Hagstone Chronicles Book 1 – Cry at Midnight
On their first night in Aunt Aggie’s cottage on the Hebridean Isle of Tiree, Merryn and Hamish McQueen begin an exciting but terrifying adventure. Finding a carved box containing a necklace, Merryn discovers that she possesses The Gift. Inherited from her great-great-great-great grandmother, the first Merryn McQueen, The Gift enables her to connect with magical beings, both benevolent and malevolent.
With her brother’s help, she embarks on a mission to save a horse called Kester. Trapped in a fencepost by a witch, Kester can be released by Merryn between midnight and sunrise. Riding through successive nights, she and Hamish are hindered by Aunt Aggie’s strict rules and the witch’s powerful spells. Selkies and Fairy Folk pledge their help, but not until seemingly impossible challenges have been met. The adventure takes the children to the Ringing Stone and the beach of Traig nan Gilean, but will Kester be finally freed and what is his true identity.
HOW THE BOOK CAME TO BE WRITTEN
Out to the west of Scotland lie the remote islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. One of the most beautiful is the Isle of Tiree. While on holiday there I found an old fence post in the shape of a horse’s head – and out of that my book was born. I stayed in a cottage just like Aunt Aggie’s and as I walked around the island, real places found their way into the story.
I read about Fang an t-Sìthean in an old book, but no-one I asked knew its name or its location. A bit of detective work with books and maps led me to the small mound with its rocky summit and tumbled wall. I placed my ear against the Ringing Stone and tapped it with a pebble. The bell-like sound it made was truly magical. I saw moon daisies growing on The Reef and I had a picnic in the tiny cove at the south end of Traigh nan Gilean. I found a tiny purple-tinged shell, a stone in the shape of a heart, a hag-stone and a sea-bean. All of these things have found a place in the story.
I didn’t find the suterain. No-one could tell me where it was. So this underground dwelling from the days when lives were at risk from invaders became an ideal hiding place for the witch. Because of the low, windswept nature of the island, Tiree has only a few very stunted trees. However, in 1959, Ake-ake trees, natives of New Zealand, were introduced. They form hedges around many gardens and some of them have grown into mature trees. The witch had to resort to these when she needed to mend her broomstick.
When I returned to my home on the Isle of Islay, I hung a photograph of the fencepost on the wall of my writing cabin. After a heavy storm, rain seeped in, the curtain was soaked and the colours ran into the picture, adding shades of blue, pink and purple. This gave me the idea for the coloured threads that appeared when the horse emerged from the post.
Throughout my story there are patterns that never end and the final magical discovery came when I learned that the Maori word Ake-ake means for ever and ever.
Finally, I have made a sea-bean and hag-stone necklace. I followed the description as carefully as I could, but we will never know if it is a true copy of the original. Only Merryn could tell us that.