Ciaran Looks Back on the Perils of Childhood

Kid Ciaran_005
Ciaran as a Child

I can imagine the confabulation as Ciaran paints for Evaine a portrait from memory of what it was like to grow up in a castle full of vulgar men and unfulfilled women. What ordinary mortal could resist this curious child born under a cloak of secrecy and taboo? Who could avoid falling under the spell of his angelic appearance? What ordinary human would be immune to the speculation and suspicion that seemed always to hover around him? The unorthodox circumstances of his birth left much to the imagination and prompted many to question the legitimacy of his lineage. For some it might have felt safer to objectify and demonize him in order to avoid examining too closely their own sins.

“For years, everyone thought I was a girl!” he said, his voice brittle with indignation. “My foster-brothers dubbed me “Princess of Narberth” until I turned ten, when I at last developed the skill and the muscle to fight back. The ladies of the court fussed over me relentlessly. The nuns and the nursemaids used to chase after me with their hair brushes! Can you imagine?”

Keeping a straight face, Evaine pressed a palm to her heart, frowning at the injustice of it all. “How on earth did you defend yourself?” she asked earnestly.

Ciaran continued without pause. “Most of the time, I contrived to elude them,” he claimed, thrusting out his jaw with an air of self-importance. Adding an aside, he explained, “I knew all the castle’s hiding places. Whenever I spied one of them coming, I would scramble for the nearest hole-in-the-wall where I could keep out of sight until they grew weary of the search.”

“What happened when they found you?” Evaine wondered.

Ciaran scowled. “They sought to adorn my hair with ribbons and dress me in skirts!” he said contemptuously. “I complained bitterly, of course. But no matter how loudly I bellowed, the sisters would have none of it.”

He then commenced, in his most theatrical falsetto, to deliver a scathing parody of the dreaded voices of courtly female authority: “Sweet child, you’re just going through a phase.  All little girls like to pretend to be boys up to a certain age. You’ll see. Eventually, you’ll outgrow it. Now be a lamb and fetch my comb. That’s a darling. And please do try to sit still whilst I work the snarls out of your hair. Spun silk such as yours would be the crowning glory of most young ladies. Why you resist the necessity of grooming it is beyond me! Such abuse of one’s God-given endowments is an insult to the Lord!”

The Flamebearer-Narberth

The real Castle Narberth of Pembrokshire now lies in ruins. It played a significant role in Welsh mythology as the primary seat of power in the tale of Pwyll, Prince of Annwn. The Mound of Narberth also came into play as the portal that led into the Otherworld.

After spending a majority of the past three decades viewing the world through Ciaran’s eyes, the shock upon returning to a place that held such significance for him to find it overgrown, crumbling and neglected required a serious attitude adjustment. I had to sit down with him for an extended heart-to-heart talk on what to make of this unexpected turn of events. Needless to say, he did not take it well. His understandable disorientation tugged at my heart and brought me close to tears.

He immediately concluded that returning to the world of men had been a momentous mistake. Surprised at this, I asked him what he intended to do. “I must go back at once,” he declared. “Are you sure?” I pressed. “Aren’t you at all curious about how things have changed? You aren’t interested in exploring further?” He did not hesitate, but insisted his only option was to find a way back to the Otherworld with all haste. “Why would I want to tarry in a world where everyone I once knew and loved is gone?” he said, his face gaunt with anguish.

I do not know how I could have expected any other response from him. My heart filled with regret. We both decided not to linger any longer for fear of conjuring an army of ghosts.




The Flamebearer Synopsis

Abandoned in infancy by his Faery mother, the young Cambrian lord, Ciaran ap Morgan, loses his beloved father to death at the hands of Norman Marcher barons when he is still a boy. Raised by his mortal uncle and trained as a warrior, he hungers for blood and glory, driven by a fierce desire for revenge and a restless, fiery spirit.

His destiny changes the moment he meets Evaine, the human girl he calls his “dark lady.” Despite his best-laid plans, he finds instead of longing for battle, he is beset with visions of love.

For the maiden Evaine, the future holds little expectation for joy. In a culture notorious for its glorification of war and long-standing devaluation the Feminine, she resigns herself to a life of sacrifice in a loveless union arranged by her family to deter hostilities along the border. The enigmatic prince breaks open her heart, awakening her to a promise of love she had never dared to dream.

As the preordained wedding approaches, the two secretly confess to a mysterious and overpowering attraction akin to the reuniting of souls, pitting the young lovers in a dramatic struggle against the tide of circumstances and events.  Do they dare defy the ruthless overlord, Lionel de Barre, to follow the path of their hearts? Are they willing to gamble everything on the strength of their fragile, newly-discovered connection and risk provoking a bloody war they cannot hope to win?



The Flamebearer Preface

This is a work of fiction. I have drawn from time-honored Celtic and medieval romances, and other western European mythologies, and while elements of these traditions permeate much of my writing, I have let my imagination weave a story which reflects my personal vision, rather than adhering to exalted legend or chronological fact. I do not claim to be a writer of historical fiction so much as a spellbinder, inviting the reader into a world where fantasy and reality gradually become indistinguishable, where the veil separating the ordinary world from the realm of Faerie disappears.

The drama unfolds against the backdrop of the Norman conquest of Wales, an effort which surprisingly lasted several hundred years. As French and English authority spread throughout the Celtic lands of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, occupation and insurgency dominated the times. Lance and sword ruled the “marches” – the constantly shifting border regions dividing the established Anglo-Norman power structure from the untamed, (and possibly “ungovernable”) natives.

Many claimed the land itself, with its misty remoteness, its winds and its vast stretches of moorlands dotted with strange stone monuments to antiquity, bred anarchists and poets. Religious superstition, coupled with widespread belief in witchcraft, sorcery, and other sinister forces that threatened to undermine one’s faith and sanity permeated all of society, affecting common folk and nobility alike.

Where possible I have given Welsh (or least distinctly Celtic) names to my characters, and have chosen to use the native spellings, rather than the Anglicized versions. I’m pleased to provide a pronunciation guide for readers who are unfamiliar with this ancient and beautiful language.

This is primarily a love story, a personal quest undertaken by two idealized, yet deeply flawed and vulnerable characters. To risk entering the mysterious territory of passionate devotion, erotic intimacy, and emotional honesty is perhaps the greatest uncertainty either of them will ever face. In telling their story, I aim for the highest romantic ideal, while scrupulously observing the raw imperfections, doubts, fears, lusts, and complexities of an unfolding relationship.

Can enchanted soul love survive the thrilling yet perilous journey into the fires of intimacy, while the ordinary world seethes with violence, ignorance, inequality and greed? I imagine every lover hungers for such perfection, but so many forces align against its earthly attainment that we ultimately despair of finding it anywhere but between the pages of a romance novel. In the end, if we truly believe, perhaps we’ll find it within the fragile boundaries of our own beating hearts.