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Kady was transfixed by the claw marks in the man’s skull, the crimson rivulets welling above the eyeless sockets. His terror-stricken mouth yawned and he sucked in a breath but instead of a scream a strident melody sounded. When onlookers roared their approval the vision receded, leaving only perspiration coursing down his features as his rich baritone reached the song’s finale. With a theatrical sweep of his arms he bowed to accept the thunderous acclaim.
Torean clambered atop the table he’d been pounding with his fists in time to the harmonies. The brawny chieftain grinned while steadying himself to raise his wineskin. “Fantastic, Telor! You sing like a fucking robin. A plump, red breasted robin.” A furious belch ruined the image. “The rest of you drunken bastards ... charge whatever you happen to have your snouts in and thank our Gods ... and thank Telor, our wonderful robin ... bard ... for his fitting tribute to Kai, our druid. Everyone ... to Kai ... druid of the Dumnonii … the heartiest of best wishes on your fortieth year!”
“To Kai!” the glowing toast echoed around the hall, signalling vessels to be thrown back, or their contents simply heaved into the air to splatter like sweet rain. Torean leapt into the arms of his bemused bodyguards, the trio collapsing in a dishevelled heap and prompting further ribald roars.
Kai weaved his way through the cordial mayhem, accepting the flurry of handshakes, wincing with each goblet tossed over his already drenched tunic. Reaching Telor he slapped the bard across his broad shoulders. “My friend! I thank you for the fine aria. I feel truly honoured. Torean was right. You sang beautifully as a robin.”
“If robins were in the habit of quaffing flagons of Cornish ale,” he scoffed, swiping the back of his hand over his lips. “I’m surprised I recalled the words … forty verses I composed specially in your honour, Kai … telling the story of your years serving the Dumnonii as their druid … and not just the Dumnonii, my friend … each of the neighbouring tribes has had cause to rely on your powers … many times … especially my own, the Durotriges.”
Kai thrust an arm around the bard’s much bulkier frame. “I cast spells, I help those who need help. I’m a druid, Telor. That’s what I do.”
“And I’m a bard, Kai. I sing. Tell sagas. I entertain. Mostly. That’s what I do! But now my entertaining is concluded. Now I drink!”
“You deserve it … after all, you’ve travelled some way to be here … among this riot!”
“A day’s ride on my trusty horse. I’ll collapse on this floor in the small hours, snore loudly, break my fast heartily long after the sun has risen, then I’ll be back in my own village by the morrow’s sunset.”
“There are many guests here who’ve arrived from far and wide, Telor. I’m flattered. It’s just like the old days.”
“Indeed, Kai. These gatherings have all but died out since the invasion.”
At the mention of the German barbarians who had conquered vast swathes of land far to the east, Telor seized a drinking horn from someone blundering by who remained oblivious. He took an expansive drink then burped. “Tonight we toast our druids, our ancient guardians. Ah … Kai, your beautiful green-eyed daughter approaches! Kady!”
The druid turned to the striking redhead weaving through the scrum of inebriated figures. Although she was smiling at the condition of her father and his friend, a troubled look flitted across her face. Failing to notice, Telor wrapped her in an embrace. “Kady!”
“Telor. You’re soaked through! Are you drinking to toast father’s birthday or merely emptying it over yourself?”
“A bit of both, beautiful one.” With that he drained his horn before tossing it over his shoulder.
“I’ll bid you good drinking, Telor,” concluded Kai. I would have a word with my daughter.”
Telor grasped Kady’s hand, kissing the back of it, repeating the gesture with Kai. Then he about turned, becoming enveloped in the boozy gaggle beyond.
Kai’s grin remained in place even as he lowered his voice and bowed closer to the teenager. “You appear puzzled, Kady?”
Pausing for a moment while she considered her response, she sipped from the goblet clutched in her slender fingers, studying the intricate patchwork of tattoos flourishing from her forearm to the back of her hand. “Telor’s face …”
“As you said, Kady, he is soaking. His hair and clothes will reek of ale!”
Kady glimpsed the bard through the crowd. He caught her eye and winked. For a moment she saw the vision again – his features bloodied, bruised, disfigured – before the image faded into his jovial self.
“No father, that is not it. I keep seeing ... imagining things.”
“Premonitions? Good. I’ve been seeing them, too, daughter. In time you will be able to channel your visions of the future ... and the past. Of many things.”
“It’s Telor ...”
“Yes. I will urge him to be cautious on his long journey eastwards. There are bandits in the forests. And wolves.” But Kai relaxed, linking arms. “Even a few months ago you would’ve only seen a drunken bard, Kady. I’m aware of your druid powers growing stronger with each new sunrise. And you know your destiny, Kady. When I pass, you will become the tribe’s druid. You will inherit my magical powers. You will be a powerful enemy for anyone who would harm the Celts.”
Kady nodded. But she’d already sensed a shift in her latent powers, a rising awareness of the abilities that would be transferred to her one day. Glancing at her father she wondered if this was perhaps some indication of his impending mortality. She was about to articulate this when something else demanded her attention. Dancing in the background were the party of guests who’d travelled furthest, from the marches where the age-old Celtic realm of Dumnonia bordered the kingdom their enemies now called Wessex. For a flickering second their figures were not dancing but jolting from the impact of numerous arrows, and their garments were wreathed in flames.
Mellissa Young-Ramirez: The story had enough description for imagination and lots of situations to be creative with while keeping me guessing the whole time as to some plot twists. I️ didn’t see a lot of the events coming and was on edge of seat, reading every chance I️ got because I️ couldn’t put I️t down.Hope to see a...
Sonali Srivastava: It is very Fancinating to read a story full of Fantasy and specially when love is not complete as story , I really like the Imagination of Author and his writing skill, u dictated everything so beautifuly that when I read it I lost in the story and I hope I will read soon the second year of Zakir...
Drew C. Elyon: I've only read one chapter so far, but from what I've seen, this is steampunk at its best. The narrative flows so beautifully I could envision every scene in an almost cinematic fashion. I believe in the complexity of simplicity, and this story has that in its descriptions.
William Elliott Kern: Long story, the plot uncovered midway through the story. From beginning, the story was fast moving. Then dragged on for quite some time. The Author was good in describing her characters, their clothing, etc. but a lot of that disclosure distracted from the story moving fast.Not withstanding, the...
Diana Chernenko: I liked this book. Even if the idea of book isn't so new. "girl that should save the world with her super powers." sometimes I thought that she is too overpowered, and I was sometimes really annoyed by her, and felt sorry for her friends and Derek. Moreover I didn't like first chapters when the...
izzymerchant: This book is truly special. The plot, the characters and the way the story flows is so engrossing and magical that I found it virtually impossible to put down. The character relationships were particularly fascinating and Melenthia's character was fascinating. Cannot wait to see what happens next!
Hali McGowan: when will the third book be done? I am absolutely hooked. I red the first two books within less than a week. I'm itching for the third one. The plotline is absolutely wonderful. I've never been much for sci-fi ish books. but you've got me hooked on this series
JWalker: I loved this story from start to finish! It flows at a really nice pace and the story world feels so real. The fight sequences are a treat especially when Isanfyre is training to become a warrior. I found the names really cool and thankfully easy to pronounce. Personally I have always struggled w...
Warren Bull: I thought this was a fast=paced thriller with elements of several other genres woven seamlessly in. It hooked me early and held my attention throughout. I liked the humor and surprises along the way. I really enjoyed the novel. I am not a big fan of romances or paranormal works,but when those ele...