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BEAUTY IN THORNS: Christina Rossetti's Sleeping Beauty poem

Thursday, June 08, 2017

My novel 'Beauty in Thorns' tells the extraordinary love story behind the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones's famous painting of 'Sleeping Beauty', which he returned to half-a-dozen times over the forty-odd years of his career.

The Pre-Raphaelites were inspired by myth and poetry and fairy tales. Edward Burne-Jones also painted 'Cinderella' (his model was his wife Georgie) while his best friend William Morris wrote the first ever creative response to 'Rapunzel' (I wrote a chapter on his poem in my doctoral exegesis, published as The Rebirth of Rapunzel.)

I very much wanted to write part of my novel from the point-of-view of the brilliant poet Christina Rossetti, who was the younger sister of the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I have always loved her poetry and she is such a fascinating woman, all the thwarted desire of her sensuous and passionate nature being poured out in astonishing verse. However, I had to make the terrible decision to cut her out of the book as my story was simply growing too big and unwieldy, and Christina's story deserved to be given more space and time.

One day I would like to write a book about her - I hope that the chance will come.

Christina Rossetti was painted as the young Virgin Mary by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti when she was aged 20 & he was 22  

in the meantime, I thought I would share with you Christina Rossetti's powerful and disturbing poem, 'The Fairy Prince Who Arrived Too Late'. A dark inversion of the 'Sleeping Beauty' fairy tale, it was first published in Macmillan's Magazine in May 1863, when Christina was not yet 33 years old. Christina would later expand it into a long quest narrative, 'The Prince's Progress', which follows the prince on his journey to reach the waiting princess. These stanzas were then included as the poem's tragic denouement. I love this poem just as it is, though. I hope you love it too.   


The Fairy Prince Who Came Too Late

Too late for love, too late for joy,
Too late, too late!
You loitered on the road too long,
You trifled at the gate:
The enchanted dove upon her branch
Died without a mate;
The enchanted princess in her tower
Slept, died, behind the grate;
Her heart was starving all this while
You made it wait.

Ten years ago, five years ago,
One year ago,
Even then you had arrived in time,
Though somewhat slow;
Then you had known her living face
Which now you cannot know:
The frozen fountain would have leaped,
The buds gone on to blow,
The warm south wind would have awaked
To melt the snow.
Is she fair now as she lies?
Once she was fair;
Meet queen for any kingly king,
With gold-dust on her hair,
Now these are poppies in her locks,
White poppies she must wear;
Must wear a veil to shroud her face
And the want graven there:
Or is the hunger fed at length,
Cast off the care?
We never saw her with a smile
Or with a frown;
Her bed seemed never soft to her,
Though tossed of down;
She little heeded what she wore,
Kirtle, or wreath, or gown;
We think her white brows often ached
Beneath her crown,
Till silvery hairs showed in her locks
That used to be so brown.
We never heard her speak in haste;
Her tones were sweet,
And modulated just so much
As it was meet:
Her heart sat silent through the noise
And concourse of the street.
There was no hurry in her hands,
No hurry in her feet;
There was no bliss drew nigh to her,
That she might run to greet.
You should have wept her yesterday,
Wasting upon her bed:
But wherefore should you weep today
That she is dead?
Lo we who love weep not today,
But crown her royal head.
Let be these poppies that we strew,
Your roses are too red:
Let be these poppies, not for you
Cut down and spread.

Christina Rossetti

The poem was published fifteen months after her sister-in-law Lizzie Siddal Rossetti died of a laudanum overdose. Dante Gabriel Rossetti often called his wife 'a dove', and they had had a very long and difficult relationship, with Rossetti often promising and then failing to marry her.  

It is probable that Lizzie suffered from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, and so the lines:

"The enchanted princess in her tower
Slept, died, behind the grate;
Her heart was starving all this while
You made it wait ..."

may well refer to the tragedy of Lizzie's death. 

I was unable to include Christina Rossetti as a character in 'Beauty in Thorns', but I did use her poems as epigraphs throughout the novel.

And one day I hope that I will be able to write more about her ....


BOOK REVIEW: Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

Sunday, June 04, 2017


In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard's passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire - centred around the legendary Constantinople - we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son.

GHOST EMPIRE is a revelation: a beautifully written ode to a lost civilization, and a warmly observed father-son adventure far from home.


I love listening to Richard Fidler on the radio. He is always so warm and funny and curious about people, and he has a knack for drawing out the personal and the unique in every story. I have also been increasingly interested in Constantinople (now known as Istanbul), having read several novels set there in recent years. After hearing Richard speak about his book at the Brisbane Writers Festival last year, I bought a copy and finally read it last month. Normally I read non-fiction slowly over a few weeks, reading several novels in between chapters. But Ghost Empire was so engaging and readable, I whizzed through it in just a few nights.

The book combines the personal memoir of a journey Richard and his son Joe made to Istanbul in 2014, with stories from the city’s long and bloody history. Constantinople was built on the foundations of Byzantium in the early 4th century and became the new capital of the Roman empire in 330 AD. From the mid-5th to the mid-13th century, it was the largest, richest and most powerful city in the world, and the guardian of the most sacred relics of Christianity, the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross. 

For almost a thousand years the city was the centre of extraordinary true tales of greed, murder, violence and betrayals, and Richard entwines these stories with anecdotes from his own life and his life-changing journey with his son. The result is utterly fascinating. 

SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Kate Forsyth about writing THE WITCHES OF EILEANAN

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Twenty years ago, my first book DRAGONCLAW (called THE WITCHES OF EILEANAN in the US) was published!

To celebrate, I'm running a couple of vintage posts about the writing of The Witches of Eileanan series.

Today I thought I'd run an interview I gave to SFFWorld in 2000 (yes, all the years ago). 

Q: Your books seem extremely well researched. Not only in the history of the culture, but in the magical elements and practices as well. Could you explain to us the importance of this research, or how you went about it?

I do a great deal of research into every aspect of the books. I like to make sure everything is right and besides, I find the research itself often sparks off ideas which I would not have had otherwise. It helps make the world seem real and alive, and gives an extra punch to the writing. Generally, I borrow piles of books from the library and read through them, making notes on all that interest me. I often find the junior section of the library the most helpful because the books there have illustrations and diagrams, and describe things simply and concisely. For example, if I'm writing a battle scene I want to know everything about armour, weapons, siege machines, tactics, logistics - a book on mediaeval warfare from the adult section would be too long and heavy, but a selection of books from the junior library give me just about everything I need to know. As well as that, I browse a lot through second-hand bookshops and so have picked up heaps of books on all sorts of different subjects, all of which give me ideas and allow me to check facts when I need to. I have everything from a 16th century herbal to a dictionary of angels, all of which I've referred to at some point in time. 

Q: Have you noticed, or have readers commented, that your story, while not a sad story and definitely containing the "good" vs. "bad" elements in it, leaves one feeling unsure whether to laugh or to cry?

I really like this question and am glad to know this is how the books make you feel. I certainly wanted to make my readers laugh and cry and gasp and sigh at different points in the story, and I also wanted to express something about the complexity of good and evil and how sometimes there is a very high price to pay. None of my characters or creatures are entirely good or entirely evil - sometimes evil is done by those who are really struggling to do what is right. I get a lot of e-mail from readers and this is one of the things people comment on the most - a particular scene makes them want to get up and shout a warning, or makes them cry, or makes them very frustrated with the characters in question - all of which makes me a very happy writer!

Q: Do you have a favorite character in the books?

Many. I love them all. Isabeau is of course my protagonist and I love her dearly, though sometimes I wish she would think before she acted, particularly in the early books. I find Iseult rather a puzzle sometimes, and am rather glad Lachlan is beginning to grow into his manhood, for he exasperated me greatly at times with his bad moods and his self-focus. I love Meghan, of course, and have very tender regard for Lilanthe and Dide and Finn. In fact, I don't think there is really a character I don't have a soft spot for, unless it's Margrit who gives me the shivers and Renshaw, of course, who was very nasty.  

Q: How long do you see this story continuing? Is it only to be a three part series, or will you go on with it?

Oh dear. It was MEANT to be a trilogy but the epic scale of my imagination surprised even me! I have great pleasure in informing you that 'The Witches of Eileanan' is now a sextet, with six big fat books all brimming over with action, romance, intrigue, magic and mayhem! I am very lucky that my publishers like me because otherwise I could've been in trouble. 

Do the religious and political ideas embedded within your story have any specific relevance to your views, or to current events in our world today? If so, could you explain those elements as you see them?

This is a difficult question to answer in many ways. Yes, of course they have relevance to our world and express many of my deeply felt beliefs and philosophies. I have a great deal of sympathy for the pagan pantheistic religion of my witches. I am troubled by the effect of strict fundamentalist religions, in whatever form they take, and I am troubled by the effects of colonism and the long-reaching shadows it has cast. I think religion and patriotism have caused a great deal of evil in this world, even though I understand the deep, instinctive desires that such beliefs satisfy. I also understand there are no easy answers and that history has a way of repeating itself. I hope all these ideas are implicit in the books but I do not want to pontificate too much upon them, for the books should stand alone, speaking for themselves. They are not allegories or even vehicles for my concerns, and should not be read as such. 

Q: Can you give us a mouthwatering hint for the Americans as yet unable to read the fourth book?
Gladly! Of all the books so far, 'The Forbidden Land' is the simplest and most complete in itself. It moves very quickly and has less introspection than the others. The primary focus in this book has moved to Finn the Cat, the cat-thief who discovered she was a banprionnsa and heir to the throne of Rurach. She feels stifled and unhappy at Castle Rurach and when Lachlan the Winged, Righ of Eileanan, calls upon her own peculiar talents, she gladly sets off on an adventure that takes her beyond the Great Divide and into the heart of the Forbidden Land itself ... 

Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?

Lots and lots and lots of e-mails from all over the world. I am constantly being amazed at how far my books have travelled. I have had reader responses from South Korea, Chile, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, as well as from all the more usual places. I reply to every e-mail personally - even though, since I had my little boy two years ago (he is now 17 and in his final year of school!), my writing time is more precious than ever. I'm really glad to have this contact with my readers. Being a writer is a solitary sort of life and once the book is published, it disappears into a black hole so that you have no idea whether anyone has understood what you are trying to do or been moved by it. I always want to know if anyone has picked up on any of the little details or jokes or poignant moments, or been made to feel or think the way I want them too. My e-mails let me know they have!

The cover of the first Australian edition: 

SPOTLIGHT: The story behind how I first got published

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Today (1 June 2017) marks twenty  years since my first novel was published!

The book was called DRAGONCLAW, and it was the first in the series of heroic fantasy novels called THE WITCHES OF EILEANAN.  


Here is the story of how THE WITCHES OF EILEANAN came to be published:

I’ve always wanted to be a writer – it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be.

A novel I wrote when I was 15

All through my childhood I wrote many poems and novels, and sent out my first manuscript when I was sixteen – it was handwritten, in my very childish handwriting, on loose foolscap pages. I didn’t know any better! Well, I didn’t have a typewriter and computers were barely invented. It was rejected, of course, but came back with a lovely letter saying that I clearly had talent and must keep writing.

So I did. I laboured over a magic realism novel all though my early 20s, while working as a journalist, and began to have poems and stories published. I sent out my novel a few times, and it was almost published three times, but fell through every time, much to my despair.

Me in my 20s

At the age of 25 I had a quarter-life crisis. I decided to give myself five years, to pour all my energy into getting a book published, but that I’d have to reassess my life if I couldn’t get published by the age of 30.

I quit my job as a journalist and began freelancing to support myself, and I applied to do my Masters of Arts in Writing, using the magic realism novel I had been working on as my thesis.

I began writing the first draft of Dragonclaw while I was studying for my first year exams, probably in reaction to the “fictive discourses” we were told to construct in our writing classes. About 50,000 words into the first draft, I sent off a few sample chapters to Gaby Naher at Hickson Associates.

She came back the next day, saying she loved it, and when could I get her a complete manuscript? I wrote madly for the next few months (practically ignoring my studies and work commitments).

I finished the first draft, she put it up for auction, and I signed with Random House by the end of the month. This made me particularly happy, since it was two days before my 30th birthday.  

I made my deadline by a whisker!

Dragonclaw has gone on to be sold in the US, Germany, Russia, and Japan, and I have been a full-time writer ever since.


 Dragonclaw changed my life forever!

SPOTLIGHT: The World of Eileanan

Thursday, June 01, 2017



The land was settled by thirteen witches who fled persecution in their own land, invoking an ancient spell that folded the fabric of the universe and brought them and all their followers to Eileanan in a journey called the Great Crossing. 

The eleven great clans of Eileanan are all descended from the First Coven, with the MacCuinn clan being the greatest of the eleven. The thirteen witches were Cuinn Lionheart, his son Owein of the Longbow, Ahearn Horse-laird, Aislinna the Dreamer, Berhtilde the Bright Warrior-Maid, Fóghnan the Thistle, Rùraich the Searcher, Seinneadair the Singer, Sian the Storm-Rider, Tuathanach the Farmer, Brann the Raven, Faodhagan the Red and his twin sister Sorcha the Bright (now called the Murderess).

When the First Coven had arrived in Eileanan from their home on the other side of the universe, they had built the Tower of First Landing on a rocky crag near the ruin of their ship. Often called Cuinn's Tower, the ancient stone citadel was built around the body of the greatest sorcerer of them all, Cuinn Lionheart, who died in the Crossing. On the barren flats around Cuinn's Tower a rough settlement was built as the four hundred or so migrants struggled to survive.

Unfortunately, the settlers did not understand the wide seasonal swings of the tide, affected by the contrary pull of two moons. Their first winter saw the settlement drowned in the rush of the high tide, many lives lost with it. Only the Tower, built on what became an island, survived. Owein MacCuinn crammed the survivors into the Tower and sat out the bitter cold and isolation, sharing out the meagre rations and guarding against disease so that surprisingly many of the people managed to live through that first great test. When spring at last came and the sea began to flow back, expedition parties were sent into the hinterland, following the shining curves of the Rhyllster high into what would become Rionnagan.

In Rionnagan they found what they were searching for - fertile lands, a plentiful supply of fresh water, and a building site that could easily be protected. For the new settlers discovered that seasonal tides, unfamiliar food and homesickness were the least of their problems. The native inhabitants of Eileanan were not all pleased at the invasion of humans from another planet, particularly the Fairgean, who arrived at their spring pastures to find them occupied. A brutal, warlike race of sea-dwelling nomads, the Fairgean did not give up their hold on the coast of Eileanan easily, and for the next two hundred years the First Fairgean Wars raged. Lucescere was built on a great pinnacle of rock thrusting between two waterfalls that plummeted into the Rhyllster below. The city was never broken, holding off the Fairgean and their allies for over a thousand years.



‘Touch not the thistle’ – MacFóghnan motto 

Brooch – a silver thistle

Plaid: Heather & purple

The Tower of Mists

- ruled by Iain MacFóghnan (m. Elfrida NicHilde of Tirsoilleir, father of Neil)

- descended from Fóghnan of the First Coven. 

- Fóghnan was depicted with a falling star above her head, symbolising her great prophecy which had led them to this world. Another showed her leaving the wrecked ship upon arrival, her face stern and proud, while Owein MacCuinn wept like a child over the dead body of his father and shook his fist after her as she refused to bend to his authority. In the background a tidal wave was beginning to gather, looming over the crowd of frightened migrants - the great tide that would kill so many of those that had braved the Crossing. All of those who went with Fóghnan survived, and thereafter no-one dared doubt the truth of her prophecies.

- Other tapestries showed the magical summoning of Tur de Ceò on an island in Murkmyre, deep within the shifting maze of the fenlands, and Fóghnan’s death at the hands of Owein MacCuinn's youngest son, Balfour. 

- The blood ran bitter between MacFóghnan and MacCuinn, who had learnt one did not touch the thistle without pain. Balfour too had died soon after, of a mysterious ailment that saw him frothing at the mouth, his body arching backwards in agony, his drumming heels tearing the earth up in great clods. Fóghnan’s twelve-year-old daughter, named Margrit as many NicFóghnans would be, had taken up her mother's staff and knife and assumed the duties of the Tower.

- Many years later, when Aedan MacCuinn had united the warring lands and peoples of Eileanan under the rule of the Lodestar, only Arran, Tìrsoillier and the Fairgean had refused to accept his authority. Years of war had followed, but not even the Lodestar could pierce the mysteries of Murkmyre and the ever-hungry marshes had swallowed up the armies sent against her. The Clan of MacFóghnan had survived, as it always would.

- the delicate spires of Tur de Ceò - the Tower of Mists - its sharp-pointed, scrolled towers rose out of the bank of mist like a palace out of a faery tale

ASLINN - deeply forested land ruled by the MacAislin clan. 

Motto: Grow and flourish.

Badge: the Summer Tree. 

Plaid: Dark green crossed with pale green.

The Tower of Dreamers

- ruled by Madelon NicAislin 

- The wild and bonny forests, where dreamers wander.

- fur-trappers, charcoal-burners, foresters and miners - base metals to make ploughshares and charcoal for whisky vats and timber for the building of new crofts and ships

- Great mountain ash trees towered above the floor of the valleys, with crystal waterfalls splashing down from the mountains to form meandering streams and pools below. Song birds darted through the clear air, trilling madly, and once Lilanthe saw a bhanais bird flying through the canopy, trailing its crimson and gold tail which was more than three feet long. She travelled more slowly, but could not find her perfect clearing. Small lochan abounded, and on a clear day the backdrop of snow-tipped mountains and green hills was as beautiful as any daydream.

- the Tower of Dreamers was made of white stone. Once it would have been topped with delicate spires and a crystal dome. Now only two spires remained, and the entire west wall was tumbled down, littering the hill with blocks of marble. Enough of the original grandeur remained to move her - delicate columns holding up arched ceilings, walls carved in intricate patterns, with here and there the design of a flowering tree. The staircase was wide enough for seven men to walk up it abreast.

- a stone shield emblazoned with stars and faint runes of writing, and below it a device of two masks, one weeping, one laughing. 

BLÈSSEM – The Blessed Fields. Rich farmland ruled by the MacThanach clan

Carry the Yoke – MacThanach slogan

Badge: scythe and wheat sheaves.

Plaid: green and yellow. 

The Tower of Blessed Fields

- ruled by Melisse NicThanach (has four daughters and a son, Fymbar)

- She knew the laird of the MacThanach clan was concerned about how he was to sell the yields of his rich fields after he harvested in late autumn. Traditionally, the land of Blèssem shipped its grains and fruits round Eileanan's coastline to the other countries and across the eastern seas to their neighbouring islands. Eileanan had a monopoly on grains such as wheat, corn and barley because, according to the old stories, the seeds for such crops had been brought to this planet by the First Coven, and were not native to the islands.

The Tower of Blessed Fields was more of an agricultural college than an initiator into arcane mysteries

CARRAIG – Land of the Sea-Witches, ruled by MacSeinn clan

I die singing – MacSeinn slogan

Badge: crowned Harp.

Plaid: dark blue crossed with pale blue. 

The Tower of Sea-Singers

- ruled by Douglas MacSeinn (daughter Nathalie NicSeinn)

- The Yedda of Carraig had been for centuries the only weapon the islanders had against the Fairgean, having the power to mesmerise the sea people with song. However, the destruction of the Tower of Sea-Singers in Carraig had meant there were no Yedda left to sing the trading ships to safety.

CLACHAN AND RIONNAGAN – ruled by The MacCuinn Clan 

Wisely and boldly – MacCuinn slogan (Sapienter et Audacter)

Brooch - a leaping stag carrying a crown in its antlers (stag rampant)

Tartan - blues and greens, red running through like a line of fire.

The Tower of Two Moons

The Tower of First Landing 

- the most powerful family of witches in the land.

- live at Lucescere Palace

- descended from Cuinn the Wise, who died in the first crossing

- succeeded by Owein MacCuinn, he o' the Longbow. He was the first Keybearer. He wrought the Key in the sacred symbol of the Coven - a star contained within a circle.

- The Key: worn by the Keybearer, meant to be the strongest and bravest and most compassionate of all the Coven. Its history is no' all kind or true, however. No' all the Keybearers were the witch they should have been. Like many in a position o' power, some abused their trust, and battles were occasionally fought over the right to wear it. Nonetheless, the Key is an artefact o' great power, having been wrought by Owein MacCuinn and always worn by those with exceptional Talent.'

 - Owein’s youngest son Balfour murdered Fóghnan of Arran 

- Aedan MacCuinn, called Whitelock, united all of Eileanan under his rule – he forged the Lodestar at the time of the two moons crossing.

- Lodestar: whoever holds the Lodestar shall hold the land …’

The heritage of all the MacCuinns, the Inheritance of Aedan. When they are born their hands are placed upon it and a connection made. Whoever the stone recognises is the Rìgh or Banrìgh of Eileanan. A glowing white stone, about the size of an apple, only perfectly round, that responds with the sound of music when touched. 

- the heir has always needed to be favoured by the Lodestar, which responds to the inner character o’ he who holds it. Civil war once when the youngest son was named as heir by the Lodestar and the eldest son challenged him for the throne. He was a cold, ambitious man, no’ concerned with the welfare o’ the people the way the Rìgh or Banrìgh should be 

- The Tower of First Landing on a rocky crag near the ruin of their ship. Often called Cuinn's Tower, the ancient stone citadel was built around the body of the greatest sorcerer of them all, Cuinn Lionheart, who died in the Crossing. On the barren flats around Cuinn's Tower

- The Tower of Two Moons - Only at Two Moons was there training in all different facets of witchcraft, and research into magic's many manifestations. Even those with minor abilities found themselves a place at Two Moons, and there an increasing diversity of Talents was explored and celebrated.

- salt was one of Clachan’s principal exports, used to cure fish and pickle vegetables, preserve hides, and make glass and enamelled jewellery. It had even become fashionable for fine ladies to add seasalt to their baths in imitation of Maya, and so had been sold at the markets in little canvas bags, with rose petals or sweet herbs mixed through.

RAVENSHAW: deeply forested land, ruled by the MacBrann clan, descendants of Brann the Raven. 

Motto: Sans peur (without fear).

Badge: the Raven

Plaid: black and green

- ruled by Dughall MacBrann, with an adopted heir Owen

- live at Ravenscraig

RURACH: wild mountainous land, lying between Tìreich and Siantan. Ruled by MacRuraich clan, descendants of Rùraich, one of the First Coven of Witches. 

Motto: I find and I hold. 

Tartan: black crossed with green and gold. 

Shield: black wolf guardant. 

Tower of Searchers

- ruled by Anghus MacRuraich of Rurach (m. Gwyneth NicSian, have 3 children: Fionnghal, Aindrew and Barney)

- Tabithas the Wolf-Runner had a wolf as her familiar, a great grey beast that, like his mistress, had been more comfortable in the forests and mountains of Rurach

‘The MacRuraich clan find anything they search for. That is their Talent.'

SIANTAN: north-west land of Eileanan, between Rurach and Carraig. Famous for its weather-witches. Ruled by MacSian clan, descendants of Sian the Storm-rider. 

Plaid: Blue and grey crossed with white. 

Badge: a tower struck by lightning. 

Tower of Storm

- ruled by Brangaine NicSian 

- Sian the Storm-rider: one of the First Coven of Witches. A famous weather witch, renowned for whistling up hurricanes.

- from Siantan, a wagonload of rare timbers, sacks of charcoal, and luxuriant snow-lion furs

TÌREICH: land of the horse-lairds. Most westerly country of Eileanan, ruled by the MacAhern clan. 

Motto: Nunquam obliviscar (I shall never forget).

Plaid: brown, red and yellow. 

Badge: a rearing horse. 


- ruled by Kenneth MacAhern 

- the famous flying horses. It was a deep-chested, honey-coloured animal, with rainbow-tinted wings and a pair of spreading antlers. The MacAhern rode without saddle or bridle, as all thigearns did.  One did not tame a flying horse with such constraints.

TÌRLETHAN: Land of the Twins; once ruled by Faodhagan and Sorcha, twin sorcerers. Called the Spine of the World by Khan’cohbans. 

Motto: Those who would gather roses must brave the thorns.

Plaid: white crossed with red and blue. 

Badge: the dragon rampant, surrounded by roses and thorns. 

The Towers of Roses and Thorns

- ruled by Khan’gharad Dragonrider (m. Ishbel) two children Heloise and Alasdair (19)

- Lachlan, had arranged for five hundred refugees to accompany Khan’gharad and Ishbel back to the Towers of Roses and Thorns. These included stonemasons and carpenters to help rebuild the ruined towers; gardeners and farmers to plant the land about with grains and vegetables; weavers, seamstresses, cooks and house servants to help in the running of the castle; scribes and apprentice-witches to study in the library; and miners to look for lodes of precious metals in the mountains. There was also a retinue of the younger sons of the nobility eager to carve out a life for themselves in service to the newest of the prionnsachan.

TÌRSOILLIER – ruled by the MacHilde Clan

The Bright Land or the Forbidden Land. Northeast land of Eileanan, once ruled by the MacHilde clan, descended from Berhtilde, one of the First Coven of Witches. However, the Tìrsoilleirean rejected witchcraft and the ruling family in favour of militant religion. 

Motto: Bo Neart Gu Neart (From Strength to Strength)

Plaid:  Red crossed with yellow and black; 

Badge: hand holding a sword; 

The Tower of Warriors

- ruled by Elfrida NicHilde (m. Iain of Arran, one son Neil)

- the Tìrsoillierean had rejected the philosophies of the witches, believing in a stern sun-god that punished them mightily for any digression. Unlike the witches, who thought that all gods and goddesses were different names and faces for the one life-spirit, the Tìrsoillierean believed in one god with one name. They thought their beliefs were the only true faith, and that other people must be forced to worship as they did. Many times they had tried to convert their neighbours. When missionaries and travelling preachers failed to win the people to their religion, they tried force. 

- no-one from the western lands had been near the Tower of Warriors since the warrior-maids had closed their borders four hundred years earlier. Tìrsoilleir had been a land of mystery ever since.

- the Fealde and the General Assembly 

the Fealde and the Kirk

Deus Vult: war cry of the Bright Soldiers, meaning ‘God wills’.

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