The sleeping town of Iron Mountain was not in its first yawn of awakening when I stepped foot on its deserted main street. The clouds streaking across the face of the moon obscured much of its pale light. It had taken me twenty-five minutes of heavy trudging through the snow to arrive at this tableau of stores, brooding and silent in the dark. Only the old fashioned street lights shed any warmth on the scene. I gazed around me as my breath billowed out, adding to the fog that clung to the cold ground like a spectral throw rug. I tried to peer into the closed store fronts as the passed, but the lack of light kept their interiors a secret for later discovery.
I straightened up and made a slow semi-circle, studying the mist-shrouded mountains surrounding me like some crouching beasts in the grey light before dawn. It was sadly quiet, like a bell without a clapper. I felt a chill not related to the cold. I looked over my shoulder for the umpteenth time. Nothing. I turned back. Still, there was something off. Geez! I thought, looking back yet again. Still nothing. Totally paranoid, that's what I am. There was a strange smell riding the waves of cold air, stirring as I moved on.
My senses were on high alert as they always were when I was in an unfamiliar environment. I might be overly cautious, but I was still alive and as my mom says in her understated way, "Life is a careful process, Cathleen, my pet. So watch where you place your feet." In her slow Irish brogue, it had always sounded more ominous somehow.
Actually, it was mom who convinced me to make this odyssey. I had come to a cross-roads in my career and life and had to make some serious decisions. Mom knew I needed the mountains and forests to find the peace and freedom I'd lost living in a big city. I'd complained to her many times that the only thing natural about the metropolis of Pittsburgh was the ubiquitous pigeons! And the men I'd met weren't even as bright as the birds.
The snow crunching under my heavy boots penetrated the frigid air like the sound of muted firecrackers as I made a path into the heart of this Appalachian town. A village really, with so many artifacts from the 1800s, I felt like I'd stepped through a time portal. The weight of its long history bore down on me like the gaze of a hungry raptor. Did I make a mistake coming here? I speculated as my thoughts drifted along with the heavy snow.
Like so much in life, surprises and unforeseen circumstances are more common than flies in summer. I came into an unexpected inheritance when my grandfather passed away last year in Ireland, shortly after my last visit with him. We always had a special relationship that brought us together in laughter at the wonderful stories of his youth on his beautiful Emerald Isle.
I had no idea that my grandfather was rich...let alone extremely rich. He had lived quite modestly. Overnight, I became a wealthy young woman, which helped support my already independent nature. Simultaneously, I also became the stand-alone O'Brien from my granddad's side of that far-flung clan.
By contrast, my grandfather's youngest son, Liam, my father, hadn't left a dime to his family when he died, five years before my granddad. When he was lost under the swift current of the Allegheny River my dad was working as part of a crew on a local fishing boat. That was one of his "pick-up" jobs as my mom often described Dad's occasional work. Soon after his disappearance, my mother moved back to her beloved Ireland. I managed to sell our small house and property for her, so she could live comfortably in her childhood home of County Kirk.
I stayed behind to finish college with the help of scholarships and grants. By the time I obtained my Master's degree, I had become a competent "barista" at a local coffee house and had accumulated lots of dreams, but little money. That's about the time I began taking inventory of my life and resources.
Though dad didn't have much of material value, he did leave me two unique gifts; a wealth of remembered Irish folklore wrapped inside his lovely Irish brogue and oh, yes...a penchant for Gaelic Magic.
Excerpt From Book 1
"Wolf Master of Iron Mountain"