The Women of Conall – Guest Post – David H. Millar
The Conall series is a tale of the ancient Gaels, their lives, loves, and battles. It is a story of a warlike people who also had an undisputed talent for art, design, and music. The series is set in Europe, 400 years before Christ, in a time when life was harsh and violent, and the boundaries between myth and reality were fluid.
A young blacksmith’s apprentice, Conall Mac Gabhann, returns home from a hunting trip with his friends to find his parents and young sisters slaughtered, along with the rest of the small rural community. A meeting with the mysterious Sidhe, Mongfhionn, and a geis accepted, sets Conall on the path of retribution. Several decades later, the former apprentice, now Rí Ruirech, King over Kings, of the great clann he founded and nurtured, stands before the gates of Rome to face his nemesis, Marcus Fabius Ambustus, Pontifex Maximus of Rome.
Conall is a journey of bloody battles, honour, treachery, tragedy, love, and high passions. It is an epic tale of vengeance and retribution, of courage and the frailty of body and spirit.
In Gaelic society, the women fought alongside the men, and many would argue they were the better and more ferocious warriors. From Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and north-western France, the ancient Gaels were guided by the Fénechas (The Law), a set of laws predating those of any Western civilisation. The Fénechas was well ahead of its time in establishing and protecting the rights of women.
Conall III: The Sisters—Na Deirfiúracha is the third book in the Conall series, and the women take centre stage. That said, all the Conall novels feature strong, sometimes tragic, and in some instances truly frightening women.
Mórrígan and Mongfhionn are the main female characters of the series. Both are powerful, troubled souls. After her family was slaughtered, a darkness of the soul overtakes Mórrígan, threatening to destroy her. From beginning to end, Mórrígan, a haunted, beautiful, and emerald-eyed queen, treads a fine line between sanity and madness, often finding relief in dispensing terror.
“Her eyes blazed in fury, and her appearance was terrible to look upon; her waist-length, almost white hair shot through with streaks of red-gold. Her face was pale, highlighted by fiery red cheeks and full, blood-red lips; her eyes near black as the night sky.” Mongfhionn of the Aes Sidhe—a race of demi-goddesses—is an enigmatic and ageless creature whose driving force is avenging the murder of her sisters. Sometimes dark, the lady and her alter ego—the Hag—terrify both friend and foe.
A further sampling would include: Mòrag, “A voluptuous, somewhat narcissistic beauty, and an inveterate flirt, Mòrag was also a fierce warrior who could flatten most of the men in the army,” sets her sights on Conall, setting up an inevitable clash with Mórrígan. The tragic queen Ceana whose betrayal of her husband is a lesson in misjudgement and the descent into madness. “Áine had a mind, and it was a cunning, manipulative one that interpreted everything through its own twisted perspective.” Áine, a spoilt and indulged princess whose guilty conscience sets her on the path to madness, murder, and disease. After extreme abuse by her grandmother, Gràinne, of the Cinn Péinteáilte, swears that never again will she be defenceless. The malevolent Queen Kartimandu is not all she appears and is the only truly irredeemable female character.
My influences? I have three main influences: my Irish cultural background, my love of history, and my wife, Lauren. It was Lauren who, when I was constantly complaining about the paucity of stories in this genre of historical fantasy, turned to me and said, “Write your own.”
My target audience? Anyone with an interest in Celtic culture. I had always considered my books historical fiction. However, given the time period of 400 B.C., the distinction between myth and reality is quite blurred, and I recently recategorized my genre as historical fantasy. Some characters are mythical, such as the Sidhe, Mongfhionn, and others such as Medb, queen of the Connachta, are open to interpretation. The latter had a unique negotiating style and was often described as “Medb of the friendly thighs”!
My goals? My priority is to give readers a good yarn in the tradition of the ancient Celtic seanchaithe—the storytellers. The books are a gritty reflection of the time, the battle settings are bloody, and some scenes may raise a blush to your cheeks.
Future works? The future is Celtic. It is a niche that I enjoy writing about and is underserved.
Now that I have completed the Conall series, there is a need to emphasise marketing and promotion. For most authors, marketing, which includes acquiring reviews, is a daunting, vital, and ongoing need. Branded merchandise, author events, and blogs like the Authors’ Lounge are all part of the mix.
The Place of Blood – Rinn-Iru
Conall Book I
by David H. Millar
Genre: Historical Fantasy
The Raven’s Flight – Eitilt an Fhiagh Dhuibh
Conall Book II
The Sisters – Na Deirfiúracha
Conall Book III
Cloaked in a rich tapestry of tattoos or wearing armour inlaid with iron scales, the Gaels stand as one, taunting their enemies with fierce battle-cries and insults.
In Conall III: The Sisters—the third book of the Conall series—the women take centre stage. Brighid and Danu are kidnapped on the orders of Kartimandu, a malevolent queen bent on conquering the North. Mórrígan and Conall’s blood oath promises no quarter until the young twins are returned.
Will Eachdonn Breac, betrayed by his queen—Ceana, redeem his honour on the battlefield? A merciless assassin stalks the community. Tadhg Ó Cuileannáin is given the unenviable task of tracking the killer down. A mission made worse, when the signs point to the sister of one of Conall’s closest friends. Amid, the battles and intrigue, Mòrag Ni Artair, a tall beauty and fearsome warrior, sets her sights on Conall. A clash with Mórrígan—Conall’s queen, appears inevitable.
A Brace of Eagles – Snaidhm Iolar
Conall Book IV
“Butter-gold and cruelly hooked, the beak ripped a ragged gash across the newborn’s throat.”
Son of a blacksmith, Conall Mac Gabhann’s only desire was to follow in his father’s footsteps and enjoy a long life with his childhood love, Mórrígan. The slaughter of their parents dashed those dreams. Fuelled by vengeance, both embark on the dark path of retribution.
From the ancient forest, two great eagles take wing. With amber-gold eyes, Fate and the Goddess watch, ready to guide and meddle in human lives. Conall, now Clann Ui Flaithimh’s ‘king over kings’, must complete his geis—at any cost. Conall takes another stride closer to Rome and a reckoning with Marcus Fabius Ambustus. Flat-bottomed biremes carry Conall’s army cross the Muir nIocht to crash on the shingle beaches of North-western Gaul. New enemies and uneasy alliances flourish.
Assassins, treason, and treachery thrive. Above all, Conall values loyalty. Thus, treason within the tribe sours his belly. Mercy will have no part in his response.
The fourth novel in the Conall series, Conall IV: A Brace of Eagles is a rousing epic of Celtic heroes and villains, bloody battles, political intrigue, honour, treachery, and forbidden love.
Retribution – Díoltas
Conall Book V
“Witch!” Tullus gasped.
“You are not that fortunate, Roman,” came the menacing reply.”
Blood has purchased a fragile peace for Conall and Mórrígan and the close circle of friends they call family. Now, allies and enemies alike wonder if the king and queen have lost the thirst for vengeance on those who slaughtered their families. Alarmed, gods, kings, and despots conspire to poke the slumbering fire.
Brennus of the Senones still smarts at his defeat at Conall’s hands and covets his lands and wealth. Will a bruised ego and hubris overrule the Gaulish king’s normal pragmatism?
The Gaiscedach want revenge for the defeat and execution of their queen. In the dead of night, like cockroaches, they scuttle over the walls of Lugudunon.
Marcus Fabius Ambustus tolerates no challenge to his plan to be Dictator of Rome. But has arrogance blinded him to the enemy he has nurtured?
The gates of Rome and retribution draw closer. But Conall needs his enemies as much as his friends. Still, who are enemies and who are friends? It is a time of schisms and rebuilding, of loved ones endangered, and assassins and spies revealed.
Yet, there has always been one constant. Only the foolish doubt Conall and Mórrígan will show any mercy to those who threaten their family.
Conall V: Retribution is the fifth and final book in the Conall series.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, David H. Millar is the founder, owner, and author-in-residence of Houston-based ‘A Wee Publishing Company’—a business that promotes Celtic literature, authors and art.