Saturday, November 28, 2015

Announcing RAGING SEA:Reckonings by @KimHeadlee #FREE on #KindleUnlimited!

Breaking News on The Maze,
just in time for the holidays!

Those who aspire to greatness must first learn servanthood.
Read Raging Sea: Reckonings, book 3.1 in The Dragon's Dove Chronicles!


Stripped of kin, clan, country, and even his identity for having failed the most important woman in his life and her infant son, Angusel begins the arduous task of rebuilding his life and reclaiming his honor. The path he treads is fraught with uncomfortable revelations, unexpected reconciliations… and unavoidable reckonings. 


THE FORMER ÀRD-OIGHRE h’Albainaich Chaledon was dead.

It didn’t matter that the Otherworld wasn’t at all like what he had been taught—there was no eternal battlefield where Lord Annaomh’s Army of the Blest fought Lord Annàm’s Samhraidhean minions, as far as he could tell. He was certain he was dead.

In fact, there was no light, no pain, no smells, no heat, no chill, no sensation of any kind save the most beautiful strains of harp music he’d ever heard. The images it evoked bespoke love in its many incarnations: the frenzied passion of the Belteine fire-dance, the soaring joy of two souls bonded by the act of love, a mother’s fierce protectiveness of her children, the lament of a bereaved spouse, a lullaby for a newborn, the rapture of a long-delayed reunion. None of the ancient tales mentioned music in the Otherworld, but he supposed the Old Ones could have whatever they liked. Comforted by the melody, which was by turns jaunty and lilting and mournful and jaunty again, he wasn’t about to start complaining to his sithichean hosts.

The final notes thrummed into silence. “Well done, Eileann,” spoke a nearby male voice in Caledonaiche. “I’ll wager the Old Ones themselves are pleased by your harping.” This won the murmured assent of other men, also in Caledonaiche.

“Thank you, Tavyn.” The female Caledonach voice sounded demure, as though unaccustomed to hearing such praise.

He was about to add his lauds to that of Tavyn’s when a wave of pain battered his head and chest. Apparently, the gods weren’t done tormenting him in this life. That much was obvious by the fact that he’d somehow ended up with his own people—his former people, he amended. It was also apparent that this group didn’t recognize him, or they never would have allowed him into their company.

Caledonach warriors didn’t associate with those who had been stripped of honor.

Dragging a hand across his eyes, though unwilling to open them, he felt the folds of a bandage swathing his brow. His hand dropped to his chest, and he found another bandage where his battle-tunic and undertunic should have been. He probed his chest near the left shoulder and winced. If the wound had been half a handspan further down, he would have received one-way passage to the Otherworld.

Where am I?

He must have uttered the question aloud, for the harpist, sounding much closer than before, answered, “Rest easy, brave one. You’re in the field hospital at Port Dhoo-Glass.”

The Caledonach ward, he realized with a groan.

Someone, mistaking that groan for an expression of physical discomfort, pressed a cool, damp cloth to his cheeks and neck. He had to admit it did feel good.

The woman continued, “You were found with a gash on your forehead and a spear in your chest. If you hadn’t moved when you did, the medics would have left you for dead. You’re very lucky to be here.”

Some luck. He wished the medics had left him in the company of the ravens.

Worse, his pain-fogged brain at last attached meaning to the names Eileann and Tavyn. They belonged to the daughter and son of Chieftainess Dynann of Clan Tarsuinn, his dead father’s clan. Tavyn, he recalled with chagrin, was commander of Second Turma, Manx Cohort, the unit that had charged the Sasunach line beside his. He turned his head onto one cheek and groaned again.

A hand slipped under his head to lift it a bit. Eyes still closed, he didn’t bother to resist. No sense in rushing the inevitable. They’d recognize him soon enough.

A cup touched his lips, brimming with a warm liquid redolent with the tempting scent of honey. His eyes flickered open.

He gazed past the cup’s rim into the face of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, save one. Lustrous black hair tumbled past her shoulders to sweep toward his chest. Graceful eyebrows accented brown eyes that glimmered with more compassion than he had ever hoped to see again. The light flush of her cheeks made him think of roses beneath a dusting of snow.

Her berry-red lips gave him the gift of a genuine smile.

He swallowed a mouthful of the liquid and grimaced at its bitter taste. It was a fitting reminder of the bitterness in his soul.

“Valerian.” Her smile took on an apologetic cast. “For your pain. Shall I add more honey for you?”

“Nay.” Was his voice really as harsh as it sounded? He couldn’t help it; his worst pain valerian couldn’t cure. He grasped the hand cradling his head and moved it so he could lie flat. To his surprise, he found it difficult to let her hand go. He did his best to return her smile, though it had been several moons since his facial muscles had moved in that direction. “Thank you, my lady.” For more things than just the drink, but of course he couldn’t tell her that.

Nodding, she disengaged her hand and rose, leaving the cup on the stool beside his cot. As though in afterthought, she bent to swab his brow again with the damp cloth. “I’ll be staying at the fortress until my brother is well enough to travel. Send for me if you need anything,” she whispered, doubtless unaware that her smile—and the kindness that was its source—was causing him more anguish than a hundred spear thrusts. “My name is Eileann.”

He knew; gods, how he knew. If he had never heard her speak, he’d have known from the blue woad Tarsuinn falcon tattoo spread-winged and screeching across her right forearm, symbol of her status as their àrd-banoigin. Chieftainess Dynann would retain clan leadership for as long as she remained fit for the task, but now that her daughter was of childbearing age, the responsibility for continuing the line lay with Eileann. By Caledonach law, Eileann was free to choose her consort. That her left arm bore no tattoo meant she hadn’t yet exercised that choice.

Maybe he could… nay; he was forgetting himself. Or rather, what he had become.

Eileann nic Dynann probably had suitors lined up from one shore of Caledon to the other. Even if she didn’t, the likelihood of her choosing an outcast was less than the sun changing its course at zenith to set in the east. Best to put her out of his mind. Best for him—and for her.

As she glided by the other cots to reach her brother’s side and took up her harp to play another tune, he found he could no sooner forget her than forget the shameful events of his past that prevented him from ever trying to woo her.

This groan he made sure to muffle with the pillow.


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