The Ireland in which Talty lives is an Otherworld to us, a world where High King Brian Boru survived the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 A.D. and established a royal dynasty that rules Ireland to this day. A military assignment sends Talty to several different dimensions with her 'Veddy' English commanding officer, Richard Gale, who doesn’t know she’s the King of Ireland’s daughter. In a test run gone wrong, they arrive in our world in 1014 A.D., just before the Battle of Clontarf, which, in our world, claimed the life of Brian Boru.
* * * * *Excerpt from A Band of Roses:
"Where are we?" she asked. "Will we go back soon? And where’s Nick?"
Richard’s frown worried her. "I don’t know where the bloody hell he is. Either he didn’t make it through, or he’s somewhere nearby and we’ll meet up with him later. But we should already be back. Test runs never take more than a minute. Let’s find cover and sit tight."
He pulled his commando knife from his tool kit and slid it into his boot sheath. Following his example, Talty slipped her tanto knife into her own boot. They rested in a copse of oak trees, sipping water from their canteens.
Richard soon grew restless. "It won’t matter where we are when Creek calls us back. I don’t like sitting in one place too long. Let’s see if we can make friends with the natives before dark."
They found a deer track and set out through the woodlands. Bird calls and rustling leaves were the only sounds they heard until crashing branches and stumbling footsteps announced a desperate flight through the woods. Talty dashed behind a tree, as did Richard, just before a boy of no more than fourteen emerged from the undergrowth. After a moment, Richard signaled Talty. Together they stepped from behind the trees.
The boy froze. Curly black hair framed his pale face. The torn crimson cloak that covered his shoulders tumbled to his leather-clad feet. Beneath the cloak, he wore a belted blue tunic that reached his knees. Yellow leggings completed the colorful outfit.
Richard held his hands palms out. "Can we help you, lad?"
Frightened blue eyes flashed over Richard’s fatigues. The boy didn’t seem to notice Talty. His response sounded like gibberish to her, though an instant later the words made sense.
"Please, can you? The Danmarkers have my mother! I’m afraid Brother Marcan and the others will be too late!"
"Which way?" Richard asked.
The distraught boy ran off.
"You go first, darling. I’ll take the rear."
Talty set her hands on her hips. "Don’t you think you should’ve asked how many attackers there are before you agreed to help?"
Before he could answer, she grinned and jogged after the boy.
"Bloody hell," muttered Richard behind her.
A distant babble of voices quickly grew to angry shouts. Moments later, the boy stopped, and then he crept to the edge of a glade. Talty squeezed beside him, Richard at her sleeve. She peeked through the greenery to see four men standing before a round thatched cottage, the main building of a small homestead.
Armed with swords, clad in wool and leather, they’d tucked their long hair into their weapon-laden belts. Vikings!
They weren’t the only ones shouting. From inside the cottage, a woman shrieked a rainbow of insults back at them.
"Curse all of ye! I’d send ye to the devil, but ye’d be in too good company! Death and smotherin’ on ye, and may ye die roarin’!"
"Come out, Leesha!" called one of the men. He lifted a flaming torch from a fence post and stood grinning with his flaming prize. "If you don’t, we will burn you out!"
"Come out, Leesha!" called another. "I will keep Leg-Biter in his scabbard." His companions made lewd jokes about the swords that would make a scabbard of Leesha.
"Don’t listen to them, Leesha," called the apparent leader. "We only want to talk. Come out now, or we will set the place afire!"
"Pig snouts on your children, ye miserable dogs!"
At the leader’s nod, the torch man swung his arm in ever-widening arcs.
Before Richard and Talty could stop him, the boy charged into the clearing. "No, ye filthy pagans!" He slammed into the torch wielder, who fell backward and raised his hands against the boy’s pummeling fists. The burning torch rolled harmlessly to the ground.
With roars of bawdy laughter, the other Vikings drew their swords and closed on the boy.
"The bitch will come out if we kill her pup!" one shouted.
Richard slid his knife from his boot and nodded toward the three standing Vikings. "The one on the right is yours. I’ll take the two on the left."
* * * * *In Fiery Roses, an arsonist sends Neil, Talty, and Talty’s colleagues, Richard and Nick, to an ancient world at the mercy of a waking volcano. In this excerpt, a young boy's archery lesson turns deadly.
Excerpt from Fiery Roses:
Avoiding Neil's gaze, Talty rose to her feet. "Hulch is sleeping and I promised Kavie I'd give him a few archery tips. You old fellas have a nice rest."
She sauntered across the clearing, hips swaying, arms swinging, nothing like the trembling young woman Neil had held in his arms at the crater. She'd never admit it, but looking into the volcano had frightened her. She had needed him. Would she ever admit that?
Talty and Kavie hunkered down beside the hot springs with Kavie's quiver of arrows. A lesson on straightening the matted white feathers by holding them over steam followed. Neil dozed off to the sound of Talty's silvery voice offering confident and gentle guidance. His eyes fluttered open at her command to the boy to retrieve his arrows.
Nick lay snoring nearby, his head on an empty lunch sack. Richard crossed the clearing and informed Neil that the practice was over, and that Kavie had ventured into the underbrush to find his wayward arrows.
Trying to guess how long he'd slept, Neil watched Hulch dismantle the target. Talty stood near the woods, holding the bow and the half-full quiver, apparently waiting for Kavie. Neil rubbed his eyes, got up, and stretched.
Kavie came running from the trees, though he held no arrows. "I found baby boars!" His high-pitched voice cracked with excitement. The piglet wriggling in his arms let out a squeal of bloodcurdling terror. "Isn't he cute?"
"No!" cried Talty. "Drop it, Kavie! Drop it now!"
The worry in her voice alarmed Neil; the rapidly intensifying crashing in the woods horrified him. Behind him, the panicking horses screeched and strained at their tethers.
An enraged she-boar burst from the underbrush. Kavie released the piglet and screamed.
Neil tore across the clearing. Powered by sheer terror, he tackled Kavie to the ground, rolled with the boy in his arms, and slammed into a massive boulder beside a stand of trees.
The raging sow's momentum carried her straight ahead. She cantered to a stop and wheeled about, tossing her head and stamping her hooves.
Gasping for breath, Neil sized up the grunting, snorting nightmare. Three feet high and four feet long, she had to weigh over two hundred pounds. A mane of black bristles ran down the back of her wooly brown coat. Six inches of razor-sharp ivory curved from the base of her long black snout—and her swinging head left no doubt she knew how to slice.
The sow's tiny eyes squinted in murderous search of the culprit who had defiled her litter. Tufted tail whipping, she scented the air and shifted toward Talty.
* * * * *
In Salty Roses, Talty and company unexpectedly visit a world infested by dangerous pirates, courtesy of a man who came from a parallel world himself. In this scene, Talty and Nick have spent several days marooned on an island, and they're more than ready to leave.
In a fury of howling wind and rain, the storm overtook both ships. The first vessel crashed onto the reef with a thunderous impact. Bodies and cargo flew into the water. By the time Nick and I reached the trees above the beach, debris and corpses floated in the churning sea.
As lightning flashed like a strobe light, the second ship maneuvered masterfully past the reef to the shelter of the lagoon. Skiffs were lowered and rowed to the shallower water by men who jumped in and waded toward the survivors.
"Let’s help them save those people," Nick shouted, starting for the beach.
The ship’s flag unfurled in the wind, a black flag sporting a simple white circle of human skulls. Horrified, I grabbed Nick’s sleeve. "Wait, Nick. They’re not saving those people at all!"
They were slaughtering them, drowning them, hacking them with knives and swords. The murderers drove the few survivors to the beach and surrounded them.
Nick slapped his hand against a tree. "Aw, man! We need that boat!"
He’d get no argument from me. I gripped the handle of my tanto for reassurance. "Do you have your knife with you?"
* * * * *Thanks for reading!