This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. This week, it’s Beathas of Ailsa.

Beathas of Ailsa

In short: Hauflin, female, in her mid-90s, magic-maiden, living at Moon Meadow

Family and Teen Years

Little is known about this magic-maiden and so far, nothing has been revealed about her family or younger years. She arrived at Moon Meadow when Bronwyn was just a boy. She made a home there in a small cottage on the top of a hill surrounded by lush gardens and several waterfalls feeding into a large pool. Before the series ends, much more will be revealed.

Where I Found Her Name

Magic-maiden BeathasBeathas was one of those Scottish names that appealed to me. When I read the meaning, having great wisdom, I knew this was the perfect name for this mysterious magic-maiden.

Ailsa was another Scottish/Viking/Gaelic name that appealed to me. It “originates from the language of the Vikings who named a Scottish island in the Firth of Clyde, Alfsigesey (meaning Alfsigr, or Elf Victory). As a result, it’s meaning has evolved to “supernatural victory”.

Hauflins have a tradition of naming daughter’s first with an original name and then their mother’s (meeme’s) name. With this in mind, Beathas’ mother’s name was Ailsa. Isla’s mother’s name is Maura (Isla of Maura).

Boys are given an original first name and their father’s (das’) surname. Liam Jenkin’s father’s last name was Jenkin, and Liam would give all his sons the same surname. Isla of Maura’s daughters would be given an original name and ‘of Isla’ would be added to the end as a ‘surname’ (for example: Dianna of Isla).

History in Real Life

Beathas was not part of the original story, though there were a few magic-maidens who provided information and magic items to the original group. These people were brought together in one character named Beathas.

Role in Novels

Shadows in the Stone: Although Beathas is mentioned many times, characters visit her cottage at Moon Meadow and we feel her presence, she doesn’t actually show up in this book. By the end, we have a good sense of who she is because of those who know her – Bronwyn, Alaura and Isla – and their impressions of their shared experiences.

Scattered Stones: Beathas has two small but vital scenes in this novel.

Waterfall magical mystic

Beyond the Myst: And there lay the mystery. Beathas does not appear in this novel.

Revelation Stones: She appears in one scene, gives Isla an item that helps her and she is thought about several times.

Healing Stones: This novel will be written in January, and I believe Beathas has at least one scene. Until it’s written, I don’t know anything else.

Others: I feel Beathas will be around for several more novels, providing guidance, magic items and the stubborn in-your-face facts some characters need to hear. And let’s not forget the ear-pulling to get someone’s attention. Honestly, I have no idea where her and Bronwyn’s relationship came from. It’s a mystery, but gosh I love their interactions.

A snippet of a scene with them together in Revelation Stones.

“Remove your clothing save your shirt and trousers.”

Bronwyn eyed Beathas. It sounded like an order. When he opened his mouth to protest, she stopped him.

“Do it now. We don’t have time for petty debates. You must obey immediately without question if we’re to save Alaura.”

He stood and removed his cloak and vest, tossing them on a nearby chair.

“Everything,” Beathas said firmly. “Boots, socks, sword, daggers, belts. Remove it all.”

Was this necessary? Or did she want to disarm him? When he was done, she inspected him.

“You wear a singlet. Remove your outer shirt.” When he made a face, she frowned at him. “I’d have you strip to your shorts if you weren’t ridiculously bashful.”

He gulped. She knew too well the old Bronwyn, the young man who had never loved a woman. He didn’t wear shorts, so he’d keep on his trousers. “Is this—?”

It is. You’ll thank me later.”

He unbuttoned his shirt and added it to the pile. “What am I to do?”

“As you are told without hesitation.” She motioned him towards the bed. “Lay beside her. It will save us from picking you up off the floor.”

He prepared to comment, but her expression left no room for doubt. He climbed onto the bed and settled beside Alaura. When he moved to grasp her hand, Beathas swatted him away.

“You’re not prepared.” She continued to stir the contents of the bowl. “Reserve your strength. You’ll need it.”

He nursed his baby finger, the one that had taken the brunt of the attack. He had never known Beathas to be so forceful. She had always been a sweet woman who had offered him gumdrops when he came to visit with his dad many years ago.

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This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. This week, it’s Maisie Darrow.

Maisie Darrow

In short: Dwarf, female, born Rhunestone Castle on The Headlands of Mar, living at Maskil, mate to Gavin Darrow, maiden name Kintale, owns and operates Forest Bakery and Herbs Shop with mate, six children (3 boys, 3 girls): Calder, Molly, Joris, Loran, Rhiannon and Bronwyn, several grandchildren.

Family and Teen Years

Not much has been revealed about Maisie’s parents and siblings, but I feel there is a big story to tell there. She named her youngest son after her brother, Bronwyn. She and Gaven met in Glen Tosh, fell in love and united there. Soon after, they moved to Maskil where they set up their shop and raised a family.

Like all mums, she’s protective of her flock. Although she was busy with her shop, she paid special attention to her children, attention that will be revealed in later novels. Now that they are adults, she’s still an intricate part of their lives, particularly Bronwyn’s. She doesn’t hesitate to give motherly advice, and she also knows how to wheedle information from him as can be seen when he returns to Maskil after being gone a long time.

He swallowed hard. His mum had a way of getting him to talk and here in the bedroom, after his waking, was when she usually weaselled the truth from his lips. To protect Alaura, he couldn’t tell anyone where she was or that he had made contact with her. But here, under his mum’s scrutiny, he found it impossible to hide anything.

Her motherly advice on love appears now and again. Here she is giving it to Bronwyn in Scattered Stones:

“You get only one chance, you know.” She leant back and breathed deeply. “It’s why I pursued your dad. As bashful and tenacious as he was, I knew him to be the one. It was far from painless, but you can’t forsake those who touch your heart like no other.”

Her greatest joy comes from her family and like all mothers, she loves to feed them:

His mum gazed around the table. She enjoyed this most of all: gathering the family for the evening ration. It was the time to share their lives, the joys and the disappointments. She had often said it was the occasion to renew the family bond and for each to gather strength to carry on. He believed that now. One day he wanted to bring his family to the table and continue the tradition. When his mum’s eyes met his, he smiled. She returned the smile and a peaceful expression eased the lines in her cheeks.kitchen

Where I Found her Name

Would you believe from our miniature donkey? That’s right; our donkey’s name is Maisie.

History in Real Life

Maisie was not a part of the original story. However, by the time I revised that story written during my teen years, I was a mother. Through Maisie, I was able to guide Bronwyn in life.

I’ve been told that one thing that sets my epic fantasy stories apart from others is the family aspect. Most of the heroes in fantasy novels are orphans, and if not orphaned, they are estranged from their family, many not knowing who their parents are.

I can only assume the importance I place on family overflowed into my stories. It’s about time a hero had a loving, caring mum who’s there to patch up broken arms, make him cookies and to give unwanted motherly advice. After all, there are often only two women in a man’s life that can get him to do things he doesn’t want to do: his mum and his mate. Bronwyn needs both these women.

My interest in genealogy also played a part, and is why the Darrow and Mulryan family tree will be explored in the Castle Keepers series.

Role in Novels

Maisie pops in and out of the story in every novel, except perhaps in Revelation Stones. She’s there when a mum is needed. As I mentioned above, I believe Maisie has a wonderful story to tell, and this will be told in a future novel.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers fantasy series. This week, it’s Alaura of Niamh.

Alaura of Niamh

In short: hauflin/human; female; long dark-blonde hair; brown eyes; born in North Ridge, Petra, and currently living in Maskil; sorceress/healer; at the start of Shadows in the Stone, she was Catriona Wheatcroft’s apprentice.

Family and Teen Years

The Pledge short storyAlaura is the youngest child and only daughter of Niamh M’Egan (human) and Rasnil Egan (hauflin). She has five brothers, including Pym and Benjamin M’Egan. She grew up in the mountainous region of Petra and loved to explore nature with her brother Pym, who is only three seasons older than her.

We first meet Alaura, age 18, in The Pledge where her life changed forever. With Pym’s help, she fled North Ridge and safely reached Maskil where she began a new life.

In the opening scene of Shadows in the Stone, she helps Catriona as she assists Maura of Ealasaid to give birth to Isla of Maura. Before Maura passes into the Plane of Peace, Alaura gives Her Word to protect Isla. This bounds her forever to the child.

Where I Found Her Name

Shadows in the Stone - Diane Lynn McGyverThe original name for this character was Anna of Niamh (pronounced ‘neev’). Niamh is an ancient Celtic name that was originally a term used for a goddess. It means bright or radiant. In Irish Mythology, she is the daughter of the sea god Manannan, and she was known as “Niamh of the Golden Hair”, a beautiful princess riding on a white horse. In Shadows in the Stone, Alaura rides Clover, a Haflinger pony with a red-chestnut coat and a flaxen mane and tail.

Wanting a more interesting name to go with Niamh, I searched for months. When I saw Alaura, I knew that was the name of this magical being.

History in Real Life

Alaura was not part of the original cast from the novel written in the mid-80s. She was discovered in the rewrites that took place in the late 1990s. I needed a female lead to challenge Bronwyn Darrow, and she proved herself worthy.

Role in Novels

Alaura played a major part in Shadows in the Stone as well as in Scattered Stones. Since Revelation Stones focusses on Isla, Alaura will have a much smaller role.

From Pixabay

She’s a confident woman who possesses unique magical abilities she won’t fully understand until they mature. She is faithful to those she loves and calls friend. Bronwyn thinks she’s the most beautiful woman who ever walked the Land of Ath-o’Lea, but his brother Joris thinks she’s “pretty by hauflin standards, but her human features dulled her beauty. She appeared too delicate for his liking, and her reserve manner told him she’d be a boring date.”

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers fantasy series. This week, it’s the Private Burkenshaw.

Farlan Burkenshaw

In short: Human; male; rich brown hair; blue eyes; born Unknown; currently living at Maskil; started as a private with Aruam Castle when introduced in Shadows in the Stone; by the end of the novel, he was Sergeant Burkenshaw; loves to eat dried pumpkin seeds.

Family and Teen Years

Artist LeightonFarlan was raised in the Maskil Orphanage. He doesn’t remember his parents, but he remembers his older sister Saraline. She taught him about magic in the twilight.

When Bronwyn started out on his dangerous journey, Farlan told him, “At the orphanage, Saraline would take me outside in the morning light and tell me stories about our mom. I don’t remember her, but my sister did. Our mother died a few short years after my birth. My sister told me magic danced in the twilight. She told me to look to it for strength. The last day I saw her, before her new parents took her away, she led me outside before the sun rose. She told me all the hope one needed could be found in the twilight. Each new day I hope I’ll find her. And now, I’ll also hope you and Isla will return.”

He added, “Don’t ever give up hope. It’ll keep you alive when the odds are against you. Every sunrise, I want you to renew yourself. Think of it as a fresh beginning where the events of yesterday can be soothed in the twilight. There is power we don’t understand in the air when it isn’t dark yet is not yet light. I’ve felt it many times. It’s as if fairies are flirting with the air we breathe, poking us with needles to see if we’re still alive. Breathe it in. Let it wash away your fears.”

Where I Found His Name

I struggled to find a good strong name for this character. He was new to me, and I didn’t know his history and inner spirit. I wanted him to have a long last name, and that was found first. His first name changed many times until I came across Farlan. It reminded me of my cousin’s name, Farley. Farley is outgoing with a healthy spirit, the same as Farlan. The name stuck, and years later, it still works for me.

History in Real Life

Shadows in the Stone - Diane Lynn McGyverFarlan in all sense of the word was an orphan, a boy who showed up without a past looking for a task to perform. He wasn’t part of the original cast gathered in my teens, so he was a stranger to me. Bronwyn needed a best friend at the castle, and when he met Farlan, the two got along as if brothers. It was a perfect match.

When Isla showed up, Farlan took on the big brother role. Together they go on many adventures, get into trouble and pick on each other as siblings do.

His Future

Farlan plays a major role in the first half of Shadows in the Stone, almost giving his life for Isla. Although he wants to continue on the quest, his injuries prevent him and he returns to the castle. In Scattered Stones, he plays only a minor role. Given that Revelation Stones focusses on Isla and her adventures away from Aruam Castle, I am unsure of how much screen time Farlan will get. I have a feeling he’ll show up—oh, that’s right; he does—but it’s in a minor role.

The future holds many surprises for Farlan, ones he’ll be happy and not so happy to receive.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers fantasy series. It started last week with Bronwyn Darrow. This week, it’s the sorceress Catriona.

Catriona Wheatcroft

In short: Human; female; born in Maskil and currently living on Horizon Lane in Maskil; sorceress; at the start of Shadows in the Stone, she had several apprentices working under her, including Alaura of Niamh.

Family and Teen Years

Destiny Governed their LivesCatriona is the oldest child of Kathleen and Emerson Wheatcroft. She has two younger brothers, Jimmy and Rod. Since she was a young teen, she loved playing with magic. Although she strives to be a great sorceress, a dreadful mistake when she was 17 years old caused her family a great heartbreak.

We first meet Catriona, age 17, in Destiny Governed their Lives where we learn about the worst day in her life. Crushed by events in this story, her parents move their family to Wandsworth. However, Catriona remained in Maskil, both because it is her home and because she could not bear to face her parents after the tragedy she brought to her family.

Shadows in the Stone - Diane Lynn McGyverIn Shadows in the Stone, we meet her in the opening scene. She and Alaura are assisting Maura of Ealasaid to give birth to Isla of Maura. Although she plays a minor part in this novel, as well as the second one, Scattered Stones, Catriona will shine in future books. She has an uncanny ability to see things others miss, and her insight shared in Shadows in the Stone will prove valuable in the chaotic years to come.

For those who have read Destiny Governed their Lives, fear not; she will redeem herself.

Her goal is to be a well-respected sorceress, one who the Lords of Aruam Castle seek for consultation. She’s a trustworthy person, who often doubts herself, though she works to hide this insecurity. Her home is cluttered with things that often have no purpose, but she loves to surround herself with beautiful things and items that might come in handy. She has no faith in stone magic and believes rocks make better paper weights.

Vignette #2 is a moment in Catriona’s day between Shadows in the Stone and Scattered Stones. Readers will get a glimpse into what happened to her at the inquest that took place in book 1.

History in Real Life

magicCatriona originally went by Lyrehc and was based on someone who travelled with the Warriors – the same group a certain hauflin thief ran with (see story here). Although she was somewhat intelligent, she had a clumsy way about her and often ‘fell into’ trouble for no reason other than she made a stupid mistake or a wrong turn. She often dragged the group down with her, and it always led to another adventure.

Although she is slightly boring in Shadows in the Stone, I believe she is a fun character to write. She’ll reveal more of this in the upcoming novels.

Lord Dirck Landis

Human, lord of Aruam Castle, first appeared in chapter 05 of Shadows in the Stone

The door slammed and Lord Dirck Landis jumped from his chair to see who had entered. Two of his senior guards dragged a prisoner into the room and tossed him against the wall.

“My Lord,” Corporal Franklin motioned towards the tattered elf sprawled on the floor. “He is suspected of using magic within the town walls.”

“It was ignite powder!” the young man shouted. “Harmless!”

“Witnesses claim otherwise,” said the guard.

(more…)

Selina Burkenshaw

Human, herbalist, first appeared in chapter 10 of Shadows in the Stone

Selina Burkenshaw slowly poured the steaming tea into the mug. The mug full, she returned the pot to the stove top. Scooping a dollop of honey from the jar, she stirred it gently into the hot liquid. Once sufficiently mixed, she drew the warm spoon over her tongue to taste the sweetness. She picked up the mug and turned to her mate.

Farlan remained in the same position since he entered their dwelling. He rested in the chair near the stove watching their first-born sleep. Their daughter—barely one year old—brought him much joy, but even she could not break the spell he appeared to be under since his return from patrol two days earlier. The outing was supposed to be five days, but it lasted ten. As usual, he couldn’t share details of the excursion, but the permanent grimace and the solemn mood spoke volumes. His lack of chatter also hinted at the worry teasing his mind. She hadn’t seen him this distraught since the inquest into Lady Glynn Dasia’s murder.

(more…)