Title: THE WATER IS WIDE
Author: Laura Vosika
Publisher: Gabriel’s Horn Press
Genre: Time Travel/Historical Fiction
After his failure to escape back to his own time, Shawn is sent with Niall on the Bruce’s business. They criss-cross Scotland and northern England, working for the Bruce and James Douglas, as they seek ways to get Shawn home to Amy and his own time.
Returning from the Bruce’s business, to Glenmirril, Shawn finally meets the mysterious Christina. Despite his vow to finally be faithful to Amy, his feelings for Christina grow.
In modern Scotland, having already told Angus she’s pregnant, Amy must now tell him Shawn is alive and well—in medieval Scotland. Together, they seek a way to bring him back across time.
They are pursued by Simon Beaumont, esteemed knight in the service of King Edward, has also passed between times. Having learned that Amy’s son will kill him—he seeks to kill the infant James first.
The book concludes with MacDougall’s attack on Glenmirril, Amy and Angus’s race to be there and Shawn’s attempt to reach the mysterious tower through the battling armies.
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About the Author
Laura Vosika is a writer, poet, and musician. Her time travel series, The Blue Bells Chronicles, set in modern and medieval Scotland, has garnered praise and comparisons to writers as diverse as Diana Gabaldon and Dostoevsky. Her poetry has been published in The Moccasin and The Martin Lake Journal 2017.
She has been featured in newspapers, on radio, and TV, has spoken for regional book events, and hosted the radio program Books and Brews. She currently teaches writing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
As a musician, Laura has performed as on trombone, flute, and harp, in orchestras, and big bands. She lives in Brooklyn park with 5 of her 9 children, 3 cats, and an Irish Wolfhound.
Her latest book is the time travel/historical fiction, The Water is Wide.
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As the shadows lengthened, Shawn cleared his throat. “Any thoughts on where to spend the night? Is there a Holiday Inn around here?”
“There’s no inn of any sort.”
“Yeah, and that’s a problem,” Shawn said, “because last time I slept in the great outdoors, a wolf climbed into bed with me, and it didn’t really end well for either of us.” He rubbed his thigh, where a long scar would forever remind him of the night.
“You did well.” Niall cocked a grin at him. “It almost makes me glad to have you at my side, despite your infernal complaining.” The sky over the leafy canopy grew grayer as they climbed another hill.
“I haven’t complained for half an hour, and considering I’m stuck with you, that’s pretty impressive.” An owl hooted, low and mournful. “I’m pretty sure that knocks a couple months off any Purgatory time I’d racked up.” The river crackled, cold water splashing against thin ice on the edges, beside them.
“Any time?” Niall chortled, a candle against the darkening wood. “You’ll be fortunate to get as high as Purgatory, and if you do, you’ve racked up so much time there, they’ll have to kick the rest of them straight into Heaven to make room for all the Purgatory you need!”
“I don’t think it works like….” Shawn stopped at the top of the hill, staring at the sight before them. “Holy ruins, Batman. What is that?”
Niall and his pony halted by his side. The animal tossed its head, and nuzzled Niall’s arm. Before them stretched a wide expanse of broken stone walls, stone buildings with mouths and eyes gaping wide in the twilight, on either side of a long road. One vast length of wall held numerous niches. Thirty yards away, crumbling walls enclosed rows of short, stout, stone posts. Beyond it, a stairway led down into a dark maw. Bushes sprang from cracks. Trees grew in and among the abandoned structures. Shadows stretched everywhere, as the sun sank, sending fiery orange and pink rays down the center road, lighting the mist that swirled along it.
“That,” said Niall with a smile, “is our inn. God provides.” He touched his heels to his pony, starting down the gentle slope.
Shawn coughed loudly. “Uh, yeah, He sure does. The question is what has He provided? What is this place?”
“A Roman fort.” Niall led his pony down the center path, the remains rising on either side. A bird called somewhere in the trees.
“The Roamin’ in.” Shawn used English for the last two words. “God has a sense of humor.”
Niall smiled, pointing to the stairs leading down. “There. ’Tis indoors.”
“It’s a pun,” Shawn clarified. “It’s a whole lot funnier if you see it spelled out.”
“No doubt,” Niall agreed. “Shall we gather firewood? Keep any more wolves from climbing in bed with you?”
“Yes, let’s. And what keeps away the ghosts of the Roman legionnaires? Or their victims?”
“One sight of your face ought to scare any spirits back to the underworld.”
“If that doesn’t work,” said Shawn, “your pathetic attempts at music will.”
“Perhaps you could brag of your exploits with women.” Niall grinned. “Even Hades is better than having to listen to that.”
Shawn laughed. “You’re jealous.”
They picked their way over the darkening path strewn with stones. In the trees above, an owl hooted.
“What happens tomorrow?” Shawn nodded at the limping pony.
Niall’s mouth was taut. “We hope he’s better. If not, we let him rest, and spend the time learning to play the lute. We’ve shelter, walls and a roof, which is more than we expected.”
They stopped before their intended room. Shawn sighed. It would do no good to stay in the open, but the stone structure, with its empty eyes and stone stairs descending into darkness, was hardly welcoming.
“We’ll need wood,” Niall said. They tethered the ponies to a tree springing up near the ruin, left the lute beside them, and set out to gather branches.
The sky was now deep blue, the ruins cloaked in shadow. A wolf howled in the distance. The air grew chillier as they worked, till a night among ghosts looked inviting, even homey, as long as it was warm. They piled the kindling on the lowest step outside their chosen abode, where it would warm the room, but send its smoke up into the sky. Niall scraped flint, and soon, they had flickering light by which to eat their hard bread and berries. Shawn settled back, content with his stomach less than empty, and pulled out the lute. He adjusted a couple tuning pegs, tried a few chords, and began one of the songs he’d played on guitar. Niall relaxed against another wall, watching his fingers, humming along. “Let me try,” he said at last. Shawn handed it over, giving instruction as Niall leaned over the strings, working his fingers into unfamiliar positions for chords, and picking out melodies.
Outside, a pony whickered. Niall and Shawn froze, looking to the doorway, where they could see only black night beyond the glowing fire. Niall laid the lute down gently. “We’ve been careless,” he said softly. They reached for their knives.
“I’m kind of hoping it’s only a ghost,” Shawn whispered back. The familiar tingle of adrenaline began, a tremoring of the nerves in his arms. His muscles tightened. “Do we wait for whoever it is to come in?”
Niall shook his head. “And wait for a whole army to come in on us? If I’m to die tonight, ’twill be fighting for my life.” He rose, back against the wall, and inched around till he stood pressed by the doorway, where the fire crackled. On the other side, Shawn did the same, his heart pounding hard. Niall pointed to his chest, then to Shawn, and held up fingers in a silent count: One. Two. Three.
He sprang over the small flames, into the night. Shawn leapt behind him, knife ready, heart beating triple time, nerves screaming! The fire threw shadows across the pony, who balked against his tether. Shawn saw nothing. But he heard the crack of a twig just beyond the light. He and Niall lunged. The single crack grew into a panicked flurry of rustling leaves, cracking twigs, branches snapping back in their faces as they gave chase. Shawn ducked and swerved, saw Niall ahead, veered, and suddenly, there was a pile of arms, legs. He dropped his knife.
“Get down!” Niall roared. Shawn threw himself to the ground, hands over his head.
All became silent for a heartbeat…two.
Then the forest erupted with sound!
“I didn’t mean you!” Niall said indignantly.
“I’ve done naught, Milord! Don’t kill me!”
Then Niall was laughing, great gusty roars of merriment. “Shawn, get up! You’re hiding from a boy!”
“Don’t kill me! I can help you! I can help your hobin, Milord!”
Shawn inched his hand from over his eyes to see the dark shape of Niall sitting astride a boy who managed to flounder, fight, and cower, all at once, while protesting. He climbed irritably to his feet. “You said get down!”
“I meant him.”
“You staged this because your lute-playing sucks!” Shawn threw back into the night. “You needed a distraction.”
“Thank goodness at least you can play a lute, because the way you fight, a mouse would have gotten the better of us!”
The boy looked back and forth between them. He stopped struggling. “Milord?”
Shawn realized both their faces were showing. He recoiled into shadow. Niall climbed to his feet, his knife at the ready. “Get up.”
“He’s just a boy,” Shawn sighed. “Put your knife away.”
“Aren’t we sending boys to war?” Niall asked. “What makes you think a boy can’t kill?”
Shawn had no answer. He could think only of the boys to whom he’d taught trombone, so many years ago in the future—boys in sports jerseys, with trimmed hair, worrying about who to ask to prom. This boy stood before them in tatters. He wrapped his arms around his skinny body. His hair hung past his shoulders. Clarence. His father’s killer, as he’d last seen him, flashed through Shawn’s mind. Yes, boys could kill. He didn’t want to believe this one would. He just didn’t want any more ugliness in his world.
“What’s your name?” Niall demanded.
“I have none,” the boy said.
“No name? How can you have no name?”
The boy shrugged. “My parents died long ago, my mother in childbirth, and my father in battle. A farrier found me and took me in. He didn’t know my name.”
“Surely he called you something?”
“Red.” The boy’s shivering increased.
“Niall,” Shawn said.
Niall pressed the boy, ignoring Shawn. “And why are you not with him now?”
“He was….” Red’s teeth clacked together. He clenched them tight, rubbing his hands up and down his arms, and tried again. “He was killed when the soldiers came through. I ran into the forest and hid. They were afraid to follow me into the ruins.”
“Niall, he’s cold.”
Niall’s knife remained pointed at the boy. “Which soldiers?”
“They were English, Milord. Meaning no offense, Milord.” His teeth clattered again. “If you’re English.”
“Niall!” Shawn stepped forward, his anger growing. “He’s just a kid! He’s about to….”
Before he finished, the boy collapsed. Shawn was under him, catching his sagging body before it hit the ground.