The Emerald Serpent

The Story

Etaine is an Eadar Ranger: white-skinned, black-haired, and emerald-eyed. Sworn to protect, she fights the Fada, religious zealots determined to replace the Eadar’s Serpent Goddess with their own gods of stone.  

When the Ranger bands come together and Etaine meets Cormac, she’s convinced she’s found her true-mate. The pure blood of the ancient Eadar runs strong in Etaine and Cormac, and their joining promises to open the Emerald and Serpent Ways to them, old worlds only true Eadar can enter.

But their love affair goes amiss, with catastrophic consequences.  

Etaine flees and, as the years pass, rebuilds her life, but the Fada’s attacks grow until the Eadar are forced to fight for their very existence. As the Fada mass to commit more bloody slaughter, and the bands unite in a final, desperate effort to defeat them, Etaine comes under Cormac’s command, the very last Eadar she ever wants to see again.

Together they have a weapon that can defeat the Fada, but to use it, Etaine must learn to trust again and Cormac to Remember. And time runs short: the Serpent rises.  

The Idea

I was considering a project for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - 2014) and decided I wanted to ‘do something Celtic’. This was a first for me as I’ve never consciously drawn on existing mythologies or stories before. I was also mulling over a future series using European pagan gods so I thought this might be a good way to start in the area. The stories that first occurred to me were about the Tuatha de Danaan, the Fae of Irish mythology, but they really didn’t excite me. What they did suggest though was the idea of a peoples living underground, and given how dreary this would actually be, I decided they were probably really living in another plane/dimension/multiverse of existence.

While I was toying with these ideas, I happened to see a clip of Luke Arnold in the TV series Black Sails. In it, he is dishevelled and darkly handsome (of course) and on a beach, when he looks up and sees someone/something he doesn’t expect. His expression goes from shock, to dismay, to a sort of angry contempt. Pretty obviously it’s a woman, but who, I wonder, and why had their parting been so acrimonious?

The Secondary World

The Celts roamed large areas of Europe and there are lots of different forms of the Celtic language. Having a part Scottish heritage and loving northern Scotland, I’ve used the Scottish form of Celtic ie Gaelic. The story is set in the Caledonian Forest in northern Scotland, an ancient forest that established itself after the last Ice Age about 11,000 years ago. Parts of this forest still exist but many of the animals that originally lived there (and are in The Emerald Serpent) such as wolves, bears, lynx and wild cats, have long since become extinct. 

Bride’s Day (pronounced Breed) was/is celebrated at the start of spring, on February 1. The pagan goddess Bride was known by a variety of names including the Christianised St Bridget, and Bride seemed a good fit for the Goddess in my pagan world. 

The secondary world is spread over three planes of existence: the Light Way, the Emerald Way, and the Serpent Way. Adam’s folk and the shifters are confined to the Light Way (which is more or less our world); the Fuaran can move between the Light Way and the Emerald Way; and the Eadar can move between all three Ways, or they could, before they innocently interbred with Adam’s folk. The Light Way is purely physical but the Emerald and Serpent Ways have psychological dimensions to them as well.

I didn’t have a clear idea of what the Eadar looked like beyond the fact that they were white-skinned, emerald-eyed, and black-haired, and then I came across a hauntingly sad photo of Willy Cartier. There are lots on the web, but this one is black and white and his eyes are downcast. The picture not only gave me an image of Cormac’s horror and remorse when he discovers what he’s done, but his beauty. Thus, the Eadar became like exotic birds (compared to the lumpy humans of Adam’s folk): finely built with long hair interspersed with beaded-braids.

The Music  

I didn’t have any music in mind when I was writing The Emerald Serpent but Clannad’s Theme from Harry’s Game (Magic Circle) on their Past Present album or any slow dirge with Scottish pipes evokes the right feeling.

Deep Fantasy

I’m interested in the consequences of when things go horribly wrong, but for which no one is actually to blame. More usually in stories ‘someone’ has purposefully ‘done something’ and the perpetrator must be called to account and/or make amends. It is usually easy as a reader to see who are the ‘good guys’ and who are the ‘bad guys’, and to feel sorry for some and angry with others. Take that away, and things are more complex.

Regardless of blame or blamelessness, the resulting damage must be mended and the injured healed. The Emerald Serpent explores how Etaine fights her way back from injury and horror to become whole again, and why she must, rather than continue down the highly destructive path of blood-thirsty hatred.  

Linked to Etaine’s journey to wholeness (and Cormac’s to a lesser degree), is the purpose the dragon/serpent/worm serves in many mythologies, namely as a symbol of creation/Nature’s energies/life affirming forces. The story of the Christian knight St George slaying the dragon, can be read as a metaphor for the destruction of the old gods by Christianity, and the religious war in The Emerald Serpent mirrors Etaine’s struggle to heal herself against the continuing onslaught of the Fada.  

The Emerald Serpent uses symbols such as the triskele to explore and celebrate the female journey of girl, mother, and wise-woman (crone) which are the three life-stages incorporated in the single Goddess. Wise-women have often been condemned to ugly-old-witch roles (excluding Galadriel in Lord of the Rings) and yet crones are equally powerful as wise old men (Gandalf in Lord of the Rings; Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars).

Happy reading.