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Into the Dreaming (with bonus material) (Highlander) Hardcover – April 24, 2012
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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About the Author
Karen Marie Moning is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fever series, featuring MacKayla Lane, and the award-winning Highlander series. She has a bachelor’s degree in society and law from Purdue University.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Not Quite Scotland
It was a land of shadows and ice.
Of gray. And grayer. And black.
Deep in the shadows lurked inhuman creatures, twisted of limb and hideous of countenance. Things one did well to avoid seeing.
Should the creatures enter the pale bars of what passed for light in the terrible place, they would die, painfully and slowly. As would he-the mortal Highlander imprisoned within columns of sickly light-should he succeed in breaking the chains that held him and seek escape through those terrifying shadows.
Jagged cliffs of ice towered above him. A frigid wind shrieked through dark labyrinthine canyons, bearing a susurrus of desolate voices and faint, hellish screams. No sun, no fair breeze of Scotland, no scent of heather penetrated his frozen, bleak hell.
He hated it. His very soul cringed at the horror of the place.
He ached for the warmth of the sun on his face and hungered for the sweet crush of grass beneath his boots. He would have given years of his life for the surety of his stallion between his thighs and the solid weight of his claymore in his grip.
He dreamed-when he managed to escape the agony of his surroundings by retreating deep into his mind-of the blaze of a peat fire, scattered with sheaves of heather. Of a woman's warm, loving caresses. Of buttery, golden-crusted bread hot from the hearth. Simple things. Impossible things.
For the son of a Highland chieftain, who'd passed a score and ten in resplendent mountains and vales, five years was an intolerable sentence; an incarceration that would be withstood only by force of will, by careful nurturing of the light of hope within his heart.
But he was a strong man, with the royal blood of Scottish kings running hot and true in his veins. He would survive. He would return and reclaim his rightful place, woo and win a bonny lass with a tender heart and a tempestuous spirit like his mother, and fill the halls of Dun Haakon with the music of wee ones.
With such dreams, he withstood five years in the hellish wasteland.
Only to discover the dark king had deceived him.
His sentence had never been five years at all, but five faery years: five hundred years in the land of shadow and ice.
On that day when his heart turned to ice within his breast, on that day when a single tear froze upon his cheek, on that day when he was denied even the simple solace of dreaming, he came to find his prison a place of beauty.
"My queen, the Unseelie king holds a mortal captive."
The Seelie queen's face remained impassive, lest her court see how deeply disturbing she found the messenger's news. Long had the Seelie Court of Light and the Unseelie Court of Dark battled. Long had the Unseelie king provoked her. "Who is this mortal?" she asked coolly.
"Aedan MacKinnon, son and heir of the Norse princess Saucy Mary and Findanus MacKinnon, from Dun Haakon on the Isle of Skye."
"Descendent of the Scottish king, Kenneth McAlpin," the queen mused aloud. "The Unseelie king grows greedy, his aim lofty, if he seeks to turn the seed of the McAlpin to his dark ways. What bargain did he strike with this mortal?"
"He sent his current Hand of Vengeance into the world to bring death to the mortal's clansmen yet bartered that if the mortal willingly consented to spend five years in his kingdom, he would spare his kin."
"And the MacKinnon agreed?"
"The king concealed from him that five years in Faery is five centuries. Still, as grandseed of the McAlpin, I suspect the MacKinnon would have accepted the full term to protect his clan."
"What concession does the king make?" the queen asked shrewdly. Any bargain between faery and mortal must hold the possibility for the human to regain his freedom. Still, no mortal had ever bested a fairy in such a bargain.
"At the end of his sentence, he will be granted one full cycle of the moon in the mortal world, at his home at Dun Haakon. If, by the end of that time, he is loved and loves in return, he will be free. If not, he serves as the king's new Hand of Vengeance until the king chooses to replace him, at which time he dies."
The queen made a sound curiously like a sigh. By such cruel methods had the Unseelie king long fashioned his deadly, prized assassin-his beloved Vengeance-by capturing a mortal, driving him past human limits into madness, indurating him to all emotion, then endowing him with special powers and arts.
Since the Unseelie king was barred entrance to the human world, he trained his Vengeance to carry out his orders, to hold no act too heinous. Mortals dared not even whisper the icy assassin's name, lest they inadvertently draw his merciless attention. If a man angered the Unseelie king, Vengeance punished the mortal's clan, sparing no innocents. If grumblings about the faery were heard, Vengeance silenced them in cruelly imaginative ways. If the royal house was not amenable to the fairy world, Vengeance toppled kings as carelessly as one might sweep a chessboard.
Until now, it had been the Unseelie king's wont to abduct an insignificant mortal, one without clan who would not be missed, to train as his Vengeance. He went too far this time, the Seelie queen brooded, abducting a blood grandson of one of fair Scotia's greatest kings-a man of great honor, noble and true of heart.
She would win this mortal back.
The queen was silent for a time. Then, "Ah, what five hundred years in that place will do to him," she breathed in a chilling voice. The Unseelie king had named the terms of his bargain well. Aedan MacKinnon would still be mortal at the end of his captivity but no longer remotely human when released. Once, long ago and never forgotten, she'd traversed that forbidden land herself, danced upon a pinnacle of black ice, slept within the dark king's velvet embrace . . .
"Perhaps an enchanted tapestry," she mused, "to bring the MacKinnon the one true mate to his heart." She could not fight the Unseelie king directly, lest the clash of their magic too gravely damage the land. But she could and would do all in her power to ensure Aedan MacKinnon found love at the end of his imprisonment.
"My queen," the messenger offered hesitantly, "they shall have but one bridge of the moon in the sky. Perhaps they should meet in the Dreaming."
The queen pondered a moment. The Dreaming: that elusive, much-sought, everforgotten realm where mortals occasionally brushed pale shoulder to iridescent wing with the fairy. That place where mortals would be astonished to know battles were won and lost, universes born, and true love preordained, from Cleopatra and Mark Antony to Abelard and Heloise. The lovers could meet in the Dreaming and share a lifetime of loving before they ever met in the mortal realm. It would lay a grand foundation for success of her plan.
"Wisely spoken," the queen agreed. Rising from her floral bower with fluid grace, she raised her arms and began to sing.
From her melody a tapestry was woven, of faery lore, of bits of blood and bone, of silken hair from the great, great-grandson of the McAlpin, of ancient rites known only to the True Race. As she sang, her court chanted:
Into the Dreaming lure them deep
where they shall love whilst they doth sleep
then in the waking both shall dwell
'til love's fire doth melt his ice-borne hell.
And when the tapestry was complete, the queen marveled.
"Is this truly the likeness of Aedan MacKinnon?" she asked, eyeing the tapestry with unmistakable erotic interest.
"I have seen him, and it is so," the messenger replied, wetting his lips, his gaze fixed upon the tapestry.
"Fortunate woman," the queen said silkily.
The faery queen went to him in the Dreaming, well into his sentence, when he was quite mad. Tracing a curved nail against his icy jaw, she whispered in his ear, "Hold fast, MacKinnon, for I have found you the mate to your soul. She will warm you. She will love you above all others."
The monster chained to the ice threw back his dark head and laughed.
It was not a human sound at all.
Present Day Oldenburg, Indiana
Jane sillee had an intensely passionate relationship with her postman.
It was classic love-hate.
The moment she heard him whistling his way down her walk, her heart kicked into overtime, a sappy smile curved her lips, and her breathing quickened.
But the moment he failed to deliver the acceptance letter extolling the wonders of her manuscript, or worse, handed her a rejection letter, she hated him. Hated him. Knew it was his fault somehow. That maybe, just maybe, a publisher had written glowing things about her, he'd dropped the letter because he was careless, the wind had picked it up and carried it off, and even now her bright and shining future lay sodden and decomposing in a mud puddle somewhere.
Just how much could a federal employee be trusted, anyway? she brooded suspiciously. He could be part of some covert study designed to determine how much one tortured writer could endure before snapping and turning into a pen-wielding felon.
"Purple prose, my ass," she muttered, balling up the latest rejection letter. "I only used black ink. I can't afford a color ink cartridge." She kicked the door of her tiny apartment shut and slumped into her secondhand Naugahyde recliner.
Massaging her temples, she scowled. She simply had to get this story published. She'd become convinced it was the only way she was ever going to get him out of her mind.
Him. Her sexy, dark-haired Highlander. The one who came to her in dreams.
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Into the Dreaming is about Jane Sillee, who is a would be romance novelist, who keeps getting her manuscripts rejected. At night, Jane dreams about her own Highlander. One day she comes home to find a box, with a tapestry that has a picture of a Highlander in old Scotland. When Jane looks closely, she sees that the highlander is her very own dream lover.
Aeden MacKinnon has been imprisoned in Fae land for 500 years. The Unseelie King has tortured, and brainwashed him to be his very own Vengeance warrior, to do his bidding. A dark and evil being, programmed not to feel, but to kill at the King's command. Aedon no longer remembers who he was, only that his name is Vengeance, and he is ice cold in every way.
The Seelie Queen decides to save Aeden, but since she cannot interfere, she plots secretly to enable Aeden to break the contract. If Aeden can find someone to love him within the one month that he is free, he will become totally free, or else be binded to the King forever. Enter Jane Sillee and her dreams at night with Aeden, something the Queen set into motion all those years before.
Jane wakes up the following morning and finds herself lying naked on the beach by the sea, with a kitten purring next to her. Thinking she is still into the dreaming, Jane begins to explore and finds her dream lover and a castle. But this is not the Aeden she made love to every night in her dreams. Jane begins to realize that this is not a dream, and somehow she has been transported back in time to Scotland. She sees her dream lover as a man who does not remember her, and is totally cold and in human. Jane understands more later, when she hears a voice that tells her she must find a way to save him or lose him forever.
She sets out on a plan to taunt him and make him to begin to feel again, in order to help break the evil that surrounds him. I really did enjoy the book. It was a light read, and fun to watch Jane try all kinds of things to entice Aedon. Jane will do anything to make Aedon feel his sexuality, as well as to make him remember her. The kitten was adorable, and a nice touch. I won't spoil anything by telling you what happens, but with all the extras in the book, it is worth to buy this novella and read this story. I for one was happy to be back in Highlander time again, but I also cannot wait for Iced and Dani O'Malley. It was fun to spend sometime with our Highlanders, but its time to go back to the dark and Fever land.