For each of them, spring's song has a different meaning.
Now king and queen of the powerful kingdom of Dal Riata, Aedan and Domelch have more than just Cailleach's wrath to contend with. Aedan struggles with being a king and being a husband. Domelch struggles with her beliefs, trying to be the Christian woman Aedan wed, but her heart still thrums with the voices of old gods. They must battle earthly foes—enemy kings and traitorous allies. For the first time, the arrival of spring heralds the sound of a harsh battle horn as their foes close in. Through all this turmoil, can their love survive?
Gartnait, the first-born son of Aedan and Domelch, has lived in secrecy most of his young life to escape Cailleach's wrath. Fostered in Fortriu, he has earned his first mark of manhood and on his way to becoming a formidable warrior. He grapples with the awakening of his true destiny and the meaning of the appearance of a beautiful maiden in spring only he can see. Does she mean to harm him? For him, spring brings with it the promise of new love and the thrilling sound of the battle horn, putting those he cares about in danger.
An Awe-Struck Release
Kelley lives in Arizona with her husband and two dogs. Her lifelong passion for Celtic mythology and storytelling is the inspiration behind her novels featuring fierce warriors, bold women and otherworldly creatures. Armed with a vivid imagination, Kelley spends most of her time daydreaming and crafting tales filled with romance, conflict and magic. She can be found online at www.kelleyheckart.com.
Stone cairns rose from the meadow, imposing mounds housing the long dead or doorways to another world. Tangles of hazelwood and creeping green moss covered the ancient burial tombs. He shuddered at the ominous sight. Rising mist obscured the other hunters. He could not hear the plodding hooves or the jangling bridles of his fellow hunters.
A strange bird let out a shrill call. His horse snorted, shaking its great head with a nervous tug. A sudden noise stirred the hazelwood. Gartnait's head jerked around, his spear raised and ready.
A red stag stood in the meadow near the cairns, staring at him. Nine tines gleamed in the gray light.
His spear arm coiled, his aim direct. Gartnait's heart pounded with the anticipation of taking down such a magnificent beast. The stag stood unmoving, its penetrating stare thoughtful. Gartnait paused, relaxing his spear arm, his mouth dropped open in bewilderment. Its eyes look thoughtful. How can a mere beast have thoughtful eyes that look so human? So familiar?
He prodded his horse to move closer. The stag did not run, but continued to stare at him. Curious, Gartnait moved his mount even closer. Its eyes beckoned him to come closer. He recalled stories from his other teacher of human souls being trapped inside such beasts, visiting people on the earthly realm or they could be otherworldly visitors in animal guise.
The stag's eyes flashed and it turned and leaped. Gartnait dug his heels into his horse, giving chase across the meadow. Tall grasses danced out of the way of the pounding hooves, thick hazelwoods reached out with thorny arms, tearing clothing and flesh. Gartnait grit his teeth, determined to catch the unusual stag. In one long leap, the stag cleared the cairns. His urge to catch the stag overpowering his common sense, Gartnait urged the horse to follow the beast over the mounds. He felt as if he were flying on wings, horse and man sailing over the cairns.
They landed on soft earth into a world of sunshine. Gartnait halted his horse, gazing around the colorful sun-filled meadow. Alarm filled him and he sensed he was no longer on the earthly realm. He searched for the stag, looking at every blade of grass or bush for a hint of movement. He sniffed the air for its wild scent, catching only the scent of flowers. The flowery scent grew more powerful and enchanting, tugging at him.
She emerged from the wood, a sapling among ancient, furrowed trunks. Her tunic dress clung to her womanly curves in a way that made him swallow hard.
"Lady goddess," he whispered. "It has been so long since I saw you." He felt a blush creep up his cheeks, feeling shy around her now.
"It has not been so long. I have been there with you even if you did not see me." She watched him with compassionate eyes.