Another Fionn mac Cumhaill Book

I’m currently in the process of outlining the next book in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series, which will finish up the adventure commenced in ‘Fionn: Stranger at Mullan Ban‘ (but not the series).

All going well, I’m aiming to have this out in Oct/Nov 2023.

This current arc develops the ongoing direction of the series a little further. Demne/Fionn – the titular hero – is growing up and takes a more proactive role in the adventures but his three guardians (his aunt Bodhmhall, the woman warrior Liath Luachra, and the gregarious Fiacial mac Codhna) have their work cut out for them as they try to identify who’s behind the latest threat against their charge.

Cue more adventure, betrayals, and violence with a sprinkling of friendships and romance.

Future Productions

The 4th book in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series (Fionn: The Stranger at Mullán Bán) is now a close to final draft (another three to four weeks are required to complete the reviewing and editing process).

Irish Imbas Patreon supporters should be contacted by the end of October. The book gets officially released on 14 December.

Meanwhile, work has commenced on Liath Luachra: The Great Wild which we’re hoping to complete by March/April 2023.

‘The Great Wild’ will be a shorter novel that outlines the beginning of the future woman warrior’s adventures and the events that made her the person she is.

As 2023 progresses, Irish Imbas outputs should increase with two additional publications. That will most likely include one of the following:

  • Fionn: The Betrayed (Book 5)
  • Liath Luachra (Book 5)
  • Beara (Book 2)

Production will also commence on a number of audiobooks (probably the Beara Series) and one or two additional non-book projects.

Overall, 2023 is looking like a busy year.

In the Shadow of the Death Sun

I’m just in the process of completing the last chapter in Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán and felt it might be timely to offer a small taster of what that book will be about.

For those of you who’ve been following this series, the events in this fourth book take place six years after Fionn: The Adversary. By now, the settlement of Ráth Bládhma is well-established, even if it’s inhabitants are still haunted by the unknown forces arrayed against over the previous three books. Demne – soon to be Fionn – is now a young teenager and dealing with the ramifications of drastic actions to keep him safe. Bodhmhall, meanwhile, continues to lead the growing settlement while dealing with her Gift and the disturbing premonitions it continues to send her.

Liath Luachra, meanwhile, continues to roam the wild, hunting and teaching the younger members of Ráth Bládhma … where this story begins


It was a death-sun that revealed the strangers’ tracks, south-east of the Bládhma mountains. Sliding in on the heel of dusk, its slanted glare cast a bloodstained hue that clearly illuminated the broad spread of footprints. Liath Luachra, the Grey One of Luachair, regarded them in silence, her expression grave and hard as stone. In all her years travelling that isolated territory, she’d never once encountered evidence of another person’s passage. To find such a number, and such a diversity, of tracks all at once, made her stomach muscles clench in unease.

Kneeling beside the nearest footprint, she chewed on the inner tissue of her left cheek and glanced warily around at the surrounding forest. The dense vegetation meant there was little enough to see: a series of endless dark walls where tall oak trees layered the ridges to the north and south, the distant blur of the Bládhma mountains peeking above the canopy to the east. Within that landscape however, there was no sign of movement or anything else out of the ordinary.

Reassured by the absence of any immediate danger, the woman warrior bent closer, probing the footprint’s shallow depth with the fingers of her right hand. Conscious that the early evening sunlight would soon be fading to grey, she scraped a piece of dirt free, raised it to her nose and sniffed.

It smelled, naturally enough, of earth.

Of The Great Mother’s moist and muddy breath.

Tossing the gritty residue aside, she wiped her hand on the leather leggings that hugged her haunches and considered the two boys who stood nervously to her right. Bran, with almost seventeen years on him, was more youth than boy and by nature tended to solemnity. That sombre temperament was evident now in the furrows that lined his forehead and the nervous manner in which he chewed at his fingernails while studying the erratic mesh of tracks. The youth was visibly troubled by the prospect of strangers in Bládhma territory. He might not have been able to remember the full detail of his parents’ brutal murder at Ráth Dearg fourteen years earlier, but he was certainly old enough to realise that incursions like this didn’t bode well for anyone.

‘Who are they, Grey One?’

The younger boy, the dark-haired Rónán, had little more than seven years on him but was markedly more upbeat than his friend. Despite being burdened with a wicker backpack full of pork and venison cuts – the prize from a successful hunt in the Drothan valley – he stared down at the scattered tracks with unbridled excitement.

The woman warrior shrugged dispassionately. ‘Read the story in the Great Mother’s mantle. Read what the earth tells you and tell me what you see.’

The dark-haired boy reacted to the suggestion with his usual animation, nodding fervently as he moved closer to the tracks. Ever keen to accompany the woman warrior on her forays into the Great Wild, he invariably responded to such tests with enthusiasm. Crouching alongside her, features fixed into a frown, he chewed on the inside of his own cheek in unconscious mimicry as he studied the tracks. His long hair was held from his eyes by a leather headband, but several strands had worked free, and he brushed them away with an irritated gesture.

Liath Luachra watched as his gaze fixed on the single footprint in front of him before transferring to the jumbled network of other tracks that surrounded them.

He’s just like Bearach. Happy, eager as a puppy.

She suppressed that thought immediately, burying it deep in a dark place where she rarely chose to venture. Some memories were best embedded in dark caverns, places best avoided, crannies where it was wiser not to light a torch for fear of what you’d see.

‘There’s five or six sets of tracks,’ noted Rónán. ‘The prints are spaced wide apart so they’re travelling fast.’

She nodded, pleased by the keenness of his observation.

‘Yes.’

‘They’re headed east.’

She inclined her head to her left shoulder but made no response. That fact was plain enough to see from the direction in which the tracks were pointing.

Sensing that he’d disappointed her, the boy tried again. ‘They’re men,’ he said warily, as though not entirely convinced of his own conclusion.

Again, easy enough to work out from the breadth of the imprints and the depths of their impressions.

‘Yes,’ she pressed. ‘But what else? What’s the pattern?’

Rónán looked down at the prints once more. Unable to distinguish any obvious configuration, he threw an anxious glance towards Bran, but the youth had already turned away, focussed on other, more distant tracks.

Realising there was little succour to be had from that quarter, Rónán turned back to scrutinise the nearest imprint, bending to examine it more closely in the fading light. Despite further study however, his efforts garnered no fresh intuition. Finally, raising his eyes to the woman warrior, he conceded defeat with a frustrated shake of his head.

By then, Liath Luachra had already changed position, moving away to lean against a holly tree, her backpack pressed against the coarse trunk to take some of the weight from her back and shoulders. She was looking towards the dying sun when she caught the movement of his head from the corner of her eye and, squinting against the ruddy light, turned back to consider him with an impassive regard.

‘It’s a tóraíocht. A pursuit.’ She shifted to adjust the balance of the backpack against her shoulders. ‘A group of men is chasing a single man, a solitary traveller from the looks of it.’

She gestured towards a particular line of tracks that had a visibly different appearance to the others.

‘See how those footprints look older? The edges of the prints are friable, the flat sections drier. All the other tracks are still damp because they haven’t fully dried out. That means they were made more recently, probably just a little earlier this afternoon.’

Rónán thought that explanation through for several moments before raising his eyes to look at her, his lips turned down in a frown. ‘Why are they chasing the single traveller?’

The woman warrior shrugged. ‘I don’t know. The Great Mother only ever reveals part of the stories of those traversing her mantle.’

Bran, who’d turned back to observe their interaction in silence, cleared his throat and shifted his weight awkwardly from one leg to another. ‘Grey One. If they’re travelling east, they’ll strike Ráth Bládhma.’

Liath Luachra rubbed her nose and sniffed.

‘Perhaps. Perhaps not. Just because the tracks here show them moving east, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll continue in that direction.’ She gestured loosely towards the forested ridges north and south of where they were standing. ‘In the confines of this landscape, it makes sense for the intruders to travel east but they might well drift to a different course once the ridges drop and the land opens out.’

Bran kept his eyes lowered and he made no response, but she sensed he was unconvinced by the argument.

Sighing, the Grey One stepped away from the tree, grunting as the full weight of the backpack settled back down on her shoulders. ‘Rest easy. Our own course to An Poll Mór follows their trail for a time yet. If they veer off the eastern path, we’ll know they’re no threat to Ráth Bládhma.’

‘What if they don’t veer off?’ asked Rónán. ‘That …’ The woman warrior gave another noncommittal shrug. ‘That’s an issue we’ll address if we come to it.


Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán will initially be available through Amazon on 15 December 2022

You can pre-order that book here: FIONN

You can find more information on the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series here: Fionn mac Cumhaill Series

Oisin Rides to the Land of Youth

This beautiful painting is entitled “Oisin Rides to the Land of Youth”. Painted in 1936 by American artist Newell Convers Wyeth. it represents a more Anglophile view of Irish mythology that many non-Irish creators continue to produce today.

You can’t fault Convers Wyeth however. A talented illustrator and painter, he produced a huge body of work in his time. This included well over a hundred ‘action/adventure’ style images for book covers.

I can imagine, he’d be in high demand today.

Last Days of the Liath Luachra Sale

The first book of the Irish Woman Warrior Series has been on a trial sale for the last two weeks but this will soon be coming to a close.

Liath Luachra: The Grey One is probably the favourite book (and Liath Luachra is the favourite character) of readers who follow my mythological adventure stories, so if you want to get a ridiculously cheap introduction to her, you only have a few days left.

And you can find that book HERE

Set against a backdrop of encroaching forestmythic ruins and treacherous tribal politics, the Irish Woman Warrior Series (or the’ Liath Luachra Series’) is a series of books based on the adventures of the woman warrior Liath Luachra and her mercenary fian (war party), Na Cinéaltaí (The Friendly Ones).

It tells the story of a damaged young woman who can count on nothing but her wits and fighting skills to see her through. Rising above the constraints of her status and overcoming her personal tragedies, she emerges Ireland’s greatest warrior and a protector whose influence lives on one thousand years later.

Mysterious Gállain

We’re spoilt for choice with gállain in Cork and Kerry. This one in the Cousane Pass doesn’t get much press because of it’s isolated location.

Although gállain are usually there to commemorate or mark something, it’s very hard to know what they were intended for. If it was burial-related, for example, does it mark the place where the burial took place or commemorate the person who was buried? Alternatively, its location could simply mark the edge of tribal territory, commemorate an event that took place here or even someone who used to take this route.

So many unanswered questions and, although we can come up with as many theories or interpretations as we want, the truth is we’ll probably never know.

Next Book in the ‘Production Line’

Although I’m close to finishing Chapter 8 of Fionn: Stranger at Mullan Ban, today I’m writing an outline for Chapters 1-3 of ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild’.

The next book in the Liath Luachra Series, it’s actually a prequel to the current set of books. The character is much younger and far more feral and hence it’s a lot of fun to write.

Irish Book Sales

For lovers of Irish mythology books, Irish historical fiction books, Irish historical fantasy books, Irish adventure books and Irish action books!

Circumstances beyond my control mean I won’t be returning to the office until the end of July. As a result, the sale of our two bestselling Irish adventure books:

Fionn: Defence of Rath Bladhma

and

Liath Luachra: The Grey One

will continue until 31 July.

When it was first published, ‘Fionn: Defence of Rath Bladhma‘ became a finalist for the 2016 SPFBO competition (it came in at 4th place)

Liath Luachra: The Grey One, meanwhile, was adapted for the screen as a potential television series by Graisland Entertainment.

Needless to say, we’re very proud of both books.

Out Communing with … er … Trashing Up … the Ancestors

There’s a lot of fun to be had visiting the many old megaliths and cultural sites back home, particularly in Cork and Kerry where we’re absolutely spoilt for choice. With numerous ráthanna (avoid using the English term ‘ring-forts’), galláin and many others, most are located in beautiful locations that are often as worth visiting as much as the sites themselves.

With the growth of mass ‘cultural heritage tourism’ here over the last few decades and the huge increase in visits to such sites from overseas travelers however, many of the sites are now starting to be littered with junk; coins, ribbons, shells, papers, bits of string – you name it, you’ll find it.

Most of these are left as “votive offerings” by people who don’t really understand what the sites were or the cultural context behind them. Others mistake them as areas of adoration or supplication to ‘gods’, ‘saints’, wise women’ or impose their own interpretations on something that makes little sense to them.

Even if you don’t agree with them, you can understand the motivations but it’s getting to the point where some of these important cultural locations are being turned into litter beds.

If you do visit such sites, appreciate their location and the history for what they are. Don’t drop rubbish offerings there. If you want to offer something, make a donation to charity.

Almost eight years of Liath Luachra

A blast from the past with this old post (and draft cover) from 2015.

At the time, I was still writing the first Liath Luachra book with the intention of using it as a prequel for the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series.

That plan went kinda sideways. After an initial lacklustre reception on it’s publication, more and more people started writing and asking for a second book. Four books (and a few short stories) later and the Liath Luachra series has now surpassed the popularity of the original series it was meant to introduce.

Add in subsequent screen options and the character seems ot have taken on a life of her own that I’d never really anticipated.

———————

LIATH LUACHRA – THE GREY ONE (VERY EARLY DRAFT COVER)

2015 has been a bit of a tough year on the work front so far but I’m pleased to say that we’re actually making good progress on the book and website fronts (amongst others).

At this stage, I’m approximately two thirds of the way through Liath Luachra – The Grey One (which is something of a prequel to the Fionn Mac Cumhaill Series). I usually find that by the fifth chapter, the plot lines are cohesive but that I need to go back and rewrite/amend some of the earlier sections to ensure the linear flow of the narrative. This tends to delay the completion but it really is the most important part for me in terms of ‘plot quality’ so getting over that ‘hump’ is important. Everything else after this feels like “walking downhill” (as one of the Ents in LOTR says)

Upcoming Irish Mythology Projects

Over the last few years. I’ve restricted my public work on Irish culture and mythology to the three Celtic Mythology Collections and haven’t really published anything further on the topic.

This was predominantly due to a growing cynicism with the ‘spiritual’ industries and ‘new age’ style religions who regularly comandeer elements of Irish culture and mythology, then twist them completely out of context to support their own agendas. Throw in the American white supremacists on Irish Facebook Groups, the occasional rabid Irish nationalist and ‘creators’ who want ‘Oirish’ branding for entertainemnt purposes, and you quickly find ‘Irish mythology’ can become a pretty toxic mix online.

That situation eventually got to a point where, any time I published something, I’d have three or four emails (always from non-Irish people) demanding further information or arguing against what they believed was an incorrect interpretation of Irish culture (again, this from people who don’t speak Irish, who have no real connection with Irish culture and who have – at most – visited the country once or twice).

That said, I do have a further project on Irish culture and mythology which I’m hoping to bring out in the next year or two but it’s quite a huge one (with a number of different elements). For that reason, the project has to be introduced and implemented appropriately, in a manner where it canot be hijacked and misused by those listed above. Needless to say, this wil be quite a bit of work … so watch this space.

Five Years!

I got a bit of a shock today when a ‘Facebook Memory’ post alerted me to the fact that it was seven years since I’d published Fionn: The Adversary.

After that initial shock – and suddenly feeling very, very old – I was slightly mollified (and relieved) when I worked out that the post was actually referring to the online publication of the ‘cover image’ rather than the publication of the book itself … a mere (cough!) five years ago.

Despite the time that’s passed since publication, I do recall feeling a great sense of relief when I finally pressed the ‘release’ button and sent the finished product out into the void. As the third book in the series, Fionn: The Adversary completed the first of the two plot arcs I’d envisaged but it was something of a hard one to write due to the numerous plot lines and characters (and, of course, overlaps with the Liath Luachra Series where I had to be careful not to give too much away). It was also the last book I published with the limited stock photos I had available at the time (although the artist did a very good job in making it look far better than it probably should have).

Still, the post was an effective reminder that it has been a substantial time since I released anything in the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series and that it was well due another story. Fortunately, I can say that the next (the fourth in the series) will be out before Christmas. At this stage, I don’t have a working title but there will be more news in two to three months or so.

Quick Tempers in Beara

Looking across to Beara from the Sheep’s Head peninsula with ‘Cnoc Daod’ glowering under the central clouds. The name ‘Cnoc Daod’ can be roughly translated as ‘the quick tempered hill‘ (relating to the weather and its ability to turn bad fast). Back in the day, the name was anglicized to ‘Hungry Hill’ (and there’s an old – not sure how credible – story explaining that) which I personally refuse to use.

Interestingly, there was a film made in 1946 based on Daphne du Maurier’s bestselling novel ‘Hungry Hill’ (ironically, shot in Wicklow) – based on two Irish families feuding over a copper mine on the hill. By all accounts, it’s pretty bad, factually wrong on most counts and “oh, so, very Oirish” – in other words, a typical foreign representation of Ireland and Irish stories. From the poster, I get the impression this was an attempt to cash in on the success of ‘Gone with the Wind’.

I’m looking forward to heading back to Beara in the next few months. While I’m there, I’ll be working on an outline for a potential television series based on the Beara Trilogy books. I’m not overly convinced that’s ever going to happen but it’ll help me prepare for when I get back to writing ‘Beara: Cry of the Banshee’.

Pleased ot say, I finally have a plan in that regard.

A Dark Dawn on a Hill

It’s almost a year to the day since ‘Dark Dawn’ – a free, online interactive project based on the Irish mythological Fenian Cycle was released online. Although produced on a shoe-string budget over the initial chaos of the 2020 Covid pandemic, the final product remains quite strong and garnered some very favourable reviews

GrimDark Magazine

Irish Examiner

Shortly after it’s release, unfortunately, I came down with a bug that prevented any marketing or any further work on the project but, Shortly after it’s release, unfortunately, I came down with a bug that prevented any marketing or any further work on the project but, for anyone who wants to give it a try, the story remains free online HERE:

I’m very grateful to Nate Aubin from ‘Grimdark Magazine’, Mike McGrath-Bryan from the ‘Irish Examiner’ and all other reviewers

A Mythological Silhouette

Most striking topographical sites have mythological stories associated with them so it’s no real surprise to find so many linked to the dramatic silhouette that’s Binn Ghulbain – the peak of Gulbain (there’s still a lot of disagreement around what ‘Gulbain’ refers to, but it’s far better than the anglicized – and meaningless – ‘Benbulben’).

The Fenian Cycle has several tales associated with that mountain including the climax to ‘Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne’ and, of course, Fionn’s encounter with Sadhbh.

I’m still scoping out how much of the Fenian Cycle stories I’ll cover through my ‘Fionn’ Series (and another I hope to do once I’ve completed that) so I’m not sure if I’ll incorporate these stories or not. Producing more culturally authentic versions of the story (i.e. not the sterilized and anglicized versions we were taught as children) means a number of the more common variants of these stories are difficult or unsatisfying to adapt for contemporary audiences.

But it’s certainly not for want of material.

Liath Luacha: The Metal Men is out!

I’m pleased to announce that the fourth book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series is now live at the Irish Imbas website and most ebookstores. You can find the various links HERE

The price will remainat $4.99 for the rest of the month but will go up to $5.99 next month.

Liath Luachra: The Metal Men continues the story of a traumatised woman warrior’s ongoing efforts to survive in the brutal, world of first century Ireland. The main character – Liath Luachra – is based on a 12th century reference from Ireland’s famous ‘Fenian Cycle’ mythology.

You’ll find that my books might differ slightly from other books related to Irish Mythology. The reason for this is that when you come across ‘Irish mythology’ in English fiction, a lot of it tends to reflect an Anglocentric interpretation of Irish culture – that is, one that bears little real or meaningful similarity to its supposed source.

With most of my own books, therefore, I try to tell Irish stories – in English – from a more authentic ancient Irish/Gaelic slant. In doing this, I not only use the available historical information (and current academic theory) but draw on my own personal Irish language and cultural concepts as well. 

The Metal Men marks a particulalry interesting challenge for me in that I was keen to present an international incident (occurring in the 1st century) from the unique perspective of the native Irish. When it came to introducing a foreign culture on ancient Irish soil therefore, I attempted to tell the story from a viewpoint of how ‘native’ people in first century Ireland might have viewed that culture and interpreted the behaviour of its people. I don’t think any other Irish author has attempted this before, so it’ll be interesting to see how readers respond.

Bain sult as! / Enjoy!


The back cover summary is as follows:

“Everything the Hungry People devour has the taste of ‘more’”!

As the harrowing pursuit of a mysterious raiding party draws to a close, the woman warrior Liath Luachra prepares her war party for one final onslaught.
 

But out in the Great Wild, even the best laid schemes rarely go as planned. 

The south-eastern forests hide threats more dangerous than raiders, Liath Luachra’s alliances are foundering, and her own personal history risks upending her existence forever.
Just as she faces a challenge her world has never encountered before.

A Conversation with Bodhmhall

I really enjoy writing dialogue – particularly when it’s a dialogue between two strong characters with diferent motivations. This is a quick sample of a conversation between the woman warrior Liath Luachra and the bandraoi (female druid) Bodhmhall, who joined her hunt for a díbhearg (raiding party) in a slightly underhand manner. At this point in the story, neither character really trusts the other and that puts a nice tension in their interactions. This particular piece comes from Liath Luachra: The Metal Men which comes out tomorrow.

The converation occurs after a meeting to discuss the continued pursuit of the díbhearg.


A Conversation with Bodhmhall

With Crimall off reviewing the guards, it was Bodhmhall who represented Clann Baoiscne interests around the fire, sidling up silently to remain standing in the background and listening without comment. When the fénnid finally finished his story and the others started to drift away, she moved to approach the warrior woman, who’d seated herself on a fallen, moss-coated tree trunk a short distance from the others.

‘All power to you, Grey One.’

Liath Luachra eyed the bandraoi without warmth. Having spent the better part of the evening preparing defences for the campsite to counter a sneak attack by the díbhearg – a possibility she couldn’t ignore – she was tired and brittle and ready to sleep.  

‘Your plan to find the díbhearg trail sowed the makings of success. To reap its bounty is your just reward.’

Reluctant to be snagged in further conversation, Liath Luachra let the compliment slide by without comment, however the bandraoi settled easily onto the trunk alongside her. She cleared her throat with a delicate sound, her refined and polished demeanour looking a little more ragged after several days of hard travel.

‘In truth, I didn’t like your plan. At the time, I didn’t believe it had the makings of success.’

This time, the woman warrior eyed her in muted surprise. ‘And yet you supported it.’

The bandraoi acknowledged that truth with a wry, slightly sardonic laugh. ‘I suppose I liked the alternative even less.’

A brief lull followed this forthright admission. Despite the lengthening silence however, the Clann Baoiscne woman showed no inclination to leave. Liath Luachra scowled.

‘Why are you here, Bodhmhall? Your warning in Murchú’s regard was appreciated, but we are not friends. Distrust, between your family and I, runs too deep.’

The bandraoi remained silent as she considered the woman warrior’s response. Finally, she terminated that quiet deliberation with a sigh.

‘Given your experience of Dún Baoiscne hospitality, I can understand your grievance, Grey One. And, yes, I acknowledge the loathing my father holds in your regard.’ The bandraoi winced. ‘Actually, he bears you a measure of hatred I’ve ever only seen directed against his most gruesome enemies …’

Liath Luachra gave a dismissive sniff. Tréanmór’s hostility held little interest for her. She was unlikely to encounter the of Clann Baoiscne again.

‘I suspect,’ Bodhmhall continued, ‘my father’s hatred stems from the fact he’s so rarely bested. When you defeated Cathal Bog, you upended the plan he’d orchestrated for your humiliation and turned it back on him instead. That took my father by surprise. That took everyone by surprise …’ The bandraoi paused then, as though struck by a sudden realisation. ‘Myself included.’

The Clann Baoiscne woman drew back a little, eyeing Liath Luachra with greater attention. ‘In truth, it confounds me to have overlooked someone of your complex potential.’

‘I’m surprised your tíolacadh revealed no raging blaze,’ the Grey One answered, and although her words were laden with sarcasm, Bodhmhall didn’t seem to take offence.

‘There’s truth in that,’ she conceded with grace. ‘Then again, you had me at a disadvantage when we first crossed paths.’

Liath Luachra regarded her carefully. She had no memory of meeting the bandraoi prior to her sly infiltration of the fian. ‘When we first crossed paths?’

‘At Dún Baoiscne. In the gateway passage. You were on your way to fight Cathal Bog.’

Liath Luachra studied the Clann Baoiscne woman’s features with new interest. She vaguely recalled another presence within the gateway passage at that time but, focussed on her imminent combat with the Clann Baoiscne champion, she retained no clear mental image of the encounter.

Bodhmhall patiently endured the scrutiny until the woman warrior finally shook her head.

‘I don’t remember you.’

To her surprise, the bandraoi chuckled at that. ‘Ah, you wound my vanity, Grey One. Am I so easily forgotten?’

 ‘I haven’t forgotten you’ve not told me what you want.’    

The bandraoi frowned then, a new tightness of her lips suggesting a subtle reassessment.

‘Very well. I’ll spare you words daubed with winter honey. What I seek is forthrightness, forthrightness on the díbhearg we pursue. It seems to me that you’ve a greater familiarity with the raiders than you cared to admit to my brother – that, at least, is my sense of the matter. This pursuit is meant to be a shared endeavour between our two fianna towards a common purpose. In the spirit of that arrangement, I’d ask for a sharing with respect to the díbhearg’s true motivations.’

Only years of emotional compression allowed the woman warrior to conceal her true astonishment as she returned the bandraoi’s gaze. Behind that cool veil of impassivity however, she struggled to suppress a growing swell of panic. The Clann Baoiscne woman’s startling perspicacity had caught her completely by surprise and it was an abrupt and frightening revelation of just how dangerous she truly was. Crimall and Tréanmór might possess shrewd instincts that were enhanced by their ambition but Bodhmhall, with her piercing intelligence and An tíolacadh, was on level that far exceeded them.

The Grey One put her bowl aside softly and offered the ghost of a haughty shrug. ‘Given your reputed talent with imbas forosnai, I’d have thought you better placed than I to know the díbhearg motivations. Crimall certainly holds your Gift in great reverence and the Druidic Council are constantly at pains to assure us of the mystical glimpses An tíolacadh provides.’

Bodhmhall responded to the deflection with a bright smile but there was a subtle tension to her features that she couldn’t completely disguise. Behind her assured façade, it seemed the bandraoi had secrets of her own and the imbas forosnai ritual looked to be a topic she was reluctant to broach.

To the Grey One’s surprise, Bodhmhall abruptly rose to her feet. Although it appeared at first that the Clann Baoiscne woman intended to stalk away, she stood watching the woman warrior, the flickering of the fire casting a strange set to her features.

‘Sadly, on certain subjects Crimall tends to greater conviction for things he’d like to be true than in the truth itself. The reality is that An tíolacadh’s not a Gift so much as a burden. That’s doubly so with the imbas forosnai ritual, despite what Na Draoithe would have you think.’

She paused then, and Liath Luachra regarded her warily for there’d been a weary honesty to the response she hadn’t anticipated. More importantly, there’d also been a tacit acknowledgement in the bandraoi’s eyes, a kind of diplomatic retreat or implied agreement not to pry into the woman warrior’s secrets if she chose to respond in kind.

The bandraoi made to leave but then paused in mid-step, turning to consider the woman warrior over her right shoulder.

‘I’ve told you the full truth of why I’m here, Grey One. Perhaps you’d reciprocate that with frankness of your own. Why are you here? It’s obvious you take no pleasure in leading this Seeking.’

‘There’s no secret to that, Bodhmhall. I’m here because Murchú asked for my help.’

‘For your help.’

‘To rescue his sister and deal to her abductors.’ She hesitated. ‘And perhaps to kill some ghosts of my own.’

‘You cannot kill a ghost, Grey One.’

‘Perhaps not, Bodhmhall. But I will surely give the matter my best efforts.’