Veins of magic, p.1

Veins of Magic, page 1

 part  #2 of  Otherworld Series

 

Veins of Magic
 



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Veins of Magic


  Veins of Magic

  Emma Hamm

  Copyright

  Copyright © 2017 by Emma

  All rights reserved.

  Cover by: Natasa Ilincic

  Editing by: Amy Cissell

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Created with Vellum

  Contents

  Map of Uí Néill

  Map of the Otherworld

  Glossary of Terminology

  Prologue

  1. The Rose And The Stag

  2. The Medicine And The Blade

  3. The Dreams Of Witches

  4. The Hangman And The Portal

  5. The Reunion And The Throne

  6. The Ghosts Of The Castle

  7. The Sword Of Light

  8. The Wisdom Of Ethniu

  9. The Invitation

  10. The Seelie Court

  11. The Druid Queen

  12. The Battle To End The War

  13. The Coronation

  Afterword

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Glossary of Terminology

  Tuatha dé Danann - Considered to be the “High Fae”, they are the original and most powerful faerie creatures.

  Seelie Fae - Otherwise known as the the “Light Fae”, these creatures live their lives according to rules of Honor, Goodness, and Adherence to the Law.

  Unseelie Fae - Considered the “Dark Fae”, these creatures follow no law and do not appreciate beauty.

  Danu - The mother of all Tuatha dé Danann and considered to be an “earth” mother.

  Nuada - The first Seelie King, often called Nuada Silverhand as he has a metal arm after losing his own in a fearsome battle.

  Macha - An ancient Tuatha dé Danann who is known as one of the three sisters that make up the Morrighan. Her symbols are that of a horse and a sword.

  Redcap - A troublesome faerie, frequently found in gardens harassing chickens.

  Máthair - “Mother”

  Will-o'-the-wisps - Small balls of light that guide travelers into bogs, usually with the intention for the humans to become lost.

  Brownies - Friendly, mouse-like creatures who clean and cook for those who are kind to them.

  Pixie - A winged faerie whose face resembles that of a leaf.

  Changeling - Old or weak faeries swapped with human children, usually identified as a sickly child.

  Gnome - Generally considered ugly, these small, squat faeries take care of gardens and have an impressive green thumb.

  Dullahan - A terrifying and often evil faerie who carry their heads in their laps.

  Bean Sidhe - Also known as a banshee, their screams are echoing calls that herald the death of whomever hears them.

  Hy-brasil - A legendary isle which can only be seen once every seven years.

  Merrow - Also known as a Mermaid, merrows have green hair and webbed fingers.

  Merrow-men - The husbands of their female counterparts are considered horribly ugly with bright red noses, gills, two legs, and a tail.

  Boggart - A brownie who grows angry or loses their way turns into a boggart. They are usually invisible, and have a habit of placing cold hands on people’s faces as they sleep.

  Pooka - A faerie which imitates animals, mostly dogs and horses.

  Kelpie - A horse like creature who lives at the edge of a bog. It will try to convince you to ride it, at which point it will run underneath the water and drown the person on its back.

  Selkie - A faerie which can turn into a seal, as long as it still has its seal skin.

  Prologue

  Once upon a time, a rose fell in love with a stag.

  She was nothing more than a seed when he first passed. She saw him and spread her roots deep into the ground. Small buds appeared the next time he walked by, and she bloomed so that he might lean down to smell her sweet scent. Her leaves unfurled and her thorns shrank so she would not frighten him.

  But roses weren't meant to grow on salty shores. He bid her climb upon his antlers, where he could carry her. And though roses were meant to settle in soil, she tangled her roots around his tines.

  He carried her for a time. She turned her petals towards the sun and danced in the rays. She grew thirsty, but did not tell him for fear he might put her down. She was the happiest she had ever been in her short life.

  Waves crashed toward their home and threatened the stag’s well-being. Although he did not tell the rose, he worried for their safety. A stag could swim for shore.

  A rose would surely drown.

  Then one day, when the waves were at their peak, a raven flew by. The stag called out to him and begged the raven to take the rose in his claws. “Bring her somewhere safe,” he pleaded. “Somewhere she can stretch her roots again.”

  The raven took her gently, ignoring her sad cries and petals reaching for the stag. “You’re going home,” he said. “A rose cannot grow where there is no soil.”

  They flew across land and water, sea and surf. The salt spray burned her roots and knocked all the petals from her blooms. By the time the raven put her down in the forest, she had given up.

  The old oak sighed, “You are not a rose. You have no thorns.”

  “I am a rose, though my thorns are dull.”

  The birch tree swayed. “You are not a rose. You have no petals.”

  “I am a rose, though my petals fell off.”

  The ash tree wept. “You are no longer a rose, but you can become something more. Sleep in my roots for a time.”

  When the rose awakened, she found that the ancient trees were right.

  Branches grew from her hair and bark covered her skin. Roots tangled in her feet, but she was not the same as the trees. Her body was curved, her mind clear, and she could move far from their side.

  “See?” The ash said. “You aren’t a rose after all.”

  The Rose And The Stag

  “Sorcha, my face itches!”

  “Sorcha, my stomach hurts!”

  “Sorcha, I can't breathe!”

  Sorcha blew a tangled curl away from her face and stared into the rafters as if she could see her sisters through the floor. They claimed the plague had rendered them useless and refused to move from their beds, no matter how many times Sorcha reminded them that they weren't dying.

  Yet.

  Laundry obscured her vision, piled so high she could barely see over the edge, making her biceps shake with the weight. This was the first load of many that she would need to bring to the river. She was the only family member who wasn’t infected by the plague, and the only one the villagers allowed to leave the brothel.

  “Small blessings,” she muttered before calling out, “I’ll be right there, dearest sisters!”

  “But Sorcha!”

  “I know your discomfort is great, but I beg you, have patience! I need to put the laundry away.”

  “Is the laundry more important than us?”

  She rolled her eyes. Her sisters had always been superb at convincing their father how ill they were. It was a shame they couldn't convince their healer sister.

  Sorcha reminded herself that they were gravely ill. The blood beetle plague wasn’t something to brush aside. It was a silent killer. But she couldn’t shake off the feeling they could at least be attempting to help. Even Papa got out of bed for dinner. He didn’t make her carry plates all the way upstairs and bring them back down.

  A cool breeze brushed her sweat stained nape. Its touch was welcome and pleasant though surprising considering nails held the windows shut tight.

  Lifting a brow, she
set the laundry on the floor and nudged the kitchen door open. Her father sat feeding a small brown bird on the windowsill, wooden planks leaning against the wall next to him.

  Sorcha leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms over her chest. Papa nudged the seeds forward. Patient, he let the bird peck and eat before setting more down. Closer and closer until the tiny nuthatch hopped onto his hand and ate from his palm.

  “You have a rare talent,” she said.

  He glanced up with a smile. “I learned this from you.”

  “Did you?”

  “When you were little you used to say, ‘Papa. Birds are scared of you because you're big. If you make yourself small and quiet, then they will like you as they like me.’”

  “I don’t think you’ve made yourself small.”

  “Well, I’ve never been good at shape shifting.”

  The nuthatch shook its feathers and took one last bite, flying out the window on silent wings. Papa watched it with a melancholy expression.

  “You miss the outdoors,” Sorcha said.

  “More than anything. What season is it now?”

  “Spring is coming. I think we’ve seen our last snowfall.”

  “So soon?”

  “It doesn’t feel soon,” she chuckled. “But we’re all still here. And that’s a blessing.”

  “All of us?”

  “Yes. Who else are we missing?”

  Papa turned on the window seat and gave her a measured look. “I may be ill, but I am not blind. You left something behind.”

  “Everyone leaves something behind after a long journey.”

  “Even when it’s another world?”

  “Yes.”

  Sorcha took a seat at the long kitchen table, pulling the stained kerchief from her head. A mane of red curls sprang free to billow around her. It still felt strange that nothing had changed in her childhood home.

  The wooden table held the marks she had carved into its edges to distract herself from family quarrels. Herbs hung over the fire to dry, filling the air with the scent of basil and rosemary. A cauldron bubbled with soup for dinner.

  The same and not. She noticed details that never would have bothered her before. Dust around the edges of the hearth. Cobwebs in the high peaks of rafters. Drafts of cold air that never seemed to disappear.

  She blew out a breath. “Do you want me to tell you more stories of Hy-brasil?”

  “Your sisters were calling for you.”

  “Yes, they were.”

  “You don’t want to tend to them?”

  “Not really.” Sorcha plunked her elbows onto the table and cupped her head. “Does that make me a bad person? I should want to help my sisters. They’re ill, and they deserve all my attention and care.”

  She heard her father stand and shuffle towards her. The bench creaked as he sat down next to her. His thin hand rubbed her spine. “You’ve been so dedicated in keeping us all alive, I thought something terrible must have happened.”

  “Why?”

  “No one works with such fervor unless they’re trying to forget something. Or someone.”

  “And I am.”

  “I know.”

  She turned her head to peer over at the man who had saved her life countless times. New wrinkles had appeared on Papa's face. Crow’s feet deepened into folds of skin, his forehead lined with worry and pain.

  “It’s still hard for me to grasp how much time passed,” she said. “A year and a day? Really?”

  “I can say it over and over again, Sorcha. We thought you were dead.”

  “I’m sorry to have caused you worry.”

  “Stop saying that.” He reached forward and pulled her hand away from her face, holding it in his tight grip. “You experienced an adventure that none of us could ever imagine. You tell us stories every night that fill our dreams with wondrous things. It is a blessing you have returned to us.”

  She couldn’t think of it like that. Sorcha didn’t want to think about Hy-brasil at all. The haunting memories of ocean eyes and crystal skin plagued her dreams. The hole in her heart tore wider with each passing day. She didn’t know how to stop the ache, so she soothed it with family. But even their comforting presence did little to fix what was broken.

  Sorcha squeezed Papa’s hand. “I’m glad to help. It’s good to be home.”

  “But it’s not where you want to be.”

  “No.”

  “You want to be with him.”

  “Yes,” she breathed. “Very much.”

  “Then you must go back to him.”

  “I can’t.”

  Papa frowned. “Why not? You can go to the Otherworld, can’t you? You can find a pixie to help guide your way.”

  “It isn’t like that. Pixies will let the king know I have returned, and he will track me down. I don’t even know if Stone is still alive.”

  She had resorted to calling him by his nickname, for fear the wrong ears would hear his true name. Humans weren’t likely to get involved with faerie politics, but one could never be too careful.

  Her heart throbbed. She hoped he was alive. His vigor and strength were such that he may have won the first battle with his brother, but she had seen the golden army and feared the worst.

  “Does your heart say he’s alive?” Papa asked.

  “Yes.”

  “Then he is alive.”

  “Ever the optimist. Did the bird tell you he still had breath in his lungs?”

  “Birds tell us many things. This one told me you have not been yourself.”

  Sorcha’s lips twitched. “Did it?”

  “You know it’s the truth, dear one. You haven’t even visited the shrines.”

  “I don’t want to.”

  “Since when?” Papa dropped her hand and slammed his fist down on the table. “Those shrines meant the world to you, even as a child. What has changed?”

  “I no longer believe they are useful.”

  “You’re lying.”

  She remembered how the faeries tasted lies on the air. Perhaps her father had more faerie blood in him than she did. Sorcha arched a brow. “You think so?”

  “There’s a hard edge to you now. You break your back taking care of us, but I don’t think you want to anymore. There was a time when I thought you would work yourself to death just to save us. Now, I wonder if you even care.”

  “Of course I do.”

  “Then where is your faith? Where is your request for faeries to come and aid you? Have you grown so arrogant that you think you can do it on your own?”

  She shoved away from the table. Her legs needed to move, her mind racing as she walked the kitchen end to end. “I am afraid! Is that what you want to hear? I did not fulfill my half of the bargain, and as such, I broke a faerie deal. I cannot go to the shrine because I do not know what awaits me there.”

  “You think they will kill you?”

  “I don’t know!” Sorcha threw her hands up, catching an herb on her fingers and tossing it to the ground. She sighed and stared at the ceiling. “I’ll go get the broom.”

  “No.” Papa lifted his hand. “You will not. You’ll leave this house and go to the shrine.”

  “What will happen if I don’t come back? Who will pull the beetles out of your bodies and keep you alive?”

  “We managed for a year on our own.”

  “Because I made that part of my deal!” Her shout rose into the rafters and a pigeon took flight. She sighed and rubbed her temples. “I’m sorry, I didn't mean to shout. I don’t want to see you die, and I do not trust the village healers.”

  “Neither do I. But, I think the faeries still have plans for you. We’re alive for a reason.” He stood and pulled her hands away from her face. “You’re a talented healer, Sorcha. But you aren’t the only reason the beetles haven’t killed us yet.”

  He was right. She had noticed how quickly they healed from her surgeries. The beetles weren’t multiplying inside them as they were in her other patients. In fact, the entire br
othel seemed stuck in a single point of time. They remained ill, with the same amount of beetles, but the sickness did not grow.

  “I have nothing to bring them,” she mumbled. “No sugar, no cream, no flowers from our gardens.”

  “Then you will bring them your apologies.”

  “Faeries don’t care for my guilt. They care for offerings.”

  “Perhaps they will forgive you. I remember a time when people used to go to the shrines just to be with the faeries in nature. I don't believe everything is about giving them something. Sometimes, the giving is in being there.”

  “When did you become a philosopher?” she asked with a wry grin.

  “About the same time I looked death in the eyes and he told me that my daughter saved my life.”

  Tears stung her eyes. “Oh, Papa.”

  “Don’t you ‘Oh, Papa’ me. Get on with you girl, and pick some of those lovely greens on the way back.”

  “Dandelions?”

  “I don’t care if they’re a weed, they taste delicious and they do my old bones good. Say hello to the faeries for me.”

  She cast a critical glance at the laundry and shrugged. “Why don’t you come with me? You’ve never greeted them before.”

  “They wouldn’t want me to start now. They’d see an old man stumbling towards them and think I’d lost my way. It’s far easier for them to connect with a pretty, young woman. Now, off with you!”

  Sorcha didn’t wait for any further arguments. Her sisters would yell again, and then her opportunity would disappear. She raced from the kitchen, wrapped her cloak around her shoulders, and plunged outside.

  Cold air sank into her lungs with fine, claw-like points. It made her gasp, charging her blood with electricity. She came alive when she left the brothel.

  She had changed so much.

 
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