Flein is a wanderer by instinct and need, roaming the known world as the fancy takes him. In the Highland village of Glenfinnan, women have been raped and brutally murdered. The killer is a waterhorse, a monstrous shapeshifter by all accounts. But when Flein meets Donnchadh, first in its equine form, then its man-shape, he knows the waterhorse is innocent. Flein is drawn to the shapeshifter, but he finds it difficult to acknowledge it’s more than a monster.
Donnchadh, though wary, shares the same attraction. They join forces to hunt for the real murderer, but time is short. They must find the killer before more women die. Then suspicion is turned on them and the hunters become the hunted.
“You made good time.” Brother Aurelius smiled, eagerly accepting the wrapped book. His strong-boned face held the pallor of one who spent too much time inside, crouched over books and scrolls. Though his shoulders were broad, his belly had a slight paunch to it, and his hands were uncalloused. His blond hair was cropped in a neat cap around his tonsure, and his deep-set grey eyes held a serenity Flein could never attain. “No setbacks at all?”
“None. The winds were cooperative from Lindisfarne to Inverness. The roads were passable, just. No robbers, no raiding parties to avoid. But I did meet a waterhorse on the Loch Shiel road.”
Aurelius looked up from his new missal, startled. “A— I’ve followed up many stories, of course, but I’ve never yet seen one.” He sounded envious and Flein smiled. “What was it like?” The legends of the Eldren Aes Sidhe had drawn the monk to this northern land several years ago and as far as Flein knew, they had proved to be more than elusive.
“Beautiful. Splendid. A horse I’d kill armies for. But it didn’t snare me and we came to an agreement, a truce of sorts.”
“Did you see its human form?”
“No, just the animal. A bay stallion with a coat of mahogany and a mane and tail of black silk. With knots in it. The thing was in dire need of a good grooming.”
“I’d love to have been there,” Aurelius said with a sigh.
“There are local tales of it taking a man’s form but no one seems to have seen it, just its leavings.” He frowned, remembering Rory’s account. “Women taken, raped and dismembered, but I’ve heard from one who had no cause to lie that those butcherings were done with a blade, not teeth.” He shrugged, dismissing it. “And so the legends grow,” he finished lightly.
“And not just of waterhorses,” Father Aurelius said, slowly turning the bright pages of the missal. “You’ve heard of the selkie? Supposedly, if a man was to steal their pelt while they’re in their human form, they cannot go back to their seal-shape. Perhaps the same would hold for a waterhorse? Is this a kelpie of the rivers, or an each-uisge of the lochs?”
“There’s a difference?” Flein asked, idly watching the drifting pages.
“Oh, yes. You’d as well compare a feral dog to a wolf. Both are dangerous but one more so than the other.”
“And they eat human flesh.”
The monk nodded. “Or sheep, or cow, fish, fowl, whatever they can catch. Or so it is said.”
“You don’t believe they exist,” Flein said.
Aurelius chuckled. “I’ve not lived your years, my ancient friend, but we’ve both seen strange things. And some legends are real enough, as you well know.”
Chris started creating stories not long after she mastered joined-up writing, somewhat to the bemusement of her parents and her English teachers. But she received plenty of encouragement. Her dad gave her an already old Everest typewriter when she was about ten, and it was probably the best gift she’d ever received – until the inventions of the home-computer and the worldwide web.
Chris’s reading and writing interests range from historical, mystery, and paranormal, to science-fiction and fantasy, mostly in the male/male genre. She also writes male/female novels in the name of Chris Power. She refuses to be pigeon-holed and intends to uphold the long and honourable tradition of the Eccentric Brit to the best of her ability. In her spare time [hah!] she reads, embroiders, quilts and knits. In the past she has been a part-time and unpaid amateur archaeologist, and a 15th century re-enactor.
She currently lives in a small and ancient city in the south-west of the United Kingdom, sharing her usually chaotic home with an extended family, two large dogs, fancy mice, sundry goldfish and a young frilled dragon (Australian lizard) aka Trogdorina.