Thursday Teaser – Daughters Of Brigitania!

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.)

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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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