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Heart Of The Sidhe
The Sidhe Legends: Book Four
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-924-5
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 320 Pages
Published: January 2012



From inside the flap

The Tower of Glass has been destroyed. Balor of the Evil Eye is dead. But now the Tuatha de Danann clans must face a new threat from the piratical Fomor race. While one faction tries to make a peace, a ruthless military under High-Admiral Tharkus forms a conspiracy to thwart the attempt, gather their forces, and strike back at the Children of Danu. The young hero Lugh of the Long Arm must gain new strength for his people by seeking out the lost source of the Sidhe power.

He is aided in his quest by the giant Dagda, the shape shifting Púca, the raven-woman Morrigan, his beloved Aine, and her father, the disguised sea-god Manannan MacLir. Against them are arrayed the powerful and brutal forces of the Fomor, utilizing their ancient scientific and mechanical powers to defeat the magic of Tir-na-nog, seize the Heart of the Sidhe, and again enslave the de Danann people.

This new novel of the Sidhe series is, like the rest, an epic fantasy for all ages, blending the myths and legends of Celtic Ireland with her history in a tale of high-adventure and romance.

Heart Of The Sidhe (Excerpt)


Chapter One

SEA BATTLE

The vast silence of that empty vista of fog-draped sea was pierced through with a battle’s roar as a huge craft glided suddenly into view.

It was a Fomor warship, and it was engaged in a savage fight.

The powerful battleship of the Glass Tower fleet was a massive, sharply angled wedge of metal. Sleek-hulled and formed of polished black iron, it cut through the skein of wool-gray fog like a well-honed spear point. Its single mast showed no sail, yet the keen prow slashed its way steadily through the waves propelled by its silent, internal power.

Gray uniformed men at the sides and stern were working the massive crossbows mounted there. All were firing frantically now, spewing out an arcing fusillade of metal bolts toward a target at the rear. And that fire was being interlaced by a returning fire of slingshot pellets and hurled spears, creating a deadly rain on the laboring Fomor sailors.

The source of this withering fire hove from the fog into view close astern. This dreadnought that had once been a wolf of the seas was now being hotly pursued itself.

The pursuers were a fleet of a half dozen craft. Each one was a quarter the metal ship’s size, of primitive design in wood, and propelled by sails or oars. Still, though looking inadequate against the hard-edged bulk of the Fomor ship, they made a fair opponent for the man-of-war. In fact, as the contending ships sailed on, locked in furious battle, it became quickly obvious that the Tower vessel was actually overmatched.

The intersecting exchanges of fire that wove a sparkling latticework through the grayness contained many more hits upon the Fomor than on its foes. And the pursuers were slowly but relentlessly closing in

The increasing frequency of the hits was soon inflicting continuous damage to the crews on the warship’s sides and rear. Spears and stones were destroying men and damaging weapons. The accumulated effect was crippling the big ship.

Then a massive bolt was hurled by a huge figure in the bow of the closest small ship. This heavy missile looked vast for one human to wield, but it was cast with ease. It slammed home against the warship’s flat stern, ramming in tight against the rudder.

The ship shuddered as the strike’s impact shook the whole hull. On the Fomor main bridge, the command crew was sent reeling.

The Fomor captain, a lean and hawk-nosed man, grabbed the bridge rail barely in time to keep himself from falling. Face flushed as much by frustration as by rage, he turned to shout out at his crew:

"Where are our defenses? I want full fire from our stern!"

Another, younger officer stepped up to him.

"Captain, they are overreaching us," he said in a voice that could not hide his alarm. "Their fire is breaking through. We cannot win."

The captain turned to him in disbelief.

"You suggest we surrender, Commander?" he snarled out. "To that de Danann scum? You sound a coward, man. Back to your post! Keep all our fire at a maximum!"

The young officer, clearly stung by the rebuke, snapped a salute and wheeled away. Then he staggered as yet another, even more massive blow rocked the craft.

Outside, the entire stern of the warship was engulfed in a spectacular blossom of flaming debris, spreading outward from an explosion. It was caused by a second huge projectile hurled with such astounding force that it had pierced the black metal hull.

The attacker’s fire had found a vital point at last.

On the Fomor bridge, a second junior officer listened to the damage report through a speaking tube from the ship’s interior and looked to his captain in consternation.

"Captain, our portside screw has been disabled!" he reported. "We’re losing headway!"

The young commander glanced back through the bridge’s stern porthole to see the pursuing ships swiftly grow larger as they now rapidly closed in.

"They’re almost on us, Sir!" he all but screamed at the captain in his fear. He could see figures swarming out onto the vessels’ bulwarks and bows, swinging hooks on cables. "They’re readying grapples!"

The captain’s face drew into grim but determined lines as he rapped out the ominous order:

"Prepare to repel boarders!"

Through the stark corridors and across the deck the sharp sound of an alarm bell rang. From below more of the gray-clad crewmen swarmed to join their comrades already on deck. They formed a formidable array as the heavily-armed sailors rushed purposefully to their defensive positions.

While they formed up along the sides and stern, the attackers drew closer. They slid up on either side of the Fomor warship which was now little more than drifting ahead through the gray void. Soon the smaller craft were running parallel, like a dog pack on a fleeing stag, only a few yards away. The men filling their decks continued to launch withering barrages of fire, raking the Fomor ship.

The hunters matched speed with their prey. For moments they all seemed to hang suspended in the featureless fog, floating motionless together in an oddly peaceful-looking array. Then a shrill, warbling war cry was raised from one small ship. At its sound, the helmsmen of all the ships acted together. The craft began to slip sideways, closing the gap between.

The Fomor crew had by now all reached positions. Their companies had formed up at the most vulnerable points near the port stern, facing one of the largest of the attacking ships. Their weapons were up in a formidable barricade, the heavier armed men to the front. They meant to see none of their enemies reached that deck alive.

Not far away, the attacker’s ships had now come within an easy throw. Several grapples on long lines were flung from each, arching outward and down to catch at any protuberance in the Fomor ship’s side.

As the grapples made contact, Fomor crewmen scrambled to knock them free. Some succeeded, but many more sailors were knocked away from their goals by well placed shots of spear or pellet hurled from the enemy decks. The lines were being drawn in now, and the small ships pulling in tighter, tighter to the foe.

As they approached, the gray uniformed sailors looked across at their enemy-a snarling pack of cloaked and long-haired warriors hefting battle-axes and swords. Apprehension showed briefly in the faces of the Fomor crew. But all quickly steeled themselves for the inevitable. Weapons were raised and held ready. The click of their crossbows being cocked and the clatter of their longs words being drawn sounded across the deck.

The first vessels came within leaping range. The first brave individuals made the first boarding at extreme risk. Most died. But others made it, falling upon their foes. Their comrades followed, swarming across in a mass. A vicious melee quickly ensued at the bulwarks. The Fomor defenders were stalwart and desperate in their fight. They knew that once the defenses of the sides were breached, they were all but lost.

They were successful in their fight. They kept a barrier intact, holding their swarming enemies back, keeping them clinging desperately at the bulwark or knocking them back into the sea.

Except at one point.

Here a figure clad in a glowing silver cloak and helmet battled in the midst of a knot of Fomor men. His moves were swift, agile, and deadly sure. The long, glowing blade he held swung about from side-to-side with great swiftness and unerring aim, drawing bright arcs in the hazy air, humming with a strange power. It struck into the mass of his opponents, slashing some foes down, throwing the rest into a panic.

He opened a gap through the outer defense. A number of other warriors leaped immediately from the ship behind him to exploit the breech. They drove in with sword and ax to slash into the now-disarrayed defenders. Those few of the crewmen who tried to stand their ground were cut down savagely. The others turned and ran.

The boarding party clambered across the bodies of the slain and started in pursuit, the silver-helmeted one at their head. As they began their push onto the main deck, other defensive points around the sides and stern were being breached. Other companies from the little ships were swarming onto the black vessel to engage its Fomor crew in savage combat.

These separate parties of boarders, hacking their way aboard from all sides, smashed any further resistance. Scores of the Fomor seamen were soon streaming through the ship in wild retreat, knocking down each other in the panic.

At the doors and hatchways leading into the ship, the streams congealed into massive clots of men struggling to fight through to some supposed safety in the ship’s innards.

The silver-helmed leader with the gleaming blade led his own small group against a herd clogging the opening to the main superstructure. Their ruthless attack soon brought the remaining Fomor to scatter or fall begging for mercy.

The attackers pushed through to the ship’s interior.

On the Fomor bridge, a panic reigned. The young commander, openly gripped by his fear now, stepped up to his senior officer.

"Captain, they’re routing our men," he said in a quavering voice. "They’re moving through the ship with great speed. I suggest we..."

But before he could complete his suggestion, the sharp sound of metal on metal sounded from beyond the main entrance to the bridge.

The two men jerked around to see a crewman stumbling back through the doorway, chest opened by a single sword cut.

The dozen Fomor there had not even time to mount a new defense inside the door before the boarding warriors were shouldering their way through the opening. The defenders could only draw weapons and move to challenge.

Still, fired by final desperation, they managed to put up a spirited defense there. A wild and deadly melee erupted on the bridge as the attackers drove in, spreading out to engage. The trapped Fomor fought on doggedly, putting up a bristling defense wall of swords. Many of the enemy were struck down or sent staggering back with wounds.

Brave fighting men fell on both sides. Slashed bodies and severed limbs were strewn across a metal floor awash with blood. Errant blows from weapons struck the ship’s controls, causing small explosions, sparks, and crackling fires.

Through the chaos of the flames and smoke and blood moved the Fomor captain, evading assaults and falling men. He crawled behind the shelter of his command console and crouched there. Beside him the young commander crouched too, but rising at times, a small crossbow in hands, to gauge the process of the battle.

For a time there seemed to be a stalemate.

Then the silver-helmed one with the gleaming blade moved out from the rest. He advanced into the center of the room with seeming recklessness, parrying counter-attacks to strike out at the stubborn defenders with ruthless efficiency.

No defense could stop him. No blow could reach him. In a few bloody moments, only a few of the Fomor were left.

The young commander, in a misguided defense of his cowering captain, now rose up from cover and fired at the nearest warrior. His short, metal bolt slammed into the man’s chest, hurling him back. But as he quickly reloaded the weapon, the helmeted one attacked. Leaping forward, he swung the bright sword in.

The forward swipe sent the bow flying from the officer’s hands. The return cut cleanly severed the poor man’s neck.

As the gore-spurting head and body toppled together to the deck, the loaded bow slid across to land by the captain’s feet. He seized the weapon, stood up from cover, and boldly confronted the silver-clad warrior.

"Back away!" he threatened. "Let me go or I’ll shoot you."

"That’ll do you no good," came an echoing voice from within the helm. "Surrender."

The captain drew himself up proudly. "To you?" he spat back contemptuously. "Never!"

His swung up his weapon to aim.

Before the crossbow bolt could be fired, the silver-helmed one hurled his bright sword forward. It flew swiftly, with a rolling swoosh of sound as it spun end-over-end, flashing to its goal so fast that the captain hadn’t even time to flinch.

It stuck with a bright flare of power. The blade of keen-honed metal slashed downward through the man’s shoulder, cleaving him almost to the heart.

Already a corpse, the stricken captain let the weapon fall. Then he toppled limply to the deck.

A great stillness fell suddenly upon the bridge.

The battle was ended, the last defenders down. The victors stood weltering amidst the awful wreckage of sprawled dead men and blasted controls.

The silver-helmed man strode forward, his footsteps on the metal floor sounding loud in the quiet. He bent down over the butchered captain to draw out the gleaming blade still imbedded in his body.

For a long moment the warrior stood motionless, lethal sword in hand. He looked much a figure of great and terrible power there, surrounded by the flames and smoke and dead of that hellish room.

Then he looked about at the other warriors who stood waiting, watching him.

Angrily he slammed his blade back into its brass-bound scabbard. His hands rose to his helmet. They grasped it and lifted it free of his head.

The features revealed were those of Lugh Lamfada, Champion of the Sidhe.