Celtic legends often speak of warriors so overcome by bloodlust in battle that they are changed. The fury and killing, the peril of certain death, and the instinct to survive merge into something that overcomes the warrior’s humanity, leaving him a savage beast bent on destroying his enemy. Men who have lived through war recount the moments up to the first strike but often have no memory of what came after until it is all over and they wake, as if from a nightmare, to find themselves blood drenched and exhausted beyond belief.
The Celts had a name for this phenomenon: Riastradh.
Tiarnan, the hero of HAUNTING DESIRE, is no stranger to the frenzy of battle. His entire life has been spent defending his way of life, his family, his lands. If the memories of the bloody battles he’s fought had stayed with him, he would likely go mad. It is not until he meets Shealy O’Leary, HAUNTING DESIRE’s heroine who has traveled through time, that he learns why he is such a formidable warrior. When his enemies take Shealy from him, he will stop at nothing to get her back and that means embracing the beast within him and giving it free reign.
Here is an excerpt of the scene where Tiarnan faces what he’s become:
Wariness canvassed the air between them, reinforced by the suspicious glances they all exchanged.
At last, Jamie said, “Let’s start with the clearing.”
“The clearing?” Eamonn demanded. “What clearing?”
Jamie gave him a cold look. “The one with a hundred body parts in it.”
That shut Eamonn’s mouth, but Tiarnan didn’t feel any satisfaction from it. For reasons he couldn’t explain, he didn’t want to talk about the clearing. He didn’t want to discuss the bodies.
“What about it?” Eamonn said.
“Tiarnan here killed about twenty men in just under five minutes. Granted he’s not my brother”—and Jamie shot him a look that seemed to contradict that statement—”but I know the man, and I’ve never seen him do anything like that before.”
Tiarnan opened his mouth to deny that he’d done anything out of the ordinary, but no words came out. Suddenly a flashing assault of images filled his head. Men, charging him with their weapons drawn. Tiarnan, looking down on them from what seemed a great distance. Blood. Everywhere, blood.
“I always thought he had wee bit of the riastradh in him,” Liam said in a very calm tone.
Riastradh. It was said to transform a man into something that wasn’t quite human, something that knew only death and destruction. A creature that would battle until no blood was left to spill. A man-beast that probably resembled the drawing he’d just seen. Tiarnan swallowed hard, feeling Shealy tense against him. Every damning image in that journal seemed to confirm that the prophecy was true, but he knew his own heart. He’d betrayed it once. He would not do so again.
Encircled by his arms, settled between his spread knees, he knew Shealy was remembering the image in the journal as well. Her words echoed silently between them. You were like five men and ten feet tall. . . . He prayed she wouldn’t turn and look at his face, wouldn’t see the horror lurking in his eyes.
“What does that mean, reeastr. . . ?” Reyes asked.
“It’s the frenzy that comes over a man in battle,” Eamonn answered in a choked voice.
“It’s more than that,” Liam said, giving Eamonn a dirty look. “Tiarnan, you remember the night of our sister’s wedding, when you fought a dozen of Cathán’s men at once?”
“Not only Tiarnan fought,” Eamonn said. “I was with him. You weren’t.”
“I was a boy,” Liam answered coldly. “And forced to stay behind.” Liam turned back to Shealy. “My brother Michael told me later. The odds were twelve to three. It was an ugly situation, but in the end, Tiarnan brought down eight men in the time it took Eamonn and Michael to kill five.”
A hushed silence followed and Tiarnan felt the curious eyes of all upon him.
“When we came on you, T,” Jamie said. “You were . . .”
While he searched for the right words, Reyes blurted, “You were a fucking giant, man. Like eight feet tall, like a killing machine.”
Zac nodded and said, “You were ripping them apart with your bare hands. I thought Jamie was dead when you turned on him. I thought you were going to kill him, too.”
Tiarnan could feel his face growing hot with disgust. Was it true? Had he become riastradh? A mindless monster? He remembered looking down on his victims. He remembered the red-hot fury, the feeling that they’d threatened him. Threatened those who were his to protect. More than that . . .
“Is that what happened before?” Jamie asked Liam. “When he fought those other men, did he . . . grow?”
Liam looked at Eamonn. “I thought it was my imagination that changed him,” Eamonn said. “It was dark and it happened so fast . . . I couldn’t be sure that my eyes hadn’t tricked me. I convinced myself they had and I never mentioned it. Michael never said a word either, but I don’t think he saw—he was too busy trying to stay alive.” Eamonn made a small, choked sound. “To him you were always stronger than any other man could be. If he’d seen, it would have only confirmed what he believed.”
In the confession there was bitter truthfulness, the admission of jealously, the shame of being the one who harbored it against his own brother.
“Do you remember what happened, T?” Jamie said. “Today, in the clearing?”
“No. Not really. Just bits. Pieces.” Blood. Gore. Violence. “If you say it’s true, then I believe you, but do not expect me to explain because I can’t.”
Jamie nodded calmly. “Not looking for an explanation, my friend. Just want you to be aware that it happened. You saved all of our asses and so we’ll just tell you thanks, and be done with it. But the next time you feel that power coming on, you need to recognize it, you understand? I’ve served with some of the baddest motherfuckers to take a breath and I know there’s a fine line between being the best fighter and the most dangerous one. You just remember who your friends are.” Jamie paused. “And we’ll do the same. We got your back.”
The lecture might have sat irritably on his shoulders if he hadn’t sensed the sincerity and the honest compassion in Jamie’s tone. They weren’t afraid of him, though he thought that Reyes was right and he might have easily murdered Jamie when they’d come upon him.
Moved by that pledge of friendship, Tiarnan nodded. In his arms, Shealy sat less stiffly. Ellie was looking at him over Shealy’s shoulder. The thumb was still in her mouth and her eyes were solemn. He brushed a finger over the soft petal of her cheek and she sighed, the small sound anchoring him to this moment, stripping him of any defense he might have once possessed. These two females were his ballast, and if being riastradh enabled him to protect them, then he would embrace it.
“I will not forget who fights with me,” Tiarnan said softly. “I will not forget who I fight for. And I will not forget my friends.”
Fascinating, don’t you think? Let me know your favorite Celtic legends and one commenter will get their choice Erin‘s previous books in the Mists of Ireland series: HAUNTING WARRIOR or HANUNTING BEAUTY
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