Authors: Jodi McIsaac
Tags: #A Thin Veil Novella
BEYOND THE PALE:
A Thin Veil Novella
Through the Door
Into the Fire
Among the Unseen
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2014 Jodi McIsaac
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Inkwood Communications
Cover design by Justin Sherwin @ firestain.ca
WARNING: This novella contains massive spoilers for
Through the Door
, the first book in the Thin Veil series. Do not read
Beyond the Pale
unless you have already read
Through the Door
. You have been warned!
BONUS! The first chapter of
Among the Unseen
(Book 3 in the Thin Veil series) is available as an exclusive sneak peek at the end of this novella.
AR get lum
Manannan mac Lir—
Man na non mac LEER
Sidhe (plural of sidh)—
Tír na nÓg—
TEER na NOGH
Toirdhealbhach MacDail re Deachai—
TUR a lakh mac DOLL ray DAW hai
Tuatha Dé Danann—
TOOa ha DAY DONN an
But let him once
Overstep what the city allows,
Tramp down the right or treat the law
Willfully, as his own word,
Then let this wonder of the world remember:
He'll have put himself beyond the pale.
The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles’
“I wish this day could last forever,” Kier sighed. She was lying on her back on the side of a hill, her blond hair splayed out in a halo, her crimson dress a sharp contrast to the bright green grass beneath her. Above was a cloudless sky, just starting to deepen into the purple hues of twilight.
Before her lay the land of Tír na nÓg, sparkling with magic and life. A silver river cut its dancing path through open meadows and dense forests. Mountains loomed in the distance, and the tall white spires of the Hall, the seat of the king, twisted into the sky. Beyond it lay the sea, a bright blue expanse that seemed without end.
From here, Tír na nÓg looked uninhabited. Most of the dwellings were underground, accessed through tree trunks and rocks and rivers. The inhabitants of this land, the Tuatha Dé Danann, tried to live as one with the world around them. They reveled in their home, taking joy in its beauty and—most of the time—its peacefulness.
“It is a day much like any other,” said her companion. “Why do you wish this one in particular should last?”
“I just have a feeling that things will not be same once my parents and the other Elders leave Tír na nÓg,” Kier answered. “Will you attend the Departing ceremony?”
“Of course,” he said, turning toward her with a sudden smile. She felt her heart speed up, just as it always did when he looked at her that way. “I would not miss the chance to see you dressed in your finest.”
Kier laughed, but her mood quickly darkened. “I will miss my parents. I wish they did not have to go.” She picked a deep purple flower from the grass beside her and brought it to her nose, inhaling deeply. The smell sent a rush of warmth through her body. When she set the flower back on the ground, small roots sprouted from the stem and began to burrow themselves back into the earth.
He pulled her in close and kissed the top of her head while both of them still lay in the grass. “All things must change with time,” he said. “I admit I do not understand why the Elders are leaving, unless there is something they are not telling us. But they have never been very easy to predict. Your parents love you in their own way. I’m sure they will miss you too.”
Kier wasn’t so sure about that, but she leaned into his embrace gratefully. “Why did it take me so long to find you?” she asked.
“I’ve been here the whole time,” he said. “It just took you a while to notice me. But I’ve noticed you for many years, my dear. I loved you before you even knew my name.”
“You didn’t even know me, not as more than a passing acquaintance,” she demurred.
“Only because your father thought I wasn’t good enough for you. And he’s right, in a way—no one is good enough for you. But I thought I at least deserved a chance at winning your heart. When I heard the Elders were planning to return to the Four Cities, I knew that I might finally have my chance.”
Kier smiled and blushed, her veins pumping with the thrill of new love. She had been involved with other men before him, of course, men she knew her father would find more “befitting her station” than her current lover. But never had she been with someone who piqued her interest so much. He was an enigma. Unlike the rest of their people, he did not have a special ability that set him apart. He could not control the wind or the waves. He could not speak to animals or plants, or make extraordinary music or art. He could not, like Kier, create and wield fire, nor could he move things with the power of his mind. He was perfectly ordinary, which in their society was extremely rare, almost unprecedented.
And yet Kier did not find him ordinary at all. He could converse easily on any topic with any member of their society, even the Elders—though her parents and their companions usually shunned him because of his low status and lack of ability. He debated his ideas and opinions with passion and eloquence, and could easily convince others of his way of thinking if they would only take the time to listen to him. He seemed to know everything there was to know about their land and their people. Kier could listen to him for hours, entranced, as he told her stories of the Tuatha Dé Danann that she had never heard before, not even from her parents. When they were together, he was gentle and kind, almost shy, and yet he burned with intense desire when they made love. There was something elusive about him, something mysterious. And she found it all an intoxicating, addictive blend.
“Tell me a secret,” she said on a sudden impulse.
“What kind of secret?” he asked.
“Something about yourself. Something I don’t know yet.”
“Hmm. I’ll have to think about it. You go first.”
“Me? I don’t have any secrets,” she laughed, and his eyes twinkled in response. She thought for a moment. There
one secret she could tell him. It wouldn’t be a secret for long anyway. “I overheard my parents talking about this… I don’t think they knew I was home.” She paused dramatically. “The Elders have closed the sidhe between here and Ériu. All of them.”
“What?” Her companion sat up suddenly, the question bursting from his lips like a snarl.
Kier frowned, and his face instantly regained its impassive expression. “I’m sorry,” he said. He pulled her into a sitting position beside him. “It’s just…such a surprise. When did this happen?”
“A few days ago,” she said. “They wanted to do it in secret because…”
“Because what?” he prompted.
“Well, I find this hard to believe, but they seemed to think Ériu is in danger from some of us. My father said there have been mutterings—threats against the humans. He believes some of our people will use the sidhe to hurt them. That’s why they didn’t tell anyone they were closing the sidhe; they didn’t want any troublemakers to slip through to Ériu before they could do it.” She leaned her head against his shoulder. “It doesn’t make sense to me. We’ve lived in peace with the humans for so long, and they’re such a harmless race. But I suppose it doesn’t much matter; hardly anyone goes there anymore. If what they say is true, it was a wise decision. I’ve never been to Ériu, though, and I wish I had been able to go before they closed the sidhe.”
He was quiet, and she was about to ask him if he disagreed with the Elders’ surprise decision when he smiled and said, “Now it’s my turn.”
Kier sat up straighter, anxious to start unraveling the enigma of her new lover.
“I know one of the reasons your father doesn’t think I am worthy of you is because he, like many others, believes I was not born with an ability, like your amazing gift with fire.” A sad smile flitted across his lips. “It’s made me a bit of an outcast, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Power is prized above all things among our people.”
“You know I don’t feel that way,” Kier interrupted. “I don’t care about any of that…”
He touched a finger to her lips to stall her protests. “I know,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I love you. You have an open heart. But here is my secret: I do have an ability.”
“What is it?” she asked.
He looked away. “It’s nothing I would wish on you…or anyone. I discovered it many years ago, when I was still a youth. I was hunting with some friends. To this day, I don’t know who loosed the fateful arrow, or how Aedan happened to be there…but it went clean through his heart. There was nothing we could do.”
Kier was leaning forward, her heart in her throat. “Did he…?”
“Die? Yes. But not right away. While the others ran to get help, I stayed with Aedan. I didn’t know any healing magic, none of us did. Aedan and I had been friends since childhood… I tried to stop the bleeding, but it wasn’t enough. He died, his head lying in my lap.”
“I’m so sorry,” Kier said, squeezing his hand.
“But that’s not the secret,” he continued. “The moment Aedan died, something strange happened. I felt…different. A mist rose up out of his body and surrounded me. Then it was like it was sucked inside. I didn’t know what it meant and I didn’t tell anyone. I was afraid. The next day, I discovered the truth about my ability. It horrified me…still does.”
“I don’t understand. What is it?” Kier asked.
“Your father is friends with Deaglán, is he not?” he asked. Kier nodded. “Aedan was Deaglán’s son, and they had the same ability: unbelievable strength. Aedan was stronger than the rest of us put together. The day after he died, I was in the forest. I felt responsible—it might have been my arrow that hit him, after all. We were all going to be questioned by the Elders. I was so angry, so scared, that I punched a tree trunk.” He looked at Kier, his eyes fearful and hopeful at the same time. “The trunk was as big around as the arm span of two men. My fist went straight through it, as though it were only a sack of grain.”
“How is that possible?” Kier asked, her mouth open.
“Don’t you see? I took Aedan’s ability. That is my gift…my curse. I can take on others’ abilities upon their death.”
Kier was stunned by this revelation. She had never before heard of such a power. How horrifying if it were true. “Perhaps your anger gave you temporary strength?”
“It wasn’t temporary,” he said. He stood up and walked over to a nearby boulder. Without appearing to expend any effort, he lifted it above his head. “I looked for an explanation, and finally found it—in the library.”
He dropped the boulder, and Kier felt the ground beneath her tremble. “You know my parents both died in the second battle of Mag Tuired, many years ago,” he said. “I was afraid to tell anyone what I suspected. I thought they would blame me for Aedan’s death, that they would think I killed him on purpose. So I started researching my family line, going more in depth than anyone ever had. I think Eolas, the librarian, suspected the truth. He’s probably the only one in our land who has amassed more knowledge than I have. He’s the one who led me to the story.”
“What story?” Kier asked, her face white.
“I’m not the first to have this ability. A great-great-aunt of mine had it too. But she didn’t abhor it like I do. She…exploited it.”
“What happened to her?”
“She was killed by her own family. They were terrified of her, as they should have been. Of course, they tried to bury the truth, and they almost succeeded. There are no records outside Eolas’s discovery. He told me about it, and cautioned me to tell no one, lest the same fate await me.”
“Do you mean…you’ve been this strong all the time, and yet you’ve never told anyone?”
“No one but you.”
“Why are you telling me now?”
“Because I want you to know who I truly am. I believe we have an amazing future together, Kier. The time will come when all will be revealed…but you should be the first to know so you can decide if you still want to be with me.”