author chat

Who Let It Be Monday Again?

I’m seriously not ready for Monday, y’all. It’s taken me until past 2:00 PM to even come up with that much.

Focus? There’s no focus today. There is only coffee. Well, there was coffee. I finished the coffee. Now there is only tea. (Chocolate Mint “Like-the-Cookie” Oolong, from Plum Deluxe.)

And… well, I’ve bee thinking about writing. But not actually doing it. I have to get these words down before I get those words down. Right?

So here are these words about those words. Those words from last week — of which I had a fantastic word week. Sitting in the car dealership for two hours appears to be my word place — there were twelve pages handwritten in my notebook. Which was fun when it came time to transcribe because my handwriting is… creative. There was a bit of “What the heck does that say?” But it came out to just over two thousand words written in just about two hours.

Heir to the Firstborn: The Way Home
(Heir to the Firstborn, book 6)

101619 / 150000 (67.75%)
Too bad I only have to take the car in for regular service twice a year. Imagine how fast I’d finish a book if I had to bring it in more often!
I have heard the first sample of the Hidden Things audiobook and I am so excited over this! There were a few little tweaks that needed to be made (Roland sounded too young, for example), so Mark is making adjustments. Once I get the redone sample, I’ll see if I can share it. Reminder –the Kickstarter is still ongoing, and needs to really get up and go if it hopes to fund! So if you’d like to get all four audiobooks read by the incredibly talented Mark Oosterveen, then share and maybe throw something into the hat!

Next week, I’ll be appearing on the These Mums Write podcast, a podcast about supporting mothers in achieving their writing dreams and goals. My interview with show host Jackie Amsden I talk about the Kickstarter, share my experience pushing through fear and breaking boundaries as a sex-positive story-teller and as an introvert navigating the extrovert world of author marketing.

You can find this show on Apple or Spotify.


Today is also the last day to grab books at the Red Hot book giveaway. The last day to grab Hidden Things for free by signing up for my newsletter. The newsletter comes out once a month, on the first Friday.

I feel like there’s something else I’m missing, but I honestly can’t think of it. One of those Mondays, right?

More tea!

Posted by EASchechter in 2022 plans, accountability, Audible, author chat, Boosting the signal, Heir to the Firstborn, Hidden Things, Kickstarter, promotions, public displays of geekery, publishing, Swords of Charlemagne, Updatey things, WIP, wordcount, 0 comments

Work in Progress: Echoes of Light

Echoes of Light

9368 / 30000 (31.23%)

And here I thought that the only thing that really slowed me down when I was writing were scenes that required blocking, like fight scenes and sex scenes.

Add scenes that require verification to that — as in, where exactly was Skullyville, OK during the Civil War (when it was Skullyville, AR. They moved the border later). Reason I’m asking? It’s NOT THERE now, it’s somewhere else! From the maps of the era, Skullyville used to be right on the Arksansas River, and was a regular stop for steamboats. Skullyville today? NOWHERE NEAR the river!

So yeah, there was a lot of looking at maps and comparing them and figuring things out this past week.

I’ve also been working on Wings of Air, or at least, figuring out where Wings of Air is going to go. I plan on finishing the outline this week, and starting the actual writing.

I’m doing something new this week, as well. I’ll be doing two readings this weekend (May 1-3, 2020) at FutonCon. Friday night I’ll be holding at 18+ reading from 9PM to 10PM EST, and on Saturday I’ll be reading from 5PM to 6PM EST, with an all ages reading. I’m figuring on something from Blood Bound for Friday, or maybe bring out an old favorite and read The Succubus. Or, you know, I have an hour. Maybe both?  For Saturday, I’ll be reading from Heir to the Firstborn. 

Still no word on the rest of my conventions scheduled for the year. We’ll see what happens with them.

Bones of Earth is ready to go with preorders on Amazon and everyplace else, and I’m experiencing something I never have before. I picked several stock images for my Facebook ad series — they commonality is that they all have birch trees, to echo the birch trees on the cover of Bones.  And apparently, I picked some very striking images, because people are sharing the ads and commenting on the pictures! That’s new and different.

Then again, everything is new and different these days. It’s all strange and more than a little weird. Some of it is a good weird. Some is not. But we’ll manage.

Stay safe, everyone. Wash your hands. Stay inside if you can. If you can’t, be careful.

Posted by EASchechter, 0 comments

Come and find me…

At Chessiecon!

I’ll be one of the writers guests at Chessiecon from November 25th to the 27th (yes, Thanksgiving weekend). In addition to hanging out and seeing people I haven’t seen in FAR too long, I’ll be on these panels:


5:30PM — The Other Side of Over the Top: Writing Your Turkey Award Entry
Previous winners and judges give advice on how to make your bad writing the best kind of bad it can be. The deadline for entries is 9pm, so you still have time to write yours after the panel, or you can start planning for next year!

8:00 PM — Writing Outside the Lines
Writers live with a cast of thousands inside their heads, all vying to come out and play on the page. The dilemma comes when the writer must write a character outside their experience — be it race, gender identity or sexual orientation. How does a writer accurately portray a character with whom they can’t fully identify? Join us for a discussion of writing outside of your identity — how do you do it? What kind of research is required? Should it even be done?

9:15PM — Slash: The Card Game
Slash: Romance Without Boundaries is a game all about matching romantic partners from across the canons of pop culture, literature and history. Our panelists pick their favorite characters and pitch their love stories to a matchmaker in search of the ultimate One True Pairing.

10:30PM — Reading
Elizabeth will be reading “Layover”. Vampires exist, their ritualized society and strict laws allowing them to live peacefully alongside mortal men, feeding on the blood of those who chose to enter vampire service as bond-slaves. The ignorant believed that vampires were savages, that they would half-murder their bond-slaves with their brutality. Daniel, bond-slave to the vampire Itami Hiro, knows better. ADULT CONTENT


1:45PM — Turkey Awards Panel
Writers were asked to send in the best terrible paragraph they could write, as the beginning of the best terrible science fiction novel you (n)ever read. Finalist entries will be presented, and judged with humor and harshness. The panelists will decide who gets this year’s dubious prizes!

4:15PM — It’s Awesome, Well-Written, and Groundbreaking…But Do You Like It?
Sometimes the greatest thing since sliced bread isn’t your cup of tea. How do you handle it when everyone around you is singing the praises of something that just didn’t click for you? Is it OK to dislike something even if it’s changing the world? Can you appreciate it for what it tried to do even if it didn’t do it for you? Are there ways to still usefully participate in the conversation?

6:45PM — Group Book / Art / CD Signing
Authors, artists, and musicians gather in one room for signing/book-selling/chatting with fans.

10:30PM — Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About (Writing) Sex
We discuss the how-tos, the pitfalls, the throbbing purple prose to avoid.


1:45PM — Stupendous Bollocks
Our host asks obscure questions which exist not as much to be answered as to encourage panelists to tell us what they know (or what they can make up) about the subject. Points are awarded for interesting answers, regardless of their correctness or relevance to the original topic.

Larry Smith will have some of my books in the dealers room (which ones, I’m not entirely sure — House of Sable Locks and Counsel of the Wicked, definitely. Possibly both Tales from the Arena books, in the soon-to-be-retired self-published versions. Anything else depends on forces outside my control.)



Posted by EASchechter in 2016 plans, appearances, author chat, Best laid plans, Best planned lays, Chessiecon, conventions, public displays of geekery, Reading, Writer on the Go!, 0 comments

Heed Thy Mistress Blog Tour!

I am part of the Heed Thy Mistress blog tour. Over the next few days, you can find me, along with Cameron Quintain (The Viscountess Investigates, which I LOVE) and TammyJo Eckhart (Beyond the Softness of His Fur, which is on my e-reader) as we answer questions in various blogs.

Today, we’re at Circlet.

Then, the schedule is as follows:
Jenny Trout on 9/19 or 20
Circlet again,
Lady Lucretia at BDSM Book Reviews  9/25 or 26

And then back home to Circlet.
Posted by EASchechter in author chat, Blog Tour, promotions, Sable Locks, 0 comments

LJ Chat. Day four, post two

Originally posted 11/20/2011 at the Circlet Press livejournal


Not quite sure what’s happening, or why Princes isn’t up for sale yet. Once it goes up, I’m sure you all will hear me squeeing. 😉

Now, everyone remember Turlach from yesterday’s excerpt? He was not originally going to show up in the third part. He was supposed to die, and there was supposed to be another love interest for Petran, another male character in the second section… who ended up dying. Turlach, wily little fox that he is,survived to win the man.

But he has to work for it. For reasons that I am not going to go into right now because it would be a huge spoiler. Petran has been fighting the mate-bond he feels for Turlach. This scene is where he gives in. One small spoiler in here.

Oh, and as a note:  Petran’s song to Turlach is adapted from two songs found in the book The Love Songs of Connacht, collected and translated by Douglas Hyde, and published in 1904.


“I understand now. Except for where I don’t.” He looked at me quizzically. “Petran, we’re bonded already. Even if you decide to never seal the bond between us, it’s too late. We’re mated. I know it. You know it. How does denying it protect you at all? If something happens to me, the bond is still going to be severed.” My jaw dropped, and I realized just how right he was, and just how stupid I had been. Turlach laughed at the look on my face, then leaned over and kissed me gently before saying, “Petran-my-love, you’re an idiot.”

I stared at him in shock, and his lips twitched. A moment later, we were roaring with laughter, great whooping gales of mirth that cut off abruptly when Turlach kissed me, pushing me backwards onto the bed. He straddled me, catching my wrists in his hands and forcing them over my head, pinning me to the bed. I didn’t struggle, even though I could have overpowered Turlach easily. Instead I let him take control, losing myself in his touch and in the taste of his mouth, as sweet and as tart
as good cider. His tongue caressed mine and I moaned against his mouth.

“Turlach?” I heard Diarmuid’s voice and felt Turlach stiffen in surprise. He rolled off of me and sat up, letting me rise so that I could see my brother in the doorway, his eyes wide.

A Ri?” Turlach said slowly, his face crimson. He glanced sidelong at me and tried not to smile.

“I… ah…” Diarmuid started, then shook his head and grinned. “I came to tell you that we heard from Dun-Righ. Your father is fine. He sends his regards.”

Turlach let out a long breath and slumped slightly; I reached out and squeezed his shoulder. He smiled his thanks at me and then turned to Diarmuid. “Thank you, A Ri.”

“You’d best start calling me by my name, I think,” Diarmuid answered. He gestured at the two of us. “I’m glad to see that you two have… settled your differences,” he said, smiling. He left, and I leaned back on my elbows and laughed. Turlach lay down next to me, pressing up against my side and draping one arm over my midsection.

“I’m glad, too,” he said. “Shall we continue to settle our differences?”

“Not here,” I answered, rolling towards him and kissing him quickly. “My house.”

“Why there?” Turlach asked, getting up and helping me to my feet.

I slung my arm over his shoulders and steered his towards the door. “Because my bed is bigger,” I answered. “And because my harp is there.”

“Your harp?” Turlach stopped and looked up at me. “You’re going to play for me?”

“If you’d like that,” I said, tugging him along with me. “You get to decide if you want it first or after.”

“Oh, such decisions!” Turlach laughed as we walked. Inside my house, I let Turlach make himself comfortable while I took my cloak off and laid  it aside, then took my harp from its box. As I lifted the harp, the dried flower fell out onto the floor; Turlach stooped and picked it up and handed it back to me.

“Is that the rose I put in there?” he asked, sounding surprised. I smiled and nodded, sitting down with my harp in my lap. It had been a long time since I’d played, and it took me longer than I’d thought to tune it to my satisfaction. When I looked up, I was surprised to see Turlach stretched out on my bed, completely naked. He smiled and stretched like a cat, posing for me.

“What’s this, then?” I asked, leering at him.

“I thought it would save time,” he answered, visibly preening under my gaze.

“It’s distracting.”

“I could put my trews back on,” he offered.

“No. It’s also inspiring,” I ran my fingers over the harp-strings, just barely touching them with my nails, thinking about Turlach, about what I felt for him, what we could have together. The words rose up within me, struggling to be free. I smiled and started to play:

Oh, love of my love, do not hate me,
For love, I am aching for thee;
And my love for my love I’ll forsake not,
O love, till I fade like a tree.
Since I gave thee my love I am failing,
My love, wilt thou aid me to flee?
And my love, O my love, if thou take not–
No love for my dear love from me.
O dear love, take my love,
Love of my heart, thy love,
Love without fear or failing;
Love that knows not death,
Love that grows with breath,
Love that must shortly slay me;
Love that heeds not wealth,
Love that breeds in stealth,
Love that leaves me sorrowing daily;
Love from my heart is thine, and such a love is mine
Is found not twice–but found, is unfailing.

I finished, rested my hand over the harp-strings to dampen the sound, and looked up to see Turlach staring at me, slack-jawed. I blinked in surprise and set my harp aside. “Turlach?”

“That… that was beautiful,” he whispered. “All for me?”

I stood up and crossed to the bed, sitting down and pulling him to me, whispering into his ear, “All for you. Always for you. I’m sorry, a shiorghra.“

The endearment made him smile, “Forever? I like the sound of that.”

I nodded. “It will be forever. When you become my mate, you take on my immortality.”

His eyes widened, “Immortal. But…?”

“We can be killed, but we stop aging at some point. I think at about forty or so. Diarmuid hasn’t really changed much in the past few years,” I answered. “Now, is forever acceptable to you? You won’t get tired of being married to an old harper?”

Turlach sputtered amusingly for a moment, then stopped and pointed at me, “You… you’re teasing me!”

“Yes. Yes, I am,” I answered, grinning.

He laughed and started tugging on the lacing of my jerkin. “You’re wearing too many clothes.”

Now, this is the last excerpt I’ll be posting from Princes, but there are still two more parts to The Ice Raven. There will be one more part tonight, and the conclusion tomorrow.

Posted by EASchechter in author chat, Princes of Air, 0 comments

LJ Chat, Day Four, post one

Originally posted 11/20/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal



Is there anything more sad than a writer sitting there, continually hitting F5, waiting for the book to go live?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

So, while we wait, let’s talk about sex. I know you’ve all be waiting for the sex. After all, this is Circlet. Why the heck have I kept you waiting?

For actual written sex, you’ll have to wait a little longer, until I put up the next part of The Ice Raven. Right now, we’re going to talk about writing sex.

Recently, I did an interview, and I was asked if sex scenes bothered. me. I think it’s kind of obvious that they don’t — if they did, I’d be in the wrong field! What they do is slow me down. When I write a sex scene, it is important to me that I get it RIGHT. There is nothing more annoying (to me, and I suspect to many of the readers of erotica) than a sex scene that doesn’t ring right. I have put books down (and in extreme cases, pitched them across the room), because of bad sex scenes.

I don’t want the books that I write to be pitched across the room. So I do research. Lots of research, since there are a number of things that I write about that I am not equipped to have practical experience with. Now, if you think that means that I get to look at lots of naughty pictures and questionable websites, you’ve got much to go on.  I also I read Fetlife, I check out gay-sex sites and various sex blogs, go through BDSM catalogs (I regularly drool over things at The Stockroom!), and I buy books that would make my mother blanch.

I do think that it pays off, but it also slows me down. So, I have a habit. When I hit a sex scene that requires research, and I’m on a roll and don’t want to slow down, I will write <SEXSEXSEXSEXSEX> in the manuscript, and keep on going with the scene. Which very often leads to me having a completely finished manuscript  with two or three sections of  <SEXSEXSEXSEXSEX>. So far, I haven’t handed a manuscript off to a beta reader or an editor with those sections in place. But if ever I do, it’s because I fell down on my research.

Posted by EASchechter in author chat, Princes of Air, 0 comments

LJ Chat, Day three, post three

Originally posted 11/19/2011 at the Circlet Press Livejournal


And here we have the next section of The Ice Raven. Yes, there are spoilers here. But no sex yet. For those of you impatient for the smut, it starts tomorrow.  Also tomorrow come the real big spoilers, so it’s a good thing that Princes of Air rolls out tomorrow, too.

On with Oscar and Muirenn.

It being the middle of the night, I had to wait until morning to follow my first instructions. Oscar had pointed to one of the two beds, dowsed the lamps, and thrown himself down on the other bed without another word. I wrapped myself in my cloak and lay down, listening to him breathing in the darkness. What had brought him to the college now? I fell asleep wondering, and woke in the gray hour before dawn with an aching head. Silent as a mouse, I crept out of the cottage and ran to the deserted bath house.

The spells to heat the water were simple ones, and I was soon submerged up to my neck in hot water, attempting to tease bedraggled feathers from my long, matted hair. I had to renew the spells on the water four times before my hair was clean and combed free of tangles and knots; by the time I was finished bathing; the sun was well over the horizon before I made my way back to the house where I’d left Oscar. He was not there, but my belongings were bundled up on my bed, so I changed into my other leine and went looking for my master.

By this hour, the college was awake, full of students and ollamhs going to the morning meal, or on to their classes. I did not see Oscar anywhere I looked, and for some reason, everyone I asked stared at me as if they’d never seen me before. I assumed it was because I was far more presentable than I had been in a long time. Unable to find Oscar, and uncertain if he’d eaten, I decided to collect something for the both of us to eat, and to return to the cottage to wait.

I was carrying a basket down the path towards the cottage when I heard the raven calling behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see the bird sitting on a barren branch over my head; as I watched, it launched itself into the air and flew towards me. Before it had covered half the ground between us, the raven shifted, changed, grew, and Oscar fell in next to me, shortening his stride to match mine, his cloak billowing behind him.

“Ah, you thought to get us something to eat. Thank you,” he said, looking over the contents of the basket.

“Oh… will you show me how you did that?” I breathed. “Is that something I could do?”

He looked at me, and again I saw amusement in his eyes. “Perhaps. We shall see. You are lovely, Wildling.”

His idle complement stopped me in my tracks, abruptly enough that he kept on walking a few steps before he noticed I’d stopped. “What?” I stammered.

He turned to face me. “Looking for complements, Muirenn?” he asked. “Surely you know that you’re a beautiful woman?”

Stunned that he would think so, I shook my head. “No. No one has ever told me that.”

He sniffed. “I’m not surprised. We’re surrounded by idiots. Come along, Muirenn. We’ll eat, and then I will tell you what your next duty will be.” He turned and walked into the cottage, and I followed him in a daze. Oscar, perhaps the most powerful sorcerer in all of Eire, possibly in the entire world… thought I was beautiful?

We sat at the table together and ate the food I had brought, and Oscar served me with his own hands, leaving me even more dazzled. I watched him as I ate, trying not to be seen as I studied him, the sharp planes of his face, and his amazing eyes, which seemed to move between blue and silver-gray. He was possibly the most beautiful man I had ever seen.

“You’re staring,” he murmured. I felt my face grow warm, and dropped my eyes.

“I apologize,” I answered. “I just…”

“Curious?” he asked. “Curious about the freak?”

“What?” I gasped.

“That’s what they call me,” he nodded towards the door, indicating the world outside. “I’m the freak. Or the Ice Raven. Even my own brothers call me that. That one I’m rather fond of, actually. Surely you’ve heard those?”

“No!” I sputtered, shaking my head. “No, I’ve never heard that. And I wouldn’t call you that. You’re no more a freak than…” my voice trailed off. Perhaps that wasn’t the best comparison?

“Than you are?” Oscar finished. “Accepted. Both the sentiment, and the compliment. Thank you, Muirenn. So why are you staring?”

“It’s just… you’re fascinating,” I said, deciding on complete honestly. “And… I’ve dreamed about you, Oscar.”

“Have you?” Now he looked intrigued, as if he were studying me. I looked down at my plate and nodded.

“Yes. For years now. I… I hoped you might chose me as your apprentice.” I looked at him, then asked, “Why have you never taken an apprentice before?”

He shrugged one shoulder and tore a piece of bread into crumbs. “Who told you that I hadn’t?” he asked, not looking up. “Gaynor?”

“Gaynor doesn’t speak of you,” I answered. “I asked the sorcerers here at the college. I forget who told me.”

“Whoever it was, they know nothing,” Oscar said. He sat up straight and looked past me, and I turned on my stool to see through the window a pair of Brehons coming up to the cottage.

“About Bricriu, I imagine,” Oscar said. He stood and walked towards the door, his cloak furling behind him. I rose and followed, standing just behind him, feeling safe in his shadow.

Then my world fell apart.

“Oscar mac Morrigan, you are summoned to answer before the Council,” one of them announced as Oscar unbarred the door and opened it.

“Summoned?” Oscar sounded surprised. “For what purpose? What is it that I’m to answer for? Defending my apprentice?”

“No,” the brehon answered. “For the creation and unleashing of the deamhan aeir. You will come with us.”

Oscar staggered back a step, bumping into me. “Before the Council? Eogan would not…”

“Cathbad ordered it,” the brehon interrupted. “You will come with us.”

“Cathbad,” Oscar breathed, and it was as if he cursed. “Of course. Again…” He stepped back, almost stepping on me as he did so. His eyes met mine, and he took a breath. I saw him hesitate, consider… and then he swept his cloak off his shoulders and held it out to me.

“Keep this safe for me, Muirenn,” he said. “Until I return.”

I gathered the cloak in my arms and held it to my breast. “Yes, Oscar. Should I… should I come with you?”

He hesitated again, and this time, I could see he was wavering. He wanted me with him, for what reason I knew not. But he shook his head and answered me, “No, Muirenn. Bar the door and allow no one in. No one, do you understand me? And… should anything happen to me, bring that to my brothers. They will know what to do.”

A chill ran through me at his words, and I shook my head to deny even the concept. “Nothing will happen to you!” I said vehemently. For the first time, I saw him smile, a real smile that lit up his face, and I wished that I could see that again. To my surprise, he leaned down and kissed me gently, barely brushing my lips with his.

“I’ll be back for you, my wildling,” he told me. Then he turned and strode out of the cottage, leaving the brehons to scramble after him. I watched them go, then closed the door and barred it as he’d ordered. But I could not stay and wait, alone and ignorant. And he had not ordered me to stay, only to bar the door. I put his cloak of feathers over my shoulders and crawled out the window to follow.


The Council met in a grove of trees located halfway between the college and the High King’s hall of Dun-Righ; I knew where, and I knew that I could make my way there unseen. I crept through the undergrowth, making no more noise than one of the forest beasts, and so came up to the Council grove. There was not enough cover to hide myself and still hear, so I clambered into one of the towering pines and lay along a wide branch, hiding my face with my hair so that I might not be seen.

Below me in the circle, I saw the half-circle of Druids, Ollamhs and Brehons already gathered, with Cathbad at their heart. I saw, too, that the place at the middle, the one usually taken by the High King himself, was empty. I worried at my lower lip, wondering how they could hold Council without the High King. Unless this was not a proper Council meeting? But then, what was it?

I had somehow gotten here before Oscar and his brehon guard, and so I was was watching as he entered the grove. To my surprise, he stopped just inside the trees, looked up at me, and winked. Then he continued on to the center of the grove, where he stopped, folded his arms over his chest and scowled.

“And what is the meaning of this?” he asked. “Cathbad, this is your doing. Revenge for my revealing your boy’s shortcomings? Or simply another stab in the back for old time’s sake?”

Cathbad’s face went red, never a good sign. “Oscar mac Morrigan, you are summoned before the Council to answer to your peers…”

“Are there any here?” Oscar interrupted. Cathbad turned even more red and continued.

“To answer to your peers on the charges that you, through carelessness and complete disregard for life, have created the… the monster that is preying on the countryside.”

Oscar nodded once, clasping his hands behind his back. He paced across the grove, back and forth, then shrugged one shoulder and said clearly, “Yes.”

“Yes?” I nearly bit my tongue at the sound of that voice — it was Gaynor! “You admit to this?”

“I admit it. I have already admitted it to the High King and accepted his judgment.” Oscar stopped and stood there, tall and proud. “I created the creature, out of my desire for revenge on the mortal man who tortured and imprisoned my youngest brother. I cursed him, and I imprisoned him within the roof-post of a hall that Eogan then ordered burnt. That he is freed now is none of my doing.”

“No, you simply created him, created a monster that lives on mortal flesh and cannot be killed!” Cathbad shrilled. “He admits his guilt, and must be punished! I call for the highest penalty!”

There was a low rumble from the other members of the Council, and I saw visions of the great woven wicker prisons that were used on only the most vile of criminals. I had seen one such execution once, and I still had nightmares about it. That they might do that to Oscar was unthinkable.

“Cathbad, we cannot contradict the will of the High King!” Gaynor called out. Then he asked. “Penalty has already been set, you say? Oscar, what punishment did the High King lay on you?

Oscar raised his chin and said, “I believe he accepted the murder of my brother as punishment enough for my… misjudgment, Gaynor, and he has charged me to destroy the beast, no matter the cost. If he had been summoned to this Council, he could have answered the question himself. Which calls the question. If this is a Council meeting, then why was he not summoned?”

Gaynor frowned and looked at the rest of the Council, who were starting to murmur uncomfortably. “I do not know, Oscar. Cathbad, when you summoned the Council, why was a messenger not sent to Dun-Righ?”

“This is not a matter for the High King,” Cathbad said stiffly. “This is a matter for sorcerers. It should be our justice that prevails, not the High King, who knows nothing of these matters. Again, I call for the bonfires!”

Oscar looked at him, sighed deeply, and shook his head. “Cathbad, this grudge you insist on keeping alive is grown very old and very tiresome. Enough of it. I have admitted my guilt, and my shame, to my King. There is no reason for this… farce, unless it is for revenge for something you know well was none of my doing, and all of yours.”

Cathbad’s face was nearly purple, and he sputtered and stammered until Gaynor stepped forward and asked, “Revenge? Cathbad, what does he mean?”

“Enough!” Cathbad shouted.

“Yes, Cathbad. Enough. Now, I call for justice of my own,” Oscar interrupted. “Gaynor, Cathbad’s son attacked Muirenn last night.”

“Muirenn?” Gaynor gasped. “My Muirenn?” He wheeled on Cathbad; in all the years I had lived with Gaynor, I had never before seen him this angry.

“She’s fine, Gaynor,” Oscar said quickly, laying his hand on Gaynor’s arm. “I stopped him, and that is, I think, the heart of this matter.” He looked over his shoulder, towards where I hid in my tree, and called out, “Come down, Wildling.”

I felt my face grow warm, and I slowly climbed down the tree and made my way into the grove. Any other day, I would have gone to stand with Gaynor, but today was different. Today, I took my place next to Oscar, taking his cloak from my own shoulders and offering it to him. He took it with a nod, swinging it over his shoulders. Then he looked oddly at me.

“Thought I told you to stay,” he murmured.

“You didn’t,” I answered. “You told me to bar the door.”

“So?” I could see his lips twitching, and I couldn’t help myself.

“I went out the window,” I answered. “But the door is barred, just as you ordered.”

Oscar’s jaw dropped, and the look of sheer amazement on his face sent me into a fit of giggles. Giggles that were, apparently, contagious; Oscar started to laugh, and we laughed together like idiots while a dumbfounded Gaynor just stared at us.

“You,” Oscar said accusingly when he could talk again. He pointed his finger at me as he spoke, “You are going to force me to pay attention to what I say, aren’t you?” I smiled sweetly at him, and he laughed again, pulling me close and hugging me tightly. “Thank you,” he murmured into my hair.

“Oscar…?” I heard Gaynor’s voice, the confusion in it. So did Oscar, who let me go, but kept his arm around my shoulders.

“Gaynor,” he said pleasantly. “I believe you’ve met my apprentice?”

“Ah…ah…ah… apprentice?” Gaynor stammered. “Apprentice? You… you’ve taken an apprentice? You?”

Oscar sighed, “Try to keep up, Gaynor? Yes, I’ve taken Muirenn as my apprentice.”

“But… Muirenn?” Gaynor’s eyes flickered from Oscar to me, and then back again. “Oscar…”

I felt Oscar stiffen, and I looked up to see his eyes had gone cold. “Gaynor, I cannot believe that you have any doubts about your daughter’s abilities. Unless you’re like the rest of these idiots, and cannot see beyond the surface, or who think that a woman cannot control magic as well as a man.” He looked past Gaynor to where Cathbad was pacing, and pitched his voice lower. “Gaynor, where is Bricriu?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him.”

“I bespelled him. He’s caught in a truth-telling, that will only be released when he tells what he tried to do to Muirenn to one of the Brehons. I’ve demanded an honor-fine and that Bricriu be expelled from the college.”

Gaynor hummed softly and said, “That won’t sit well with Cathbad.”

“I know.” Oscar went silent, considering, then looked at Gaynor. “Gaynor, tell the Brehons to find Bricriu.”

Gaynor nodded, “Of course. And… I’ll speak to the rest of the Council as well. I do not like that Cathbad is attempting to use us to attack you. Calling for the fires, and without the High King’s say? This is more than an old grudge, Oscar.”

“You know I’ve always thought it might go this far,” Oscar said.

“Yes, I know. But now… if necessary, I’ll go to Dun-Righ and speak to Eogan.”

“Ward yourself, Gaynor,” Oscar warned, making me shiver slightly from the chill in his voice. “Cathbad guards his position like a leithbrágan guards his gold. And is likely to turn as violent when threatened.”

Gaynor nodded soberly, then quirked an eyebrow and asked, “Will he throw shoes like a leithbrágan, do you think?”

Oscar rolled his eyes at the jest.”Be careful, my friend.”

“I will. And you take care of Muirenn.” Gaynor smiled, and there was something knowing in that smile that I didn’t understand. Nor did I understand Oscar’s answer.

“I intend to, Gaynor. I intend to.”

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