Brennon Roarke is cursed. Stolen from his family at the age of sixteen and forced to use his glamour in the service of Eilé's most malevolent goddess, Brenn has little room for warmth in his heart. For seven long years, he endured hardship and pain, only to escape and find his parents and sister murdered, his nephew left blind and broken. With the stain of dark magic on his soul, Brennon perseveres for the sake of his young ward, always worrying that one day the evil infecting his spirit will destroy him for good.
Seren is an outcast among her own kind, ridiculed and ostracized by all but her mother. Born to the Fahndí tribe of the Weald, Seren's glamour allows her to transform into a deer, but it also grants her the power to heal grave wounds. When she reveals this gift to her peers, jealousy and hatred drive them to murder, forcing Seren to either flee or fall victim to their malice. Taking on her animal form, Seren leaves her old life behind hoping to find a safe haven in a world that has only ever offered her hardship.
Despite being worlds apart, Seren and Brennon are brought together in a single life-altering moment. When the doe Brenn shoots turns into a young woman before his very eyes, he has no choice but to bring her home with the hope that she'll recover. What he doesn't realize, however, is that Seren is quite capable of healing herself with glamour that may be able to cure his wounds as well, and not only the ones that run skin deep.
Jenna Elizabeth Johnson's Faeborne takes us to a land where the Morrigan, the goddess of war and strife, aspires to become more powerful through the use of violence and sacrifice. This is a wonderful tale of how even in dark and complicated circumstances, one can find love, trust, and happiness. – Jamie Ferguson
"The story is fraught with manifold twists and surprises that enhance the overall beauty of this page-turner. This is one of those books that is hard to put down, dark in a gorgeous kind of way, and irresistible in its charm. Faeborne: A Novel of the Otherworld (The Otherworld Series) will undoubtedly transport readers into a magical world where they will want to linger longer than necessary. It is seductively beautiful."– Romuald Dzemo from Readers’ Favorite
"As the story unfolds we are introduced to a skillfully layered tale of fantasy fiction. In what ultimately becomes a wonderful love story, Seren introduces a beauty and light into Brennon's formerly dark and somber world. This book earns our recommendation and has received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval."– Literary Classics Book Awards
"Strongly developed characters, a deep story line and tremendous action mark this excellent story of the ancient power of the gods and even stronger power of love. Entertaining and heartwarming, the author brings this magical world to life with realism and tremendous depth. Even though this is Volume 9 of The Otherworld Series, Faeborne by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson stands on its own with total clarity and offers a wonderful reading experience."– Melinda Hills from Readers’ Favorite (5 Star Review)
The split second before Brennon released the arrow, he realized it would not meet its mark. He had been hunting the doe all morning, following her tracks with stealth and staying downwind as he moved through the forest like a silent fog. Well, as silent as the occasional twig underfoot and clump of brush tugging on his cloak would allow him. To get to this point and foul up on something as simple as a bowshot from such a short distance was unforgiveable. He and Rori had been without fresh meat for over a week now, and the both of them were craving venison stew and hoping for jerky to carry them past Samhain.
Biting back a curse as the fletching of the misdirected arrow brushed against his arm guard, Brenn could only hope this shot wounded the deer enough, so he could follow her and finish the job. He hated it when the animals didn't die right away, for the last thing he wanted was to cause more suffering than necessary, but there was no helping it now.
In the end, the arrow didn't miss his target as terribly as he thought it would. The arrowhead struck the doe high on the shoulder, forcing a scream from her pale throat, but not taking her down completely. Instead, she bolted into the thick undergrowth as fast as her injury would allow her.
Brenn sighed. He had promised Rori he would be home before dark, now, he wasn't so sure.
You cannot just leave her to die, he grumbled to himself. Might take her all night, long hours of agony, and then, the wolves will take advantage of your ill luck.
Already, the sun was beginning to dip toward the western horizon, the sky taking on the deeper colors of impending twilight. If fortune was on his side, he'd find the deer right away and be home before the predators living in this forest scented the blood. Pulling his cloak tighter, Brennon narrowed his eyes and began his new hunt, trying hard not to think of the Samhain feast day that was fast approaching. How had the time slipped away from him? One moment, their part of Eilé was in the throes of summer, and in the next he and his nephew were busy bringing in the harvest: Apples and pears from their small orchard, barley, corn, turnips and other root vegetables from the fields. Hay, oats and feed grains had been growing since early spring and stored in the barn as food and bedding supplies for the animals. Although Brenn and Rori had plenty to eat and enough to see the animals through the cold months, this time of year brought with it a taint of darkness which never failed to taunt Brennon's demons.
Pushing through the tangled, dark-thorned bramble patches that contributed to the wood's name, Brenn quickly reined in his thoughts and sent them down a different path. Instead, he turned his attention to his surroundings. Occupying several dozen acres of Eilé's northern lands, Dorcha Forest was second in size only to the Weald far to the southwest. The corner of Brenn's mouth curved up in amusement, despite the impending dark and the still missing deer. As large as Dorcha was, it didn't hold a candle to the Weald, and as dangerous as it was to be stuck in this particular forest at night, finding yourself lost in Cernunnos's grand wilderness was far more terrifying. Or so he'd heard. Regardless, Dorcha boasted a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees and was said to harbor many wild creatures both natural and unnatural.
Brenn shivered as the bitterness of disgust rose in his throat. Being so close to the Morrigan's realm, he wouldn't be surprised if an entire legion of faelah lurked under the cover of these trees. And of course, thinking of faelah only brought his mind back to the past he wanted to forget, a past filled with violence, hatred and loss.
The young Faelorehn man pulled his cloak more tightly about himself. Six years was not a very long time in the lifespan of someone native to Eilé, but when those years were spent in the employ of the Morrigan, his world's most brutal and sadistic goddess, every day, every hour, felt like an eternity. A month after turning sixteen, Brennon had been handed over to the war goddess's scouts by his own neighbors. He had a gift, one they feared and one he considered a curse, and it had earned him too many enemies, even at such a young age. The farm where he and his nephew now lived had belonged to their family since Eilé first came into existence, or so it seemed, and their flocks and fields were always plentiful. The truth of the matter was the soil of Ardún, the land surrounding Roarke Manor, was imbued with ancient magic, magic that had made the harvests plentiful and his family wealthy.
Everyone in the village of Dundoire Hollow either envied the Roarkes, desired their friendship or outright hated them. One family in particular embodied all three. The Corcorain clan sought to be associated with the Roarkes and had tried to arrange a marriage between their children and Brennon and his sister. Baird and Arlana Corcorain were as cold and unfeeling as their parents, interested only in the vices that plagued Faelorehn-kind.
A tremor of unease wracked Brenn, making him misstep and nearly twist his ankle on an exposed tree root. Such feelings often visited whenever he found himself thinking about the Corcorain family, especially their daughter. Even though she had been only fourteen at the time, Arlana was as shrewd and calculating as one of the Morrigan's ravens. With her red-blond hair and sparkling, changeable eyes, she had early assumed the title of town beauty.
Every male old enough to notice the opposite gender was easily led around by the nose, should Arlana wish it. Every male, that is, except for Brenn himself. At age fifteen going on sixteen, he had begun to take notice of the young women in the village as well, but he knew better than to fall for Arlana's charms. And he was far more interested in hunting and war sports to waste his time on the girls who preferred to keep their hands clean and free of calluses. If he was ever to marry, it would be to someone like his sister, Meara.
Meara, two years older than Brenn and just as wild and stubborn, was unlike the other girls in town. Although not considered as beautiful as Arlana, she was striking nonetheless with her dark hair and gray fae eyes. And her Faelorehn blood promised her the legendary good looks which were endemic to their entire race. Just as Arlana had her cap set on Brennon, her brother Baird had his lustful eye fixed upon Meara. Baird was three years older than Meara, and like his sister, was popular with the families in town.
Despite Arlana's beauty and Baird's charms, they did not appeal to the Roarke siblings in the least. Meara refused Baird's advances, time and time again, and when a young horse trainer moved into Dundoire Hollow in search of a new start, Meara's disinterest in marriage soon turned. Unlike Baird, Donal was carefree, kind, gentle and his knowledge of horses only made him more appealing to Meara. Within a year, they were married and expecting their first child.
Brennon came to a stop, a three-year-old sorrow stirring in his chest and threatening to take over. He forcibly blinked back the memories and took stock of his surroundings. He had one foot on the leaf-carpeted forest floor, another resting upon the gnarled root of a beech tree. Ice seemed to have formed over his fingertips, despite the gloves, and although his breath didn't mist the air in front of him, the cold had numbed his face and nose. The evergreen undergrowth rustled with the sounds of animals seeking their nightly refuge, and in the distance, the first mournful cries of an owl signaled the encroaching dusk.
The light of the waning day had not dimmed to the point of pure darkness yet, but it seemed Brennon's vision had gone in that direction anyway. He had loved his sister more than anyone in the world, except for maybe his parents, and it had been because of him she had died. A Faelorehn woman who should have lived for all eternity. Her bright eyes and mischievous smile would never cheer him up again, and her laughter would never dance among the barley fields on a summer's eve as they raced home from a day spent fishing along the stream.
The pain in his chest blossomed sharply and burst, but he fought against it. Giving in to the grief right now would not help him or Rori, the one part of his sister he had left. Setting his jaw, Brenn tightened his grip on his bow and focused his eyes forward, scouring the dense brush ahead for signs of the deer's passage. He would find it and bring it home, so he and Rori could have meat for the next week or so without having to make a trip into town. He would take care of his nephew, see to it that he grew into a strong young man. He would not fail his sister for a second time.
* * *
In the end, it didn't take Brennon very long to track the doe. She hadn't gone far, maybe a half a mile or so deeper into the woods, and the evidence of her clumsy passage was more of a tell than the occasional splatter of blood on the dark leaves underfoot.
Must be a young one, Brennon thought with some regret. But it was well into the autumn season, and unfortunately, many of the deer killed during this time of year were the younger, inexperienced ones.
The broken brush gave way to a small, secluded meadow, and Brenn paused in his forward progression. The sky was a wash of slate and cobalt now, so there was still a little light for him to see by, but he knew at least part of the journey home would be made in darkness. That all depended on how close he was to his quarry. Brenn didn't spot the deer right away, not with the poor light and tangled overgrowth of brambles and holly, but it was clear she had stumbled around in this small haven. Drawing his knife so he'd be prepared to end her misery the moment he caught sight of her, Brennon moved past the last bit of thorn bushes and began casting his eyes around. Movement to his right drew his attention to a small den of sorts, hollowed out from a tangle of ivy and blackberry vines. The perfect place for a deer to hide, if it didn't have a hunter on its tail.
"I'm sorry about this, girl," he murmured as he made his way forward, his cloak snagging on thorns and sharp branches.
The doe was curled up in a tight ball, her long, graceful legs tucked beneath her, her head bent around and nestled against her body. The arrow stuck out at an odd angle, a large dark patch of blood oozing from the wound. She did not stir as Brennon approached with his knife. Taking a deep breath, he reached in to end her suffering, but an odd movement stayed his hand. The muscles beneath the doe's soft, brown hide began to ripple and pulse, as if some foreign parasite undulated under her skin. Horrified, Brennon snatched his arm away and took a few steps backward, watching in fascinated shock at the bizarre scene unfolding before him.
What strange glamour is at work here? he wondered.
The darkness that had settled in this small glen was deeper, richer than the night shades creeping up on the main forest, but even then, he missed nothing. The spindly front legs of the deer shortened and filled out, the hind legs soon following suit. The doe's abdomen tapered in the middle and then flared out at the hips. Her narrow head swelled and long, dark spirals of hair sprouted from the scalp. The deer's large ears grew smaller, disappearing beneath the tousle of hair on a now Faelorehn head. Hooves morphed into hands and feet, complete with fingers and toes. The entire transformation took less than thirty seconds, but it had felt like an eternity.
Brenn was certain he made some sound of shocked fascination as he quickly backed even farther away from this unnatural thing. He would have turned and bolted if not for the tangle of roots that tripped up his feet, sending him crashing, unceremoniously, to the ground. Cursing, he rolled over, ready to scramble away as fast as he could, but a soft mewling noise stopped him. Instead of regaining his feet and running back the way he had come, he turned his head to look at the doe. Or, at least, what had been a doe mere seconds ago. Now, it was a woman. A very young woman. He narrowed his eyes, studying her cautiously, half expecting her to change forms again. Her own eyes were clenched in pain, and she reached up one hand to finger the arrow protruding from her flesh.
"Don't," Brenn protested automatically, holding a hand out to her.
Too late. Her fingers brushed the shaft of the arrow, and she cried out. Her head rolled to the side, and her hand slipped away, streaking blood across her collar bone. At first, Brenn thought she had died, but then, he saw the gentle rise and fall of her chest. She had only lost consciousness. Thank the gods. Strange magic or not, he did not need another death weighing on his soul.
Now that the deer girl was motionless and asleep, Brenn lifted himself up off the ground and approached her guardedly. He couldn't tell much about her without any light, but he noted her slim figure and long, dark hair. She didn't look underfed, but she was not built like most Faelorehn women he knew. For one, if she were to be standing next to him, her head might come level with his shoulders, if that. And her skin tone was darker as well. Not the pale shade found on most of those living in Dundoire Hollow and in the other parts of Eilé he had visited when under the Morrigan's control.
Eventually, Brennon shook his head and clenched his jaw. He could stand out here all night, staring at this strange creature like the letches who hid in the reeds near the riverbank to watch the women in Dundoire Hollow bathe. Or, he could draw on whatever shred of honor he still possessed and make up for the harm he had caused her. As peculiar as she might be, it was his fault, after all, that she was lying naked on the ground with an arrow protruding from her shoulder.
Wondering if he was making a mistake, then dismissing his doubts just as quickly, he shrugged off his cloak and draped it around her body, careful of the arrow wound and cursing at the thorns and branches hindering his progress. The girl didn't even sigh in protest when he lifted her, but continued to breathe evenly, her eyes closed, her long, thick lashes curling away from her cheeks. Brenn was compelled then to hold her closer to his body, maybe because he felt she needed the reassurance of his quiet promise to help her, or perhaps he did it for purely selfish reasons. Maybe he needed to feel that she was, indeed, alive and that his mistake had not killed her.
"Whatever you are, and whatever curse you brought down upon yourself, I hope I do not curse you further by bringing you into my house," he murmured, as he carried her light frame through the ever darkening woods, heading southeast and toward home.