(Curse of Clansmen and Kings Book 4)
by Linnea Tanner
GENRE: Historical Fantasy
A Celtic warrior queen must do the impossible—defeat her sorcerer half-brother and claim the throne. But to do so, she must learn how to strike vengeance from her father’s skull.
AS FORETOLD BY HER FATHER in a vision, Catrin has become a battle-hardened warrior after her trials in the Roman legion and gladiatorial games. She must return to Britannia and pull the cursed dagger out of the serpent’s stone to fulfill her destiny. Only then can she unleash the vengeance from the ancient druids to destroy her evil half-brother, the powerful sorcerer, King Marrock. Always two steps ahead and seemingly unstoppable, Marrock can summon destructive natural forces to crush any rival trying to stop him and has charged his deadliest assassin to bring back Catrin’s head.
To have the slightest chance of beating Marrock, Catrin must forge alliances with former enemies, but she needs someone she can trust. Her only option is to seek military aid from Marcellus—her secret Roman husband. They rekindle their burning passion, but he is playing a deadly game in the political firestorm of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to support Catrin’s cause.
Ultimately, in order to defeat Marrock, Catrin must align herself with a dark druidess and learn how to summon forces from skulls to exact vengeance. But can she and Marcellus outmaneuver political enemies from Rome and Britannia in their quest to vanquish Marrock?
Chapter 2 Cauldron’s Foresight
Near Antonii Villa in Gaul, Eve of Samhain, 31 October, 27 AD
Bewildered, Catrin found herself floating inside a concave, bone-white structure. Below her, light filtering through two large openings spun strands of golden light, forming a lattice around her. Indistinguishable voices whispered in her ears. Sensing someone was nearby, she glanced all around but could not see anyone.
Suddenly, an invisible force pressed her against a hard surface, immobilizing her. Panic streaked through her when she realized she could not escape. The voice of her dead father, King Amren, saying, “I’ve been waiting for you,” further struck fear in her.
Uncertain if she’d entered the portal to the Otherworld, Catrin looked up at the ceiling for the multicolored life threads weaving in and out of the tapestry on the Wall of Lives—a transitional barrier between the physical and spiritual worlds where past, present, and future merged into one timeline.
“Am I in the Depths of Possibilities below the Wall of Lives?” she asked her father.
King Amren’s deep voice resonated in her mind. “You are in my soul’s temple—my prison.”
Worried her soul had also been imprisoned, Catrin felt her heart pound erratically within her chest. “Your prison?”
“My skull,” King Amren clarified. “This is where Marrock keeps my soul prisoner to use as he pleases. How did you get past his magic to connect with me?”
“After I drank a mixture from Rhan’s cauldron, I suddenly found myself here,” Catrin explained, although she did not understand how the magic worked.
“Ah…a brew of wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration.” King Amren added, “Rhan is a cunning and treacherous sorceress. She has a knack for escaping death. A few years ago, when I hid in the dagger, I saw her spirit roaming the white cliffs. I thought she’d died. Obviously, I was wrong.”
“Did you hide in the same dagger I thrust into the serpent stone?” Catrin inquired.
“Yes. And the dagger you must pull from the stone to release my soul from the skull…” King Amren’s voice faded into an ominous whisper.
A man’s shadow was cast on the dome-shaped ceiling from which her father’s voice emanated. “Marrock will drain my essence until I disappear. At first, I fought his attempts to steal my soul’s forces. But I no longer have the strength to resist.”
The force immobilizing Catrin weakened. Envisioning herself as the Raven, her spiritual guide, she transformed and fluttered to the domed ceiling to be closer to her father’s shadow, which was fading quickly.
“Why did Rhan send me here?” she asked.
“So you can access the truths in the depths of your mind…a realm few of us explore.” A gold corona began glowing around King Amren’s shadow, like an eclipsed sun, as he continued, “You asked if we are in the Depths of Possibilities. Perhaps you are, but not me. I am frozen in the past and must relive the day I executed Rhan over and over. The day I forced Marrock to watch me cut off his mother’s head. The day I created a monster.”
“Do you regret killing Rhan?” Catrin asked, disquieted by her father’s merciless act.
“At the time, I believed it was my duty. It was my right as king to condemn all traitors. But now…” King Amren sighed heavily, and his voice grew somber. “I loved Rhan so much. She was the air I breathed. Love that strong ignites from the same fire as hate. I opened my heart to her. I shared my fears, my darkest secrets. I would have done anything for her, even die to protect her. Yet, when I discovered she’d conspired with other nobles to overthrow me, my love turned to hate. I demanded justice for her betrayal. I sought vengeance against my queen, seeking the power that corrupted my soul. And now, Marrock threatens to destroy the remnants of my soul in exchange for the same power that consumed me.”
“If that is what he wants, why does he steal the life forces from my mother’s and sister’s souls?” Catrin asked.
King Amren chuckled grimly. “What vengeance is more apt than Marrock extinguishing everyone I love?”
Catrin’s throat tightened. “What do you want of me?”
The bright light around King Amren’s shadow continued to fade as he answered. “Destroy Marrock and free the souls of your mother and sister to reincarnate into other forms. You must unravel your doubts about moving forward. The last time you visited the Depth of Possibilities, before the Romans captured and enslaved you, your future had not yet been set in stone by your past mistakes. But now, the future of our kingdom depends on the choices you make in the present. To see the light to your destiny, you must first behold the darkest depths of your soul. Do you have the courage to do that?”
“I am afraid of what I might see. What I might lose or become,” Catrin said, a shudder slicing down her spine.
King Amren blew out a deep breath. “Ah…a conundrum. How can you both create life as a mother and destroy it as a warrior? How can the ecstasy of love be swept away in a crashing wave of hate? You need both forces, I believe, to forge the powers needed to draw the dagger out of the stone.”
About the Author:
Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include "Apollo’s Raven" (Book 1), "Dagger’s Destiny" (Book 2), "Amulet’s Rapture" (Book 3), and "Skull’s Vengeance" (Book 4). She has also released the historical fiction short story, "Two Faces of Janus."
A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.
You can follow her on her website: https://www.linneatanner.com/
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