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Naamah's Kiss

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Naamah's Kiss

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Author: Jacqueline Carey
Publisher: Gollancz, 2010
Grand Central Publishing, 2009
Series: Kushiel's Legacy: Book 7
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Once there were great magicians born to the Maghuin Dhonn, the folk of the Brown Bear, the oldest tribe in Alba. But generations ago the greatest of them all broke a sacred oath and now only small gifts remain to them. Moirin possesses such gifts - she has the ability to summon the twilight and conceal herself, and the skill to coax plants to quicken. She has a secret, too. From childhood onwards, she has been able to sense the presence of unfamiliar gods in her life: the bright lady, the man with a seedling cupped in his palm.

Moirin is raised in the wilderness by her reclusive mother, Fainche, and it isn't until she is befriended by Cillian, son of the Lord of the Dalriada, that she learns her father was a D'Angeline priest dedicated to serving Naamah, goddess of desire.

After Moirin undergoes the rites of adulthood, she finds divine acceptance... on the condition that she fulfils an unknown destiny, one that lies somewhere beyond the ocean. And that destiny promises both pleasure and pain, as she finds herself facing an ambitious mage, a noble warrior princess desperate to save her father's throne, and the spirit of a celestial dragon.


"Naamah," I breathed.

"Naamah," Cillian agreed, his finger hovering over the page.

Our gazes met in triumph. It had taken a year for him to gain proficiency in the D'Angeline tongue and teach it to me. A year to find the right text, and for me to draw painstaking details from my recalcitrant mother. She glanced over our shoulders at the illustration of a priest in red robes, bestowing a careless remark on us.

"Oh, aye. That bears a likeness."

Cillian rolled his eyes. I giggled.

Naamah; desire. The bright lady had a name.

I studied the page. I studied all the pages. I mouthed the D'Angeline words to myself. Here was the tale my mother had sketched for me long ago, told in full.

Elua; Blessed Elua. First and foremost of their gods. All the rest had followed him. Fallen from heaven, fallen from the skies. They gave up their immortal heritage for him. Why? I traced his likeness. Born of the earth, nurtured there. Conceived of the blood of a lone deity's mortal son and the tears of his mortal beloved, essences that mingled in the soil. Claimed by neither earth or sky, nor stone and sea.

He wandered.

The others left heaven and followed him.

I didn't understand it; I couldn't. It was too strange, too foreign. I couldn't grasp the tales. Were they gods or servants? Was Elua their diadh-anam? My mother had said he wasn't. But if not, what was he?

Why did they follow him?

When he hungered, Naamah lay down with strangers to get coin that he might eat. And then they came to Terre d'Ange, where the people welcomed them with open arms. There they stayed and got many children until the lonely god relented and invited Elua and his Companions back to heaven. But he refused, and went to a different place instead, and all his Companions went with him.

I looked at the illustrations again. One of them showed a priest in brown robes pouring out an offering of grain at the feet of a statue. The statue was of a man holding a seedling in the palm of his hand.

"Anael," I said aloud.

"'Anael, also called the Star of Love and the Good Steward,'" Cillian read. "'He gave unto them many gifts of husbandry, and taught them to grow good things and care for the land.' What's he to do with anything?"

"I don't know," I murmured. I'd never told him about that small bit of magic I could do. "If my father was a priest of Naamah, do you reckon he's descended from her line?"

Cillian shrugged. "Mayhap. After so many years, I imagine the lines are muddled. Why?"

"No reason." I closed the book. "Well. Now we know."

"I could try to find out his name for you," he offered. "I'm sure there's a register of important foreign guests who attended my father's coronation. Mayhap the priest's name is recorded in it."
I glanced at my mother's face. Her expression was unreadable. "No," I said slowly, stroking the cover of the book. "No, it's enough to know this much. Thank you, Cillian."

He smiled. "You're welcome, little frog."

And for a time, it was enough. Knowledge, I decided, could be a fearsome thing. I knew who I was: Moirin, daughter of Fainche. I did not wish to become other. And so I locked the name of the bright lady my father served away in my heart along with the name of the man with the seedling whom they called Star of Love and Good Steward, and I prayed instead to the Maghuin Dhonn Herself that I should be one of Her children and no one else's.

In the autumn, Cillian began his formal studies at the Academy and I saw less of him. Still, he came when he could. By spring, he'd grown another three inches and his head was full of all manner of new tales and histories, as well as gossip about the young men and women studying with him.

"You must come when you're of age, Moirin," he wheedled. "It's only two years from now, is it not?"

"One," I said, offended.

"Oh, aye?" He looked surprised. "That's right, I forgot. My sister looked older at thirteen."

It needled me that he should see me as such a child. I was old enough that I could survive in the woods alone. I could read as well as Cillian, and I'd learned D'Angeline as fast as he could teach it to me. But now he was reading works by Caerdicci scholars and learning skills like astronomy and mathematics. Wherever he was going, I was being left behind.

I said as much to my mother.

She gave me her wry look. "Wait."

"For what?"

"You'll see."

Oengus came that summer. He'd come a few times since our pilgrimage to Clunderry. This time, he eyed me critically.

"She's not started her woman's courses?" he asked my mother.

She shook her head. "No. I'd have told you."

I flushed. "Whatever for?"

They exchanged a glance. "It would mean you're eligible to be courted," my mother said. "Time enough and more for that," she added in a firm tone, putting the subject behind us.

That night, she went with Oengus. I lay awake in my nest of blankets, listening to the sounds of the night forest, trying not to think on what they did out there. When I closed my eyes, I saw the bright lady. Naamah, whose gift was desire. She held her hands cupped at her waist, then raised them and smiled at me. Soon, she said in a voice like honey, and opened her hands. A shimmering grey dove burst into the air, its fluttering wings echoing the fluttering deep in my belly.


Soon came that autumn and winter. My woman's courses didn't start, but my body changed nonetheless.

I grew tall; or at least taller than my mother. At first I was reed-thin with it, but then that changed, too. My breasts and hips swelled. Where once my body had been quick and nimble, it now acquired a lithe, nubile grace.

I felt strange in my skin.

Good, but strange.

A world of sensation abounded. I craved it. I could become absorbed for hours in the softness of a piece of rabbit hide, running the down-soft fur over my cheek. Drawing a comb through my hair. The way my clothing rustled against my skin. The sensual warmth of thawing my hands over the fire after a day afield could make me shiver with pleasure.

"Ah, Moirin mine," my mother murmured, watching me. "You're a beautiful girl."

"Am I?" I asked, startled out of a reverie.

She kissed my brow. "You are."

When Cillian came that spring for the first time in long months, I saw it reflected in another's eyes. I was boiling tender lily buds over the hearth-fire and sensed him coming long before he arrived, a trail of disruption in his wake. He bounded into our campsite on long legs, his voice turned deep and booming.

"Moirin!" he shouted. "Moirin! I'm sorry I've been away so long, but there's the most amazing news-"

I stood. "Oh, aye?"

He blinked. "Moirin?"

In that moment, the balance of power shifted between us forever. I crossed my arms, folding them under my young breasts, and saw his gaze flicker over my body. "And who else might I be?"

"Ahh...." Cillian flushed. "You've grown, that's all."

"So I have," I agreed.

"Aye." He stood stupidly, staring.

"What news?" I prompted him.

"Oh!" He started. "Oh, aye." He made a sweeping gesture toward the west. "There's a whole new land that's been discovered across the sea. An Aragonian explorer found it. It's all the talk of the Academy."

"Is it now?"

"It is." Cillian came toward me, dropping the satchel he carried. His hand rose as though of its own accord to touch my face. "Dagda Mor!" he breathed. "Have I been gone so long?"

I leaned away from him. "You have."

"Forgive me?" he begged.

"I might." I ducked and picked up the satchel. "What have you brought me?"

It wasn't much. Stale oatcakes; the dregs of last season's honey, crystallized in the comb. A smoked ham that was nearly rancid. An illustrated history of the Master of the Straits.


Cillian flushed again. "I'll bring whatever you like next time."

I stepped close to him, until we were nearly nose to nose. "What I want is my friend back."
"Moirin." His voice was husky. He clasped my upper arms, his hands strong. It felt good. His dark-grey eyes were intent on mine. I'd never noticed how handsome he was. "Have I not always been your friend?"

I shrugged. "When it suited."

"It suits."

He kissed me. His lips were firm, but softer than I expected. Over and over, Cillian kissed my mouth. And then there was his tongue, probing tentatively. At first the invasion startled me, and then I welcomed it. I teased it with my own; teased and retreated, forcing him to delve deeper into my mouth.

Yes, I thought. This.

The bright lady agreed, amused.

There was a sound of my mother clearing her throat. She was standing near the hearth, a brace of grouse dangling from one hand.

Cillian sprang backward.

I eyed her.

"So," she said wryly. "Already?"

"We were just-" Cillian began.

"I can see well enough what you were about," my mother said. "Moirin..." She sighed. "Grown as you may have done, you're a child in a woman's body yet. Have a care with it, will you not?"

I didn't want to have a care with it and I didn't want to be told I was a child. What I wanted was for Cillian to kiss me again and find out what happened next. But there was shadow of worry behind my mother's eyes that made me nod reluctantly and keep my peace.

And so I sat plucking grouse while Cillian spoke of the rumors surrounding the new land that had been discovered across the sea; of fabulous cities rising up from lush jungles, folk who dressed themselves all in jade and feathers, and gold beyond telling. It was all very interesting, but I'd rather have been kissing him.

When it came time for him to leave, I walked with him to where his mount was tethered on the outskirts of the woods, feeling my mother's gaze boring into my back. Cillian's stalwart pony had been replaced by a tall chestnut gelding, another sign that he was edging toward manhood.

"He's a beauty." I blew softly into the chestnut's nostrils. He whickered and lowered his head that I might scratch his ears. "Will you teach me to ride him?"

"Moirin." Cillian caught me around my waist. He turned me around and kissed me again. "I'll do aught you wish, my witch-girl," he whispered against my lips. "Only tell me you're not wroth and I'm welcome here."

"Hmm." I pulled back in the circle of his arms. "I am wroth. But only because I missed you."

"I'll come again," he promised, pulling me toward him and showering my face with kisses. "I promise."

"Shall I make sure of it?" I teased, tasting my newfound power.


I slid my hands into his auburn hair and kissed him in reply, long and deep, pressing my body against his. Cillian groaned into my open mouth. I broke off the kiss and slipped from his arms with a deft twist. The blood was beating hard in my veins and I wanted more as surely as he did; but I knew just as surely that this was my gift and I was in control of it.

"Will that do?" I asked innocently.

"Aye," he said in a daze. "That will do it."

Copyright © 2009 by Jacqueline Carey


Naamah's Kiss - Jacqueline Carey

- valashain
Naamah's Kiss

- Allie


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