Am I the only one who has noticed a lack of fanfiction for Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles? It's a travesty. It truly is. If you haven't read any of the books I highly recommend that you run out to your nearest book store to pick them up. Or download them off Audible or onto your eReader. Any way you go you will not be disappointed. Hearne has managed to breathe new life into the urban fantasy genre with a character that manages to be both wise from the ages while remaining current enough for readers to enjoy and connect with.
However, he should be discouraged from doing any crossover projects with Jim Butcher. Atticus O'Sullivan and Harry Dresden together would likely bring about the end of the world. I think readers of both could probably agree that each of those characters is doing a fine job starting off that particular drama on his own.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Kevin Hearne owns Atticus, Granuaile and the entire Iron Druid universe. I just like to play with them from time to time.
"Daaaa! Da! Da! Da!"
"You're being summoned." Granuaile rolled over and snuggled more deeply under the covers. It was winter and the coastal landscape outside the window was overcast and not shy about proclaiming it to be colder than brass teats.
"I got it." I stretched, long and luxuriously under the sinfully warm blankets of the bed, feeling the heat of Granuaile's body against my bare skin and remembering what had been a rather pleasant night.
Are you going to get that? Cuchulainn opened a single eye to look at me, but didn't bother to lift his massive head from its resting place on his paws. Oberon had been lost to us several decades ago due to injuries sustained in a fight against some zombies. Before that, however, he had found a female Irish Wolfhound who was almost as alluring as a French Poodle and had settled down into mated bliss. Cuchulainn was one of the last pups born to that mating. He was technically Granuaile's hound, though in actuality we belonged to him. His humor wasn't the same as his sire's. Cuchulainn was more cerebral than Oberon had been, and his sarcasm more biting at times.
"I'm on it." I threw the covers back and got out of bed, my bare feet alighting on the chilled boards of the floor. Granuaile immediately grabbed the covers and pulled them back down over the length of bare skin I had uncovered to block out the chill.
"Make me breakfast after you're done?"
"If I feel like it." She stuck her tongue out at me and I grinned at her. I'd make breakfast. I always did. Though she was an excellent cook, she maintained that I was better at breakfast. Personally I suspected she just preferred to squeeze a few extra moments of sleep.
"Da! Da! Da!"
That thing needs a snooze button.
I chuckled and started to pad down the hallway to the nursery. As I did so, my mind wandered over my life for the past century and a half.
Though I had once been married for two centuries, none of the children from that union had followed in my footsteps to become Druids. Considering I had been in hiding at the time, I doubt I could have taught them even if they had wanted to learn. It would have been fine until the time for the first one to be bound to the Earth. At that point we would have likely drawn attention as members of the Thuatha De came to check out the new Druid on the block.
Tahira, however, had not been a Druid. Back in the day only male children were taken as initiates. By the time I had come to Tempe, AZ at the dawn of the twenty-first century I'd had two thousand years to change that particular concept. Good thing that I had, too. Otherwise I would have likely dismissed Granuaile's desire to become a Druid based on her gender alone. Thank the gods for sexual equality.
I had been a good boy, keeping my hands to myself and forcing my thoughts to remain mostly innocent during Granuaile's training. I had even managed to remain that way while I helped her dismantle her step-father's life around his ears. He truly had been a dick in a suit, uncaring for the environment and laughing at the sorrow and pain of others, and I never could figure out what a woman who could give birth and raise such an extraordinary woman as Granuaile could possibly see in him. Once those tasks were accomplished, however, I had given in to the charms of the only other Druid on the planet. And I had done so quite happily.
Apparently having Druids for both parents makes a difference. Even those members of the Thuatha De who had dallied with me in the past seemed to respect my union with Granuaile, especially after our first son, Ardan, had asked if he could be a Druid like us. He asked this on his eleventh birthday, a year earlier than tradition, but was already able to speak not only English, but Old Irish, Latin and Spanish. That had been Granuaile's idea. She had thought to introduce our children to other languages when they were young and just starting to grasp the broader concepts of the spoken word because children learned other tongues faster at that age. The Latin made picking up Spanish easier, and eventually did the same for the other Romance languages. The Spanish had been because of the strong Latino presence in many places in the United States. The Old Irish was, she claimed, because of family, though I suspected she held out a hope that the children would be more likely to want to become Druids.
Of course, the children were home schooled. Say what you want about parents who opt to educate their children at home, those children consistently outperform those educated in the public school system. Even the ones who aren't being taught to speak three other languages and had toy wooden blocks which had depictions of a plant on two of the faces and the name of said plant in English, Latin, Spanish and Old Irish on for of the remaining four. The blocks were my idea and something I had started making for Ardan as his due date had grown closer and closer. There were over two hundred of them once he got old enough to play with them and the blocks were passed down to each child thereafter.
When we had decided to have a child together, Granuaile and I went at the task with zeal, having three fine sons within five years before deciding it might be a good place to take some precautions to prevent additional pregnancies until we got the first three to a more manageable age. Then the teen years started to creep up on us and we learned that even Druid initiates were prone to the sullen, emo-ladened teenage melancholy. At that point, Granuaile made a new rule: no new baby until the current child is at least ten years old. I agreed, partially because it seemed like a sensible rule and partially because I wanted to be able to sleep in the same bed as my wife and continue to enjoy the more physical side of marriage.
Not all of our children wanted to become Druids, however. Arden asked first, not unsurprising as a first born child often feels the pressure to follow in the footsteps of a father. Our second son, thirteen months younger than Arden and named Daire, asked at the same time, likely because he didn't want to be left out. But he was technically only nine at that point and we counseled him that he would need to wait at least until he was eleven or twelve. Besides, we told him, that gives you a year or two to see what Arden has to do and decide if you really want that. He huffed and sighed and made as though asking him to wait was terribly unfair. He did ask again when he turned twelve, and upon reflection it probably wasn't surprising that a boy whose name means 'fruitful' or 'fertile' would wish to pursue such a path.
Son number three, Carrick, had considered the concept carefully. He watched his brothers at their studies, and had even perused some of their books, before politely and quite solemnly informing us that, although he respected our choices and was proud to have us as parents, he did not believe that he was meant to be a Druid. He didn't much care for fighting or conflicts and thought he would rather do something else. He continued his studies at home, declining an offer to let him attend the public schools so that he could meet other children in favor of being allowed to learn at his own pace. His own pace was break-neck speed and he eventually went to college and earned three doctorates. Instead of doing what he could for the Earth as a Druid, Carrick opted to go into biological and chemical engineering so that he could pursue better methods and answers to the problems of feeding and supplying energy to the growing human population without harming the environment. He would go on to make many advancements in food production and could be argued to have perfected the hydrogen fuel cell. He had a long, happy marriage to a woman his mother and I had adored and gave us three grandchildren, to of which they raised to be responsible, hardworking citizens and one who eventually came to live with us to pursue the path his father had declined. Druid or not, we were extremely proud of our third-born son and mourned his death when he passed away in his sleep at the ripe age of ninety-seven.
We didn't stop at three children, of course. No one who had the honor of sharing his life with Granuaile would have been able to resist her. I absolutely love having children with her, because she is such a fabulous mother and because pregnancy made her at least ten times more alluring.
We waited until Carrick was off to college and Ardan and Daire had both completed their studies had had received their tattoos before we had Lochlann. He, too, desired to become a Druid shortly after his twelfth birthday. Bradan was our surprise and blinding proof that the only completely effective method of birth control is abstinence, coming into the world when Lochlann was barely six. He was also the most persistent and we had to listen to his rather vocal desires that he wanted to study as well starting from the age of seven. He didn't whine or wheedle, but gave us well thought out arguments. With charts and diagrams. Of course, the visual aids might have been somewhat more impressive had they not been drawn in crayons and markers, but he worked with what he had. Like Carrick, Bradan was a thinker and of a more scholarly bent. This was also his eventual downfall, because he never really did excel at the more physical aspects of being a Druid. We held him off until he reached eleven before agreeing to let him start the training. Unfortunately, when the Thuatha De sprung the Baolach Cruatan on him at the age of fifteen, The Morrigan had administered it; he did not survive the testing. The pain of his loss was sharp, because his dedication of his studies had otherwise pointed to someone who would have been an excellent Druid. But being a Druid meant being able to fight as well as being one with the Earth, and fighting had just never been in Bradan's heart. He had not been a coward by any means, but like Carrick he was better suited to facing his challenges in less physical ways. In hindsight, we should have tried to encourage him to give more thought to pure scholastics in another vein rather than give in to his desires.
The twins, Riordan and Ronon, took the Druid path much to my relief. They had been a particularly trying handful in early childhood, finding their identical faces to be full of prank potential. We had moved back into Coyote's area shortly before they were conceived and the trickster god of the Native Americans thought it good fun to put them up to all kinds of mischief. Twins aren't common among his people and the people of the res found the matching red-headed boys delightful. I had feared that they would grow up to be eternal trouble to the world at large, possibly even criminals, but Coyote surprised me in that he had also been encouraging them to pay attention to what the rest of their family did. In the end, they thought that they should be Druids as well, since they could hardly be trickster gods. After putting them thru their Baolach Cruatan, Flidais took a particular interest in the twins. When they finished their studies and were ready for their tattoos, she requested the honor of doing them. I admit that I was suspicious, not wanting my sons to be drawn into any Irish Politics after they had managed to shape up so nicely, but the goddess was insistent and the twins were all for it. To my relief, it turned out that Flidais' desire was without any strings. Her interest in the twins was genuinely based in like. It also started a trend among the Tuatha De of 'sponsoring' new Druid initiates.
Tierney was a solid lad with a good sword arm. Not as bright as some of his bothers, perhaps, but not stupid. It just took him a little longer to learn the scholastic part of things, meaning the full twelve years after deciding to become a Druid where those before him had been able to shave off a year or two on the basis that they already had a few languages under their belts from their earlier schooling. Brighid took a shine to him, and I have always suspected that he grew up to take the consort position I had once turned down, though never officially. Not that I would have blamed the goddess if she had taken him to her bed. What he might have been denied in brains he had more than made up for in looks. Home schooling that boy had not just been a decision to give him a better quality education, it had been necessary to prevent young girls from forming rabid packs ready to tear down entire city blocks to reach him. The lad is simply too beautiful for the good of civilization. We have no idea where he got it from. His mother is a beauty, to be sure, but neither of us came from a gene pool that good. I'd made the mistake of taking him with me on a trip to California once when I ran an errand to Los Angeles as a favor to my attorneys. After fending off five very insistent talent agents the first day, I forbade him from leaving the hotel without a baseball cap and a pair of shades. It helped a bit, cutting five back to only one per day.
Seamus was proof that even those with a wealth of magic at their fingertips cannot escape fate. He was born to be challenged, his intelligence below the average and his ability to understand what other people take for granted severely diminished. Outwardly he looked fine save for a somewhat glassy look about the eyes when faced with most things requiring higher thought, though he proved to be a savant when it came to artistic endeavors and a natural with metalworking. I cannot express the level of his skill with such things enough save to advise that his talents attracted the attentions of Goibhniu, the brewer and metal smith of the Thuatha De. Though Seamus would never be a Druid, he was incapable of comprehending most of the scholastic portions of the training and his slow thinking would have pretty much ensured his death in his Baolach Cruatan, when he reached the age of twenty Goibhniu invited him to come live with him to work in his forge. He would have invited him to be his apprentice sooner, but doing so would have prevented my son from ever growing up and the god felt that he should at least reach adulthood before going to a plane of existence where he would be granted immortality. We bade farewell to the son whose mind would never advance behind that of a young teen, happy to see the pleasure in his eyes at the thought of being allowed to work with his hands in Tir na nOg for all eternity. As the years went by we occasionally found little gifts left for us no matter where we moved. Exquisite bladed weapons with perfect balance and delicate embellishments. At first just pretty weapons and later, as his skills and abilities improved weapons with subtle magic workings woven into the metals. During a visit, The Morrigan confirmed that living in Tir na nOg, combined with drinking some of Goibhniu's carefully crafted ales, was allowing Seamus' mind to improve somewhat. Enough so that he was gaining some ability in magic, though so far he was unable to understand using that ability outside of his metalworking. It just didn't occur to him that the enchantments could be used on anything other than his creations. The Morrigan even had a pretty dagger he had made for her. It was enchanted so that she could let it fly from the palm of her hand to seek the heart of her target. It was so good at seeking said heart that it would fly around corners and across oceans if need be. She hadn't had cause to use it, preferring to do her killing up close, but she enjoyed the idea of having it.
Conchobhar, born after the twenty year break Granuaile had taken while we raised Seamus and managed the challenges presented by his needs, had not decided to follow the path of the Druids. He loved dogs, which was fitting given that his name meant 'lover of hounds', and grew up to become a veterinarian. It was he who introduced Oberon to his mate, Sheila. He had taken her as a rescue when animal control had shut down a puppy mill. Sheila had been a recent acquisition and was next to be put to work cranking out litter after litter, so her rescue had been very timely. I can still remember the grin on his face when he had pulled up in front of our house, unannounced, and opened the back door of his hybrid crossover to let the young, perfectly formed female out onto the grass of the lawn. I hadn't been certain it was a good idea, Oberon's love of French Poodles was well established by that time, but Conchobhar knew dogs better than he knew people. And he proved to be something of a canine matchmaker. Flidais sometimes lamented over his decision not to become a Druid, but she did admit that he was an excellent physician to animals.
When Conchobhar was thirteen we had another set of twins, Fergal and Fergus, and Granuaile questioned me quite thoroughly about whether or not there were twins in my family. I had to admit that there might have been one or two instances that I knew of, but back then the infant mortality rate had been so high that they didn't live as often. Twins usually came out early and small, resulting in one or both of the babes dying shortly after birth. She pointed out that I could have told her that sooner, but acknowledged that with the space between births it wasn't too great a hardship for her.
As for Fergal and Fergus, a set of twins could not have been born more different. Physically they were the same. Thankfully, they did not share Riordan's and Ronon's penchant for trickery. Unfortunately, they were something of a Hollywood style cliché. Fergal, as his name implied, was a brave sort. He approached everything with the knowledge that no obstacle could not be overcome if you merely put your mind to it and did not give in to fear or frustration. Fergus, as his name implied, was strong. Unfortunately, Fergus' strength was not tempered with a good heart. He was the stereo-typical 'evil twin', even to his brother, and no amount of parenting or effort seemed able to sway him from his path. Granuaile and I tried everything we could think of once we noticed the signs. The tortured animal bodies that Fergus tried to blame on his twin. The signs of bruising and cuts on Fergal when he realized that we weren't buying his lies. We tried punishments. We tried scolding. We tried divination to see if we could identify some outside influence that might explain Fergus' behavior. When our own methods revealed nothing we reached out to other entities we knew to do the same and see if they could find something we could not. Nothing and no one could give us a reason why our son just seemed to be 'born bad'.
When the twins both voiced an interest in becoming Druids Granuaile and I were faced with the very real possibility that we would have to take action to stop, or perhaps even to kill, our son. The Morrigan bade us to stay our hands, saying she would look into the matter. When they were fourteen she was the one to administer the Baoloch Cruatan. Fergal survived, but Fergus' cruelty and bloodlust ended up costing him his life after failing to recognize his failings and correcting them when she gave him the chance to do so. Fergal was sad to lose his twin, but it was soon clear that his sadness was more out of a regret that his brother had never been a good person than it was out of any sense of love. And, though it brought on guilt to think of it, I was relieved that whatever dark creature that would have resulted in Fergus completing his training would not be unloosed onto the world. After that The Morrigan took as much of an interest in Fergal as she had taken in my life over the centuries, and in spite of her somewhat cold and seemingly heartless nature, he grew up to be one of the better men I have ever known.
Gearoid was our thirteenth child. He was an honorable and strong lad, and of reasonably sound intelligence. He did not, however, feel that the life of a Druid was for him. To my surprise, he chose the life of a soldier and worked hard to earn a spot at West Point, of all places. Now, I've been part of more than my fair share of armies, but modern warfare isn't the same as it was two thousand years ago. Technology has brought about drones and robots and a greater chance of surviving the battlefield thanks to superior weapons and armor. There are still losses, but you're far less likely to have your head cut off with a sword or die of an infected wound as you once were. You even have a greater chance at surviving the loss of a limb and can get a highly functioning replacement. He went on to take a commission with the Marines and to make a career of it. And, though not as heart-stoppingly beautiful as his brother Tierney, (Granuaile's words, not mine) he did cut an impressive and handsome figure with his sharp, military haircut and dress uniform. Gearoid was the sort of military officer who instilled loyalty and courage in his men. I suspect that he has designs on politics, and being born in the United States he would be able to go as far as he wants. I also suspect that he might find some trouble when the media and political opponents start to dig around into the past of his family. Time will tell.
Thirteen sons. Most the type of children a man could be proud of, some more trying than others and at least one a sad disappointment through no one's fault that can be told. Two lost before fully grown, three who chose to walk a different path, one that chose the only path available to him that would give him room to excel and seven who went on to become Druids themselves. Perhaps in time those seven will also have children who will choose their path and, since they are Druids and thus I have no qualms about sharing the secret of my immortaliTea with them, they will have all the time they need to find someone with whom they can share their lives. Maybe one or two of them will even be fortunate enough to find a woman like their mother who is young enough and open minded enough to become a Druid herself.
And it is entirely possible that Granuaile and I will have more children who will decide to become Druids when they are grown. Take child number fourteen, for example, waiting for me just on the other side of the nursery room door.
Would you shut her up already?
I opened the door, shut only to a bare crack to begin with, to reveal a wooden crib inside of which stood a tiny little girl. Mine and Granuaile's first daughter, Siobhan. She grinned at me and held out one chubby hand, the other hand remaining on the bedside railing to help with balance, and opened and closed her tiny fist to beckon me closer.
"Da. Da. Da." She was just starting to form words. At least I was going to continue to claim that 'Da' is her first word. She's already figured out that she can make me come to her if she repeats that single syllable often enough, therefore it is a word. A rather important one, no matter that her mother says she's just making random baby-talk noises and that she's too young to actually say words for another couple of months or so. In this I'm rather certain that Granuaile is wrong. Clearly my daughter is a genius.
"There's my bonny lass. Tired of dreamland already?" I made sure to set out what I needed on her changing table before plucking her from the crib. Seeing to Siobhan had quickly become part of my morning routine. Granuaile had usually handled the boys, but my daughter clearly preferred me. And I don't spoil her. That's just what her mother claims out of jealousy. A jealous woman will often say horrible and mean things.
Scientific advancements have confirmed that the gender of a child is determined by the portion contributed by the father. In my youth having so many sons would have been seen as a sign of my superior virility, but I have to admit there is something wonderfully different about holding a daughter. And now that I am an intelligent, sound-minded man of the current day and age, I can think of my daughter's future in such a way that I can include the possibility that she may be a Druid one day. Every new initiate is important, because even though I am no longer the sole member of my order remaining, there are still too few of us to support the entire world.
I cleaned, changed and dressed Siobhan before picking her up again. "Will you be helping Da make Mommy her breakfast?"
She grinned at me. "Da. Da-Da." She rested her head on my shoulder and looked up at me with a pair of beautiful green eyes so very much like her mother's. At barely eight months old she had a cushion of curly gold-red hair that seemed perfectly content to remain it's the current length and terrorize her soft-bristled baby brush. I have no doubts that she will grow up to be a lovely as her mother. Perhaps more so. I should probably look into strengthening the wards around the house. Maybe lay some traps for future suitors.
Will Siobhan also become a Druid? I honestly can't tell before she gets older. We'll do the same for her as we have done for her brothers. We'll shower her with love and do our best to help mold her into a good and decent person. And we'll see that she has a good grounding in her education and languages so that she has a good understanding as to what the world is really like when it comes time for her to make her choice, all the while remaining polite when the representatives from the local schools come around and try to convince us that it would be better for her to attend school with the rest of the kids.
If I were to place a bet, however, I'd wager that she will choose to be like her parents. Or at least she'll decide to grow up to be like me. My bonny lass is a genius after all. She's clearly already realized that her father is the greatest person on Earth, proof positive of her superior intelligence and good taste if there ever was.