#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : After Gáirech – Micheál Cladáin @Phil_Hughes_Nov #HistoricalFiction

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘After Gáirech’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Micheál Cladáin studied the classics and developed a love of ancient civilizations during those studies. Learning about ancient Roman and Greek cultures was augmented by a combined sixteen years living in those societies, albeit the modern versions, in Cyprus and Italy. As such, Micheál decided to write historical fiction, trying to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. Because of his Irish roots, he chose pre-Christian Ireland as his setting, rather than ancient Italy or Greece.
Micheál is a full-time writer, who lives in the wilds of Wexford with his wife and their border terriers, Ruby and Maisy.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: After Gáirech
Author: Micheál Cladáin
Publication Date: 30th September 2021
Publisher: PerchedCrowPress
Page Length: 370 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Imagine a world where the Romans are in ascendancy; a world where Christ is soon to be born.
A world where the Battle of Gáirech has ripped the heart out of Ireland.
Medb’s armies have been destroyed! Survivors are ravaging the Five Kingdoms in search of the riches they were promised!
While working to repair the damage, Cathbadh is murdered and dies beside his son. Genonn vows to avenge his father. But, with the culprits locked away in their fastnesses, to break them out, he needs Elder Council approval, and they will not provide it without proof.
Genonn needs Conall to help get the proof, but Conall is gone, searching for the head of Cú Chulainn. So Genonn sets out to find him, aided by the beautiful Fedelm, the capricious Lee Flaith, and the stalwart Bradán.

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Available on KindleUnlimited.

Excerpt :

The wind blew from the north.
After pulling up his hood, Genonn wrapped his arms around his chest. Despite the approach of summer, the sudden cold caused an evening veil of mist and dampness. He wondered if the battle had angered the Three Sisters before realising it was a sentiment more in line with how Fergus would have thought. He shivered and shook his head, dreams of spit-roasted beef being crushed by foolish pride caused a brief smile.
No meat, just damp and cold, he thought. You let the old madman get to you. Again. ‘This is not cold,’ he hissed. Fergus would be cold, covered in sod and a cairn raised in payment for his stupidity. The warrior with a very sharp sword and very dull wit.
He crouched and vigorously struck iron against flint, trying to light his fire and cursing the stubbornness of the kindling, which did not offer the smallest tendril of hope.
‘Tuatha take this damp,’ Genonn hissed as he threw his flint and iron into the loam. He could see nothing. Darkness had shrouded the trees quicker than he would have thought possible. The light in the clearing would not last much longer. Realising he needed the fire lit while he could still see, he started to grub about for the iron and flint.
The words, ‘Not good at that, are you?’ caused him to start and look up into the cloak of shadows, which were hiding the speaker and causing his pulse to throb.
Genonn’s forestry had never been his strength, but still, he cursed himself as a fool for not hearing the approach. He could die in this clearing, and no one would know. I doubt he would care, a thought that flared before he suppressed it.
‘Who is there?’ he asked while grasping the hilt at his waist. It was scant comfort. An iron ball would kill him before he could use it against a slinger.
There was a long pause, during which he thought he could hear whispering but was not sure. Finally, the detached voice said, ‘It’s me, Lee Flaith. Me da used to be High King.’
Used to be High King? Does he mean he’s the son of Conaire? Genonn shook his head.
‘You cannot be. Lee has been dead these past seven, or is it eight, years. He died with King Conaire at Glencree, killed during the invasion.’ There was another long pause punctuated by what might have been more whispers.
‘Dead? No, not dead. Although sometimes I wish I were, the way the hag’s treated me.’
‘The hag?’ Genonn asked.
‘I won’t be called hag,’ another voice. Older; scratchy; explaining the whispers, if only partially. ‘And I fed you proper, so I did, so shut your hole before I give you a dig with me crann bagair.’
‘Aye, Niamh, who took me after the battle. Tied me to her belt and beat me with her cudgel for years. Taught me manners, so she says. Not sure I’ll have a use for them, but they’re on me like a cloak.’
Genonn could still not see anything of the speaker. He thought back to the blond youth who had been the High King of Ireland when a pirate invaded, turning the settlements red and orange with blood and flame.
‘Come and see if you have more luck lighting the fire,’ he said, keen to put eyes on this boy. ‘I have bread and cheese enough to share.’
‘The hag would be better,’ the boy said as he walked into the quickly darkening glade. ‘Better with a fire than I will ever be. Or you, come to that.’
Genonn relaxed. Whoever the boy was, he was barely into adolescence, tall, gangly, no threat.
‘A fire is a fire, regardless who lights it,’ Genonn said with a smile.
‘Watch who you call hag, bodalán. I won’t tell you again,’ threatened the old lady who followed the boy. She was waving a heavy stick for emphasis. Genonn could see how Lee would feel a rap with it for days.
The gloominess hid any detail of the speakers. All he could see was one was a young male and the other an old woman, cowled and hooded, protection from the cold, he supposed. Genonn stood, stamped his feet, and rubbed his upper arms. He could no longer see his breath steaming.
‘A fire would be most welcome. As I said, I can offer you hospitality. There is bread and cheese in my bag. As soon as the fire is lit, you can help yourselves.’
‘Don’t fret, old man. Hag’ll have a fire going in no time. Ow,’ the last because true to her threat, the woman had hit him. ‘Ow. Why the second rap?’
‘To be sure,’ said, as she began bustling around the glade, gathering the drier wood, taking kindling from a sack on her back.
‘Nothing easier than lighting a fire,’ cackled as she set about striking her flint. Genonn sighed when a few tendrils of hope curled up from the kindling. ‘Nothing easier,’ repeated while leaning in to blow the embers into flames.
When the fire gave enough light for him to see, Genonn could not believe what his eyes were showing him. A young Macc Cecht had returned from the dead, not a young Conaire.
‘So, tell me why I should believe you are son of Conaire.’
‘Can you not see the reincarnation sitting opposite?’ Niamh scoffed. ‘You won’t sit there and tell me he ain’t the spit.’
‘He has a look of Macc Cecht. Lee Flaith’s father was High King Conaire, not Macc Cecht.’
‘Aye. And Macc Cecht was the High King’s da, so he was.’
Genonn shook his head, trying to see the truth of the woman’s words in her face, but her cowl and the shadows thrown by the fire revealed nothing. Her words did not make much sense to him. Macc Cecht was the king’s champion. How could he be his father? When he voiced his doubts, Niamh laughed and shook her head, staring into the flames.
‘I am the son of Conaire,’ the boy said. ‘I was at Da Derga’s hostel. When it was all but over, Macc Cecht took me out through a culvert.’
It sounded to Genonn as though he was repeating something by rote. There was no intonation. No expression. As if someone had told him what to say and then beat it into him. He gazed at the cudgel lying beside the crone and wondered if it had more of a function than just teaching the boy manners.
‘Macc Cecht died at the battle, ambushed on the rise at the back of the vale,’ Genonn said. While running like a coward, he did not add. ‘Where were you when he died?’
‘He took me deep into the forest. We found Niamh in a clearing sitting beside a fire just like this one. She took me so Macc Cecht could return to the battle and defend my father.’
‘Aye. Knew who he was, too. Although the warrior was upset to hear it. Almost hit me when I called him granddad. Not sure if he was conscious of ageing or angry about me knowledge.’
‘How could you know Macc Cecht was the king’s father?’ Genonn asked fighting with his urge to dismiss the claims out of hand.
‘No faith, you youngsters,’ Niamh said, turning his frown to a smile. No one had referred to him as a youngster for many a year. ‘I’m old, it’s true. Sometimes think me back is trying to become me front, but these old eyes were ever strong. The one was like a slightly distorted image of the other, as though reflected in a curved copper bowl. Any fool could have seen the parentage. Besides, I knew Meas Búachalla and she told me who she’d lain with.’
Genonn took out a hunk of bread and chewed on it thoughtfully. If Lee had returned from the dead, it could resolve many problems. The Five Kingdoms needed a High King to unite them. Hard times were pressing on the borders. The Romans had subjugated the Gauls and invaded Alba twice. The Romans are coming was Cathbadh’s oft-spoken prophecy. Only time stood as a defence against the coming invasion. Conchobar Mac Nessa was no longer a practical candidate, not after the two armies watched him run from battle.
‘What brings you to my fire, Niamh?’ he asked.
‘This is my fire, Druid. Left in your own care, you’d be freezing your magairlí off, cursing not paying attention to woodcraft when training on Ynys Môn.’
‘That is a point fairly given,’ he nodded, the image causing a smile to crease his face.
‘You might make a good justice of the people, but you’re a useless woodsman, so y’are.’
‘You know me, Niamh?’
‘Course I know you. I was bringing the brat to Dún Dealgan. Heard your da was there for the funeral of Mac Roi. Thought to bring this one back to where he belongs. Saw you on the road. Decided to stop by and say hello.’

The Magic of Wor(l)ds