Categorized | 2015 March, Book feature

Book feature: The Tir na Nog Trilogy by Ali Isaac

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About the author – Ali Isaac lives in rural Ireland and is the author of two books based on Irish mythology and a disabled hero. She has also recently co-written a book of love stories based on tales from Irish mythology with author Jane Dougherty. She regularly writes for Irish Central and Brigid’s Fire magazine.

IntroductionConor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean (Book 1)

ALI1Conor Kelly is not your average hero. He can’t walk. He can’t talk, but his mind is as active and alert as that of any teenage boy. On the outside, however, he’s about as interactive as a lump of wood.

Then he meets Annalee. She claims to be a Sidhe Princess, some kind of fairy royalty, apparently. She offers to take him into the magical realm, where her people wield the power to help him.

But is she just some child-snatching lunatic psychopath, or can she be trusted? On the other hand, what’s he got to lose?

He soon discovers that Tir na Nog is not the benign, dreamy land of legend. Nor are its inhabitants, the Sidhe, the benevolent fairy folk of Irish mythology. To accept their help has a cost, but for someone who doesn’t value his life, death is a risk worth taking.

With the blood of Lugh, God of Lightning, tingling in his veins, the boy in the wheelchair must dig deep, if he is to unlock the inherited powers dormant within him. Only he can defy disgraced Sidhe-King, Bres, who seeks to avenge himself on his brethren, and subject all mankind to his tyranny.

In the race to recover the legendary lost talismans of power, the Four Treasures of Eirean, before Bres gets his hands on them and becomes invincible, Conor begins to wonder just whose side Annalee is on, as her chequered past comes to light.

There are other obstacles, too; Ruairi, the Chieftain’s son, and worse, his own crippling self-doubt. Not that anything’s going to stop him. For the first time in his life, Conor finds he is not restricted by his physical limitations. Still, it’s not going to be easy.

Nothing worth fighting for ever is.

Book One of The Tir na Nog Trilogy begins an epic fantasy adventure which takes us back in time to the shadowy past of Ireland’s long lost legend, where fairy Kings and Gods walked amongst mortals, and where feats of magic, swordsmanship and courage were customary.

Here amidst the ancient stones of Newgrange and Tara, Conor discovers that anyone, no matter how unlikely, can still be a hero.

Excerpt – Prologue : The Dream,  4000 years ago…

Eochaidh mac Eirc, Ard Ri, High King of Ireland and leader of the Fir Bolg, stood on the cliff edge and looked out to sea. The night was clear, the water was calm, and the moon and stars observed the scene like many bright eyes. There was no sound save the hum of distant waves washing against the shore far below. A faint breeze, drenched with the salty scent of the sea, tugged at the hem of his cloak. Behind him stretched a small array of tents and cooking fires, where the men of his hunting party slept, or ate, or gathered in small groups to drink and talk.

The world seemed at peace. Nothing seemed amiss, yet as Cesard approached, he observed that Eochaidh seemed troubled. The King frowned, shrugging his cloak closer about his shoulders.

Cesard spoke in soft tones. “You sent for me, Lord?”

The king turned, his silhouette casting a large shadow against the deepening night sky, for the Fir Bolg were made of tall, big shouldered, broad chested men.

“Ah, Cesard.”

Alarm prickled along the sorcerer’s spine. The king feared nothing and no-one, was mighty in battle, and swift in his decisions. He was not given to lonely midnight vigils. It was clear that something was worrying him.

“How may I help you?” he asked.

Eochaidh turned his troubled gaze back to the horizon.

“Tonight I had a dream,” he said. “A dream so powerful, it kept me from sleep. I believe it to be a message, a warning from the gods, and I tremble at its meaning. You are my most trusted and learned advisor. You are accustomed to communing with the gods. Give me your interpretation, for I would have what I suspect confirmed or denied by your expertise.”

Cesard swallowed, a deep feeling of foreboding flooding through him.

“Tell me your dream.” He wrapped himself firmly in his cloak against the sudden chill he felt.

“It seemed,” Eochaidh began, “that I walked in daylight through this camp to this very spot where we now stand, and I looked out to sea, just as I do now.

“On the horizon, a dark cloud formed, and began to blow towards me. It moved very fast, faster than the winter wind across the plain. As it approached it became larger, its shape ever changing and undulating, until I could see that it in fact contained a multitude of smaller shapes. A great din arose from it, a rough harsh sound that struck terror into the hearts of all who heard it.

“As it came upon me, I saw that this dark shadow comprised a swarm of black crows, all crying their loathing. The host descended from the sky upon us, even as we reached for our weapons. They were a force of magic we could not fight against with our mortal weapons, and many of our tribe fell that day. But Sreng, my Battle Champion, cut a wing from the body of the largest, noblest bird, and then… I awoke.”

Eochaidh turned to his sorcerer and their eyes locked.

“Tell me, Cesard. What does this mean?”

Cesard disengaged his gaze from the King’s and returned it to the horizon.

“I fear it to be a bad omen.”

The king gave a hoarse laugh.

“I don’t need magical arts to see that,” he barked.

“Well, it would seem to me that the dark host represents an enemy that will come from the air and the sea, and wrest this land from us in battle, using a powerful magic we cannot withstand. Perhaps we will clip their wings, but not cut out their hearts.”

The King’s voice was harsh.

“Are you foretelling our doom?”

“I am merely interpreting your dream,” returned Cesard mildly. “Perhaps that’s all it is, just a dream.”

“No. It was more than that, and you know it. Besides, your skills have never failed me before. We must ready ourselves for war.” Eochaidh brushed past his advisor, resting his hand briefly on his shoulder, before striding off back through the camp.

Cesard shivered, eyes scanning the horizon for enemy ships, but finding none, followed hurriedly after his King.

Some way further north along the coast, at Killary Harbour in Connemara, the Tuatha de Denann were landing their first ships.

Introduction  Conor Kelly and The Fenian King (Book 2)

ALI2It’s happened again. Somehow, Sidhe-Princess Annalee has embroiled Conor in another hopeless quest on behalf of her people, Ireland’s fairy folk, the Sidhe. Last time, he very nearly got himself killed. This time, things look even worse.

For a start, Annalee can’t help him. She’s been imprisoned, accused of murdering her own father. The people of the magical realm are at war amongst themselves, whilst Tir na Nog crumbles into the sea and disaster strikes.

The sacred sisterhood of the Morrigan has arisen, wreaking havoc and destruction which threatens not only the future of the magical realm, but the world of mortals too. The Morrigan must be stopped, but how? The heroes of old are all long gone.

Conor Kelly can’t walk. He can’t talk. He’s just a boy in a wheelchair, but with the help of feisty side-kick Ciara, his drop-out cousin, Conor sets out in search of the mysterious Fenian King, prophecied of old to awake from his slumber beneath the green hills of Ireland, and ride to the aid of his people in their hour of greatest need.

Along the way, Conor unearths a personal secret which undermines all he has believed about his own identity, throwing him deep into confusion. Beset by uncertainty and fear, the mortal boy must dig deep if he is to overcome his demons and save his friends.

However, the search for the Fenian King is anything but easy. Known by the name of Fionn mac Cumhall, his exploits as leader of legendary war-band, the Fianna, are still told with awe today.

So just where do you start your search for Ireland’s greatest hero? Well, first you google it, of course. Then you ask the cat…

Book Two of The Tir na Nog Trilogy continues this epic fantasy adventure which takes us back in time to the shadowy past of Ireland’s long lost legend, where fairy kings and Gods walk amongst mortals, and where feats of magic, swordsmanship and courage were customary.

Excerpt – Prologue : The Prophecy, 3rd century AD…

Fionn mac Cumhall threw back his shaggy blonde head and roared. Across the battle field, five figures answered his call by stepping forward from the ranks of warriors who seethed and swirled in combat around them.

The five sons of Urgriu. The leaders of the enemy battalions. While they still lived, their men fought fiercely. Dead, and their army would lose heart, perhaps even surrender.

It might be his last act, but he could do it. He was Fionn mac Cumhall, greatest leader of the Fianna that ever lived. He had led a good life, a long life for a warrior. Perhaps now it was time to offer it up for the sake of his men, and the people of Ireland.

The smell of blood and the sight of broken bodies filled his senses. The carrion crows already gathered, anticipating great feasting. On the outskirts of the battle, looters were even now raiding the bodies of the fallen, both living and dead. The clash and thud of weapons, the exultant cries of the death-dealers, the screams of the injured and the moans of the dying, it all mingled together into the cacophony of war, a familiar music he had danced to so many times.

Memories came rushing back to him now, sweeping through him like the winter wind which tore across this land he loved so well; his childhood in the forest of Sliabh Bladhma with warrior-woman, Liath Luachra, and Bodhmall, his druid aunt; a tender kiss from his mother, Muirna; serving the mage, Finegas, on the banks of the River Boyne; his first union with his beloved wife, Sadbh; defeating Aillen of the Sidhe, who had laid waste to the palace at Tara with fire every Samhain; usurping Goll as head of the Fianna, reward bestowed upon him by the grateful High King, Cormac mac Art. Ah, but that was a sweet moment! Yet it was that act which had ultimately led to this ill-fated conflict.

Now, it was time to finish it. As the riastradh, the red frenzy of battle, descended upon him, Fionn cast aside his battered shield, already hacked to pieces, and hefted his sword in both hands. With a fierce cry, he charged down the hill and dived headlong into the fray.

The five brothers ran forward eagerly to meet him.

*

From his vantage point overlooking the carnage, Finegas stirred.

“Your time is not yet come, Fionn mac Cumhall,” he muttered. “You are descended of Nuada, first King of the Tuatha de Denann. Royal Sidhe blood runs in your veins. You are duty-bound to deliver your people. There is one more task you must do, before you go to your final rest.”

With that, Finegas took up his wooden staff, and strode down onto the battle field.

*

“I tell you, his body is not there,” insisted Caoílte mac Rónáin. “We have been searching for days. The injured have been sorted from the dead; the bodies are waiting for burial or cremation. We cannot delay much longer for fear of disease.”

The surviving leaders of the Fianna had gathered in the tent of Feircobh, King of Munster.

“We are having the devil’s own job fending off the scavengers and looters,” added Feircobh. “We need to act now.”

“Some say it was Aichlech mac Dubdrenn who struck off his head, but even I cannot see if that is so,” said Diorruing, who had the second sight.

Conan mac Lia, Fionn’s right-hand man, had assumed command of the Fianna in his friend’s absence. He set his jaw stubbornly. “We look again. He must be there. You saw him; he was beset by all five brothers at once. There is no way even he could have survived such an onslaught.”

Tense with frustration, he looked round at the faces of each of his companions, one by one, desperately seeking their agreement. Their eyes slid guiltily away from his, and he knew they had made their decision.

And then, a new voice spoke which they did not recognise, a voice as faint as a breath of summer air, yet which throbbed with knowledge and the promise of secret power.

“The age of the Fianna is over. Never again will this land experience such greatness as existed under the hand of the Fenian King.”

An aged man, leaning on a large stick, stood just inside the tent opening. He cast a thin, dark shadow against the sunlight.

Feircobh glared at him in annoyance. “Who are you, and how did you get past my guards?” he demanded.

The old man’s voice was tremulous, not much more than a whisper. “The Fenian King rests beneath the hill. He will answer the call of his people once more in their hour of greatest need.”

Caoílte mac Rónáin started forwards eagerly. “The Fenian King? Do you mean my Uncle? Do you have news of him?”

The old man did not acknowledge him. He turned and hobbled out through the opening.

Although the men chased after him, turning over the camp in their efforts to locate him, the strange old man was nowhere to be found. It was as if he had simply vanished into thin air.

Copyright Ali Isaac, 2015

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