In the endless darkness, seen only by the eyes of the gods, a single form is suspended. A slim, small body, female, yet encased in supple hide – the form-fitted second skin of a warrior. Weapons are attached at intervals; a sword and staff slung across her back, knives concealed at hip and ankle, whip-like cord wound from shoulder to wrist, embracing the muscled arms. Long red-gold hair escapes from its bonds to curl around the pale, freckled face. A young sun blooming in the darkness, as Connar, god of the life-flame, watches. The face of the god is unreadable, but not still. Sadness, pride, anguish, hope, joy, despair, love and rage chase across his face like the tides, continually shifting and changing; unknowable.
All around the still, silent form, others slowly fade into existence. First one, than another, until the darkness is filled with a blaze of color; men, women, and children arriving to fill the void with suspended life.
Connar sighs, gazing across the human constellations, and gestures. The crowd blinks out of existence in an instant, and the darkness is complete once more.
***"What happened? I demand an answer! Where are we?" Camlin had the biggest mouth in the Connarii tribe. Consequently, his cries drowned out the three thousand five hundred and thirty-seven other alarmed voices. Their owners milled about in sleepy confusion, and a not a few in embarrassment, as they exchanged inadequate sleepwear for more modest or functional garb, hunting through the piles of household goods heaped about in the shifting mists where chests and hooks had been only moments before.
"Shut your mouth, Camlin." That was Edana, glaring daggers beneath blazing hair that refused to be braided back and tamed. She would have enjoyed following up with a more pointed attack – literally, one hand on a dagger – had she not been so distracted. The lingering shreds of a dream unsettled her – something about darkness, loneliness...
Her younger sister's voice jolted Edana back to attention.
"Please, Camlin. You needn't add to the confusion."
Aislynn's remonstrance went unheeded as Camlin stormed over to the girls' father Toryn, king of the Connarii.
"Well?" He demanded. "What happened?"
The old man sighed. Camlin had never been the most tractable member of the tribe, and what he was about to hear would very likely incite him to new levels of youthful belligerence. No way around it though; waking up to find the whole world swept out from under you tended to stick in people's minds, and he'd have to offer some kind of explanation, and worse, a plan of action, sooner or later.
Better make it sooner.
Toryn sighed again, feeling worn through and wistful for days gone by. Days when the Connarii had been strong, their kings majestic and their people happy and undoubtedly much, much less difficult. Camlin was still trying to stare him down, jaw clenched, hands fisted, his poor little brother cowering behind him...
All Toryn wanted to do was go back to bed and wake up, oh, say 200 or 300 years ago, when the Connarii had presided over rich holdings across the west of the Islands, before their wealth and dominion had ebbed to the southernmost spit of land along the Cornish coast... and now, even that appeared to have been stolen. Yes, better to have ruled in centuries past, rather than go down in history as the king who lost it all. Toryn would have happily gone back to sleep and never opened his eyes again. Instead, he held up a hand and tried for imperious gravity.
"A moment, Camlin. Aislynn. Edana. With me." Toryn gestured to his daughters and moved away from the crowd, trying to hide his eagerness to get some distance from the fearful voices and panicked eyes. Sleepiness was shifting into subdued alarm as people tried to work out what, if any, danger they might be in.
YOU ARE READING
Flame of the Connarii: Book One of the Legends of the ConnariiFantasy
ON HIATUS When a combative Celtic princess and a feral boy raised by wild cats in the ruined jungles of a lost world join forces, neither tribal power struggles nor the attacks of jungle beasts can separate them. But will they be able to survive the...