QSFer Carole Cummings has a new MM Fantasy book out:
When a man’s identity is built on lies, can he find the true self buried beneath? For Wil and Dallin, newfound love might not be enough. To heal themselves and their world, they must learn to see things as they truly are and break free of what they have been tricked into believing.
Wil and Dallin stand at the center of an approaching convergence they’re not sure they’re strong enough to face. The power of the land and the Mother waits for Wil in the bowels of Lind, but it comes at a price: he must defeat the soul-eater and save the Father, Her Beloved, and manage to keep his soul in the process. He can’t do it alone. But where can he turn for aid when friends are not necessarily friends, trusted mentors are not necessarily to be trusted, and good intentions are sometimes the most dangerous kind?
Dallin and Wil must accept their roles as the Guardian and the Aisling and stand together against a ruthless god in a cataclysmic battle of dreams and wills, the fates of both of their souls and those of all mortals hanging in the balance. Trust, if they can finally embrace it, holds both the promise of salvation and the risk of damnation.
Aisling Trilogy Book 3
TOUCHED BY Her own hand. Wil could feel it. Could feel Her. Almost overwhelming strength wrapped inside soft benevolence. Terrifying might and boundless love. Impassioned wisdom and fierce defense. All of it in his palm, striating all through him. He wanted desperately to hurl the thing away from him, and just as desperately to curl it so tight in his fist it melded with skin and tooth and blood and bone.
Dallin was leaning close, eyeing Wil with concern, sandy brows drawn down over a thoughtful gaze.
Wil blinked. “Mm?”
Dallin’s eyebrow went up. By the small twitch of a wry smile at the corner of his mouth, Wil guessed Dallin had been trying to get his attention for a while now.
“I asked if you had any questions before we get into everything else.”
“I have lots of questions, but….” Wil frowned. “I’m not quite sure….”
He’d been asleep for four days, and then he’d spent the morning getting pummeled by pure and unfettered power—raw and crude, almost primitive, but ancient and sophisticated at the same time. For a while it had seemed as though he knew everything, every thought from every living thing. Knowledge, its threads too raw and too pure, and he’d nearly strangled himself in the weave. Everything else had lost its importance, until now. There’d been no real chance to talk, to find out how precarious their position might be, how much these people knew, and how much they should know.
Fortunately Wil didn’t need to explain it to Dallin. “They know all about you.” Dallin’s tone was steady, maybe even defiant. “What blanks Calder left, I filled in.” Dallin shot a pinched grimace over to the three Old Ones. “And then some.”
Marden shook his head at Dallin, light reprimand. “You must be more forgiving of our brother.” It was sad, but with a soft bit of pleading beneath it. “You have not yet received your Marks—you cannot know what it means to lose them.”
“He didn’t lose them. He cut them away so he could—”
“So he could step into the shoes of the lost Guardian.” Siddell’s hazel gaze was straight and unbending but not quite harsh. “So he could honor his son, lost to us now in some anonymous grave, buried without the graces or so much as a lock of hair from one of his kin so his ghost can remember who he was or that his death was an honorable one.”
“In the service of an Aisling he didn’t even know existed.”
Siddell frowned now. “You have much anger in you, Dallin Brayden.” He held up his hand when Dallin’s lip curled. “I do not reproach. I only observe. But I would ask that you try to think more kindly of Brother Calder. Within the space of a year, the man lost his wife and his only son, both of whom he loved more than life. His calling was all he had left, and his faith is strong, yet he consigned it all so that he might wipe away the Mother’s tears and restore Her lost one to Her.” His thin lips pinched, and he shook his head sadly. “You have seen and spoken to Her,” he went on quietly, shifting his sharp glance to Wil. “Can you now imagine the silence if you were to call to Her and She could no longer hear you?”
Wil swallowed. He’d guessed as much, but now the empathetic pain of the truth pierced him. “He didn’t just cut away his Marks,” he told Dallin softly. “He cut away his connection to Her—for Her.” He shook his head and frowned at Siddell. “It seems… very unfair.”
Siddell waved a bony hand. “Ours is not to question.” He flicked a sly glance at Dallin. “Others have taken up that task.”
Wil almost smirked as Dallin rolled his eyes with a low grumble. Instead he pointed a curious gaze at the old men. “He is very suspicious of me.”
Thorne shook his head, but it was Marden who spoke. “He fears for you, lad,” he offered in his gruff baritone, “but he shares the fears of all of us as well.”
“Fear of me.” Wil peered at every one of them closely. No one negated the statement. “I wouldn’t… I won’t—”
Except he would. He had. Almost destroyed a city, almost took Dallin’s head off, almost set half the Weardas on fire…. Why should they believe a word Wil said, or trust any good intention, when it was all too plain he hadn’t the strength or power to control himself, let alone… everything else?
“You do not know your own power,” Siddell put in as though reading Wil’s own thoughts. “You cannot control it. Bringing you here is like teasing a match over a mountain of gunpowder. Yet there was no other way. There is no other way. Yes, we fear for many things—ourselves, you, the very world.” Siddell shook his head. “You are not only dangerous to your enemies, lad. You must understand, we cannot—”
“Look.” Dallin’s teeth were clenched. “You cannot judge and accuse when you don’t even—”
“You would tell us truthfully, Dallin Brayden, that our fears are unjustified?” Siddell’s voice was challenging, colder than before.
“I would tell you that they are premature and pessimistic.” Dallin’s voice, on the other hand, was rising and heated. “He controls it better every day, and he’s stronger than you think he is. This place was crushing him, and yet here he sits, calm and sane and willing to talk reason, when—”
“Because you have set your shoulders beneath it,” Marden cut in.
“That isn’t true. Wil’s taking most of it. I just—” Dallin waved a hand, irritated and edgy. “I’ve channeled it.” His gaze hardened. “Isn’t that my job? Isn’t all of this my job?”
“And do you truly feel qualified to take up that ‘job’?” Thorne wanted to know. “You are as untested as the Aisling, and yet you—”
“Just stop it!” Until that very second, Wil had been unaware he intended to speak at all, but the bickering was making him more anxious than he would have thought possible. Pressure was building at the back of his throat, making his heart pound and his palms sweat. Panic was flittering at the bottom of his stomach, weighting his previously pleasant breakfast like a lump of cold lead in his gut. “Just… stop for a moment. Please.”
Amazingly they did, as Wil tried and failed to gather his scattered thoughts. They were all looking at him, Dallin too, waiting patiently while Wil’s mind stumbled and his hand fisted reflexively around the warm stone in his palm.
“I never meant to hurt anyone.” It sounded so inadequate, but it was all Wil could think to say. “I only wanted to be let to live.” His eyes were burning; he shut them tight for a moment until the heat receded. “What’s inside me… I don’t want it. I’ll give it back, if you want. I’ll let you have it if you’ll just show me how.” He turned to Dallin. “You can take it away, right? You know how—like what you did before.”
“I’m sorry, it doesn’t work like that.” There was sincere regret in the roughness of Dallin’s voice.
It didn’t make Wil feel any better. He turned back to the Old Ones. “Calder told Dallin he should kill me.” Bald and flat. Despite the panic welling in him, he lifted his chin, defiant. “Is that what this is about? Is this a tribunal?” He set his gaze on each of them, trying not to let the fear show. “Am I on trial?”
He hadn’t realized how close to the edge of hysteria he’d been until the warm weight of Dallin’s hand came to rest on his shoulder. A message. A reminder.
You’re not alone. Whatever happens, I won’t let you face it by yourself, and I’ll do everything in my power to keep them from hurting you.
Carole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Recipient of various amateur writing awards, several of her short stories have been translated into Spanish, German, Chinese and Polish.
Author of the Aisling and Wolf’s-own series, Carole is currently in the process of developing several other works, including more short stories than anyone will ever want to read, and novels that turn into series when she’s not looking.
Carole is an avid reader of just about anything that’s written well and has good characters. She is a lifelong writer of the ‘movies’ that run constantly in her head. Surprisingly, she does manage sleep in there somewhere, and though she is rumored to live on coffee and Pixy Stix™, no one has as yet suggested she might be more comfortable in a padded room.
…Well. Not to her face.