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Sixteenth century Ireland is ruled by men and Faerie and to Grace Logan, a fifteen-year old forced into an arranged marriage, it seems like nothing will ever change. Grace doesn't want to marry. She wants to become a pirate like her father. Before Grace's marriage, her father is kidnapped by the Goblin Lord and a sleeping, death-spell is cast over her castle.
To free her family, and despite knowing that a misstep would mean her death, Grace enters the underworld of the Goblins with outcasts: a changling abandoned by her Faerie mother at birth, and a mysterious young man who harbors a dark secret.
As Grace becomes embroiled in the world of Faerie, she discovers her own strength, and ability to lead. But in a race against time, Grace will need to risk her life, and those of her companions, in a battle against the forces of Faerie itself.
Page Count: 268
Word Count: 65626
Ireland, sixteenth century
Word of my arranged marriage spread over our land faster than mice abandon a sinking ship. Warlords, chieftains, and curious land-owners from as far away as Galway poured into our castle. The only clans missing were the O’Briens. They, and my betrothed, would arrive on the day I turned fifteen, the eve of Samhain, one week from today.
Wearing the gown Mother had chosen for me for tonight’s celebrations, I headed down the path along the cliffs that led to the shadows of the forest. An arranged marriage was the least of my worries. I was determined to find my best friend. If anyone knew the meaning of what I’d seen last night, it was Síofra.
I avoided the bonfires that ringed our castle like golden beads on the necklace of a fairy queen, their glow unnatural and cold as though they were enchanted. It was dusk, at summer’s end, and the first day of the seven-day festival leading to Halloween. We Irish call this day All Hollow’s Eve, or Samhain. This time of year, we were most afraid of the dark. The fact I’d heard a Banshee’s wail last night and seen the image of the Dullahan, Ireland’s Headless Horseman, race across the moon didn’t help.
The Banshee is a herald of death and the Dullahan captures the souls.
Father said every Irish clan of importance had a Banshee. We called ours Cally. He never talked much about the Dullahan.
My formal name is Granuaile Logan, but everyone calls me Grace. I am tall for my age, and Mother tells me that if I don’t stop growing I’ll tower over Father. I have green eyes and red, curly hair I tame into a single braid during sword practice or when I’m pretending I’m a pirate. But today I feel that my dream of sailing my own ship will never come.
The sky darkened over the jagged cliffs as though reflecting my thoughts.
The rock wall formed a natural barrier along the ocean side of our castle and discouraged attacks from the sea. I hesitated near the cliffs and stood on tip-toes to try and catch a glimpse of Father’s ship, the Red Branch, named for a legendary army of Irish knights. Despite my pleas, Father refused to take me on his voyage. It was the first time I hadn’t waved goodbye when his ship left the dock.
Generations of Logans had built their wealth by the motto “Fortune Favors the Bold.” I doubted we were the only ones to live by those words, but my father took them seriously. Every step he took, every word he spoke, and every battle he fought, he weighed against our motto. Except, of course, when it came to his daughter. For a girl, being bold was a flaw, not a virtue.
A cat wailed out a protest.
I smiled. I’d recognize Ella’s distress-meow anywhere. Directly below on a narrow ledge, Ella was tangled in a bluish-green Gorse shrub, bursting with prickly spikes. The more she struggled, the more the branches tightened around her.
The tips of her fur were the color of rust, as though she’d spent too much time bathing in the sun. She followed me around as though it was her personal duty to protect me, but it was a toss-up as to who was protecting whom. I’d rescued her from trees, and when my small boat tipped over, I’d pulled her out of the water. And she was the perfect watch-kitty, alerting me when my mother had hired a new tutor.
“Don’t worry, little one, I’m here.” I flopped down on my stomach, reached below, ignoring the scrapes across my hands, and disentangled her from the branches. If I didn’t free her, she’d plummet to the rocks and sea below.
I scooped her up in my arms and nuzzled my face against her fur. “You push the limit, little one. Remember, you have only four lives left.”
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