainn?”

“You are capable of speech?” Alainn replied to the horse in disbelief.

“You seem perfectly willing to accept that I have magically produced wings and am now able to fly, yet find it difficult to believe I can speak?”

“Well I did sense from the first time I set eyes upon you that you possessed magical abilities, but I admit they far surpass what I afore believed was possible here in the human realm.”

“But it is Samhain, so much is possible in all realms. But, now you must tell me where are we off to this night? You summoned me to you so I would presume it was not simply to enlist me in escaping your husband.”

“It was not my intent to escape Killian… we simply require some time apart… I needed to be distanced from what our marriage has become…” She softly lamented.

“Ah, well there must be something you desire to see or do on this most magical of nights?” The creature kindly attempted to distract her from her sorrow.

Alainn remained deep in thought, but did not reply.

“Shall we simply soar aimlessly the entire night with no purpose, then?”

“Must we have a purpose? Can we not simply enjoy the beauty and tranquility of this night?”

“If that is your wish, Alainn, it can certainly be so, but you have spent many weeks distanced from magic? I witnessed you informing your husband you would no longer keep your powers concealed. Do you have no inclination toward employing your magical abilities or visiting mystical realms? And though it would appear peaceful up here in the night sky so removed from the earth, all is not tranquil, I assure you.”

“Do you speak of the number of restless spirits?”

“Well, although horses, especially mystical horses bridge the gap between spirits and the living, there’s little to be done about the restless spirits, particularly this night when they run amuck. However, there are others who perhaps require your magical assistance tonight, Alainn. If you truly intend to embrace your powerful capabilities once more, you need to allow yourself to sharpen your senses and reclaim your many supernatural abilities. You have turned from them for far too long.”

He was correct for she had valiantly attempted to ignore or deaden her magical abilities for many weeks now. She believed they had been largely responsible for the loss of her wee son who had died so soon after his birth, but they’d also been the reason she’d been able to save her husband, Killian’s life. Therefore, she was much conflicted on how she felt regarding her supernatural powers as of late.

She had parted ways with Killian, earlier this night. She would never have believed there’d come a time when she would purposely choose to be apart from him, for always her heart’s truest desire had been to share her life with him. But there was much broken between them since they’d lost their newborn son. They barely spoke, never touched. Being together seemed a stark and constant reminder of all they’d been through… all they’d lost.

She had told Killian she was leaving with the intention of finally embracing her powers, turning toward her supernatural abilities; for throughout her life something or someone always prevented her from embracing her magic. She intended to develop her powers, to learn what could be accomplished by way of magic, and how she might better control her many unusual and too often, unpredictable abilities.

She had also assured Killian she would not return to Castle O’Donnel, would never consider going back to him until he saw to it that Ciara was gone. She was the loathsome woman who’d possibly been responsible for Alainn being given a potent mixture of herbs known to cause women to miscarry… the very woman whom had once spent time in Killian’s bed. She was not only promiscuous and untrustworthy, but it was almost certain she possessed dark magical abilities and was possibly affiliated with the demon who had been pursuing Alainn for some time. She dwelled upon the horrid woman, the demon, as well as the thought of being parted indefinitely from her husband, the man she’d loved since they were children. Even though their marriage and all between them now appeared dismal at best, her heart ached at the notion.

The animal intuitively sensed her change of mood. He recognized her uncertainty and her melancholia. He purposely lurched forward and then dove quickly downward. Alainn attempted to hold tight to his golden mane, but was caught unaware and soon tumbled off and began falling. She gasped and called out to the creature.

“Is it your intent to see me fall to my death?” she asked, her heart pounding as she continued to plummet at a perilously swift speed. The horse flew downward as well and looked directly into her eyes.

“Is not death something you have much considered in these past weeks?” he said in a factual manner without a trace of accusation.

“Perhaps, fleetingly, it seemed an easier path, but it is not my wish now,” she frantically whispered.

“You’ll not fall to your death, Alainn. You are able to purposely slow yourself by way of your magic.”

She instinctively held her arms out, palms flat. She allowed herself to grow calmer and was pleased to see the animal had been correct. She was much relieved she had stopped her swift descent.

“Now you must fly Alainn!” the magical horse encouraged her.

“Fly? A person cannot simply fly!” She distinctly remarked.

“A horse cannot simply fly either, but tonight, when magic abounds, all things are possible. You are a witch, and I assure you, this night on Samhain, on the anniversary of the day of your birth, you will be capable of flight.”

Alainn stared skeptically at the animal, but as she fell now more gently toward the ground, she willed herself to stop entirely. Now suspended in midair, she gradually moved upward, higher and higher. She was actually flying. She smiled in spite of herself. Ever since she’d been a small child she’d been capable of flight in her dreams and she’d always felt an undeniably great desire to soar freely. She continued grinning and actually giggled aloud as she deftly flew through the night air. Her laughter felt entirely foreign and the sound startled her. She couldn’t begin to recall the last time she’d laughed. It had been many, many weeks, since before they’d lost their precious baby.

As soon as the somber thought entered her mind, her heart constricted and her breath caught in her throat. She sensed herself losing her concentration and immediately began to spiral downward. The horse flew beneath her and aptly caught her upon his back.

“When your troubles are fewer and your heart less heavily burdened, you’ll manage this feat another time.”

Alainn nodded, thankful for the horse’s perceptiveness. She was pulled from her thoughts by the sound of tiny shrill voices below.

“Fairies,” she whispered.

“Aye,” the animal concurred.

“I suppose it has been some time since I’ve gone to a fairy glade,” she said with a trace of excitement in her voice.

She espied the perfect magical circle below, the numerous tiny lights and the unmistakable mystical glow. They descended upon the glade and Alainn viewed the many beautiful and captivating creatures surrounding them. She had been capable of entering fairy realms since she was a small child. She was aware most fairies had lived for thousands and thousands of years. It was believed fairies were upon the earth long before humans came into existence. The number of fairies and fairy glades had grown considerably for fairies were often immortal unless they encountered flames most especially to their wings, or murder by way of a dark magical creature or a wicked fairy.

As she dismounted, tiny orbed creatures and delicate winged fairies landed near to her; some touched her and she was soon encircled in their soothing pleasant glow. She felt their empathetic healing warmth and smiled appreciatively, much relieved at how unusually light her heart felt at that precise moment.

Not only was the glade filled with fairies, sprites, elves, gnomes, and the like, Alainn noticed how many mystical animal creatures were here as well. There were unusually immense white stags with magnificent golden horns, and tiny silver hinds surely no bigger than a squirrel. There were deer that hopped and rabbits that flew. The glade held unusual creatures both beautiful and incomprehensible. It was as though an entire forest of woodland birds and animals had been charmed by a magical spell that had pulled them into a whirlwind and when they were released they were oddly fused together disproportionately concocted, as though by unsettled gods with much time on their hands and an odd sense of humor.

Alainn shook her head and smiled at the peculiarity of the many sights. She glanced toward the nearby water and saw it was fairly teeming with water spirits, animals she presumed must be kelpies and mer-people. She had never actually met a mermaid or merman before and felt undeniably intrigued.

As she approached the water, she saw several of the mer-people sitting upon the rocks. She’d certainly never seen these creatures within a fairy glade before and had always been of the understanding they only dwelled within the salty waters of an ocean or sea.

She was further startled for they appeared to be summoning her. She had, of course, heard much of the reputation of mer-people and how they were at times infamous for their often wicked way of beckoning humans to their deaths by calling to them with their captivating beauty and enchanting voices. She hesitated in drawing nearer, allowing the stories she’d heard to influence her thoughts. But she soon reasoned there were surely equally many unpleasant and untrue story told of witches as well. She was further surprised when they actually called her by name.

“Alainn, you must come oblige us, we are much in need of your assistance this night.”

“Me?” she asked clearly uncertain.

“Aye, it is said you are surely the most powerful of all magical beings this night.”

Alainn glanced about, staring at the fairies, the mystical animals, and magical creatures and then down at herself. She feared they were gravely mistaken, yet they remained insistent.

“Did you not free the thirteen hellhounds and the four druid dragons?” a beguiling young mermaid with long red hair, called to her from her place upon the rocks.

“Aye, but ’twas in the realm of the gods, not here on earth.” Alainn revealed, unaware anyone knew of her adventures during her time with the gods.

“Nonetheless,” said an imposingly large merman with a deep voice that resonated across the water and caused the waves to suddenly become turbulent, “you once freed magical beings imprisoned by the gods.”

“Aye, and apparently the aftereffects are still being felt in that realm. The gods are even now at war and much unrest has ensued.”

“So if given the choice again, if you had the chance to free the beasts once more, you’d decide differently?”

“Yes… no… I’m not certain. I don’t believe the hellhounds or the dragons deserved to be imprisoned indefinitely, perhaps not at all but, in truth, I hadn’t thought it would cause such serious consequences when I freed them.”

“We have someone in need of your assistance in that regard as well, Alainn. There is a young mermaid being held captive in an underwater cavern by Mac Lir!” the merman offered.

“Mac Lir, the infamous Celtic God of the sea?” she asked dubiously.

“Aye, he’s held her there for over a decade now, simply because he finds her beautiful.”

“Has he harmed her, or is he after taking her as his wife?”

“We have been assured he has not harmed her, but he’ll not allow us to see for ourselves. He keeps her simply so that he might look upon her beauty should he feel so inclined to do so.”

“Well, ’tis sorry I am that one of your own is being held by a god for a lengthy time, and for such an absurd reason. But I cannot see what I am to do about it. I’ve no desire to rile any other gods, most especially one that has been connected with both the Fomorians and The Tuatha De Danann. I’m also not capable of breathing beneath the water so I don’t believe I’d be of much assistance to you.”

“But this night Mac Lir is much detained as he ferries the souls of the dead to the afterlife. With so many souls walking the earth he shall surely have no time to go to the underwater cavern.”

“I do understand your unenviable predicament, and if ever a night would be advantageous to accomplish rescuing the mermaid, sure tonight may very well be the one, but do you dare to presume he simply leaves her unattended, or unfettered?”

“No, she is allegedly attended by four darkly charmed Kelpies, and bound by the magical seaweed Mac Lir procured from the furthest depths of the deepest ocean.”

“Well, ’tis far more likely the lot of you would have a greater chance at freeing your mermaid than me. Since I have not lived near the sea until only recently, I know very little of kelpies, darkly charmed or otherwise, and I’ve certainly never been anywhere near the deepest ocean.”

“But it is said you possess unprecedented magical abilities and you have connections to the gods.”

“I assure you the gods find no favor with me; as I afore mentioned they find themselves in the midst of a brutal war because of my actions in their realm. The Fomorians were much displeased with me and have once more challenged the gods who were in favor of the beasts being freed. Besides, I have scarcely used my magic in the the past months. I am uncertain what abilities I retain. In truth, what may be considerably more worrisome; I do not know if I am able to control my powers once they are unleashed.”

“Enbarr has said you were capable of flight this night. It is believed you are able to do much more with your magic.”

“Enbarr?” Alainn wasn’t certain who they were referring to, but reasoned only the horse she’d named Lightning knew of this night’s events. She glanced over to see the magical white horse now appeared to be nuzzling a unicorn. Her eyes grew wide in amazement, and she blinked several times, for till now she had believed unicorns, too, only existed in myth.

She tried to recall all that she’d learned of Celtic mythical creatures and gods and where she had heard the name Enbarr before. Realization dawned and she shook her head.

“Enbarr is Lugh’s horse,” Alainn confusedly queried.

“Aye,” the merman answered.

“He is capable of flight and of traveling above and beneath the water?” she continued.

The merman nodded.

“You wish to have him take me to the underwater cavern?”

The mer-people all nodded with much exuberance at the possibility Alainn might soon be swayed.

“Did Enbarr not inform you of how poorly my attempt at flight ended?” She could see she was not dissuading them in any manner.

“To reach the cavern one must swim beneath the water, but the actual cavern is above the water. Even someone with no supernatural abilities would be capable of breathing within the cavern. Besides, it’s rumored you’re able to simply wish yourself from one location to another.”

Alainn pondered how these mer-people seemed to know so much about her. When she didn’t respond to the latest comment, the merman who appeared to be their leader, continued to speak.

“It has been said by employing your magical powers you recently saved the life of your husband and a thousand men in his army against a mortiferous enemy only weeks ago.”

Alainn dared to dwell upon that fateful day. She remembered the numbers the English claimed and the baneful weapons they had in their possession. She had saved many lives that day, including her beloved Killian, but the cost had been tragic and immeasurable.

“Aye, well, I regret to inform you, that tale has been most greatly exaggerated.” She morosely whispered.

“So you didn’t save many lives?” the red-haired mermaid asked.

“Some, but I’ve no desire to speak of this any longer.” Alainn despised allowing herself to recollect that fateful day… the day their baby had died.

She had indubitably attempted to numb herself to the pain, disallow herself to fall upon the heart wrenching memories and keep the torment concealed deep inside. But, in truth, it was present in every waking moment and it haunted her dreams so consistently she feared falling asleep.

“So you’ll assist us then?” The young mermaid’s hopeful words pulled her from her dark memories.

“The mermaid who is imprisoned is your sister?” Alainn deducted aloud, aptly hearing the mermaid’s thoughts.

“She is my twin sister,” she affirmed Alainn’s suspicions.

“And she is my daughter,” the large merman proclaimed.

“We’ve not seen her in a lengthy time?” the female lamented, tears forming in her large sad eyes.

“If she were your child, Alainn, would you not do anything in your power to rescue her?” The merman posed.

Alainn shuddered at this query. Since the mer-people seemed to know much of what had transpired those weeks ago, it was most likely they knew of the loss of her wee son as well. They were surely attempting to appeal to her empathetic and maternal nature.

“Once again, you should be informed until this night I did not move from my chambers for weeks on end, and employed entirely no magic. I fear you have gravely overestimated my abilities.”

The mermaid now looked toward her father in desperation of what might be done to persuade Alainn to assist them. The towering merman shook his head and shrugged his broad shoulders, to which the mermaid responded by beginning to sob aloud as her sea-green eyes filled with tears that fell down her pale cheeks.

“I cannot bear to be distanced from her any longer, Father! We must find a way to bring her back to us.”

Alainn cursed under her breath for as an empath she was capable of both physically and telepathically sensing the mermaid’s deep misery at being parted from her twin sister.

She inhaled deeply as she spoke. “I cannot simply wish myself to a location when I have never been there before or to a person I don’t know. I have never met your sister, nor have no notion of the location where she is being held. Sure the many seas have endless caverns.”

The mermaid’s face grew hopeful even at Alainn’s uncertain words. She swam closer to her, slapped her brightly colored and beautifully patterned tail against the water before pulling herself up onto the shore beside Alainn. She outstretched her arms to her, and Alainn hesitantly embraced her.

“If you find a way to return my sister to me, to us, I shall be forever in your debt, as will my father and all of the mer-people from far and away, and we are many, Alainn… so many more than even your imagination could fathom.”

Alainn was touched by the young mermaid’s quivering voice, now so full of sincerity and conviction.

“I suppose it would be beneficial if you were to tell me your name then, and that of your sister.”

“I am Kenisha and my sister is Coventina.”

“Lovely names for mermaids.” Alainn nodded and smiled maintaining a healthy amount of reluctance in allowing these people to put their faith in her and her ability to save their cherished mermaid.

She noticed Lightning or rather, Enbarr had left his previous position near the unicorn and come to her side.

“So, we are to embark on a magical adventure this night, after all, is that truth?”

Alainn stared at the animal with some suspicion for she believed he was surely the one responsible for ensuring she happened upon this particular fairy glade.

“It would appear so. Though we might soon have a conversation as to why Lugh has allowed his magical steed to be sent to earth.”

The horse eyed her with equal suspicion. “Well there is a war being waged in the realm of the gods. Perhaps he thought to keep me safe here in the human realm.”

“Ironically you were very nearly killed when the dark spell was placed on the animals.”

She stared at the huge jagged scar upon the horse’s chest where months ago the animal had charged a fence and been impaled by a large portion of plank. Alainn had used her magic and a well over a hundred stitches to close the wound and heal the horse. Many had been of the opinion the horse should be killed to put it out of its misery, but she had adamantly insisted she could save the animal’s life. Would Lugh simply have allowed his cherished steed to be killed in the human realm? She shook her head and dwelled once more on the task at hand.

She held tight to the mermaid’s hands and told her to envision her sister. Almost immediately a clear image of the mermaid came to Alainn’s mind’s eye. She called to Coventina through telepathy.

Although you do not know me, my name is Alainn and I possess the ability to do magic. I understand your present predicament; you are being kept against your will and guarded by kelpies. I would ask that you sing, use your powerful and beautiful voice now so that we might follow it and find our way to you this night.”

Aye, Alainn. I have heard much of you and your great powers. I have been waiting for you to assist my sister and my father.”

Although Alainn wasn’t certain she wanted anyone, much less an entire sea full of mer-people and sea creatures to reply upon her for assistance, there was little to do about it. She was undoubtedly involved now. In very little time, a hauntingly beautiful voice came to Alainn, and she smiled. She placed her hands to her ears and then held her hands before her. Soon each of the mer-people and sea creatures were able to hear the captive mermaid’s voice.

Kenisha beamed broadly at recognizing her sister’s beautiful singing voice.

The magical horse nodded to Alainn as she climbed upon his back once more and they followed the mer-people into the dark waters.

Chapter Two

Alainn exhaled in relief when they emerged within the cavern. She’d actually been unaware she’d been holding her breath, but realized she’d surely feared they may find themselves in the middle of the ocean. The mer-people had accompanied them for a time, but it was decided only she and Enbarr would actually enter the cavern. She hadn’t been confident in her abilities; that she would be capable of simply wishing herself to the imprisoned mermaid, but alas, apparently here they were. Both she and the magical horse beheld the undeniable beauty of their surroundings.

The sides of the cave appeared to be made of translucent crystal and the entire cavern glistened and shone radiantly. The water was a brilliant turquoise blue and the waves gently sloshed against the edge of the multicolored rock of the cavern’s floor. Although it was a far cry from a dark and dingy dungeon, it was no less a prison simply because it would be considered outwardly beautiful.

It appeared to be completely silent and oddly peaceful for the time being. Alainn eyed the area warily for there was no sign of Coventina or the darkly charmed kelpies who were said to watch over her.

“I sense no one near.” Enbarr voiced Alainn’s thoughts.

“Nor do I. Perhaps my magic did not take us to the correct location after all. I did forewarn the mer-people my abilities are surely enfeebled with lack of consistent practice.”

“Shhhhhh,” they heard a female voice whisper from behind a large rock formation.

Alainn quietly walked toward the sound and Enbarr followed attempting to remain silent, but when his hooves clomped upon the rock, he simply floated behind Alainn.

As she peered around the wall Alainn met a most unusual sight. This room was likened to a great hall so large was the area, yet much of the chamber’s floor was covered by sea water. The mermaid, Coventina who was nearly identical in appearance to her twin sister, sat upon a chair that closely resembled a throne, also made entirely of magnificent crystal. The chair was half submersed in the water so her tail was not visible making her appear as a human woman. Her long red hair hung down to her waist and the relief in her eyes at seeing them was clear.

Yet she contained her emotion and placed a finger to her lips, motioning to the far wall. There, lying on the rocks, were four sleeping creatures Alainn deemed must be kelpies. They were immense dark beasts similar to horses, but much larger. Two were lying entirely on the rocks and the other two floated in the water. Alainn noted their hooves were oddly reversed as she’d heard was the way with kelpies.

Coventina whispered in a voice Alainn couldn’t help but notice was clear and beautiful even though she spoke in a soft tone, “I sang them to sleep with an enchantment, but I fear it won’t last long,”

“Then best we hurry and free you,” Enbarr suggested.

Coventina slowly moved above the water so her tail could finally be seen. It was soon revealed she was tethered by two lengthy strands of seaweed.

“Seaweed from the depths of the deepest ocean?” Alainn remembered and whispered aloud.

The mermaid nodded and her large eyes filled with hopelessness.

“Magically charmed seaweed,” she added.

“I am certain Alainn will find a way to sever it; she’s done it before.” The horse comforted the young mermaid.

Alainn glowered at the horse for offering what might be false hope to the imprisoned mermaid.

“When I freed the air dragon in the realm of the gods, I did so with Fomorian crystal. Do you happen to have some such crystal hidden somewhere?” she sarcastically whispered to the horse.

“Fomorian crystal worked then because the Fomorians imprisoned the dragons. One might assume we would need something belonging to Mac Lir to cut through this charmed seaweed. He is after all the one who charmed the binding tether.”

“Has he left something here that may be used to sever your ties?” Alainn questioned the mermaid. They all were startled when one of the kelpies moved and moaned loudly, but remained asleep. They breathed a collective sigh of relief.

“I can think of nothing,” Coventina shook her head. “He does not reside here, but only comes to look upon me on occasion. It has been weeks since I last saw him.”

Alainn strained to come up with a solution to this quandary knowing time was surely short before the kelpies awoke. Even now, another stirred and one in the water turned over and made a splashing sound. Soon the others grew restless as well.

“Can you not sing to them again and place further enchantment upon them?” Alainn wondered.

“It has never been successful when attempted a second time. Are you perhaps able to sing in such a manner or use your magic to the same end, Alainn? I have heard you possess a beautiful singing voice and that your magical abilities know no bounds.”

Alainn had once taken great joy in singing and had done so regularly. However, since the night they’d buried their child, she had not sung one note. She dismissed this morose thought for the present discord. She found herself longing to deal harshly with whomever had been spreading tales of her and exaggerating her abilities so abundantly.

“I will attempt to place a spell of sleepfulness upon them,” she reluctantly agreed.

“Kelpies now in slumber, waken not on this night.

Remain in deepest sleep until dawn’s first light.

“And should this spell not hold till then

May gentle beasts awaken instead.

As I have spoken so shall it be!”

Enbarr looked at her with little confidence and Coventina appeared most fearfully uncertain. They both stared hard with wide eyes as she began to draw nearer to the beasts.

“What do you intend to do?” Enbarr said lowly, but in his worried state his words came out in more than a neigh than a voice.

“You dare not provoke them!” Coventina warned.

“I have no intention of provoking them, I assure you. I am not so very eager to draw near them, but if the kelpies are charmed by Mac Lir perhaps I might employ them to sever the charmed seaweed.”

“Do you believe they will behave as domesticated equines because of your spell? Do you simply expect them to chew merrily through the seaweed on your request?”

This time Alainn turned and openly glared at the horse.

“Do you have any other wise suggestions? It is perhaps because of you the mer-people have put their faith in me. Now you question my every move and doubt my every action. I assure you, I am open to most any other possibilities if you might offer them to me.”

The magical steed shook his head and then looked away.

“Be exceedingly cautious, Alainn. Kelpie hair is perilously sharp-edged. My father once sent three mermen to attempt to rescue me and one lost his hand simply by touching one of them. He died soon after from mortal blood loss.” Coventina warned.

“And the others?” Alainn couldn’t contain her curiosity though was most certain she didn’t actually care to know the outcome.

“One was dragged beneath the water by the kelpies. They viciously fought over him, mangled his body and devoured him. It was most gruesome to witness. His entrails were tossed upon the rocks and left there forever so long as a warning to others, I believe. The third was not harmed. His purpose was to alert my family of what would transpire should anyone else attempt to free me.”

“Your father and sister seemed to have omitted those apparently unworthy details when asking to enlist me in recovering you from Mac Lir.” Alainn wryly stated.

“I do not wish for you to endanger yourself in attempting to free me. I have been here all these many years and have mostly accepted my fate. I do not desire anyone else to be harmed in such attempts. My father is king of the mer-people and his wise counsel has governed our kind for centuries. He longed to come rescue me some time ago, but his legions have prevented him from placing himself in peril… else I am certain he would have come for me himself.”

“Aye, I concur. Your father would have gladly come to see you released from this imprisonment. I sensed his great love and fretfulness at all the time you have been parted and endured such bitter separation from your kind.” Alainn needed to offer consolation to the aggrieved young mermaid.

Alainn slowly turned and once more drew nearer to the sleeping kelpies, but then stopped mid-step. If their hair was truly sharp enough to cut off a hand, then surely it would capably slice through seaweed. She prayed the hair from a darkly charmed kelpie would cut through equally darkly charmed seaweed.

She placed her hands before her, focused on the kelpie nearest her and gazed at his wild, lengthy mane. She set her mind on one thick hair in particular that stuck out further than the others. With her mind, she employed her powers and magically tugged on the hair although she drew no closer to the beast. The others watched as it was slowly pulled from the kelpie and were much relieved when the creature remained sleeping. The large sharp hair remained afloat midair and Alainn summoned it closer to her and directed it toward the seaweed tether, mindful to move it slowly lest it graze the mermaid’s tail. They were all pleased to see it capably saw through the seaweed, first one tether, then the other.

It was obvious Coventina forced herself to remain subdued although her delight at being free and able to move about was certain by the gleeful smile upon her lovely face. She slowly swam from her position and nearer to Enbarr. Alainn tiptoed backward in distancing herself from the sleeping kelpies, but when she began to lose her footing on the slippery rock surface, she slowly rose in the air and hovered above Enbarr and the mermaid. All the while she was thinking, “Nothing is ever that simple or goes that smoothly for me, even with my magic.”

Chapter Three

The water suddenly became darker and the waves lapped forcefully against the rocky shore. Even the previously glistening crystal walls took on a darker hue and it was frighteningly clear impending peril would ensue. Alainn’s eyes skirted the cavern to where the four kelpies remained asleep under her spell. It was obvious they were not the source of threat.

“Mac Lir?” Alainn questioned the mermaid.

She nodded her head and looked all around her, but made not a sound. Her eyes were filled with fear as the water grew steadily stormier.

“Wish us away from here immediately!” Enbarr whinnied once more sounding more like a horse than a magical creature.

Alainn grabbed hold of Enbarr’s mane and Coventina’s hand, all the while closing her eyes and attempting to envision the fairy realm, to ensure they were carried back there straightaway.

When nothing happened Alainn’s eyes grew wide with fright and she attempted once more to send them away from the cavern. The water was now swirling and frothing and Coventina’s hand was being pulled from her own. In her fearful state Alainn could sense her powers growing with her fear but, as in the past, her magic also became more unpredictable and more difficult to manage when she was under duress. She and Enbarr floated higher above the water and Coventina was slowly pulled atop the waves, now hanging precariously by Alainn’s hand.

“How long are you able to be removed from sea water?” Alainn managed above the sound of the heightening wind.

“I am uncertain. Not long. I have, of course, sat upon the rocks, but always near enough to the sea that part of me was within the salt water.”

She noticed the stormy water had risen dangerously and now splashed against the walls of the cavern. The entire space had grown dark and as she glanced down at the sleeping kelpies she feared for them as well. Although they were sea-creatures and there were many uncertainties surrounding them, they were similar to mermaids and required both water and air. Even now the creatures were being pulled below the water yet remained asleep because of her previous spell.

“Waken kelpies, all four… now, waken, but harken to the sound.

Listen to my voice, heed only what I say, for I am now your sole master and you must obey.”

The four sea creatures awoke at once as Alainn had commanded. They appeared frightened and confused, whimpering like newborn foals.

“You are no longer under the dark charm of Mac Lir. Swim out to sea.

Be gone. Be free!” She ordered.

They stared at her obediently and nodded. They each dove beneath the water as Alainn grasped tighter to Coventina’s hand. Enbarr positioned himself below the mermaid and when she was safely upon his back, Alainn, too mounted the mystical creature.

“If you cannot wish us away from here, Alainn, then we will need to swim to safety. Hold tight to my mane and take a long, deep breath.” Enbarr requested with authority.

She did as he instructed, but as they dove beneath the water a powerful wave overtook them and wildly hurled them against the wall of the cave. Alainn sputtered and gasped and tried to right the dizziness she felt after her head solidly struck the wall. She saw Coventina, seemingly unconscious, being pulled into the angry waters. Enbarr shook his head visibly disoriented as well and at the moment clearly incapable of flight.

It was then they heard the booming and enraged male voice that shook the waters further as he angrily spoke.

“Who dares to enter my cavern this night when my time is limited and my deeds not a few? I have no time to confront such menial vexations. There are souls to ferry to the underworld!”

Alainn stared up into the furious contorted face, even still clearly recognizable as a god. In her confused and dizzy state as she stared at him she thought he appeared not entirely as a solid figure, but almost liquid as the water around him, and his voice sounded much like a gale blowing in from the sea. It echoed and quivered with each word.

“An irksome woman and a damnable horse are the source of my present misery?” he asked in disbelief. “How were you able to gain access to this magical place and sever the charmed seaweed? Where is my mermaid?”

“Your captive prisoner? Do you not think ten years is a long enough sentence… A decade spent apart from her family and those who hold her dear not an unforgivably cruel punishment?”

“Who by the gods are you, woman? Who would dare question my actions? Where is the mermaid? I demand to know what you have done with her?” His voice now contained an element of panic and heightening madness in not knowing the mermaid’s location.

“It is my hope she is back with her family and her twin sister.” Alainn rubbed the large bump on her head and pulled herself to a sitting position noting Enbarr remained dazed as well.

To Alainn’s dismay, she saw Coventina had been washed up against the rock wall and at the moment she wasn’t moving. Alainn didn’t sense that Coventina had been killed when she struck the wall, but she was injured and unable to move. She would soon need to be immersed in salt water in order for her condition to improve. Not wanting to draw attention to her, Alainn pulled quickly her gaze from the location and continued to converse with the infuriated god.

“You’ve said you have numerous duties this night, sure you might better attend to them rather than consuming your limited time with a simple woman and a horse.”

“Ahhh, you think yourself a clever one, do you? You aim to trick me. A simple woman would never have been capable of detecting or entering this charmed location. A mere human could not cut through the magical seaweed. What powers have you? Are you somehow connected to the gods?”

He drew nearer to Alainn and his long white beard trailed nearly down to his waist. His face appeared lined and elderly yet his body in noticeable contradiction was toned and muscular. She also noted how enormous he truly was. He was surely a head taller than Lugh. Lugh was the immense god who had once been assigned to be her guardian. She found herself wishing Lugh might come to her aid, but at present Lugh was banished to another realm. She had sent him there herself weeks ago. Now she longed to be able to transport him back to her this instant. She dwelled upon that thought.

Mac Lir stared at her accusingly. “What association have you to Lugh?”

“Just my misfortune,” Alainn whispered under her breath, “I happened upon a god with the ability to hear my thoughts!”

Enbarr shook his head again and snorted as he attempted to stand. This temporarily distracted Mac Lir from the fact she hadn’t replied to his inquiry, but when he glared at the horse his furious gaze caused light to exude from his eyes. It sent the animal crashing down upon the rocks once more.

Alainn immediately and perhaps unwisely reacted to the horse being dealt with so severely. She retaliated by directing her anger at the god. She glowered at him, her own eyes blazing. Her hands rose of their own accord and to her complete amazement, she sent the god pitching through the air to land hard upon the rocks himself. Mac Lir quickly recovered and stood up in astonishment as he stared into her eyes.

“You are not simply a woman by any stretch!” He pointed at her accusingly. “You are surely the one who freed the dragons and the hellhounds in the realm of the gods. You are the woman of legend, Alainn from the line of Aine.” His voice boomed so loudly Alainn’s ears protested the din. She placed her hands over her ears and turned from his stare, but he pressed on.

“Do you deny it?”

“I am Alainn, aye.”

“Do you presume because you freed the dragons and the hellhounds you can simply allow my mermaid to be set free without grave consequences?”

“Coventina is not your mermaid! She belongs to no one! You’ve held her against her wishes for many years. It is far past time to set her free.”

“I much enjoy gazing upon her beauty. You’ll not deny me that pleasure.”

“You are a contemptuous, unconscionable brute. Because you are a god does not give you the right to imprison her. And how immoral are to to keep her chained because you simply care to occasionally look upon her. That is ludicrous!”

Alainn was relieved when she noticed Coventina had begun to move and she willed her magic to inconspicuously send gentle healing waves of sea water toward the ailing mermaid. She dared to draw nearer to Enbarr to assess his condition. As she placed her hand upon the horse, he awoke and shook his head once more before speaking.

“Have you managed to rile another god, Alainn?”

“So it would appear.”

“And not simply a horse either,” the god declared.

“Aye, you’ve now caused injury to Lugh’s horse. I hope you are willing to deal with his wrath.” Alainn considered this god’s arrogance was much reminiscent of how she’d found Lugh on every occasion they’d been together.

“I do not fear Lugh or any other.”

“Do you not fear the certain ramifications of the dead being left to roam the earth while you shirk your duties of ferrying them to the underworld? I would suggest that is not something to be taken lightly when that is to be your sole purpose.”

The god glanced around and a palpable tension filled the air.

“Return my mermaid and my kelpies and I shall allow you to leave without harmful consequences, you and the horse.”

“She is not your mermaid, nor are the kelpies yours any longer.”

“What’s that you say?” He bellowed and the entire cavern filled with angry waves of fierce size and strength. Alainn felt herself being overtaken by a massive wave, and pulled beneath the stormy waters, but not before she noticed the satisfied smirk on the insolent god’s face.

Chapter Four

Alainn awakened, once more sputtering and gagging on briny seawater, but this time she was vexed to find herself in the arms of Mac Lir. He was carrying her to another chamber deeper within the cavern. Alainn was further dismayed when she found she couldn’t aptly sense the location of Enbarr or Coventina. She glanced about and concluded this chamber was apparently reserved for those who didn’t dwell within the water. The walls here were also formed of crystal, but there were several markings etched upon them. They appeared to depict the passage of time and there were a good many. She estimated some marked numerous years. Many seemed to be recently carved and others were barely visible surely diminished by the years.

There was an ample bed, one lone chair, and a table already set, ready and waiting for her or for someone, at any rate. Alainn dared to imagine how many females Mac Lir might have held captive in the many millennia he had lived. She angrily stared up into his rugged lined face.

“Ahhh, so you have finally awoken.”

“Where is Coventina?”

“Do not fret so. She is well enough. I have generously granted her freedom as you suggested. In truth, I had long since tired of her. She had little spirit left and I grew weary of her tears and constant pleas to be returned to her family. I seldom came to look upon her recently. I should perhaps thank you then for I shall be glad to done with her.”

“And what have you done to Enbarr?”

“I’ve done nothing to him. Although the last I saw of the creature the kelpies had him in their possession and I’m quite certain he’ll be their dinner this night.”

“You would deliberately risk Lugh’s enragement?” Alainn’s voice caught in her throat at the possibility of Enbarr meeting such a gruesome end.

“It has been said Lugh has not been seen or heard of in so many weeks. I fear he may have met with misfortune, not that I shall mourn him in any manner. We were often at odds.”

“What is it you intend to do with me?” Alainn dared to query though she was relatively certain she knew his intentions.

“Well I do need a female creature of beauty to replace the mermaid. You’re remarkably beautiful, so you, lovely Alainn from the line of Aine, shall be my newest treasure.”

Alainn squirmed in his arms, but couldn’t break free. This apparently amused him for he chuckled at her ineffective movements and squeezed her tighter.

“Do you know why Lugh has not been seen in some time?” she began. “He is in another realm because I banished him. I think I might like to banish you to a far less desirable place for all of eternity. Perhaps a desert… aye, a hot, arid desert surely thousands of miles from the nearest sea.” She threatened.

“And what then would become of this world if no one ferried the souls of the dead away?”

“I’m certain the gods would enlist another to maintain your duties.” Alainn chided saucily, but turned from his unsettling gaze.

“Ferrying the dead is not an undertaking most are willing or able to achieve, and I should like to inform you, woman, of the unimaginable melee that will ensue if my tasks are not completed. I sense you possess the ability to see spirits and specters so you would surely notice the hideous chaos before any other human. Within mere days, the dead would walk the earth in numbers even a woman with magical premonitory visions would be unable to comprehend.”

He was correct in that assumption and she struggled in deciding what must be done about her conundrum. She turned her mind’s eye to Enbarr and through her abilities she was relieved to see he remained intact and had not been fodder for the kelpies. She did, however, sense the kelpies were nearby, but not darkly charmed. Her spell had held and they remained under her power.

Her knowledge of kelpies was admittedly minimal, but if her memory served her correctly, she had heard kelpies were actually shape-shifters. Alainn called to them and summoned them to come to her, not as kelpies, but as something altogether different.

When Mac Lir turned to determine what the sound behind him was, he stood stock still and his stormy blue eyes filled with terror. In his fear and uncertainty, he allowed the struggling Alainn to drop from his arms. She used her magic to prevent herself from hitting the rocks, and floated far from his reach. The god turned to watch the four large black hellhounds following him.

“Stay away from me,” he hollered.

Alainn well knew Mac Lir’s children had all been turned into swans by his jealous second wife. She was aware they were often pursued by the only natural predator in the realm of the gods, the hellhound. Mac Lir apparently not only despised them, but he feared them as well.

“I will kill you all!” Mac Lir declared and soon a large spear appeared in his hands.

“If you kill them you’ll be killing the kelpies,” Alainn insisted, “For under my spell they have shape-shifted into hellhounds.”

“I don’t believe your preposterous falsehoods.”

“Why then would there be only four? They always travel in packs of thirteen,” she said knowing the god was becoming increasingly alarmed and flustered.

He turned to toss his spear at the canines, but they soon disappeared before his eyes as the spear fell to the floor, and Alainn attempted to keep from smiling in satisfaction at his befuddlement.

“You attempt to trick me woman! For that I shall keep you here for the rest of your life! I swear it shall be so. I will come to gaze upon you every day until one day your beauty will be no more. You shall remain imprisoned till you are ancient and withered never again to cast your eyes upon another human. I shall take much delight in seeing it.””

Alainn was becoming steadily more infuriated and must do something to deter the god from following through with this unpleasant threat.

“You would not desire to keep me here to look upon if you lack the ability to see!”

He stared at her with reprehension.

“That is not within your power!”

“Would you care to take the risk? The spell of sightlessness is one easily enough managed by many a witch, much less someone from the line of Aine. Some are temporary spells, others remain for all time. There is indisputable truth in my words. Shall we put my abilities to the test?”

She smiled wickedly at the god as he angrily lunged toward her.

Chapter Five

Alainn stood drenched and shivering. She called upon the warm wind to dry her soaked, dripping garments and her long wet hair. She sighed, and finally dared to take a breath in relief. She’d dealt the god a harsh, but necessary punishment. Coventina was now safely back with her family and Alainn had joyfully witnessed the happy reunion between the twin sisters. The mer-people swore once again they would be forever in her debt and that should Alainn ever require their assistance, they would gladly come to her aid.


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