Night Cry: Sorrow Stones Trilogy Volume 1
Released 10.01.06 - ISBN: 0-9825563-1-3
The dream came to Rhiannon the night her husband died. An ancient magic is her birthright, and it has called upon her in the form of five gemstones known to her people as Bròn Seud—Sorrow Stones. Dominic, her husband’s brother and a soldier for the Scottish king, Malcolm Canmore, holds her only hope for finding out the secrets of the stones: he offers a way for her to get to Normandy, where the answers to the endless circle of questions lie. Rhiannon must first reconcile the burgeoning desire she feels for Dominic, and find a way to escape the clutches of a priest that is not what he seems before she will be able to reveal the immortal secrets hidden in these dangerous gems. Set in Scotland, Normandy, and England in the tumultuous year 1066, Night Cry delves deep into the mysteries of an ancient Pictish legend wrapped around a love that will take Rhiannon to two continents, the pivotal Battle of Hastings, and two very different lifetimes.
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Dominic held his breath as he slid the key into the lock on the oaken double doors, the tiny click barely audible over the buzzing in his ears. He pulled the brass handle on the library door and allowed it to swing wide. The scent of leather, aging paper, and wood polish pervaded the space. As the moon pulled its light from the room, the shadows left behind on the wide floorboards seemed to mark the passage of time since the last person had entered the room, like a horizontal sundial. Red velvet drapes, cinched with a length of gold braid, hung in the middle of the windows, silhouetted against the moon’s reflection in the lake beyond the diamond-paned glass.
His cell phone beeped and he automatically reached for it. The tiny screen announced that he was out of service range. Those that could afford summer homes on the lake griped that their cell phones didn’t work up here, yet they refused to allow a tower to be built for fear of destroying the view. Dominic was just as glad for it. He only came here when he wanted to escape the “big city” and all of the complications that went with it. He held down the phone’s power button to shut it off and returned the device to his belt.
He let go of the brass handle and moved into the room that seemed more sanctuary than athenaeum and tried to sort out the memories that came back to him in a flood. The ancient brocade wall coverings in pale cream, the slippery handrails on the curved stairs to a balcony above him, the painting of a man in a plaid kilt that hung over the mantle... all of those things instantly brought him back to the days he’d spent frolicking with his cousins in the back yard. The smell of pine-scented floor cleaner mixed into rusty water wafted to him from the floor. A deeper breath, and the scent of his grandfather’s cherry pipe tobacco reached out to him, pulling him back to the summer that he turned fifteen... the year his father died.
He knew where to look; he remembered seeing the books as a child. Like now, he wasn’t supposed to be in the library. The ragged leather covers and the gold gilt lettering in some ancient language had drawn him in. His grandfather had caught him in the room, and forbade Dominic from touching the books. That was the day that the lock had gone on the door.
His hand quavered for a moment, hovering over the row of books. He closed his eyes and reached out blindly, removing a tome at random. His first glance at the cover did not reveal anything startling. His name was not on the cover... not that he had expected it to be, but.... All right, he had half expected “Dominic Williams” to be written there, but he found a deep sense of relief that it was not. She had planted a seed into his brain with her ramblings, and he almost found himself believing her when she told him that the proof was in his grandfather’s house. He didn’t have to ask where. He tilted the book toward the moonlight. An inverted triangle with a crescent inside had been scratched into the leather cover, leaving behind a frayed, white tear.
He turned the book slightly and glanced again at the spine. The words written there appeared similar to be modern French, but were still archaic to him. Année – year – was the only word of the fifteen or so there that he could translate. Shaking his head once to clear it, he flipped open the cover to the first page.
The scrawled lettering had faded to a pale brown, and Dominic searched his pocket for the little flashlight he used at crime scenes. Flicking the switch, he moved the halo of light over the slanted text.
It is the year 1066. I shouldn’t be here.
He dropped the book and jerked backward. Not the ancient French that was on the spine, but plain English – modern English.
He knew that handwriting. He ought to know it; he saw it everyday on files, reports, and notes.
It was his.
Excerpt: Chapter 9
I entered the village with my head down, not wishing to meet the eyes of the people who went to and fro about their daily tasks.
“Rhiannon! My daughter; come here!”
I turned at the sound of my father’s voice as I passed the village’s main fire ring. “M’aithair,” I answered, changing direction and moving toward him. “Ciamar a tha sibh?”
Padruig bent to one side and retrieved his shoe off the ground. “I am well,” he answered, spreading the top of the leather shoe wide and peering into the depths. “Who was that man?”
I glanced involuntarily at the hillside graveyard. “Aiden’s brother.”
Padruig looked up sharply at my words, his gaze directed at the chapel. His eyebrows rose until they nearly touched his hairline. “He doesn’t look like Aiden.” He examined the interior of his shoe again. “What is he doing here?”
I took the shoe from Padruig’s hand and beat it several times on the edge of the ring and then handed it back. “Why do you still do that?”
“Check your shoes for spiders. It will probably never happen again,” I said, grinning widely.
“Sure, you’re right. It won’t happen again, because I check for the wee buggers.” He slipped his foot into his shoe and stamped once to adjust it. “It only takes once.”
I looked at my father. His smile, the two front teeth missing from a boyhood brawl, was contagious. His black hair stood on end, especially on the top of his head where the few hairs that remained around his bald spot wouldn’t lay flat. I burst into laughter at the memory of Padruig jumping about the room, clutching at his foot and cursing. When I finally persuaded him to sit, I pried off his shoe to find the remains of large spider clinging to his toe.
I sat next to Padruig on the ring and wiped tears of laughter from my eyes. “Aye, it only takes one time,” I agreed between little spurts of hiccupping giggles.
Padruig stretched his now-shod feet in front of him. “You never answered my question.”
“Oh, about Dominic?”
“Is that his name?” He gestured with his chin toward the hill. “Aye. What is he doing here?”
I coughed once, the laughter finally subsiding. “He said he had news to tell Aiden.” My voice dropped very low at the mention of my husband’s name, and I stared at a raven flying far in the distance.
“Did he tell you?”
I glanced at him. “Hmm?”
“Oh, well... it’s just that I don’t remember Aiden saying he had any family at all.” Padruig stood and twisted his body from side to side causing the bones of his back to pop loudly.
“Neither do I,” I admitted, “but the eyes are the same.”
Padruig grunted. “So, you noticed his eyes, then?”
“Aithair!” I exclaimed in exasperation.
He smiled. “I was only teasing.”
I grinned along with him. “Aye, well,” I said, and then stood and touched Padruig’s shoulder. “I am sorry it’s been so long since we’ve talked.”
“And I, as well,” Padruig agreed, covering my hand with his.
“There is something I need to discuss with you,” I began.
“What is it, Daughter?”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to think of how I should begin.
The dream, the voice in my head reminded me.
Well, yes, I agreed internally; that would be a good place to start. I glanced around and noticed quite a few of our neighbors watching us closely. Some of them, I knew, were waiting for my father to motion them closer so he could treat them for whatever ailed them. I smiled at Padruig. “I will come to your house at sunset,” I promised.
Padruig nodded and motioned one of the bystanders to him.
I turned and walked back up the winding trail to my home. The roof of my home came into view as I reached the foot of the hill. My home. Though it was considered strange for a woman to live alone, and I was surely thought of as peculiar, I was proud of the simple structure. It was roughly square – some fifteen feet wide and a little more in length – and composed of wattle and daub with a thin row of slate applied in two rows near the ground on the outside. Aiden had seen to it that my home was as efficient as possible for my trade. The thatched ceiling inside was exposed through open rafters from which hung all manner of plants in various stages of the drying process. A thick board hewn from a single length of pine stretched along the entire eastern wall. Upon it sat stone, horn, wood, and metal bottles and containers arranged first by content, second by size. In the center of the one-room building was a table built of oak planks and covered with a stone surface – Aiden’s idea. Other than my work area, the rest of the house was sparsely furnished: two small stools, three chests, a block of wood that served as a table, a brazier, and the bed. Though the house was small, since Aiden’s death it had felt like a huge, empty tomb. I spent less and less time inside it.
I picked up the jar where I had stashed the gems and opened the lid. The five of them sparkled warmly – almost invitingly – inside the dark interior. Their surfaces felt cool and smooth against my skin when I touched them, except for one, which emanated warmth as though it had been held over a fire. I wrapped my fingers around it and pulled it from the jar.
The amethyst seemed to flash in my palm, echoing my heartbeat. Why had the dream of these gems come to me the night Aiden died? Were the images of a woman warrior clad in leather armor really a dream? Why had it become more intense the first night the flying star was visible in the sky? That star... it was the only thing that was different from any other night I could remember.
I slipped the amethyst’s silver chain over my head and settled it against the nape of my neck. A breath of calm suffused my skin, seeping into my bones. For the first time in nearly six months, I felt at peace.
A knock at the door startled me and I dropped the jar to the hard-packed, earthen floor. “Who is there?” I asked as I stepped back from the shards of the clay pot.
“’Tis Cadha, the blacksmith’s wife,” came the muffled reply from the other side of the door.
“Just a moment,” I called, picking up the four gems and sliding them into a linen bag that rested on the tabletop before stuffing the bag into a jar of crushed thyme. I kicked the pieces of the shattered jar beneath the table and tried to settle my jangled nerves. Grabbing the purple stone, I dropped it beneath the fabric of my tunic. I did not want anyone else to see it.
I opened the door and Cadha ducked her chin to her chest. “Good morn, Delbaeth,” she said.
“Good morn, Cadha,” I replied. “There is no need to be formal, though; I am only Delbaeth on feast days.”
She smiled uneasily and nodded. “I need something.”
Pushing the door open wider, I motioned for her to come inside. “I will help if I can.”