To celebrate the sun that's shining outside my window, and the new 5 ***** reviews that have come in this week for The Beltane Choice, I'm posting a new excerpt from it today.
Nara, a princess of the Selgovae, has been captured by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante. Nara sees an option to flee Lorcan and his small band of warriors when they arrive at the Crannog dwellings of Gyptus....
Nara wondered whether the hospitality Grond offered extended to a Selgovae captive. Exactly how welcome would she be? If it were a crannog near Tarras, there would little welcome for a Brigante captive. The treatment she was likely to receive held no appeal.
Last in line now, still mounted, she darted a furtive look behind her. Whirling Eachna around, a quick surge took her past Lorcan’s horse.
“The boggy ground is treacherous for the untutored. Come back now and walk in front of me!”
Brennus’s peremptory demand whipped her head round. He was now in pursuit. Though she knew it to be dangerous, desperate not to miss a chance at escape, Nara urged Eachna into a canter. Obedient to the command, her horse launched forward but clearly unhappy with the terrain under her hooves, Eachna halted her flight. Eachna, it seemed, had more sense of impending doom than Nara, though the little horse could not stop herself from an inevitable skitter towards the edge of the pathway.
Struggling to gain control, Nara found their progress to disaster averted as Brennus slipped behind the horse’s rump and shoved with his powerful shoulders. Eachna protested the mistreatment, her frantic neighing wild and loud, but Brennus’s superior strength held her hooves back from the edge. Once the filly was stabilised, Brennus dragged Nara from Eachna’s back. Even before her feet touched the ground, she broke free of his grip and pelted back down the path she had come on, her heart pounding like the beat of war spears upon the soil before battle.
“We have you in our sight, woman of the Selgovae. Follow the warriors of Garrigill!”
Nara skidded to an abrupt stop. Her breath heaving, she frantically searched for an escape route. She had nowhere to go except into the ditches, and they were not an option she would choose willingly.
The command had not come from Brennus. Four unknown Brigantes had sprung through the reed cover as though from nowhere, bursting onto the pathway and blocked her way, using their spears as a barrier. Sentries of Grond, they had been guarding the rear of Lorcan’s band. It was a bitter truth for Nara to swallow. Escape would have been impossible, even if she had managed to elude Brennus; Brennus, who now clutched her elbow and marched her back to their horses.
She tugged and hauled to free her arm, but to no avail; Brennus’s grip was far too strong. Furious at her failure, she vented her wrath on her captor, her blood stirred to a frenzy. With her free hand she lashed out at him, caution having fled into the reeds alongside. “Unhand me! I am well outnumbered and can see no escape. Let me walk alone.” Her slaps and entreaties did no good at all. Brennus continued to drag her protesting and cursing body along the path.
She fumed at Lorcan and his band, her jaw aching with rage as she continued to berate them for her capture. Equally as vehemently, she railed at these new warriors of Grond, her glares fit to scald. The goddess Rhianna did not escape her livid muttering either…but mostly she was deeply infuriated with herself. Nothing worked out as she had envisaged when she had set out on her journey to Raeden.
The ribald comments from the warriors behind her made her teeth gnash even more. They shamed her, but the shame of her failures was worse. Lorcan would be displeased to hear of yet another foiled escape attempt. Her heart tripped a beat, the momentary closing of her lids stemming the flow of moisture that threatened to well up. Her trembling legs would have caused her to stumble had Brennus not been maintaining such a tight grip. The thought of Lorcan’s wrath made her even more miserable as Brennus continued to draw her along the pathway, till it narrowed down to a comfortable width for one person. He freed her elbow and prodded her ahead of him.
Above the noises of the marsh creatures and the flapping of birds rising out of the boggy waters Nara heard sounds of people at their daily work as Brennus padded behind her, keeping her moving at a steady lope. A child cried somewhere, but the direction was impossible to tell. The marshes deadened the sounds, muffling them, baffling inexpert ears like her own, and tall marsh plants set up an odd sort of disorientation. The sounds of iron on an anvil hummed close by; a voice sang a merry accompaniment. The acrid reek of the forge mingled with the smells of the waterside and the nauseating stench of tanning leather.
Brennus forced her into a large clearing close to the lake’s edge, Lorcan’s warrior band having spread around the perimeter, where they sought somewhere sound enough to tether their horses. Nara had no need to do so as Brennus kept a tight grip on Eachna’s rein.
“Lorcan!” Brennus’s laughing tale was imparted deliberately across the clearing, loud enough for all around to hear. “You will be glad to hear your Selgovae captive did not succeed in her futile escape attempt.”