Raven's Lady, The

A lonely, betrayed woman ... A man seeking his mate ... brought together across a thousand years and a thousand miles.

 

Published: 02/1997
Length: Epic
Word Count:105,712
Genre: Historical/Time Travel Romance
Rating: Sensual. Contains graphic sexual content and language and violence.
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)

MMD30614MAD051014

 

The Raven's Lady
By
Ann Manning

 

( c ) copyright by Anne Manning, 1997
( c ) cover art by Eliza Black, 2012 
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, 31636
www.newconceptspublishing.com

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.

 

"Damn all men to hell!"

On her knees on an Irish hillside, Eibhlin Fitzgerald jabbed the trowel into the emerald turf. In her mind, however, rather than digging up a specimen of Ladies' Mantle, the razor-edged tool was excising something more vital to the self-esteem of her lying, cheating ex-husband. Startled by the sudden urge to inflict hurt, long after she'd thought the pain and humiliation gone, she drew a deep breath and concentrated on relaxing. Then, much more tenderly than she'd begun, she scooped the specimen from the soil.

Her voice low, she chided herself in a broad imitation of her father's brogue. "After all, Evie, 'tis not the poor wee plant's fault."

Unable to speak her ex-husband's name without opening a wound only now beginning to heal, Eibhlin filled her brain with work pushing Himself aside, where he couldn't hurt her anymore. She wrapped the rootstock in cheesecloth, admiring the inconspicuous greenish flowers and the wide, flat leaves which inspired the plant's common name. Still holding the sample of Ladies' Mantle, she pulled her mini-cassette recorder out of the pouch at her side and began recording.

"Alchemilla vulgaris. June 21, 1998. Eleven forty five AM. East face of Craglea, in vicinity of Killaloe, County Clare. Elevation, approximately one hundred meters."

After clicking off the recorder and dropping it and the Ladies' Mantle into her pouch, Eibhlin sat, hugging her knees, on the hillside. Raising her eyes to the summit of Craglea, she felt a sense of unity with the land. The life that filled everything called to her, beckoning her to join in.

Maybe she did hear the call. It was the summer solstice, after all.

Maybe I'll get to see some druids lurking around the Crag, or perhaps a party of the Little People making their way to one of the sacred mounds. Four weeks in Ireland and no fairies. What a bummer, she thought with a laugh.

"Little People." Her whisper was tinged with fond dismissal.

Naturally, the ignorant primitives of a thousand or more years ago would have made up stories to explain what they couldn't understand. What was really amazing was the old superstitions still held sway, especially here in the western counties. Just this morning Eibhlin had been warned away from the Crag by the woman from whom she'd rented a room in Killaloe.

Even as she laughed, she understood. This was Ireland. If there were Little People, they'd live here.

Surrounded by surreal green, with the perfume of fresh earth and nectar scenting the air, she gazed down at the place where Kincora was said to have once stood. Where Brian Boru, the only real Irish High King -- Ard Ri, she corrected herself -- had dreamed of bringing unity and peace and the rule of law to this island.

Gazing down at the scattered remains of Boru's palace, she could almost hear the songs her Irish-born parents had taught her and, as she began to hum The Pretty Maid Milking her Cow, she wished she'd brought her little harp with her. What a waste for it to be gathering dust in her house in Oregon while she sat here with all this music crying to be played.

Closing her eyes, her mind rippled with the pipes carrying a melody high above the beat of the bodhran and a hundred memories clamored for recognition all at once. Memories of her mother's songs and the stories which had made Ireland as familiar to her as the land around her childhood home in southern California.

They were the tales of heroes, Cuchulainn, Conchobar, Finn MacCuill -- warriors and the strong women they'd fought and died for.

Ah, those were the days, she thought, a momentary swell of self-pity picking at her heart.

"Nope, no way, Evie. Don't let him do this to you."

Once more resolving to push away the failure that was her marriage, Eibhlin stretched out on the cool grass and closed her eyes.

She may have lain there for hours before a thrumming, beginning deep within the earth beneath her, roused her to wakefulness. It became a vibration, its rhythm gentle and slow. It touched her ears, her skin. She tasted it on her tongue.

Her hands moved of their own accord up her thighs... to her belly... to her breasts -- now grown unbearably sensitive. Her hips ground into the yielding grass beneath her.

An aching cry of yearning filled her ears. Seconds passed before she realized the cry had come from her own lips. Her eyes flew open and she sat up, cheeks burning.

"Oh, my God." She sprung to her feet, moving up the hillside. Eyes darting from side to side, making sure there were no witnesses to her bizarre behavior, Eibhlin searched the hill for an explanation -- a herd of elephants, a Space Shuttle take-off, something, anything, that would make the ground shake enough to bring her to the point of....

"Oh, my God!" She'd never gotten this worked up by anything Himself had ever done. Eibhlin pressed one hand over her heart in an effort to calm its racing pace. Her gaze combed the valley, passing along the length of the Shannon.

"What happened to Killaloe?" she breathed, disbelieving.

Killaloe was gone. Only a single stone building surrounded by a low fence of the same material marked the place where the small village had sat at the mouth of Lough Derg.

Eibhlin turned back up to the lake... and her breathing stopped. Where only a pile of stones had stood....

"Kincora," she exhaled finally, the sense of recognition overwhelming as she looked at the imposing wood and stone castle and surrounding palisade wall -- a ruin no longer.

"No." Eibhlin shut her eyes against the impossible. "I'm having a dream. I went to sleep thinking about warriors and castles and so I'm dreaming of them."

But this was a remarkably detailed dream, she thought, peeking from eyes that stubbornly refused to stay shut. People scurrying around the buildings and along the Shannon. Fishermen bringing their catch ashore and turning their coracles over on the banks for the night. Swineherds leading pigs to the pens. Farmers coming in from the fields. On the far bank of the Shannon, just ready to cross, a band of mounted riders. They were too far away for her to make out their clothing, but she knew they were warriors.

And somehow, she knew what she was seeing was real.

Self-preservation made her stoop over to reach down for her leather bag which held her collected samples.

"I've gotta get outta here," she said aloud.

"Cad e seo?"

Eibhlin stopped in mid-reach. The voice boomed around her like thunder, deep and powerful.

"Ce thu fein?"

She raised her eyes, hoping the speaker wasn't as god-like as his voice was.

And raised her eyes... and raised them... and raised....

He stood on the hillside before her, one leg cocked at an angle. Eibhlin felt her mouth drop open in astonishment.

"Ce thu fein?" he asked again. Who are you?

Her Irish was a bit rusty, but she understood a simple question like that one. However, her eyes had taken over her entire brain to process the sight before her.

A warrior, nearly seven feet tall, heavily muscled, long of arm and leg, smiled down at her, dimples creasing both broad cheeks. He wore a light pull-over garment that reached to mid-thigh. A sword hung from his belt in a leather sheath. Tucking one thumb into his belt, he bent over slightly.

"Are you lost, woman?" he asked in Irish.