CATHY M. DONNELLY
Catriona Stewart collapses while visiting Orkney, and vividly experiences her life there in the 8th century. She grows up learning the skills and magic of the Druids, and witnesses the arrival of the Vikings.
Back in present time, she struggles to adjust, haunted by memories of the man she loved, and her promise to him that they would be reunited in another life.
Eventually, she learns to live with her past, but her solitary life is disrupted when she meets Mark. She fights her growing attraction to him, but her attachment to his young daughter, Laura, is harder to resist, especially as the child seems aware of her memories.
When Catriona relives another life in the 14th century, the pain of loss overwhelms her.
She knows she will be forever tied to those lives, and the people she cherished. How can she can ever move forward without making peace with her past?
Orkney, Scotland 780AD
The Spring Equinox was upon us. As I watched the horizon become edged with light and the clouds turn fiery red, a moment of foreboding made me shudder. I closed my eyes and tried to sense the reason, but the feeling passed as quickly as it came. I shook my head and smiled. I would allow nothing to spoil this beautiful day.
Artair led our procession through the cool grass to the Temple of the Sun. We bowed our heads before crossing the ditch and gathering at the centre of the giant circle of sacred stones. In silence, we watched the sky lighten with shafts of blue and white, fringed with the colour of heather. Seabirds took flight, welcoming this new day with joyful cries at the sight of such glory. In the haze, the giant stones seemed to dance around us. I felt the power of this ancient land, its magic, its beauty, and knew I would cherish every moment of my life in this place. When I passed to the Otherworld, I would remember it all.
Artair led our prayers to the gods and gave thanks to our ancestors for watching over us through the cold winter. There was laughter and the squeals of children at play on the walk home. Artair spent time with whoever wished to speak with him and took time to join the young ones in their game.
He towered over everyone: the top of my head only came to his wide shoulders. His hair was as black as his eyes, but there was also a light in them, even in the darkness. I could always tell when his mind was elsewhere by the way he ran his fingers through his beard. His weathered skin belied his age, for his youth returned to him when he smiled. Like me, the villagers would often stop what they were doing and watch him, even when the dark hood of his cloak covered his head. We were in awe of his power, and his presence gave us comfort.
When the sun was ready to end its journey that day, Artair and I returned alone to the Temple, as was our custom. The sky was ablaze like a distant fire, and the rays of light flooded through the stones to the earth around us. The air was alive with magic, and moved against my skin as if I was standing in a gentle-flowing river.
I stood apart from Artair, sensing his need for contemplation. I watched him, not the fading sun, and my heart glowed with what my eyes beheld. How precious he was to me. He gave me back my life and protected me with his. He taught me the Path and the magic of its journey.
When the moon lit the earth, Artair turned and smiled, beckoning me closer. He held out a small pouch. I opened it with care, and laid its contents across my hand. Hanging from a leather band was a round black stone, polished and engraved with the sun wheel. I gasped at its beauty. He took it from me and tied it around my neck.
‘It will protect you and remind you of where you come from. Wear it always and know you belong here.’
The magic drained from me. My body trembled and tears clouded my eyes. ‘You are sending me away?’
‘I have taught you all I know, Ula, but there is more you must learn. Your powers will be greater than mine, and I am entrusting you to the Druid who showed me the higher ways of magic and healing.’
‘I do not want to leave, Altair. Please. This is my home.’
‘In my visions, I see a time coming when our people will need your skills. It will not be forever, Ula, and when you are ready, you will return to us.’
‘It must be done.’
With an aching heart, I took his outstretched hand, and we gazed at the night sky.