See details below for pre-ordering in paperback from Amazon but till your copy pops in the door, or onto your e-reader, I'm doing another Sunday Share with you...
The official release date is 25th March 2014 - only 16 days to go!
The background to the excerpt:
Ineda of Marske has been the personal slave of Roman tribune Gaius Livanus Valerius for a long time, unable to escape and heavily guarded by day and by night. It is now AD 79, and she finds herself well away from the Roman Fortress of Deva for the first time in years. Accompanying a small convoy of supplies, Ineda is with Gaius who is making his way north to one of the new Roman forts. He's following orders from Governor Agricola who intends to march his troops to the very far north of Britannia.
(See the map I made to make it easier for readers to follow the treks of my Romans and Celts)
By morning’s end Ineda’s initial excitement disappeared, and was quickly replaced by a deep uncertainty that she had not anticipated and could not quell. Being so far away from the protective walls of Deva was unsettling in ways she found baffling. For many long seasons she had yearned to be way beyond the fortress but had only been outside to visit Orchil. The old herbs woman’s hamlet lay close by, so close the palisade was still within sight. Although those quick visits to her Celtic contact were fraught with the danger of possible discovery, there had been great excitement in being temporarily free to find out about the constant skirmishes that took place between the Celts and the Roman Empire. Now that the walls no longer surrounded her the lack of them produced an unwanted anxiety.
What the future held now preyed on her mind.
“Do you not ride well, Ineda?”
Pomponius’ unexpected question startled her. She had not realised her feelings were displayed for all to see, although she could tell from the smirk on the secretary’s face that he would relish it if she was a poor rider.
“I am enjoying the ride very well, Pomponius.”
The man’s horse sidled into hers. It seemed Pomponius was the one who was not in great control of the beast he rode.
“Moving on with Tribune Valerius is something I have been accustomed to.”
Ineda answered his idle chatter for as long as he prattled on. It was the horse shying which eventually gave her respite from Pomponius, the man falling back in the line as he sought to control the beast’s fretting.
As her horse clopped along the beaten earth road towards Bremetennacum, a growing vulnerability overshadowed the excitement of being out in the open. She had not travelled in a Roman convoy of vehicles before and had no notion of just how well guarded they were. She was also aware of the constant state of alert Gaius was in, as were the men under his command.
Her feelings were tattered. Being proud of the local Celts for instilling such unease was hard to suppress but she also bore a reluctant fear for Gaius’ wellbeing. Though she had not known of it, he must have experienced this situation every time he had gone forth from the fortress.
The trek was a slow one since their three wagons were heavily laden, even though the mules doggedly paced forward and seemed to require less rest than horses. It gave her too much time to mull over her situation and that was not good, ambivalent feelings swamping her. As Gaius’ woman, her life was not one of hardship. She was still his slave but she wondered how the new situations might affect that status? It was a worry she could do without, yet apprehensive thoughts rolled around in her head. Her son was loved by many of the soldiers since he was a bright engaging child. Always eager to learn and of a happy disposition, Dubv was essentially a Roman child. Nothing seemed likely to change that status either.
The idea of escaping from Gaius had troubled her thoughts, though she would never contemplate that unless Dubv went with her. Since her son always rode with Gaius, the opportunity was lacking for her to flee with him. If she did escape, where would she go? Would local tribespeople believe who she was, or would she be considered a traitor in their midst, even if she managed to come face to face with contacts she only knew about and had never met?
She had been so long away from the life of the Celt, she had almost forgotten what it was like.
She fretted that the contact chain would be broken when they moved on but could do nothing more at present. A last message to Orchil about this first part of the route Gaius and his goods were likely to take had hopefully been sent via a new slave of the cooks.
The man was of the Carvetii and had been taken prisoner after an unsuccessful attack on one of the forts the tribune had recently visited. Ineda was not sure how to react to the man. He was not inclined to leer as many men did but she often intercepted some deep stares. Any tentative overtures on her part to find out where the slave’s allegiances lay had not been successful. The man had not divulged to whom he owed loyalty – but then neither had she. Even after more than a moon she was still unsure of his motives, yet leaned heavily towards believing he would rally to the cause of the Celts if the man had the opportunity to pass on messages. As a last resort, whilst still ensuring her own safety, she had had a conversation with the cook before their departure that morning, her voice loud enough for the slave nearby to overhear.
“I would like to have made my farewells to my old friend, Orchil,” she had said. “I will miss being able to ask her sage advice and will surely run out of my stocks of healing herbs after we journey beyond Bremetennacum and onto Luguvallium.”
Conversational enough, but whether the intended destinations would be conveyed to Orchil she could only hope on.
The harried call of the forerunner was so startling it almost unseated her. It set everyone around her into motion.
Gaius leapt from his horse and squashed Dubv towards the rear of the first cart which had pulled up short. “Ineda! Protect my son!”
|from Wikimedia Commons|
The first hail of Celtic spears thudding against the wood was a sickening clamour, yet there seemed no panic at all on the part of the Roman guard as she took in the back view of them. The soldiers all around her braced themselves, tucking in tight together, a pilum drawn and ready. As she had noticed during their training, they all held the weapon in the same hand and silently awaited next orders. The notion of battle had seemed so enticing long ago when she and Bran had discussed it, but the reality of even a small raid was shocking when she and her child were right at the centre of it.
“Let me out!”
Dubv’s cries were alarming, muffled against her chest as he struggled to be free; pummelling his little fists against any part of her he could reach.
“I want to see!”
Dubv was not even a bit terrified, his pleas to be freed continuing so that he could watch what was happening. More spears thudded against the shields as she fought to keep him protected, her crouch even closer to the rear of the wagon. Gaius bawled orders but they seemed distant over the din her son was making.
When the men around her moved away as one, it caused her heart to almost stop. The darkness that had been created by the scuta wall gave way to broken light as the legionaries raised their pila and fired. Gaius’ next order she heard clearly.
“Leave none alive!”
The next moments were a flurry of movement, the noise of metal hitting metal an unforgettable screech. Screams of outrage and agony were all around though mostly in the tongue of the Celts. Squirming into a position where she could see but her son could not she watched, totally sickened, as the forces of Rome cut down and slaughtered the small amount of local Celts who had dared to raid the convoy. It took only a short while before the road around her was a red-sodden mess, a line of broken and bloodied bodies a testament to the fact that Rome gave no quarter to anyone who attacked them.
The legionaries were poking and prodding with their smaller pugiones, the daggers ensuring the bodies really were dead when Gaius appeared at her side. He was not unscathed. Blood smeared all across his breastplate. A steady flow of red ran down his arm and dripped from his fingers, though a nick above his elbow was all she could see. He enclosed her and his son in a fierce grasp, a swift kiss at her brow when she sent him a silent plea. No words of any kind would form when his furious voice whiffed at her hair.
“I curse every last one of these local tribesmen. When I find out the conspirator who gives out our transport information, I will leave no pieces large enough to be buried! Stay huddled, Ineda, till we search the area. When I come back we will move on.”
Dubv had ceased to plead for freedom when the Celtic cries had become real and the skirmish had no longer seemed like practise. Gaius peeled back the bratt, just enough to speak to the child, yet still shielding him from the carnage.
“When I return you will once again ride with me, my son. Till then you must take care of your mother. She looks very afraid and needs you to hold her tight. Do you understand me?”
Dubv’s chin wobbling at her chest confirmed, his little arms squeezing tighter.
When he came back, a short while later, Gaius lifted his sleeping son from her arms and mounted him in front of him on his horse. There had been no need to drag the corpses out of sight but she knew Gaius would have ordered that if necessary. Dubv was being taught Roman ways but he was still too young to bear witness to such slaughter. Ineda sensed it was some kind of turning point for Gaius and guessed her little son would be gradually acclimatised to the notion of war and death in a much more realistic way.
The slow death of the informant was also a certainty if Gaius found that person.
Suspicion might already be at her feet.
Like Gaius, a few of the soldiers had insignificant cuts and nicks, here and there, but no one was sufficiently injured enough to delay them further. Her offer to bind wounds was rebuffed; like their tribune, they had roughly bound their wounds and moved on. The cleaning of them would come later in the security of the fort. It was more important to reach the shelter of the next fort without delay.
If Gaius had been an unkind master, had beaten or abused her, she would have been delighted that he and some of his men had been wounded, even though they were minor wounds. The opposite was so true it made it difficult to hate him, difficult to even dislike him, and impossible to banish the feeling of fear. What she felt for Gaius was not love, but she did reluctantly hold him in great respect. She still had great hatred for the Roman Empire…but not personally for Gaius any more.
The remainder of the journey was torture. She was no longer sure how much of the Celt was left in her; no longer certain she could continue to send messages. She had played the role of slave and almost concubine so long. Seeing the effects of her information in the form of attack on a convoy was too real. She needed to think a lot about what her future responsibility was. Gaius may have been nicked by a Celtic sword but as many as fifteen Celtic warriors lay on the ground awash in blood and hacked off parts.
Because of information she had sent on.
Pursued by Rome.
AD73 Northern Britannia
After King Venutius’ defeat, Brennus of Garrigill – known as Bran – maintains a spy network monitoring Roman activity in Brigantia. Relative peace reigns till AD 78 when Roman Governor Agricola marches his legions to the far north. Brennus is always one step ahead of the Roman Army as he seeks the Caledon Celt who will lead all tribes in battle against Rome.
Ineda of Marske treks northwards with her master, Tribune Valerius, who is responsible for supplying Agricola’s northern campaigns. At Inchtuthil Roman Fort Ineda flees seeking fellow Brigantes congregating on the foothills of Beinn na Ciche.
Will the battle against the Romans bring Ineda and Brennus together again?
After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks can now be pre-ordered from Amazon in paperback?