Thursday Teaser! Daughters of Brigantia

Hello, lovely folks! 😀 Today is Thursday, and it’s not as easy with the alliteration on this day! Thursdays will alternate between teasers from my current WIP, and ‘Take Over Thursday’, when another author will have a guest post up instead. 🙂

So for today, enjoy a teaser from Daughters of Brigantia, the historical novel I’m working on under my pen name, Kathryn Northwood. Enjoy! (Also, bear in mind this is a WIP…there may be a few typos I’ve missed at the moment. 😉 )

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© Wikicommons

© Wikicommons

Venutius stared down into the valley surrounding the fort, watching the men steadily building up the wooden posts at the far end. It grew every day, and made him worry more about the advancing Romans. Cartimandua seemed to keep more and more secrets to herself every day, and as merely a prince regent, he had little say in the matter. Taking in a deep breath, he let it out again over the early morning mist floating over the landscape.

The sound of someone approaching made him twist around, his heart plummeting like a stone within his chest. Closing his eyes for a second, as though to shut himself against the world, he summoned his courage and turned to face the messenger he knew had brought the bad news. To his shock, Aiia stood with clenched fists before him, her red hair flying wildly in the wind that whipped the strands across her neck.

“Aiia…my boy. Is he…?” Venutius let the sentence sit, his tone tense as he held back his sorrow. He already knew her answer.

Her clear eyes seemed to flicker with something, and she gave a glance to the bodyguard by his side, stood silently with folded hands. “I have something delicate to tell you. We need to be alone,” she replied.

He motioned the guard away, who strode far enough away to miss the conversation, but still close enough to run over if needed. Watching the man as he walked away, Aiia bit her lip and slowly made her way across to her brother-in-law, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She barely came up to his chest, but there was something very adult in her stance. “I’m afraid…the child has not made it into the world.”

Venutius’ face paled, and he took a staggering step backwards, huffing out a breath. His world collapsed around him and fell into the valley below. My boy…

“There’s something else, which I feel you should know. It…” Aiia licked her lips in a nervous gesture, and paced to his side, placing a soft hand on his arm. “I’m so sorry, Venutius. The child wasn’t yours.”

Thinking perhaps he had misheard her, Venutius laughed dryly, and shook his head. “I beg your pardon, Aiia. I’m afraid I do not understand your meaning.”

Peering up at him with soulful eyes, Aiia repeated, “The boy was not your son, Venutius. My sister has lain with another man, and deceived you.”

A hand flew to his mouth in shock, but a second later it fell to his sword hilt. Dark bark-coloured eyes burning with rage, he hissed, “Who is it? I’ll cut him from limb to limb for this. Tell me, by the gods, tell me!”

“Please, Venutius! It’s not important, he’s just a boy. It was my sister who led him on, not the other way around. She lied to me as well, told me nothing had happened. But the boy…he held his colouring, Venutius, not yours. She admitted it to me.”

Ignoring her pleas, he grew more irate, sliding the sword out with a measured pull. It glinted in the early sunlight, bouncing off the blade with a dangerous ferocity. Aiia drew herself in front of him once more, grabbing both of his arms with a pleading gesture. He glanced down at her worried face, and shook his head, trying to remove her arms.

She clung to them tightly, and only let go of one arm to cup his face with a gentle hand. She pulled his face down to hers, and whispered, “Please, leave the boy be. Do not cause strife because of my sister’s wrongdoing.”

“You’re…you’re right. I am mourning, Aiia, that is all. I apologise.”

“I do understand, Venutius. She lied to me too.” Aiia stared up into his emotion-filled eyes, his strong jaw, his giving lips. Before she knew what she was doing, she let her hidden feelings for him erupt in a passionate press of her own mouth against his. His musky scent surrounded her, and she let out a soft moan.

Venutius pulled back sharply, gasping and holding his sister-in-law back. “No, Aiia, you mustn’t,” he hoarsely managed.

Her lip wobbled, and she clutched his head in her palms once more. “But Venutius, she has betrayed you! I love you, I would never do what my sister has done.”

“No, Aiia.” His tone was firm as he gently removed her hands, placing them back by her sides. Taking a deep breath, he avoided her yearning gaze as he added, “I love your sister. Whatever wrong she has done me, I owe it to my people—and yours—to rule by her side. I cannot pretend I shall forget this transgression of hers, but I must live with it.”

Aiia snapped her wrists away from him, her passion melting into dismay. “Even after what she has done to you?”

Her brother-in-law hung his head. “Perhaps it is partly my fault. I have still not given her a child, and she has gone elsewhere to produce an heir for the Brigantes. You must understand her position, Aiia, it is not her own.”

She let out an anguished hiss, rounding on him, her cloak and nightdress billowing out in the cold wind that picked up. A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance as dark clouds slowly took their place across the sun, as if the gods were agreeing with her case. Venutius gave them a nervous glance, but Aiia never flinched. “I would give you everything I am, Venutius. And yet, you remain with my sister! You deserve to have her. May the gods give you everything you both have coming!” Her voice rose to a hysterical pitch as she finished her curse, turning and sprinting in the direction of Moonbourne. Venutius didn’t even try to run after her, simply letting her go without a backward stare.

She raced faster through the grass and mud, her cheeks flushed with the embarrassment of being rejected, her eyes shining with dark purpose. Meddu ran out from her sister’s roundhouse and tried to stop her, but she simply shook her head and carried on running. Making her way up the hill, she ran full tilt into Gaisio, stumbling drunkenly out after another night of songs and beer.

He frowned when he saw she was still not dressed, and in such disarray. “What on earth has happened, Aiia?”

Ignoring his direct question for the moment, Aiia breathlessly asked, “Where you serious about going to fight back the Roman invaders with our Catuvellauni cousins?”

“Yes. Why?”

She took a careless glance over her shoulder, towards the hut of her sister, and over to the other side where Venutius could still be seen staring out over the valley below. Determination was etched on her face as she replied, “Because you were right. And I’m coming with you.”

Like this snippet? Why not sign up to my newsletter here, where you can be kept up to date with all my releases, including Daughter Of Brigitania. 😀

(Taken from ‘Daughters Of Brigantia’, Copyright © 2013 Kathryn Northwood. Do not reproduce, use, copy, or include in any way in any format, digital or print, without prior permission of the author.)

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Snippet Sunday – Daughters Of Brigitania!

Morning, folks! 🙂 Hope your weekend is treating you well so far. Today I’ve got a wee snippet (the first chapter, actually) from Daughters Of Brigitania, the historical fiction I’m writing under my pen-name, Kathryn Northwood.  Enjoy! 😀

Chapter 1

Brigantian Rebirth

Two girls stood aside from the crowd, frozen expressions as they watched the druids chanting over the barrow. An old man lay within, curled in the position he entered the earth, his chariot beside him.

The older girl wrapped her arm around her younger sister, but her green eyes never lost their cold edge. The younger girl gave a sniff, but silenced herself as she remembered her place, and gave a short nod to her older sister. The arm fell away. A strong wind whipped through the valley, picking up their woollen cloaks and tugging them, creating the effect of flags flying out under their plaited auburn hair.

The druids and priestesses moved in a wide circle, chanting and murmuring to the gods, one of them holding a torch aloft. The flames from the torch flickered and danced in the wind, creating brilliant patterns in the air above as sparks jumped away. Some of the crowd behind the girls fell to their knees at the sight, sobbing as though their hearts would break. The older girl peered over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow, casting them a hard look.

The King was dead.

“Carti…does this mean you are now Queen?”

The whispered question from her sibling surprised Cartimandua. It was hardly the time for discussing such matters, but she understood that her sister Aiia was young, and didn’t always know when not to voice such concerns. She didn’t answer, but pressed a finger to her lips instead, indicating silence. A thrill ran through her at the idea though. Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes. I am now ruler of all northern Albion. The only thing that didn’t thrill her was the notion of her husband being King, even Prince Regent. An ugly frown darkened her face.

Their father, King Vecorigo, had wanted the marriage to go ahead to secure more lands for his daughter. The Brigantes were a tribe of hardened warriors, but years of trying to secure their lands against other tribes had decimated their coin and defences, and this was her only chance to have security. Her husband was at least ten years her senior, and he had already blessed her with child. Unbidden, her hand stroked across the bulge of her stomach, swollen with her son.

And who knows what will happen to Aiia now. I must make sure I protect her. Cartimandua’s eyes roved across to her thirteen-year old half-sister, taking in her drawn white face and tightly folded arms. Aiia had even less prospects than herself, as the illegitimate child of one of her father’s concubines. Cartimandua’s own mother had died in childbirth, so she had never known the loving touch of a matronly hand. Aiia’s mother had come by court many times, but only ever lavished attention on her own daughter. Cartimandua didn’t resent it, she felt just as close to Aiia herself, and the two had been true sisters as soon as they could utter words.

The chanting grew louder, and one of the druids stepped forward to usher the two sisters over to their father’s grave. Cartimandua gave the white-hooded man a curt gesture, and waved him away. He stepped back, and Aiia gripped her sister’s arm tightly as they made their way over. The trees around them twisted harder in the wind, sending leaves spinning down to cover the King in his final rest. The man the Brigantes had known looked so different in rest, so less forceful. He had been a well-respected King, despite the losses to other tribes, and his booming voice would be remembered by all as though it had spoken in their very ears. He lay in a foetal position, his body wrapped in a blue cloak, his head adorned with the gold band of his authority. It wasn’t until he had been laid in the barrow that the sisters had finally realised how old and frail he looked, with his grey moustache thinning across his lip.

Cartimandua thrust her arm out, dropping a richly-inlaid bridle bit into the barrow. She gave Aiia a nudge, and her sister tremblingly held out a bronze dagger, glinting in the weak evening sunlight as it fell in. Aiia leaned over to gaze at her father, whispering, “May the gods watch over your journey to the Otherworld.”

Cartimandua gave a sad smile at Aiia’s words, and tugged on her sleeve. The younger girl looked up at her, eyes swimming with unshed tears. “Do not worry, sister. He will be watched over and protected, even into his next life.”

The druids and priestesses stopped circling the barrow and swayed from side to side, lost in their utterances, the whites of their eyes turned to the heavens. Their hands rose as one, inviting the goddess Brigantia to bless the ceremony. One of the priestesses produced two silver spoons, both short and without stalks, and one with a small hole at the edge. Cartimandua gave an inward shiver at the sight. Even as a bloodthirsty Brigante, she wasn’t too comfortable with the druidic sacrifices. They were a necessity, nothing more. Without them, the tribe was vulnerable, with no graces from the gods. As she stared in horror, a druid produced a small animal, already slaughtered at the beginning of the funeral. The animal was tipped gracefully, so that its blood dripped into the first spoon. The priestess leaned the first spoon so that the blood trickled through the hole to the second, chanting to herself as the whole putrid mixture was poured into the barrow.

Cartimandua turned herself and Aiia away from the sight as they began the process of laying stones around the graveside, and faced the crowd behind. Her people. Denorix, Cartimandua’s husband, came forward and gave her a curt nod. She eyed him for a second, a curious expression crossing her features, before she turned her attention back to the waiting faces of the Brigantes.

The young girl cleared her throat, collecting her thoughts before she spoke. The crowd fell silent, the only sound the wind howling through the trees, shaking more leaves down in a golden carpet. Her hand tightened for a second on Aiia’s, before she let it fall away, clasping them before her in a regal gesture. “My people,” she called out, “face your Queen.”

Cries of, “Queen Cartimandua!” rose up among them, filling the air with a new sound. Aiia glanced down at the ground and repeated their confirmation, trying hard to bat away the tears that still escaped for their fallen father. Cartimandua attempted to remain stony, but a small smile etched itself onto her lips, and her emerald eyes sparkled with new purpose.

Copyright Kathryn Northwood 2013.

 

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