QSFer Rory Ni Coileain has a new Fantasy book out:
Conall Dary is the mightiest mage born to the Fae race in more than two thousand years, ever since the Sundering of the Fae and human worlds. But that power condemns him to an untouched, virginal life — sex calls to power, and his power is enough to drain the magick, the life, from his entire world. Exiled from the Realm for refusing to turn his talent to service a Noble’s petty revenge fantasies, his soul is torn in two and his magickal gifts blocked.
Josh LaFontaine is a gifted tattoo artist with a heart of gold. While doing a good turn for an ex-boyfriend, he’s stunned when a gorgeous red-haired twink appears out of nowhere at his feet during New York City’s Pride march.
The Marfach was thwarted in its first attempt to capture a Fae. But when a terrible accident separates Conall and Josh before they bond, it’s a race to see who finds the mage first, the monster who will use him as a weapon to destroy his race, or his SoulShare.
Surely there was a way to explain this. “Your Grace, I have certain moral objections to ending the world as our race knows it”? Well, no… nice drama, but not strictly true, and it was those little inconsistencies that ended up coming back to bite you in the ass. “Yes, I could. No, I won’t.”
Liadan had begun to smile with Conall’s first pronouncement, but her smile quickly faded. Liadan Mavelle was evidently not a Fae accustomed to hearing the word ‘no.’ Most Nobles weren’t. When one could channel the element of one’s Demesne, one got used to everyone — well, everyone who wasn’t a Royal — dancing to one’s tune. “Somehow, I don’t think I heard that correctly.”
Of course, if there was one thing a Noble of Air could be sure of doing, it was hearing correctly. Even a commoner such as himself could hardly claim to have missed anything the air might have brought to him. “Then allow me to repeat myself, your Grace.” He bowed slightly, letting his mildness carry the weight of his sarcasm. “No.”
“Perhaps you misunderstand. This is not a request.”
Conall closed his eyes. Maybe the Noble would mistake it for a commoner’s subservience. But it actually was discovering there was a point at which inane clichés gave him a headache. “I understand perfectly. But no vendetta is worth the cost of what you’re asking me to do.”
The Noble lady scoffed. “Cost? To the most powerful mage since the Loremasters? Don’t make me laugh.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Because it might break your face. And come to think of it… No, Conall. Don’t go there. Bad Fae. “Not to me, your Grace. To the Realm.” Was it even worthwhile to try to make her understand? He’d given up hope of driving away the greedy, the righteous, and the merely curious; it was almost as if Fae were willfully blind to what the unchecked use of magick did to the world around them. Especially his magick.
But maybe this time… “Magick isn’t infinite, your Grace.
Whether you channel the elements, as you and your fellow Nobles do, or play with the raw stuff of magick itself, after the manner of us common folk —“
Liadan snorted, a very unladylike sound. “There’s nothing at all common about what you do, Conall Dary.”
Conall plowed a hand through his hair, until the copper mane stuck out every which way. Maybe if he just looked a little more imposing, a little more impressive, his words and his observations would carry some weight. It didn’t help that he’d stopped aging, physically, somewhere short of the mid — to late twenties, the norm for a Fae. He just didn’t look like what he was, and even a people accustomed to looking youthful for centuries seemed disinclined to listen to him. Even when they could see perfectly well what he was capable of doing.
“Look, your Grace.” He glanced around, then up; an apple tree shaded them from the late afternoon sun, blossoms and fruit of every color apples knew hanging just over their heads. He reached up and plucked a perfect golden orb from a low-hanging branch and held it out on his palm. “It’s in the prime of life, wouldn’t you say? And yet, in the course of things, it ages. Unlike, say, the luckless female who has her eye on your bragan a lae.” Liadan’s intense green eyes narrowed — well, perhaps ‘toy of the day’ hadn’t been the best choice of words. “Your pardon, her eye on Lord Declan. Yet watch what happens, when I age this fruit, the way you ask me to age her.”
Conall closed his eyes, cupping the apple in his palms. The barriers he had to keep between himself and his magick were formidable, in necessary proportion to his gift, and taking them down even for so small a thing as this was not something he did lightly, or easily. But if it worked, if he could make her understand, it would be worth it. He sighed, and breathed deeply, and reached within.
And the magick leaped up, as it always did. Swirled within and around him, ecstatically. It gloried in freedom, the way a caged bird did, once released. One of the definitions of magick — one of the best — was that it was the essence of wildness, of untameability. And though it lay quietly enough, stored in every living thing in the Realm, it was never meant to remain quiet. It was meant to be set free, channeled, by one with Conall Dary’s gift.
Set free. And spent. Irrevocably. He focused, turning his will to the apple in his hand. He filled it with the torrent that poured through him, and shaped it with a whispered word, Air, sculpting power. Pictured the fruit softening, withering. Beginning to die.
“Yes.” The Noble lady’s voice was a hushed whisper, almost reverent. “Exactly that.”
Conall’s eyes snapped open. The apple was what he had expected, a moldering heap of skin and slime that made his skin crawl. Dead petals brushed his skin as they fell from the branch over his head; he looked up and shuddered at the sight of the dull wood of the branch, the mottled fruit, the leaves hanging limply. This was what the branch looked like, with most of the magick sustaining it drawn from it by the demands of his channeling.
“Perfect.” Liadan smiled, a very cat-in-cream expression. More a bird-in-cat, actually, anticipatorily sated. “Why would you be unable to do the same to a Fae?”
For a moment, all Conall could do was stare. “Don’t you see?” He gestured sharply upward with a curt nod.
The female shrugged lazily. “It’s a branch. It will recover eventually.”
Conall’s jaw muscles worked as his teeth ground together. “That’s not the damned point.” If he watched carefully, he might be able to see the power gradually suffusing the branch again, the leaves trembling as if in a breeze, the colors gradually intensifying, the apples filling out, flowers budding once again. But recovery would take time, and the branch would never be exactly as it had been. Everything in the Realm was formed of magick, and every use of magick drained it. Usually the drain was barely perceptible, even to the exquisitely honed senses of a Fae. But Conall Dary, the greatest mage since the Loremasters, left a swath of destruction in his wake every time he tapped his powers. Which left him with no choice but to lock them away, as often and as securely as he could.
“A fruit is meant to age and die. A Fae is not.” He fought the urge to speak more slowly, more loudly; to act as if an Air Fae was unable to understand you was the worst insult imaginable. And he had a feeling he was going to need some insults left to fall back on, no sense wasting them all now. “As much power as it took to do this, it would take a thousand times more to age an immortal Fae.”
“And you lack the power?” The Lady Liadan pouted, with all the sullen charm of a thwarted toddler. “I wouldn’t have thought so, after all the tales I’ve heard about you. Do you save your powers for those who bed you, so they’ll spread nothing but glowing reports?”
Conall’s lip curled in a snarl. “Some of us have no need to enhance our abilities, your Grace.” There was no way, of course, he was going to tell this supercilious twat he had never dared risk the magical power surge that overwhelmed every Fae during sex. Never dared so much as friendship, not since just after he came into his birthright of power, and learned in the hardest way possible the only thing anyone ever wanted from him was that power. Present company included. “And provoke me as much as you like, I’m not going to damage the very fabric of the Realm so you can have the satisfaction of the shrieks of a wrinkled, toothless courtesan!”
Liadan’s hands balled into fists, catching up the pale blue silk of her gown. But her voice was calm, even cool. “You will do as I command, because I command it. You need no other reason, and you will not speculate as to mine.” Her dark hair stirred in a wind that seemed to cling to her. “And you will not speak to me in this way.”
“I will not waste my breath speaking to you at all.” Conall turned on his heel. “As well speak to a stone, it has better chance of understanding.”
Conall stopped short, without time for so much as a cry, as the air became solid in his lungs. Caught by surprise, choking, he clutched at his throat, struggled in vain to draw breath. His vision went white around the edges, and began to dance, stars exploding all around him. His chest heaved, without result; he fell to his knees. And in his panic, he reached within for magick. But he stopped. No — not even to save my life, no —
— something struck the back of his head, hard, and white went black.
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Rory Ni Coileain majored in creative writing, back when Respectable Colleges didn’t offer such a major, so she designed it herself – being careful to ensure that she never had to take a class before nine in the morning or take a Hemingway survey course. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the age of nineteen, sent off her first short story to an anthology being assembled by an author she idolized, got the kind of rejection letter that puts therapists’ kids through college, and found other things to do, such as nightclub singing and volunteering as a lawyer with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, for the next thirty years or so, until her stories started whispering to her. Now she’s a legal editor, the mother of a budding filmmaker, and amanuensis to a host of fantastic creatures who are all anxious to tell their stories. And who aren’t very good at waiting their turn.