The Gray Isles

The Gray Isles Cover Art

The Gray Isles is the second book in the Chronicles of Ealiron, a heroic fantasy series that revolves around an assassin called Lorth of Ostarin.

In the Gray Isles, a northern realm cloaked in legends and storms, lives a secret. For thousands of years it lay in the Otherworld, known only in the imaginations of sailors. Now, it has surfaced; first to Eadred, a wizard banished by his kind after being cursed by a witch; and then to Hemlock, a fisherman’s son orphaned by the sea. When their paths collide, a change is set into motion that the heavens watch with dread; for the legends tell, it heralds the birth of an immortal and the death of the realm.

Lorth of Ostarin is a formidable wizard with a turbulent past. An elite assassin and servant of the old powers, he is given a mission by his masters to question Eadred, a high-ranking wizard banished for breaking the codes of his order. Lorth arrives in a fog of eerie impressions to find both Eadred and Hemlock missing, a mystery that swiftly deteriorates into a manhunt that plunges Lorth into a tricky world of visions, secrets, legends, and island politics.

Some secrets are best kept hidden, and madness often hides wisdom. In his quest to lift a curse responsible for his fall and subsequent exile, Eadred has gathered great knowledge of Hemlock’s origins. Through him, Lorth reaches the sobering conclusion that Hemlock is not what he seems. Unfortunately, Lorth is not the only one who has discovered Hemlock’s secret. Racing time, he must bare his sword against an army, violate discretion and risk his own stature in order to free Hemlock from an otherworldly fate before the forces of earth and sea are unleashed upon the mortal world.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Second Edition
Novel, 170 pages
Can be read as a standalone story.
Ebook includes a Glossary and a link to Maps.
Glossary
Excerpt
Map of Ealiron: Sourcesee and East
Map of Ealiron: The Gray Isles

Add to Goodreads

“Wow. Gorgeous. Highly recommended.” – Amazon Customer Review (See Entire Review)

“F.T. McKinstry has a lyrical voice that suits the ancient magic she describes. The majesty of the gods and mystical forces of the novel entranced me…” – David Lee Summers, Editor of Tales of the Talisman and author of Owl Dance

“The Gray Isles is a very tight and compelling tale of suspense on rocky shores and the high seas.” – Alex Willging, Mr. Rhapsodist

“The strength of this novel lies in its descriptions of Hemlock’s psychological states as he undergoes his psychic changes. It also abounds in excellent descriptions of emotions and sensations.” – Michael D. Smith, author of the Jack Commer Series

“The Gray Isles is an incredible mystery set in an incredible mythical land. Its story captivated and enthralled me from beginning to end.” – Aimee at redheadedbooklover (See Entire Review)

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

© F.T. McKinstry 2017. All Rights Reserved.

The Source

The Source, by F.T. McKinstry

Greetings on this Winter Solstice!

The shortest day of the year captivates the imagination and connects us to a universal truth that’s often easy to forget in the throes of life. A seed in the earth about to germinate, a flash of inspiration in the depths of despair, light emerges from the Void.

The winter solstice brings living things to an instinctual awareness of the Source. The moment the shift happens there is a spark, a sigh, a ray of hope. The days will now begin to lengthen. Little wonder this is a time of celebration. No matter how dark it gets, the light always comes, usually when the darkness is complete.

The Hunter is Gone

Being creative and somewhat broody — ok that’s an understatement, how about Underworldish — I’m a seasoned veteran in the Dark Night of the Soul. As many times as I’ve stood before the abyss, each time is always the very first time, as if I’ve never done it before. It never ceases to amaze me, the Void’s powers of resilience and renewal. “But this time is different,” I say. “No light can come out of this.” Hel knows it’s no different. It’s always the same. Light comes from the darkness.

This finds its way into my art: novels, stories, poetry, paintings, gardening, music, aquariums — it’s everywhere. I stare into the abyss every time I type a word, hold a brush to a canvas or put a seed into the dirt. I listen to death metal looking for a glint of the sublime. I fret over my seedlings in the greenhouse one moment and mercilessly pull weeds from the ground the next. I stand in awe each 21st of December, like a votary of the Dark Night, waiting for the light I know will come. The sun is reliable, after all.

“Only wizards and hunters know the true meaning of darkness.” – From The Hunter’s Rede

“Gardens are made of darkness and light entwined.” – From The Winged Hunter

“In the dark, a call to love; in the light, a bridge.” – From “The Fifth Verse“, Wizards, Woods and Gods

“Where the heart yearns, there is the point of Mystery. Though the Old One holds in her arms the seeds of new awareness, healing and light, she cannot be seen or understood by the seed itself.” – From Water Dark

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Ealiron Glossary Terms: Loerfalos

Welcome to Ealiron Glossary Terms, a series of posts in which I discuss fantasy terms in Chronicles of Ealiron: Terms and Places, the online glossary for the series. Today’s term is loerfalos.

loerfalos (lo ER vah los): In Aenspeak, “serpent of green darkness.” A very large, immortal dragon-like creature that lives in the northern seas. A First One. Always female. See also First One.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Loerfalos

When the moon stares dark, she sees true;
Beneath the surface, green and blue.
Living darkness births the light;
Out of sight, out of sight. – From
The Gray Isles

Also called the Mistress of the Sea, the loerfalos is, to most folks in the world of Ealiron, a legend. The Keepers of the Eye, wizards who generally know better, call her a First One, an immortal created by a union between the Old One and a god named Om, the creator of Ealiron himself.

Mistress of the Sea, by F.T. McKinstry

Mistress of the Sea

The loerfalos is a creature of the Divine Feminine, and the sea is her domain. An awesome force, vast, mysterious and mostly unseen, the sea is a metaphor par excellence for the Old One, the primeval void from which all things come. A creature of the Otherworld, the loerfalos moves between dimensions, making her elusive and unbelievable. This is typical of the Otherworld, as it exists above the time-space matrix. The appearance of beings such as gods or immortal creatures bears a quality of the unreal because Others are not bound to the structures of the physical dimension. To mortals, they don’t make sense. Like dreams.

Annihilation, by F.T. McKinstry

Annihilation

The sailors of Ealiron’s northern seas are a superstitious lot and wouldn’t dare to speak of the Mistress as a mere legend. But in places like the Gray Isles, the boundaries between truth and legend are as blurred as an autumn fog. In a port tavern on a busy night one might hear many yarns which can be chalked up to rumors, the weird nature of the sea or too much whisky; but in truth, seeing a loerfalos is exceedingly rare. Wizards maintain that her appearance heralds transformation on a large scale…usually unpleasant. For this reason, sighting her is considered most inauspicious.

Nightshade by the Sea

Nightshade by the Sea

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

In The Gray Isles, Book Two in the Chronicles of Ealiron, the Mistress of the Sea makes numerous appearances as she takes an unheard-of interest in a fisherman’s son surrounded by tragedy, mystery and dreams. Enter a powerful wizard on a routine mission and an assassin with a broken mind and the realm is faced with annihilation at the hands of the Otherworld.

In The Riven God, Book Four in the Chronicles of Ealiron, the Mistress assumes the mantle of the Destroyer, the darkest aspect of the Old One, to protect and avenge an ancient wrong hidden in the Otherworld by a god.

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Ealiron Glossary Terms: The Old One

Welcome to Ealiron Glossary Terms, a new series of posts in which I’ll discuss fantasy terms in Chronicles of Ealiron: Terms and Places, the online glossary for the series. Today’s term is Old One.

Old One: The primordial goddess of nature, life, death, and transformation. Formlessness, Void. Often referred to as Maern, Aenspeak for “mother.” Unknowable in her true form, but perceived by all structural consciousness in terms of feminine aspects: e.g., maiden, mother, crone. See also Destroyer.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Old One

Where the heart yearns, there is the point of Mystery. Though the Old One holds in her arms the seeds of new awareness, healing and light, she cannot be seen or understood by the seed itself. – From Water Dark

The Old One is based on the concept of the Triple Goddess, a being that comprises three aspects of the Divine Feminine integrated as one: Maiden, Mother and Crone. These aspects exist and are manifested in all things, whether nature, events or the shadows of the psyche. In the world of Ealiron, wizards govern balance in the realms and gods walk among them; but both mortals and immortals revere the Old One as sovereign. While referred to as a deity, she is more like a force underlying all things. She is inexorable. Life always comes, it preserves itself to its own expression, and all things die. She is the power by which consciousness knows itself.

Maiden

She was the first woman, the only woman, the one all women knew. She was as pure as the first breath, soft as flowers and fresh cream as she yielded to him, her cry blowing through the tree in the swirling language of the lair as he broke through her maidenhead and into the eternal warmth and safety of a mother’s womb. – From The Winged Hunter

The Maiden emerges from the Void as new: birth, spring, desire, unfolding. She is the individuality of a bud, an egg or a fresh idea, innocent of darkness. Her light shines like a beacon attracting its own demise, as the cycle begins.

© F.T. McKinstry

The Maiden

Mother

She was all cycles, all changes, all movements in the shapes of waves, circles, wells, and caves protecting the wounded. – From The Winged Hunter

The Mother is the abundance of life. She nourishes, grows, heals and protects. She is the exuberance of a blooming garden in full summer, the blush and glow of pregnancy, the instinct of a mother protecting her offspring and the healing of a warrior’s wounds.

Echinacea, by F.T. McKinstry

Echinacea

Crone

The Destroyer curled her body with supple grace, caressing the depths. She moved up towards the shimmering surface in a silent spiral, hungry and inexorable. To be worthy of providing a vessel in which to hide her child, these mortals would surrender to the forces that gave him life. – From The Gray Isles

The Crone is the Unknown, the Void, Formlessness, that from which all things come and to which all things must return, from a blade of grass to a galaxy. Hers is the power of death, transformation, rebirth and regeneration. All things must pass through the darkness to know the light, and it is usually through her that one can perceive the aspects of the Old One as inseparable. There can be no birth without death; no protection without swords; no healing without destruction; and no innocence that cannot fall. Likewise, there can be no destruction without rebirth. Every phase of life depends on the other.

The Old One, by F.T. McKinstry

The Old One

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Old One appears in one shape or another throughout the Chronicles of Ealiron and many of the short stories in Wizards, Woods and Gods.

 
© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Maps of Ealiron

Long ago in a life far away, I began conjuring up the world of Ealiron. As it emerged from the mists, I sketched maps. This was useful for figuring out where things were relative to each other, how far, in what kind of landscape, etc. In time these drawings grew and became more complex. Writing the stories helped to draw the maps; and drawing the maps helped to write the stories. This is a fascinating thing about art and writing. They nourish each other.

I also dabbled in Celtic art, and enjoyed embellishing my maps with it.

Sourcesee and West

The first map came with Book One, The Hunter’s Rede. This story takes place in the Ostarin Mountains, which sprawl across western Sourcesee between the borders of Faerin and Tarth. Our hero, Lorth of Ostarin, is plying his trade as an assassin in the watery realm of Tarth when an eerie summons prompts him to defy his royal employers and return to his homeland. He finds it overrun by a cruel Faerin warlord who is set upon casting down everything Lorth holds dear…or so we think.

Ealiron: Sourcesee and West

Ealiron: Sourcesee and West (click to zoom)

Sourcesee and East; The Gray Isles

In Book Two, The Gray Isles, we journey east to an archipelago of backwater isles roughly a thousand miles east of Sourcesee. The Gray Isles are steeped in mystery and legends, most of which are not legends at all but the frightening truth. The first map shows the Gray Isles relative to Sourcesee and the realms south over the seas.

Ealiron: Sourcesee and East

Ealiron: Sourcesee and East (click to zoom)

The second map shows the isles themselves. This one includes close-ups of the places where this story happens: Urd, home to an ancient conservatory for the Keepers of the Eye, wizards who maintain balance in Ealiron; and Mimir, the ruling seat of the isles. Here lives the Master of Wychmouth, a vain wizard of the Keepers’ highest order, who nearly sees the realm destroyed by one of the aforementioned legends itself…which you’ll notice skulking in the water just below the isle of Urd (no coincidence, this).

The Gray Isles, by F.T. McKinstry

Ealiron: The Gray Isles (click to zoom)

Sourcesee

The map for Book Three, The Winged Hunter, focuses on the realm of Sourcesee. This story involves the citadel of Eyrie, the ruling seat of the Keepers of the Eye, in the southeast; and Loralin Forest, five hundred miles northeast of Eyrie. In Loralin, near the village of Crowharrow, lives an old wizard in his domain of Muin, an ancient castle shadowed by an immortal’s curse on the women in the old wizard’s bloodline. This immortal, a ferocious yet beautiful creature, lives in the Sioros Mountains northeast of Loralin, which are named after him.

Ealiron: Sourcesee, by F.T. McKinstry

Ealiron: Sourcesee (click to zoom)

The Isle of Tromb

Book Four, The Riven God, happens in two places: southeastern Sourcesee, in the realm between Eyrie and the port city of Caerroth (see Ealiron: Sourcesee, above); and the island of Tromb in the Gray Isles (see Ealiron: The Gray Isles, above). In this story we delve into the mysteries of the Keepers’ domain and the shadows of a remote northern isle steeped in old magic and hiding a terrible secret that brings the wizards to war. Here is a snarly little sketch of western Tromb, scene of the action. (I haven’t inked it yet…it’s on my list.)

Sketch of Western Tromb

Sketch of Western Tromb (click to zoom)

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Chronicles of Ealiron includes four standalone heroic fantasy novels that follow the exploits of Lorth of Ostarin, an assassin and wizard who serves the old powers.

Maps are accessible online through the “Chronicles of Ealiron” drop-down menus and the “Maps of Ealiron” menu, both on the sidebar of this page; and on the URL pages for each book. You’ll also find links in Chronicles of Ealiron: Terms and Places.

Happy journeys.

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The Summer Solstice

Rose Moon, by F.T. McKinstry

Rose Moon is a traditional name given to a full moon in Midsummer.

The son of the King of the Moy in Midsummer
Found a girl in the greenwood;
She gave him black fruit from thornbushes.
She gave him an armful of strawberries on rushes…

— From Myles Dillon, Early Irish Literature

Rosa Rugosa

Rosa rugosa

In ancient times the sun played a divine role, being the source of life and the origin of the festivals that mark the quadrants of the year. On the summer solstice the sun is at its peak before its descent into darkness. In the north where I live, the longest day has a visceral quality. The mountains and valleys are lush and teeming with life that seems to sigh as the day turns, bringing a sense of completion. Before long the afternoon shadows will lengthen, the leaves will fly and the nights will grow cold as the sun withdraws for another winter.

I keep part of the sun in my heart on this day so that in winter, when it’s twenty-five below zero and the sun feels like it’s in another dimension (when it shines at all), I have hope.

The power of the seasons fascinates me and finds its way into my stories. The warmth and power of Midsummer has a special place in The Winged Hunter, Book Three in the Chronicles of Ealiron. This story revolves around a wizard’s hall called Muin in the heart Loralin Forest. The Hall of Muin is a Sun Key, or solsaefil in the wizard’s tongue. The design of the hall, including its layout and the placement of crystals in odd locations, uses the Waeltower, a tall, faceted garnet tower that focuses earth energy, to direct the light of the sun into geometric patterns that illuminate physical locations. The Sun Key marks seasonal events such as solstices and equinoxes.

On one particular Midsummer night, the summer solstice aligns with the Rose Moon and this opens a portal to the Old One, a primordial goddess of nature, life, death, and transformation. By the power of the Sun Key, a gate is projected into the woods on the south side of the hall. It is said that what happens there depends on the heart of the perceiver. Midsummer corresponds to the maternal aspect of the Old One, she who nurtures, grows, gives birth. Gardens bloom and flourish. In this story everyone has something to hide and something to heal, and the Rose Moon illuminates the landscape to powerful, transformative and devastating ends.

For more information about this and other wizardly things, check out Chronicles of Ealiron, Terms and Places.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Winged Hunter, Cover ArtThe Winged Hunter, Book Three in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

Tansel is a gardener with a healer’s hand. Fey, they call her.
Her aunt, a dabbler in hedge witchery, calls her cursed.
To the most powerful wizards in the land, she is an enigma.

 
 
© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The Rites of Hawthorn

Blooming Hawthorn Tree

A lovely hawthorn tree grows by my house, in the woods near a small pond. For most of the year it blends with the surroundings, a tangle of shadows and light. But when it blooms, it takes on an otherworldly presence.

A Druid sacred tree, the hawthorn is traditionally associated with the realm of Faery. With its thorns and red berries it has a fearsome reputation for giving power to the spoken words of Druids and witches. Its berries, leaves and flowers were used to treat heart conditions. It is said that where a lone hawthorn grows on a hill in proximity to a spring or a well, a doorway to Faery is near; and where it grows with oak and ash one may see faeries. A blooming hawthorn tree marks the official beginning of summer, the festival of Beltaine or May Day. As such the tree and its blooms are associated with fertility, weddings and maidenhood.

A warrior becomes strong by the scars on his body; a wizard becomes strong by the scars on his heart. The story of The Winged Hunter delves into the heart of a powerful wizard named Eaglin of Ostarin. Among other things he is a priest who serves a primordial goddess of birth, death and transformation. He is trained in the Rites of Hawthorn, through which he initiates maidens into the sexual mysteries. When one such initiation goes horribly wrong, he bears the scar for years. As it often goes with wizards, it takes a bloodthirsty immortal predator called a sioros to trick him into facing his dark side and healing the wound.

Shadows enveloped the palace of Eusiron as Eaglin stumbled from the trees to the lower gate. In the wavering light of a cresset, his mother stood, tall and dressed in black. Slowly, he dropped to his knees and stared through a shroud of tears at her hands holding a damp scrap of finery, pale as a maiden and stitched with flower-laden hawthorn boughs. “We found her in the river,” she said softly.

“But I did not—” he blurted, shattered by the news.

“You did not understand that you cast the shadow of a god.”

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Winged Hunter, Cover ArtThe Winged Hunter, Book Three in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

Tansel is a gardener with a healer’s hand. Fey, they call her.
Her aunt, a dabbler in hedge witchery, calls her cursed.
To the most powerful wizards in the land, she is an enigma.

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.