Dagger's Destiny

Dagger's Destiny

by Linnea Tanner

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998230054
Publisher: Bublish, Inc.
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Series: Curse of Clansmen and Kings , #2
Pages: 348
Sales rank: 1,053,399
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, betrayal and intrigue into historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.

Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. As the author of the APOLLO'S RAVEN series, she has extensively researched and traveled to sites described within each book.

A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Treason

July, 24 AD, Southeast Britannia

The image of her father being wounded at the prisoner exchange haunted Princess Catrin as she entered the cave's dank womb where warriors had secretly carried the casualties. Under the illumination of a flaming torch, she found several men hovering over the king's motionless body. She feared the decision to use the dark forces of the Ancient Druids to alter the future could doom her father and people.

Catrin trembled as she knelt by her father and studied his blood-smeared face. A chill of foreboding sliced down her spine. Just that morning, she had made love with Marcellus on what could be her father's deathbed. She placed the palm of her hand on his forehead. His skin was cold and clammy, but he was still alive.

Feeling the bloody streaks on his tunic, she pulled her fingers away and turned to Cynwrig, the king's most-trusted guard. "Help me remove the tunic. I need to stop the bleeding!"

Cynwrig supported the king as Catrin cut the fabric from his chest. The ghastly crisscross cuts and deep abdominal gash made her cringe. A stench like rotten eggs assaulted her nostrils.

King Amren fidgeted. "Fetch my Druidess."

"No!" Catrin snapped. "Agrona is a traitor. We can't risk letting anyone know we've rescued and are tending you. There are herbs near the wall that will help reduce the swelling."

Catrin clasped her father's icy hands and noticed his sunken, bloodshot eyes. She looked to Cynwrig. "Heat a knife so I can seal his wounds. I also need water from the river."

"Do what my daughter says," rasped Amren.

Cynwrig pointed to the cave's opening. "I'll start a fire over there and get someone to fetch the water."

While Cynwrig prepared the fire, Catrin rummaged through several pouches, searching for the proper herbs. After a warrior returned with a bucket of water, she soaked several strips of willow bark in the container, then crushed dried blackberry, borage, and sage stems in a ceramic mortar. She finally added vinegar to the powder and stirred the contents with her finger into a green paste.

She looked at Cynwrig. "Is the knife ready?"

Cynwrig pulled the glowing red blade from the flames. "It looks hot enough."

"Then bring it to me."

Catrin took the knife from Cynwrig, who then restrained the king's arms. She pressed the searing blade on the wounds, methodically moving downward. The king writhed in agony, his eyes as wild as a wounded animal's as he fought Cynwrig's restraint. Concentrating on her task, Catrin swallowed the bile in her mouth and handed the dagger to Cynwrig to reheat the blade. Light-headed and in a cold sweat, she leaned into the hard wall to brace herself, then applied the paste dressing over her father's reddened wounds. Even with her gentle touch, his muscles flinched. Observing the anguish on his face, she placed a blanket under his head and gave him chamomile and poppy in water to ease his pain.

She continued the treatment by placing bark strips on the dressing until the king's grip around her wrist stopped her.

"We need to speak about Marcellus," Amren said with a growl from deep within his throat.

Catrin winced, apprehensive her father knew about her relationship with the Roman hostage placed under her charge. She warily studied the king as he closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He waved Trystan, his second-in-command, over and whispered to him. With a nod, Trystan ordered everyone away.

The hairs on Catrin's neck prickled. The only reason her father would order warriors away would be to reprimand her. She wilted under the king's burning glare as he began questioning. "Trystan told me when we were imprisoned together that Cynwrig found you unconscious in Marcellus's arms. I want to know what happened between the two of you."

Catrin hesitated, fearing her revelation would anger her father and cause his condition to deteriorate. "You should rest now. We can discuss this later."

"No. Tell me now!" Amren snapped.

Catrin could feel the king's eyes probing her like a sharp-edged scalpel for the truth. She bit her lower lip to stop it from quivering. "When I was stricken with the falling sickness, Marcellus came to my aid."

"Trystan said the Roman was found naked with you, and Agrona accused him of bewitching you with an amulet!"

"Marcellus had just finished bathing," Catrin answered, suddenly feeling queasy.

Amren cocked an eyebrow. "Bathing?"

"Yes."

"And that is all that happened?"

Catrin froze under her father's cold stare.

"Answer me!"

"You can't trust what Agrona says," Catrin replied.

"And why is that?"

"She is a druidic spirit from your past."

"Get to your point," Amren grunted.

"Remember Rhan, your former Queen? She possessed Agrona at the time you executed her for treason."

Amren's brow furrowed. "How do you know this?"

Catrin nervously shifted her weight. "I had a vision. Under the blood moon, you walked on a pathway of red-hot rocks around a towering fire. A woman with a wolf pelt draped over her shoulder approached you between two lines of people chanting, "Rhan, Rhan, Rhan."

"What did this woman look like?"

"She had coppery hair and wolf-like eyes just like Marrock's. He was also there, just a few feet in front of her. He looked to be about eight years of age."

A lump formed in Amren's throat. "What did you see next?" "You accused the woman of treason and cut off her head with your sword. Her head flew off and through the arms of a girl standing next to Marrock."

"The girl was Agrona," Amren interjected, his face now as pale as a corpse. "How do you interpret the vision?"

"When Agrona touched the severed head, Rhan's soul entered her. When I confronted Agrona about it, she drugged me so I wouldn't tell others. She also wanted to steal my powers." Catrin cringed, recalling the slimy feeling of Rhan's thoughts crawling in and out of her mind like a maggot.

Amren mumbled, as if struggling to comprehend what Catrin had just told him, and then continued. "I believe the gods speak through Agrona. She was born mute but spoke for the first time after Rhan's execution. Agrona declared me to be the king of truth and light. I implicitly trust Agrona on all spiritual matters. She has told me things only Rhan would have known."

"She tricked you just like she tricked me," Catrin said.

"I'm not so sure ..." Amren squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. "Give me more poppy for the pain."

Catrin brought the cup with the poppy mixture to her father's lips. Moments later, he relaxed and asked her to help him sit more comfortably. She helped him lean against the stone wall. Though he spoke more slowly, his voice seemed stronger as he continued his questioning.

"What are your feelings toward the Roman?" Catrin couldn't answer, her stomach twisting into knots from dread of what her father might do.

Amren narrowed his eyes, targeting on the truth. "Trystan told me that your mother questioned Marcellus about what he had done to you before you were found stricken with the falling sickness. He confessed that he loved you and that you had both ... had ..."

With a sob Catrin blurted, "Yes, I love Marcellus."

Amren frowned. "You did this knowing I was negotiating your betrothal to Cunobelin's son?"

A wavering shadow cast by a burning torch seemed to descend on Catrin. Shaking, she said, "Yes. I felt betrayed you did this without telling me."

"What in the name of the gods have you done?" Amren grimaced. "Your mother showed Trystan the dagger inscribed with Rhan's curse. The blade glowed as if it had just been pulled out of a furnace. Words melted away as others were being formed. Your mother, afraid the curse was again altering, locked the dagger away to stop the transformation."

This revelation stunned Catrin.

Amren then accused, "I believe you altered the curse when you slept with the enemy."

Dumbstruck, Catrin shook her head in denial. No. No. This can't be.

Our love is blameless. Something else caused the curse to alter.

"Speak!"

Catrin knew that no matter the consequences, she had to tell her father what shifted the curse. "Altering the curse has nothing to do with Marcellus.

When you were gone, the Raven — my raven guide — explained how the powers of the Ancient Druids worked."

"What powers?"

Catrin drew in a long breath and exhaled slowly. "I can travel to other spiritual realms in the Raven's mind. One place is a transitional barrier where the mortal world and the spiritual Otherworld join. It is called the Wall of Lives. On its surface, life threads for every living human weave in and out of a fluid tapestry. This is where the Past, the Present, and the Future merge into one. I discovered that I could change the Future by manipulating the life thread."

"How is that?"

"When I pulled the life thread of a person fated to die out of the portal leading to the Otherworld, I extended his life," Catrin explained.

"No mortal has that power," Amren said incredulously.

"I have that power. But I don't know how extending a person's life will impact the Future."

"Whose life did you extend? Mine?" asked Amren.

Catrin's voice cracked with emotion. "I saved Marcellus."

"Cursed gods!" Amren's eyes blazed with fire as he pointed to the gash in his belly. "This wound was inflicted by your lover's blade. He almost killed me!"

A sense of dread overcame Catrin.

Marcellus couldn't have done this! He knows how much I love Father. Why hadn't I foreseen this?

She averted her eyes from her father. "I never meant to harm you!"

Amren snarled. "But I just saw Marcellus fall with an arrow in his chest."

"No, Father, he is alive. I rewove his life thread so the death arrow wouldn't pierce his heart."

Amren sunk his fingers into the cave's dirt floor. "This is the disloyal act of a stupid girl blinded by love — not a noble princess I raised to put family and kingdom first. I must now go to war against my banished son, Marrock, and King Cunobelin. The Romans will likely join their cause after what we did to their soldiers today at the prisoner exchange. Just when I needed you, you betrayed me and my people when you helped the Roman enemy. Your act of changing the future might have altered Rhan's curse. In what way, I can't be certain until I inspect the dagger's inscription. You've left me with no choice but to charge you with treason."

Catrin felt as if a mule had kicked her in the stomach. She gasped. "Father, you can't do this."

"I can and I will," Amren said coldly. "I will serve you the same justice as any subject who betrays me."

"Have mercy on me," Catrin implored, grasping her father's hand. "I will do anything you ask to regain your trust!"

Amren's face softened for an instant, but then his glacier-blue eyes hardened. "Trystan!"

The commander walked from the shadows. Amren's face turned leaden. "Detain Catrin as a prisoner until her trial ..."

Amren went limp as he rolled over on the cave's muddy floor.

Conflicting emotions of shock, fear, love, and hate whirled inside Catrin as she pressed her trembling fingers on her father's neck. Feeling no pulse, she pressed harder.

Suddenly, the king swatted her hand away. She recoiled in terror when his eyes fixed on her like a venomous snake. "Trystan, take my daughter away now!"

Horrified, Catrin pleaded to the commander for mercy. In his scowl, she could see none.

Trystan clenched her arm and dragged her to the cave opening.

Once outside, Trystan ordered a warrior to bind her to a tree until the next morning, when they would return to the capital. In the long night's gloom, unforgiving rain washed the tears away from Catrin's face. Branded as a traitor for loving the Roman enemy, she must share Rhan's fate for treason unless she could find a way back into her father's heart.

CHAPTER 2

BETRAYAL

At times feverish, Marcellus had languished during the arduous five-day wagon ride to the Roman encampment near the Catuvellauni capital of Camulodunon. The constant jostling aggravated the pain in his chest wound. The soldiers' open contempt for him grated like salt on a lanced boil. After he had first been injured, one soldier spat on a bandage before applying it, disregarding that Marcellus was a nobleman from a powerful family.

Another cavalryman with two swollen black eyes also offered Marcellus another round of sputum on his bandage earlier that morning before saying, "Why did you save that Celtic cunni after she led our men into an ambush at the prisoner exchange?"

If his chest hadn't hurt so much, Marcellus would have knocked the foul-mouthed horseman off his mount and whip-fisted him. Weakened, his mobility limited by stabbing pain, he only had enough rage to grumble, "Keep your nose out of my affairs."

The badger-eyed horseman gave the ugliest scowl Marcellus had ever seen. "The other day, I buried five of my companions. Two had their eyes gouged out by those demonic ravens." As the cavalryman reined his horse away, Marcellus overhead him mumble, "Traitor."

The word "traitor" disquieted Marcellus still. He couldn't explain why he had attacked one of his own men who had hurled Catrin on the ground and stomped her abdomen. At that instant, his only thought was to protect her from harm. He never even considered this as treason. He drew in a deep breath and sighed.

Love can make a man lose all reason.

Not until he met Catrin had he understood how the unbridled passion of his great-grandfather, Mark Antony, for Cleopatra could make him forsake his Roman heritage. Even his grandfather, Iullus Antonius, had been forced to fall on his sword for his scandalous affair with Augustus's daughter, Julia. As a consequence, Marcellus's father, Lucius Antonius, was banished as a young man to Gaul for the sins of his forefathers.

Marcellus recalled his father's excitement after Emperor Tiberius pardoned him and allowed his family to return to Rome when he was a gangling twelve-year-old boy. Marcellus never quite meshed with his more sophisticated peers in Rome. Loneliness plagued him despite the city's bustle of one million inhabitants.

That all changed when he immersed himself in weapons training, military strategy, and oratory skills. He ultimately caught the eye of Eliana, the consul's wife, twice his age. An exotic, dark haired beauty, she invited him over to her villa so they could read poetry together. In her bedchamber, she undressed him and stroked his hardened shaft in elegiac couplets as she read Ovid's Ars Amatoria aloud:

Woman cannot resist the flames and cruel darts of love, shafts which, methinks, pierce not the heart of man so deeply. Pluck, then, the rose and lose no time, since if thou pluck it not 'twill fall forlorn and withered, of its own accord.

Once, during the Lupercalia Festival, Eliana's drooling, silver-haired husband with crippling gout almost caught Marcellus in bed with her. Hearing the consul's shuffling feet entering into the bedchamber, he scrambled to hide behind a large vase.

Even though Marcellus barely escaped with his life, he still believed he was invincible until death almost claimed him in Britannia. The image of Catrin's father lunging at him during the conflict at the prisoner exchange flashed into his mind. He had no choice but to defend himself against the king or be killed. Just when he had lost all trust that Catrin could alter his fate to die at the prisoner exchange, she summoned the raven to take the blunt force of a death arrow aimed at his heart. Just as he realized he had found his true love, she was snatched away. Their relationship was now impossible.

With the dark clouds billowing above, Marcellus's mood spiraled into a vortex of gloom. Loneliness dug into his soul. His chest stabbed with relentless pain; his head throbbed with the constant clack-clack of wagon wheels on the rough roadway. Upon further reflection, he acknowledged he had given little thought to his mortality and the consequences of his reckless actions. He lifted his eyes toward the parting clouds, and the sun's brilliance shone through. Believing this was an omen that he had another chance to fulfill his destiny with honor, he silently prayed.

Apollo, show me how to rise out of the ashes of my ancestors and ascend to the heavens.

No longer willing to wallow in his glum thoughts and listen to the wooden wheels, Marcellus shouted to the driver, "Stop. I need to get out!"

"No need," the driver said. "We're almost there."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Dagger's Destiny"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Linnea Tanner.
Excerpted by permission of Apollo Raven Publisher, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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