The Enchanted Quest
Faeries tread the Faerie Path
A trail that leads from Faerie Realm
A ship upon the Western Sea
Dark sister’s hand upon the helm
Into Alba, into Erin
Enchanted quest to undertake
An ill to cure, a truth to learn
A life to lose for true love’s sake
The Story So Far
A savage plague is sweeping through Faerie—the Immortal Realm that has for thousands of years been free of illness. Suspicion over the cause of the outbreak falls first on Tania’s mortal parents, Clive and Mary Palmer. It is believed that they brought the deadly illness through from the Mortal World. Oberon gathers the Conclave of Earls at the Summer Palace of Veraglad to decide a course of action. Clive and Mary Palmer are banished, and half-Mortal Tania is put under close guard. The earls command that the ways between the worlds must be closed forever—and that Tania must choose between Faerie and the Mortal World one final time.
Against the wishes of the King Tania steps secretly into the Mortal World with her sister Rathina at her side. Her intention is to bring family friend Connor Estabrook back into Faerie in the hope that he can help her defeat the disease with his knowledge of modern medicine.
But Tania has enemies at court: Lord Aldritch of Weir speaks against her and brings a “Healer” to find the source of the sickness and to affect a cure. It is not until Princess Eden, using her Mystic Arts, learns that the sickness comes from Faerie itself that suspicions toward the Mortal World ease and Tania is free to find a cure for the plague.
But Tania’s relationship with her beloved Edric is under severe strain. He is meddling with the Dark Arts, and when she rejects his unexpected proposal of marriage, he tells her that he intends to return to his childhood home of Weir as a captain of Lord Aldritch’s court.
Brokenhearted, Tania begins her quest without him and she, Connor, and Rathina seek the submerged Lost Caer, where she and her companions learn that, in the long-ago times, the people of Faerie were mortal and winged. They also discover that this is not the first time the plague has fallen upon them.
A mysterious entity calling herself the Dream Weaver tells them of a time before the Great Awakening when Oberon traveled into the west in search of the Divine Harper and made a covenant that gave the folk of Faerie the gift of Immortality in exchange for their wings. This covenant was broken when the Sorcerer King of Lyonesse temporarily took the throne of Faerie from Oberon. The breaking of the covenant has allowed an ancient enemy—a being known only by the name Nargostrond—to return. Nargostrond is working his evil again in the land, and now, to end the plague and to defeat him, Tania, Rathina, and Connor Estabrook must travel across the Western Ocean and seek the mythical land of Tirnanog. . . before it is too late.
Part One: Wingéd We Were Before Time Was
Princess Tania stared silently out over the Western Ocean. The air was full of whispering and hissing as the oil black waves slunk in along the beach, staining the rippled sand. It was an ugly, brooding night and the sea churned restlessly under the starless sky.
It was difficult to believe that she, Rathina, and Connor had ventured beneath those sinister waves—able to breathe and walk freely on the seabed as easily as they might wander the gardens of the Royal Palace. While they had been tracing the pathways of the submerged and ruinous Lost Caer, the rust red evening sun had dipped beyond the horizon. Now night flooded the Earldom of Weir.
They had emerged from the deep as dry as if they had been walking the sandy dunes. Tania was hardly able to comprehend what she had learned beneath the ocean, hardly able to take it all in.
The wind blew cold from the distant mountains, troubling the grass that bristled along the dunes. Tania shivered. She was still wearing the clothes she had picked up in the Mortal World: a black T-shirt and loose black trousers. She had not even thought to bring a coat—but when she and her two companions had started this journey, they had not realized how far from home it would take them.
Surf lapped around her ankles, cold and clammy, like dead fingers plucking at her skin. She felt exhausted, as though their time under the sea had drained the life out of her.
She crouched and cupped her hand in the rolling water, now feeling its wetness. How could that be? She did not understand.
Looking up, she saw Rathina and Connor standing together watching her. They too were in Mortal clothes: Rathina in a red blouse and white combat trousers, Connor in jeans and a blue denim jacket.
“Is the night not chill enough, Tania, that you needs must freeze your blood thus?” asked Rathina, her dark hair blowing across her face. “By all the spirits! Such a lethargy fills me that I could sleep the moon away and not be refreshed.”
“It’s wet,” Tania said, offering up her hand to them. “The sea is wet now.” She stood up, wiping her hand on her hip.
She glanced past them, looking for the line of old standing stones that marked the Road of Faith and that had led them under the waves and down to Caer Fior, the legendary lost castle of Faerie. They were invisible now, swallowed up by the night.
“Maybe the water is only different between the lines of stones,” said Connor. He looked at Rathina. “Is that how it works? Is there something in the stones that changes the molecular structure of the water around them?”
Her hazel eyes widened. “Seek no knowledge of these things from me, Connor Estabrook,” she said. “I am no lore master and no practitioner of the Mystic Arts, neither.” She shook herself as though icy fingers had run down her spine. “I have learned things this night that confound my senses and fill me with foreboding.” She looked at Tania with haunted eyes. “Who or what is Nargostrond—and why does his name strike me with such a terrible dread?”
“I don’t know any more about it than you do,” Tania replied heavily. “The name means nothing to me at all.”
“If I understand it right,” Connor began, “everyone in Faerie had their memories wiped clean when Oberon came back from doing his deal with the Divine Harper. But I guess you must all have some residual memory of Nargostrond left in your subconscious.”
Rathina’s forehead creased. “Your words are meaningless to me.”
Connor tapped his head. “The name Nargostrond is in your brain whether you’re aware of it or not. You know it because your father knew it—it’s been kind of passed down to you. That’s why it gives you the creeps. The psychiatrist Carl Jung called it the collective unconscious.”
“And are we Faerie folk still Immortal?” Rathina asked, looking at Tania. “When the covenant was broken, did we become Mortal again? Will I sicken and die as Mortals die? Will all my people become nothing but dust blown on the wind?”
“Not if I can help it,” said Tania, hoping she sounded convincing. “But where do we go from here? The Dream Weaver said we have to sail across the Western Ocean to find the land of Tirnanog and speak to the Divine Harper to get the covenant renewed. That means we need a boat of some kind. Why didn’t she tell us where to find a boat?”
“And why can’t she talk to us now that we’re back on dry land?” asked Connor, shaking his head in bafflement. “The rules that this place run on are completely crazy. This whole world would benefit from a big dose of honest-to-goodness physics. I mean, does Einstein’s theory of relativity work here? And how about the basic laws of thermodynamics? Does this place even have them? And how come we were able to breathe underwater?” He laughed halfheartedly. “That’s totally ridiculous!”
Tania could see that, despite Connor’s flippant comments, his face was pale. She got the impression he was finding the uncanny nature of Faerie harder to come to terms with than he may have expected. She hoped he wouldn’t end up regretting his decision to stay. Feeling himself adrift in a world he couldn’t make sense of might really mess up his mind.
“How could we have survived otherwise?” Rathina asked. “We would have been three drowned bodies cast upon the beach, our quest thwarted hardly ere it began.”
“I know that,” Connor replied, his frustration showing in his voice. “I’m not saying the laws of physics would have helped us. But all this magic is doing my head in—I don’t get how this universe works. I was brought here because Tania knows how to walk between the worlds. We were flown to Caer Regnar Naal in a ball of fire! We’ve just been breathing underwater. Don’t you get how totally insane all that is?”
“There’s no point in thinking about things like that,” Tania said. “It’ll drive you out of your mind!” She stared into the sky, feeling the whole weight of the world bearing down on her.
“Yes, there is,” Connor insisted. “You Faerie people seem to just accept the way things are without questioning any of it.” He looked urgently at Tania. “But there has to be a logic to it; there has to be a way of making sense of it all. And I don’t understand why no one here seems in the least bit interested in doing just that.” His eyes glittered in the darkness. “You could use a few scientists around here to get to the bottom of things. And once this quest is done, that’s exactly what I plan on spending the rest of my life doing. Figuring this place out.”
Tania winced, not used to such anger and aggression from him. But she understood why he was venting his frustrations on her, and she could hardly blame him. She had brought him to Faerie. It was her fault that he was trapped here—hostage forever in a world he didn’t understand. She had convinced him to step with her between the worlds; she had brought him here in an attempt to cure with Mortal medicines a disease that had been created in Faerie. And while he was here, the ways between the worlds had been closed for all time. There was no way back—not for Conner and not for her.
“Your words disturb me, Master Connor,” Rathina said gravely. “Have you not heard the tale of the boy with the drum? He so loved the sound it made that he determined to seek its source.” She paused, her eyes deep and soulful as she gazed into his face. “He took a knife and ripped the skin of the drum from end to end, hoping to find within the cause of its merry beat.”
“And he destroyed the drum in the process,” Connor finished. “Yes. I understand. But if you use that logic, you’d never learn how anything works.”
“Untrue, Master Connor,” said Rathina. “You learn the art of music by playing the drum, not by setting a knife to it. I fear that you wish to cut this world open to discover its secrets. That would be wickedness indeed if it were possible.”
Connor shook his head and turned away from her. “You don’t get it,” he murmured.
“We’re wasting time with all this talk!” Tania broke in. “Connor—I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to stop freaking out. The plague is everywhere, and we have to find a way to cure it.” She pointed over the whispering ocean. “The Divine Harper lives somewhere out there, and we need to get to him. Which means finding a boat.” She turned to her sister. “Rathina, do you know of any ports or fishing villages near here?”
“If memory serves, the River Styr meets the sea no great distance north of this place,” said Rathina. “And the town of Hymnal lies at its mouth.”
“Hymnal?” said Tania. “Why do I know that name?”
“It is the town where our mother made landfall after her voyage from Alba,” Rathina said.
That was another revelation that had rocked Tania’s world—that Queen Titania was not a trueborn Faerie but that she had been born Mortal in the land of Alba across the Western Ocean. She had sailed alone to the shores of Faerie to fulfill a prophecy made at her birth.
“Is it far?” Tania asked.
Rathina shook her head. “I do not know Weir so well,” she replied. “I wish that our horses had not bolted, for I fear we have a long march ahead of us. Let us hope that we reach the river-mouth before all our strength is done.” She turned and strode out along the flats of the beach. The footprints that she left in the sand were quickly filled with the rising tide.
Tania followed, but as she paused, turning to Connor, he seemed lost in thought.
“Coming?” she urged him.
He nodded and quickly caught up. “We’d have a better idea of where we are if we’d taken the map we found in Caer Regnar Naal,” he said quietly, his head lowered.
“You know we couldn’t have done that,” Tania reminded him. “The King said we weren’t allowed to take anything from the Hall of Archives.”
“But he didn’t say why,” murmured Connor.
“Maybe not,” agreed Tania. “But he told us doing so would bring evil down on us —and that’s good enough for me.”
Connor let out a sharp breath. “You know, I really don’t respond well to orders that aren’t properly explained to me,” he said. He glanced sideways at her. “If I’m going to do what I’m told, I need to know there’s a good reason for it.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Meaning what?”
“Meaning that when I see a sign that says ‘do not touch’ I’ve got a tendency to touch just to see what will happen.”
“That’s not the way people think in Faerie,” she replied gently, trying to check his hostility. “I can understand why you’re getting annoyed with things here,” she added. “It must be really scary.” She looked into his face. “Would it help to know I had a bad time adjusting, too? I fought it for the longest time.”
“And what happened that made you adjust in the end?” Connor asked.
“I found a kind of temple thing dedicated to Titania,” Tania said. “There was a statue of her in it—and she looked exactly like me. That’s when it finally dawned on me this wasn’t a dream.”
“So you found out you belonged here, right?”
Tania nodded, realizing her explanation didn’t help him a whole lot.
“Well, maybe just now,” he said, “while we were strolling about bone dry and breathing on the seabed—maybe that was the moment when I realized I don’t belong here.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said softly.
“Don’t be,” he said, his voice softening. “It’s not your fault. I decided to stay. I made the mistake. And now I have to find a way to live with it.” He gave her a wry smile. “Maybe I can shake things up a little now that I’m stranded here,” he said. “Stand aside Mystic Arts! Here comes rigorous scientific analysis, care of yours truly.” He grinned but there was no humor in his eyes. “It’ll be quite a challenge!”
Tania said nothing. Let him believe that if it gave him a sense of purpose. But she’d seen too much of Faerie to believe that its secrets could be laid bare quite the way Connor assumed.
They had been walking relatively slowly, and Rathina was some way ahead of them, her body a dark blur against the beach.
Rathina turned, lifting a hand, and her voice came floating back. “I see lights in the distance!” she called. “A town. It is not far.”
“It must be Hymnal,” Tania said to Connor. “Come on.” She broke into a jog to catch up with Rathina. Connor was quickly at her side.
“We should be careful,” he said. “Remember what happened in the last town.”
She remembered it well. Arrows shot from cover—the fear and suspicion of a village already visited by the plague.
They came up alongside Rathina. Peering into the darkness, Tania saw a huddle of pale yellowy lights on a ridge of raised land.
“Behold the town of Hymnal,” Rathina said solemnly. “A glad sight on a bitter night. But how shall we be received by the people of Weir? I wonder. With friendship or with fear?”
Tania narrowed her eyes as she stared out at the dimly flickering lights.
“There’s one way to find out” she said.