by Kathryn Berryman
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Two troubled young adults find themselves key players in a deadly game that spans the 21st century and the Viking Age.
Amy, finding it difficult to ‘fit in’, becomes increasingly obsessed with the virtual reality game Erinland. The VR characters and the mist of Erin begin to invade Amy’s dreams and her waking moments. She finds herself drawn into Erinland in 9th century Ireland. Amy becomes part of this mystical world as she joins in the struggle to defeat the Viking raiders.
Richard has a complicated home life and feels he doesn’t belong anywhere. A series of events finds him desperate and living on the streets, where he finds himself dragged into 9th century Norway by a Viking warrior. Richard finds acceptance with the Vikings and joins them on a colonisation raid to Ireland.
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Gradually, the tendrils of mist and the icy fingers lessened their hold. Amy chanted the words louder and with every fibre of her being. Finally the grip became a grasp, then it vanished. The voices trailed off, dissolving into an eerie wind—the catchcry of the boglands. A shrill sound, like the neigh of a horse, lingered then died away. Amy thought she heard the sound of a horse galloping in the distance.
She opened her eyes. Her face and body were dripping from the exertion of her experience. She got out of bed for a drink of water and it was then she noticed something strange. A faint glow emitting from the corner of her bedroom. It was coming from her laptop. The glow started blinking in a staccato rhythm, gaining brightness. Amy stared hypnotically into the strobe. The glow grew larger and brighter. An electronic surge overflowing from the monitor and onto the floor. The tide edged its way across the carpet and came to rest at Amy’s feet. It started to rise from the floor, undulating and pulling, crashing against itself like a deadly rip in the ocean. Gradually the atoms composed themselves into the recognisable form of an old woman.
The old woman looked like those Amy had seen on park benches, the kind that carried all their belongings in a couple of shopping bags. They were usually dirty, drunk, and abusive. This woman was approximately 160 cm tall; her hair was dark brown and it seemed to be caked in mud and dead leaves. Her skin was grey and very lined. Her unblinking eyes were dark brown. She stared at Amy steadily. The woman wore a simple brown tunic. It was well worn and patched in several places. Her hands were large and her nails were ragged and putrid. These hands had seen some very hard work in their time. She had an overall earthy smell, giving the impression of an ancient relic. For one so dishevelled, the old woman seemed to radiate a strength which commanded respect from those in her presence.
‘Oh … my ... god … shit!’ yelled Amy.
‘Be still! You shall not profane the higher power in my presence! Profane with your tongue no more, lest you block your path to the highest power,’ replied the old woman. ‘Ditto what I said before. Who are you?’ hissed Amy.
The old woman spoke, ‘Do not be afraid, small one. You are not in the land of the walking shadows. Your destiny weighs heavier than that. I am Heiran, Cailleach, or wise old woman.
‘I am old. I am as old as the earth, and older than mankind. I have come in many forms and returned many times through the ages. I have been ridiculed and even killed in ignorance, yet all who have known me have been made richer by my passing.’
The old woman’s clear eyes continued to stare into Amy’s. They bored into her thoughts, exposing her soul. Amy frantically backed towards the bedroom door. ‘Mum!’ Amy yelled. ‘Mum, Mum, Mum!’ Amy thought she might be asleep or hallucinating. She had heard of this sort of thing happening before. Her friend at school had a psychotic episode after taking some illicit drugs. She thought she could see spiders coming out of the walls. She ended up curling herself in a ball in the corner of the classroom screaming. But Amy had never touched any kind of drugs.
‘Your mother can’t hear you,’ said the old woman.
‘Mum! Mum, please come, I need you, I am so scared!’ Amy screamed.
‘Your mother cannot hear you,’ the old woman said calmly. ‘She has not been chosen by the Niamh of the Golden Hair. She is to remain on this earthly plane.’
Amy winced at the mention of the name ‘Niamh of the Golden Hair’. An unbelievable thought occurred to her. ‘No … no,’ she whispered.
Amy looked more closely at the woman. Bloody hell, this old bag is straight from the virtual reality world! Thinking quickly, she lunged towards her laptop and snapped off the ower switch. The computer sputtered, the light extinguishing with a visual ‘pop!’ Amy turned, satisfied that she was once again by herself.
Heiran stood peering at Amy with a quizzical expression. She wasn’t going anywhere. ‘Child, why did you still the droning creature? Killing the droning creature will not rid you of me. It is a portal to Erinland. Do not be foolish, small one! I have come to you for a purpose. I am the messenger of Niamh of the Golden Hair. She is the mystical mistress and handmaiden of the highest power. She has sought you out. Your strength is known to the Lady. She has witnessed your battle with the evil Bogg Demon. You have been tested and have overcome its tempting advances. You have proven your worth to the Lady. The darkness in your soul has succumbed to the clean brightness of the highest power, this time.’
Amy stood still, disbelief washing over her. She wondered how the old woman, the Cailleach as she called herself, knew about the nightmare she just had. Her skin crawled at the memory of the stinking, suppurating bog; the invisible icy fingers clutching and dragging her down into a world of darkness and evil. An involuntary shudder racked her body.
The old woman continued, ‘Tadhg the great and noble war chieftain is closely acquainted with you. You and the droning creature have sent him to his death many times by the steel of the Vikings’ blade. Now he has come to his last incarnation. If he dies and the sacred relics fall victim to the barbarians a final time, our way of worship and our way of life as we know it will be drowned in a black tide of paganism.
‘The holy objects must be saved and hidden, so that future generations can realise the dedication of the faithful. Their beauty must be emulated and revered as a mere shard of the glory of the highest power—that which you call God. Even now there is another from your world who is being wooed by the Raiders. Time is running short!’ cried the old woman.
‘But it’s only a stupid virtual reality world, it’s not real. It’s not my fault!’ Amy cried. She ran across the room and reached for the door handle. Heiran raised her hand. From her stubby dirt-grained fingertips came a light so dazzling that Amy’s eyes watered trying to fight the glare. The light sparked, crackled, and twisted past her to the door handle where it fastened itself—a supernatural forcefield that no human could break.
‘Be still! You cannot run from your fate. Face your destiny, lest it follow you until the end of your incarnations, festering and growing like a great mortal wound. The highest power will buoy you and deliver you to your fate.’ The dark eyes bored through Amy, compelling her to obey the Cailleach.
Kathryn is a Sydney author whose interest in history and mythology was the catalyst for her debut novel Erinland to become a reality.
An adventure in the modern and ancient world, where the central characters seek acceptance and self-belief, the ‘players’ in Erinland find themselves in very different roles from their everyday life. Choices they make could mean the difference between life and death, with the consequences of these decisions reaching into their ‘real’ lives.
Written in the Fantasy genre, Book I bridges the ages, drawing on contemporary life and 9th Century history to create an authentic experience for the reader. A visual writer, she explores the mythologies of ancient Norway and Ireland, giving a tangible view of everyday life and the impact of the Gods in these two cultures.
Kathryn is married with three beautiful daughters. Amidst busy family life, she studied at University to become a Primary school teacher. When she is not teaching, she loves to write and dabble in other creative pursuits such as painting and drawing. She and her husband hope to realise their dream and move to the country one day – soon.
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