Friday, December 30, 2011

Aftershock 11/16

Vampires moved far faster than any fey could on foot. Herding Kieran into the alley by cutting off all other routes of escape hardly taxed their skill set. Donovan did not need to see this to know where they’d gone. Following the vibration of footfalls against the earth served as a sixth sense. Without even breaking into a run, Donovan strode into the alleyway as two vampires toyed with Kieran. Every time he moved to try and bolt past them, they blocked. They’d played this game with the boy before. They enjoyed it. Kieran knew he was as good as drained. Probably got drained on a regular basis. The vampires would never kill him, their addiction to the Sidhe blood too strong to risk losing such an easy source.

“This is what my people are coming to? The noble elves of legend and fact... pinnacle of magic to ever take form… the Sidhe who were once worshipped by the Celts as deities… Reduced to little more than livestock for bloodsuckers?”

Donovan had not raised his voice. His commanding presence rarely required him to shout to garner attention. His glare alone, one that had seen far more enemies laid to waste before him than these vampires could begin to imagine, backed them away. Novice vampires at most, the both of them barely older than Kieran. Sensing their peril, the night creatures scrambled up the alley walls to escape the mere threat of Donovan’s presence. Little more than black blurs in their haste, they fled like shadows from the light.

Only Donovan hardly thought of himself as a light. No Unseelie, and member of the dark court, would ever think such a thing of themselves.

With the vampires gone, Donovan leveled his penetrating focus on Kieran. The youth had sense enough to tremble beneath the threat of it. He shouted at Donovan, “What do you want?”

Donovan reached out a hand, open and unarmed. “I want the Sidhe to thrive.”

“The Sidhe?” Kieran whispered it. Probably warned since he was a small lad to never speak of what he was. As if he should be ashamed of his glorious heritage rather than ennobled by it. The wonderment and surprise in Kieran’s expression said it all, an abandoned orphan waking to a dream of home. “You are Sidhe?”

“And I have come for you, Kieran.” As the youth drew up beside him, Donovan clapped a hand on his shoulder. When they vanished it was with the promise that Kieran would never be alone again.


Part 12/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 1/3/12!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Aftershock 10/16

Chapter Seven

Donovan idly tapped a finger on the side of the glass of Guinness as he appeared to relax in the window booth. The pub had a clear view of the corner on the opposite side of the street. Five “corner boys,” as Tiernan called them, loitered there with the casual brashness of youths in the first blush of freedom. Stronger in body than any time before in their miniscule lifetime and left to their own devices, they’d reverted to the pack mentality of dogs. Not even wolves, but the formerly domesticated dogs now roaming the streets with a small number that gives confidence in the ability to take down any single prey, regardless of size or strength. Street toughs. Believing they could conquer anything, because they’d faced almost nothing.

Kieran stood out among his companions. Tall and lean. The body of an archer, broad shoulders and toned musculature. Probably into boxing, given the stances he took as he horsed around with the other lads. Close shorn hair didn’t disguise his ears, which had the rounded appearance of a human’s. So this earthborn at least knew enough Glamour to manage that simple disguise.

With Donovan’s practiced eye, this initial assessment only require a minute at most. If instinct served, a further evaluation of Kieran’s abilities would roll up in just a few more moments. The street lights had already come on with the approach of dusk. During the daylight hours, perhaps Kieran hadn’t the sense to fear anything. Come night, though… in a town this size…

Ah… Yes… There they were…

The long black Town Car prowled up the street like a panther. The occupants likely knew of the Sidhe in their territory.

And then there… One of Kieran’s fellows bumped the Sidhe in the shoulder. So his friends knew Kieran had the unnatural attention of a predator. Perhaps they even suspected the nature of the threat, depending on how frequently this played out. Kieran stepped back from the curb, clearly knowing immediately what danger stalked him.

Donovan left cash and his untouched drink on the table. In no particular rush, he left the pub. By the time his pace carried him near the corner, the black-clad vampires had already flowed from the Town Car, scattering the youths who tried, and failed, to stand up to them. Kieran bolted from the scuffle, his friends buying him time, seconds at most.


Part 11/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/30/11!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Aftershock 9/16

Chapter Six

The building the humans constructed as their jailhouse possessed no magical wards whatsoever. Of course the majority of humans, with the exception of the various orders of wizards and druids, forgot the power of magic. The concrete and metal sufficed to barricade human miscreants, Donovan supposed, but it possessed no power to control the comings and goings of the fey.

Which meant that either the young firebrand called Bryce was content to stay there or was so woefully untrained as to not know how to simply walk away from it. These young Unseelie assimilated far too closely with the humans. Understanding humans enough to pass among them unnoticed was a must. There were simply far too many of them to avoid that. But never subject yourself to their laws or their expectations. Certainly not the Sidhe at any rate. Fey sometimes contented themselves with passing off as human, taking humans as friends and working amongst them. It stained them.

The security cameras outside the jail could not penetrate Donovan’s Glamour. Invisible to eyes physical and electronic, the Sidhe strolled along the wall of barred windows, glancing in. Most of the cells stood empty. Humans of various bedraggled states occupied a few. Picking out a Sidhe among humans was no more challenging than selecting a polishing and ornately faceted gem from mud-caked river stones.

Like most fire wielders, Bryce possessed crimson hair, one of those quirks of magic that affected appearance. Just as most Seelie were fair in complexion and coloring and the Unseelie tended to be dark.

The young Unseelie slept on the cot, a thin woolen blanket tossed over him. No other occupants in the cell. Donovan didn’t concern himself with the possibility of the humans in the adjacent cells stirring from their slumber. In a blink, he teleported from outside the cell to stand just next to the head of the cot. Dropping his Glamour, Donovan descended on the youth. His hand clamped hard over Bryce’s mouth, muting his startled cry and keeping him pinned against the pillow. In a panic, the boy swung a fist. Donovan caught the boy’s wrist before he could connect. He easily held him fast in the moment of testing strengths. A test that proved how soft this new generation of earthborns was. They lacked not only magical training but physical training as well.

Donovan leaned close, his expression stone serious. In a low voice for Bryce’s ears only, he said, “You want to stay here?”

Donovan allowed Bryce just enough movement to shake his head.

“Then you will come with me, Unseelie. Learn your true nature. Learn to control your fire. And follow me.” Each a mere statement of fact. Not a question.

His impossibly green eyes widened in fear. Even still, Bryce nodded as vigorously as he could.

And just like that, they were gone. Teleported away.


Part 10/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/27/11!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aftershock 8/16

Jhaer grit his teeth as he plunged into the crossing paths of magic. Didn’t make a difference, though. A scream ripped from him as the magic tore through his element and into his unprotected body. The ley lines, the very arteries of the planet, penetrated his flesh, his mind, and his magic. Unlike anything he’d ever experienced, the massive power boost expanded his consciousness until it shredded his endurance. The earth. His element. The total of the entire planet. All of it. Alive inside him. Around him. Part of him. Saturating him. His essence and the planet, becoming one in totality.

His eyes opened to all that the earth knew. All its secrets. All its history. All its potential. All its violence.

And all of it wholly within him for this frozen moment of time.

Strands of magic laced around Jhaer, binding him. Penetrating him. Lancing into the very heart of his existence.

Like the wildly chaotic force of a landslide, the ley lines tumbled Jhaer and knocked him free of their path, tossing him through the intervening layers of soil. He burst from the ground and rolled onto the grass. Claiming deep a lungful of air, he struggled to process all he’d experienced.

The Mounds, created by and bound to the magic of Danu, a Seelie, had never felt like this. The magic of the Mounds had been pure fey, recycling and renewing like the flow of rain from the sky, to the river, and through mist back into storm clouds. And yet flavored with Danu’s essences. Tainted by her Seelie nature. Now he drank in magic of the ley lines, flowing through his element of earth, like the purest of waters. This magic was not filtered through any fey before him. This was pure in the wildest sense. Uncorrupted. Making him beholden unto none for his access to it. No wonder the exiles thrived. They were free as no Unseelie of the Mounds had known freedom.

Jhaer, head of the Unseelie Elite, may have been the man who sank into the earth. But the man who rose from it was Donovan. Dark chieftain. The one who would gather the scattered Sidhe and unite them. Not just for mutual protection. He’d create for the Sidhe, and the lesser fey loyal to them, a new beginning. One here on the surface. He’d teach the earthborns what it meant to be Sidhe and Unseelie.


Part 9/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/23/11!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Aftershock 7/16

Chapter Five

During the daylight hours the streets around the castle in Kilkenny swarmed with busloads of visitors. Jhaer bided his time until the dark of night grew long and the city as still as it was going to be. A modern city had grown up around the castle. As Jhaer strode past the art museum, the castle came into view just across the paved street, as if nothing more special than just another building in a sea of buildings. A high stone wall around the property blocked not only the back access to the castle but the long enclosed courtyard as well. Even as Jhaer approached the wall, he knew exactly where each footfall nearby struck the ground. Tracking movement through the vibrations in the earth came second nature. He had no worry about being seen as he teleported from outside the courtyard wall into the property.

With the three remaining wings of what had once been a square-shaped castle to his left, Jhaer veered right. A paved walking path stretched into the distance before curving back around the other side of the courtyard that served as a public park. The flat, center expanse of grass during the day hosted picnics and leisure games involving ball tossing or kicking. At night the open field provided no cover, so Jhaer traveled amongst the trees along the courtyard wall.

All the while his focus flowed through the ground beneath him. Searching. Seeking. Catching a hint of movement. A surge. A flow.

Not underground water. He’d feel the saturation of the mud if that had been the case. This had a throb to it. A pulse. Of course he’d encountered ley lines before; the earth was crisscrossed with them. For the most part he’d avoided them. Like lightning, the ley lines moved immense power. Just like the airborne equivalent, getting in the path of such a force had potentially deadly consequences.

Jhaer positioned himself above the crossing ley lines that had guided the druids, secretly consulted by the builders of the castle, to select this place of power. Jhaer raised his arms before him, simultaneously closing his fists. As he did this, the earth beneath him sank. Like a liquid, it gathered him inside the cool element until the ground closed over his head, leaving no sign of disturbance on the surface.

The residual power from the ley lines vibrated through the ground around Jhaer like a warning. There was nothing for it now. Turn back and Fade? Or go forward and risk instant death? Even as Jhaer thought it, he knew there truly was no choice. He moved through the layers of sediment to within a foot of the nexus of power. The rush of magic roiled through the ground like the wild flood of energy in a pyroclastic flow. Massive even at this distance.

Pain postponed was just pain prolonged. Same could be said of death, if that’s what came of it.


Part 8/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/20/11!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Aftershock 6/16

Chapter Four

At his desk, slumped back in the chair, the words of the younger Unseelie replayed in his mind. In the past century or so, many Unseelie had migrated from the Mounds to the surface world. With the expanding power and control of the Seelie Court, the freedom-loving Unseelie found exile more palatable than persecution. The growing number of Unseelie outside the Mounds had made this safe house a necessity, when the Elite’s mission involved reaching out to one of the exiles. Other fey, of course, never fully left the surface to concentrate their numbers in the Mounds. Entire communities of lesser fey lived in secret and seclusion on the surface. But the noble elves, the Sidhe, has always lived in the Mounds before the All-Mother’s Seelie tendencies finally manifested in her growing favor of one Court over the other. Had she stood fast in her neutrality and commitment to balance, none of this would have happened. A pointless regret now. Nursing the pain accomplished nothing.

Jhaer knew Tiernan’s parents. Remembered when he was just a lad less than a decade old and they left the Mounds. He probably didn’t even have a memory of what it had been like there. Tiernan’s family had been one of the first to leave. More soon followed.
Lifting the paper, Tiernan left and Jhaer read the names. Bryce and Kieran. Both just in their early twenties. Living for thousands of years, the Sidhe bred extremely slowly, a fertile couple only producing a few offspring in their lifetime. To all appearances, though, the exiles bred as rapidly as the lesser fey and humans. For the most part, Jhaer dismissed the outcast youths as no threat to the Unseelie Court, and not even worth keeping an eye on. Especially when matters in the Mounds with the Seelie deteriorated day by day.

But these youths were Sidhe, and by definition the personification of magic. Untrained, perhaps. Undisciplined, to be sure. But wild and free and the very essence of Unseelie. And the earthborn Sidhe almost assuredly outnumbered any surviving Sidhe from the Mounds. They were an untapped power, a resource that practically begged predators to hunt them. Jhaer had not missed the rumors about the wizards, long ago driven out of Ireland, beginning to weasel their way back in. Though by far the worst, wizards were hardly the only threat to the Sidhe. Vampires, and even opportunistic lesser fey like the retched changelings, would pick off a Sidhe if they could manage it.

If the earthborns and exiles were all that remained of the Sidhe, the race would be extinct inside a year. Word of the Mounds collapse would already be whispering its way into the wrong ears. Though his people may not have been completely destroyed with the decimation of the Mounds, the end was only postponed until the scavengers descended upon the weak and wounded. Any Sidhe from the Mounds who did not link to the earth realm would Fade, and die from it or from an attack as soon as they grew too weak to fend it off. The earthborns, untrained and scattered, would be as easy to pick off as cubs once the pride that protected them was gone. More merciful if they all would have just died in the collapse than to Fade or die at the enemy’s merciless whim.

Tiernan was right. The Mounds were gone. The fey realm was never coming back. It was Earth or death. And Jhaer never for a moment considered bowing to death. Not for him. Not for the Unseelie. Not for the Sidhe.


Part 7/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/16/11!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Aftershock 5/16

Jhaer held the device to his ear. Each hollow chirp like a knock on an empty house. A summons to someone who was not there and could not hear.

“Hey, Jhaer. What’re you doin’ up here? On another mission?” Tiernan’s Irish accent lilted with informal familiarity uncommon among the Sidhe of the Mounds. “Where are you? Your office? I’ll pop over.”

Without waiting for the invitation, the young Unseelie appeared sitting on the corner of Jhaer’s desk. Though only a century or so old, Tiernan’s cocky attitude didn’t soften for even the head of the Unseelie Elite. Then again, most exiles “didn’t give a shite” about customs in the Mounds. Tiernan swept Jhaer with his light, nearly colorless eyes.

“Been in a scrap? You look wrecked. Did the other bloke survive?”

“I doubt it,” Jhaer said seriously. “They’re gone. Everyone. The Mounds. Just gone.”

Tiernan lifted a brow, the grin disappearing. “Gone? What do you mean gone?”

“The Mounds collapsed. Nothing but a crater left. The Seelie crushed our home to pieces!” Jhaer pounded his fist on his desk, wishing it had connected with Lugh’s proud chin instead. Why couldn’t those arrogant Seelie have just listened to him? Not even just him, but all the Sidhe whose warnings and predictions fell on deaf ears?

“Ain’t that a kick in the bollocks?” Tiernan’s attention slid around the office, taking mental inventory of the equipment on the open shelves, his composure not even mildly ruffled by the devastating news. “Surprised it took this long, really.”

Jhaer glared at his fellow Sidhe. “How can you be so casual? We’re all going to Fade! The Mounds are gone! We have no source of magic to keep us alive!”

Tiernan actually chuckled. “No, you have no source. I never was bound to the Mounds.” He shrugged. “It’s not pure Fey, but hey, I don’t have to worry about Fading.”

Jhaer’s eyes widened as he stared at Tiernan. “You’re connected to this realm? But how? This place isn’t magical. I mean, look at them. Humans have no magical abilities.” His hand swept out in front of him, indicating the general populace.

Tiernan grinned crookedly. “Humans can’t link to the magic, but that doesn’t mean the earth realm doesn’t have any magic. You need to get yourself connected to this realm’s ley lines, that’s what you really need to do.” He hopped off the desk. “Mounds are gone, my friend. Let ’em go. Get yourself a crew and establish yourself. Earth realm’s your home now. Better to embrace it than die fighting it.”

Tiernan ripped a sheet from a note pad on the desk and started jotting on it. “I’ll give you a start. Couple of earthborns. Early twenties. One’s got himself locked up by humans, of all things. Bonehead, I kid you not. Other one’s a corner boy, bashing around the streets. Trouble both of them, but you know how to straighten ’em up. Mostly untrained, but you’re good at that, too.” He left the note. “If they work out, you can owe me one.”

Tiernan clicked closed the ink pen with finality. “And while you’re reinventing yourself, you ought to think about a name change. Something Irish that’ll blend in.”


Part 6/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/13/11!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Aftershock 4/16

Chapter Three

Any other day he would have teleported. Not this day. Jhaer’s feet knew the path, fortunate for that since his senses barely registered the surroundings through the deafening layer of shock. Pastureland yielded to civilization as the early morning light glinted on east-facing windows in Kilkenny. Humans milled about, as humans are wont to do. Jhaer paid them no heed and they returned the courtesy.

From the outside the safe house appeared to be an unremarkable brick building in an unremarkable neighborhood of light industry and inexpensive apartments. The kind of place, if someone noticed it at all, one would assume was probably unoccupied and unworthy of interest, much less renovation. No mundane human eyes would notice the man in the dirt-smudged clothing turn down the alley and then slip through the Glamour that hid the only unbarred entrance.

Inside the long, two-story building, remnants of the former occupants remained by way of dusty and discarded industrial equipment and random cardboard boxes of broken junk and packing material. Through a grimy window, not a bit of this rubbish appeared worth the effort to steal. An intentional ploy.

Glamour again disguised the back hallway to the office space beyond with the illusion of a wall. Behind these multiple layers of protection, Jhaer opened an office door.

The Unseelie slumped at last in the leather chair behind the desk. Just bonelessly surrendering to the postponed fatigue, staring at nothing in particular. After an unmeasured amount of time, Jhaer opened one of the deep desk drawers. Nudging aside fake IDs and papers of random variety and usefulness in the paper-obsessed culture of the earth realm, he selected one of a handful of cell phone devices he’d procured.

He found the compatible cord and linked the phone to it and then to the power outlet in the wall until the device lit up, announcing it was charging. Not waiting for it to satisfy its hunger for the power it required to function while disconnected, Jhaer slid his finger across the touch screen.

The contacts symbol appeared on the first screen. He tapped it, then selected the first name of a Sidhe he scrolled to. The device chirped several times before the fake voice asked him to leave a message. Probably this particular Sidhe had been in the Mounds.

Jhaer rubbed at his face with his hand, as if this might wipe away the memories. Might prevent the thought of her as the crushing weight of failed magic snuffed out the light of her spirit without even the echo of her scream surviving to mark her passing.
They could not all be dead. They couldn’t be. Even though at the moment he felt utterly alone and disconnected from all he’d known and held dear. Jhaer slid his finger over the device to scroll the list again. Hunting… Searching for a name… Any name… Of someone who would not have been in the Mounds that day.

And found one.

Tiernan Kilgrave.


Part 5/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/9/11!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Aftershock 3/16

Chapter Two

Inhale… stale, dusty, moist. Blink… Pitch black. Try to move… Pinned.

Magic flowing.

Jhaer flexed his awareness. The disturbed earth overhead shifted with a groan, threatening to settle into the pocket that entombed him. Jhaer touched the unstable rubble with his magic, calming it.

Alone in the dark silence. The foul air, stale with use, choked him.

Reaching with his magic, Jhaer ignored the useless senses of his body. The earth… his element… embraced him. Merging with it, his will taking form, the ground became as yielding as liquid. The bed of rock beneath him rose as the arch of dirt above receded. Higher and higher. Faster as the surface drew nearer. Until, at last, Jhaer rolled onto the open ground beneath a sky full of stars. Not the fa├žade that had been cast overhead for so many centuries, but the real night sky.

Deep breaths of the fresh air cleared his lungs. Exhausted in body and in magic, Jhaer rested on the bed of earth miles above what used to be the courtyard of the Seelie palace. Slowly, Jhaer rose to his knees. What his eyes beheld wrenched his heart. Where the Mounds once formed great hills above the majestic home of the Sidhe now lay only an enormous crater. A few bits of magic still flickered. The ground rumbled now and then as large chunks fell into their final resting places far below. His home, the home of all Sidhe… gone. Destroyed. He’d warned them of this and the end had indeed come. It had come crashing down hard.

And for what? The Seelie’s insatiable lust for power? His body numb. His heart, his very soul, defeated. Jhaer surveyed the crater around him and found what he expected. No one. No survivors. If not for his mastery over the element of earth, he too would be buried in this mass grave. Turning from the devastating sight, he limped away.


Part 4/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/6/11!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aftershock 2/16


Thunder rumbled like a landslide and then the sky flickered. Or rather the magic that gave the ceiling of the Mounds the appearance of a sky. Both Sidhe warriors relinquished their aggression to witness the cascade of destruction rupturing the fabric of their world. Cracks like a spider’s web shattered the illusion until the great bowl of rock overhead became visible for the first time in as long as any Sidhe could remember.

Jhaer kept his balance better the next time the ground shifted, although the horror that stabbed through him threatened to drive him to his knees. The thunderous sounds of earth ripping from earth filled the cavern that housed the magical realm of the Mounds. As the ground above them shifted ominously, Jhaer’s hands snapped upward, fingers curled as if gripping something heavy. Trembling from the strain, his mastery over the earth alone supported the bowl of rock overhead.

“Lugh!” Jhaer growled through clenched teeth, “Help Danu! NOW! I can't… hold it up… much longer!” All his concentration, his strength, focused solely on preventing the Mounds, home to hundreds of thousands of fey, from catastrophic collapse, for as long as he could.

Differences postponed in the face of imminent demise, the Seelie raced toward the castle as Jhaer bore the weight of the world. With muscles trembling from the effort, Jhaer waited for the dread to dissipate, anticipating the creatrix to reach out and fortify the Mounds. But what he felt was life, the connection to Danu, fading away. The All-Mother, she who bound the Mounds together for centuries, was disappearing. She was dying.

All hope shattered, leaving only fatalistic determination. Through raw force of will, Jhaer held aloft the vast cavern ceiling, allowing as many fey as possible the chance to escape, the stronger ones via teleportation, the lesser fey certainly crowding the portals that might whisk them to the surface. Alone, Jhaer balanced each rock, each clump of dirt. For miles. Sweat ran in rivulets down the strained muscles of his body. Holding. Binding. Unyielding. And yet fissures snaked through the cavern under the oppression of tons upon tons of earth overhead. Fissures Jhaer could not mend. Fissures that sheared as chunks broke free and rained from the sky. Chunks that slipped through his shattering strength. Jhaer dropped to his knees, giving all his power to the failing magic. The edges of the cavern crumbled, creating a cascade as each lost rock freed those above it. Rockslides like waterfalls poured down in a roaring that could not completely annihilate the screams of terror. Down the ceiling fell in ever greater pieces until the entire cavern plummeted down like a mountain to entomb everything beneath, burying alive everyone who had not already escaped. Including Jhaer.


Part 3/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 12/2/11!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Aftershock 1/16

by S. Ravynheart and S. A. Archer

Chapter One

Jhaer dodged through the local fey crowding the market street of the village built up around the Seelie castle, thankful that his plain, loose-fitting clothing disguised him. Brightly colored streamers from the celebration draped from tree limbs and windows to flutter festively about the revelry. The ale flowed and the music played. Seelie fey of every race danced and sang ancient victory songs, obliviously ignorant that in conquering the Unseelie, they ensured the downfall of all fey.

Stealth carried Jhaer as far as the courtyard wall and then he unsheathed his fury and magic. With a rage that rent a boulder from the ground, Jhaer’s magic burst forth. His power over the element of earth  belonged to him alone, so the boulder that splintered the teak courtyard gate with the explosion of cannon fire announced with certainty the Unseelie Elite who wielded it.

Anticipating a final assault while the captive Unseelie monarchs imprisoned within succumbed to the pressure to surrender their authority, the Seelie forces lined the top of the inner castle wall beyond the courtyard. Archers drew back at the sight of him, even as the Seelie Champion on the parapet called out to Jhaer. The corona of sun magic flared around Lugh, as if determined to prove his nickname as the Shining One. The golden boy of the Seelie Court in his sculpted armor vaulted down into the courtyard with a dramatic flair. If the demonstration of grace and courage aimed to impress, it missed the mark with Jhaer.

“Lugh! Have you been staring at your own magic so long you've blinded yourself?” Jhaer rushed into the courtyard. As the archers launched their first volley, Jhaer summoned a shield of stone from the very ground before him. The rock wall preceded him, the last couple feet at the top tilted back over his head, in case any clever archers aimed with a high trajectory. After the arrows in the initial strike splintered on his shield, Jhaer jerked up his hands, his magic heaving skyward the ground in front of the castle wall to block off the archers. His personal rock shield fragmented into dust that defused to the ground he’d drawn it from. He snarled at Lugh, the sole obstacle between Jhaer and the castle proper. “This must stop! Before it’s too late!”

“One Court, Sidhe!” Lugh proclaimed. “We can be brothers, you know. This feud can end. It should end!” Yet the Seelie ignited a barrier of fire, disproving his claim of brotherly love.

Jhaer shielded his face against the fire between them, an all too familiar tactic from the Sidhe with the magical aspect of the sun. “Light and dark cannot merge. One will always consume the other. You know this! Yet the arrogant Seelie’s hunger for power would rather destroy everything than have balance!” With that, Jhaer sank into the ground, closing it up over him.

Moving swiftly through the earth in a self-contained cavern like an air bubble rising through a viscous liquid that parted the ground before him and resealed it behind him, Jhaer detoured beneath the flames. He felt the vibration from the footsteps of the Seelie above, rushing to pursue him.

An unexpected tremor charged though the earth and slammed into him, lancing a dread dead into his heart. The Unseelie warrior gripped his chest, breath stolen from him by a horrendous shift in the magic surrounding him. Stunned to the point of panic, Jhaer surfaced once more, the Seelie not but a few quick strides from him. Before a cry of dismay could escape his lips, a shockwave of magic knocked him off balance. A crack climbed up the outer wall like a growing vine, reaching ever higher.

“Trying to bring down the entire castle?” The Seelie snarled. “Danu is in there!”

Jhaer stumbled backward before catching himself, his eyes wide as he stared at the fractures creeping up the courtyard walls. “Would I knock myself off balance? Open your eyes, Lugh! Something is wrong!”


Part 2/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 11/29/11!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

End of the World 7/7

The fairy lights barely illuminated the mural on the wall that the Scribe indicated. Lugh rose and crossed before the faded images. His skin began to glow with the warmth of predawn, filling the chamber with enough light to see by.

“What is this?” He studied the circle drawn around the figure of the All-Mother. She appeared to be floating in the air. Small objects circled her.

“It depicts the story of how Danu created the Mounds.”

Lugh snapped his head sharply toward Willem. His slightly pointed elfin ears prickling he listened with such intensity. “Continue. Tell your tale, Scribe.”

“Few survived the collapse of the First Fey realm. The realm from which all fey creatures first arose. Unlike the Mounds, it was a true and separate realm of existence. Danu was one of the Sidhe who escaped. It was not long before the Fade began to set in.”

Lugh knew this much. And knew they faced the same peril now.

“She gathered together artifacts that survived the collapse. Items that were imprinted with the magic signature of the first realm.” Willem brushed his hand reverently across the image on the wall, painted with the practiced and skilled hand of a master fey artist. “She used them to create a surrogate realm, the Mounds, in a pocket of magic beneath the earth.”

“Like a womb,” Lugh agreed. Which was how the Sidhe whose focus of magic was procreation would manifest such a realm. “As she was the Creatrix of the realm, and tied to it, all who linked to the Mounds became tied to her. Becoming as her children.” Lugh moved closer to the images. “Do these artifacts still exist? Could this magicraft be performed once more?”

Next to Lugh, who towered well over six feet in height, the Scribe’s four-and-three-quarters feet seemed even more diminutive. With Lugh’s inquiry put to him, Willem fidgeted, scratching at his pointed ear. “The All-Mother left a journal, which we of her order have studied in as great a detail as we are capable of. There are unclear passages, which might become clear once the artifacts are collected. The artifacts she used were consumed in the creation of the Mounds. However, others still exist. Lost. Hidden. Stolen. Passed down from father to son. Put away and forgotten like all other bits and bobs. Their importance forgotten as they became misplaced.”

“Then how might we discover them?”

“There are ways.”

The faint ray of hope broke through the black depths of defeat and death, no matter how slim the chance or how impossible the task. Lugh leveled the full force of his determination at the Scribe. “Then let us begin anew.”

###

Thank you for reading "End of the World" Champion of the Sidhe: Part 1! We hoped you enjoyed it! Would you like to show your support? Why not take a moment and leave a star rating or a few words on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads? It would mean a lot to us.


See what happens to Lugh next in "Champion of the Fey" Champion of the Sidhe: Part 2.


Following the optimal reading order, the next story is "Aftershock" Rise of the Unseelie: Part 1. We'll be bringing your that story in its entirety over the next few months. 


Part 1/16 of "Aftershock" coming on 11/25/11!

Friday, November 18, 2011

End of the World 6/7

Chapter Three

How exactly the world could come to an end and life go on, Lugh didn’t know. He felt like a sleepwalker. He’d bathed and changed from his bloodied clothing, as he’d done after hundreds of battles before. The routine carried him through where thoughts failed him. The lesser fey handled the preparations for the corpse. Lugh oversaw, more to have another Sidhe present rather than to truly assist. The All-Mother deserved so much more, but Lugh had nothing left to give.

Her body was cleaned and dressed in glittering white. Her gloved hands were joined together over her stomach, holding the hilt of the silver dagger than slew her. The blade rested between her breasts. The silver did not touch the skin and so would not damage the body further. Danu would not decay. She would just slowly fade away.

All fey were partially physical and partially magic. Without the constant and renewing breath of magic coming into her, Danu would eventually become less corporeal, becoming as a ghost until finally she vanished into nothingness.

Lugh helped to lift the glass cover into place over the velvet pallet that served as the All-Mother’s final bed. His tears finally began their silent spill to burn down his cheeks as the procession began into the undercroft deep beneath the temple. The fey scattered a carpet of flowers before them. Fairy lights twinkled in the dark passageway to the deepest chamber, haphazardly strung along the route at irregular heights. A few of the dwarves had carved a fine stone pedestal for the glass casket to rest upon. Lugh ensured its perfect alignment before setting down the burden.

He knelt before the All-Mother, in her final slumber. His forehead rested against the glass side. Eyes closed.

All of the fey would Fade now, as the All-Mother’s body did. Mourning her, he mourned his people, his home, his own life. Time would not extend before him endlessly, as it always had in the past. Without Danu, there were no Mounds. Without the Mounds, there was no source of fey magic. The flow and renewal of the magic that fed into each fey and powered their magic came from the Mounds.

“Why would anyone do this? Did they not know?”

A hand softly rested upon his shoulder. Lugh ignored it. Only when the hand squeezed did he finally lift his gaze.

The Scribe offered him a sorrowful smile. During the preparations someone spoke the Scribe’s name. Lugh searched his emotion-torn memory. Willem. The Scribe’s name was Willem.

“All may not be lost, Champion.” Willem nodded meaningfully across the chamber. All of the other fey had wandered away, dealing with grief in their own ways. The loss of the All-Mother devastated. More than just this, though, all lost family and friends in the collapse as well.


Part 7/7 of "End of the World" coming on 11/22/11!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

End of the World 5/7

Chapter Two

The only way to preserve what might yet survive of the crumbling Mounds was to save Danu. Lugh knew this as certainly as he knew his sole purpose now was to save her, their home and their people. The magic of his teleportation brought Lugh to the grand receiving hall of Danu’s temple in the heart of Ireland. Far above the Mounds secreted below the ground.

“Assist me!” Lugh bellowed, his voice echoing into the temple and bringing an immediate rush of lesser fey servants, mostly Brownies and fairies from the look of them. Over the screams and weeping at the sight of their mistress’ bloody body, one Scribe urged Lugh to convey the All-Mother to her chamber. The room turned out not to be a bedroom as he anticipated, but a private magicraft workshop. Lugh arranged Danu upon the altar, the knife handle rising like a beacon of death from her chest. The silver would slowly poison her, but if he pulled out the blade unprepared, she would bleed out in seconds.

“The Mounds are crumbling. We must act with swift diligence.” Lugh pressed a hand against the wound on her cooling, blood-soaked chest.

The Scribe touched the All-Mother’s neck and then met Lugh’s eyes. As lesser fey went, Scribes always had the tendency to appear grave in expression. Large eyes that perpetually worried. Thin, short bodies hedging on underfed and spindly. Pasty, green-tinged skin on faces that rarely left the library or archive long enough to have a passing familiarity with sunlight. Even for a Scribe, this one’s mournful expression spoke volumes.

Growling, Lugh shouted, “She has lived many thousands of years. No mere blade shall be the death of her! Fetch a healer!”

“There is nothing to be done,” the Scribe whispered.

Lugh reached across Danu’s body and snatched the Scribe by the front of his pressed white shirt, staining it with blood. “You lie! Bring the healer!”

“I am the healer, Sire .” The Scribe covered Lugh’s hand with both of his, not to pry but to let the magic flow from his fingertips and prove his credentials. Lugh snatched back his hand as all evidence confirmed the Scribe’s claims.

“She can’t be dead.” Lugh stumbled back from the altar, his arms held away from his body, now uselessly holding nothing. The All-Mother’s blood soaked his clothing and dripped from his fingertips. The horror-shock numbed him like an unexpected punch as he staggered back from her lifeless body. Lugh walked, then jogged, then ran to the portico that overlooked the hills that gave the Mounds their name. Two great hills should have risen before him as high as the hill where Danu’s temple perched. Through magic, the entirety of the expanse of the Mounds existed within the belly of those two hills.

The hills beneath which the Mounds were buried crumbled in on themselves. Deflated as if the hollow caverns beneath lost stability. A cloud of dust and debris billowed out as the hills sunk down, turning instead into a crater.

Lugh gaped at it, dumbfounded. The other fey about him wept and screamed in their terror.

Homes… Family… Friends… Lives… Culture… History…

Everything…

Lost…

Just… Just…

Gone.

Lugh dropped to his knees. The strength drained from his arms and they dropped to his thighs. The lesser fey wept about him, but Lugh could not even reach past the shock to begin to comprehend grief. Pain, though… Pain cut right through him. His heart ached as if the silver dagger had been planted in his chest, rather than in the All-Mother’s. His head dropped back as his pain screamed out to the heavens above. The magic bond to the All-Mother, and to the magic of the Mounds, severed like a dirk sliced through it. Lugh clutched at his heart. Everything he was, was linked to the Mounds, to the magic, to his people.

The world had ended. And he, the Champion of the Sidhe, hadn’t been able to save it.


Part 6/7 of "End of the World" coming on 11/18/11!

Friday, November 11, 2011

End of the World 4/7

“No,” Lugh exhaled. Utter shock drained the strength right out of him. His spear clattered to the floor with hardly a notice that he’d dropped it. If not for the quake that pitched the building and lurched him forward, he might not ever have broken the paralysis of shock. “Danu…”

Lugh scrambled forward as the very world gave a shudder. The Mounds were crumbling. Dying.

As the All-Mother was dying.

Lugh gathered the tall, thin frame of the Sidhe All-Mother into his arms, rolling her body as he lifted. The handle of a silver dagger gleamed, driven to the decorative hilt in the very heart of Danu. Twice again as ancient as Lugh, Danu’s delicate beauty remained unchanged from the innocence of grace she possessed at seventeen. Not even the pallor of bloodlessness could rob her of her Sidhe perfection.

The Creatix of the Mounds… The All-Mother of the Tuatha de Dannan… The people of Danu… The Sidhe… The single unbreakable tie binding together all magic in this fey realm…

Stabbed in the heart.

“No!” Lugh rose to his feet even as the light and illusions beyond the balcony flickered and crashed down from the sky. Her hair and the drape of her long skirt spilled from Lugh’s arms and reached the floor. Embracing her limp body tight to him, Lugh rushed to the back of the throne room, to the great crystal globe balanced on a pedestal and throbbing with centuries of magicraft. Lugh kicked the globe, driving it from the pedestal. It crashed down onto the floor and shattered into flakes of enchantment like a pile of snow. The barrier against Glamour and teleportation disintegrated.

Jhaer’s strength finally faltered. The precious minutes the Unseelie bought Lugh were spent. A great crack and rumble shook the building as the ceiling of the Mounds gave way to the tons of rocks and earth above. It hit the rotunda, which stalled its descent only a fraction of a second. The Mounds came down with crushing force just as Lugh teleported Danu away.


Part 5/7 of "End of the World" coming on 11/15/11!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

End of the World 3/7

Lugh cursed the slippery magic that allowed his opponent to evade him. He felt through the soft soles of his boots the slight tremor as the Sidhe traveled beneath him. Lugh rushed to follow. As Jhaer reemerged from the ground, a great tremor rocked the courtyard. A crack climbed the outer wall like a growing vine, reaching ever higher.

“Trying to bring down the entire castle?” he snapped at Jhaer. “Danu is in there!”

The Unseelie stumbled backwards before catching himself; his wide eyes followed the crack in the wall. “Would I knock myself off balance? Open your eyes, Lugh! Something is wrong!"

Lugh rode out the next quake, but just barely. His feet remained under him only by his fey grace. Thunder rolled across the sky and then the sky itself flickered. Or rather the magic that gave the ceiling of the Mounds the appearance of a sky. Fractures like a spider’s web shattered the illusion. As long as Lugh lived, the Mounds would have sunlight, so even without the sky and sun illusions, the world was not cast into darkness. But without the magic the great bowl of rock overhead became visible for the first time in Lugh’s thousands of years of recollection.

“All-Mother…” he breathed. The dread stabbed him like a knife to the heart. Danu was in peril. And so were the Mounds.

Jhaer raised his hands, fingers curled as if clutching something invisible. The cacophony from the crumbling rock slowed to the rumbling roll of distant thunder. The ceiling caved in elsewhere, the echoes reached them across the expanse of the Mounds, but Jhaer’s mastery held the rock above them together. The Unseelie trembled with great personal strain. Sweat beaded along his skin and made his black hair glisten.

“Help Danu! NOW! I can't… hold it up… much longer!"

Cursing the magic that prevented him from teleporting, Lugh found his feet before Jhaer finished speaking. The rock wall Jhaer erected before the castle broke into chunks that slumped without Jhaer’s will binding its shape. Lugh bound over the debris and raced into the castle, even as all others scrambled to flee it. He dodged great chunks of falling plaster as it crashed from the buttresses arching high above the rotunda and grand staircase. The rubble shattered on the marble stairs. Plaster dust floated on the air currents like mist as Lugh cut through. Screams echoed from everywhere. Lesser fey scrambled to and fro, but Lugh paid no heed to any of them. He saw no Sidhe. Not one.

Heart pounding, he used the handrail to catapult himself as he raced up the long, curving stairwell to the second level. No one need tell him where to find the All-Mother. All fey connected to the Mounds possessed a sense of her. No guards manned the watch outside the throne chamber. No bodies strewn about to explain their absence. No blood. No dropped weapons. Fear for friends and lovers kindled behind the greater dread that brought him to a sliding stop on the dust-covered floor just inside the chamber.

In the center of the oval chamber… a lone woman curled onto her side on the floor. The fine layer of debris dulled the shine of the blond hair draped about her. Her slender back, decorated with premium fey brocade and lace, faced him. Like a finely crafted statue, she remained stone still. Unalive.


Part 4/7 of "End of the World" coming on 11/11/11!

Friday, November 4, 2011

End of the World 2/7

A volley of arrows whistled over Lugh’s head. A shielding wall of rock flew up before Jhaer, shattering the arrows like twigs. Nothing so mundane could deter the dark Sidhe when the rage claimed him. Lugh dueled with Jhaer hundreds of time over thousands of years. Every time the Seelie and Unseelie crossed swords, Jhaer led the charge. As did Lugh.

This would be the last time, though. Last time as Seelie verse Unseelie, at the very least. After this day, that division would end. The unified Court would rule the Mounds.

“Lugh! Have you been staring at your own magic so long you've blinded yourself?” Jhaer snarled. The rock shield dissipated into a cloud of dust and crumbled away as though cast aside with the contempt poisoning the Unseelie. He would rend Lugh just as viciously if he had blood instead of earth power. A tremble rippled through the ground and Lugh’s nimble feet expected to evade a grasping fist of earth clutching at his ankles.

Those familiar tactics failed to manifest. Instead the ground gave up a guttural rumbling. The very earth before the castle heaved upward in a sheer rock wall that shot skyward and blocked the fey of Lugh’s regiment.

It mattered not. The Champion could fend off the Elite long enough for the Unseelie King and Queen to submit their magics to the greater Seelie, or rather the unified, Court.

Jhaer snapped at him, conviction and venom cutting in equal measure. “This must stop! Before it’s too late!”

Lugh raised his hands and with them he brought up a shield of fire in front of Jhaer. “Halt, Elite! You shall not violate the Seelie Court. Not this day of all days!” Lugh charged toward the fire between them, intent on getting his body and his spear between the Elite and the castle. “Stand down! I shall not permit your passage!”

In the Mounds, secrecy was near to impossible. Hardly a fey in the Mounds didn’t know what was to occur. Many he’d expected to protest or to charge the gates had yet to reveal themselves. At this late hour the ceremony must be nearing completion. No one, not even the very head of the Unseelie Elite, could not stop it now. Nor would Lugh allow Jhaer to mar the day with his rampage.

“One Court, Sidhe! We can be brothers. This feud can end! It should end!” Even as he said this, he prepared to fight.

"Light and dark can not merge. One will always consume the other. You know this! Yet the arrogant Seelie’s hunger for power would rather destroy everything than have balance!" Jhaer sank into the ground that enveloped and then closed over him like quicksand.


Part 3/7 of "End of the World" coming on 11/8/11!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

End of the World segment 1/7

by S. A. Archer

Chapter One

“The world as we have known it ends this day.” The warriors, men and women both, needed to hear him speak. The grit and determination in his voice carried as much emphasis as the words themselves. Many cut uncertain glances his way, the deep-seated beliefs ground into them over the centuries nearly as much a part of them as their skin and their magic. Lugh patrolled the top of the castle wall, watching the courtyard below. The elaborate breastplate strapped to him served more as a status symbol than actual protection, even with the magicraft worked into the polished leather. He was the Champion of the Sidhe, even for the Sidhe who would sooner slit his throat than call him their champion. It mattered not. He protected his people regardless, most especially from themselves.

The Sidhe and lesser fey warriors of the Seelie Court spaced themselves at intervals of less than a full arm span. Wood elves, dwarves, selkies, and even a stout-hearted fairy held the line for this final watch, bows, spears, and magic at the ready. Although the technology-embracing world beyond the Mounds  long ago abandoned the grace of the bow for guns and other modern weaponry, the long-lived fey of the Mounds shunned such graceless devices.

“Keep a sharp eye on the barrier.” The canopy of magic reached just beyond the courtyard wall, preventing Glamour or teleportation within the castle grounds. If any fey dreamed to raid the stronghold of the Seelie Court this day, they faced more than simply this entire cadre of fey warriors. They would have to best the Champion of the Sidhe, a near impossible task. For greater than a thousand years, only a handful had ever crossed purposes with Lugh and bested him. A few of these skilled warriors manned the line with Lugh now. Others, such as the greatest of the Unseelie guard, had yet to breach the courtyard threshold. His heart harbored no doubts that at least one would challenge Lugh’s mettle and resolve.

Lugh cast a proprietary glance across the outer wall to the fey town in the protective shadow of the castle. The hills rolled into the distance. The internal measure of the Mounds roughly equated to Ireland in width and length. Lugh knew every tree, every step of every path. Twice he held the Seelie crown. Since he was a much younger Sidhe, Lugh held the mantle of Champion. He earned it. The very sunlight in the sky was his gift to the Mounds. The Celts once worshipped Lugh as the god of the sun, for in that lay the aspect of Lugh’s unique magic. All the life that grew and prospered in the Mounds did so by the very power of his love for this place and these fey. He would defend it, and them, until his final breath.

With a great explosion of shattering wood, a boulder crashed though the courtyard gate. No such boulder had been transported though the city beyond the castle. This one had been ripped from the ground and flung with a magic only one Sidhe possessed.

“Jhaer!” Lugh growled, “Bring me your rage, Elite.” With his spear, Lugh pole-vaulted the low parapet and dropped the twenty feet into the courtyard. Using the grace of the fey, he hit and rolled, then came back up to his feet in a charge for the Unseelie intruder.

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Part 2/7 of "End of the World" coming on 11/4/11!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Countdown to Launch

Things are falling into place and we are on track to launch by November 1st. Putting the final touches on the website and setting up the mailing list this week. The initial stories in the series are going to be converted into ebooks this weekend. I've seen the covers and they are awesome! I can't wait to finally share The Sidhe with everyone.

Watch this blog for free fiction! Segments will be posted weekly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Concerning Fey

(This article is an excerpt from the Chronicles of the Seelie and written by Lugh, Champion of the Sidhe and former King of the Seelie Court. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of all Sidhe, in particular the Unseelie.)


Concerning Fey

There has been little accurate information written about the various races of fey that have survived to present times. I believe this is partly because most fey don’t feel inclined to create a written record which might be used to against them, and partly because fey are playful and often find a near truth… or a half truth… or a could-be truth… close enough to truth to present it as such.

There are, in fact, innumerable races of fey. The noble elves, or Sidhe, are elfin in appearance and usually tall and beautiful. Many of the Celtic gods and goddess that the humans worshiped are, in fact, not deities but Sidhe. The Sidhe's magic is strong and usually narrow in focus. Such that a Sidhe whose focus is equine in nature might be able to speak with horses and take the shape of a horse.

One magic in common with all Sidhe is the Sidhe Touch. Among the Sidhe the magic of two or more can co-mingle. It is a very intimate communion and is soothing and bonding to the Sidhe. Skin contact is required for the Touch to pass from a Sidhe to another individual. While other races of fey can not duplicate the Touch, they can experience the Touch given to them by a Sidhe without any ill-effects. The Sidhe Touch is extremely addictive to humans, and should be avoided. A human who is addicted to the Touch will forever long for the Touch, and without benefit of regular Touch can even die from the longing of it. Human cultures who have had regular Sidhe contact know of the Touch, and regard it as a curse. Less scrupulous Sidhe have even used the Touch to enslave humans to their will.

All other races of fey are known as ‘lesser fey,’ at least to the aristocratic Sidhe. The lesser fey include a variety of so called ‘fantasy’ races. This would include other races of elves, pixies, fairies, red caps, changelings, goblins, incubus, succubus, mermaids, ect. Creatures such as dragons and unicorns have fey blood and can also be classified as fey.

Among the fey there tends to be two general alignments. The Sidhe call these the two courts. There is the Seelie court and the Unseelie court. The Seelie are, for the most part, lawful in nature. They have clear morals of what is right and wrong, and will side most often on what is right. The Seelie align themselves with the lighter side of magic. The Unseelie are more likely to consider how they can personally benefit before taking a course of action. The Unseelie often align themselves with the darker side of magic.

All fey are highly adept with Glamour. Glamour is a type of magic that can be used to hide in plain sight. With Glamour a fey can appear as something he or she is not, such as human. It can also be used to completely hide from sight, seeming to melt into the shadows. Those with the eyes to see magic may be able to see partially or completely through the Glamour.

Most fey also possess at least a limited ability to teleport. A fey's teleportation range varies based on age, experience and strength of magic.

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