The Beltane Choice got a new 5 star, and a new 4 star review, during the last couple of days. So...I'm sharing a new excerpt from The Beltane Choice with you today.
Nara has a bit of a problem...
The rumbling holler came so suddenly Nara almost lost her grip on the trunk. It was not Cearnach; the tone was deeper, gruff and…disturbing. A search of the dense bush cover revealed no-one, yet a toying laugh reached her ears, its owner amused by her failure to spot him.
“Reveal yourself!” Nara’s request echoed around the shadowy thicket. Below her the boar scratched and pawed the ground in frustration, circling around, alerted to the new presence but uncertain of which way to charge.
“Woman, heed me. I will help you kill this beast since it will take more than one weapon, now you have raised its hackles, but you know that already from your bungling attempt.”
The implacable voice made Nara flinch in embarrassment, the burst of acerbic laughter that followed hurtful to her pride. Angry to be scorned in such a way, her resentment burned deep, yet the truth was his words were justifiable since she had been a poor huntress.
“I will distract it to reach your spear, but assure me only the boar will receive its death throw.”
“And if I do not pledge?” Nara’s words challenged, wondering why he set such terms.
The boar squealed, and the rumbling laugh rippled around. “You will be left with this creature, already livid enough to batter that immature tree down in a few more charges. Could you not have picked a stronger one?”
Indignation spewed from Nara. This was a greater insult than his chastisements. “Did I have a choice?”
“There is always a choice.”
She bit back a scathing reply since, so far in her life, personal choice had been limited. The warrior’s amusement incensed, but she was vulnerable. With no weapon at hand, the man’s help was essential, as the beast was unrelenting.
Then nothing moved except the faintest sough of the wind through the leaves above her. An unnatural stillness descended on the forest floor as the boar halted. Its snivelling snout twitched up, its ears tweaking before it emitted the eeriest of howls–something spooked the beast. A shiver of alarm rippled down Nara’s back, superstitious fear replacing anger.
“Rhianna? Do not desert me.”
“Rhianna? Do not desert me.”
“Woman, you invoke the help of Rhianna, but will the goddess save you from this creature baying for your life blood? Or…will I?”
Triumphant crowing made the hairs on Nara’s neck bristle with apprehension. Was it a man alarming the boar, or something else?
“Are you Cernunnos, god of the forest?”
Cloaking fear from her voice was not possible, yet she prayed she did not reveal the horror which would result from a confirmation. Unlike her gentle goddess Rhianna, Cernunnos was well known for sadistically toying with humans. A capricious god, he was a deity not always kind to the people who invaded his territory. Visions of disembowelment, and other ghastly deeds attributed to Cernunnos, swamped her. Near silence wreathed the copse. The boar stood rigid, its breathing agitated, furious pricking of its ears matching the flickering black beads of its eyes, glistening as they did in the rays of sunlight shafting down through the trees.
“Are you Cernunnos shape-shifting? Disguised as the animal attacking this tree where I take refuge?”
“Nay, woman. I am Lorcan of Garrigill. I am no shape-shifter. Undoubtedly, Cernunnos is here in this forest, but I am not he.”
Nara mulled over the reply. This had to be a real man. Relief flooded through her. The thought of it having been the fickle Celtic god of the forest was frightening.