Spoiler warning! Don’t read these if you haven’t yet read The Sixth Labyrinth!
“You’re hurting my ears, child. Where have you been?”
“Walking by the bay.”
“I wish you’d come back before dark, Sophie.”
“Because of the selkie?”
Eleanor laughed. “Because I don’t want you getting lost, or falling and hurting yourself.”
“Auntie, listen to me!”
“I saw it!”
“The selkie! It came out of the water and turned into a man.”
“Ah, well, it must have been a selkie then. What did he look like?”
“He was old. His hair was white. Long, like a king’s. He was tall.”
“And what did he do?” Eleanor pushed her great-niece into a chair and brought her a slice of orange marmalade cake.
“He went over to that old blackhouse by the bay.”
“Aye. He was greeting, Auntie!”
“Was he? And what did you do?”
“I watched and didn’t make a sound.”
“Aye, thank you. Olivia Ramsay says it’s bad luck to go to the beach at the full moon.”
“That’s a well-worn tale meant to get children home before dark.”
“She said anyone who does it is cursed. She said only fools walk on Glenelg’s beach during the full moon.”
“Olivia Ramsay has an imagination.”
“She said the selkie is her da’s brother.”
“So Curran Ramsay has a selkie brother, does he?”
“She says the selkie cries for the human girl he loved and lost.”
“Is that so?”
“Auntie, I don’t want to go home.”
“You must. If you never went home, your mam and da would miss you and be sad.”
“Like the selkie?”
“Aye. Like the selkie.”
“Why is it sad? Did it really lose its true love?”
“How would I know?”
“You know everything.”
“Oh, child, I wish I did.”
“You do know, though. I can tell. You look sad, too.”
“I can pity those who suffer, even when they might deserve it.”
The first of September became the traditional date for holding an annual charity fundraiser at Kilgarry for the orphan project, as the weather was generally beautiful and the Michaelmas daisies were in bloom. It soon became the social event throughout the surrounding Highland counties, drawing Curran’s wealthy friends and associates from Glasgow, Edinburgh, and even as far as London. Every year the guest list grew, until Glenelg had to build a new inn to accommodate those who couldn’t fit into Kilgarry. Extra help was hired from Fort William and Mallaig to assist with cooking, cleaning, and serving; musicians were brought in for the evening balls and dances, and the manor house nearly burst its seams with so many people.
The first of September 1883 cooperated with warm sunlight and gentle breezes. Pavilions and tables were set up around Kilgarry’s pond, near the old oak. Guests wandered in and out of the gardens, enjoying lemonade, tea, and whisky, and there was a great deal of food for anyone who was hungry, as well as horseback riding, hunting, fishing, archery, and of course the ballroom was in great demand every night. The ferryman was kept busy transporting explorers to Skye for sightseeing, and for the most intrepid, there was mountain climbing. Interspersed with all the entertainment were the speeches, promises, and donations.
Morrigan, Eleanor, and Diorbhail sat together upon cushioned chairs beneath the oak, a table between them holding lemonade and cakes.
“You haven’t taken your eyes off Mr. Abernathy,” Morrigan said to Eleanor, only half teasing. “Are you going to marry him and leave us?”
With one of her signature snorts, she replied, “The most he’ll get from me is a night or two. He is rather handsome.”
“Eleanor!” Morrigan pretended shock then giggled with Diorbhail at the midwife’s brazen ways, but a moment later, she winced and rubbed the side of her stomach.
As usual, Eleanor didn’t miss it, and questioned with raised eyebrows.
“It’s fine,” Morrigan said. “Just my bones being stretched. I remember this from Olivia and Eirene.”
“It won’t be long now,” said Diorbhail. “We’ll have another wee lass to spoil.”
“I do think Curran might want a son. Can you arrange that?”
“No,” Diorbhail said with a wide smile. “You’ll only ever have girls. Girls and more girls. If you were having all the babies, the world would die out for lack of boys.”
At that moment wee Seaghan ran up to them, nearly falling as he hadn’t quite mastered running yet, and placed his fists on Morrigan’s knees. His right hand was stuffed with daisies, and he turned up his face, seeking approval.
“Are these for me?” she asked, taking them.
He nodded. She picked him up and placed him on her lap. “You’re a grand lad,” she said, kissing his cheek, and he nestled in as best he could against her.
To think what might have become of him, if he hadn’t been found two years ago in that awful place in London, barely six weeks old, sold by his father. Now he lived at Kilgarry, and had twenty other orphans for playmates, along with the local children, and since he’d had no name, he was called Seaghan in honor of Morrigan’s father, even though hearing it made her suffer his loss all over again.
Seaghan’s body was found, stuffed under a pile of rocks, a week after the events on Mingulay. Someone had murdered him with a knife, and a local man went missing right after, but he was never found, and the investigation languished. Right when Morrigan learned she had a true father, he was taken from her; not being able to speak to him as his child remained an unrelenting anguish and regret.
Soon Sophie joined them. Eleanor’s great-niece was a little lady, at ten. She and Olivia were the same age and the best of friends, though very different, with Olivia being a wild boyish child who, more often than not, could be found in the branches of the oak rather than sitting demurely beneath it. Sophie came to Glenelg every summer at her own insistence to stay with her aunt. She never wanted to go home to Edinburgh, though she loved her mother and father, and often wept for missing them. Her dream of a perfect world was one in which her papa agreed to move to Glenelg.
She perched on the edge of a chair and sipped tea.
“What is it?” Eleanor asked, in her usual perceptive way.
The girl didn’t answer immediately, but pursed her lips and frowned.
“Well?” Eleanor pressed.
“Livvy’s telling that story again,” the child said in her soft Edinburgh brogue.
“Which one?” Morrigan asked. Olivia loved making up tales. She was turning into Kilgarry’s own seanchaidh.
Sophie would only say that she wasn’t supposed to tell, but she hated the story because Livvy always refused to give her a part in it.
“Where have those lasses gone off to?” Diorbhail asked then. “I haven’t seen any of them in an hour.”
It was true. There was no sign of the local girls. “We’d best find them,” Morrigan said, “before they get up to mischief, if they haven’t already.”
Sophie wanted to stay, have cake, and admire the pretty dresses, so the three cronies left Seaghan with her and went off in search of the missing girls. They weren’t at the pond, nor the walled garden, or the gazebo. Guests stopped them to chat and ask after Morrigan’s health as she neared her ninth month of pregnancy, hampering their search. Lily found them and reported happily that Sir John Beechforth had promised to donate a building in Soho that had been in his family, unused, for years. She whispered that the old sot hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her bosoms, so she credited them for the prize.
Eventually, the three took note of a striped pavilion set some distance away from the others, and Diorbhail remembered that Olivia had asked Kyle and Logan to erect it for her and her friends.
They couldn’t see the children as they walked up, but heard a flurry of female chatter, and paused outside the pavilion to listen.
“How many sisters do you have?”
Morrigan recognized the voice of Rachel’s daughter, Jean.
“I don’t know,” she heard Olivia reply. “Lots.”
“Am I there?” This was asked by Eirene, Olivia’s younger sister.
“Of course you’re there,” Olivia said impatiently. “I told you already. The new sister will be there too. All my sisters will be there, all, from the first.”
“But how, if they’re dead?” This was Jean again. Though she was only nine months older than Olivia, she often expressed disdain for what she called the younger girl’s silliness.
Olivia huffed. “The lady says they’ll come back to life and we’ll be together.”
“People don’t come back to life,” Jean said.
“My sisters will. The lady promised.”
“How can they be your sisters? Your mam’s only had the two of you.”
“I want to dream of my other sisters!” Eirene said plaintively.
“Maybe you’re not old enough,” Olivia said. “I only started having the dream two months ago.”
“Tell us their names again,” Jean asked. She sounded disbelieving, like she thought she might catch Olivia in a mistake and prove the tale was make-believe.
Olivia gave a sigh and Morrigan heard a whimper, probably from Violet’s baby, Grace. Olivia loved that child, and was always running off with her.
As she began to speak, a large eagle landed on a nearby rowan branch. It made no sound but cocked its head and leveled the women with a fierce stare.
“There’s Romy and Claire and Evie. There’s… oh aye, Rosabel. And the ones with the unco names— Xanthe and Pasithea. And Iphiboë. And Alecto. And the new baby. The lady said her name will be Willow.”
Morrigan had sagged against Diorbhail as Olivia spoke the first three names. Her legs felt too weak to support her.
“Alecto,” Diorbhail whispered.
Morrigan took in a breath and straightened. The three women regarded each other, their eyes shining, and reached out, placing their hands on each other’s shoulders, creating a perfect circle.
The jeweler frowned upon seeing the items. He spent a long time studying them with his magnifier, turning them over repeatedly.
“What is it, Philip?” Curran finally asked. “Are they sham? Stolen?”
“No, Mr. Ramsay. Well, I know nothing about any theft. I do not believe they are imitation. Excuse me, sir.”
He went through a curtain into the back and soon returned with another man, who also inspected the knife and necklace carefully.
They spoke together in low, rapid Greek. Curran understood only a few words, having lost most of the Greek he’d learned at university.
“Will one of you tell me what is so interesting?” he interrupted.
The two men exchanged glances. Philip, whose surname, Curran suddenly remembered, was Christopoulos, said, “I believe these are ancient, truly ancient, but I would like the opinion of an expert. There is a fellow connected to the new museum in Athens, the National Archaeological Museum. With your permission, I would like to take these items there for him to examine.”
“You want to take them to Athens? I don’t know. They belong to my wife. It took her years to agree to this appraisal.”
The men exchanged another glance.
“You aren’t telling me everything,” Curran said.
“How did she acquire these pieces, may I ask?”
“They were gifts.”
“From a collector, perhaps?”
“No. Just a man.”
Christopoulos stared at him, frowning deeply.
“They are stolen. Is that what you are not saying?”
“No, no, Mr. Ramsay. Please forgive me. It is odd, of course, how pieces of such antiquity could spend years in… your wife’s possession? These should be in a museum.”
“And you have now suggested that twice. What guarantee do I have, Philip, that they will be returned if you take them to Athens?”
The door at the front of the shop opened just then and Morrigan came in, flanked by Diorbhail.
“There you are.” Curran held out his hand.
She came forward, clasping his hand and smiling at the two men behind the counter. “We’re finished with our errands,” she said, and perused the knife and necklace. “Well? Is there a verdict?”
“Not really. These men want to take your antiquities to Athens.”
Morrigan did not react as he’d thought she would. She blinked, but her smile didn’t falter. “They are wonderful, aren’t they?” she said.
“Yes, Lady Eilginn,” Philip said. “In fact, they are astonishing.”
The other man came out from behind the counter. “I am Spiro Michelakis, Mrs. Ramsay,” he said. Philip sounded like a native Londoner, but Spiro’s Greek accent was pronounced.
She held out her hand and he took it briefly. “May I tell you about our new museum in Athens?” he asked.
“There’s a new museum? I would be very interested,” she replied, and the two walked over to another counter, where he brought out several cases as he spoke to her.
“Mr. Ramsay, sir,” Philip said, “Greece has a moral right to her artifacts.”
“You are certain these are Greek.”
“The meander on the necklace suggests it might be Cretan. There have been other items found there with this pattern.”
“Does that mean something to you, Mr. Ramsay?”
“How was the knife broken?”
“It was dropped. I suppose that hurts its value.”
“I suspect nothing could harm the value of these pieces.” He picked up the knife, very carefully, and ran his thumb over the sheared-off edge. “Obsidian,” he murmured. “The hilt is ivory.”
“My wife believes the figure is Athene.”
“Oh yes, no doubt of it. The owl and the aegis tell us this.” His eyes filled with tears.
“Philip?” Curran said. “What have I done?”
“Oh, sir, it’s just that… look here. You can see the tool marks. I feel certain I am holding something in my hands that was created thousands of years ago, in my country, by men just like me, perhaps. Artisans. I feel them, you see, in my flesh. I feel I am looking through their eyes as they carve this image. I can almost smell their forge fires.”
Curran didn’t know what to say. It was odd, for he too sometimes saw flashes of things when he held the necklace and the knife.
“Is your wife knowledgeable about our history?” Philip asked.
“Very much so.”
Morrigan returned to his side. “Curran, I have an idea. You know how Livvy has always wanted to see an excavation. Let’s gather up the weans and go with these gentlemen to Athens and see their museum for ourselves.”
“We can take the lasses to see Schliemann’s Troy and his other excavations, at Mycenae, and Tiryns.”
“I would be honored to escort you to Crete,” Spiro said as he joined them. “Sixteen years ago, part of a building was dug up beneath a mound there, and many of our antiquarians believe this is the actual palace of Knossos— the legendary place named in Homer’s Odyssey! And as I was just telling your wife, sir, I am most intrigued by the pattern on your necklace, for it matches the pattern on coins that have been discovered nearby.”
Morrigan’s excitement was clear to see, as was Diorbhail’s. Curran felt excitement rise inside him as well, almost as though he was contemplating going home.
His wife was looking at him in that way she had, communicating without words.
He realized he was nodding.
So be it. They would embark on a new pilgrimage— this time with their children.
“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me.” ~~~~Robert Louis Stevenson
In The Child of the Erinyes, a series dealing with reincarnation, only one of the main characters retains memories from previous lives. Because the others come back with a clean slate, so to speak, I’ve had to work out how they find each other in every new experience.
One of several methods I use is the aura. It’s part of what draws the triad and keeps them together.
Auras are interesting phenomena. Described variously as “a breath,” “an emanation,” “a vibration,” and an “electromagnetic field,” these are colors that circle around people, invisible to most of us, but seen or sensed by some. Individual colors mean rather specific things, though there isn’t always agreement on what.
Brilliant, clean colors envelop people who are farther along on the spiritual trail, “higher beings,” while muddy, dark colors point to trouble—a person mired in distress, hate, or sickness.
Thoughts and feelings can alter the color and density of the aura. When colors flash and change swiftly, it’s an alert that thoughts and emotions are in flux.
Generally, auras are made up of a mix of colors, though one will be dominant.
Since our auras come in a wide panorama from subtle pastel to blazing primary, I needed to understand these characters and their desires/motivations on a deep level in order to choose the most appropriate aura. Here are the ones I used and why.
Stranraer, Scotland, 1872: the first time Morrigan Lawton sees the stranger Curran Ramsay, he is standing inside a train getting ready to step off, and is in shadow. She’s looking up at him from the outside.
“A mist of color surrounded the being on the step, like a rainbow glimmering through watery clouds, but this rainbow offered only the blue spectrum, with hints of violet.”
Blue signals a person who is visionary, intuitive, and sensitive. But an aura isn’t simply “blue.” There are different shades of blue, and Curran (Menoetius from the Bronze Age) has them all in abundance. His aura communicates his ability to accept others and love deeply. Vivid blue tells us he is generous and spiritual. Indigo deepens that. Violet reveals that he is idealistic, even somewhat magical.
Curran Ramsay also sees Morrigan’s aura. He describes it as pure gold, glittering like a sea of mica, with entwining whispers of lavender.
Gold is a rarely seen aura, so of course I reserved it for the high point of the triangle, Goddess Athene’s child and brightest hope, Aridela—Morrigan Lawton in this incarnation. A person washed in gold is protected by divine beings. He or she walks a special, guided path. Lavender affirms that Morrigan is as much a visionary as Curran, but also a daydreamer—someone with a very active imagination.
Later, in Glenelg, Morrigan is introduced to the local midwife and healer, Eleanor Graeme, whose aura is a restful green. Green is not only a healer’s color but a teacher’s, a person who wants to help others. As Eleanor is the reincarnated Themiste from the Bronze Age, it makes sense. Themiste’s most ardent desire was to follow Aridela, to help her and make amends for the things she felt she had done wrong.
Chrysaleon of Mycenae is the problem child of the series, and in The Sixth Labyrinth, his aura displays this. Here he is Aodhàn Mackinnon, a guy with plenty of secrets—and the only character burdened by previous life memories. Perhaps that’s why his aura is red, with accents of orange, and sometimes mud! A red aura suggests a person who is not so advanced spiritually. He or she is stuck in earthly interests like jealousy, anger, sexual obsessions, and amassing power. It’s not always a bad color: it can mean dedication, and as noted in The Sixth Labyrinth, can be the prevailing color in rebels, ascetics, and artists—anyone who is passionate about something. Orange combined with red announces Aodhàn’s deeply rooted need to control things. It has, after all, kept his defiance alive and fired up for over three thousand years at this point.
Lastly, we have Diorbhail Sinclair—the reincarnated Selene. Selene is arguably the most resplendent champion of my saga so far: I actually refer to her in my own mind as the “Samwise Gamgee” of The Child of the Erinyes, and not surprisingly, she has the most complex aura. Hers is overwhelmingly white, and this is the color I had the most trouble researching. On the one hand, white can be interpreted as undiluted potential, a personality in transcendence. Some say angels themselves are cloaked in white. It represents not only spiritual qualities but also concentrated truth. On the other hand, there are those who believe white alludes to disease, near death, or a disordered noise, a failing of balance and harmony. After reading these opposing definitions, I knew white was the perfect choice for Diorbhail. She ardently wants to help her friend, Morrigan, but her allegiances are conflicted by her love for Curran, who is Morrigan’s husband. Loyalty fighting desire fighting resentment—as it was in the Bronze Age. She is on the verge of ascendance, but is held back by these earthly factors.
Curran’s aura also turns white during times of high emotion, for instance when the submerged Menoetius responds to the submerged Selene. They are, and always will be, connected.
The contrary qualities of Diorbhail’s white aura are set off by traces of pink—a promise that this woman is close to achieving the highest balance of all. Diorbhail’s is the most dazzling of all the auras in The Sixth Labyrinth. It nearly blinds Aodhàn.
It was quite fun learning about auras. After researching them, I pondered their influence outside of novels. Perhaps they play a part when we meet someone for the first time and are inexplicably repelled or attracted. It could be we are subliminally seeing and responding to that person’s aura.
So… the next time someone seems to be avoiding you, or you feel strangely turned off by a new acquaintance, maybe it’s not because of the onions at lunch. The reason could be a far more subtle influence—the influence of color!
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The Child of the Erinyes is an eight-book journey spanning 4000 years. Beginning in the Bronze Age, it follows the lives of two men and a woman as they are reborn seven times through history. The Sixth Labyrinth, Book 5 of the series, is being released 8 April, 2016.
The people living on Crete in the first three books of The Child of the Erinyes were great believers in omens, prophecies, signs, and portents from the gods. My imagining of Bronze Age Crete had hundreds of priestesses as well as priests, all of whom devoted themselves to pleasing the Immortals and drawing down good fortune. Animals were routinely sacrificed, for it was believed that the scent of blood and burned fat delighted the gods. Crete’s High Priestess, Themiste, who also held the impressive titles of Most Holy Minos, Moon-Being, Keeper of the Prophecies, and oracle, enjoyed a closer relationship to these deities than anyone else, and hence, more power. She used many methods of communing with them—serpent venom, poppy juice, poisonous laurel leaves, smoke emanating from fissures in the earth, and, perhaps most commonly, the sacred mushroom, known in the story as cara.
Which brings us to the next segment of the series, The Sixth Labyrinth, set in the Highlands of Victorian Scotland—another place where folklore and belief in “things unseen” remained strong until recent times. I’ve merged several key elements from the earlier story into this tale—one of the most important is the use of the sacred mushroom to achieve vision and expand clarity. It wasn’t at all hard to do, as the genus called Psilocybe semilanceata grows in abundance throughout the United Kingdom (and has been used for its hallucinatory effects since prehistoric times.) Psilocybe semilanceata, for those who don’t know, is a wild mushroom with psychedelic qualities. Happily for my purpose, this particular fungus, sometimes called Witch’s Cap or Liberty Cap, is one of the most potent of all the psilocybin mushrooms, and I’ve read that the title Liberty Cap comes from the Greek Phrygian cap, which I thought a nice, unexpected coincidence, as one of my ensemble originally hails from Phrygia.
Most of The Sixth Labyrinth protagonists retain no memories of their past lives other than brief images, echoes of voices, and snippets of dreams. These tantalizing, often disturbing impressions at times make them feel as though they’re going insane—a terrifying prospect in the era of Bedlam and other notorious asylums. Once they find each other, their piecemeal recollections grow more insistent, compelling several of them to set forth on a journey of enlightenment. Using the magical mushroom from ancient times, they release their fears, open their minds, and let in that which reality deems impossible. Each insight dredged from the subconscious changes the trajectory of their lives, and Earth’s history, just as it did in the Bronze Age.
In The Sixth Labyrinth, the oracle Themiste returns as a midwife and healer, Eleanor Graeme. She knows much of plant lore and the healing arts; she even has knowledge of then-modern science, thanks to a brother who studied medicine and psychiatry. She’s familiar with the properties of Psilocybe semilanceata, and collects as much as she can find every autumn, when it ripens in the fields. She dries it, stores it in jars, and has been known to use it from time to time. Eleanor is instrumental in helping to heal the damaged, fragmented memories of this small band of reincarnated souls.
Another pivotal character readers of the series might recognize from the Bronze Age is the Phrygian warrior, Selene. Life in The Sixth Labyrinth does not treat her kindly, yet she still manages to find, protect, and aid those she has always loved. The daughter of a wise woman near Cape Wrath, she comes to the group already cognizant of what can be achieved through the mushroom’s use. In fact she walks a very long way to find her comrades from the past, having used the mushroom to help her in her search.
One character has no need of a hallucinatory mushroom, or any other device. Because of a curse placed on him in the Bronze Age, he is doomed to retain memories of each and every one of his past lives. While it might be tempting to assume having knowledge gives him an advantage, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Different people had (and have) various reactions to psilocybin. Getting clear memories of our past lives might be asking a lot. But as stated by HowStuffWorks, “There can be a changed perception of one’s place in the universe and a feeling of communing with a higher power.” The supernatural link between my protagonists and Goddess Athene strengthens this ability.
I’m working quite hard on The Sixth Labyrinth, preparing it for a 2014 release. It is a sequel to In the Moon of Asterion, and the fourth book in The Child of the Erinyes series. The first three books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. (Update: 2014 hasn’t happened. Hopefully The Sixth Labyrinth will find its way to bookshelves in early 2015.)
Photo: “Bust Attis CdM” by Jastrow (2006). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bust_Attis_CdM.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bust_Attis_CdM.jpg
Photo: “Psilocybe.semilanceata.Alan” by Alan Rockefeller – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Psilocybe.semilanceata.Alan.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Psilocybe.semilanceata.Alan.jpg