Tuesday, 21 November 2017

"Sir Constantine and the Changeling" Novella by Lindsay Townsend in "One Yuletide Knight"

I wrote my Yule/Christmas story, "Sir Constantine and the Changeling" after reading Medieval beliefs about Changelings and also when I came across the wonderful Yule Goat in Northern European customs.

Note: I took the Medieval Yule Goat from Yule Customs from Medievalist Net.

It’s a northern custom, one which I think would have been part of northern england, since the Scandinavian custom of Mumming had survived in the region right up to my mother’s time. Lindsay 

Here's the blurb and the opening of my novella:

Blurb


He had hurt and betrayed her in the worst way possible. Could Kari and Constantine save their marriage?

In a medieval world that believed in God, saints, spirits and the fey, there were also darker forces to be feared. Malicious fairies could steal human babies away or substitue their own children—changelings.

Kari and Constantine have been apart for two years, he on crusade in the Holy Land, she left behind in his lands to raise their unborn child alone. When her husband returns with his Templar brother Hadrian in tow, the separation she and Constantine have endured, plus Hadrian’s evil influence, leads to terrible accusations between them. Her husband thinks now that her beloved baby son Valentine might be a changeling.

In the face of such a charge, and remembering an older tragedy, Kari feels she has no choice but to flee Constantine’s homeland and retreat to her own country of the high waterlands.  

Constantine follows her. Realising what he has done, he begs his wife to return with him, but can Kari trust him again? And will he ever accept Valentine as his true son?

At the time of Yule, many things are possible, and as Kari and Constantine strive to rebuild their relationship, the snows, an old hut and the Yule Goat will all play vital parts.



Excerpt

Sir Constantine and the Changeling

                                                              Lindsay Townsend

December,  the High Water Country, Northern England, 1194


“Climb one finger-width closer and I will send you arse-first back over the waterfall.”
Sir Constantine stared up into the unblinking eyes of his wife, his pregnant wife, and froze, motionless, on the cold rock-face.
“Da, Da—” The babe strapped to her back, cause of all our troubles, reached out to him with chubby hands.
“No, dear one, daddy must pass me first.” And he will not, her glinting eyes promised.
A staff loomed into view, aimed at his face. It was long and sturdy enough to poke him off the rock and flick him like a skidding stone down into the icy pools at the base of the waterfall, and he knew that one wrong move, one word amiss and she would strike.
Why should she not? A long, too-silent part of his conscience sneered. You did not believe her when it mattered. 
“Kari.” He easily pitched his voice above the early winter trickle of the fall, though his mouth was dry. “Please, Kari.” Let me come up. Let us speak together.
Those last words remained trapped like dead leaves in his throat as an unknown feeling, a dropping, sticky sensation that oozed in his chest, overtook him.
“You have no right to speak my name, husband.” Her scorn burned brighter and more clean than dragon fire. “You lost all rights to me and mine when you denied my son, our son, you imperial bastard.”
She had once been proud of his old name, even called him “Emperor” in their bed. Now she took that pet name and refashioned it into a spear for his heart. The sweeping sickness grew stronger than the scorching ache in his arms and legs. This is shame. I am ashamed.
“Da, Da, Da.” The little boy on her back chanted, waving his arms.
“You are well?” Constantine asked, as if he and his wife were not estranged, that she had not fled his house almost a month ago at All Hallows Eve, slipping away while he was visiting his brother.
His icy, tingling fingers tightened on the rock-face as he considered his sibling. As was his habit, Hadrian had secreted himself away from others to pray in the church. I thought it holy, then, and did not see his act for what it was, a denial of fellowship. Constantine shook his head. I have to break free of my older brother. He has already cost me too much. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Kari?”
“As you see.” She gave him nothing but a final verbal smack. “We are thriving.”
“But you cannot stay here much longer. Not through the winter.” He tried to fashion his dry voice into a coax. “It will be Yule soon, and Christmas.”
“Expect me to return for a Church festival, the three masses and more?” Her threatening staff  jerked closer. “You know nothing. Get back to your own lands, Sir Constantine, and leave me in mine.”
“Daddeee!” The infant on her shoulder wailed, tiny face reddening as his fists beat impotently against his mother’s shoulder.
“Please,” he begged. “For the child.”
“Which one?” she rejoindered at once, but the hovering timber vanished and Kari whirled about, as dainty on top of the waterfall as she was in a great hall, dancing. He tracked her rapidly departing figure and only when she had disappeared behind a screen of wild roses full of bright red hips did Constantine think to move. Stiff and shaken, by the time he had reached the summit and any kind of safety, his wife was long gone.
****
She had left him a trail of snapped twigs and crushed grass to follow, too obvious not to be deliberate. And I have found her only because she wished it. Again, he was reminded that these were her lands. Crouching by a spring with a rough X scratched into the mud beside it—his wife’s doing, and the rune for Gebo, good fortune, meaning the water was safe to drink—Constantine cupped his hands into the clear cold liquid.
As he quenched his thirst, he thought of Kari and their history together, his mind replaying the past in sharp and acute detail.
He had first met Kari at a summer three-day joust and country fair when she was sixteen and he a fresh-knighted nineteen. Even as she was then, eel-skinny and a little clumsy, he saw her kindness to servants, her haste to protect those she cared for, her love of infants, and her skill with basket weaving. A younger daughter of a lord of the highwaterlands, Constantine had treated her as an indulged little sister, taking her hawking whenever he had free time and listening with real interest as she spoke of old springs and ancient magicks.
The second time he saw her at a distance, with fresh graves between them. A deadly fever had taken her parents and older siblings. She had survived only because she had been sent to an aunt’s house to learn the ways of a formal court. Watching her pale, stricken face, her blank, beautiful eyes, Constantine had wanted to do something, anything, to bring back her vital smile. That evening after the funerals he had sent her a letter, wanting Kari to know she was not alone, that others thought of her. From then, they had written to each other for two years and life went on.
So matters might have remained, but his father had taken him aside during a melee where, after that day’s fighting, Karin had been one of the damsels reading to the injured knights in the largest tourney tent. Constantine had been close to bellowing a greeting across the great tent, he was so glad to see her.
Of course his father had noticed. “You like the wench?” Lord Lucian asked bluntly.
Aching from battle and imagining Kari’s cool hands on his sore shoulders and her low voice telling him stories of King Arthur, Constantine managed a grunt of assent.
Lord Lucian stroked his ginger beard. “A good match for you, a third son with a newly-won tiny manor,” he stated, making no bones in being straightforward. “Her demesne is but five miles from your own. She is an heiress now but her lands are mainly woods and water and pasture, rank with springs and old magic, and there is no large castle. They live in tents,  I do believe.”
“Only in the summers.” Constantine had learned this from his letters to Kari. “Kari’s folk live out in their wild lands in the good weather. Winters see them indoors. Kari’s kin have a stone and turf keep with stables larger than their quarters.”
“Our beasts are important to us,” Kari had explained, in a note, when Constantine exclaimed—by letter—over that particular living arrangement. After that, Constantine had let the matter go, merely vowing in secret that he would be in no great hurry to visit Kari’s keep for Yule.
Listening and understanding more, Lord Lucian fixed his lad with a piercing look. “Herbs and baskets and fish are the dues owed by her family, nothing more. Even the king does not dispute it. Still, some of the springs in those wild lands will cure troubles of the mind and heart, so long as the family are respected. She will need a light hand, my son.”
“And space, at times, for her to be alone,” Constantine added, recognizing that aspect of Kari from the way she would slip away from the twittering of giggling damsels, from her walking alone, at dawn and dusk.  She likes her solitude, but always has a smile of welcome for me. He grinned, despite his sore head. “She suits me,” he admitted, glad that fate had worked it so his newly-gained portion of lands and hers were so close. We are neighbors and soon will be more.
They had married that spring and he had been stunned with joy—doubly so when Kari became pregnant. All that blazing summer he had lived a heaven on earth.
And then, with the falling of the leaves, a summons had come to him from his overlord. Ordered to accompany King Richard on crusade, Constantine had reluctantly bid Kari farewell and set out for Outremer.
He had been gone two years, with no word from his wife. He sent letters and was certain Kari did the same, but none of hers reached him, nor, he learned later, did his to her.
Into the aching gap in his life, his elder brother Hadrian came and filled a tiny part.
Constantine scowled as he now thought of Hadrian, brother and knight Templar. I was blind to my brother’s prejudices, so relieved to have close-kin near that I never questioned what he told me. Looking back, Constantine could see his older brother’s whole battle array. In Outremer, fighting together, guarding each other’s backs, he had never understood. Hadrian’s slingshot comments were part of a cunning strategy, intended to drive a fatal wedge between Constantine and Kari.
Hadrian had started his evil campaign small. “We warriors are God’s chosen,” he said, often by the camp fire of an evening, then, “Others not so much, especially those daughters of Eve.”
Over the months Hadrian told tales of valiant crusader knights and the less-than-true, stay-at-home daughters of Eve. He never called them womenfolk and never praised them.
Why did I not notice that?
Hadrian never asked after Kari, even when he saw Constantine writing to her. “You do God’s work here, what could be finer?” he scolded, whenever Constantine sighed for his wife and home.
Why did I never understand the ruthless danger of Hadrian’s dislike?       
Constantine often mentioned hay-making or wool-shearing or other tasks of home, glad and proud to share them aloud, for it seemed then that he and Kari were close again. Hadrian would simply remark, “You allow your wife to rule?”
“Her own lands and portion, yes,” Constantine had answered each time, feeling aggrieved when the other warriors ranged about the fire-camp laughed at his “softness”.
By the time he returned to England, burned by eastern suns and quietly sickened by the slaughter he had seen, the waste of life, he had stared at the green woodland and luxuriant meadows of his lands and thought them wonderful, but strange.
Kari, his wife, the one he had once called mate, was stranger still. She moved differently to what he remembered, smelled differently, and she had a child. From the instant Constantine met the babe Kari called their son, he had been jealous. This interloper had taken his place on Kari’s breast, had first claim on her attention, was even in their bed at night.
“Why is that child not in a crib?” he demanded, after their second night bundled together. Hadrian had asked him that, down in the tilt yard that morning, and Constantine decided he wanted an answer.
“His name is Valentine.” Kari spoke through a clenched jaw. “We agreed on that, my lord, a Roman, imperial name, before you went off on crusade and left me.”
He hated her tone and her narrowed eyes and the way he instantly wondered what name for the brat she might have otherwise preferred. “My question remains.”
Kari did not answer, merely swooped like a hawk over the bed and lifted the squirming toddler onto her breast, where the boy turned and looked cool, smug eyes of possession at him. Hating his own pettiness, Constantine kept staring back even when the little boy was gently laid into a soft, moss-lined cradle.
Only when he was settled and given a soft rag doll to hug and a woolen blanket to keep him warm did Kari turn. When she did, Constantine almost flinched.
“He kept me company,” she said in a quiet voice, ignoring the wide-eyed maid and page who scurried about their sleeping space in their small, private solar off the main hall. “As you did not.”

You can read the full story in ONE YULETIDE KNIGHT, which is only 99cents/99p as part of a Black Friday Deal 


Sunday, 19 November 2017

"Twelfth Knight" by Cynthia Breeding. Excerpt from "One Yuletide Knight"



Blurb: Twelfth Knight

Isobel De Lacy’s guardian, Baron Roger De Lacy, is set to join King Richard in 
Outremer directly after the winter Solstice.  Before he leaves he wants to make sure his 
niece is married. His groom of choice is Sir Guy of Gisborne, henchman to the Sheriff of 
Nottingham, and notorious for being heavy-fisted.
Isobel would rather sacrifice herself to the Great Horned God before that 
happened.
While gathering holly in the woods, she stumbles across an injured knight and 
takes him back to the castle to be looked after.  He turns out to be Sir William of 
Barnsdale, nephew to the Earl of Huntingdon. Isobel hatches a plan. The powerful earl 
can keep her safe from Gisborne and, when Sir William chivalrously agrees to help her 
escape, she decides perhaps the auld gods have sent her a Yuletide gift.
But as they ride through Sherwood Forest, she finds that “gift” to be much more 
than she had anticipated. 



Excerpt:  OneYuletide Knight


Twelfth Knight


Nottinghamshire
1191

Twelve nights until the Winter Solstice.  That meant Isobel de Lacy had eleven days to find a way to avoid marriage to Sir Guy of Gisborne, the man her guardian cousin had decided she would marry on December 22 before he left on Crusade.
She would sacrifice herself to the Great Horned God before that happened.
“Lady Isobel,” one of kitchen maids who’d accompanied her on the outing to gather holly this morning said, “how much farther into the forest do ye want to go?”
Isobel glanced at the near-empty aprons of the three maids who trailed after her. None of them looked especially pleased to be out of doors on a chilly morning, but the pages that would normally be gathering the boughs were busy helping her cousin Roger’s squires prepare armor and weapons for the journey to Outremer. 
“We have hardly gathered enough to cover one mantel,” she replied, “and you know Lord de Lacy expects the entire Great Hall to be decorated for Yule.”
“I hope his lordship is nae expecting us to be bringing in the big log as well,” a second girl grumbled.
“I suspect the knights will vie for that honor.”
The third maid sniggered. “I’d rather have them knights vie for the honor of leaping o’re the bonfires with me.”
“Aye!” the other two agreed and burst into giggles.
Isobel smiled at their youthful thinking and wished the only thing she had to be concerned with was whether a virile young man would choose her as his partner on the twelfth night Solstice celebration. Not that she would have been allowed to participate in the thoroughly pagan ritual that most lords still allowed the servants to hold. Even growing up in Wales where the goddess Bridgid was still worshipped, her parents—may their souls rest in peace—had plans for her to marry a proper English lord.
But then, they’d had no idea that lord would turn out to be Sir Guy of Gisborne. Her first impression of him had left her shaken.  When he’d bowed over her hand the night they’d been introduced, the touch had chilled her blood. His smile had looked more like a wolf baring its teeth and his eyes had a steely glint.  The two subsequent meetings had only deepened her conviction that the man was heartless. On the one occasion, he’d ridden ruthlessly into the bailey, scattering playing children and on the other, he’d  kicked a hapless puppy that had wandered into his path.       
What had her cousin been thinking?  Isobel sighed as she led her still-chortling helpers deeper into the woods.  She knew what he had been thinking.  Roger de Lacy, recently become Seventh Baron Halton and Lord of Bowland, had only taken her in two months ago because she had no other living relatives when her parents were killed in a carriage accident in Conwy. Her cousin had already been preparing to join King Richard in the Holy Land. His immediate reaction to her arrival was to see her married before he left. Sir Guy was in need of a wife and, as the right-hand man to the Sherriff of Nottingham, would offer her protection. 
From what, Isobel was not sure.  In the short time she had been in Nottinghamshire, she’d heard nothing but horrific reports on its sheriff…that he was cruel, calculating and cold.  He sounded like someone a person needed protecting from.  It also seemed to Isobel that being the cousin of a titled lord and living in the castle of his huge estate would offer protection enough, but Roger had been adamant. She was to be married before he left.
“My lady.” One of the maids interrupted her thinking. “Where are ye leading us?”
Isobel stopped and looked around. The relatively worn path they’d been on had turned into nothing more than a deer trail.  The forestation was denser as well, leaving little light filtering through the pines to encourage anything except bracken to grow. Certainly, there were no holly bushes.  She sighed again.  She should have been paying more attention to what she was doing.
“I must have taken a wrong turn.” Since she had not ventured this far before, she hoped they were not lost.  The maids were already looking at her skeptically so Isobel glanced at the ground. ‘You might as well pick up the cones while we head back to the road.  Lord de Lacy likes the crackling sounds they make in the fire.” 
At least that would keep them occupied. Isobel swept back strands of her auburn hair that seemed to constantly be escaping her barbette and tried to get a sense of direction. As a child in Wales, she’d spent enough time playing along mountain sides and foraging among the trees to know that the best worn animal trails usually led to water. Roger’s castle was near the River Erewash.  If she could find a stream, they could follow its natural flow toward the river.  She looked at the ground again.  Not too far away, a slightly wider path led toward the right. 
“This way,” she said, sounding more confident than she felt.
            The maids, who had invented a quick game of whom could find the largest cones, seemed content to follow her lead.  Isobel glanced up as they walked. At least the trees were becoming sparser. Sunlight cast a mottled glow through the leaves. And, to her relief, a few minutes later she heard the sound of water tumbling over rock. 
            “This way,” she said again, heading for the sound. As they started to round several large boulders, she saw what looked like a small, grassy glade and then she stopped.
            A young man was lying face down on the ground.  Strands of long, brown hair and a part of his red cape floated in the stream bed, but he was not moving.


Cynthia's website 





Friday, 17 November 2017

"One Yuletide Knight" Black Friday Deal 99cents today. "The Protector" by Patti Sherry-Crews

The Christmas anthology, "One Yuletide Knight" is a Black Friday deal and just 99 cents today!

In this wonderful collection of Medieval Romance Christmas and Yule novellas by several authors, we have as a sample an excerpt by the writer Patti Sherry-Crews from her intriguing story, "The Protector," the blurb of which is here:

Blurb

What can Juliana Basset, the daughter of an English merchant, have done to put her in the sights of the most powerful men in the country? It’s not what’s she’s done but what she knows. She harbors a secret that could topple the monarchy. A knight, Sir William, is sent to take her into protection until things settle down.
Stowing her away in a convent until things settle down seems like a good idea. Except Juliana stumbles upon yet another secret while there. Things are not adding up at the convent—literally. When she can't help but dig around, the place of sanctuary could be the death of her. Trying to keep the lovely lady out of harm's way turns out to be more of a challenge than Sir William anticipated.



Excerpt

“...twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.” Juliana, her finger hovering over the fresh loaves of bread, counted under her breath. She put her finger up and tapped her bottom lip. Why fifteen? Always that number when there are only fourteen mouths to feed?
“Juliana?...I mean, Sister Clementine!” Sister Agnes scolded herself. “You have a visitor.”
Surely, there would only be one person to visit her and the way the silly girl swung her hips and flamed as red as a poppy, Juliana knew exactly who waited for her.
“Where is he?”
“In the visitor’s room, of course.”
Juliana hitched up her ugly woolen grab and went as fast as she could out of the kitchen. Soon they would be called for prayer again and she didn’t want to lose time with Will. Not that she was especially excited to see him, she told herself. But she was so tired of the company of nuns, she longed for word from the outside.
She left the warmth of the kitchen and ran down the cloister to the visitor’s room. A thick layer of snow covered the inner courtyard and blew feathery drifts over the stone tiles on the covered way, making it slippery. Juliana entered the room she remembered being shown three days before, shortly after her arrival. Only three days, yet it felt like a lifetime.
There he stood. His tall, broad back to her, examining a painted panel on the wall. Her heart lurched at the sight of his lovely hair. It looked clean and groomed since she saw him last. Would he be glad to see her? She’d look for signs of it in his face. A sparkle in his eyes. A softening of his features….
Sensing her approach, he spun around slowly. Their eyes met, and his face contorted in an unexpected way. Out came a roar of laughter as he bent over to slap both thighs with his hands. He laughed so loud, she feared someone would ask him to leave.
She placed both hands on her hips and glared at him. “Is that how you greet me?”
“Ho, ho! I’m sorry, but they’ve made a real nun out of you!”
“Well, I don’t think it so amusing. Why are you here?”
He wiped the tears from his eyes. “I was passing and thought I’d spy in on you. By Jove, I’m glad I did. What a sight!”
“Now you see I’m fine, you may be on your way.”
“Don’t be tetchy, little rabbit. I come bearing gifts.”
She perched on the tips of her toes, watching him search his tunic. “What is it?”
He pulled out something wrapped in cloth. When he took the cloth off, her body flooded with relief.
“I knew it troubled you when you thought you’d lost this.” He handed her back her book of poetry.
“How did you...You went back to the inn for this? For me?”
“Tis one thing I could do. It wasn’t such a hardship.” He shrugged.
Juliana remembered the flirty serving wench and her stomach twisted. “No? Did you just ride in and find my book, or did you have to root around. Mayhaps you even had to spend the night?”
“Why do you have pique in your voice? I thought twould please you. That’s all. I had no other motive in going back there.”
“Of course not. I’m very grateful.”
They stood still and uncertain a moment, their sights trained on the floor. Juliana fought the impulse to throw her arms around him.
“So, how goes it?” he asked at last.
“It takes some getting used to.”
“I imagine. Well, I can’t imagine being in a nunnery, really. But, tell me did you find Sister Ursula?”
“Oh, yes! Not at first, and I wondered if you were mistaken about her being here.”
“I am not mistaken.”
“I know now. I found her in the scriptorium working on manuscripts. Tis so beautiful! They let me work there for part of the day.”
“Nay, don’t tell me they let an untrained girl touch a page! It takes much skill and practice to reach the level of--”
“I know! I could never...but, Sister Ursula, she lets me grind stones and mix paint for her. She talks to me while she works. Tis very interesting.”
“She talks to you. Huh.” He had a bemused expression on his face she thought odd. “Anyway, what else do they have you doing here?”
“I work in the kitchen and other chores as they come up like working in the laundry.” She leaned in and switched to a low voice. “There’s something mysterious going on here.”
He leaned in and raised an eyebrow. “Tis a holy order. I expect there to be mysteries.”
“Nay, not like that. I’ve been noticing something. Things are always odd in number.”
“Oh dear, very mysterious.” He ran his finger down her cheek which disconcerted her to the extent she forgot all else for a minute.
She drew back. “Don’t tease! Listen, there are fourteen of us living here, but I always count fifteen trenchers, fifteen candles, fifteen sheets and garments.”
“What of it? Maybe there’s a fifteenth nun in the infirmary.”
“There are two nuns in the infirmary and I counted them in the fourteen. Meals are taken to them, which is openly done, but then a fifteenth meal disappears.”
He stared at her a long moment. His expression blank. “Are you very bored?”
“Why do you ask me that?”
“I just wonder if you’re fabricating--”
“I’m not! I’m kept too busy here to make up stories. I’ve never been so busy in my life. They wake us up in the middle of the night for prayer, then we get to go back to bed, only to be woken up at daybreak to hear scripture, only to be called to prayer two hours later. After that we’re sent to work--and it’s still only morning! At noon there are more prayers after which we get to eat, and then back to work.  Then before supper we pray again, only to be called to Complin for the final prayer before going to bed. My head is full of bells, the way they ring them all the time.”
His lips twitched in suppressed amusement. “Mayhaps your mind is becoming overwrought.”
“Tis not! I’m going to find out what they’re hiding here.”
He frowned and put a heavy hand on her arm. “Leave it be. You have enough trouble of your own without calling attention to yourself. Tis possible someone is seeking shelter here and by poking your nose around, you might be putting them in danger as well as yourself. Promise me you’ll do nothing outside of being a good little nun.” He squeezed her arm when she hesitated. “Promise.”
“I promise,” she said, with no intention of keeping it.
“I can see I’ll have to visit often...to make sure you’re not getting yourself in trouble.”
She clutched her beloved book to her chest. “You might have to do that.”







Patti's Author page and newsletter: http://pattisherrycrews16.wix.com/author-blog




Thursday, 16 November 2017

"Apollo's Raven" Guest Post by author Linnea Tanner

“Apollo’s Raven,” Historical Fantasy set in Ancient Rome and Britannia

Linnea Tanner




“Apollo’s Raven” is a Celtic tale of forbidden love, magical adventure, and political intrigue.


Blurb:

24 AD Britannia is in turmoil. Celtic kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. The Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin is swept into a political web of deception when the Roman Emperor Tiberius demands allegiance from her father, King Amren.

After King Amren takes Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, as a hostage, he demands that Catrin spy on him. Romantically drawn to Marcellus, she learns a curse cast by the former queen threatens the fates of the king and herself. Torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and loyalty to her family, Catrin calls upon the mystical powers of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that looms over her.



Excerpt (taken from the first chapter when Catrin enters her raven’s mind to scout the warships landing offshore near the white cliffs):

Catrin again hesitated. Once before, when she had melded and disconnected from her raven guide, she lost consciousness. It took awhile for her head to clear after that episode. If that happened again, it could spell disaster so close to the precipice.
She stepped away from the cliff’s edge and stared into the Raven’s eyes, which glowed like amber gems. The bird’s talons emitted a bolt of electric heat into her arm. A light flashed in her mind, and the Raven’s essence permeated her core being. She knew that she had entered the Raven’s prescient mind.
The landscape appeared blurry until she adjusted to the Raven’s eyesight. Brightly colored wildflowers dazzled her with purple hues that she was unable to detect with her human eyes. A thrill rushed through her veins as she sensed the bird’s breast muscles contracting to flap its wings. When the Raven began its thrust into flight, she felt the misty air lift its outstretched wings.
When the Raven soared toward the channel, she could see her human form standing as motionless as a statue on the emerald hilltop clasped to the jagged precipice. The sheer chalk cliffs formed an impenetrable wall against the crashing waves. Beyond the cliffs, there was a sparsely vegetated shoreline toward which several ships were sailing and where other vessels were moored. Armored infantrymen were disembarking, wading to the shore, and marching across the beach. On higher ground, soldiers set up tents in a square encampment. One of the guards had a lion’s head covering his helmet. In his hands was a pole with a silver eagle on top. She assumed it meant powerful animal spirits were guiding them.
A palatial tent in the center of the encampment caught her eye. Its outside walls were made of twined linen sheets, violet and red, brocaded with eagles. Surrounding the central structure were crimson banners, each emblazoned with the sun god in a horse-driven chariot. At the tent’s flapped entrance were two foreign noblemen attired in purple-trim white togas. Another man, towering over the foreigners, wore a rustic toga and plaid breeches—garments that nobles from her kingdom typically dressed in. From the back, he looked familiar, his thick coppery hair draped over his shoulders like a lustrous wolf pelt.
To confirm her suspicions that she knew this tall, brawny man, Catrin directed the Raven to circle around, so she could get a closer look. When the man’s ghostly, disfigured face came into view, her heart wrenched. She recognized her half-brother, Marrock.
Grotesque images of ravens pecking tissue out of his face flashed in her mind. For seven years, she had believed herself safe from him, but there he was—a specter arisen from the cold ashes of her nightmares.
Why has he returned with an army?
A sense of doom crawled all over her when Marrock’s head tilted back, as though he knew her essence was flying overhead. His blue-green eyes began glowing and changed to the same amber-gem color as her raven whenever she harnessed its magical power. The Raven’s muscles suddenly paralyzed, freezing its wings. A strong force pulled her through a crevasse in the Raven’s mind and hurtled her into a tunnel of brilliant gold light.
She plummeted, tumbling out of control, toward a black portal in the center of a rainbow-colored arch.

Biography

Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, betrayal and intrigue into historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.

Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. As the author of the “Apollo’s Raven” series, she has extensively researched and traveled to sites described within each book.

A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.




Below are the buy links for "Apollo's Raven"
 
  

Monday, 6 November 2017

New release

A vivid romance set in a time of war and upheaval - Scotland in 1034.



EXCERPT:
Finlay listened with half an ear as Ross and Gille talked about the day’s hunting, but his thoughts centred on Thorfinn. The energetic and impulsive fourteen-year-old he had known was now a man reputed for sea warfare and unlikely to make casual suggestions about anything to do with land, power or the proposed marriage of a half-sister.
With his elbows on the board behind him, he stretched his damp deer hide boots towards the fire. The mouth-watering aroma of meat stew drifted to his nostrils from the large, sooty cauldron that spun gently on the chain above the fire pit.
Gille fell silent, his blue stare unwavering on someone or something behind Finlay. Ross stared in the same direction. Finlay turned his head so fast his neck bones cracked and gained a fleeting impression of a tall, willowy young woman with dark hair. From her gown, posture and self-confidence, she could only be Ratagan, Thorfinn’s half-sister.
He sat up straight.
“I thought you said she was toothy?” Ross muttered.
There was no time to reply. Greeting her half-brother, she then walked over to greet them. Dark hair knotted high on the back of her head accentuated large eyes and a pointed chin, and her perfect profile took Finlay’s breath away. He scrambled to his feet as she greeted them one by one. “Have we met before, Gille?”
“I would have remembered,” he said.
Her smile widened. “How odd. I remember Ross and Finlay from visits to Inverness. All those long speeches about honour. That was you, wasn’t it?” She arched her eyebrows at Finlay, who said nothing because she had glided forward and laid her smooth cheek against his jaw. The coldness of gold pressed against his fire-warmed skin. Perfume lingered in the air when she stepped back. “I remember Hareth, and Kilda, too,” she said. “How is Kilda?”
Either she was unaware of the situation, or she baited him. He suspected the latter. Ross answered swiftly. “Gille married her not a month since.”
Her speculative gaze turned from Finlay to Gille. Whatever she thought, she said only “You must be sad to separate so soon.”




Friday, 13 October 2017

Kitty McKenzie - Victorian historical

Kitty McKenzie is available in all ebook formats and paperback.



Blurb:
1864 - Suddenly left as the head of the family, Kitty McKenzie must find her inner strength to keep her family together against the odds. Evicted from their resplendent home in the fashionable part of York after her parents’ deaths, Kitty must fight the legacy of bankruptcy and homelessness to secure a home for her and her siblings. Through sheer willpower and determination she grabs opportunities with both hands from working on a clothes and rag stall in the market to creating a teashop for the wealthy. Her road to happiness is fraught with obstacles of hardship and despair, but she refuses to let her dream of a better life for her family die. She soon learns that love and loyalty brings its own reward. 


Except:
York, England, November 1864

  From an upstairs window, Katherine McKenzie looked out over York’s rooftops into the distance. The pale grey clouds parted, allowing weak sunshine to filter through the bare trees and banish the gloom. Below, two weighty men filled the back of a wagon with the furniture from the house. Her gaze shifted to linger on the sorry cluster of her brothers and sisters. Ranging in age from sixteen to two years old, they stood as one on the lush lawn with their small carryalls placed neatly in front of them. Their pale faces peeking out from beneath hats showed little emotion while stern-looking men came and went from their once warm and happy home. Of course, there was no evidence of that now.
   Kitty leaned her forehead against the cool glass and fought the tears that gathered as she stared sightlessly down at her remaining family. All morning, the children had watched and listened as strangers invaded each room, taking notes and sizing up all the possessions once important to the family. They understood little of what was happening, but she had told them to wait outside while she and Rory sorted everything out. So, her brothers and sisters, shocked and confused, did as she instructed, not daring to talk about what they saw. Talking would come later.
  Inhaling deeply to calm herself, Kitty turned away from the window. Downstairs a variety of men roamed about, murmuring in hushed voices, making notes on what was left to take and how much money each item would bring.
Vultures, that’s what Rory called them, but Kitty knew it was all about the cycle of life. She had learned a lot about life in the last few weeks. None of it very encouraging, but nevertheless, it had to be endured.
  She sighed, rubbing the back of her neck, stiff with strain. The enormity of what faced her left her cold. Responsibilities had never been hers. There had always been others to care for her comfort. Could she do it? Could she steer the children through this difficult time? As her parents coffins were lowered into the ground, she promised them she’d keep the family together at all costs. She’d do whatever it took to keep her remaining family safe. As the eldest it was her duty to look after them, but secretly she wondered who would look after her.
  Hearing shouts coming from below, she left her parents’ empty bedroom and hurried across the landing and down the main red- carpeted staircase.
 

Available in paperback and digital ebook from Kindle, Googleplay, Apple iBooks and Kobo, etc.
Kitty McKenzie Book 1
She must keep her family safe.
iBook https://goo.gl/RSyj6j

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

"A Knight's Vow," Medieval Historical Romance Novel. 99p 99 cents

Here's the blurb and a new excerpt from my re-issued full length medieval historical romance novel, "A Knight's Vow." Just 99p or 99 cents.

Blurb.

A crusader, haunted by grief and guilt. A bride-to-be, struggling with old yearnings and desires. Can Sir Guillelm de la Rochelle and Lady Alyson of Olverton rediscover the innocent love they once had for each other? When Guillelm makes a fearful vow on their wedding night, is all lost forever between him and Alyson? And will the secret enemy who hates their marriage destroy them both?

“A Knight’s Vow” is a tale of romance and chivalry. In a time of knights and ladies, of tournaments and battles, of crusades, castles and magic.

(First published by Kensington Publishing, New York, in 2008.)


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Excerpt. (Taken from a skirmish where the hero Guillelm is fighting and the heroine Alyson is desperate to save him.)


Alyson began to run again, to Guillelm, aware she only had seconds, instants before the enemy raised his helm and wound up his deadly crossbow.
He would shoot at Guillelm—
‘Down! Get down! Get away!’ Yelling warnings, she ran straight at Guillelm, her one thought to save him, her only wild plan that if she could not make him hear her warnings, she might spoil the aim of the enemy archer.      
Ignoring the growing pain of her heat-seared lungs and her fading, tiring limbs, she screamed again, ’Get down!’ and now Guillelm heard and saw her, shock and horror warring in his face, his mouth forming the question, ’How?’
‘Down!’ Alyson cried, but she was too late. She felt a punch slam into her shoulder, spinning her round so that she fell backwards, the breath knocked out of her. She tried to move, to reach Guillelm, shield him, but as she raised her head a jolt of agony drove through her body and she blacked out.

Guillelm reacted without conscious thought. He lowered the shocked, sobbing Prioress gently onto the ground and seized the quivering arrow shaft buried so sickeningly in Alyson’s shoulder, determined to draw it out before she came round from her faint.
Even as he worked, images flashed constantly before his eyes. Alyson running towards him, arms outstretched, making herself a target. Over and over, he saw the bolt thud into her slender body, saw her feet actually leave the ground as she was flung around by the force of the impact. She had been shot in the back and he had done nothing to save her; worse he had not even known she had joined the war-band. He had been so keen to lay sword against sword with √Čtienne the Bold, who, cur that he was, had turned tail the instant he saw him, riding through the smoke and soot of the burning convent.
‘Ah!’  Although he tried to be steady and careful and the crossbow bolt came out cleanly, the sharp decisive tug hurt her—Alyson came out of her swoon with a shriek of agony.
‘Sssh, sweetheart, it is done.’ Guillelm wanted to cradle her but dare not: he could not bear to hurt her again. Kneeling by her, he packed his cloak around her body, terrified at how cold she was. Her shoulder was bleeding freely and that must be good, for the ill-humours would be washed out.
What if the crossbow bolt was poisoned?
What if she died?
‘Live, Alyson,’ he whispered, too afraid to be angry at her. He should have known she would attempt something like this: she was never one to sit still when those she loved were under threat. Where was that sister of hers? The Flemings had herded the nuns into the courtyard while they torched the buildings. None had been harmed so where was she?
Blinking away tears, he raised his head and met the pasty faces of the squires. The lads had dismounted and gathered round, forming a shield with their horses. Too late, Guillelm thought bleakly.
‘My lord, we did not know…’
‘Truly we never suspected…’
‘She moved so swiftly, ran right amongst the horses…’
‘We could not stop her!’
Their excuses died away and they hung their heads.     
‘What can we do?’ asked one.
Guillelm raked them with furious eyes. His knights were still searching for survivors in the wrecked convent—friends or foe—but these useless, lumpen youths should be good for something. 
‘Get me that archer,’ he spat.
‘I will do so, my lord.’ Fulk stepped into the circle, glanced at Alyson’s still body, and then turned, shouting for his horse.
‘Sir —’
At first Guillelm thought it one of the squires, or the half-blind old militia-man he had led away to safety from the burning church.
‘Do not scold them, sir. I rode in disguise.’ The small, breathy voice was Alyson’s. She was looking at him, her eyes dark with pain and fear.
‘Peace!’ Guillelm took her icy hand in his, trying to will his own heat into her. ‘We shall have you home safe, soon enough.’
‘I am sorry to be so much trouble.’ Alyson tried to raise herself on her elbow, gasped and fell back.
‘Alyson!’ For a dreadful moment, he thought she had died, but then saw the quick rise of her chest and realized she had passed out again. He should lift her from this burnt, wrecked ground as soon as possible, but what way would be best? In his arms, on horseback? On a litter?
‘Give me your cloaks!’ he snapped at the hapless squires. ‘Cover her with them. You! Bring me the infirmarer! You! Make a fire here! You! Find Sir Thomas.’ He almost said Sir Fulk, his natural second-in-command, but Fulk was off on another necessary task and one he longed to accomplish himself, though revenge on the archer would not save Alyson.
Live, please live, he thought. It was a prayer and wish in one.
‘Where is that infirmarer?’ he bellowed, above the steady weeping of the Prioress. He was growing incensed with the lack of speed of everyone about him and exasperated with the cowering, wailing nuns who had trailed after him like ducklings following their mother as he carried the helpless, vacant-eyed head of their order away from her devastated convent. If  Alyson’s sister was in that drab company, why had she not come forward to be with her? Was she so withdrawn from the world that even the sight of her own flesh, broken and bleeding on the ground, stirred no passionate care? ’Is there no one?’
‘I am here, Guido.’ Calm as a rock in a sea of troubles, Sir Tom leaned down from his horse. ’What say I find something to use as a stretcher?’
‘Do it,’ Guillelm answered curtly, ’And tell your men to search the infirmary for potions and such.’ A late thought struck him, but he could not feel ashamed at it, not with Alyson injured beside him. ’See if any of our own men are hurt, and tend them.’
 ‘They will not be hurt. Men never are.’ A small, slim nun emerged from the smoke, her arms full of books and manuscripts.
‘I am Sister Ursula, who was once Matilda of Olverton Minor,’ she said, calm as glass. ‘I have been in our scriptorium, where our true treasures are stored. The mercenaries did not recognize them as such.’ Slow, careful, she laid the books on the ground and only then looked at Alyson.
‘Your infirmarer?’ Guillelm asked, as Sister Ursula’s lips moved in prayer. His hands itched to shake her out of her complacency: was this woman human? ’Your sister is still bleeding.’
‘The infirmarer is dead.’ Sister Ursula opened her eyes, fixing Guillelm with a stare of utter dislike, mingled with distaste. ’Our sister in Christ passed away eight days ago.’
‘Mother of God, have you no one who can help my wife?’
‘Do not blaspheme against the name of our blessed Lady of Heaven.’
Sister Ursula stared at a kneeling squire striking sparks off his knife to light a small, swiftly-gathered bundle of kindling until the youth shuffled out of her path. She knelt beside Alyson, facing Guillelm across her sister’s body. ‘I will pray.’
‘Please —’ Guillelm felt to be out of his depth dealing with this smooth, polished creature, he felt to be drowning in her piety. If it had been a man he would have appealed to honour, or come to blows. How did women deal with each other? He thought of his sister Juliana, but their relationship had been oddly formal, she being so much the elder and out of reach of sibling contests.
Rivalry. The answer came to him as he recalled the scrapes and scraps that he had seen and sometimes intervened in between brothers. It was a risk to employ it against women, but what other tactic could he use? Luck and recklessness were all he had left.
‘If she could speak, Alyson could tell us how to treat her,’ he remarked, adopting Sister Ursula’s calm tones while around him his squires and gathering knights held their breaths against the approaching storm. Gently: he had to do this right. ‘She is an excellent healer.’
Sister Ursula said nothing.
‘She told me you had no diligence in such matters,’ Guillelm went on, lying shamelessly and worse, feeling no guilt as he did so. ’That you love books more than people.’
‘She is wrong,’ said Sister Ursula.
 ‘You put your skill above hers, then? I have seen no other to match her, even in Outremer.’
With a small shake of her head remarkably like Alyson’s, Sister Ursula unclasped her palms.
 ‘I thought her judgment a little harsh, but I see that she was right. She said you lacked the healing touch.’
‘What nonsense.’ Sister Ursula rose to her feet. ’Build up that fire,’ she commanded. ’I must have more light.’ 

Lindsay Townsend