Thursday, December 5, 2013

Eochaidh - Legend of the Horsemen (Book One) by Terri Reid Excerpt

Eochaidh - Legend of the Horsemen (Book One) by Terri Reid
$2.99 or FREE for Prime Members

Over a thousand years ago a brave band of Knights of the Round Table agreed to enter Morganna’s castle and remove an ancient spell that allowed the sorceress the ability to travel in time. But they had been betrayed, Morganna caught the young men and despite Merlin’s protection, cast a spell upon them that would age them a year for every day they lived as men. Merlin did the only thing he could; he changed the men to horses so they could roam as immortals until someone could break the spell.
For more than one thousand years, the Herdin family was charged with the duty to help the horses and break the spell. Once every hundred years, the signs aligned and another Herdin risked their life to free the knights. This time, Meaghan Herdin’s father, Lord John, is the last surviving male heir in the Herdin line. Will he be able to break the spell or will Morganna and her followers destroy Meaghan’s family?

Set in Ireland in the 18th century, Eochaidh – The Legend of the Horseman, is filled with love, adventure, loyalty and magic.

Chapter Two

The forest was old, and the magic hidden underneath ancient boughs and wisping over the rushing rivers and thick meadows was even older. It thrummed beneath the earth’s surface like a beating drum, and it glistened like early morning dew on the plants and rocks within its domain. It was alive and powerful, and sixteen-year-old Meaghan could feel the magic beckon her as she stood just outside the forest’s borders in the predawn morning. 
Dressed in a loose linen tunic, a plaited leather belt and boy’s tweed breeches with her auburn tresses braided and tucked up tight in a woolen cap, she could have passed for a wood nymph—slender, petite and nearly blending into the forest around her. But, upon a closer examination, you could see she was not tranquil enough to be a creature of the forest.  A few copper strands of hair escaped her cap, and her green eyes sparkled like the mist-covered moss. Her skin was fair, and she had a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. She held a long, sturdy walking stick in her hand, and her feet were bound in fine leather boots that helped her move soundlessly in her surroundings. 
Shivering in the cool morning air, she inhaled the sweet nectar of the old magic, but waited carefully outside its borders.  She looked up impatiently, watching as the sky above her transformed from night to day, turning from dark grey to soft lavender, as thin shrouds of clouds replaced the last few stars.  Turning, she looked back across the path she had just taken.  The spires of the stone manor house were beginning to glow with the pinkish-gold hue of sunrise.  Slowly the shadows of night withdrew as the tide of light made its way over the slate tiles, like a wave slipping onto the shore. It swept over the house and onto the manicured grounds.  Spilling forward, it followed her path across the lawn, over the fence and across the meadow. It revealed her walking path through the thick wild flowers and clover, a thin line of darker green where the grass had been crushed. Finally, it reached the edge of the forest. Meaghan lifted her face, closed her eyes and let the warmth of the sun seep into her skin. She inhaled deeply. She loved the unique scent of the forest, the moist, rich smell of earth, the spicy scent of pine and the musty combination of old and new plant growth.  Slowly opening her eyes, like a sleepy cat, she sighed with the pleasure of the moment.
But a rustle in the woods behind her reminded her of her task, and, with a little regret, she turned from the warmth and faced the woods. Waiting until the glow of the early morning sunlight glimmered on the path and gilded the leaves of the trees in front of her, she finally took her first step inside.  She knew enough of the stories and legends of the forest to not enter its lands until the sun had lit the sky.  Those fae creatures that dwelled here, although harmless enough during the day, were focused on mischief and mayhem when the lesser stars and the moon ruled the sky.
She smiled to herself. With her leather satchel of supplies hitched over her shoulder, she had set out early that morning to construct a little mischief and mayhem of her own.
Moving farther into the forest, she felt the same welcoming sensation she always felt within the borders of the dark woods.  Although most from the village avoided the mystic area, Meaghan had always felt a protective spirit within its confines, as if she was coming home.
Birds swept through the sky above her, darting from tree to tree, welcoming the new day.  From the high-pitched trill of a waxwing to the soft purring of the turtledove to the hoarse call of a crow, their songs filled the air in a discordant symphony that reminded Meaghan of the ware-hawkers at the village market.  Cherries for sale, cherries for sale.  Buy a posy for your lady, buy a posy for your lady. Cold ale, cold ale.  Grinning as she pictured the villagers’ reactions to the birds wearing aprons and hopping around the square selling their goods, she decided it would probably be wiser for them to remain in their forest home.
As she moved farther in, timid but curious forest dwellers, like deer and rabbit, paused for just a moment to observe the intruder and then darted away into the thick old growth leaving no trace of having been there a moment ago. 
Although the main path through the forest was well used, a wide, worn strip of brown pounded earth, the path Meaghan choose was covered with a green carpet of moss that rolled over stones, logs and ground and with very little evidence of being used at all.  She walked carefully but quickly on the grassy moss, moving from stone to log to stone again with a dancer’s dexterity, grabbing onto tree trunks and thick vines to help her keep her balance.
The path angled downward, heading toward the bank of the river.  That was her goal, the clearing just before the river.  There was a score to settle that morning, and, she decided with a determined nod, she would be the one to do it.
Pausing in her walk, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise and realized that everything around her was now silent.  All of the birds that had just moments before filled the air with a cacophony all their own, had hushed their calls.  Even the wind had slowed. The forest seemed to be holding its breath. Meaghan paused in her descent and waited for a moment. Then she heard it and understood. The faint tinkling sound was carried on the barest of breezes, like bells disturbed by the wind.
Her heart pounded in excitement. No wonder the earthly creatures had hushed. The fae were speaking. Green fairies were about.  She had been told about the green fairies, how they tended to the flowers and plants in the forest.  They sang as they worked, their voices like tiny pure chimes, and their morning song was a rare treat. Watching them work was even more rare. She looked back over her shoulder to the rising sun.  Surely she had time enough to find them before she put forth her plan.
Placing her satchel and walking stick at the base of a giant, old oak, she walked to the edge of the path.  The green fell away to a small ravine, its sides covered with browning vines and exposed roots.  Because of the thick vegetation below, she really couldn’t judge the distance down but guessed it was about twelve feet, too far to jump.  Sitting down on the edge, her feet dangling, she grabbed hold of a root and tugged. It seemed solid enough.
Turning so her belly was against the edge, she dug her feet into the dirt wall and, using the root like a rope, began to lower herself down.  Her first couple of steps down were easy, and Meaghan felt her confidence grow.  “Not so bad,” she thought, sliding her hands slowly down the moss-slick root. “I can handle this.”
Just then, one of her feet slipped, and she found herself slapped against the wall of the ravine. Her face crushed against dirt and rock, and she lost her grip on the root. Tumbling down, she desperately grabbed onto anything to slow her descent.  Leaves, pebbles, dirt and brush scraped against her hands and face as she fell.  Finally, she wrapped her hand around a thick vine and slowed her fall.  She desperately reached for the vine with her other hand and then dangled in mid-air for a moment while she caught her breath and spit dirt and twigs from her mouth.  “Well, that was not quite what I had in mind,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I wonder how far down I still have to go.”
Testing her grasp on the vine before she moved, she finally glanced down and sighed. She released the vine and jumped the six inches down to the bottom of the ravine.  “That was brilliant,” she whispered, mocking herself. “I’m sure the fairy folk enjoyed that display immensely.”
But, not all the fairy folk had been paying attention to her escapade because, once paused, Meaghan could still hear the green fairy song. They were still busy at work. Creeping slowly forward, Meaghan slipped inside a patch of tall ferns. Sliding between the feathery leaves and dodging the large rocks on the ground, she moved closer to the sound. She had never seen a green fairy before. She had only heard their songs in the distance.
She had seen other members of the fae before; the wood elves were a fairly common sighting with their copper skin and mahogany hair as were the water sprites, although they were a little harder to find with their translucent blue skin and dark green hair that looked like seaweed. She thought she saw a goblin once, but she turned and ran before she could be sure.  And she knew she had heard a banshee just before her old nanny had died.
Even though she was excited about possibly catching a glimpse of the green fairies, there was one creature she longed to see more than any of the others.  The Eochaidh.  The enchanted wild horses who legend tells had once been men. But no one, not even the woodsmen in the village, talked about seeing them in their travels.  Perhaps they were just a legend and not as real as the other fae in the woods.
Unlike most of Britain, the people in this Irish village spoke of the fae on a regular basis, simply because there were all kinds of fae that actually lived in the woods and the surrounding countryside. Meaghan learned as a child it was because these woods used to be a favorite of Merlin the wizard, when he was not near Camelot.  The older villagers said he left some of his magic in it when he disappeared thousands of years ago. She liked that she could feel the magic; it was like Merlin was still there.
The plants had thinned out in front of her; she was closer to the clearing. Carefully, spreading the final bunch of leaves apart, she peered into it. Something making a buzzing sound like a bumblebee flew at her, and she nearly jumped back. But, at the last moment, she froze as the creature hung in the air, pausing not more than four inches in front of her face, its wings flitting so quickly she could only see a blur.  Human and fairy gazed at each other, both staring in awe at this wonderful discovery.
Meaghan’s eyes widened in delight and her smile broadened in wonderment.  The tiny creature looked like a miniature woman, dressed in a leaf-green sheath and tiny shoes the color of tree bark.  Her skin was light green, her large eyes were the color of oak leaves in the fall, and her hair was maple-leaf red.
The fairy flitted closer, one tiny hand extended, and lightly touched Meaghan’s nose and then darted quickly back.  Meaghan stood still and waited, her breathing measured and slow. She didn’t want to frighten it off.  The tiny fairy buzzed around her, uncertain of this unfamiliar forest creature, and then finally approached the girl again. Slowly, with both hands extended, the fairy flew forward and touched Meaghan’s cheek, pushing off immediately and flying back several feet. The touch was like a butterfly’s kiss.
A smile lit on the tiny face and she did it again, flying forward and pushing back. She giggled, the sound like a tiny bell, and smiled at Meaghan.  Delighted, Meaghan smiled back wondering if the fairy would stand on her palm. 
Slowly lifting her hand and raising her palm to the sky, Meaghan waited, holding her breath. The fairy came forward and hovered over her open hand as if she was deciding.  Finally she dove forward, pushed off from Meaghan’s cheek and soared into the sky, her faint laughter echoing in the trees.
Meaghan watched her until she disappeared into the leaves of the trees.  With a satisfied sigh, she turned and quickly headed back to the path.  She had a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...