Title: The Sword Unsheathed
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Ashling Donoghue is no closer to finding her parents than she was the night they disappeared. But hope returns as her brother Kian channels the Sword of Light, revealing past-life secrets and truths long suppressed.
The more she learns, the greater she fears the darkness that drowns the Netherworld also drives her. Is Aengus her true love, or is it Lorcan? Does her future wait in shadow or the light?
One point is clear: the threads of her past-self are woven inextricably into the tapestry of her soul. An impossible choice looms before her, and all the while, evil is poised to strike.
“Close your eyes, and don’t open them until I tell you.”
Nerves atwitter, I did as Aengus asked. A brief, subtle tingling sensation swept through my body as we slipped into the Otherworld.
A moment later, he released one of my hands but held fast to the other. “All right. You can look now.”
I opened my eyes. We stood before an immense, grass-topped mound surrounded by a multitude of tightly-packed, white stones.
It looked familiar. “Wait a minute. This is a famous prehistoric tomb. What’s it called? Newgrange?”
Aengus nodded. “I call it Sí in Bhrú, and it’s part of Brú na Bóinne, or the ‘Palace of the Boyne’ in County Meath. We’re in the valley of the River Boyne.”
I gave him a sideways glance. “Did you say ‘palace’?”
“In the physical world, this is an ancient temple and passage tomb, more than five thousand years old. Here in the Otherworld…well, it’s best to show you.”
The next instant, we stood inside a grand, circular hall, far larger than the mound we’d viewed outside, with a high, domed ceiling. Tri-spiral designs covered the walls, but the space was empty except for a five-tiered fountain at its center.
My gaze locked onto the trickling, golden liquid. A feeling of déjà vu overwhelmed me, and I shivered. “Is that…mead?”
I turned to him. “Remember what exactly?”
“This fountain flows eternally with mead. My parents gave it to us as a wedding gift.”
“To you and Caer, you mean.”
He squeezed my hand. “Does anything else spark your memory?”
“The spirals seem familiar.”
His blue eyes shone. “They should. We lived here for centuries.”
“Caer lived here, not me.”
“But you were Caer.”
My insecurities ganged up on me and knotted my stomach. Is that the only reason why you want me? Because of who I once was?
Could I ask that out loud? What if he said yes?
Yes or no, I had to know. A lasting relationship required honesty and communication. My parents’ love had taught me that, and I wanted nothing less.
I pulled my hand from his grasp and took a step back. “Maybe you wish I still was Caer.”
His blissful expression devolved into a frown. After a heart-stopping moment, he found his voice. “What?”
“Sometimes I wonder whether you like me or just who I used to be.”
“You can’t fight your soul’s history.”
“Especially when everyone keeps shoving it down my throat.” My gut tightened further.
I huffed. “Kian. Robin. Deirdre. Lorcan. And now—”
“Lorcan?” There was an edge to his voice.
“Yes, Lorcan. I’ve seen him a couple of times, but not because I went looking…” I couldn’t finish that sentence. My soul had obviously sought Lorcan the night I traveled to Dun Aengus.
“Ashling, you know how I feel about him.”
“Yeah, well, you weren’t around to stop me, were you?”
His frown deepened. “What do you mean?”
“It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who’s never around.”
“And Lorcan is around. Is that what you’re saying?”
“He’s always there, waiting in the wings, ready to take your place.”
Aengus slammed a fist into his other hand. “It’s time I showed him—”
“No! It’s time you showed me whether you want me or Caer, because I’ve had it with ghosts from the past messing up my—”
He grasped my arms and pulled me close. His mouth came down on mine in a searing kiss. Releasing my arms, he stole his own around me, and I responded in kind. Bodies and tongues entwined, we rode the wave of the kiss for a blissful moment that seemed as eternal as the bubbling fountain beside us. Nothing else mattered.
When at last he pulled back, he gave me a tender smile. “Does that answer your question?”
“Um…” My head still spun from the kiss.
“I kissed you, not Caer. I brought you here tonight because I wanted to share a piece of myself with you. It’s only natural I wondered if you’d remember it. After all, a part of your soul lived here for ages.”
I scanned the vacant, cavernous space. “If we lived here so long, where’s all the furniture?”
The light in his eyes dimmed. “Once upon a time, this place brimmed with beauty…with rare treasures, music, poetry, and the laughter of friends and courtiers. But when you left…when Caer left…nothing was the same. I couldn’t stay.” He squeezed his eyes shut, as if to block out painful memories.
Thick tentacles of worry and guilt wrapped around my heart as though a legendary kraken sought to drown me in a sea of regret. I placed a hand on Aengus’s cheek. “I’m sorry.”
His eyes opened, and he covered my hand with his. “Don’t be.”
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What’s your favorite thing about the Fall season:
The sense of magic in the air, which seems perfectly aligned with the cooler temperatures and the change in nature’s palette.
What inspired you to write this story:
Lifelong experiences with the paranormal and a deep love for Ireland.
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Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles.
Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.
Social Media Links:
Website – https://judithmarshallauthor.com/
The Wild Rose Press – https://www.thewildrosepress.com/authors/judith-sterling
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