(Curse of Clansmen and Kings Book 4)
by Linnea Tanner
GENRE: Historical Fantasy
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?
White Cliffs in Southeast Britannia,
Eve of Samhain, 31 October, 26 AD
Three human skulls hung over King Marrock’s stallion, dangling from a rope like ornaments. Feeling as invincible as a god, he rode to the precipice of the sheer cliffs and listened to the roar of the waves crashing below. Yet, the raven soaring overhead chilled him to the bone—an omen he was but mortal and could plunge to his death.
He embraced the warmth of Boudicca, his younger half sister, who sat astride his horse in front of him. A toddler full of mirth, she was a healer who could connect to the souls of the dead.
Whereas their mother accused him, also known as Blood Wolf, of being a soulless murderer.
On this eve of Samhain, Marrock knew the souls of the dead freely roamed among the living. He spotted his deadliest assassin, Gawain, searching for the wraith on the emerald hilltop. Gawain had a blue, triangular tattoo of a dagger’s blade on his forehead and deadly weapons underneath his black cloak—the royal insignia of the red dragon stitched to the front panel.
For Marrock, the Otherworldly dragon, with its leathery wings and fiery breath, symbolized perpetual power. It was said that where dragons trod, mystic energy flowed. The untamed beast guarded the portal into the Otherworld.
He yearned for the dragon’s mystic power—the power to summon forces from the earth’s molten underbelly to immolate his rivals.
Gawain pointed to a pile of rocks. “The sheepherder saw the wraith over there,” he said in his deep, gravelly voice.
Marrock handed Boudicca to him and then dismounted, pulling the rope of skulls off his horse and draping it over his shoulders. His family’s skulls served as a warning to anyone who threatened his sovereignty.
Until now, he had only been able to summon the deadly powers from the skulls of his stepmother and bastard sister; their souls were encased in the bone crowns. The soul of his father, King Amren, still eluded Marrock, even after he had sliced off his father’s head. If his father’s soul was indeed wandering the hilltop, he would imprison it in the largest empty skull he had.
Then, he would be able to unleash the collective forces from all three souls.
Glancing all around, he could not see his father’s ghostly figure in the thickening fog. Boudicca’s gleeful giggle roused his attention. He watched her waddle toward a mound of stones and place her tiny hands on the stacked rocks.
“Pa. Pa. Am,” she squealed with delight.
Marrock cast a glance at Gawain. “Did the sheepherder see the wraith disappear into those rocks?”
Gawain nodded. “Indeed, I believe so.”
Marrock transferred the roped skulls from his shoulders to the grassy ground and looked at Gawain. “Help me remove the rocks so I can see what is underneath.”
Gawain joined Marrock in the task of removing the white stones one by one. They inspected each rock for any defect before setting it aside.
Boudicca, mimicking the men, picked up flint pebbles and dropped them on the chalky ground.
After a while, they uncovered the gemstone handle of a dagger; its blade was embedded in a coil-shaped serpent stone. Marrock recognized the jewel-studded dagger as once belonging to his father. Intrigued, he gripped the handle with both hands and strained to pull it out, his muscles aching and his face dripping with sweat from the effort.
Suddenly, to his shock, the hilt turned sizzling hot. He jerked his hands away and inspected the blisters that had formed on his reddened palms. Hearing Boudicca’s gleeful babble, he looked down just as she gripped the dagger’s handle.
“Pa. Pa. Am,” she trilled.
To Marrock’s surprise, Boudicca’s hands did not burn.
A prickling sensation noosed around his neck as he recalled the original curse cast by his mother just before his father had executed her.
The gods demand that the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul’s journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to the same fate as mine. I prophesy your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire will overtake your kingdom and execute my curse.
King Amren had etched the words of the curse on the dagger’s blade using the Roman alphabet with the belief he could thwart the dark prophecy.
Does my father’s soul live in the dagger? Has he come back to exact vengeance on me?
Interview With Linnea Tanner
What are your favorite TV shows?
The Last KingdomandDomina.
What is your favorite meal?
If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?
One series I’ve considered writing is about a secondary character, Gawain, in Skull’s Vengeance. He’s a deadly assassin with scruples. Scruples, you might ask? Every person has a moral code that he or she follows, even those you might consider as villains. Gawain only kills those he considers worthy adversaries, not innocents who are abused and can’t defend themselves. There is a backstory to Gawain and how he rose to be one of King Marrock’s deadliest assassins.
Another series I’m considering is a historical fiction about Marcus Antonius Primus who ruled as an emperor of Rome for a few days. Very little is known about his background, but it is surmised that he is the son or grandson of Lucius Antonius, the father of one of my main characters, Marcellus, in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. After Nero was assassinated in 68 AD there was a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors. Legions from the eastern provinces declared Vespasian as their emperor. Marcus Antonius Primus led his Roman legions into Italy, winning several brutal battles, to dispose the proclaimed emperor, Vitellius. Primus’ arrival at Rome initiated street-fights which did not end even with the death of Vitellius, discovered in hiding. The city was largely at the mercy of Primus and his Danubian troops until another supporter of Vespasian arrived to put an end to the disorder.
Another intriguing topic is how the women from the Julio-Claudian imperial family profoundly impacted Augustus Caesar and Tiberius. Of particular interest is Antonia Minor, the youngest daughter of Octavia and Mark Antony. She was the wife of Nero Claudius Drusus (Tiberius’s brother), mother of Germanicus and Claudius, and grandmother of Caligula.
Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?
I admire Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series? She crossed genres, weaving romance into historical fiction with time/slip elements of fantasy and science fiction. She is not afraid to pull in taboo subjects—such as sexual molestation and rape of both men and women, slavery, and torture—which are necessary to advance the story and is central to the overall theme. I’ve attended some of her workshops at writing conferences and have found her to be very down-to-earth and open about her writing process.
How did you come up for the title of this book?
Celts believed the soul does not perish, but passes from one body to another after death. The druids believed the skull is where the immortal soul dwells. The human head was venerated above all else because it is the temple of the soul — the center of emotions as well as of life itself, and a symbol of divinity and the powers of the world of the spirits. To possess the enemy’s head is to possess his soul. As with so many aspects of the warrior’s life, the taking of an opponent’s head in battle, preferably in single combat, had a mystical significance.
I took literary license to expand on the concept that you one can summon the powers of souls encased in their severed skulls. At the beginning of Skull’s Vengeance, Catrin’s half-brother, King Marrock, summons the dark forces of nature from the skulls of his father, step-mother, and bastard sister to strike his enemies dead with lightning on the battlefield. He also causes earthquakes, creating crevasses in which wheels of horse-driven chariots get stuck, as the rival king’s warriors charges him. For Catrin to strike vengeance against Marrock, she must also learn how to wield this dark magic.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
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). She has also released the historical fiction short story, “Two Faces of Janus.”
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.
You can follow her on her website: https://www.linneatanner.com/
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