Skull’s Vengeance

Welcome Linnea Tanner with an excerpt from her new book. Skull’s Vengeance (Series: Curse of Clansmen and Kings, Book 4)

@linneatanner @maryanneyarde #HistoricalFantasy #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #AncientRome #AncientBritannia #SkullsVengeance

Publication Date: 18 October 2022 / 402 pages

A Celtic warrior queen must do the impossible—defeat her sorcerer half-brother and claim the throne. But to do so, she must learn how to strike vengeance from her father’s skull.

AS FORETOLD BY HER FATHER in a vision, Catrin has become a battle-hardened warrior after her trials in the Roman legion and gladiatorial games. She must return to Britannia and pull the cursed dagger out of the serpent’s stone to fulfill her destiny. Only then can she unleash the vengeance from the ancient druids to destroy her evil half-brother, the powerful sorcerer, King Marrock. Always two steps ahead and seemingly unstoppable, Marrock can summon destructive natural forces to crush any rival trying to stop him and has charged his deadliest assassin to bring back Catrin’s head.

To have the slightest chance of beating Marrock, Catrin must forge alliances with former enemies, but she needs someone she can trust. Her only option is to seek military aid from Marcellus—her secret Roman husband. They rekindle their burning passion, but he is playing a deadly game in the political firestorm of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to support Catrin’s cause.

Ultimately, in order to defeat Marrock, Catrin must align herself with a dark druidess and learn how to summon forces from skulls to exact vengeance. But can she and Marcellus outmaneuver political enemies from Rome and Britannia in their quest to vanquish Marrock?

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Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Rome, 20 March, 28 AD

The theater where Catrin was to meet Marcellus reminded her of the area around the gladiatorial coliseum where she had fought in Lugdunum. Sensing a slight charge in her fingertips, she felt a thread lacing around her fingers. She recalled last night’s dream, when she’d visited the Wall of Lives. There, she’d meticulously tied Marcellus’s crimson life thread with her raven-black strand, securing it into a knot so they could stay together forever.

Yet, no matter how often she had rewoven Marcellus’s thread to extend his life, fate always pulled his thread out of her fingertips to redirect his destiny. And now, she sensed heat radiating into the palm of her right hand and envisioned the dagger she had thrust into the serpent stone on the white hills in her homeland. In her heart, she knew the curse etched on the blade was transforming, and she could not defy her destiny to return home and overthrow Marrock. Her half brother now taunted her in nightmares, carrying the three skulls of her parents and eldest sister in his arms. In the visions, lightning sparked in and out of their eye sockets like serpents as Marrock’s facial scars disappeared.

Does Marrock now control my fate?

She lightly rubbed the bronze plate identifying the multi-arched structure as the Theater of Marcellus. A foreboding sense of doom clouded over her as she recalled Marcellus telling her in Britannia that he feared dying young like his namesake. It seemed ominous that Marcellus had asked her to meet him here.

Are we lovers playing roles in a tragic play? she wondered.

Their love was so strong, and Catrin swore that not even the gods could sever their bond—not in this lifetime or the next.

Blasphemy to defy the gods!

Catrin was pulled out of her contemplation when Cynwrig asked, “How can Marcellus spot us in such a large crowd?”

“He’ll find us,” she assured Cynwrig, although she also felt unsettled that he was so late. The daylight was now fading into dusk.

Did he have a mishap?

Cynwrig raised the eyebrow on the unscarred side of his face. “I don’t like the way people are looking at us.”

“It’s your appearance,” Catrin said with a chuckle. “They don’t want to meet your fate.”

“Is that so? I’m ready to leave this godforsaken city. Too many people gawking at my face,” Cynwrig grumbled.

“Let’s stay a little longer.”

Catrin studied the theatergoers waiting to enter the amphitheater through the archways. Noblemen wearing purple-striped, white togas over full-length tunics escorted bejeweled women. Many of the noble-women modestly covered their heads with pale-colored palla draped down the backs of their heads as veils. Other heavily made-up women flashed brightly colored togas over sheer, knee-length tunics, with long, gold chains hanging loosely down to their waists.

Freed women prostitutes, she surmised.

Suddenly noticing a passerby casting a suspicious glance at her, Catrin felt uneasy about the disparity of her velvety, wine-colored veil draping over the linen tunica of a plebian. She furtively scanned the congested area for Marcellus. She caught sight of a striking, slender woman with ebony skin as dark as Negasi, the Ethiopian gladiator who had befriended and mentored her on fighting with a spear and a sword with deadly purpose in the gladiatorial school in Lugdunum. Next to the sleek woman was a man with the hood of a burgundy cloak covering his head. He slightly favored his right leg as he strode toward her, with the lithe woman at his side. Her heart quickened when she finally recognized Marcellus.

But why was the dark-skinned woman at his side?

Catrin stared straight ahead at the brick theater, remembering Falco’s warning to look away when Marcellus approached her because someone from his family had been spying on him. She told Cynwrig in a hushed tone, “Marcellus approaches.”

Cynwrig nodded and glanced sideways. Then, Catrin felt a soft touch on her hand, and Marcellus’s voice said in a hushed tone, “Follow me.”

As Catrin turned to follow Marcellus, another man’s voice greeted, “Bonum  vesperam, Marcellus.”

“Salve, Senator Frugi and Madame Scribonia,” Marcellus replied in a gasp.

Catrin didn’t know whether she should leave as a nobleman with silver-streaked, dark hair shifted his eyes between her and Marcellus.

“Are you attending the reading of The Aeneid by Virgil?” Senator Frugi asked.

“I’ve just come from the stables and hadn’t planned to do so,” Marcellus said, keeping his eyes steadfast on Senator Frugi.

Senator Frugi gave a thin smile. “What a shame. I had hoped to speak with you about managing the upcoming games.”

Marcellus’s lips quirked into a smile. “Perhaps we could speak at your office tomorrow about this. I’m not appropriately dressed.”

“Maybe that is best—more private.” Senator Frugi’s dark-brown eyes shifted to Catrin.

“Introduce me to your female companion.”

Marcellus’s brow furrowed. “Companion?”

“The lovely woman beside you with the wine-colored veil.”

Marcellus looked at Catrin, trying to find the appropriate answer. “Oh, we don’t know each other, do we? I thought you were someone I might have known in my youth.”

“I thought the same,” Catrin said, wondering if Senator Frugi had seen Marcellus familiarly touch her hand.

Senator Frugi’s piercing stare unsettled Catrin as he amicably asked, “Are you a patron of the theater?”

“I sometimes come here with my husband. Not tonight, though.” Catrin gestured toward Cynwrig. “I’m here with my bodyguard, who is escorting me to a nearby event.”

Senator Frugi regarded Cynwrig. “Is that so?”

Marcellus abruptly interjected. “It looks as though the reading is about to begin.”

“Indeed.” Senator Frugi took his wife’s arm in his. “We can’t be late, can we?”

Scribonia smiled at Marcellus. “It is so good to see you again, Marcellus. Feel free to visit Licinia any time.”

Marcellus’s voice cracked. “I will.”

“Tomorrow, then,” Senator Frugi said, finishing the conversation, and he escorted his wife to the closest archway. Before entering the theater, Senator Frugi glanced over his shoulder at Catrin.

Catrin looked away, her heart racing with the realization she had just met Marcellus’s future in-laws, a delicate situation she had not expected.

Author Bio:

Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical druids.

Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include Apollo’s Raven (Book 1), Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2), Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3), and Skull’s Vengeance (Book 4).

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

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Thanks for a great excerpt, Linnea

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