Tomorrow sees the release of the second book in my romantic fantasy series, The Twelve Kingdoms: The Tears of the Rose.
I’ve had the great honor of seeing this book nominated, along with three others, for Best Fantasy Romance in the RT Reviewers Choice Awards.
For this trilogy, I ended up creating an entire mythology – three goddesses to reflect my three heroines. I thought I’d share one of stories here. In this scene the midwife is keeping my pregnant – read: sick and miserable – Princess Amelia company. And she tells her this story:
“Long ago, when all the gods and goddesses walked the earth, and lived in Annfwn together, none lacked for anything. The sun shone warm each day. The rains fell and soaked the earth. The fruits and vegetables grew jewel bright and the fish swam in the warm waters of the Onyx Ocean.
“Glorianna took a new lover. He was a beautiful human man, with all the strength and radiance of the rising sun. She loved him for his red-gold hair, like the light of dawn, for the bronzed noonday strength of his body, for the twilight blue of his eyes and the midnight smokiness of his lust for Her.
“Though it was frowned upon to dally with human beings—for they are fragile in their short lives and their hearts are easily broken—Glorianna could not resist this young man. Her sisters, Moranu and Danu, understood and helped in Their ways. Night after night, She returned to his bed and Moranu’s moon smiled upon them, lighting their lovemaking. When they played on the beach and swam in the Onyx Ocean, Danu’s sun warmed them, never burning.
“In time, as such things happen, Glorianna’s womb quickened. The other gods and goddesses mocked Her, for the babe could never be immortal. It would be forever a half-breed, belonging to neither race, forever doomed to be neither fully one thing nor the other.
“But Glorianna didn’t care. She loved her unborn child—perhaps even more so because it carried the human blood that made Her lover all She so admired in him. So She went to Her sisters.
“Danu cautioned Her that the others would seek to kill the child, out of spite and jealousy, to show they could. Danu offered Her spotless integrity and Her bright blade to guard the child. Glorianna accepted with gratitude.
“Moranu said that the child would need special gifts, in order to survive the trials ahead, so She offered the tricks of the night, the magic of the shadows. Glorianna accepted that gift, also.
“Glorianna, however, had no gift to give Her child, save the nourishment of Her own body. She knew that, once the child was separated from Her, that She would no longer be able to protect the infant from the world, as mortal babes require.
“So She went to the human women and asked them for their advice. They were awed by Her unearthly beauty, but they soon grew accustomed to Her. They showed Her their ways, how to nurse the child, how to introduce the soft foods, to chew the meats. As She learned from them, Glorianna wondered how to repay them. She wanted to offer the women a gift, such as Her sisters offered Her. Something that would guard and protect their human babes.
“She saw how they spun coarse thread from the animals they kept—the goats and horses—and how they labored at their looms, to make clothing to protect their mortal bodies from the elements. But weaving required the bright light of day. Glorianna’s radiance comes from the between times. She is in the soft, rising dawn and in the falling dusk of brilliant sunset. Her gift, She thought, should be for those times. For when men and women sat together quietly with their children, to tell stories.
“So Glorianna took a rib from either side and shaped them into long needles. She touched the goats and gave them soft underdown and coaxed the rabbits from the hills with sweet clover. She spun the first yarn, soft and sweet as sunrise, then gave it the bright colors of sunset. Giving these things to the women, She showed them how to knit the yarn together, to make soft blankets for their babes while they sat together, sharing stories.
“And that is how we came to knit. Also why the luckiest needles are made of the bone of someone who loves you.”
“Surely that last isn’t true,” I burst out.
Marin winked at me, her needles flying in their steady dance. I peered at them, trying to discern what they were made of.
“What happened to them?”
“To who, Princess?”
“Well, I know other stories of Glorianna, but what about Her lover? What was his name? And what became of the daughter? Did She have other daughters? You said the birth of Her first daughter.”
Marin considered, and it occurred to me that we were doing as Glorianna had wanted us to do, sitting in the evening and sharing stories and time together.
“Can I learn to knit?” I asked impulsively. I knew how to embroider and other such elegant needlework, but now I wanted nothing more than to knit a blanket for my babe—son or daughter. Something soft and bright to wrap my child in.
“The stories never give the man’s name,” Marin said. “There’s another tale, of how Glorianna’s lover died, as mortals must, and how She grieved for him. In the madness of Her grief, She nearly destroyed the world. I always wondered if it was the same man.”
Everyone knew that story. It was often held up as the example of Glorianna’s ascendant power and how Moranu and Danu followed Her bidding, lashing the tides and scorching the earth as She demanded.
I understood that story better than I ever had. I’d always kind of puzzled over it, the tales of Glorianna’s grief. How could She have treated the world and Her people so badly, when She was the goddess of love? It never made sense, and, especially as a girl, I’d wanted Her to get over it and go back to being benevolent.
But…now I comprehended on a visceral level how She felt. There was no choice about it, no getting over anything. Grieving is like being ill. Just as my body had taken control, flinging me to my knees with the wretched sicks, it seemed this terrible mourning had all my thoughts and feelings in a death grip around my throat, choking the life from my body.
The way the cliffs had beckoned to me, I still felt that siren call to end this pain and fling myself into numbing death. If I’d had Glorianna’s power, I, too, would have wanted to take the world with me.
* * *
Three sisters. Motherless daughters of the high king. The eldest is the warrior-woman heir;the middle child is shy and full of witchy intuition;and the youngest, Princess Amelia, she is as beautiful as the sun and just as generous.
Ami met her Prince Charming and went away to his castle on the stormy sea-cliffs-and that should have been her happily ever after. Instead, her husband lies dead and a war rages. Her middle sister has been taken into a demon land, turned into a stranger. The priests and her father are revealing secrets and telling lies. And a power is rising in Ami, too, a power she hardly recognizes, to wield her beauty as a weapon, and her charm as a tool to deceive…
Amelia has never had to be anything but good and sweet and kind and lovely. But the chess game for the Twelve Kingdoms has swept her up in it, and she must make a gambit of her own. Can the prettiest princess become a pawn-or a queen?