Excerpt from Bloodstone

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The remains of his body are scattered and lost,
But his name shall be remembered forever:
Morgath the False.
Morgath the Destroyer.
Morgath the Eater of Spirits.
His deeds shall be cursed by gods and men,
And his fate, the fate of all who subvert the laws of nature.

Chapter One

He was flying. Not the dizzying whirl of emerging from a trance or the effortless drifting of dreams. He was flying with the eagle.

Keirith wanted to laugh, to shout with the joy of it, but he was voiceless now. His body still sat on the boulder. He could see it far below, face upturned to the sky, eyes closed, hands resting lightly on his knees. He could even feel the sun-warmed rock under his thighs and the breeze that stirred his hair. The core of his being still rested there while his spirit reached skyward, a spider’s spinneret that connected him to the eagle.

They soared over Eagles Mount, great wings scarcely moving despite the cool gusts of air that ruffled the tips of their dark feathers. Below them, shadowed by the overhanging shelf of rock, the female perched on her nest of sticks and bracken. As long as Keirith could remember, the pair had nested on this crag. The tribe regarded them with awe; most eagles preferred the open moors of the north to the dense forest that surrounded the village.

They rode the air currents up, banking around the circle of huts. Each was the size of a man’s fist from this height, and the lake looked small enough to jump across. Their eyes – keen enough to pick out the blossoms on a gorse bush – swept over the glistening thread of the river as they searched for prey. With their hooked talons and muscled legs, they could easily carry off one of the newborn lambs frolicking on the rocky slopes of Eagles Mount, but the shepherds and their dogs would be watching. Aye, there was Conn, one hand raised to shade his face from the sun as he followed their flight.

Keirith yearned to call out a greeting to his milk-brother. Surrendering to his eagerness, the eagle gave a soft chirrup, a silly, weak sound for such a majestic bird.

A wolf howls. Even a hawk screams. You should have a cry the whole world can hear.

As if the thought were his own, he heard the eagle’s response: <Your mate hears your cry during courtship. Why warn your prey when you hunt?>

May I hunt with you?

<Another day.>

Disappointment shadowed the joy of the flight, but he knew the eagle was wise; the experience of flying together was still too new for them.

He had always loved the eagles. During his vision quest last spring, he had climbed far up Eagles Mount, to the special place he had discovered as a child. All night, he had sat there, shivering with cold. As dawn approached, he’d watched the sky lighten to a deep blue and Bel’s first rays paint the treetops gold.

At first, all he could make out was a faint shadow against the sky. He knew at once it was not a real eagle for the outspread wings flapped with otherworldly slowness as the bird descended. His heart slammed against his ribs at the thought of finding his vision mate so quickly; his father had waited three days and nights in the forest before he heard the she-wolf’s howl.

Only when the eagle swooped lower did he see the wriggling serpent in its curved talons. The adder’s head reared back. Red-brown eyes gazed down into his. A tongue flicked out and a voice, dry and rasping as autumn leaves rubbing together, whispered his name.

The adder’s choice had shocked him. He’d been so certain his power was leading him along the shaman’s path and every shaman in the tribe’s history had found a bird during his vision quest, a bird that became his guide to the spirit world. When Tree-Father Gortin agreed to take him as an apprentice anyway, he had been relieved and thrilled, but he could not resist the urge to seek communion with a real eagle.

Three moons ago, the male had permitted his touch, such a fleeting brush of spirits he had wondered if he’d imagined it. Since then, they had touched many times, but only today had the eagle allowed them to fly together.

And already, it was time to separate; Keirith could feel his weariness mingling with the eagle’s hunger pangs.

Thank you, brother, for allowing me to fly with you.

<We will fly again, fledgling.>

Slowly, carefully, he began the process of returning to his body. The separation must be done gently lest he injure his host, the energy furling as gently as the morningstar closed its blossoms at twilight.


The voice startled them both. His spirit tore free. For one terrifying moment, he was lost between bodies, falling helplessly through space. And then his spirit hurtled back into his body with a jolt that left him gasping.

When he came to himself, he was lying on the ground, looking up into the Tree-Father’s worried face. The Tree-Father was speaking in a low, urgent voice, but it took Keirith a moment to understand the words. When he did, he whispered his name three times to seal his spirit’s return. Then he ran his hands over his body to reestablish the boundaries of his physical self. But when he tried to sit up, the Tree-Father pressed him back.

“Just lie still and breathe.”

He closed his eyes, allowing the dreamy lassitude to relax his body and mind.

“What were you doing out here by yourself?” the Tree-Father scolded in his mild way. “You should know better than to attempt a vision on your own.”

“It wasn’t a vision. I was flying.”


“With the eagle. I touched his spirit. And we flew together.” His triumph faded when he opened his eyes and saw the Tree-Father’s expression. “What is it?”

“You touched his spirit?”

Keirith nodded, still trying to understand why the Tree-Father looked so horrified. When he realized the truth, relief left him breathless. “I was careful. I never hurt him. Not even the first time.”

“How many times have you done this?”

“I…not many,” he lied.

How many? Twice? Three times?”

“I can’t remember. Please. Tell me what’s wrong?”

“Merciful gods.” The Tree-Father stumbled away, rubbing the empty socket of his left eye. He drew a trembling breath as he turned to face him. “To subvert or subjugate the spirit of any creature is a violation of our laws. Worse, it is an abomination in the sight of the gods.”

Keirith scrambled to his feet. “But I didn’t subvert his spirit. He welcomed me. And next time—”

“There will be no next time! You must never do this again.”

“But why? You touch the spirit of every person in the tribe. You touched mine when I came back from my vision quest. Tree-Father Struath touched the spirit of the Holly-Lord himself.”

“A shaman spends years honing his power and understanding its limits. When we touch a human spirit, we receive permission first. Animals cannot offer that.”

Guilt filled Keirith when he recalled how long it had taken him to overcome the eagle’s panic.

“And there’s another reason why riding the spirits of animals is forbidden. That was how Morgath began.”

“You think…” Keirith could hardly force himself to speak the words. “You think I’m like Morgath?”

The Tree-Father’s expression softened. “Nay. But what you did was wrong. Perhaps Morgath began in innocence as well, but in time, he used his power to cast out the spirits of the animals he touched. For that, his body was sacrificed to appease the gods and his spirit consigned to Chaos.”

If the Tree-Father knew how many times he had touched the eagle, he would condemn him as surely as the elders of the Oak and Holly Tribes had condemned Morgath. His chest would be cut open and his still-beating heart ripped out. His body would hang from the lowest branches of the heart-oak to be devoured by scavengers. His bones would be scattered in the forest, never to lie in the ancestral cairn. That was Morgath’s fate – and his if he flew with the eagle again.

It was forbidden. It was an abomination. He was an abomination.

“This power is dangerous. You must swear never to use it. Or I shall be forced to call you before the council of elders.”

Never to fly with the eagle again. Never to share that terrifying, giddy exhilaration of flight. But what choice did he have? Helpless, Keirith nodded.

“I must have your spoken oath.”

“I swear. I will never fly with the eagle again.”

“That is not enough. Swear that you will never touch the spirit of any bird or animal.”

“I…I swear.”

Keirith sank down on the rock, numbed by the sacrilege he had unwittingly committed and the loss of his link with the majestic bird that soared overhead. The Tree-Father’s hand came up as if to pat his shoulder, but fell back to his side.

For who would want to touch an abomination?

“I’m sorry, Keirith. I’d hoped that one day…” The Tree-Father shook his head impatiently. “I’ll speak to your parents tonight.”

“Can’t we just keep this a secret? Between you and me?”

“I must offer some sort of explanation for releasing you from your apprenticeship.”

Keirith could feel his mouth working, but no words emerged.

“I thought you understood. I cannot permit you to continue with your studies.”

Gortin had been his guide and teacher for nearly nine moons. In the space of a few moments – hardly longer than his flight with the eagle – he had severed him from both his gift and his life-path.

“It’s my fault. I should never have accepted you as my apprentice. But you had such a desire. And since the eagle appeared during your vision quest as well as the adder, I thought…” The Tree-Father sighed, his face sorrowful. “I was wrong. Forgive me.”


“If I was wrong to take you as an apprentice, I would be more at fault for instructing you further in the mysteries.”

Keirith went down on his knees. He seized the Tree-Father’s hand and pressed his lips to the tattooed acorn.

“Stop this. Get up.” The Tree-Father yanked his hand free. “I’m sorry. Truly. And I will tell your parents that when I speak to them.”

“Nay. I’ll tell them.” He didn’t know why it was important to him to have that much control over his future, but it was. “At least, let me do that.”

The stones bit into his knees while he waited for the Tree-Father’s decision. Finally, he said, “Very well.”

Fingers brushed the top of his head in blessing. Then the Tree-Father left, taking Keirith’s hopes for the future with him...



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