Aisling Book One: Guardian
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by Carole Cummings
Category: Young Adult/Fantasy
Description: Constable Dallin Brayden knows who he is, what he's about, and he doesn't believe in Fate. 'Wilfred Calder' has no idea who he is, what he's about, and has been running from Fate for as long as he can remember. When Wil is brought in for questioning as a witness to a brutal murder, and subsequently flees, Dallin is dragged by duty into the chaos of ancient myth, fanatical religion, and the delicate politics of a shaky truce between two perpetually warring countries, all of which seem to hinge on the slender shoulders of the man he knows is not Wilfred Calder. The eventual capture of Dallin's quarry only makes matters worse. Wil is prickly and full of rage, rebellious and lethal, and tells an unbelievable tale of magic and betrayal that threatens to rock the carefully cultivated foundations of Dallin's world. Leery and only half-believing, Dallin finds himself questioning not only his own conscience and his half-forgotten past, but the morality and motives of everyone around him, including those who hold the power of his own country's fate in their hands.
eBook Publisher: Torquere Press/Prizm Books, 2010 www.prizmbooks.com
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
9 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [442 KB]
Reading time: 291-408 min.
"Wake up there, Calder, and give the Constable his due respect." The word curled up in sarcastic mockery. Dallin ignored Payton's bit of a smirk, but took a step forward when he gave a light cuff to the witness's ear. "Look up and greet your new friend, he's likely the only one you'll have here."
Calder flinched away from the blow, shot a murderous glare up at Payton. Dallin only just kept from snorting. It died in his throat when the man turned his head, leveled his gaze with Dallin's.
Frozen--both of them. The hamstrung silence nearly rang his ears. It was like looking inside a liquid pool of verdigris, deep and dense, murky depths shifting with swirls of sage and emerald. Not just looking at him, but seeing him, seeing him profoundly, and into depths Dallin himself had never plumbed.
I know you, he thought, grasping at a purling wisp of recognition that slipped through the saner fingers of reason. No. No, I don't, but... why does it feel like I should?
The face should have been pale, but layers of sunburn flaked about the nose, one atop the other, and a thin swarm of new freckles flecked the high cheekbones, as though the man had spent his life locked up in a dark room and had only recently got his first bite of the sun--and the sun had bitten him back. The features were sharp and angular, too thin and too young, but not young at all. Dark circles bloomed beneath his eyes, and a new bruise flowered along his right cheekbone. None of it served to mar the comely features; none of it took away the sheer beauty.
Disturbed and disoriented, Dallin tried to pull his gaze away--couldn't.
Is this what those men saw just before they'd come to blows? Was this witchcraft, as they'd claimed? Or merely the animal reaction of men confronted with something they'd never seen before and perhaps wanted to possess?--a reaction, Dallin was dismayed to find, to which he himself didn't seem immune.
Stop looking at me, stop seeing me.
Dallin shook his head, opened his mouth--a greeting, an introduction, he didn't know, just something to shock him out of his own absurd stupor--but he was suddenly, embarrassingly mute. Instead, he tilted his head, lifting a hand to rub at his eyes.
It was the movement that brought Calder to action: a sudden jerk and lunge as he leapt from his chair, stumbled a bit as he backed over it and then pressed his back to the far wall. Payton was instantly on alert; he took a step, but Dallin shot a hand out, held him back. He's taller than I'd thought, Dallin realized with the small part of his normally-analytical mind that was still working, wider, too--he was only trying to make himself small, unthreatening. Remember that later, you might need it. Dallin didn't move, alert himself, but confused, too--just kept staring at the man, at the trapped-animal look in those shocked-shocking eyes.
Payton was the first to recover, but under the circumstances, Dallin decided not to chide himself too harshly. He let Payton shrug himself loose. "Sit down, sir," Payton said evenly, request and warning both, and he took a step forward.
Calder ignored him, like he wasn't even in the room. "Aire," he breathed, eyes locked to Dallin, disregarding Payton completely, and vibrating now like his bones would shake loose. "Gniomhaire!"
"Oh, you're from Lind, all right," Payton snorted. Disgusted now, he stepped around the table, righted the chair. "I asked you to sit down, Mister Calder, I won't ask again."
Calder only kept staring, didn't even seem to hear. "Guardian." He spat the word like it tasted bad.
They all three stared: Dallin and the witness at each other, Payton shifting his glance between them. The fear and betrayal in the witness's eyes mystified Dallin, near wounded him with the intensity. People reacted to his size, it was a natural thing, double-takes and instinctive backward twitches; Dallin had been used to it since before he'd sprouted his first patchy bit of beard. In the line of work he'd chosen, or had chosen him, depending on how one looked at it, it was sometimes a handy tool--useful, and so therefore useable. Still, this seemed a bit extreme. What have I ever done to you? he wanted to ask, and only just kept himself from actually voicing the question out loud. Instead, he stood silent, staring into eyes that seemed to swallow his sense, set him swaying. Bewitched. He isn't beautiful. Those oracles he's got for eyes just make one think he is. Enough that a man was willing to do murder to have them look at him like he's looking at me. Even the fear is beguiling. He came back to himself when Payton cleared his throat.
"You will agree, Constable, that the witness has turned hostile and presents a danger to himself and the Constabulary officers." Payton held out his hand. "May I have your manacles, please?"