After her secretive father dies, Elspeth Quarrie embarks on a quest across the world to discover her unknown Scottish heritage.
Landing in Edinburgh, she doesn't count on her first day being full of creepy graveyards, several attempted abductions, and nightmarish creatures hiding behind human faces.
When fate catches up with her, a mysterious stranger by the name of Raurich ‘Rory' Mackenzie is there to help — only Elspeth does the saving, blasting their attacker with magic she didn't know she had. Then, as shock sets in, Rory reveals she's a Druid — an elemental supernatural being with the power to distort the very fabric of nature.
Desperate for answers, Elspeth follows Rory into an exciting hidden world where myth is reality and dreams are within reach...but not everything is as magical as it seems.
The Druids are being hunted by the Chimera, a dark sect of Fae warriors who desire power above all else.
And Elspeth may have just blown their cover.
Arcane Rising is the first book of The Darkland Druids, a mystical Urban Fantasy series set in modern day Scotland.
A woman with no living relatives travels from Australia to the other side of the world to find out the truth of who she is...only to land in the middle of a prophecy of destruction. Druids, Witches, Fae, and shapeshifters abound in this thrilling magical adventure!
Release date: July 10, 2020
Print pages: 242
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Nicole R. Taylor
Gordan Quarrie had been fighting out of control bushfires for close to two months when they finally came.
He was riding on the back of the backup tanker from Lidcombe—a suburb west of Sydney—when he saw it lingering amongst the charred eucalyptus forest.
Leaning out the window, he looked back at the shadow. It’d been years since he’d caught the scent of them and this time, they were closer than ever.
Thumping his fist on the side of the truck, he called, “Can you pull over here?”
“Here?” The driver eased up on the accelerator and pulled off the road, the truck’s wheels bumping over the uneven ground beside the bitumen. He turned in his seat and peered at Gordan, his protective helmet askew on his head.
“The front is still a click away,” the man beside him said.
“I want to check the containment lines,” he told the crew.
“On your own?” the driver asked. “We’re not supposed to go solo.”
“I know, but there’s another unit up there.” He tapped the walkie in his coat pocket. “I’ll radio.”
He leapt out of the tanker and sent them on their way. Checking for traffic in both directions on the highway, he legged it across and into the already burned fire field.
No matter how many seasons he served, Gordan was always startled by the lack of traffic where there would usually be a stream of holiday makers heading to the Blue Mountains.
Today, the road had been closed on either side of the range and nothing was getting through, save for those fleeing the fire front and the firefighters rushing towards it.
He adjusted his coat, cursing as his slick fingers rubbed against the inside seam of his gloves. The gear they had to wear was thick and cumbersome, and he sweated like a pig, but it protected his skin from the radiant heat—which was much more of a risk than open flame or stray embers.
In the distance, about half a kilometre away, he could see the telltale flash of yellow and red—the back-burning crew checking their containment line.
But between him and them, he saw the shadow waiting.
Their luck had finally run out. It’d been quiet few decades, but deep down, he knew it was only a matter of time before someone came looking. She was too important for them not to. In a world where creatures of power were desperate for domination, they’d never be safe. At least, not for long.
The creature flashed through the charred trees, leaving glowing footprints in its wake. Embers flared and he cursed. It was an elemental solider, its power unhindered now that the Witches had allowed the way to their twisted realm remain open.
Human in shape, its soul was nothing but fury. A shadow of the world it had once come from, the solider was a pawn in an ancient war for dominance that would likely rage for all of time. A war that would continue to claim innocent lives, no matter the consequences. It was a tale as old as the hills—the never-ending cycle of violence. The lust for power through dominance was a corruption he could never stomach.
Gordan knew it was an idiot move coming out here to face it, but if he hadn’t, it would have followed him to the front where he wouldn’t have been able to stop it from killing him and the others on the Lidcombe crew. Then, with him out of the way, nothing would stop it from finding Elspeth.
He wouldn’t let it happen. He couldn’t.
“Your time has come,” the solider said, the words dripping from its blackened mouth. “Where is the girl?”
“Go back to your master and tell them she doesn’t belong to anyone,” he snarled. “She is not theirs.”
Its black eyes began to glow—crimson at first, then bright orange as the temperature rose around them.
Flame flickered, emerging from underneath the already charred surface layer of the burned undergrowth, and the creature drew the embers into the air. They began to swirl, gathering more sparks, and a front erupted with a loud woosh.
Gordan held up his arm to shield his face, calling on his Colours to deflect the radiating heat.
“You can’t have her!” he shouted over the roaring flame. “You hear me? You can’t have her!”
The creature stalked towards him, pitch-black and menacing, unafraid of Gordan’s power. “She needs to be with her people, fealltóir,” it rasped, speaking in a stranger’s voice. “You can’t hide her forever.”
“You can’t have her,” he snarled again. “You can send all the soldiers you want, but I will be there to stop every one of them. Every failed attempt will leave you empty-handed and another of your evil kind sent into the void.”
The creature stood before him, twisting with flame. “Is that so?”
The screech of sirens broke through their tense stand-off and they both looked into the smoke at the same time, both with different intents.
Through the haze, Gordan could see a crew of firefighters race towards him, hoses in hand with the truck creeping behind. They were trying to save him, dumping a torrent of water on the approaching flames, but they couldn’t see the enemy hiding within the firestorm.
Blue and red lights flashed through the haze as he shouted for them to stay back, but his cries went unheard. His radio chirped—the desperate calls distorted by static.
The fire roared behind him, spurred on by the elemental force twisting in the tornado. They’d all be killed if he couldn’t stop the solider. It had to die here and now before it could get to Elspeth.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” he murmured as if she could hear him. He took off his helmet and tossed it to the ground. “There’s so much you don’t know, but I have to keep you safe. This is the only way. I’m sorry.”
The creature lunged and he leapt into its searing embrace, pouring his Colour into the twisted monster. It screeched in agony as Gordan’s essence drove into its core, shattering the soul that helped its impure body cling to life.
Fire raged around them, engulfing their bodies.
He knew he was only buying her time. Destiny would lead her home. He just hoped he’d taught her enough that she would understand how to find her way.
With his last breath, he sent his love to his daughter…and a prayer for her future.
* * *
I’ll never forget the sound of that knock on the door.
A man and a woman stood on the porch, both wearing navy-blue police uniforms—their vests laden with radios and cameras, and light-blue shirts underneath their bulletproof vests.
“Elspeth Quarrie?” the woman asked, taking off her cap.
I nodded, the scent of burning eucalyptus thick in the air. The air quality had been terrible for the last month, the smoke haze from the fires covering Sydney from top to bottom.
“I’m Sergeant Peters and this is Constable Guthrie. May we come inside?”
Yeah…I’d never forget that day. What I was doing. Who I was waiting for. What I’d been dreaming. The Christmas Day I’d just spent with my dad. Just the two of us.
I’d just graduated university and my whole life was ahead of me. The television was turned onto the news, my mobile phone was open on the government emergency app, and the air conditioning was running at a breezy twenty-two degrees Celsius. I should have been working on my resume, but my mind was elsewhere.
I’d never dealt well with the heat. Neither had my dad, but we lived in one of the hottest and driest climates in our changing world—Australia—and with it came certain dangers. Venomous snakes and spiders were one thing, but the constant threat of drought and fire was a reality no one could escape. Not even the big cities could ignore the looming smoke on the horizon anymore.
Bushfires had been raging across most of the country for months, and my dad was out there, fighting the impossible inferno with the thousands of other career and volunteer firefighters.
As an environmental scientist, Dad’s skills were in high demand during the emergency. He could predict shifts in air currents and weather patterns that were useful on the ground. He could look at the growth in a forest and the curve of the land to know where to best put in containment lines. He coordinated back burning that saved towns from being completely wiped off the map. Knowing where the fire would leap or where the embers would blow was crucial in saving homes and lives.
After the first month, he came home looking like he’d aged a decade. Soot was permanently caked under his fingernails and his eyes were… Well, he looked haunted by the things he’d seen.
Two days later, on Boxing Day, he was packing up his uniform to hit the ground again. He was the only person I had in the entire world. Why did he have to go?
I have the power to help, he told me. And when the Earth and her creatures cry out in pain, we should answer with our whole hearts.
So when the knock came on the front door, I already knew who stood on the other side.
The visitors the family of firefighters dreaded most during the summer.
It was the sound of your entire life being torn out from under your feet.
* * *
That night, I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling. Things went that way for a couple of weeks, even as flowers began to show up at the house, along with letters from the government and casseroles from the neighbours.
We’d kept to ourselves, but it seemed Dad had been loved by many—no matter how secretive he thought he’d been.
Dad never spoke about my mother or his home in Scotland. He never talked about his family or what his life had been like before we came to Australia. I never knew what happened to my mum or why we’d come here. It was as if our lives had begun the moment he carried me off the plane.
I’d shared everything with him. Not just the adventurous Scottish spirit that ran through our blood, but the things I dreamed about and the future I saw for myself. It was him and I against the world, but I was all grown up now and with age came the unfortunate responsibility of knowledge.
I searched through his things, looking for a birth certificate, a photograph, or a scrap of paper that would tell me where he’d come from or who my mother was. I found nothing—not even a secret diary or a hidden compartment. For all his accolades and achievements, my father was a ghost.
I was a ghost.
I stopped looking for work. I stopped caring. I didn’t know how to go on without him.
So, I walked. At first, I took the train into Sydney and wandered around the markets and the harbour.
I watched people go about their business, wondering where they were going in such a rush. Did they have someone to go home to? Friends? Family? Kids? None of those things had ever been in my life…at least, not for very long.
I was a terrible friend, always enjoying my own company over that of others. Any friendships I did have fizzled out pretty quickly, and it was the same with boyfriends. Either they were only interested in one thing or I couldn’t connect with them. Life was a mould, but I couldn’t bend far enough to fit inside the white picket fence.
As I walked the city streets, I had a sudden sense that I never really belonged here. Australia had been my home, but I wasn’t a part of it. My dad had been my anchor to this place. Now that he was gone, I was adrift.
There had to be something else…this couldn’t be it.
That’s when I saw it.
Standing outside the travel agency, Flight Centre, I stared at the poster in the window, my eyes drinking in the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands like they were an oasis in the middle of a charred forest.
The world fell away, and I imagined myself walking through the wild landscape, the cool wind on my cheeks, the drizzling rain misting through the greyish sky, and the trickling of a creek feeding into a vast loch. The absence of people and the pull of the Earth.
The blood in my veins hummed and I pressed my palm against the window. An unfamiliar longing was rising, charging my body with an almost electric excitement.
The sound of a car horn blaring broke me out of my daze and I blinked, snatching my hand away from the window. I rubbed my palms up and down my arms, chilled as if the heat of the summer day hadn’t reached me at all.
I glanced at the people walking past, my cheeks heating with embarrassment, but they didn’t seem to notice me at all.
A daydream, I thought. Just a daydream.
I glanced at the poster of the Scottish Highlands again and my heart skipped a beat. Hardly understanding what I was doing, I opened the door to speak with the travel agent.
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