So, a little bit about my novel Blood Ties:
Blood Ties is set during the modern era, in a speculative version of Ireland that is still run by high kings, and faeries abound and are part of normal day life. There's also a modern version of the legendary warriors of Na Fianna, who take center stage of the story. My protagonist is Ciran Mac Cool a descendant of the great Fionn Mac Cool himself, and he and his friends are all descendants of Fionn's Fianna. This book opens on the tail end of the last of the Goblin Wars which the Irish people have been fighting against the Goblins for nearly a century. During a hesitant peace treaty, a patrol of Fianna and others was taken by the goblins, among them, Ciran's older brother. The book is essentially about Ciran forming a band of misfit warriors who have lost someone in the patrol to go up to the Faelands and rescue them from the clutches of the Goblin King, Lorcan. It's a story about blood ties and family and also a coming of age story for Ciran, his men, and also Eamon, the young High King of Ireland who has a lot to prove to everyone.
Pretty much, this is a short version of what you will find in Blood Ties:
Modern day warriors who wear leather, carry swords, a drive fast cars.
Moderately hot goblins.
Lots and lots of brotherly love.
And now I'm going to share the first chapter and the prologue with you as a treat, and I hope to share more soon about the creating of my Ireland, and all the different races, places and peoples.
(Warning, prologue contains some moderately graphic torture, if you don't want to read, skip down to chapter one)
He was hauled through the underground fortress, barely able to keep his feet under him in his weakened state, but he forced himself to stay upright even though he was mostly being supported by the two goblins who held him from either side.
He was brought to the throne room where the goblin king sat in a dilapidated yet regal throne, torches blazing against the stone walls of the mountain dwelling. The whole place was wickedly, crumblingly beautiful; a relic of a bygone age that was still frozen in the past despite its living occupants. Aeden admired its horrible beauty even as it sent chills up his spine.
The guards threw him to his knees and he hauled his upper body straight so he could look up into the cold, calculating eyes of the tall goblin that sat on the throne. The creature rose languidly, his lean frame straight, his hands held behind his back, holding his tattooed head high. A long black coat swung around his legs and his glossy boots tapped out a leveled pace that echoed through the domed hall.
“Aeden Mac Cool,” he said. “A pleasure, as always. Have you had a thought as to what you will discuss with me now? I trust you found your stay in the rat hole comfortable.”
“Comfortable enough,” the Finnian replied, watching as the goblin’s clubbed ash blond hair swung back and forth down his back as he paced. “But I shall not talk to you now, or ever.”
“Shame; you seemed so eager to talk before. So eager to take the place of the princeling, that I suspected you must have something of import to tell me.” The goblin sighed in a long-suffering manor, turning around with a bored expression on his face. “Very well, we shall have it your way then. I begin to wonder whether you enjoy pain so much, Mac Cool.”
The Finnian was hauled to his feet and chained to a rack on one side of the room. The goblin drew a thin blade from his boot and walked over to him. “I honestly don’t even find this amusing anymore, I’ve done it for so long,” he said, grabbing the Finnian’s face in one hand, his long nails digging into the young man’s cheeks. “But if you wish the pain to continue, by all means, keep defying me. But tell me what I want to know, and I will let you go back to your family. You know I am not unnecessarily cruel.”
“And what of the others?” Aeden spat contemptuously. “Would you send them back as well?”
“If they give me what I want, I might consider it. But one thing at a time.”
The Finnian only smiled and the goblin began his knife work with a businesslike manner, slowly flaying a strip of skin from the Irishman’s hip up his left side. Aeden Mac Cool gritted his teeth and breathed out slowly between them.
“No?” the goblin asked.
Aeden didn’t say anything. The goblin shrugged. “Very well then.” He ripped the strip of skin off and the Irishman couldn’t help the scream of surprise that ripped from his throat. Blood ran down his side, soaking the top of his worn leather trousers.
“You see, you have only tasted a bit of the pain I am capable of causing you,” the goblin said, coming behind Aeden, leaning close. His breath wafted against the back of the Irishman’s neck and sent a shiver of disgust up his spine. “If you do not wish to sample any more, let me know, and this can all end here with only a few answers to my questions.”
“No,” the Irishman forced out.
“Very well then,” the goblin said again and motioned to his guards. “Bring all my instruments to me. I shall have him talking by the end of the day.” He shot a hand forward, gripping Aeden’s neck and wrenching his head back, his lips nearly pressed against the Irishman’s ear. “And if you don’t talk, I will start on the princeling, and we’ll see how you do when you’re forced to watch your king’s brother suffer.”
Aeden Mac Cool swallowed hard, and closed his eyes, willing his mind away by thinking of his family; his parents, brothers and sister who likely all thought he was dead. He would not give in, for their sake. He could not give in for the sake of Erin herself. But that did not stop the mountains from echoing with his screams.
The mists rolled off the green hills, still damp from the morning dew, and the will o’ the wisps curled around my legs as I loped easily through the heather, leaping from rock to rock as I focused my attention between the ground beneath my feet and the track ahead, forging the way not by signs, nor by memory this time, but by carefully deducted paths recreated from visions and common sense. The wet air, still smelling of dawn, refreshed me, brought all my senses into focus, so that I could concentrate on my task. This was my favorite time of day to track, and I would have felt an unnamable joy in that morning’s duty had it not been for the subject of my tracking.
I climbed onto a big rock, bracing myself halfway up and looking back down into the valley where I could see Tierney still picking up the tent as I made my last scout. It was foolish, I knew, Aeden had been gone for nearly six months, but this had been where he was patrolling when he disappeared, and I felt there had to be something that would tell me where he might be. That he was still alive.
I took in the landscape, picturing Aeden standing in my exact position, scouting the way ahead. If he had been chased, where would he make a stand? I knew already before the question barely passed through my mind and was off, sprinting soundlessly over the dewy ground to the valley on the other side of this hill.
My memory had not failed me, I saw with satisfaction as I crested the rise and trotted down into the valley. There was the circle of standing stones, so old that no one knew who they belonged to now, or what their purpose had been. Several had fallen like ancient stone warriors lost in battle, but most were still standing in their original circle. For want of a better location, it would have been the only spot that a few men could have stood to defend themselves, and the stones were said to offer protection to warriors who were true to Erin. I felt in my bones that this was the place my brother had made his stand and surely it was the place Daegal had dreamed about. I took the picture he had drawn for me and held it up in comparison. It was the place.
I entered the circle slowly. I always felt there should be some ritual to entering a stone circle, but if there ever had been, the knowledge had been lost in centuries long past. I did bow my head in respect though, for the sake of whatever spirits or Fae that might guard it still. The stones seemed to create an energy of their own, not really tangible, but something that allowed my mind to work more clearly, take in more. Na Fianna were known for their connection with the land, and such ancient landmarks as these seemed to give us strength. I looked around the circle, taking the scene in and again trying to picture the events that had happened here in the past.
I was drawn to one stone; one of the fallen ones, and crouched to inspect it, finding an old rust colored stain in a crack of one of the swirling designs carved into it. I had seen enough blood to know it for what it was, and being red, it was hardly goblin blood. There was no telling how much blood there had been to begin with, for whatever had been there, would have washed away long ago, but it was enough to tell me my suspicions were correct, and my stomach knotted in instinctive uncertainty of my brother’s survival.
I braced a hand on the wet ground as I contemplated this confirmation. By rights, I shouldn’t even have been out there, doing this, knowing my father would berate me for having false hope, but I hadn’t been home for three months, and I had missed Aeden more than I could say, and when Daegal and I had spoken on the phone in my absence, he always had new dreams of his to report, telling me about this place and how he thought it was connected in some way with the patrol’s disappearance. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest before I at least checked, and Tierney and I had a few days before we had to report back to the court of High King Eamon O’Brian so we had camped in the valley below, spending that time tracking and trying to map the path Aeden and his patrol had taken before they met with an unfortunate goblin attack that had nearly sent our people back into another long and bloody war.
I sighed as I thought again how hopeless this venture was. I was about to stand up when my fingers found something at the base of the stone, hiding in the grass. I dug down and pulled it out, feeling engraved metal hanging from a leather strap. My fingers knew what it was before I recognized it by sight, opening my hand to look at it, for my fingers knew the shape well. It was a pendant identical to the one I wore about my own neck, a simple bronze medallion about an inch in diameter with the Mac Cool crest emblazoned on it, depicting the fish of wisdom from the ancient story. Daegal hadn’t been wrong. Aeden had been there sure enough. Now the question was whether he was still alive or if he had perished there.
Two years ago now, there had been an uprising of goblins and Na Fianna and all the other warriors and kings of Ireland were called upon to do battle with them. It had been a feud going on for as long as there had been Ireland and though the enemy might not have always been the same, the struggle was, and there was always a new enemy to take the place of the one who was finally defeated. First it had been my ancestor, the great Fionn Mac Cool who had fought the giants. But that's a story for another time.
The first Goblin War had happened while the rest of the world was fighting WWII and another had arisen in the ‘80s only to come to a head again, just three years past, in the quickest and bloodiest of the three, naming it, in grim humor the War of the Red Hills for all the blood that had been spilled, mostly ours. After only a year of fighting, the Kings of Ireland had formed a tenuous peace with the Goblin King, paying him heavy tithes to seal the pact, but it had not lasted for more than a year, for there was a sudden, nasty uprising in the north and the goblins attacked a city on the Borderland and decimated the people, nearly wiping them all out. Our High King gathered his warriors and went out to do battle, knowing that the time had come to wipe the goblins out all together. And he nearly succeeded, but at heavy cost, for though he did kill the Goblin King, he left his son alive, and lost his own life as well as that of over half his men in the process. They say that Erin wept blood for her lost children that day.
And then only months ago after an unstable peace of nearly a year while we picked up the pieces of the last battle, the Goblin prince, Lorcan, turned king after the death of his father, began to make small attacks despite the agreement. One day a patrol of Fianna warriors went out to scout goblin trails, and never came back. One of them was my older brother, another was the younger brother of High King Eamon, and crown prince, but many more had lost loved ones too that day, but like my father, didn’t want to risk the hope that they might still be alive. Most of them, anyway.
I turned and something else caught my eye. A glint of silver caught in a crack of one of the stones. I knelt to inspect in and saw it was a hair bead like all warriors wore to show their status, but this one was especially fine, and engraved with the pattern of the High Seat of Tara. It was also still attached to a braid of jet-black hair, cut off at about three inches. I pictured the owner frantically chopping it off himself, finding he was caught in the stone after being thrust back against it. I held it in a clenched fist for a moment before I tucked it into the script at the side of my belt.
I cast about a little more, but everything that was to be found there had been found, and it was enough proof to prove my and Daegal’s theory of where the patrol had disappeared. It was no proof of life, but it was a start.
I looked at Aeden’s medallion again and then pulled it around my neck, tucking it in under my leather breastplate while my own stayed resting on the outside. I had called Eamon yesterday when we had still been in town and capable of mobile service, and told him that Tierney and I would be back at his hall by noon. We would have to hurry if we hoped to keep that appointment. And he would be eager to hear of our side trip, especially now that I had something to show for it.
Tierney had finished packing up the tent and sleeping bags by the time I got back to the camp and was just loading them into the back of my Vanquish when I came trotting back. He looked up expectantly.
I silently showed him what I had found and he nodded, hands on hips, neither of us knowing what to say. We had been right, but that wasn’t enough. I knew he had hoped I had found something from his father, but he knew there had been no guarantee that we would find anything at all and the knowledge that our trip had not been fruitless was enough for the moment. Still, I felt his pain and disappointment keenly in the fresh air and punched him lightly in the shoulder.
“Come on. We need to get back. I’ll let you drive.” I tossed him the keys and he smiled, even though I knew he knew I was just trying to cheer him up, as he slid into the driver’s seat with an eager air. I pulled off the sword I wore over my shoulder and tossed it into the back seat before I climbed in as well. And then we were off and on the road as Tierney eagerly gunned the car into motion, laughing.
“If you do anything to this car, I swear I will hurt you,” I told him but was grinning as well.
“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt your sweetheart,” Tierney said mockingly, stroking the dash with a wink, and only went faster.
With his driving, we were back in Tara before ten o’clock and stopped at a pub in town for a quick breakfast before heading to the King’s Hall on the hill overlooking the town, giving the otherwise modern day setting a medieval flair, the Hall hardly having changed since the days of Fionn Mac Cool. My mobile rang as we headed to the car again and I answered it as I sat down in the driver’s seat, digging my keys out of my pocket.
“Where are you?” It was Killian O’Hara’s voice on the other end, Captaen of Eamon’s guards and a good friend, if not somewhat self-important.
“At Lannagan’s, we’re on our way in one minute if you hang up.”
“Insolence, insolence,” Killian chided but I could hear the smirk on his lips. “See you then.”
I slapped the phone shut and started the car once Tierney was in and we were off on the road to Tara Hall.
If you want to see more of Blood Ties check out my Pintrest board for it to see all the characters and other goodies. It's newly un-secreted just for you =)
Also, I'm making a soup for my St Patrick's Day recipe, and if it turns out good, I'll post the recipe later this week!
Have a lovely day, and may the road rise up to meet you!