Giveaway - Thunderstruck


Taranis, God of Thunder, watched from the shadows as the mortal woman inched toward the bank of the stream. Her hips seemed to sway in time to the song of the larks overhead. She was beautiful, ravishing. Her long black hair swept down her back in waves so long they almost hid her heart-shaped posterior from view. Once she was submerged in the crystal waters, she floated on her back, her eyes closed in peaceful relaxation. Her pink nipples peeked out from the water, teasing him with their sweet perfection. He longed to see the full portrait of her naked body, but her flawless curves were hidden beneath the gently lapping waves. He knew it was improper to watch the maiden bathe. Had any other man attempted a similar offense, they would have tasted his lightning. However, it was not with lust but with love that Taranis drank in her ravenous beauty. She was his cherished Calista, though he’d known her by other names, as her soul returned to earth in each incarnation. In every life, he yearned for her, always seeing a beauty in her soul that rivaled even the flawless flesh of her youthful mortal shell.

Though he was one of the immortals, Taranis had always felt a kinship with the fragile humans. His brethren ridiculed his decision to walk among them openly. The mortals themselves often feared him and the powers he could not always hold at bay. Yet Taranis could not stay away from the people. He longed to be one of them—to share their simple joys and even their sorrows. Most of all, he yearned to know the fulfillment of love. He would have cast aside his ability to rock the earth and endure any amount of human suffering in exchange for one fleeting moment in the arms of the woman he’d loved for millennia. It was a heart he had, as of yet, failed to capture—and capture it he must if his desire to be human were ever to be approved. The other gods agreed to grant his wish for mortality only when a human woman heard him speak his words of love and returned that affection of her own free will. It was an ultimatum that would have been simple for any of his heavenly brothers, but for Taranis it was a deadly game. He detested the other gods all the more for their heartlessness and childish folly.

Most would think it would be no challenge for a god to sway a mortal’s heart. It was true Taranis had a handsome face and a stunning physique that made village women and nobility alike swoon long before he ever opened his mouth. It was when he finally moved his lips that their illusions were shattered. After all, he was the God of Thunder and had a voice that matched his title.

Taranis sighed while he watched Calista slip from the water. Even then he didn’t get a clear view because she was hidden behind the brambles as she replaced her petticoats and girdles. For centuries he had waited for this one woman to return to him, for no other was her equal. He would not choose lightly when his mortal partner would be his soul mate for all time, connecting again in each life when they were reborn. He knew there was only one soul whose fire matched his own, and though he was certain she had been reborn many times, only twice had he found her. In her first incarnation she was an Amazon, and in the next she chose the role of a virgin priestess—both times she was lured away by his sister goddesses to prevent their joining. He’d still attempted to win her love, but he had failed the challenge laid out by the other gods and was forced to remain immortal. This time Taranis truly believed things would be different.

Calista always had a warrior spirit, but she’d grown stronger in her most recent incarnation. She ran with the boys and bested them at swordplay, but showed no interest in their advances. She had refused the hand of more than one lovesick admirer, claiming to choose her freedom over the docile life of wife and mother. He adored her feisty, fighting spirit. However, Taranis believed there was more to her adamant rejections than even she was aware of. Deep in his soul, he knew Calista was still searching for her true mate. Taranis was certain this time he would not fail. She was waiting for him, and once they were together, he would never begrudge her the freedom she craved. He wanted only to share in it. He simply couldn’t believe such a spirited woman would wind up like the others. This time Taranis was certain Calista would be able to bear the weight of his love.

Taranis waited until Calista was fully clothed, though he knew she was not overly concerned with modesty. Perhaps it was more his own nerves that held him back, but he knew he could not wait forever to reveal himself. Just as she bent down to pluck a wildflower, he stepped into the clearing. He did not bother to hide his true self. To her mortal eyes his skin shone with the golden aura of the gods, but beneath that, he hoped she saw the gentleness in his emerald eyes.

“Bless me heart!” Though there was not a glimmer of fear in her dark eyes, Calista fell to her knees, as awed by his magnificent beauty as he was by hers. “Is it Cernunnos himself come to take me? Or Dagda? Tell me your will, my lord. I will do what I can to honor you. I am not afraid.”

“I am Taranis, God of Thunder,” he announced.


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Giveaway: Call Me Havoc


My name is James Peter Markham III, but my friends call me Havoc. They say that chaos follows me around like I’m some sort of magnet. They don’t know the half of it. Chaos birthed me and raised me. You see, I’m the son of Eris; the semi-divine son of the Goddess of Chaos herself and an insurance adjuster, namely one James Peter Markham, Jr. This is the story of how they met, and how I came to be.

For my story to make sense, we need to go back to 1959, California, and my granddad, James P. Markham, Sr., aka Jimmy the Jokester. Grandpa Jimmy had two big loves in his life, one was my grandma Louise, and the other was bowling. In 1959, the only one of those loves he was pursuing was bowling.

Every Friday night, after a long day of giving their professors headaches, Grandpa Jimmy and his buds Kerry and Greg, would go to the Bowl-a-Rama on Friendly Hills Lane to knock down a few pins, sip some coffee, and discuss the nature of the universe. As luck would have it, on the one Friday my granddad was sick, Eris came and visited Kerry and Greg, sprinkled them with fairy dust, and revealed to them the Truth. Kerry and Greg were reborn as popes and disciples of Eris, and very quickly had roped Jimmy into it as well. Soon meetings of the Legion of Dynamic Discord were alternately being hosted at the bowling alley and at my granddad’s dorm room at USC. Time passed and the three friends got called in different directions. Kerry got activated as a marine, Greg graduated from college and went to be part of the early work in computers, and Granddad went north to La Honda and became friends with Ken Kesey.

It was in LaHonda that Jimmy the Jokester met Louise Slugman, daughter of the doughty Horace M. Slugman and his demure and diminutive wife Mildred. Great-grandpa Horace disapproved of my grandpa immediately, which virtually assured that his daughter would fall in love with him. Those two free spirits ran off and joined Ken for part of his famous bus trip across America, taking acid, experimenting with free-love, and having a great time. At some point, my grandparents are rather fuzzy on when, they stopped at a Justice of the Peace in some little podunk and got married. As a result of this fuzziness, my grandparents have had the long-standing tradition of celebrating their anniversary whenever it suits them. They got off the bus before its eventual arrival in New York City, having found a commune of like-minded souls just outside Bloomington, Indiana where they could settle down, relax, smoke weed, and Grandpa could go to grad school.

My dad was born in 1965 in Bloomington at the Indiana University Hospital. Grandma Louise had wanted a home birth, but Granddad panicked when she started taking a while in pushing him out, and popped her in their VW Minibus and scooted her to the hospital with her screaming abuse at him all the way. Dad was actually born without medical incident, much to Grandpa’s relief and Grandma’s disgust. However, he was born with that sprinkling of fairy dust on him that seems to be a family birthright. Even the nurses at the hospital noticed, and couldn’t stop making a fuss over him and his cuteness.

One would think that my dad’s birth would be the end of their happy Hippy ways, but that would be incorrect. Grandma popped Dad into a baby sling and carried him along wherever their treks took them. During their Midwestern sojourn, Pope Redorix the Elder and Grand Priestess Lola Falola Granola founded little enclaves of Discordianism in towns small and large from Minnesota to Ohio and everywhere in-between. Growing up, my dad was regularly in attendance at meetings of the Midwest branches of the Legion of Dynamic Discord, keeping an eye on the adults and learning the secrets of the universe from various practitioners of mind-bending reality. Every so often Grandpa’s buds Kerry and Greg would show up for a visit and Eris would make an appearance to see her favorite boys, which is how she and dad met.

Dad still remembers it quite fondly. It was the summer of 1975, and the house was full of people. Greg and Kerry had brought their families along with several buddies from out west for the July fourth weekend. Long after the monkeys were all supposed to be in bed, my dad snuck down the stairs just far enough to hear the adults talking. The air was redolent with cannabis and the usual discussions about life, the universe, and how to solve the world’s problems with fun and Erisian pranksterism were flying about. The Bobs and Hunter were expounding on ways to enlighten humanity through chemical intervention while Kerry was insisting that all they needed was a moment of late-night clarity for Eris to come along and fuck with the collective consciousness when my dad felt a tap on his shoulder. Nearly jumping out his skin, he turned to see a beautiful girl whom he did not recall meeting at dinner.

She put a finger to her lips to silence him, then leaned in close and whispered, “I love those guys, but they’re too serious in their silliness.”

It was then that he noticed the faint shimmer of divine Presence about her and nearly fainted. Eris kissed him on the nose and led him back to bed and admonished him to stay in bed this time. After a squeeze of his hand and a promise to check up on him every so often, Eris was gone, and my dad was a goner. Ten years old he was, and hopelessly in love—with a Goddess no less.


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Giveaway - Cawing Crows & Baying Hounds


Sometime after the Vespers bells rang in St. Michaels, we all collected in Brackenbyre Inn for supper. I had given our evening meal no thought, though I knew we were not returning to the Heppeshaw Stone Circle for another day and a half. The merchants and witches from all the villages around Shap stayed to enjoy each other’s company once the spring rites were finished. I was embarrassed to say I had been too caught up in the ritual, in being selected May Queen for the next sabbat, and falling in love with Callum. I made no plans for where I would sleep or eat. In fact, between my father, Margot, and the men of Fawsetwood, we were all well cared for.

Uncle Beneger drove the second wagon with Andrew. Arlie led the other horses to Corels Lofts in Shap and stabled them behind Brackenbyre. There they found a cobbie yard, hay, and water. The barns and sheds opened in the back to a field outside the farmstead walls. A stout gate opened from the street through an arch into the cobbie yard. The gate was barred to secure the things belonging to the guests in the house. It is where Margot’s wagon sat, though she was to sleep in the house.

Instead the Fawsetwood men would sleep in the wagon. Margot and I, the knights, Evan and Alain with their sweethearts would sleep in the house, as would my father the baron. Freya and Glenna planned to stay with their husbands in the yard, but by choice. If they wished to, they could sleep on the public room benches. Of course, Helwaise and Elena lived on the farm. Brackenbyre was their guest house rented out to travelers that added to the income from the croft holding.

At supper, all were present including Robin from Ravensworth and Alain’s mother. It was a merry gathering, with Alain and Evan playing a recorder and strings to tunes the company could sing. Arlie drummed as he had at Fawsetwood, and though there was no room to dance, we tapped our feet and clapped our hands as we sang. Now and again, we stopped to eat fragrant meat pies, mashed turnips, and roast mutton seasoned with leaks and mustard greens supplied by the farm. Evan poured his apricot beer freely for all to sample. He said it was the last half keg, but I knew he’d left half a keg behind at Heppeshaw. He made me laugh, the rogue. As desserts made of sweetened oat cakes dotted with nuts in the honey glaze and an egg and milk pudding with a bit of Margot’s precious nutmeg ground atop made the rounds, my beloved Callum stood to gain everyone’s attention.

He looked like the Sun God himself, blond hair flowing over his shoulders, tall and handsome as I pleased. He made my heart race. Finally, he had to shout over many voices and the clattering of trenchers to make us all settle down and hear what he had to say. Something so important that everyone at once should hear the news. I sniggered secretly, hoping it would please Alain and his parents there in the midst. If not, it would be a shock they would not have an answer for. I caught my father’s eye. He leaned back to watch with that characteristic wry grin we shared. Alain caught us and knew at once we were up to mischief. Callum spoke in Cumbric for the common folk to understand.

“I bring greetin’s from Sir William de Lancaster, me liege lord. He returned ta Tibbay this mornin’, which seems more than a week ago ta me, but before he went he informed me our former squire be now Sir Edmond o’ Wales. He be a good man an’ I wish him well.”

“Hear! Hear!” someone shouted and all raised their cups and drank to the health of Sir Edmond, whoever he was. He was known and recommended of Callum, which was enough for them.


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