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Kady was transfixed by the deep 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 beautiful melody sounded. When the 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 bard’s melodies. The brawny chieftain grinned while steadying himself to raise his wineskin. “Fantastic, Telor! Fantastic. Everyone charge whatever you happen to be drinking from this fine night!” he bellowed. “That was as fitting a tribute as I’ve ever heard … to Kai of the Dumnonii … the heartiest of congratulations to our druid on this celebration of your fortieth year!”
“To Kai!” the glowing toast echoed around the wooden hall, signalling vessels to be thrown back, or their contents simply tossed into the air to splatter like sweet rain. Torean leapt into the arms of his bemused bodyguards, the trio collapsing in a dishevelled heap to prompt 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. You sang beautifully as a lark.”
“If larks 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 wrapped his arms 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 belched. “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 ... imaging 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, thrusting an arm around her. “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 fearfully 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. In the background she noticed the party of guests who had travelled furthest, from the marches where Celtic land bordered the territories conquered by the Anglo-Saxons. For a flickering second their dancing figures were wreathed in lurid flames.
ElNachoWOTC: The grammar is tight and easy too read while packing a great vocabulary and you use a lot of vivid imagery with your words. One of the biggest things I noticed right away is the gritty realism you managed to cram into this book while going into a lot of exotic fantasy material. Including issue...
harry142018: This story was gripping and very professionally written. With lots of twists and slight of hand tricks, the author deceives the reader until finally showing their cards at the end. With several subplots all intertwining to create the main plot, this really is an interesting and engaging read.
Shayleen Seiberg: See, I wasn't sure if I'd like this story. But it turned out extremely well. It kept me interested the whole entire time. The only thing wrong with it is there are multiple grammatical errors. Not punctuation wise, but spelling wise and word placement wise. But overall, I loved the book.
Deleted User: This is a very clever story in the style of 19th century (and turn of the century) Gothic writing, very reminiscent of Stevenson's The Body Snatchers or even of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (less so of Frankenstein itself, since the author is more minimalist than Shelley's florid, Romantic rhetoric). ...
Schaelz: I was intrigued from the second I started reading, and it kept my interest the whole way through. Chelsea has a way with words that will enchant you until the very end. She is very poetic with the way she mixes genres and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The main character is also very relat...
summerstone: Seriously this is one of the best books I've ever read. The plot is intriguing, I love the narrative style. Its very descriptive and unique, with minimal cliches. It makes for a great read and the sequels are amazing. Totally worth reading. ^^ That's me trying to be professional. But in all hones...
ernbelle: When I first started this story I was a little unsettled by all of the information that appears in the prologue, and wasn't sure if I would continue. However, I am very glad I did. The plot was very well thought out and really interesting. There were not any page breaks or markers to acknowledge ...
MegaRogueLegend666: I love this story so much. It's impossible to describe my excitement with each new chapter in words. The author has such a good writing style, very good descriptions of the fighting and character descriptions/emotions. the plot is also amazing! This fanfic could be a side anime show or novel ......
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."