The Dog Roses: Na Feirdhriseacha
spinoff from the Conall Series
by David H. Millar
Genre: Epic Historical Fantasy
“You have no weapons, striapach.”
“I am the weapon, tuilí.”
It is 400 B.C. The mist clears and three triremes glide into the calm waters of the bay in Southern Ériu. On a grass-topped dune, a young girl dances gleefully at the Goddess’s gift. Two warrior princesses, the twins Brighid and Danu, leap over the vessels’ sides into the cold waters and look north towards their ancestral home. The clanging of steel from the fort of Ráth Na Conall is not a good omen.
Seated on his throne in Caher Conri the depraved Uallachán rages at the sight of the red shield embellished with a swooping black raven and the memories it provokes. He swears vengeance on the daughters of his old adversary.
Draighean stands impervious to the deep cold and snows of the mountain peak. She bites maroon lips, unhappy at her sisters—the demi-goddesses of the Aes Sidhe. Yet does she have a choice? Evil must be fought.
Uallachán’s idea of peace is to crush all dissent, but is he no more than a puppet of the powerful kings of the Connachta?
The twins know they must defeat the invasion and stop the enslavement of their people. Still, even with the help of the Sidhe, Draighean, the odds are daunting.
The novel is set mostly in the southern coastline of ancient (400 B.C.) Ireland
Conall, now a powerful Rí Ruirech (king over kings) and leader of Clann Ui Flaithimh, receives a troubling report of rebellion in his ancient home (Ráth Na Conall) and a request for help. However, Conall is under a geis from the Aes Sidhe, which means he (and any male heir) cannot return to Ériu (Ireland).
The twin daughters of Conall and Mórrígan (Danu and Brighid), much to their parents’ disapproval, state their intent to travel to Ériu and put down the rebellion. Along with a force of two hundred veteran warriors, they set sail in three triremes from the Great Sea port of Massalia to the southern coast of Ériu.
The Dog Roses (Na Feirdhriseacha)
In Conall V: Retribution, after an almost fatal blow from an axe, Danu is rescued from the bean-sidhe by Urard’s sacrifice of his life. The Sidhe, Mongfhionn, seeing Danu’s grave state adds her healing power but also gives Danu the “gift” of a feirdhris (dog rose).
The pink flower, with black tipped petals, is placed between Danu’s cleavage and over the site of Danu’s axe scar. That, however, is not the end. On the next sunrise, Danu’s twin, Brighid, wakes up to find a similar feirdhris in a similar place between her breasts. However, Brighid’s rose is black with pink tipped petals. Neither Danu nor Brighid understands what the roses mean. In The Dog Roses they begun to appreciate the power they hold.
The 18-year-old twin daughter of Conall and Mórrígan, Danu is marginally the eldest, having been born before dawn.
Deep emerald eyes of her mother and the auburn hair of her father; above average height; long tresses with highlights of silver blue; her body is swathed in swirling indigo blue designs on her face and arms that appear to be in constant motion.
Danu is introverted, keeps her thoughts to herself, and according to Brighid has a heart of ice. She is a pragmatic, strategic thinker, somewhat aloof, and prone to taking decisions without consulting Brighid, which causes friction between the sisters.
The 18-year-old Brighid is the fire to Danu’s ice. Hot-headed, impulsive, jealous/protective of Danu. Like a younger version of her mother, Mórrígan, Brighid has a dark streak and a talent for terror.
Similar to Danu, Brighid has the deep emerald eyes of her mother and the auburn hair of her father; above average height; her body is swathed in swirling indigo blue designs on her face and arms. Born as the sun rose, Brighid’s long tresses have highlights of summer gold.
Draighean (Blackthorn) is a member of the powerful demi-goddesses—the Aes Sidhe. Her domain is the winter and with it snow, hail, ice, northerly winds, and rain. At first unhappy to be given the task of guiding the humans Danu and Brighid, she comes to realise that even she is not complete without them.
“…taller than any in the room and quite possibly in the fort. Pale hands, with nails painted dark red, reached up to remove her hood. Long, thick tresses of black were released and rested across and over her shoulders. In the torchlit room, the flames picked out contrasting thin, auburn braids that accented her hair. The highlights were perfectly coordinated with her maroon lips and fingernails… in the rising sun, Draighean’s skin had taken on an attractive if faint, pink hue… no one could determine her eye colour because it was so deep as to appear obsidian… Draighean’s skin had changed to a faint blue hue (in the moonlight)… dark designs covering her body.”
The depraved king of Caher Conri. From his early youth, Uallachán had an overinflated sense of his importance and a deep hatred and resentment of Conall and Mórrígan—and now his daughters Danu and Brighid. He has always coveted Ráth Na Conall and fomented a rebellion to bring it under his control. Uallachán rules his kingdom by violence, rape, and debauchery (including young children).
His fate is to become the puppet of the more powerful Connachta under Maine.
“… tall, heavyset man with rounded shoulders and a fat belly… an air of cruelty, depravity, and excess… He had a native cunning and a mind for the long game… ugly in character and physique… a visceral need to cause pain… Uallachán’s face, bloated through gluttony, it resembled a sweating wax candle.”
The true protagonist of the story, Maine Athramail is the Rí Ruirech of the powerful, northern Connachta. He rules with his six brothers (kings). Like Uallachán Maine (and his six brothers) hate all things Conall and have sworn to wipe out the perceived stain on their tribe’s history after their father and Conall fought to a stalemate (Conall I).
As young princes, Maine and his brothers found it amusing to support Uallachán’s rebellion. Now that Danu and Brighid have taken up residence in Ráth Na Conall, their only ambition is to destroy the twins and Conall’s legacy in Ériu.
“… average height, passably handsome, and not the sharpest blade in the armoury… limited intelligence permitted him to focus on only one or two challenges at the same time… blue-grey eyes.”
**Don't miss The Conall Series here! **
The Place of Blood – Rinn-Iru
Conall Book I
The Raven's Flight – Eitilt an Fhiagh Dhuibh
Conall Book II
The Sisters – Na Deirfiúracha
Conall Book III
A Brace of Eagles - Snaidhm Iolar
Conall Book IV
Retribution - Díoltas
Conall Book V
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, David H. Millar is the founder, owner, and author-in-residence of Houston-based ‘A Wee Publishing Company’—a business that promotes Celtic literature, authors and art.
The author will be participating in the East Texas Booktacular, Mt. Pleasant, TX, on October 22, 2022 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/EastTexasBooktacularand) the East Texas Book Bash, Canton, TX on December 10 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/EastTexasBookBash).