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A Warrior's Taking
By Margo Maguire
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Margo Maguire
All right reserved.
The Western Sea off the Isle of Coruain, 981
Ana took hold of her cousin's powerful arm. "Wait, Brogan! You are too brash by half!"
A muscle in his jaw tightened. "As I understand it, we've no time to waste, lass." He secured the strap of his satchel to his back and stepped up to the edge of the chieftain's magnificent ship, ignoring the chill of the air on his bare skin as they sailed toward the portal that would propel him through time. "While my brother placates the elders with tales of blood stones, I will begin my quest."
"But Brogan, you must take more time to confer with Merrick! There is so much for him to teach you about—"
"My brother has told me all that is necessary. I am to use no magic, but find the stone. By tomorrow, I will have the prize and return to Coruain House."
"Brogan, it will no' be so simple! You must listen to what Merrick can tell—"
He did not wait to hear the rest. He'd listened until he was sick of his brother's voice, and burning to take action. To avenge the death of his father, Kieran, high chieftain of all the Druzai. They had never anticipated that the evil sorceress, Eilinora, would escape her bonds and come to Coruain.
Never dreamed Kieran would be vulnerable to attack.
"Eilinora took my father's scepter ofpower," he said. "She could return to our isles at any time."
Tears welled in Ana's eyes. Brogan knew she grieved deeply for her uncle, the most powerful and beloved of all the Druzai chieftains. But Kieran's brutal murder compelled him to action now.
"If you and Merrick are correct," he said, "our only chance against the witch is with the brìgha-stones. And you say they were hidden in time."
Ana nodded as Brogan climbed to the prow of the ship. "Brogan, I couldna see what force released Eilinora from her bonds. She is not our only worry!"
"Do you think she is aided by some mighty sorcerer who wishes to disrupt Coruain?"
Ana touched her cousin's arm. "I doona know, Brogan. Mayhap 'tis not Druzai . . . it might have powers beyond our own. You must take special care—"
"Wish me Godspeed, cousin," he said, anxious to act. "If I survive the Astar Columns, I promise to return the blood stone to Coruain on the morrow. A few days at most."
Brogan made his dive into the depths of the sea, calling forth the charms that would protect him until he reached the Astar Columns. Once he was through them, his survival would depend on his physical strength and endurance.
And his ability to function nearly nine hundred years in the future, without alerting Eilinora and the Odhar to his presence.
The rugged North Cumbria coast, late summer, 1813
Lost in thought, Sarah Granger followed Margaret and Jane Barstow across the beach, picking up all the cockles they could find, placing them in heavy canvas sacks, then carrying the sacks to their rickety pony cart. So preoccupied was she with the news she'd received from Captain Barstow's solicitor in nearby Craggleton, she scarcely noticed the children or their gamboling cat, Brownie.
She'd had a strong premonition of changes to come, but never this.
"Miss Granger, look!" cried Jane, a year younger than her sister at age six. She pointed to a bit of indigo color caught in the surf near the rocks ahead.
"'Tis naught but a clump of rags, Jane," Sarah replied absently, but the child scampered ahead, roused by the possibility of treasure to be found.
"Look at her," Margaret added, "with her torn stockings and her tangled hair."
It was true; no matter how clean and well-dressed the child was at breakfast, she managed to look like a homeless urchin by noon. But Margaret was the picture of good breeding, with her tidy clothes and neat braids. If not for their similar features and pale blond hair, no one would guess they were sisters.
Sarah rarely took Jane into Craggleton, for she did not wish to subject the child to the same kind of ridicule Sarah had felt after the death of her own father. Her peers had been cruel, mocking her for her father's descent into drunkenness, his failure to earn a decent living, and the charity on which Sarah had been dependent after his death. She'd moved from household to household in the parish after his death, working for her keep, lamenting the futility of all her dreams.
She hadn't ever belonged anywhere, not until Captain Barstow had brought her to Ravenfield.
How she loved the place.
"What does Jane think?" Margaret scoffed. "That she'll find something of value on this empty beach?" The child's sober view of life was anything but childlike and had only gotten worse since they'd received news of Captain Barstow's death in battle.
"Ah, but we know Jane, don't we?" Sarah said fondly as she caressed Margaret's head. "She probably hopes a ship was wrecked out at sea and there will be—"
"She dreams such rot," Margaret interjected, cynical beyond her years. She needed much more loving attention than her sister, and Sarah was happy to provide it. Sarah and their housekeeper, Maud, were the only family the girls had.
Except for Charles Ridley, the distant cousin Sarah had just learned of.
Jane screamed suddenly, her cries loud above the crash of the surf on the rocks. "Miss Granger! Margaret! Come quickly!"
Sarah dropped her sack of cockles, shouting as she ran. "Don't go into the water, Jane!" But the girl ignored her, stepping into the waves.
When Sarah saw what it was, she, too, wasted no time, and dashed into the sea to get to him. It was a man, waterlogged and unconscious, perhaps even dead.
"Go back to the shore!" Sarah ordered Jane, taking hold of the man's arms.
Excerpted from A Warrior's Taking by Margo Maguire Copyright © 2007 by Margo Maguire. Excerpted by permission.
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