Kevin Hearne has written several short stories and novellas set in his IRON DRUID CHRONICLES universe. These make a great introduction to the series for new readers and they give fans (like me) a little fix while we wait for the next novel to appear. Who wouldn’t want to spend an hour or two with Atticus O’Sullivan, the world’s oldest druid, and Oberon, his trusty Irish Wolfhound on a lazy afternoon?
“The Chapel Perilous” was originally published in Shawn Speakman’s Unfettered anthology and is now available as a 99₵ ebook. The lovely cover art was painted by Galen Dara. In this story, which is only 33 pages long, and which takes place (or at least the frame of the story does) between Tricked and Trapped, Oberon and Granuaile, Atticus’s apprentice, have asked for a story while they sit around the campfire. Atticus has been around for thousands of years, so he has lots of stories to tell. It’s a little surprising that he has never before mentioned that he was Sir Gawain, but so he claims to be.
“The Chapel Perilous” is the story of how, back during the Dark Ages, Atticus, as Sir Gawain, went seeking the Holy Grail. It’s not the Grail you’re thinking of. This is Dagda’s Cauldron and it’s been stolen by a king who is blighting the land. As a Druid, it’s Atticus’s responsibility to fix the situation and heal the land. As he goes looking for the Grail, he happens upon a small chapel in a graveyard. Here he experiences a trial which knights traditionally must undergo when discovering the Chapel Perilous on their quest. This one involves a necromancer.
“The Chapel Perilous” is short and straight-forward. Oberon is only in the frame story, not on the quest, which is a little disappointing, but Oberon came along centuries later, so what can we expect? Fortunately, there is a talking animal in “The Chapel Perilous.” (Which makes me start to wonder a little about Kevin Hearne.)
Fans of the series will see Atticus when he was a lot less powerful than he is now. They’ll discover how Atticus learned to communicate to animals (which is how he speaks to Oberon), where he got the idea to store his magic in metal charms and talismans (which is why he’s called the Iron Druid, in case you were wondering), and how he is able to hide from Aenghus Óg. Oh, and of course, we learn the real story of Sir Gawain’s quest for the Holy Grail!
So, yeah, “The Chapel Perilous” is totally worth 99₵.