The Blood Queen: A 'Bhanrigh Fuil
A Conall Series Spinoff
by David H. Millar
Genre: Historical Fantasy Fiction
“It is a king’s decision,” said Brion.
“It will not be you who deceives and delivers the lamb to the butcher’s block,” retorted Eimhir.
True evil is a persistent and tenacious beast. Its desire for existence is eternal and insatiable. It needs to infect only one mind for its insidious philosophy to take root and spread.
It is 394 B.C. At a remote loch in the highlands of Northern Albu, a priest sacrifices nine innocents. Below the water’s surface, a shape feeds on their blood and begins to take form. Soon it becomes sentient and begins to hunt. Sidheag has risen.
Humans cannot defeat the abomination. Neither can Mongfhionn, the powerful leader of the demi-goddesses of the Aes Sidhe. The only remedy is the Blood Queen and Gràinne is the sole heir to that throne. Will the Blood Queen stand alongside Mongfhionn to confront Sidheag?
Yet the cost for Gràinne may be too much—unless her daughter, Brianag, is in jeopardy.
Passions, always near the surface of the Celts, burst into flames in The Blood Queen where father is pitted against son; mother against daughter; sister against sister; brother against sister; and father against daughter.
Spluttering, pitch-soaked torches spoilt the blackness of the autumn night. Splashes of red and yellow flames combined with the fragrance of pine to create a pleasant, if false, festive ambience. Across the loch’s rippling waters, the sinister chanting of the Tuireadh—the Death Song of the Na Daoine Tùrsach—rang out. Such invocations had not been heard abroad in a score of summers. The young girl looked into the eyes of the gaunt-faced man who stood before her. Her expression spoke of unconditional trust—much as a daughter looks into her father’s face. He was a striking man, tall with a shock of snow-white hair and eyes that appeared violet and red in the torchlight. Yet her faith was born, not of parental love, but the blend of plants and fungi fed to her. Like her companions, she was naked, her feet were bound, and her hands were tied behind her back. She shivered uncontrollably in the chill of the autumn night. He cupped her chin and tilted her head backwards. The act was deceptively gentle, as if he wished to let the silver moonlight bathe her face. Yet his desires were vile. Having abused her virginal body earlier, he needed to savour her terror. Her eyes widened at the sting of the blade’s cold edge, drawn from one side of her neck to the other. Soft flesh parted. Helpless, she felt the throb of her lifeblood spurt from slashed arteries and warmth as the blood flowed over her adolescent breasts. The priest turned the child slightly, allowing the surging blood to splash his nakedness. He sighed in orgasmic delight before pushing her backwards to tumble off the jetty and into the loch’s icy waters. In total, the lives of nine young girls ended that night. Their eyes condemned the priests before, amid swirls of blood, their bodies slipped below the surface. Yet the thoughts of the ecclesiastics were not of guilt or regret but of anticipation of their next victims. The High Priest smiled. The blood sacrifices began many moon cycles ago with the random slayings of young females. This night saw the beginning of a new, more deliberate phase and heralded the arrival of the promised one. In one sense, he was right. Yet, in another, he was terribly mistaken.
*** On the deck of the trireme, Gràinne Ni Fearghal awoke screaming and fighting those who tried to calm and hold her down. It was an old vision, which had become more vivid with each passing night and the closer she got to her homeland in the highlands of Northern Albu. She rubbed a hand across her neck and exhaled, relieved that only sweat wet her palm and soaked her clothes. Yet Gràinne could feel the sharp edge of the sacrificial knife wielded by her grandmother, Diadhaidh, and the satisfied look on her face as she drew it across her granddaughter’s throat. Recently, the old nightmare had changed. A new abomination stood behind Diadhaidh. Its mouth opened, revealing rows of needle-pointed teeth as it spoke: “Come, child, it is time to fulfil Diadhaidh’s promise to me and take your place asmy‘Bhanrigh Fuil--myBlood Queen.” Brianag Ni Brion, wise beyond her years, smoothed her mother’s long auburn tresses and mopped up rivulets of perspiration with a cold, damp cloth. “Hold me, Ma. You’ll be all right. We’ll be all right. You’re safe.” Only after her mother slipped into a mercifully untroubled sleep did Brianag let the tears flow down her young cheeks.
A score of summers past, lust for unlimited power drove Diadhaidh, the Blood Queen and High Priestess of the Na Daoine Tùrsach tribe, insane. Two black-shafted arrows and flames stopped Diadhaidh from sacrificing her granddaughter to the evil that lurked in the loch’s depths. The missiles had been loosed by Mórrígan Ni Cathasaigh,An Fiagaí Dorcha—the Dark Huntress. The fire was provided by Mórrígan’s hand-fast partner Conall Mac Gabhann,Rí—king—of the newly founded Clann Ui Flaithimh. Ironically, Mórrígan’s arrows pinned Diadhaidh to the same sacrificial post to which she had bound Gràinne. Fire devoured the Blood Queen and the royalcrannag, burning the wooden edifice down to its pilings. The wind had scattered the building’s ashes across the loch’s surface by the next sunrise. Among the people of the north-eastern highlands, the fiery glow in the night skies prompted heartfelt sighs of relief and an outpouring of thanks to the Goddess. Those of the Na Daoine Tùrsach’s priests and acolytes who survived the final battle fled into the high mountains. They were hunted down and executed with a grim resolution by Drostan Ruadh, the one-eyedrìgh—king—of the Forest People, and Blàr Mac Artair, Rìgh of the Ravens. Yet true evil is a persistent and tenacious beast, and its desire for existence is eternal and insatiable. It needs to infect but one mind for its insidious philosophy to take root and spread. By all accounts, Blàr and Drostan did an excellent job. Yet a handful of priests survived, which proved enough to restart the cycle. In the eddies of the sacrificed’s blood, an amorphous shape began to take corporeal form. At the mercy of the loch’s currents, it drifted without direction. With blood came sentience, rage, and an all-consuming desire for the crimson liquid that sustained life. Its mind gradually re-formed; the evil ceased its dependence on being fed and began to rely on native cunning and an instinct for survival. It began to hunt. A plan formed that did not distinguish between animal and human or age and sex. The latter was a human obsession. It would feed on all living creatures until strong enough to enjoy a more discriminating palate. As for the waste of young females, that would change.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, internationally published and award-winning author, David H. Millar is the founder, owner, and author-in-residence of A Wee Publishing Company—a business that seeks to promote Celtic literature, authors, and art.
Millar moved from wet Northern Ireland to Nova Scotia, Canada, in the late 1990s. After ten years of shovelling snow, he decided to relocate to warmer climates and settled in Houston, Texas. Quite a contrast!
An avid reader, armchair sportsman, and Liverpool Football Club fan, Millar lives with his family and Bailey, a Manx cat of questionable disposition known to his friends as “the small angry one”!
Award-winning author, David H. Millar, writes historical fantasy with a Celtic twist. He is the author of the five volume, ancient Celtic-based,Conallseries and the spin-offThe Dog Roses.The Blood Queenis a second spin-off from the Conall series.
Gràinne is the only pure blood heir to the throne of the Na Daoine Tùrsach clann and the only one who can become the A ‘Bhanrigh Fuil—the Blood Queen. Yet, the original members of the tribe practiced cannibalism and the price to becoming the Blood Queen hearkens back to that history.
The reluctant Bhanrigh of the Na Daoine Tùrsach, Gràinne, accompanied by her daughter, Brianag, travels back to her homeland seeking answers to the nightmares and ancient voices in her head. Still, when Brianag is kidnapped by Sidheag, does she have any choice? Only the Blood Queen can defeat and kill Sidheag.
“…spider’s web of fine scars from Diadhaidh’s scourgings and the swirling dark tribal sigils that covered her body… always been generous with her favours… feral look on her face, combined with her curling symbols.”
The fourteen-summers old daughter of Gràinne, Brianag has never met her father, Brion. Thus, the visit to Dùn Brion is pitched as her opportunity to meet her da. Yet, it’s not long after they land in Northern Albu that Brianag has an argument with her half-brother, Cassán and challenged to a duel. Not long after defeating Cassán, Brianag is kidnapped by Sidheag.
Fed Sidheag’s blood and angry that she has not been rescued, Brianag begins to change. But into what? Even Sidheag doesn’t know what she has created.
“…adolescent body had developed into one which was shapelier and more softly contoured… radiated a sensual aura, unbecoming a girl of barely fifteen summers… vivid and nightmarish visions… fingernails were stained red and small slivers of meat clung accusingly between flesh and nail.’
“From her breasts to her thighs were long streaks of red. It looked like someone had dipped a rag in a bucket of blood and painted Brianag’s torso.”
“Brianag’s body bore the fullness of a young woman, but dangerously her mind remained that of an adolescent.”
The legendary Baobhan Sith are also known as the White Women of the Scottish Highlands. These mystical creatures took the form of a beautiful woman, lurking the Highlands, waiting to seduce young travellers and drink their blood. the Baobhan Sith would use their long, sharp fingernails to slit their victims necks in order to drink their blood.
Sidheag was one of the original Aes Sidhe demi-goddesses but became obsessed with blood and evil. The Aes Sidhe reluctantly admitted they could not control her and asked the Goddess for help. As part of her punishment, the Goddess made her feet into hoofs.
“The gait, as it walked towards him, appeared odd but, in the gloom, he was unable to comprehend why. In the half-light the perfectly apportioned and hairless body held a pale blue tone. Hair, blacker than night, hung in long tresses touching the creature’s arse and hips. Thin, magenta lips curled in a cruel, mocking smile as it spoke.”
“Sidheag paced the forest clearing, although that did not fully describe the half-prance, half-walk of someone with hoofs, not feet.”
Sidheag and her Brood of nine daughters terrorise Northern Albu, slaughtering, enthralling, and forcing the population into submission. Thwarted, by Mongfhionn and Gràinne at the Battle of Cùil Daothail, Sidheag turns her focus to Dùn Brion.
Mongfhionn Mongfhionn is a leader of a powerful race of demi-goddesses—theAes Sidhe. Gràinne is her daughter by adoption and Brianag, her granddaughter. Mongfhionn fights a constant battle with her alter ego, The Hag, who wishes to take over.
Although one of the most powerful members of the Aes Sidhe, Mongfhionn cannot defeat or kill Sidheag without the Blood Queen. Yet she is reluctant to force Gràinne down that path.
Brion is the one-armed king of the Na Mèadaidh, whose stronghold is the stone fortress of Dùn Brion. He has “history” with Gràinne since it was she who cut off his arm to save his life after a chariot accident. His daughter, Brianag, was the result of a single rutting with Gràinne who felt guilty at having to cut his arm off.
Brion’s enemy, prior to Sidheag, is Gormal, king at Dùn Athad. Gormal was humiliated by Brion in battle that saw Gormal’s father die.
He banishes his wastrel son, Cassán, after his duel with Brianag.
Cassán is the son of Áine and Brion. His insane, disease-ridden, murderous mother, was executed by her brother Íar, leaving him with Brion. Cosseted by his mother, Cassán became indulged and ignored by his father. Banished from Dùn Brion, he falls into the hands of Gormal, who cuts his hand off and sends it to Brion.
In Gormal’s dungeons, Cassán is tended to and helped to escape by Eimhir, a servant with a royal background. His goal is to show Brion and others that he has changed.
“…a pampered, unpleasant child who had no genuine friends… blade scraped his skull to remove the last vestiges of hair… transformed an emaciated body to one having a sinewy strength.
Eimhir is the serving wench who helps Cassán escape from Gormal’s dungeons. She is the daughter of Finnean Mac Sèitheach, the mad, dissolute, and homicidal king of the Na Mèadaidh before Brion took his throne. Finnean was executed by Brion’s sister, Mórrígan, twenty years previously.
Eimhir was sold out by her sister, Ealasaid, to gain favour with Gormal. She becomes Brion’s deadly shadow.
Ealasaid is a deadly, heartless assassin, who uses promiscuity as a weapon. She is Eimhir’s sister and Finnean’s daughter and believes the throne of the Na Mèadaidh is rightfully hers. Thus, she kills all who get in the way of her being crowned queen.
“…beautiful woman, who bathed in other’s admiration, Ealasaid was taken seriously by no one… driving desire aimed to inflict maximum pain on those she deemed had deprived her of her rightful place among the Na Mèadaidh… murderous darkness in her eyes.”
“The philosophy that no one is irredeemable met its foil in Ealasaid Nic Finnean. Madness could not be attributed to her, for her thoughts and actions were as clear as mountain spring water and sharp as the blades she wielded.”
Gormal is king of Dùn Athad, a stone fortress that sits on a crag at the heart of marshlands. His driving mission is to defeat Brion and become Dùn Brion’s king. He blames Brion for the death of his mother, father, and brother. However, he needs a way of drawing Brion out of his stronghold. Cassán gives him that advantage.
Later, Gormal, and his army, fall under the thrall of Sidheag.
“…many summers of bitterness and little exercise had slouched his shoulders and caused his spine to curve, leaving a permanent hump on his upper back… deformed and weak-jawed righ and one whose brutality disguised his lack of substance.”
“Gormal awoke from his nightmare to feel Sidheag’s long, blood-red talons caress his scrawny neck. Her fetid breath filled his nostrils. Only abject terror prevented him from puking and shitting his triubhas.”
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