Historical fantasy set against the backdrop of WW1.
For seventeen years, the convent walls kept Meara Cleary from the secret of her own parentage.The sisters regard her with a cross of disdain and fear. Only among the trees by the gurgling creek does she find acceptance. A bearded stranger claims she’s his niece and promises to take her home. Before he can, a cataclysmic event thrusts her into a war-torn world.
Meara vows to journey to Ireland to find her uncle, unaware of how perilous a journey it will be. Her Druidic father guides her through dreams, explaining her magical heritage. Her dead parent can’t help her with the intricacies of village life, especially when she catches the eye of the very engaged Braeden Douglas.
A whirlwind composed of equal parts menace, romance, and revelation sweep Meara across the continent while gathering allies and enemies with equal speed. Her intent to return to her family turns into a fight to survive her own destiny.
A snap of a tree branch signaled Meara wasn’t alone. Her breath caught in her lungs and swelled her belly as she waited. A tiny thrill danced up her skin, leaving the hairs on her arms upright. Mother Superior strictly forbade the sisters from entering the woods. She called it going into the world, and they’d renounced the world when they entered the convent walls. The rule was for the sisters, not her, an orphaned child who by chance had been born within these same walls.
A speckled fawn stepped into the sun-dappled clearing, allowing Meara’s breath to escape in a whoosh. A deer, a baby, which meant the mother wouldn’t be far behind. The doe stepped out from the brush, giving the girl leaning against the tree a speculative glance before foraging the mosses and delicate wildflowers. If she stayed still, the skittish forest inhabitants would ignore or possibly accept her. It meant a great deal that they accepted her in an offhand way.
Birdsong accompanied the play and the chuckle of the nearby creek. The area around the convent walls drew her. Here, she felt at home. It certainly felt more right than walking in straight lines with the sisters chanting somber words to an unseen male deity who demanded constant homage in the form of prayers six times a day. Her hand covered her mouth, hoping she hadn’t said such a thing aloud. Even thinking it was a sin, but speaking it would result in excommunication and horrible punishment.
Sister Thomas reminded her, anytime she’d made the mistake of complaining about the endless monotony of convent life, that her mother died a painful death in childbirth due to her sins. A few sisters whispered bastard, changeling, dark whelp within her hearing. Perhaps, they needed to point out she was different, as if she couldn’t have figured that out herself.
Outside the walls, she’d slip off her shoes feeling the cool spongy moss under her feet. It tickled, but more importantly, it lived and touched her. The lack of physical touch within the cloistered walls intensified her yearning for something to touch her, even if the touch was passive as she trod upon it.
The tiniest shift of light motes moved through the air, forming and reforming, flying or tumbling through the air. The grass beside her pushed down similar to something landing beside her. Although her eyes did not convey such information, she knew, the same as she knew her mother did not die from any great sin. Dozens of Hogstead village women died in childbirth as Sister Gabriella explained when she found Meara crying in the garden shed.
A warmness crept over a body, a comforting peace that somehow came from the unseen presence beside her. To speak of it would destroy it. Even Sister Gabriella, who was bolder than the other sisters—since she took an angel’s name as opposed to a saint’s—wouldn’t understand.
The lengthening shadows indicated the vanishing afternoon. Soon the bells would toll for the three o’clock service, and her absence would be obvious. She stood, brushing the leaves off her plain brown tunic before giving a head bob to the area where she’d been sitting.
“Good day to you.”
Even though no human words rode the air, she felt a response, one of respect and care. Her measured footsteps allowed her to move past the wildlife without sending it fleeing. Once she cleared the woods, she grabbed the hem of her tunic and ran.
Grandmother Always Knows by Rayna Noire
Luna rattled the ice in her cocktail while she squinted at the wall clock. The long hand had only made it to the four. Seriously, only twenty minutes had passed. The Halloween party was the brainchild of her employer’s wife.
As a witch, she wasn’t into Halloween parties with the cheesy costumes and heavy drinking. Nope, she spent the season in contemplation or possibly divination. When the veil between the two worlds was the thinnest, her deceased grandmother spoke to her. She could have sworn Nana told her she’d meet her soul mate soon. Her granny also warned her that things weren’t as they seemed.
Calvin from HR weaved around the people to reach her. Normally, she liked the man, but his drunken leer announced his current state.
“Hey Luna, why don’t the two of us go outside and look at the stars?”
Her immediate response was to brush him off, but despite his soaked state he might remember her rudeness. “It won’t work. Too much light pollution to see anything.”
The man blinked owlishly at her, making her wonder if he understood anything she had said. Luna put up a hand. “Oh, it’s my girlfriend. I need to talk to her. Pardon.” She strolled away, questioning if Calvin could be her soul mate. She shook her head. Couldn’t be.
There were several unfamiliar faces in the crowded great room. At least no one was wearing costumes. She should be grateful for that since people dressing up as witches irritated her. Not sure if evil witch or sexy witch annoyed her more, since both were stereotypes.
A gorgeous man nodded at her and smiled. Well, well, the night suddenly looked promising. The people parted enough to reveal more of the tall, handsome…. priest. The former promising man was the final straw. Time to go home and see if she could reach Nana since she must have misunderstood the message. It could have been what she had wanted to hear as opposed to what she needed to hear.
Luna pivoted and made a beeline for the door.
She threw a backward glance over her shoulder, noticing the priest heading her way. She blinked. Obviously, the clergy was more aggressive these days. He was going to either ask her when she last attended mass or ask if she had any sins to confess.
Luna managed to slip outside where she could see her namesake, the moon. The door slammed, revealing the priest had followed her.
“Hey,” she held up her hands, “Not interested. Witch here.” Usually, that line scared most away, except the very drunk.
An amused expression crossed the man’s face as he strolled closer. “Glad to hear it. I’m not a priest.” He held out his hand. A silver pentacle ring on his pinkie glimmered in the dim light.
Luna took his hand. He wrapped his fingers around her palm and held on. An energy flowed between them, unlike anything she’d ever experienced before. She knew this man; at least her soul recognized him. “That’s a relief.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “My name’s Rowan and yours is Luna.”
“How did you know?” Perhaps he could read minds.
“Ah, well, I think my brother, your boss, set us up. He knew I hadn’t much luck finding a nice Pagan woman.”
Rowan laughed, then winked. “My brother can be a bit of a practical joker, but he has a good heart.”
Grandmother knew all along.
About the Author:
Rayna Noire is an author and a historian. The desire to uncover the truth behind the original fear of witches led her to the surprising discovery that people believed in magick in some form up to 150 years ago. A world that believed the impossible could happen and often did must have been amazing. With this in mind, Ms. Noire taps into this dimension, shapes it into stories about Pagan families who really aren’t that different from most people. They do go on the occasional adventures and magick happens.