It’s time for a new novel for Novel Monday’s and this time I decided to go with Storm Over Archaelaos, on of my Muirin novels. It was so much fun to write because Anwyn trying to behave is a very strange thing. *laughs* Anyway, I hope that you enjoy this new novel as it unfolds over the next couple of months!
When Anwyn heard her best friend cursing over a letter from home, she thought it would be nice to give her a hand. A quick trip to a new country to protect Iola from an unwelcome marriage would be a chance to have fun while doing a good deed.
But the trip revealed plots against the Dana that Anwyn could never have anticipated. The simple trip became a complicated political trial that threatened not just the family’s fortunes but Anwyn’s safety as well. Stopping the Delbhana’s plot might be the hardest thing Anwyn had ever done but failure wasn’t an option.
Storm over Archaelaos is an epic coming of age fantasy set on the matriarchal world of Muirin. People of all ages will enjoy this thrilling adventure.
Storm Over Archaelaos
By Meyari McFarland
“Damn that woman to the Morrigan’s deepest Hell!”
Anwyn blinked at the angry curse. It sounded like Iola, one of the youngest sailors on the Stormspinner and one of Anwyn’s closest friends among the sailors her family employed. The Stormspinner gotten into port four days ago and Iola was staying at the Clan House until the Stormspinner went back out to sea.
Her family was from Archaelaos instead of Aingeal. Anwyn didn’t know much about Archaelaos. Iola wouldn’t talk about it and the time they’d spent together had been filled with Anwyn’s chatter and Iola’s quiet laughter.
The hallway from the warehouse back to the bunks where Iola was staying was dark and musty. Someone must have shut the window at the far end of the hallway during the rain last night. Anwyn could almost taste the moisture building up in the hallway and made a mental note to make sure the window was opened again before things could start to molder. Iola’s bunk was close to the end of the hallway and yes, the window was closed.
“What’s wrong?” Anwyn asked once she followed the sound of Iola’s muttered cursing into Iola’s borrowed bunk.
“My… mother,” Iola snarled as she glared at the letter in her hand. “She wants me to come home.”
Her dark cheeks had gone darker with a furious flush that made her look almost Ntombian. Anwyn cocked her head as she read over Iola’s shoulder, struggling with the loopy Archaelaosian script done in such a messy hand that it was nearly incomprehensible. After a moment of frustration Anwyn shrugged and looked at Iola curiously.
“She claims to be sick, dying,” Iola said in such a sarcastic tone that Anwyn couldn’t help but wince. “For the eighth time since I left home. So she’s begging me to come home and see her one last time before she dies.”
“Really?” Anwyn asked, confused.
Iola snorted and nodded as she folded the letter back up and stuffed it back into the heavy brown paper envelope that had protected it on the trip to Aingeal City. “It’s ridiculous. I’d wager my full year’s wages that Father has no idea she sent the letter. I know that stubborn woman. It’s another attempt to get me home so that she can marry me off to some nice young boy.”
Anwyn shrugged, wondering what was wrong with that. Granted, Iola was a little young to get married. She didn’t have the rank or pay to support a husband quite yet but Mother had mentioned that Iola was a hard worker who would go far. In a few years she’d probably be second or third in charge of the Stormspinner.
Their relationship alternated between an adopted older sister who backed up her scrappy younger sister and two young women hinting at the possibility of falling in bed with each other. To Anwyn’s dismay Iola always backed off before anything happened. Anwyn was pretty sure that Iola was still a virgin even though she was seventeen and had been around the world twice already.
“So… what’s the problem?” Anwyn asked when Iola continued to fume. She sat opposite Iola on Cousin Noreen’s bunk, making a face at the faintly damp feeling of her blankets. That window really needed to get opened again. “You get married, bring him back and he helps out in the warehouse. Couple of years, you get your own place and start having kids. This is a problem?”
Iola barked a laugh, her eyes wide with fear, not amusement. “Annie, I’m from Archaelaos. It’s a patriarchal culture. The men rule, not the women. If I marry a man from Archaelaos I’ll be expected to start wearing skirts, immediately get pregnant, cook all the meals and stay home with the kids. I’d have to act like Caddie and there’s no possibility that my husband would consent to leave Archaelaos. I’d never set foot off the island again.”
Anwyn stared at her, horrified. That sounded like the worst thing possible to Anwyn. Granted, at fourteen Anwyn hadn’t been too many places in the world yet, unlike her older sister Raelin, but she already knew that she wanted to keep traveling the seas as long as possible. Being trapped into taking care of the house and cooking sounded like torture.
“Are you serious?” Anwyn gasped.
Iola’s nod was so grim that Anwyn winced. Well, there was no way that Anwyn would let Iola be shipped back home to that. If it was something that Iola wanted, like Uncle Tavish’s decision to live as a male, that was different. But Iola was absolutely feminine.
She drank hard, fought harder and seemed happiest when the Stormspinner was out at sea. Confining Iola to a kitchen for the rest of her life was the next best thing to a prison sentence. From the dark desperate expression on Iola’s face as she stared at the envelope she seemed to feel the prison bars closing around her. Anwyn watched her for a moment, determination welling up.
“Why don’t I go with you?” Anwyn abruptly asked.
“What?” Iola stared at Anwyn, the trapped expression disappearing into complete confusion.
Anwyn grinned. “Why not? I’ve never been to Archaelaos before and I know that Mother’s working on a trade deal of some kind with some people there. I could go along, keep you from being married off against your will, and even help get more trade for the family. It’d work for everyone. Well, everyone other than your mother, of course.”
Iola’s mouth dropped open as Anwyn talked. By the time Anwyn got to the last bit, Iola’s dark eyes were dancing with amusement. She nodded before picking up the letter. Rather than answering, Iola stood, staring into the distance as if she was seeing something else entirely.
Anwyn waited for Iola to think it over. She was used to giving everyone else time to catch up with her hair-brained schemes. It might not work. Anwyn had no idea what sort of deal Mother was trying to arrange on Archaelaos. For all she knew the whole thing might already be set up so there wouldn’t be any reason to send Anwyn there. If it was possible, Anwyn was pretty sure that she could sell it as a chance to learn more about the culture and report it back to the family. Either way, she didn’t intend to let Iola go alone, not if she might get trapped into an unwanted marriage.
“What would your mother say?” Iola asked, her eyes finally focusing on Anwyn.
“No idea,” Anwyn said as she bounced back to her feet to grin up at Iola. “Let’s go find out.”
Iola groaned as if she’d expected Anwyn to have some sort of plan. Despite her dismay, Iola followed Anwyn out of the bunk room and down into the warehouse. At this time of the afternoon the hallways were mostly empty. Anwyn’s cousins and aunts were busy out of the house and her brothers and male cousins were busy getting dinner ready or doing house work.
It was easy enough to find Mother. Her voice carried through the warehouse and the workers pointed Anwyn in the correct direction as soon as she raised her eyebrows questioningly. Mother was in the middle sized conference room closest to the formal entrance with Aunt Ashley and Aunt Colleen. That was promising. Aunt Ashley and Colleen were responsible for the trade in Minoo and Azar. Archaelaos sat off to the east of the two bigger islands.
“It’s a mess,” Aunt Colleen complained. “We haven’t been able to get through to anyone with any authority and the little prick keeps telling us we don’t have the right to negotiate with him.”
“Mother?” Anwyn asked.
“Not now, Annie,” Mother grumbled without looking. “We’re working.”
“Is it on the Archaelaos deal?” Anwyn asked. She forged on even though all three of the older women glared at her. “Because Iola’s just gotten a letter from home. She’s from Archaelaos.”
That got Mother’s attention properly, as well as Aunt Ashley’s and Aunt Colleen’s. They stared at Iola who quailed for a moment before squaring her shoulders and nodding confirmation. To Anwyn’s delight, Mother waved for them both to sit at the table. Anwyn made a point of sitting between Iola and Mother. No reason to let Mother intimidate Iola any more than was necessary. When she glared like that she intimidated everyone but the Delbhana.
“What’s the letter say?” Mother asked Iola.
Iola sighed, sliding it over to Mother for her to look at. “She claims to be deathly ill. I’m supposed to come home right away but she’d pulled this eight times in four years. I doubt my father even knows that she sent the letter to me. He’s scolded her for it before.”
“If she’s really ill I have no problem shipping you home,” Mother said.
She opened the envelope and then stared at the letter as if she found it as hard to read as Anwyn had. After a moment she looked at Iola with a questioning expression that Anwyn was pretty sure exactly matched the one she’d worn earlier. Iola breathed a little rueful laugh, taking the letter back so that she could glare at it.
“Mother never learned to write properly,” Iola admitted. “I don’t think she’s sick. Not really. Her health has always been fragile, yes, but this is more than likely another one of her attempts to marry me off.”
Both Aunt Ashley and Aunt Colleen jerked as if they’d been slapped. Mother frowned so fiercely that she had to know exactly why that was bad. It made Anwyn wonder for a moment which lessons she’d dozed through or if this was something she hadn’t learned yet. Iola just nodded grimly as she folded the letter back up.
“My thought,” Anwyn said as the others went grim and silent, “was that I could go with Iola. She’d get to visit home safely. I could maybe help out on the trade deal while I was there. And I’d get to learn about a very different culture. You know you always say I need to learn more, Mother. And Iola is from Archaelaos. She’s sure to be able to help you get in contact with the people you need, right?”
Aunt Colleen frowned at Iola, rubbing her cheek and tugging one ear as she thought about. Iola was sitting close enough to Anwyn that she could feel the way Iola’s legs trembled from nerves but it didn’t show on her face. Her hands were perfectly steady and calm around the letter.
“You know Doran Kalivas?” Aunt Colleen asked.
Iola blinked. “Yes? He’s a friend of my father’s. Minor clerk in the import office. Why?”
“He’s a clerk?” Aunt Ashley groaned. “Damn the man, we’ve been trying to get information to Pelagio Mellas and he keeps saying that we don’t have the proper paperwork to be allowed access to him. We’ve sent three ships so far and he’s blocked us every time.”
“It’s probably not the paperwork blocking you,” Iola sighed. “You haven’t bribed him well enough and you’re not male. You need to send a man along to handle all the talking. Doran would never let a woman have access to Mellas. It’d be his job if he did.”
She smiled wryly as Aunt Colleen groaned, Aunt Ashley grumbled something thoroughly obscene under her breath and Mother snarled. Anwyn just stared. It was so strange to think of a place where men had that sort of power, where women automatically held lesser status than the men. Thinking about it made her head hurt as she tried to work out how that would change the culture, language and customs.
Mother shook her head sharply, sighing nearly as forcefully. “We’ll have to send Caddie with you.”
“Oh, Goddess no!” Iola immediately protested. She blushed at the way Mother stared at her, her knee shaking against Anwyn’s thigh. “I’m sorry but no. Not Caddie. He’ll get punched in the face within the first couple of minutes and then bullied endlessly after that. You need someone much brighter and more cheerful. Aravel would be perfect.”
“He doesn’t know how to stay out of women’s laps,” Mother huffed.
“I know. He’s perfect,” Iola said, waving both hands as if that was exactly what was need.
Aunt Ashley started snickering. She elbowed Aunt Colleen whose chin dropped down to her chest as she laughed quietly. Anwyn stared at them and then at Mother because she groaned and let her head drop down to her folded arms on the table. Iola grinned when Anwyn turned to stare at her.
“What am I missing?” Anwyn asked, a little annoyed to be the only person left out of the joke. If it was a joke. It looked like a joke anyway.
Iola chuckled, patting Anwyn’s shoulder. Her fingers shook a little bit during the contact but it didn’t show as she pulled her hand back. Anwyn didn’t draw any attention to it, not that Mother or her Aunts were paying attention. They were too busy snickering over whatever joke Iola had made.
“Men in Archaelaos behave the way women do here, Annie,” Iola explained. “So a prim, proper young man like Caddie is going to be treated by the men as if he is female. That is, he’d be a target for seduction and rape. Aravel, on the other hand, is outgoing, cheerful and his head swivels around whenever a woman walks by. He acts more appropriately to what ‘man’ means in Archaelaos. He might be wearing kilts but he acts right. They’ll probably shrug off the ‘strange’ clothes and accept Aravel as a more or less ‘normal’ guy.”
“And he’s so cheerful about everything that he’ll charm them,” Aunt Ashley agreed, grinning and patting Mother’s shoulder when she groaned more loudly.
“He really would do well at it,” Aunt Colleen agreed.
“He’s going to fuck some girl and get her pregnant and I’ll have a useless girl to shove into the household,” Mother snarled at them without lifting her forehead from her arms.
That made Anwyn start laughing. She really shouldn’t but honestly, she could see Aravel doing it and then being so sweet and charming about it afterwards the no one got mad at him but Mother. If they did do this then Anwyn would have to be extra careful to supervise Aravel so that he didn’t get into trouble with some local girl.
“Iola,” Mother said with a tired sigh as she sat back up, “you willing to go back there?”
Iola hesitated for long enough that all of them stared at her with concern. “I… suppose so. I won’t go alone. Ever. But if it will help the business and I have someone to guard my back then yes, I’ll go.”
“Good,” Mother said. “Neither Anwyn nor Aravel speak Archaelaosian. You’ll need to translate for them though the Goddesses know that Aravel’s cheer tends not to need translation.”
“True,” Iola chuckled. “I can do that. I haven’t forgotten the language yet. Lots of people there speak Minooan and Aingealese anyway.”
“Go pack,” Mother ordered. “The ship leaves tomorrow and I want both of you on it. I’ll get Aravel moving. You two,” she pointed at Aunt Colleen and Aunt Ashley, “get the full files on the deal to Aravel and Anwyn before the ship loads. I want them to have plenty of time to review it on the way there. Colleen, you’re going along to supervise.”
Both Aunt Colleen and Aunt Ashley nodded. Anwyn grinned as she stood. An adventure, she got to go on an adventure. It promised to be a really good on. Instead of Caddie being cranky and panicky by her side, Anwyn got to go with Aravel and Iola. This should be the best trip yet!
Find the rest of Storm Over Archaelaos here:
On Kobo $5.99 ebook
On Amazon $5.99 ebook
On Smashwords $5.99 ebook
On CreateSpace $24.99 5″ x 8″ TPB
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