Well, it’s time for a new book on Novel Monday. I decided to go with another Matriarchies of Muirin book this time: Coming Together. Hope you enjoy the story as it unfolds over the next few months!
The last thing Mari expected when she and her sisters arrived in Aingeal City with a load of trade goods was to land squarely in the middle of a marriage alliance. But that was the only way to save her clan and the Dana clan from the Delbhana plot that threatened not just them, but the entire world.
Mixing fantasy with romance, author Meyari McFarland expertly crafts a sweet romance that defies categories and instantly charms.
By Meyari McFarland
1. Aingeal City
The cart wheels rumbled, low and confident, as Mari gently flicked the horses’ feathered backs with the reins. They picked up the pace a little, sliding into a lazy trot that made the cart jolt and rock across the worn stone surface of the Royal Road. Sometime in the last year or so, since Mari’s last visit to Aingeal City, someone had planted fast growing birch at the edges of the fields. They were still small, only half again as tall as Mari, but their fresh green leaves sparkled and danced in the faint wind off the bay.
Behind Mari, nine more carts loaded with wool and pottery, carved furniture and carefully bound books, rumbled along. Banba’s horses, next back from Mari, huffed and stamped their feet before picking up the pace, too. Behind her, Caer’s horses screamed a challenge, great beaks snapping as they tried to break into a gallop only to be hauled back by Caer.
Mari laughed quietly, shifting on the hard seat. There was nothing better than the feel of the wind against her face, the sun beating down, as she drove a cart across Aingeal. She would never understand how people could live in cities, especially Aingeal City with its huge walls and crowded streets. Every visit she’d ever made left Mari twitchy for the open road, the comfort of a hammock strung between wagons and a campfire burning in the night.
City life was definitely not for her. Sure, Aingeal City was the capital, with winding streets and sheer brick buildings that loomed like cliffs about to collapse on top of you; it was rich and powerful. Everything valuable traveled through Aingeal City at some point, carried by carts or ships to this sinkhole of humanity.
The city stank of sewage along the southwestern edge and of dying fish along the port on the northeastern edge. People talked too loud, wore much too much finery and Mari would never understand how they could eat that food. Too plain, filled with seaweed and fish instead of good old chicken or pork, Aingeal City’s food always drove Mari to lose weight before they left for home. They couldn’t even cook beans without making them dissolve into mush in the mouth.
The horses stomped their feet as they rounded a corner and Aingeal City’s red brick walls appeared. Mari snorted, grateful for the wind at her back so that she didn’t have to smell the city’s stink a moment sooner than necessary. She licked her lips, tasting breakfast beans and sausage, before waving a fist to Banba.
“There she is!” Mari shouted.
“‘Bout time,” Banba shouted back.
The call carried back to the last cart, dusty from everyone else’s wheels, then forward again in a cheer that made Mari laugh again. There was some temptation to encourage the horses to run, to gallop down the long smooth slope of the road towards the walls ahead but Mari resisted it. They’d been trapped in the city walls soon enough.
She wanted to savor every last instant of the free road while she could. At least in the hills surrounding the plain there were trees and brooks, birds calling as the horses and carts trundled by. Once they’d left the hills and rolled down into the floodplain they’d lost the sounds of wildlife. Also lost the scent of pine, fresh and clean on the breeze.
“You taking lead?” Banba called to Mari.
“Planned to,” Mari called back.