The first in my new series of novellas (Tales of the Grove), Heart of the Oak, will be released by Ellora’s Cave in early December. And I’ve just started work on the second, Tempted from the Oak. Here’s the introduction — enjoy!
Tearlach moved, restlessly, in darkness and the embrace of the darag.
His oak, he knew, would have been happy, in the way of its kind, to set him free. Free to roam the rocky face of A’Chailleach, as far as the magick allowed; free to make his way down to the small loch down the slope, cup the chill water in a hand of flesh and blood and wood, ease a thirst two thousand years in the making.
Two thousand years, and more, since he had ceased to exist as anything other than a faint memory in wood robbed of its magick. Somehow the darag had counted the seasons, the years. Or it had been told, by a voice Tearlach could no longer hear, another darag, awakened like his own.
The Gille Dubh would have wept into the silence, had he but eyes. He had never been closed off from his darag before. He had always known the ancient tree’s thoughts, as it knew his.
Tearlach and his darag were one, and yet they were not. Gille Dubh and oak were of one essence, yet they were separate beings. In the normal way of things, a spirit and his tree shared their substance by day, and separated by night, to remember their unique selfness, and in remembering it, to make it be what was. Without the nightly separation, in time the Gille Dubh and the darag would become one strange, living, breathing, yet barked and root-bound being.
But Tearlach could not separate himself. He dared not. And his heart was breaking, for his darag was walling him off, a last desperate act of defense, both of him, and of itself. Trying to save them both, by cutting them off, one from the other.
When the magick was stolen from them–from all the creatures who depended on it for life, from the very world itself–he had been in the act of emerging from the darag, into a moonlit night. Laughing with delight–he remembered it clearly, it had been less than a moon ago, for him–at the sight of a handsome human clansman, waiting for him with usquebaugh and roasted mutton and the promise of a night of pleasures.
He had been half emerged from the darag, his face feeling the cool night breeze and a hand reaching out for the hammered silver cup the human had brought to honor their pleasure, when all the essence of what he was, was drained away. He shuddered now, remembering. For an instant that had lasted forever, he’d known what was happening to him, to his darag. He had felt himself die, and known his death.
He would leave the darag, now, if he could. But he dared not.
Not to save both their lives.