Tag Archive: Gille Dubh

A Tale from the Grove

In celebration of… oh, lots of things. The upcoming release of Heart of the Oak (the first of the Tales of the Grove), the fantastic reviews it’s been getting (which if I were a little more tech-savvy I could celebrate with a copy of the “Top Pick” icon on Susan Mac Nicol’s five-star review at The Romance Reviews), my sister’s incredible homemade cheesecake at Thanksgiving dinner. All that. So I thought I’d give you a peek at the (unedited) work in progress, Tempted from the Oak — the second of the Tales of the Grove. The POV is Tearlach’s — he’s a Gille Dubh, the animating spirit of a darag, an ancient oak tree in the Scottish Highlands. Enjoy!

  Gavin lies on the ground, his back against the darag, and against me, looking up at the Moon. I run my hand lightly over his head. I cannot get enough of the strange sensation of short hair under my palm; it tickles, it makes me want to laugh.
I have never seen hair this short. I bend to kiss the top of his head, and this time I do laugh, at the way it feels against my lips, kiss-tender for the first time in centuries. Is there a reason for it?
I can feel his shoulders stiffen where he leans against me. Should I not have asked?
He shakes his head, leaning a little into the hand that has dropped to lie along his cheek, as if to tell me not to worry. “Nothing wrong with asking.”
    His voice is so different from the ones I heard in my old life, if it were not for the fortunate accident of his blood against the root of the tree I think I would be completely lost in listening to him. Happily so. If you would rather not answer…
“It’s all right. It just seems out of place here.’ He turns, partly, to look up into my eyes, my face emerged from the darag, and I trace the line of his jaw with my fingertips. “It was nearly to my shoulders until yesterday. But my roommate–the man I live with–likes it long.”
    Something, perhaps my heart, plummets. Pleasure and joy and delight are gifts meant to be given and received, but I will never knowingly interfere with a pair-bond. How can I, when such a bond is my life? You mean, he likes it short, yes? I pull my hand back within the darag.
“No. He likes it long. But he has the attention span of a mayfly on meth, and he decided to get back at me for needing to work the night of our five-month anniversary by bringing a new guy home with him. So I like it short. Juvenile of me, I suppose, but…” He shrugs, and his attention . “I’d rather not talk about him. Not here.”
    Some of his words are beyond my understanding, even with our shared blood. But the pain I hear in his voice, that I understand, even though he tries to pretend not to care. I reach for him again, stroking his cheek. Let us talk about something else, then.
His hand closes around mine, and even such a hesitant smile as he turns on me is enough to send a thrill racing down to the very tips of my darag’s roots. “I’d rather not talk at all. If you’re willing. A dream can only last so long.”
You are not dreaming, I whisper yet again, as he turns to me and takes my mouth. But I fear I may be.

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.

            No longer.

            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.


Would this make you want more?

I’m playing with a totally new magickal race — would this pique your curiosity?

He was alone, in darkness.
Which was more than he’d known a moment ago. For there to be darkness, there must be awareness, and a memory of light; to know one’s self alone, there must be a knowledge of self, and a memory of others. He had had none of that, until now.
How long had it been?
Ah, now he remembered time.
Time passed, alone in the dark.
He could feel his heart, beating. Or was it the heart of his darag, his oak?
The ancient tree was around him, was part of him. As he was part of it. It, too, was awakening, whispering to him in the old language of leaf and sap and wind. Whispering of the passing of centuries, centuries during which the darag had stood sentinel overlooking the loch far below, nothing more than mute wood.
That, too, was changing.
Magick, the darag whispered. Magick returns to the world. Felt first in root, and now in trunk and branch and leaf and bark.
He would have nodded, had he been real enough, yet, to move; the places where his eyes had been and would be glowed, alive with magick and memories. He remembered when the magick was taken away. Remembered what it had felt like, to become nothing.
He wept, in the heart of the oak, thoughts of tears falling from eyes as yet unreal. His darag murmured to him, with the breeze that stirred its leaves; caressed him, with the water welling cool from the earth; consoled him, with the magick rising from some unknown source.
Soon, it whispered. Alive soon.