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Friday, March 20, 2015

Bringing life to myth and legend.

My story "A Good Deed Done" takes its name from an Irish saying: "Blessings are won by a good deed done." The book was written for an anthology call by MLR Press with the theme of Everybody's Irish.  I love myth and legend and have some Irish ancestry. So when I saw this call I decided to write a story that involved Irish mythology and centered it on the faoladh (werewolf).
If you read about Irish werewolves, you'll find that this particular beast wasn't originally regarded as a monster. Instead it was the guardian and protector of children, wounded men and lost persons. I've written my story purposely avoiding the more brutish and monstrous connotations that are so often associated with werewolves.
At one time legend has it that the faoladh was even recruited by kings in time of war. Under normal circumstances the faoladh exhibits very similar predatory behavior to that of an ordinary wolf, including the occasional night raid on sheep or cattle herds. If a faoladh is attacked or surprised while in wolf form, it will run away because this causes them to shift back into their more vulnerable human form.
I chose to make the faoladh of my story a little more powerful than the usual legends. The father of Ciaran, one of my main characters, is faoladh. I've made him both the Alpha of a faoladh pack and skilled in the art of draíochta (magic). Transformations are natural and easy between forms and the faoladh retain their human knowledge and awareness.
The werewolf is a character I always have great sympathies for. I first saw Lon Chaney Jnr's film 'The Wolfman' at a totally inappropriate age and I can still quote the verse that became famous from the movie:  "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
I watched the movie hoping there was going to be a way to save Larry Talbot. Although that wasn't to be in this film, he found his cure in the film 'House of Dracula'. I've watched many werewolf movies since and find it interesting to so how the character of the werewolf, like that of the vampire, has taken many and varied forms over the years since its early movie beginnings. 
"A Good Deed Done" is one of my contributions to those variations and the many werewolf legends. My story revolves around the characters Conner and Ciaran, a faoladh. Conner is a young farmer who finds that an act of kindness shown to a young wolf brings him blessings he could never have imagined. Not only does he find that there is truth in legend, but also that man can be the greatest monster of all.

Conner is a hard working farmer with a generous heart and a lonely existence. When a couple of his much needed milk cows go missing he tries to find them. Instead he finds that some legends are truths. Faoladh, werewolves, exist, and a good deed done a couple of years earlier to an injured young wolf leads to changes in his life he could never have imagined. Delighted to have such a beautiful mate as Ciaran at his side, Conner feels his life is complete. But another man’s greed threatens to destroy Conner and Ciaran’s happiness.
While the man put out some wooden plates and cups, the woman turned her attention to the pot she had bubbling over the fire. Conner's attention was distracted by a short knock at the door. The man lifted his hand and the door opened. A grey and white wolf trotted in and through a doorway that led farther into the hut.
Leaping to his feet, Conner grasped his stick, barely able to believe the couple hadn't reacted. "You just let a wolf into your house."
"He's Lorcan, our oldest son." The woman stayed beside her pot. "There's no need to worry."
Instead of a wolf, a man came back through the doorway, dressed in similar clothes to his father. The similarity in build, grey hair, and dark eyes was plain to see. Before Conner could speak again, there was another knock, and once again the man raised his hand and the door opened.
A second wolf trotted in. Unthinkingly, Conner took a few steps toward it. "Is it you, my handsome boy?" The wolf was young, and with its amber eyes and black fur, it may have been the wolf cub he'd helped.
"Sit you down." The woman's hand on his shoulder pulled Conner back to the present. "That's Ciaran. He'll be through in a moment."
Sure enough, the wolf trotted through the doorway and a moment or two later, a young, dark-haired young man came out. He gazed at Conner. "He knows me. I said he would."
"That you did, my son." The man came to stand beside him. "But then you were far too young to take a mate."
"You were the wolf I rescued." Conner stared at Ciaran. "But it's as though I've seen your face before. Yet I'm sure I'd never forget such a dathúil young man had I seen you."
"I was considered too young to claim you as mate. Once we mate, there can be no other for me. I am faoladh. Werewolf. In times gone by, my ancestors fought alongside kings. Today we remain hidden, guarding man as best we can." Ciaran stepped closer to Conner. "I used to watch you sitting in front of the fire. I knew you were my mate."
His hand shaking, Conner reached out and let his fingers trail over Ciaran's cheek. "When I saw a face in the flames, I thought it was my imagination, but I felt less alone. No one I've ever met before has stirred my blood the way you do."

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