Challenge Of The Clans [Tales Of The Fianna: Book One] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Kenneth C. Flint
eBook Category: Fantasy
eBook Description: Heir to Destiny
Cumhal MacTredhorn, the proud chieftain of the Fianna warriors, had defied Conn the Hundred Fighter, Ireland's cruel High-King. Urged by the whispers of his evil Druid Tagd, Conn ordered the murder of Cumhal- and all his kin.
Warned by a vision, Cumhal's bride escaped with her newborn son. Raised in secret in the depths of the forest, this golden-haired youth learned the stealth of the fox, the speed of the stag, and the strength of the bear, and grew into a mighty hunter called Finn the Fair.
Pursued by the High-King's armies, and the dark powers of the Sidhe, Finn began a heroic odyssey to reclaim his heritage, aided by the mystic harper Cnu, the giant warrior Caolite MacRonan, and the hotblooded Fionulla, who taught him the ways of love. Then, at last, came the hour of his destiny, and he was determined that no sorcery or might of arms would stop his thirst for justice.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, Published: Double Dragon Publishing, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2011
This is the first of a trilogy about Finn MacCumhal (pronounced Mac-Koo-al). It's the tale of his birth to young man and his hard won rise to become the well-known Irish legend.
The story opens with his father Cumhal MacTredhorn, the proud chieftain of the High King's Fianna warriors. The High King Conn, after an imagined slight by Cumhal, conspires with his evil Druid Tagd to bring about his death.
This accomplished, his young widow, Muirne has just given birth to Finn and frantically secures his safety by sending him away with her women, Bodhmall and Liath. They raise him in seclusion and safety but with the knowledge of his heritage and the training to once again restore honor to their clan, the Clan Baiscne.
Finn grows strong and smart in the forest and eventually is forced to leave the only home he's ever known to begin his journey to manhood and his destiny.
There are many characters who help him on dangerous and adventurous way, notably, Cnu Deireoil the Harper and Caolite the warrior, as High King Conn and his druid Tadg (also Finn's unwilling grandfather resume their hunt to exterminate him.
A spellbinding saga that if you're not already Irish will make you feel as though you are! The pace is fast and never boring! I'm already engrossed in the second novel of this trilogy, the author does not disappoint!
"I will not allow you to leave Tara before the Samhain festival, Cumhal!" threatened Conn, high king of all Ireland.
"There's little you can do to stop my going!" came the heated reply from Cumhal MacTredhorn.
The angry voices echoed clearly, hollowly in the vast hall of Tara, rebounding from the circle of timber walls and the planks of the high peaked roof. Their violence drew the startled gazes of the servants working in the room to the two men arguing by the main doors.
Conn was of truly aristocratic bearing, lean and long-featured and fair, with ice-blue eyes and blond hair curling loosely about his shoulders. He glowed richly with the gold ornament of his station. His four folded dark red cloak was golden fringed. The enameled brooch that fastened it was of red gold, as were the torc about his neck and the wide bands at his elbows.
He was a wily and ruthless leader who had earned the title of Hundred Fighter in as many savage battles, but he had met his match in the man who faced him now.
Cumhal was both larger and darker than the king. His body was more massive and his features more broadly drawn. His eyes were the deep brown of Ireland's rich sod, and the long hair plaited loosely at his back was coarse and black. In dress he seemed only a common warrior, unornamented save for a simple iron pin to fasten his woolen cloak. In truth he was the captain of the famed Fianna. These were bands of professional soldiers tasked with serving and defending Ireland's ruling classes.
"It is unknown for any Fian chieftain to refuse to attend me here," Conn pointed out with towering indignation.
"Then I will be the first," Cumhal told him, unmoved by his king's ire. "My wife will be giving birth to our first child very soon. No power--no power at all--will keep me from being with her."
With these words, he turned and strode through the open doorway, out of the hall.
Astonished by this insolence, Conn stood frozen a moment, staring after him. Then he noticed the servants' curious eyes upon him. He cast a chilling glare about at them, then started in pursuit of the departing warrior.
He followed Cumhal across an earthen causeway that bridged a defensive ditch. It linked the hall to an encircling outer mound of earth. A steep slope took them down to the level of the fortress yard. This was an area of several acres in extent, enclosed by a high palisade of thick logs. It was now bustling with the inhabitants of Tara, busily making preparations for the Feast of Samhain.
This was a yearly six-day festival to mark the end of the growing season. It brought chieftains, territorial kings, and learned men from all over Ireland to the great fortress. One party of mounted warriors was even then riding in through the outer wall's main gates. They were closely bundled against the chill air of the fall day, the brightly checked cloaks of their clan making a brilliant flash of color against the brown countryside and the iron sky behind them.
As Cumhal started away from the base of the hall's mound, Conn came up close behind him.
"How dare you defy me before my own people!" the high king said in outrage. "You have forgotten yourself, MacTredhorn!"
The leader of the Fianna stopped and swung toward Conn. His expression was hard and his voice chill.
"I've forgotten nothing, High-King," he said, spitting out the title with contempt. "Every day I'm reminded that you are the Great Master of Ireland. But I know that it's the blood of my warriors that's soaked into the sod. For all these years we've fought to keep your power for you. And I never forget that, for all we've done, we're still treated with less kindness than you show your cattle and your hounds. Well, that time is ending!"
"Are you mad, speaking that way to me?" Conn asked in disbelief. "You are bound to me by the oaths of the Fianna. You must serve me!"
"I'll serve you, as I should. But I'll have everything that's owed the Fian bands, and I'll have respect for us as well. That, or you and your rich, pampered lords will find yourselves enforcing your laws and fighting your battles yourselves."
Conn choked off his angry reply. He knew well enough that no fighting force in Ireland, or possibly the world, could match the strength and courage of the Fianna warriors. And he knew that, for all their oaths of service to the king, their true loyalty lay with their own captain. He could not risk pushing Cumhal to open rebellion. By an effort of will, he remained silent.
"Now, I am leaving for Almhuin as soon as my warriors are ready," Cumhal went on, as if he were a teacher instructing a small child. "I mean to be there before my wife gives birth. And there I mean to stay for the winter. When Beltaine comes, I'll return here and be at your service, as is proper. I'll not return before. So, my high king, a fine Samhain to you."
Once more he turned away, crossing the yard to the stable buildings with a confident swagger. This time, Conn let him go, staring after him in hatred and frustration. Many more of his subjects about the yard had witnessed this second humiliation. He wanted no third confrontation with the Fian captain.
Casting a burning gaze about him at people who hastily averted their eyes, he started back toward the hall, shaking with barely suppressed rage that had no outlet. As he came through the gate onto the causeway, he saw with some surprise that someone awaited him at the hall's threshold. It was Tadg, his court's highest-ranking member of the druidic class, that learned body of men who served as advisors to Ireland's rulers. Known for their great wisdom and their proficiency in the magic arts, they were very powerful figures in the Irish hierarchy and very dangerous ones as well.
Like the high king, Tadg was a slender man, but his features were finer, almost to the point of frailty. He had a delicate beauty, like that of a winter's new frost, and he had its chill quality as well. His eyes were large, bright silver gray, his nose slender, his mouth small and finely shaped. His high-domed head was covered wispily with white-gold hair. His thin body was draped in the gleaming white robe that marked his status in the sacred order.
"Where did you come from, Tadg?" Conn asked, somewhat surprised by his unexpected appearance. "I didn't know you had arrived."
"I've been here for some time, High King," Tadg answered, his voice a soft, clear melodic sound. "I've watched your confrontation with Cumhal. Now do you agree with me?"
"Yes!" Conn tersely replied. "Cumhal has gone too far. He's become dangerous."
Tadg's lips parted in a sweet, engaging smile. "Yes, High King. And he must be destroyed."
The stark pronouncement caused Conn to glance about him quickly. But there was no one nearby to hear them. He moved closer to the druid.
"How can I act against him?" he asked in a hoarse whisper. "It would bring the chieftains of all the Fians against me!"
"Ah, but you've no need to worry," Tadg assured him in a soothing way. "The answer to your problem is arriving now. Look." He lifted a slim hand to point down into the yard. Conn turned to see another mounted band of warriors, in the green and yellow plaid of the Morna clan, riding in through the gates.
"It is others of the Fianna clans who will deal with Cumhal for you," said the druid. "All you must do is see that tonight, after the festival is under way, young Aed MacMorna is sent secretly to me."
Conn eyed the druid closely, seeing in that guileless, gently smiling face the real intent behind his words. He nodded, and then he quickly walked away.
After that evening's feast, Aed MacMorna and his brother Conan slipped from the fortress into the night. They moved down the hillside toward the sacred enclosure of the druids.