A Night Borrowed: Sorrow Stones Trilogy Volume 2
Re-Released 10.01.16 - ISBN: 0-9825563-0-6
Originally released 10.01.09
Six months have passed since Rhiannon found Dominic's murdered body following the Battle of Hastings, leaving her pieces of Bròn Seud behind, as well. But, now that Dominic has returned, the normal life she always wanted and that she's carved out for herself has disappeared, replaced by the returning curse of the Sorrow Stones. She must now go get the magical gems she abandoned, and embrace the magic she once shunned so that she can send Dominic home. When Weylin returns in the body of a man Rhiannon trusts, she must immerse herself into the legend of the mystical gems to learn how to be rid of the evil man once and for all.
Seattle vice detective Dominic Williams - a few months into his coma recovery - goes looking for Rhiannon St. Clair, a Chicago college teacher who also had dreams of being in the 11th century while comatose. He is determined to find answers about how and why he ended up in medieval Scotland, and he believes this Rhiannon holds the key. But when he finds out that she is looking for her father's murderer and the ancient, mysterious book the killer stole, he finds out he may have gotten himself into a situation that may challenge everything he thought was real... and may be more than he can handle.
As the two timelines begin to collide, Rhiannon must give herself over to the true power of Bròn Seud to protect the secrets of the shimmering gemstones and to prevent the curse from ever taking Dominic away from her again.
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Excerpt: Chapter 10
Rhiannon awoke to the rain pounding on the roof of the motel for the third straight morning. She was starting to wonder if there was ever a day without rain in this county. The sun had yet to light the sky, but she knew that typical “solstice rituals” were undertaken at sunrise. She rolled over and looked at the digital clock on the nightstand. It was just after three in the morning. The sun would rise at five-thirty.
Though the FBI and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office had asked her and Dominic to steer clear of the investigation, Dominic told her that he figured that it wouldn’t hurt anything to check out the two unmarked stone chambers Rhiannon had found. They were on private property, and he’d already gotten permission from one of the owners to go up to the site. The other had yet to answer the phone, but Rhiannon figured that they’d ask in person when they got there.
Or, perhaps, after the fact. They were only going have an hour – perhaps and hour and a half – to see if Jack Friend was at one or the other of the sites. While the FBI and Putnam County PD were checking out the sites marked on the tourist maps – they thought that her find in the book about the sites had to be a waste of resources to pursue – she and Dominic were going to check out these other two sites. The FBI probably had more information than they did, she reasoned. Jack Friend probably would be at one of the other sites. The name “California Chamber” was probably an alternate name for one of the stone chamber sites on the tourist map.
But, on the off-hand chance that the FBI was wrong… on the off-hand chance that she knew better than the FBI agents about where a neo-Druid-type guy might hold some arcane ritual… she and Dominic figured they might be better off making sure that these unmapped sites weren’t the place.
So, they were going. She stepped into the bathroom and switched on the light. Her hair was a complete mess, but she wasn’t going to have time for a shower. She held her fingers under the sink’s tap and ran her now-wet fingers through her hair.
She’d just finished sliding her boots on when there was a knock on the door.
“It’s Dominic,” a voice from the other side of the door called out.
“Come in,” she said.
The door swung open and Dominic came in, rain dripping off his coat. “Don’t ever just say, ‘come in.’ It could be anybody.”
Rhiannon rolled her eyes. “But I knew it was you.”
“Well, what if it wasn’t?” he asked, shaking the rain from his hair. “What if it was Friend? We know he’s in the area.”
“You’re right,” she said, grabbing her coat and purse. “Won’t happen again.”
He opened the door. “You don’t mean it,” he said.
“Sure, I mean it,” she replied. “Even when I know the person on the other side, I will ask who it is, just to be sure.”
“Not funny, Rhiannon,” he said.
They made their way down the stairs and to the parking lot. The sky was still dark; not even the tiniest hint of light broke the darkness along the horizon. Dominic switched on the Jeep’s headlights and headed out into the wilderness.
They turned onto the Taconic Parkway just as her watch beeped on the half hour. They had about two hours until dawn, but, if she remembered the rituals right, Jack would need some kind of set-up time. He might be at the site already.
After driving for another twenty minutes in near pitch-blackness, they reached the farm where the first of the sites was located. Two trucks sat out front, along with several other dead cars, some old farm equipment, and a lot of metal refuse. An old man waved from the porch, a coffee cup in his hand. Dominic waved back as he parked the Jeep.
Rhiannon climbed out of the Jeep and followed Dominic toward the house.
“I called yesterday about seeing your stone chamber,” Dominic said.
“Yup,” the old man said between sips of coffee. “Be my guest.” He pointed toward the north. “It’s about four miles that way. There’s a trail leading up there. Your SUV there might make it.”
“Thanks,” Dominic said. “Anyone else been up there recently?”
“Nope,” the old man said. “Nobody that I know of.”
“That you know of?” Rhiannon asked.
“Yeah, there’s a couple ways in there. Not as easy to get to as this, though, mind,” he said. “But, as far as I know, t’ain’t nobody been up there in a good long while.”
“Okay, thanks,” Dominic repeated.
They got back into the car and headed up the narrow trail toward the stone chamber. They passed by towering pines, hickory, walnut, birch, cedar, and chestnut trees, all surrounded by a thick carpet of fog along the ground that reached with ghostly arms toward the treetops. The thick, sinewy, twisted arms of the black oaks only added to the appearance of a haunted landscape.
“The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols. The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head,” she quoted, staring off into the fog and the twisted branches that stretched into the trail.
“What?” Dominic said.
“I was reminded of Irving’s description of the Hudson Valley in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, just now,” she said.
“Oh,” Dominic said, steering the car slightly off the trail to avoid a branch hitting the windshield. “Yeah, I was reminded of that, too, when I walked into your hotel.”
She laughed. “It’s so foggy, it’s almost like the Headless Horseman might really bolt out of the mist,” she said.
He smiled. “With the weird things I have seen and heard about on this trip already, it honestly probably wouldn’t surprise me.”
The trail was only as wide as the car, and branches scratched the paint as they passed through the bushes over the leaf-covered ground. The car left deep imprints in the earth behind them as they passed; the rain over the last two weeks had significantly saturated the soil.
And, suddenly, there it was, highlighted by the headlights. A dark hole in the earth, surrounded by meticulously placed stones and nearly overgrown with bushes and other foliage, was almost hidden behind years of untouched forest duff. But there was one thing Rhiannon noticed more than anything: a fire pit dug into the soft soil.
She got out of the car and walked over to the hole in the ground. There were a few little logs inside the pit, and it was nearly filled with muddy rainwater. It had been here for some time: a week, maybe more.
“He’s not here,” Dominic called out from inside the chamber. “There’s some writing on the walls, though.”
“Graffiti?” she asked, coming closer and peering in.
“No, looks like chalk markings of some sort.”
Rhiannon scanned the markings on the walls. They were mostly erased by the damp weather; they made no sense. She pulled her cell phone from her purse and snapped a couple pictures of the markings, anyway.
Dominic glanced at his watch. “We’ve got to hurry to the other chamber if we want to be there before dawn.”
They got into the Jeep again, and Dominic made what seemed like a forty-point turn at the mouth of the chamber in order to get turned around. Within a minute, they were headed back toward the highway, the narrow trail holding them back as much as possible between the fog, the rain, and the mud.
By the time Rhiannon’s watch chimed at four in the morning, they were back on the highway, headed toward the other chamber. The rain had stopped, but the fog was present in abundance. The streetlights overhead seemed inordinately bright as dawn approached and they raced toward the turn off.
The car slid sideways onto the gravel road when Dominic turned off the highway.
“Turn down this next road coming up,” Rhiannon said. “Go six miles down that road and then turn left on the next road.”
“Okay,” Dominic said.
He was watching the road and the speedometer with equal vigilance, his eyes flicking back and forth between them as he navigated the sweeping corners of the dirt road.
Rhiannon held on to the aptly named “oh, shit” handle above the door as he took the corners at nearly fifty miles per hour. “Dominic, be careful. We can’t do anything if we’re smeared all over the road.”
He smirked, but he didn’t look at her. “I am an excellent driver,” he said.
She knew better than to say anything more. The sky was beginning to lighten, and a hint of pink appeared over the eastern horizon as the sun began to rise over the trees in the distance.
Dominic slowed to take the corner onto the road she’d told him about, but then sped up again once the car was situated on it. The road was nothing more than washboards and potholes, and the car shook constantly as they passed over them.
“There’s not going to be a road, but the book said that there’s a large rock at the edge of the road that’s only five hundred yards or so from the site,” Rhiannon said.
Dominic nodded once, but kept his focus on the road ahead. He had to slow down repeatedly as they encountered switchback corner after switchback corner the higher they climbed into the tree-covered hills.
The sky was almost a Persian blue studded with fat, fluffy rain clouds above them, and the eastern horizon had nearly turned to fire as the sun crested over the hills. They were running out of time.
“How far is it up here?” Dominic asked.
“It looks like about five miles or so,” she said, holding onto the printout from the book in one hand. “But it’s hard to tell. The author probably drew the map himself.”
They hurtled up the winding road as fast as they dared, sliding around the gravel corners and gunning it down the straight stretches, all the while, Rhiannon kept and eye out for this mysterious rock. She hoped that it hadn’t been moved or demolished or something.
As she watched out the window, she suddenly saw a flash in the forest. “Stop! Stop, stop, stop!” she cried. “Go back! Go back!”
“What?” Dominic said, slamming on the brakes.
Her head nearly hit the dashboard. “Go back! I saw something!”
He put the Jeep in reverse. He stopped the car where she pointed, and looked over her shoulder. “Where?” he asked. “I don’t see anything.”
“Over there,” she said. “It’s gone now, but I saw something, I swear it.” She got out of the car and ran toward the tree line. The rock the author had mentioned sat just off the road, but was completely hidden by spring growth. But, what was behind the rock was what interested her: a Chevy Citation, rusted, but the hood was still warm. “Look!” she said, pointing at the car in the bushes. “There’s a car here!”
She waited while Dominic parked the Jeep on the side of the road, gathered a few things, and then caught up to her. He glanced around their surroundings.
“I wonder whose car this is?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.”
There was a narrow, winding trail partially overgrown with various and sundry plantlife that led down into a steep gully studded with rocks of all sorts and lined with oaks and birch. Rhiannon ran down the trail, catching herself on overhanging branches to avoid falling the two hundred feet or so to the valley’s bottom.
Dominic was right behind her. She felt his warm presence there – tense though he seemed to be – like some kind of security at a time when she didn’t feel very secure. She hadn’t felt safe in a very long time; he’d given back to her what Jack Friend had taken away.
The sun was fully risen between two hills some three hundred feet or so ahead. As they crested the rise, the sound of labored breathing reached them. Oh, God. Were they too late?
Over the crest of the hill, the orange rays of the rising sun danced among tiny droplets of water leftover on the plants from the rainstorm. The light reflected and glittered on those droplets, giving the scene a magical sort of feel.
The smell of burning candle wax was heavy in the air, and the breathing sound had gotten louder, the closer they came to this little hill. The smell of fish wafted toward her as she knelt to look over the edge. A pair of feet were sticking out from the mouth of a stone chamber and resting atop an inscribed stone that had been set into the entrance. The carving clearly depicted a crescent moon and a confluence of planets.
Her heart raced as she slid down the side of the chamber, clinging to trees for support. She turned the corner and gasped.
“Oh, dear Lord,” Dominic breathed.
There, laid out in the mouth of the chamber, was Jack Friend. He was completely naked and posed like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, except that his arms were pointed slightly downward rather than at shoulder height or slightly above. His legs were spread wide apart. He was laid out on a pentagram surrounded by a double circle drawn in chalk. Between the two circles, he’d drawn astrological signs. His left hand pointed at the sign for Jupiter; his right, at the sign for Venus. His right foot was positioned over the symbol for Mercury, while his left pointed at the sign for Saturn. Above his head, he’d drawn the symbol for Mars, and, between his legs, he had inscribed a crescent moon. His left arm was wrapped with a length of tubing, and a red welt swelled from the vein at his elbow. A hypodermic needle lay on the ground next to him.
Excerpt: Chapter 9
The ground was almost solid chalk. Dominic was glad for it, too. In fact, after spending more than week on the ship with Rhiannon, Phelan, and Ignace, he was beginning to think that he would never see dry land again, much less set foot on it. They had hit doldrums three times; the last time had lasted for two and half days. What with Ignace scowling at him almost constantly, and Rhiannon avoiding Dominic to keep Ignace from becoming unpleasant, Dominic was stuck talking to Phelan, who had really delved into the inventions of the future; Dominic’s description of the flush toilet had kept him enthralled for almost a full day.
But Dominic had questions, lots of them, for Rhiannon. What had she done that day at Hastings? It seemed that her father had done the same thing to her at one point, so how was it that one or both of them didn’t know what it was that had been done to him? This Weylin character seemed to know how to do it, but, if the voice in his head was to be believed, then Weylin hadn’t been going about it the right way. He wasn’t sure what these stones had to do with it, but the voice sure went on about it, at length, too.
They’d taken what Ignace described as a shorter route to wherever it was they were going, but it seemed to be taking a long time, Dominic thought. If nothing else, he would learn patience in traveling from this little experience. Laying on the horn when someone didn’t take right off from a green light? Dominic swore he’d never do that again. Never again would he take the luxury of a car, paved roads, hot water heaters, or pre-packaged food for granted.
But, they were almost there. Finally. As they traversed a wide, partially-plowed plain, Dominic kept glancing upward at her. The voice kept telling him to look away, but he couldn’t. Her swaying bottom was right there in front of him, and, well, it was there, so, he looked. He knew that Ignace could turn around any second and would probably try to beat him to a bloody pulp if he caught Dominic’s gaze, but, at this point, he didn’t care. Only a few more hours, and he would be home, to a world of electric lights, refrigerators, canned beer, showers, and, best of all, no magic.
The thought of the magic that she seemed to whole-heartedly believe in – and why not, he thought; what else could explain his presence here? – brought his thoughts back to the girl. The closer they got to this place, the paler she seemed. She seemed to struggle to make it up short rises, and almost dragged her feet as they made their way toward their destination. It was almost as if something was draining her.
And it was his fault. Dominic knew that to be true. She had told him that she wanted to rid herself of the stones so she could live a normal life. She’d lost nearly everything and everyone she cared about because of them, but she had gone against her wishes to do this thing for him. And he would be forever grateful. He hoped that he would remember this when it was all over, so that, maybe someday, he might repay the favor. Not to her, of course, but to someone who needed his help.
He had never seen anyone do something quite so selfless as what she was doing. She had said that she was making amends for being selfish, for casting that spell on the battlefield and bringing him here. He sensed that there was more to it than that. The voice in his head loved this girl more than Dominic had ever witnessed someone love another human being. It was as if they were two parts to one soul, and only Dominic, pulled from his lifetime into theirs, kept them apart.
Well, that, and an angry-looking Viking dude.
Oh, yeah: and that whole dying bit.
Still, the voice hadn’t seemed too upset to find out that the love of his life had settled down with a former battle buddy, but, it was obvious by the comments the voice made about it that, if it worked out the way he wanted, she would come back to him.
But she had made it pretty clear at the Beltain party that she had no intention of doing that. Somehow, she’d gotten it into her head that she would be doing this Dominic a favor, if he lived through whatever was about to happen, if they never saw each other again.
Perhaps he ought to talk to her before they did this thing, and tell her – really tell her – how this guy felt about her. Maybe then, she’d reconsider the notion of abandoning him again. This time, alive.
They crested a short rise, and suddenly, their destination was just up ahead. He saw the straight, regal stones, standing tall against the overcast sky, the sarsen stones tilting slightly – some fallen completely over – but still stretching for the sky. The lintel stones looked almost exactly like he remembered seeing them in books. He stopped in his tracks and stared at the site.
“After all this whining to get here, and now you’re going to stop?” Phelan said, grabbing Dominic by the shirt and dragging him along behind.
“Holy shit,” Dominic said. “It’s freaking Stonehenge.”
Ignace turned and glared at Dominic. “She’s not well,” he said. “Let’s be done with this.”
Rhiannon really didn’t look well. She had not said a word for miles and miles – all day, really – and the paleness he’d noted earlier had intensified, if that was possible. Her veins seemed to almost glow beneath her white, white skin.
Ignace lifted her into his arms and carried her toward the circle, the book clutched to her chest. Dominic followed along behind.
What the hell was going on? Why was she acting like that? Was something really wrong with her? Maybe she hadn’t been kidding when she said it was dangerous for her to go after the gems again?
They circled around the monument to the northeastern side where a wide opening stood as the mouth to an avenue that seemed to lead to the river.
The inside of the circle appeared to be a total mess. There was no rhyme or reason to the placement of the stones. Some of the mess seemed to be from the bluestones and sarsen stones falling over in the millennia or so since it had been built. Some of it seemed to be from people taking building materials.
Dominic had always wanted to visit Stonehenge, and he knew that, someday, he would. He just never thought that he would see it while stuck in the head of an 11th century Scottish soldier.
Ignace set Rhiannon on her feet and she slumped to her knees and began unwrapping the book. Dominic went to help her, but Ignace stopped him with a hand on his arm. Dominic looked to Ignace. Why wouldn’t he let him help her?
Ignace just shook his head.
“I need your sword,” Rhiannon whispered.
Ignace reached for the weapon at his hip, but Dominic placed his sword in front of her before the Viking could pull his sword free from its sheath. She looked up to him with tired eyes and smiled. She grabbed the sword’s hilt, and, using it like a cane, came to her feet, leaning heavily on the sword.
There didn’t seem to be anything special about the place, except that, maybe Rhiannon had felt a connection to the site, considering the many stone circles that dotted Scotland. But all that changed the moment she came to her feet and staggered toward the stones, and entered the circle. She set the book at her feet. She took up the sword, with the tip in one hand and the hilt in the other, and raised her hands toward the sky.