Beneath the Hill of Tara, Ireland—Winter, the season of contemplation and meditation in the Fae Realm.
Snowflakes danced in a prism of muted colors over the top of the glass dome. They glittered from the weak sunlight, casting an eerie glow inside his prison. Each snowflake in the Fae realm was unique, existing for a solitary moment in time until they became one with the others. Their beauty was a constant he had always taken for granted and disregarded.
Now they mocked him with their freedom, melting in a puddle of water and rolling down the sides of the walls.
As Liam stood rooted to the ground, he continued to become fixated with the swirling mass above him. Envy and bitterness dug their claws into his soul, and his gut soured.
How many seasons had he witnessed? Was it a full four? Time no longer concerned him. He understood his fate. Yet, he could not fathom why the Fae council made him endure an isolated existence in the Room of Reflection. Death should have come swiftly upon his return.
When he first arrived, Liam had prepared himself for the welcome of death’s embrace and fought with his guards when he was placed inside his prison. No news was given to him. Only food, drink, books, and writing materials were provided. Even his attempt to reason with his captors only brought silence from his guards.
Days, weeks, and months bled into the next, and he cursed them all for abandoning him here.
With each new season, the tide of melancholy wove its way into his soul—splintering more of the Fae warrior. However, he refused to give into despair and shadows. His anger became a fortitude of strength. His control became his shield. He harnessed and fought back the anguish within his soul. Often times he lashed out at Mother Danu, begging for advice. And she responded in riddles, confusing him further.
“Stone me, flog and strip the skin from my bones, but do not leave me in this pit of despair and silence. I am ready for my death. Let it be done!”
Letting out a frustrated sigh, Liam lifted his hand upward and stretched his fingers as far as he could extend. “I may not feel the icy sting of your touch, but I remember.”
He balled his hand into a fist and lowered his arm. The elements tormented him within his soul, and he shook with rage. Anger at those who continued to ignore him. Anger at the injustice of laws he sought to change during his lifetime.
His own people kept him a prisoner in a cell, tormenting Liam with what he could not control. The ability to manipulate his own fate and to touch the passing seasons. His prison was a mockery.
Nonetheless, each day he honored the passing of the light and dark. He remained steadfast in his training, and refused to succumb to the darkness—tempting his soul to lash out at any who came near him.
Defeat was not an option. It had been drilled into him since his induction into the Brotherhood. Though the great warrior was dead, Liam heard the words repeatedly in his mind by their leader and mentor, Aidan Kerrigan.
“I will not fail you, Aidan. Ever.”
Turning away from the glass dome, Liam walked to his desk. As he braced his hands on the smooth wood, he tried to center his soul for the day. If he could control his mind, his heart and soul would follow. He stilled the thoughts of fury and anguish, attempting to calm his breathing and prepare for another day.
During the daylight Liam wrote in the journals, recalling everything Aidan had taught him. From ancient lore, research, archaeology, and the history of the human world. Hours passed in study, and when the sunlight slipped into darkness, Liam trained his body as that of a warrior. Because he required little sleep, his mind and body were kept sharpened in this fashion of exercise.
When the council saw fit to retrieve him, Liam would walk to his death as a strong warrior. There would be no softness or despair to show them.
Although in retrospect, there was one sliver of regret that haunted him. He had made his peace, but often times, he questioned his decision in agreeing to take Aidan back in time to rescue his daughter. Liam never considered the action would result in his friend’s death. They both had understood the risks, but never fathomed death would be the outcome.
“Would I do it again?” he muttered into the silence of his chamber and shook his head. “By the Gods, Aidan. What were you thinking?” He chuckled with a dry and cynical sound. “Yes, I know. You would have done anything for your daughter, Aileen.”
Liam sat down slowly. His fingers brushed over the quills and parchments. Images from another time seeped into his thoughts, reminding him that his friend sought to travel the Veil of Ages by any means. Though he had been stripped of his powers and immortality, Aidan still possessed his Fae blood—his heritage. Liam often mused if the great warrior would have requested assistance from the elders, or even Mother Danu herself if he had refused to do as Aidan asked.
“By the hounds, you must, Liam!” Aidan paced the grounds of Arbroath Abbey, intent on getting his demand granted.
Liam raked a hand through his hair. “You dare to ask me to tamper with the Veil of Ages? You who were—are my mentor.”
Aidan’s steps stilled. He pierced him with a look of savage fire. “Did I ask you to alter a timeline? No! Only to take me to my daughter.” He pointed at the ruins. “She has vanished to an unknown time! One where danger lurks everywhere. How can she survive?”
“Did you not consider that this is her destiny?” Liam snapped and confronted his friend. “She has already made a connection to the Dragon Knight when she saw him on the tapestry in the Great Hall.”
“I’ll kill him, if he touches one finger on my daughter.”
“Listen to yourself. You’re not speaking as a Fenian Warrior!”
“Because I’m no longer one, or did you forget?”
Liam clenched his hands. “How many times have you spouted that even though the Fae stripped you of your powers and markings, your blood and oath as a warrior will never falter? Now, because you don’t like certain events, you will disavow all your oaths?” He stepped nearer. “You are not a human, Aidan.”
“No. I am a father! Duty bound to shield and protect my child.” Aidan glanced over his shoulder at the ruins. “She is all I have left of her mother. I can’t lose her like I did Rose.”
Unable to fathom his friend’s feelings, Liam remained silent. Even after the passing of years, he still found it difficult to understand why Aidan defied an entire kingdom to marry a human. He had no words for his friend when he was banished long ago, and now he fought the growing fury at Aidan’s request to break more Fae laws.
Aidan returned his attention to him. “If I gain permission, will you take me through the Veil of Ages?”
Liam snorted in disgust. “How can you seek authorization when you have been barred from the realm?”
There was a faint glint of humor in Aidan’s eyes. “Aye, I am unable to enter my former world, but that doesn’t mean I can’t communicate with my family. Are we in agreement?”
Folding his arms over his chest, Liam replied, “If the request is granted by another Fae, I will escort you through the Veil. But be warned, in doing so—”
Aidan clamped a hand on his shoulder. “Could bring about both our deaths? Yes, I understand the consequences, but I intend to return and clear your name. I shall not allow any harm to come to you. This is my decision.”
Liam rubbed a hand across his forehead. “You did return, old friend, and I watched you die in your daughter’s arms.”
Reaching for one of the rolls of parchment, he unfurled it slowly and placed two crystals at the top corners. Retrieving a quill, he dipped the end in green ink and sought to banish the past with a legend of the mighty first king of Scotland—Kenneth MacAlpin, King of Dalriada. A strong, fierce, and loyal leader, the Fae judged the man perfect as an alliance between their realm and the human world. Since he was already descended from a Dragon Knight, they sought to have him on the elite board to oversee rules to keep both worlds safe.
A council was convened in the human year of 844 Anno Domini. Those present were four Fenian Warriors, four Dragon Knights, four high chieftains from Ireland, King MacAlpin, and one elder from the Fae council. Laws were suggested, argued over, and then finally written down in the annals of Fae and human laws called the Feahan Treaty.
Liam was one of the Fenian Warriors present, along with Aidan. It was an honor to witness the signing of new laws. Afterward, a great feast was held in honor of the historic event. The king summoned other Dragon Knights from across the seas, and the kingdom rejoiced in an alliance that would forge a stronger world for both peoples. Celebrations continued for a full year.
Yet, the tide of the new religion was sweeping across the land. Wars broke out in the smaller villages against the Fae and their dragons. They sought to rid their land of the demons who were in league with what some called the devil. Words and lies became a plague that journeyed across the sea to Eire.
There were those among the Fae who sought to alter timelines and wipe away memories of their existence with the humans. But the laws were precise, and the Fae King refused to go against what was agreed upon at the council.
Liam’s hand hovered above the parchment. “And I was the first to break one of those laws. I took another through the Veil for his own gainful purpose.” Frustration seethed within him, and he snapped the quill in half.
Rubbing a hand vigorously over his face, Liam tried to squelch the fury at a man long gone. The past was vanished—elusive. There would be no future for him. Today was all he had.
And his impatience grew.
As Liam reached for another quill, he considered it wiser to focus on another year of events. In particular, the great battle with the evil druid, Lachlan. He was one of three who witnessed and participated in wiping the world of a gruesome monster, and Liam was determined to give his account. The council might not want to bother with his knowledge, but someday another Fae warrior would need the record of what transpired.
“Evil always slithers back from the cosmos,” he uttered with disdain.
With slow and meticulous detail, Liam gave a full account of the battle with his fellow Fenian brothers and Dragon Knights—beginning with his time at Aidan’s castle and meeting his daughter, Aileen.
Hours slipped by, and he gave no notice to the food and drink that magically appeared on a nearby smaller table. His duty to preserve a written document consumed him. He wished for no interruptions—save one—his trial.
The last ray of sunlight shimmered off the glass dome and onto his desk. He blinked and raised his head from his work. Another day has ended. After placing the quill back in its holder, he gathered the reams of parchment and neatly rolled them together, securing them with twine.
Standing, he stretched out the muscles in his shoulders and back. He removed his tunic and draped it over his chair. Making his way to the center of room, he then knelt on one knee and waited for the last sliver of light to leave his prison.
When the first shaft of darkness settled around Liam, he stood and prepared for his evening ritual of exercise. The training was an attempt to keep him centered, focused, and to rid the growing anger. When he had used all his strength, he would partake of food and drink.
It did not matter that he had been stripped of his Fenian markings or powers. Even when death claimed Liam MacGregor, he would take his last breath as a warrior.
Staring at the eerie night shadows slithering across his room, Liam tried to find some rest. Sleep was not a welcome companion, but a required one. He closed his eyes, longing for a brief respite. As his mind drifted, he sensed the faintest whisper of power within his chamber. The Fae guards would never enter without announcing themselves first, so Liam’s curiosity grew as the power increased.
As he slowly opened his eyes, he cast his gaze outward. He almost chuckled at the absurdity of the situation. Whoever had dared to enter his prison hovered in the far corner, and he waited for them to approach. After several moments, he grew frustrated at the intrusion and shifted his body to a sitting position.
“Is there a reason why you cower in the darkness inside my prison?”
Liam tried to suppress his growing anxiety. Was this to be his executioner? No trial? Only a swift end to his life? Where was the honor?
He stood and flexed his hands. “If you have come to pronounce my judgment, do me the honor of stepping forth from the shadows and allowing me to see your face. It is my right.”
The figure complied and stepped forth. The person was cloaked from head to toe in a hooded garment, concealing almost everything. The only spark of light came from eyes that pierced straight into his soul. A flicker of familiarity wove through him.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
When the person gave no response, he took a hesitant step toward them.
Instantly, a blast of power sent him stumbling backward. Uncertainty filled him as Liam righted himself. He clenched one hand, prepared for whatever was next. “I will not go without a fight. If you are here for justice, then I have the right to face the council and give my account. Either you explain this intrusion, take me to the council, or battle me in combat.”
“I am here to set you free,” replied a soft feminine voice.
Liam’s mouth dropped open in shock. Snapping it close, he folded his arms over his chest. The voice was one he tried to recall, yet, she cloaked the sound. “Why?”
“Must you seek a reason for a gift? Your freedom is not enough?”
He snorted in disgust. “Surely you are aware of my crimes. Death awaits me outside my prison.”
Her eyes grew wide. “Do you long for death’s embrace, Fenian Warrior?”
“No!” he conceded and shifted his stance. “But why are you doing this?”
Silence stretched between them.
“Because I have no wish to see you die,” she whispered.
Liam narrowed his eyes. He tried to recall the voice but failed. “Who are you?”
She angled her head as if listening for something. Tossing a cloak to him, she added, “Time is fleeting. We must go now.” The woman surprised him further by sliding his sword across the floor.
“Not until you tell me your name.”
After giving him a passing glance, she withdrew a slim crystal dagger from her cloak. Waving her hand in an arc, the room shimmered to reveal another realm. Ancient words poured forth from her as the realm continued to expand. She held out a gloved hand to him. “Freedom or death? Which do you seek?”
The temptation to flee was great, but Liam was honor-bound by an oath as a Fenian Warrior. He picked up his sword. “To run is cowardly. I am a warrior, trained by ancient laws and edicts.”
“Do you honestly believe the council will listen to your account?” Her gaze bore into his. “They are determined to keep you inside this prison until they can consider how to terminate your life. You are a fool if you deem otherwise.”
Liam glanced over at his scrolls. All that occurred was written down, yet, he believed he would have been given the right to confront the Fae council. Indecision plagued him. “What about my brother, Rory? I cannot leave him.”
“He is no longer in his Room of Reflection and yes, he lives. Now, may we go?”
She laughed nervously, and again Liam tried to recall where he had heard the voice. “He has been freed.”
“Interesting,” he replied dryly.
“We must hurry, before others sense the shift of power inside your prison.”
He moved slowly toward her. The lure of freedom was a heady one. “You do realize the situation will be dire once we leave the Fae realm. Any possibility of telling me where we are going? I cannot go willingly, if I don’t know the destination.”
She grasped his hand. “Of course. To the year 844, prior to the signing of the Feahan Treaty. We need to rewrite a certain law.”
Before Liam could utter a complaint, a brilliant flash of light blinded him and sent him spiraling through a dark abyss.