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Excerpt From “Aster of Avalon”

Book #3 in the series “Seven Sisters of Avalon,” Aster of Avalon, will publish in December 2014:

My mother, father, Danu, Lord Baric, and a handful of other dignitaries of Avalon called us together in the spring of our eighteenth year and without mincing words, told us that the Goddess had given Her plan for us to my mother and father at the sacred well through The Sight. Unlike some of my sisters, seeing does not come easily for me, so I never pursued the talent beyond the initial tests we were required to pass to advance our education on Avalon.

I knew both my mother and father to be powerful seers and my sister, Lily, was an authentic visioner. If I worked hard, I could occasionally feel a glimmer of The Sight, but never enough to depend upon by any means.

If my mother and father saw our destinies in vision and the Council of Elders sanctioned it, it was real. I do not believe any of us questioned the authenticity of our missions once they revealed the plan to us and certainly, we all had different reactions. I felt an immediate visceral ache for Lily, the most sensitive of the seven of us. Going out into the Britain Beyond with such a weighty task would be terrifying for her. She was an open vessel and could barely handle the flow of psychic impressions she received just on Avalon, despite aggressive training from the Priestesses and the Druids on shielding and filtering. She was the strongest seer any of them had seen in generations.

As this thought came to my mind, she eased to my side and slipped her hand in mine in an unaccustomed gesture of affection. She did not like to touch people because it increased her psychic connection with them and I was not as cuddly and affectionate as my other sisters, so this moment was sacred between us.  I gently squeezed her hand as we listened to the Elders of Avalon and sent her a series of thoughts on a mental loop:  “We will be strong. We will be safe. The Goddess will take care of us. We will be strong. We will be safe. The Goddess will take care of us…” She squeezed my hand in return to tell me she heard me and I felt her tuning into the mantra I played in my mind for her. Because we were both so different from the others, we understood one another in a way the other five did not. I am not sure any of the others, including our parents, really understood the ongoing battle she waged to stay mentally safe and stable. On a regular basis, I felt great concern that she was ever either of those things.

I glanced at her as they spoke and more details of our quests emerged. She looked slight and fragile in the rising sun. Her skin was so pale it was nearly transparent and now there was an even stronger pallor to her face as she listened. Her soft, thin, fair hair slid down her face and body like an ethereal veil. She was wraith-like and had a “barely there” feel to her that was a stark contrast to my earthy, corporeal form. I would say she was as soft and fleeting as a shadow, except that there was not a bit of darkness to her, except what lay inside.  No, she was more like a gentle sunbeam that was there and then gone as she slipped between the worlds.

More than any of us, Lily hated, hated the Faerie Country where my mother took us once when we were young to present us to Queen Minerva of the Faeries. Rose loved the brassy, bold, lusty faeries and snuck away into the woods to carouse with them as often as she could. Neither Lily nor I returned to their shifting, deceptive realms after our first visit. For myself, time spent in Faerie felt like time wasted. They did little but immerse in food, drink, and lovemaking of all varieties there. The Fae served little use as far as I could tell and a life without purpose was no life to live at all in my opinion.

Lily, on the other hand, felt nothing short of torture when she went into their world with its odd foods, impossible animals, and dizzying time shifts. From an intellectual standpoint, I would have thought she would adapt better into alternate worlds than any of us. In reality, it seemed that what little bit of reliable reality she could grasp on our earthly realm of Avalon gave her a counterbalance that allowed her to remain tethered on a silver cord to what we considered to be “real.” In absence of that, she free floated through the realms like a speck of dust without an anchor to pull her back.

Would the Britain Beyond be more or less “real” for her and how would she cope with the energy that flowed out there? We all heard stories about the danger to people of the Goddess and that was part of why our missions were so vital. None of us had ever left the shores of Avalon before and now we were not only to go out into the Britain Beyond, but we were to step directly into the crosshairs of harm to find our individual ways to negotiate safety for the followers of the Goddess and return magic to the Seven Kingdoms of Britain.

No small task there.

For Lily, I feared it would be torture. For me, it was breathlessly exciting. Once again, we were the yin and the yang of the Priestess Princesses of Avalon. We were the opposing forces that bookended the daughters. As nature allows for opposing forces, we were drawn together and I squeezed her hand reassuringly in return.

We could each bring a companion with us as a partner for traveling and strategizing. I found myself wishing I could bring Lily just to protect her, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that Lily would only slow me down. Not to mention the fact that Lily had her own quest to follow. No, I would of course ask Dash to join me, but would be come?  After his solid rejection to go with me to the Beltane fires, I was hesitant to ask him to risk his own safety and give up his own ongoing training to travel with me to… where? …and to do…what? The scryers and seers would be hard at work over the coming days deciding what kingdoms we would each approach and how to best succeed in our missions.

Meanwhile, we were all to go into intensive study about the Britain Beyond, drawing on the experience of every Priestess, every Druid, and every book available on Avalon. Nothing, of course, would adequately prepare us for our own, individual experiences or give us the answers for each challenge we would face, but our elders were determined to shore us up with knowledge to the very best of their abilities.

It is important to understand in the context of our upbringing and time that these elders were as family to us. From the time eighteen years prior to this momentous announcement when we were born to the Lady of the Lady and the Merlin Reborn, these adults swarmed around us like protective honeybees. Although we never doubted the identity of our parents, in truth, we had many, many parents from before we were ever born. So unusual was it that a multiple birth occurred on Avalon, much less septuplets, that we were a focus of attention for the entire island from the moment our conception was known.

Our father was then the one acting as liaison for Avalon and the Seven Kingdoms and his diplomatic efforts kept us and other people of the Goddess safe for many years. At the time our mother became aware she was carrying us, he was traveling from kingdom to kingdom brokering peace, so she refused to have his work interrupted by the knowledge that he was about to be a father. She swore the Priestesses and Druids to secrecy and few can be as intimidating as my mother when she puts her mind to it. As such, he did not know about us until he returned to the island after our birth. I have often wondered in awe how she was strong enough to magically block his knowing of such a tremendous secret for his empathic abilities drew from several lifetimes of cultivation. Still, this she did and the Priestesses and Druids of Avalon invested heavily in their royal progenies.

The degree of intensity in their faces and demeanors as they spent hours pouring knowledge into us about the outside world was a sobering reminder of how important our missions would be, not only to the people of Avalon, but to those who served the Goddess in the Britain Beyond. We studied the societal particulars of the outside world and the people in it, the political structure and landscape, and the history that brought Britain to where it was at that time. For the first few weeks, our teaching took place together, but as the assignments were determined, we broke off into individual instruction to learn about our specific kingdoms and the royal families we would target.

One early morning, I was called into speak to Lord Baric, the Archdruid himself, who informed me that my assignment was now determined. I would go to The Wall. My objective was to intercede with King Urien and his sons in Rheged and I was to work in complete anonymity. Some of my sisters would engage their missions as honored priestesses of Avalon with no need for subterfuge. For me, it would be essential that my identity remained a closely guarded secret.

Now that I had a destination, I needed a companion.