Series: Tales of Silver Downs #3
Release Date: 1 December 2016
Genre: Celtic Britain, Historical fantasy
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Arlen’s twin sister was stolen by the fey moments after her birth. When he is sent to be an advisor to the king, Arlen’s plan to search for his missing sister must be put on hold — until he realises that she might be the key to bringing peace to the kingdom.
Agata doesn’t know she’s part mortal. Raised by the queen of the fey, she despises mortals just as much as Titania does. When Agata accidentally encounters the twin she was separated from at birth, she discovers that everything she thought she knew about herself is a lie.
Arlen wants to rescue his sister and bring her home. Agata isn’t sure she wants to be rescued. To restore peace to the kingdom and retrieve Agata from the fey, Arlen must forge an alliance with the Old Ones who have been in hiding for thousands of years.
The balance between mortal and fey is finally broken and one race will be banished in an epic showdown between the children of Silver Downs and the fey.
Tales of Silver Downs is a series of historical fantasy novels set in Celtic Britain. For readers who like lush historical backdrops with a fairytale feeling, a fantasy quest and characters who fight their destiny.
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Also in this series:
I sat cross-legged in front of a pond. Its depths were clear and calm, with just the slightest ripple. The woods around me rang with birdcalls and the rustle of leaves from various forest creatures. I stared into the pool and concentrated on letting go of all thought.
As my mind became as calm as the water, my body also relaxed. The mossy ground was cool and slightly damp beneath my linen trousers. A beetle crawled over my bare foot. I inhaled, filling my lungs with the scent of moist earth, cool water and rotting leaves. I watched the water and tried not to let anxiety crowd into my mind. Eventually, I would master control of the Sight. If I waited long enough and kept my mind still enough, the waters would show me something. A voice from behind me disrupted the stillness I concentrated so hard on.
"Arlen, Oistin asks that you go to him."
I sighed and pushed my irritation aside. It was not the boy's fault I had managed to achieve the calmness I sought only moments before he spoke.
"Did he want me urgently, Pilib?" My gaze never left the water, hoping I might yet See something.
"He asked that you go immediately. He's in his bedchamber."
I nodded and heard just the faintest rustle of leaves as the boy retreated. I shouldn't have been able to hear him at all, but he was an apprentice just newly arrived. He had much to learn yet. With one last wistful glance into the pond, I climbed to my feet and brushed the dirt from the seat of my trousers.
As I set off through the woods, I wondered what Oistin wanted. Perhaps he intended to ask me to take a new boy under my wing. Perhaps he merely planned to ask after my studies. I pushed the thoughts from my mind. There was no point in speculating. I would find out soon enough.
The stone lodge stood in the middle of a large clearing deep within the woods. The remoteness of the location suited us, for those training to be druids spend much time alone. Surrounded by woods as we were, there were plenty of quiet places for a druid to wander off by himself. Many a day had I spent perched in the branches of a tree, or sitting on a flat rock, or roaming the woods, reciting the lore we learned, practising calling the elements, or trying to master the Sight.
The heavy wooden door of the lodge stood open. It was rarely closed. Inside was cold and dark, for evening approached and the lamps had not yet been lit. The aroma of vegetable soup and fresh bread made my mouth water and reminded me I hadn't eaten yet today. I made my way through the corridors to Oistin's quarters.
As the master druid, Oistin had a bedchamber that although modest, was far larger than the one I shared with three others. I rapped softly on the open door, waiting until he bade me enter. The room contained a bed, which was neatly made, some shelves, a cupboard, and a large desk. Its window looked out at an elegant rowan tree. Oistin sat behind the desk, examining a piece of parchment which he held close to his face.
"Arlen." He placed the parchment on the desk and waved me in.
"You wished to see me?"
"Yes, yes." For a moment, Oistin looked puzzled, as if he couldn't recall why he had summoned me, then he nodded. I suspected he wasn't as forgetful as he sometimes pretended. He ran our community with tight reins and rarely let an important detail slip. "I have a task for you."
"I am sending you to Braen Keep to be an advisor to Hearn. You will leave as soon as you pack your belongings."
"Master?" My carefully cultivated calmness evaporated.
"It's a new stage of your journey, boy. A grand adventure. Great responsibility."
"You're sending me to the king?"
"He needs a trustworthy advisor. Someone honourable. Someone who will guide him with the country's best interests in mind."
Oistin looked at his desk, at the window, at the rug-covered floor. Anywhere other than at me.
"Master, I don't understand."
How could he have forgotten? Oistin knew my greatest failing as a druid. He knew why I was the person least suitable to undertake such a task.
"I know it might seem intimidating. You'll be surrounded by more people than you're accustomed to. It'll be noisier. You'll need to find a quiet place of your own where you can continue to practise your craft."
"How will I advise the king?" I asked. "You know I have no ability with the Sight."
Oistin sighed and finally looked at me.
"You will do what you must do, Arlen. Now, go gather your belongings so we can send you on your way. Tonight you will dine in the king's hall."
"Does this mean my training is concluded?"
He studied me before he responded. He knew there was a personal task I planned to complete as soon as I finished my training. A task I had never kept secret from him and that I had no intention of postponing. I would repay my training and serve as druid wherever he wanted to send me — once my task was complete.
"Your training is suspended," Oistin said. "You must continue to learn what you can in the meantime. When Hearn no longer requires you, you will return here to finish your training."
I left Oistin's bedchamber with my head held high and my shoulders straight. I breathed deeply — in, out, in — as I strode along the corridors to my own bedchamber. A sigh of relief when I arrived to find it empty of my fellow druids. Our accommodations were sparse: four narrow cots, each draped with a grey blanket, one cot against each wall. A well-worn rug covered the wooden floor. Our belongings, such as they were, were stored in boxes beneath our cots. We were permitted two boxes each. Our bedchamber was in the middle of the lodge, so there were no windows. The stone walls were bare with the exception of a small shelf holding a lamp, which I lit with trembling hands.
I sank onto my cot and dropped my head into my hands. I had grievously offended Oistin. Why else would he punish me in such a way? To send me away, my training incomplete, was a clear indication I had failed.
I had always expected to leave the community eventually. Other than those few druids who remained here to teach, most stayed only for the ten years of our training. They departed to perform the roles for which we had studied: advisor, confidante, teacher. They interpreted visions and signs, performed ceremonies, led festivities. All except for me.
Twelve summers had passed since the druids came to take me from Silver Downs. Twelve summers during which I studied hard and learned all I could, yet I showed little sign of ability. Small charms that my fellows performed easily required many long hours of practice for me. I could not call on the elements until several years after all my fellows had mastered the practice, and even now the air elementals still eluded me. I found it difficult to interpret the signs, for it seemed they could be read in several ways, depending on one's motive. But the area in which I had most soundly failed was the Sight. No matter how many hours I practised, I never Saw even the briefest vision in the waters. But despite that, the druids believed I was intended for them.
I had a secret reason for pursuing my training, despite my lack of ability, and it pained me that Oistin had seemingly chosen to disregard this now. I had confided in him many years ago about my sister, who had been stolen at birth by the fey queen, Titania. He knew I planned to search for her as soon as my training was complete. Once she was located and safely returned home, I would again be at the druids' disposal — for the rest of my life. It seemed to me to be a fair exchange.
Given my lack of ability, there must be another reason the druids had selected me all those years ago. If Oistin had Seen the path that lay ahead of me, he had never hinted at it. So this assignment was completely unexpected. How would I advise the king with no Sight?