Good mortenoon, folks! 😀 Yes, I’ve had a wee break over the last week from blogging due to some personal stuff, but never fear! We’re picking right up where we left it last week (and including a cover reveal I’ve reblogged from the Tarasphere, be sure to check it out), and continuing with a wee snippet from Daughters Of Brigitania. Enjoy! 🙂
There was a creak as the wooden door to the hut was flung open, and a breathless Aiia burst into the room. Her cheeks were flushed from sprinting, and she gasped hard for breath. Cartimandua resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her sister’s impudence. Instead casting a wary eye towards the watchful druid, she forced a smile onto her cold face, and urged her sister forward. “Yes, Aiia? Do you bring us news? I’m afraid you must not excite our atmosphere. As you can see, we have a visitor.”
Aiia glanced over towards the white-robed old man, giving a hasty nod before rushing across to the Queen’s side. Falling to her knees at the side of the throne, she gripped onto her sibling’s sleeve, pressing her forehead into the fabric so firmly it would leave a mark. “Cartimandua, my Queen, I beg of you to rethink your battle against Venutius. It is tearing your people apart.”
Taking a mere second to think through Aiia’s words, Cartimandua sharply looked over towards the group breathlessly watching them, waving them away with a hasty sweep of her arm. “Please, leave us. I must speak alone to my sister.” Murmurs of contrition rose up amongst the advisors as they stood, and they swiftly made an exit with the druid in tow, leaving the hut with nothing more than the hint of the scented smoke hanging in the air. As the door banged shut behind them, the guards taking up their place once more at either side of it, Cartimandua roughly dragged her sleeve away from the young woman at her feet.
Aiia stumbled back in shock at the force of the movement, correcting herself as she rose to her feet, wiping at her eyes hurriedly. Cartimandua spat into the flames in front, an ugly scowl marring her perfect features. Twisting so rapidly her dress nearly sank into the embers, she grabbed Aiia by her tunic, pulling her in closely. “You stupid girl! What do you mean by running in here and acting like a common servant? Are you not royalty? Are you not a princess? Then act like one, and do not embarrass me by weeping at my feet!” she hissed, releasing her sister with a hard motion.
“Cartimandua, I’m sorry. I have spoken to you about this every morning, and every evening, and I no longer know the words to turn you back from this wretched decision!” Aiia cried out, wringing her hands in despair. It was so unlike her to fall to this depression, but it was perhaps the only way Cartimandua would listen. “And it is a wretched decision—the Carvetti at this moment gather outside with their King, ready to tear their own families apart! You will have no tribe to rule over soon.”
The Queen was about to retort when she halted herself, understanding sinking into her mind. Aiia was right. Regardless of what the druid had told her, there was no point in being Queen of a desolate landscape. I will hear her out, then throw her out. Circling the room, she pursed her lips, keeping Aiia in her sights as she did so. “And how do you know this? Have you seen it with your own eyes?” she snapped.
With a resigned sigh, Aiia cast her eyes to the ground, and nodded. “I have indeed. Many of the crops are going untended as the farmers who came with Venutius have once more joined him. Two of our healers have also left, and many people grow sick without their aid. We have very little food to see us through the rest of the month, Cartimandua, and Venutius’ men prevent and traders from entering the fort.” She gave a sideways glance towards her sister, who stood frozen, staring out towards the doorway. Aiia knew that Cartimandua had barely been outside since the siege had begun, instead choosing to hole herself up and only receiving the druids. Outside, her people were falling apart as families divided over their rulers’ quarrel, splitting fathers and sons.
“But the druids have told me I would win,” Cartimandua murmured, pacing across to the flames. There was a heavy pause as she hovered her head over the flickering heat, swaying her palm through the orange tongues. Snapping her fingers abruptly, she crooked her fingers over to one of the guards by the door. He stepped forward, bowing low as she murmured something to him. He gave a gruff reply, and beckoned to his companion, before both of them left to head outside.
Aiia smiled for the first time in days, relaxing her tense shoulders. “You’re going to call your men back,” she said with relief.
Cartimandua glanced over her shoulder, sending her a cold glance. “Certainly not!” she cried. “I will not admit defeat, otherwise Venutius will choose to do this whenever he feels wronged. I am sending an envoy to Piercebridge, he cannot stop an envoy, he knows this. I will send for the might of Rome, and let him understand that I am right.” Her tone was icy as she finished speaking, twirling the beads around her neck with calculated pulls about her fingers.
Slumping against the throne, Aiia’s face fell. Her brows crossed as her sister’s words sank in, and dread pulled at her guts. Venutius was right. Cartimandua fully intended to let the Romans have their way, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them. At least, not from Stanwick. As Cartimandua strolled across to peer outdoors, Aiia’s face creased with tension once more. Then it would have to start away from Stanwick. Her resolve doubled.
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(Taken from ‘Daughters Of Brigitania’, Copyright © 2013 Miranda Stork and Kathryn Northwood. Do not reproduce, use, copy, or include in any way in any format, digital or print, without prior permission of the author.)