The Gray Isles

The Gray Isles Cover Art

Some fish stories should be taken seriously. Very seriously. Introducing the Second Edition of The Gray Isles, in which the legends of sailors and wizards collide in a tale of witchery, secrets, curses, and the birth of an immortal.

Revised and reformatted, this is Book Two of 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

Novel, 170 pages
Can be read as a standalone story.
Ebook includes a Glossary and a link to Maps.
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Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

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

The Wardens’ Order

Arcmael

Outpost, Book One in The Fylking.

Arcmael is a seer, an occupation thrust upon him by a royal father pledged to the arts of war. The sword was a preferred occupation for a firstborn heir, but Arcmael had no love for that. So he was stripped of his titles and exiled to a mysterious conservatory high in the northern mountains to learn how to see between the worlds.

Between the Worlds

Once trained, Arcmael became a warden in service to the Fylking, a warrior race who came from the stars nine thousand years ago to use the realm as an outpost from which to fight an ancient war. Immortal and unseen to all except those sensitive to the Otherworld, the Fylking live by the sword. To travel to and from Dyrregin and nearby star systems, the Fylking built the Gate, a portal shining like a sigil on the surface of the world.

By virtue of their stature in the dimensions of living beings, the Fylking had the ability to build the Gate using the natural materials of the world; however, their methods would have been terrifying to humans and created unnecessary complications. Though the Dyrregins were at that time greater in number and sophistication, they would not have understood a tower being built by sound or the higher laws of manifestation, let alone ten of them in specific places over the land. And so the Fylking, having the patience of the immortal, befriended humankind by creating the Wardens’ Order.

The Fylking taught their wardens the arts of interdimensional perception and the properties of light, energy, crystals and architecture. The wardens built the towers, watched over them with human eyes and maintained them over millennia, generations upon generations, gathering the relatively infinite energies of celestial bodies to provide a bridge for their immortal guests. In return the Fylking protected them, and gave them the honor of representing them to humankind. ~ From “The Arrival of the Fylking,” Outpost

For Arcmael, it is cruel irony to have only immortal warlords as guardians and companions–until sorcery and war engulf the land.

The Gate

Spanning the realm over 213 leagues, the Gate is built into a pentacle with a stone tower on each point and intersection. The towers gather light from the sun, moon and stars and focus it into a complex pattern of crystal arrays, providing an energy source. Starting from the northernmost point and going clockwise, the towers are called: Sif, Sol, Sin, Soc, Sae, Som, Sef, Sos, Sie, and Sor. In Fylking, these names refer to the patterns of openings in the tower walls, which are positioned to align with the cosmos.

Tower SefEach gatetower is manned by five elite Fylking warriors who watch over the realm and protect their interests there. Millennia after the Gate was built by the original wardens under the direction of the Fylking, the sea engulfed the granite shoals around one of the outer points, Tower Sef, isolating it from land. War took Tower Sie, a second outer point which stands in the realm of Fjorgin across the Njorth Sea.

Tower Sif stands on the northernmost point of the Gate in the Vale of Ason Tae. Called the Apex, Tower Sif is where the Gate merges with an array of other worlds on which the Fylking conduct their bloody business. As such, the Apex is the first line of defense, and as any warden will tell you, the High Fylking of Tower Sif are a nasty bunch with scant tolerance for mortal concerns.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

© F.T. McKinstry 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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

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Barnes & Noble
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Kobo
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© F.T. McKinstry 2017. 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 Ascarion, 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.

The Ubiquitous Corvid

Nightshade in Flight

A raven landed on the rock, released a deep-throated cry then rose into the air and wheeled away, blending with the night. The priestess watched his form against the stars until she could not see him anymore. Then she picked up the knife. ~ From Ascarion, Chapter One

I live in the woods, and my vegetable garden is fenced in to keep the wildlife from eating it. For two years now, some creature has maintained a tunnel to my well-stocked compost pile despite my best efforts to thwart it. I’ve never seen this mysterious sapper; it comes in the night. Amazingly, it doesn’t bother anything in the garden, so I concluded the compost is a good first line of defense. The beastie doesn’t bother to venture beyond it.

Edgar Watching over my garden with the patience of a plastic thing is a big black corvid. A puzzling ornament, he is big enough to be a raven but has the beak of a crow. He stands in a stately pose. I dubbed him Edgar. He doesn’t deter night raiders, blue jays, cabbage moths or mice. But he is good company.

In traditional animal lore, crows and ravens were given the honor of belonging to both the seen and the unseen realms. They are creatures of the hinterlands, mysterious, powerful and devious. This is a natural association given their intelligence, which is formidable. That these birds tend to accompany death also makes them ominous, both feared and revered by their ubiquitous presence on the carcasses of animals, the condemned, or fallen warriors. They are omens, heralds of death and bringers of information from the other side.

Winter Moon Raven, by F.T. McKinstryThe Vikings had great respect for ravens, and a symbiotic relationship with them similar to that of wolves, as the birds led them to prey and shared in the spoils. The Norse god Odin, the one-eyed, all-seeing god of war, magic and wisdom, keeps two ravens named Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) which fly over the land and whisper to him of all they see and hear.

These birds fascinate me to no end and they have found a special place in my work, both visual and literary. I have dedicated an art gallery to them, given their names to high-ranking wizards’ orders and made characters of them in their own right. One such character is a raven called Nightshade, who plays a major role in Ascarion, Book Four of the Chronicles of Ealiron.

Nightshade, by F.T. McKinstryNightshade is no ordinary raven, if any raven can be called that. Marked by a single white feather in her tail, she is a messenger kept by wizards for times when their powers of otherworldly communication do not serve. She does this on her own terms, however. Nightshade finds someone lost at sea without the help or instruction of her keepers; she disappears for days at a time on mysterious errands; has been known to hang about with war gods telling them who knows what; and even appears to one startled wizard as a warrior lost to memory.

In the following excerpt, an exiled princess lost at sea meets Nightshade for the first time.

She jumped as the squawking repeated outside. Gasping with pain, she pushed herself up and crept to the gaping crack between the hull and what used to be the cabin hatch. Clouds drifted across a hazy sky. The diluted orb of the sun shone like an eye shrouded by age.

A raven fluttered into view and alit on the broken mast.

“You,” Rhinne rasped. Something like this had awaked her earlier. The bird preened its glossy black feathers. It had one white feather in its tail. What was it doing out here? Rhinne pushed herself through the crack like a timid cat and scanned the horizon in every direction.

No land. Nothing.

The bird took off and flew out of sight. Rhinne had no clear references by which to mark the direction of its flight.

She lowered herself back into the cabin. Trust the water. She abruptly broke into laughter. She slammed her fists down and then shoved her face in her hands, laughing like a wild thing, tugging at her hair and rocking forward, clutching at her salt encrusted clothes. This was absurd. She had just died following the advice of a delusion and now a raven was harassing her. She was nothing but a weak, stupid creature that had been crushed by a bigger, stronger, smarter creature. So it was.

Three days passed.

In the clutches of hunger and thirst, rocking in the cycles of day and night and the swells and movements of the sea, Rhinne decided she was not dead, but living and stranded somewhere in the Sea of Derinth. At night, the gibbous moon told her that over a week had passed since her departure from Tromb. It rained once, giving her a brief respite from thirst. But her throat ached and every part of her body wept with too much noise.

She had seen the raven twice more; once at sunset the first day and again the day after, in the evening. She had not seen it since. Wherever it had come from, it undoubtedly knew she would die and planned to feast on her remains. She thought long and hard on how she might turn the tables, capture and eat it herself.

It had also occurred to her that the bleak creature served Ragnvald or Dore, and was giving them reports as to her whereabouts. Unfortunately, she had no bow or arrows, not even a knife. And a raven would not be easily ensnared.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Hooded crows also play a part in Ascarion. No one sees them coming, not even the one who summons them. But that’s another tale.

Ascarion Cover ArtAscarion, Book Four in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

An epic swords-and-sorcery tale of what the gods are willing to do for love.

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

Puss in Books

Puss in Boots

Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots) ~ Gustave Doré

“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.’ ~ Mark Twain

Hello, my name is Faith and I’m one dead mouse away from being a crazy cat lady.

It’s been said that cats lend themselves particularly well to writers. There’s something comforting about the presence of a cat, a divine connoisseur of languor and solitude. Cats are a soft touch in the void.

And writers of fantasy? Now we’re talking Muse. Cats are mysterious and reputed to prowl the boundaries of the Otherworld. Here cats can talk, do magical things or act as gods. They serve witches, wizards, even warriors. They provide beautiful metaphors for grace and implacability—just watch a cat stalk and kill some hapless creature. Exemplary.

Stalking Hemlock

Hemlock

As I can no more pass up this tempting morsel than a cat could ignore a little bird hopping on the windowsill, following are some cats that appear in my books and stories….

Sele is kept by the sailors of a merchant vessel called The Slippery Elm. They consider her good luck at sea. When a brooding assassin named Lorth secures passage, the sailors are counting on Sele to protect them. But cats have their own agendas. She forms a bond with Lorth, who likes animals, and keeps him company over his journey.

Radu

Radu

Scrat is inspired by a cat I once had named Radu. In classic style, Scrat belongs to a wizard. He does not employ her as a familiar or an Otherworld guide, but as a mouser and a friend. Scrat is later adopted by Lorth and comforts the assassin as no human can.

Mushroom rules the garden of a young woman named Tansel, who lives alone in the mountain forest of Loralin. When she and the cat are taken in by a powerful old wizard with some dark secrets, Mushroom has his work cut out for him. While prowling after a female in heat, Mushroom attracts the attention of a winged immortal predator set on Tansel’s heart. The cat flees like a ghost when things get ugly, of course.

Oona

Oona

Rosemary does more than catch mice, cause trouble or warm a wizard’s lap. She can sing to the stars, draw down the light and heal things. She can make caterpillars drop from a plant, knit the leg of a lame horse or bring a warrior from the brink of death. In one story, she helps a witch reclaim her humanity.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Sele and Scrat appear in The Hunter’s Rede, a story of one warrior’s transformation by the forces of war, betrayal, wizardry and love.

Mushroom appears in The Winged Hunter, a story of the perils of innocence, an immortal hunter’s curse and the long shadows of powerful wizards.

Rosemary appears in “Eating Crow,” a short story in the collection Wizard, Woods and Gods.

© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ascarion

Book Four in the Chronicles of Ealiron

In the world of Ealiron, it is known that wizards and gods rarely involve themselves in the affairs of mortals, preferring to gaze upon the starry tenets of their kind. They see war or the collapse of empires through the prism of change and transformation, leaving it alone as they would a leaf decaying on a forest floor. Everything has its time. But some troubles are not what they seem. On the isle of Tromb in the far northern realm of the Gray Isles, a rift has appeared in the timeline of the world. Cloaked beneath a turbulent monarchy, a storm, rumors of an evil god and the tears of a princess, it has gained the attention of both wizards and gods.

Rhinne, by F.T. McKinstryRhinne of Tromb, a lonely princess at odds with her own people, has old magic in her veins. Encouraged by her brother Wulfgar, a seasoned warrior, she is also good in a fight. This and a weary defiance of nameless hostility put her on the wrong side of a dark order of warlocks festering in the shadows of the realm. Accused of treason, Rhinne is forced to flee, pursued by the king’s assassins. Wulfgar is left to war believing his sister fallen, one of many who will die in the name of the old ways.

Far away, Lorth of Ostarin, a powerful wizard, an assassin and servant of the old powers, learns that something untoward is happening in the Gray Isles, where he has a dark history. When Rhinne is delivered into his hands under unlikely circumstances, he discovers she is not only being hunted by foreign assassins, but also has the ability to channel immortals. Wounded and distrustful as a feral cat, she slips from his protection and escapes into the wilds with the help of a god thought destroyed centuries ago. Only he knows her secrets, and he’s not telling.

Spring Moon Raven, by F.T. McKinstryWhen wizards get involved in war, the stakes tend to be high. Wulfgar arrives from overseas to the wizards’ citadel, heavy with grief and bearing a text that is the key to his sister’s silence. If discovered, this text will mean war with a god who has changed the timeline of the world to hide an evil deed involving Rhinne. Through a series of dangerous encounters with assassins, thieves, spies and seers, Rhinne, Wulfgar and Lorth return to Tromb accompanied by a mysterious army, a raven that is not what it seems and a war god with a private agenda. But the battle that awaits them is only subterfuge designed to hide their true intentions of casting down a devious entity whose very thoughts can plunge the world into horrific devastation.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Ascarion Cover ArtAscarion, Book Four in the Chronicles of Ealiron, Double Dragon Publishing.

An epic swords-and-sorcery tale of what the gods are willing to do for love.

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© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.