Bits 'n Bobs Author Blog
Welcome to a new theme on Medieval Monday! For the next few weeks, we'll be featuring celebrations in our story excerpts.
To begin this new theme, I'm featuring Ruth A. Casie and her short story, The Druid Knight Tales, with a celebration of the shortest day of the year.
She woke before sunrise refreshed by a good night’s sleep. After her morning routine she picked up her staff and joined the others at the standing stones. Today, the shortest day of the year, they would welcome the day and celebrate the sacred marriage between Father Sky and Mother Earth. She waited while Doward finished cleansing and purifying the area for the Grand Master.
Ellyn and the people from all the clans proceeded through the outer circle to the Cove and its three standing stones. Doward came up to her. “Another year. They seem to hurry by.”
A wave of unease washed over her. She hardly made out what Doward said. She was too busy trying to control her rising apprehension.
The clans formed a large circle around the stones and waited. The Grand Master walked down the wide avenue and took his place. He stood beside her. She had imagined his tall, commanding presence quite correctly.
Everyone in the large circle faced east and waited for the sun to peek over the horizon. Slowly sunlight crept up and bathed the central Cove stone with its first rays of light.
“Hail and welcome,” declared Max.
“Hail and welcome,” the clans around him responded.
In unison they faced the center of the large circle.
“Hail this new day and year. We remember those who have left us. And we welcome those who have joined us by marriage, birth, or simply by choice.” He nodded toward Ellyn. “Ellyn of Brodgar, we welcome you into Fendrel’s clan.”
“Thank you, Grand Master.” Ellyn’s voice carried loud and clear. She faced Fendrel. “Thank you for making a place for me at your hearth.”
The first part of the morning ritual completed, the circle broke. She followed Max and the others as they made their way to the great oak in the nearby grove.
“Are you familiar with this part of the ritual?” Doward asked.
“Yes. The Grand Master will enter the Otherworld and meet with the Ancestors.”
“There is more to the ritual,” Doward said. “To ensure a good year and banish evil, when the Grand Master returns with the message from the Ancestors, the women will cut down and collect springs of mistletoe from the sacred oak tree. The Grand Master will give the sprigs to the families in the clan for them to hang in their house.”
Everyone gathered around the ancient oak. Once again she and Doward stood in the great circle next to the Grand Master.
Max waited for quiet before he faced the east and raised his arms. “Hail, Guardians of the East. I summon the power of air.” His voice echoed through the grove.
“By the air in her breath, be with us now,” the congregation replied.
He turned to the south. “Hail, Guardians of the South. I summon the power of fire.”
“By the fire in her spirit, be with us now,” came the reply.
He faced the west. “Hail, Guardians of the West. I summon the power of water.”
“By the waters of her womb, be with us now.”
Turning north he said, “Hail, Guardians of the North. I summon the power of earth.”
“By the earth that is her body, be with us now.” Every eye turned to Max when he faced the ancient oak, mistletoe hanging in great bunches from its mighty branches.
“As above, so below.
As within, so without.
Four stars in this place be
To open the door to the Ancestors to me.”
The cold air chilled even more and the sky turned an array of colors. Every muscle in Ellyn’s body tensed. This was magick she was not supposed to see. She must be too close to the Grand Master. She struggled to move away but was fixed to the spot. Slowly the world began to spin. She took a few deep breaths to steady herself, planted her staff deep into the ground, and held on. She peered through a hazy filter and witnessed Doward’s nod. She studied his lips silently mouthing, Safe journey.
Maximilian, the druid Grand Master, was given a year to find his soul mate. On the final day, the sacred mistletoe has shriveled and died—proclaiming his failure. He must do what no other Grand Master has done before and journey to meet with the Ancestors formally relinquish his title.
Ellyn of Brodgar has the gift of healing. But each use of her magick, through a kiss, depletes her energy and brings her closer to death. Time is running out as she searches for a way to continue saving lives—especially her own.
Max and Ellyn are tossed into the Otherworld together—a place filled with magick and wonder, it’s also fraught with danger, traps, and death. They have only until the third sunset to find the Ancestors, or be lost to the world forever. The domineering druid must work with the stubborn healer, not only for survival, but for the promise of the future—a future together.
Included an epilogue fifteen years later. See how the man destined for Max and Ellyn’s daughter takes the first steps in becoming a druid knight.
Arik, son of Fendrel and Dimia, prepares for training with his adopted brother, Bran, setting into motion a ripple effect that will carry love, betrayal, and death across the centuries.
Just in time for the holiday season, Jenna Jaxon is here to entertain you with an excerpt from her latest novel, Seduction at the Christmas Court.
The cold, crisp air burned the inside of Alyse’s nose on the second day of their journey to Havering. Geoffrey had insisted they move slowly to accommodate young Thomas and his nurse, Ysa, a young girl from the village whose husband had been taken by the pestilence and whose babe had been stillborn. Grief stricken, the girl had come to dote on Thomas as though he were her own. They now rode together in the cart, bundled alongside numerous trunks and goods that would last them the month they would spend at court.
Alyse had chosen to ride Mirabelle and now relished the cold that stung her cheeks and made her impatient to move swiftly. Under its blanket of snow and ice, the countryside looked like a new world as the morning sun glinted off the dazzling white. She squinted at the glare and turned to Geoffrey, mounted on Saracen. The big black stallion pranced along, snorting as if he too was impatient for a gallop.
“Shall I race you to that oak tree yonder, my lord? Are you as ready for adventure as your steed or overtired with your journey?” Alyse grinned at her husband who constantly surveyed the landscape. Although the pestilence had left the land bereft of people for the most part, of those who had survived many had become lawless, roaming the countryside, robbing travelers and ravaging outlying villages.
Geoffrey quirked an eyebrow at her. “You are in fine fettle this morn.” He glanced once more across the still land, but nothing stirred. “What forfeit will you pay when I am the victor?”
Laughing at the arrogant flare of his nose as he arched his neck, Alyse blew him a kiss. “Another of these, save it will have more substance.”
“I’ll take that wager, my lady. ‘Twill be my pleasure to claim your lips when we two are done.”
“And what will you forfeit to me, Lord Longford, when I best you?”
A grin immediately split his face, blue eyes brightening. “What would you ask of me, fair lady? Another feat of Hercules?”
Alyse laughed in return and a warmth spread through her heart, for he reminded her of their early days of courtship. “Nay, my lord. I think those days are put to rest.” Still, what could she ask of him? There was nothing he would deny her an she ask for it. At least she thought not. “If I am the winner, I beg…a lock of your hair.”
The startled expression on his face brought on a fit of giggling from Alyse.
“You want me to cut my hair?” The horror in his voice sent her into fresh peals of laughter.
“Not all of your hair, Sampson. One lock only.” She cut her eyes toward him to find him dragging his fingers through his dark hair, as if to assure himself it still remained on his head. “I want to make a keepsake token, like the one I gave you.”
“Aye. I can bear to be shorn thus.” He stole his hand to the breast of his dark green tunic, to rub the spot above his heart where her favor, a small blue silk bag with a lock of her black hair, lay. His eyes twinkled. “An I lose this wager, of course.”
During their conversation they had walked their horses much closer and the massive oak tree seemed to tower over them.
Not waiting for a signal, Alyse tapped Mirabelle hard with her heel and the mare shot away at a gallop.
Geoffrey sounded farther behind her than she expected. He would not remain so for long. She leaned almost flat over the horse’s withers, urging her mount to greater speed. A quick glance over her shoulder showed Geoffrey and Saracen closing the gap at a frightening pace. They were but yards from the goal if only Mirabelle could keep her lead.
* * *
Lord and Lady Longford have journeyed to the Christmas Court of King Edward III in the year 1349 to wait upon the king and take place in some Yuletide merriment. However, when Geoffrey is called suddenly into the king’s service again, Alyse must remain at the court, attending the queen and dissuading her rebellious sister from a disastrous action. When rumors of Geoffrey’s death arise, Alyse fends off an old suitor who pays court to her once more. But how long will he take “No” for an answer?
Seduction at the Christmas Court will release in November 2016.
Barbara Bettis is with me to day with an excerpt from her novel, The Lady of the Forest.
Henry wishes Kate would heed his words of caution, but he knows better.
“Tell Kate to take no chances until I return.” From the downturn of Jamie’s mouth, Henry gathered how well she’d follow such advice.
“Hold.” Jamie trotted forward. “Guards patrol along here ever’ day. Don’t know if they been by yet, but you stay just inside the trees. There’s a path runs along the road. Won’t nobody see you. The crossroad’s on further, a bit.”
“My thanks, again.” Henry pinned him with a stern gaze. “Have a care for yourself.”
Before the youth clambered back into the trees, he flashed his jaunty grin. This time, the smile contained a trace of sadness.
Kate’s problems remained on Henry’s mind as he rode, but without all the facts, he couldn’t devise a plan of action. Of his own circumstance, he suspected Sir Mortimer played a double game, although why he pretended to believe Paxton was Henry remained unclear. Perhaps he sought power by supporting a usurper. More than likely, he played a waiting game, to see which outcome presented more opportunity.
Travel through the brushy roadside leveled into a slow, monotonous lull, during which he devised a variety of options for dealing with Paxton. His mind grappled with one of those plans when a disturbance, a sound, alerted him.
He reined in his mount and listened. Silence. It came again. A series of faint, sharp bird calls. Only a bird called Jamie could emit such a frantic warble. An emergency, indeed, to have sent the youth after him.
Henry urged the gelding around and started back. A score of steps later, the calls sounded from just ahead. Movement to his right sent him in that direction. The boy came into view, stepping carefully onto an almost-bare tree limb.
“What’s wrong?” Concern turned Henry’s tone sharp as Jamie jumped to the ground.
“I feared—I’d not catch you.” Tight lines etched the youngster’s face. “It’s Cade and Oscar. They’re following.”
Henry swung down beside him. “Have they been harmed?”
Jamie hung his head and gasped for breath, hands on his knees. “Nah. But awful ole Hawise… she saw Cade leaving…and sent up a shout. Said the lad that…freed Oscar...were the dead Lady of Stonehill. You gots to help ’em.”
“How far back are they?” As he spoke, he took the boy’s arm to help him sit.
“A ways. I ran ahead to catch you.” He heaved in a lung-full of air and blew it out, then flattened a hand to his chest. “For awhile I thought my heart would get here a’fore me.”
Kneeling, Henry ruffled the boy’s hair. “You did well. Stay here and rest while I go for them. Are Sir Mortimer’s men following?”
Oscar nodded, his unruly curls flopping into his eyes. “But they’re going the wrong way for now. Cade took the south road ’till she could double back without ’em knowing.”
“How could they not see her?”
The boy snorted. “She knows shortcuts better’n any old guard that don’t gets off his behind. And Sir Mort never bothered to learn nothing about the land nor the tenants since he come. He only cares what he can pry out of ’em.”
He gulped another breath. “See, Maddie caught up to me in the woods. She could leave, ’cause nobody never pays attention to a kitchen helper. I waited at the hut ’till Cade got there.”
Henry’s heart thudded at the thought of Kate being chased by soldiers. “Is she unharmed?”
“Said so, didn’t I?”
The boy’s spirit was bouncing back. He’d be fine. But Cade…Kate. He hoped they were near. “Do they have horses?”
Jamie nodded. “Cade had’em hid. They’ll be slowed down in the woods. That’s why I came after you.”
“You did the right thing. I’ll find her—“
“Cade said stay here, they’d come to you. If you gets lost in the forest, we’d have to go looking.”
True. He hated to admit it, but traipsing through unfamiliar countryside might cost unnecessary time. Inactivity grated on his nerves, but he had little choice. He paced a circle around the tree Jamie leaned against until restlessness became too much. Bedamned to an unknown landscape. Kate might be in trouble.
“I’m going back,” he announced.
“No need.” Jamie nodded toward the trees. “They’re coming.”
Two figures on horseback broke through the underbrush, but Henry saw only the blood splashed down the front of Kate’s tunic.
* * *
He must find a traitor; she must protect her people. Can their love survive the duties that drive them apart?
When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry’s not an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.
Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate's past catches her.
When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.
BUY LINK: http://amzn.to/2czF6Fl
Great news! Bambi Lynn has released a new book in her Gods of the Highlands saga. She has taken her Celtic gods into the new millennium with the latest installment, Solid as a Rock.
Ellie Kramer’s life has never been easy—raised by a mother who went from one abusive relationship to the next. Her only love and stability came from her grandmother. But now Ellie's mother is dead and her gran's in a coma, both from causes doctors can't explain … and Ellie may be next. Her only hope of staying alive? The boy she once left without a word of goodbye, now a man—a devastatingly attractive man with a stony composure she can't read.
Michael Munro turned his back on the past to make a new life. He's not happy at being pulled again into Ellie's sphere. She's still impossible to resist, but now she's in deep trouble, and the cause may be a fragment of rock she found in her mother's effects. An artifact that saps his powers of precognition, and even those of other paranormals like his uncle and mentor, Lucan. Can Michael stand strong against her pull and that of the ancient stone?
A powerful evil is on the trail of their find—the demon Cael. Can Michael and Ellie resist the attraction burning between them long enough to find the missing piece of the artifact and get it to safety? If they don't, all hell will break loose … literally.
Don't miss this exciting installment in the saga of Gods of the Highlands—get your copy of Solid as a Rock today!
“Welcome to Betty Bombers. You’re late. Again.” Morgan handed Ellie a tray of dirty dishes and pulled several wisps of hair from the ponytail Ellie had just tied it into. “Take these back and pretend like you’ve been here the whole time. Maybe Joe won’t notice.”
Fat chance. “Thanks, girl.” Ellie took the tray and lifted it overhead as she maneuvered through the tables. If she was lucky, she could dump the dishes and start taking orders before her boss even realized she was there.
She rounded the corner and her gaze crashed into that of Michael Munro. Gold eyes stared back at her, intense and unsettling. He sat alone at a two-top casually eating his eggs and grits. He seemed just as shocked to see her as she was him.
Before she could mask her surprise, Ellie slipped and went down hard in a crash of broken dishes and pinging silverware. While several smartasses nearby applauded, Michael jumped to his feet and rushed to her aid.
Ellie stared up at him. He was still as gorgeous as she remembered. And bigger. From her position on the floor, he looked to be about seven feet tall with shoulders as wide as a barn. She took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
Things were going from bad to worse.
She ignored his offer to help her to her feet and got up on her own. “What are you doing here?” She began collecting the scattered utensils and shards of broken dishes and tried not to look at him. He still made her jumpy and tingly, but far more than when she was fifteen. He had been a gangly teen back then, awkward and lanky. Now that she was on her feet, he still seemed to be about seven feet tall, but more like six and half, she guessed.
Michael stood back and smirked down at her. “I wondered the same thing about you.”
His voice, rich and silky, washed over her. It couldn’t be good, the way he made her feel. All warm and wet. Achy. Needy. “Working,” she snapped. Why was she angry at him? She had been the one to leave. Mama had called, and Ellie had jumped at her offer to live with her in Atlanta. She had been on the first Greyhound out of Savannah the next morning, 5:20 am. She’d not had time to say goodbye. What if Mama changed her mind?
What if seeing him one last time made Ellie change her mind?
She couldn’t take that chance. Michael Munro was bad news, an outcast, a loser who was going nowhere fast and threatening to drag her along. So in the end, she had said nothing. Just disappeared like fog on a sunny day.
Buy Links: http://bambilynn.net/bambis_books/solid_as_a_rock
I have Mary Morgan on my blog today with an excerpt from her book, Dragon Knight's Ring.
Meggie tries a bit of bribery to draw Adam away for a respite. But food isn't what tempts him to accept.
“What do ye mean we can finish in the morn?” Adam eyed her skeptically.
Meggie stepped away from him. “I haven’t been riding in a few days, so I thought with the weather being fine, we could take Fion and Ciar out for a long ride. There’s this beautiful ridge called Drumbuie. Ye can see Loch Ness in all directions.” She nodded to the basket. “I’m tempting ye with some food, too.”
Adam dropped the shovel. Grabbing a cloth, he wiped his forehead. He did not need food to be tempted to go anywhere with Meggie. He knew the place well, since it had been a favorite of theirs. He was curious, though, and asked, “Why?”
She grimaced in good humor. “I’m tired of hiding in the shadows. I want to try and remember.”
Pleased with her answer, Adam reached past her, his arm brushing against hers—the mere contact made his groin tighten. Picking up the basket, he whistled for Ciar. “Then I will do my best to help ye.”
After preparing both animals, they made their way out of Aonach and headed for the hills. Clouds loomed in the distance, but Adam deemed they posed no threat to their outing. He let Meggie set the pace, galloping through heather with naught a care in the world. She came to a light cantor when she spotted a herd of deer.
“See the females.” She pointed to the south. “Those belong to Red Brute the stag.”
Bringing his horse alongside her, Adam shielded his eyes from the early afternoon sun. “’Tis a fine family he has there. Why is he given the name?”
Meggie twisted in the saddle, obvious to Adam that she was looking for something. “Bruce named him after some obnoxious client he had dealt with several years ago. He noticed the stag had the same attitude and so aptly named him Red Brute.” She laughed playfully. “Though, knowing Bruce, he meant it in jest. For ye see, he loves all animals, regardless of their temperament. Oh, there he is! See, up along the rocky edge. He never strays far from the females.”
Fascinated, Adam watched as the stag wandered at a leisurely pace and then lifted its head as if sensing their presence. “Noble animal,” he murmured.
“Aye,” she agreed. “I never tire of watching them or any animals. They roam with freedom I long for some days.”
Adam’s gaze turned back to Meggie. He detected a feeling of melancholy in her voice. “Are ye not already free, Meggie?”
Frowning, she looked away. “Aye, I am, but I sense…more within me. There are days I can hear whispers of someone calling my name along the breezes. As if the two worlds—past and present cross over. I’m bound by this and the other.” She kept her gaze focused on the animals. “And there’s always these burning questions I carry.”
“Which are?” he asked, bringing Ciar closer to her and Fion.
When she turned back toward Adam, her eyes glistened with tears.
Adam’s heart stilled. A strong urge to tell her everything overtook him.
Crusader, Adam MacFhearguis is on one last quest to the standing stones in Scotland where he seeks to bury the past. However, a silent prayer sends him to an unknown future and to his beloved Meggie. When he uncovers a shocking revelation, Adam questions everything about the woman he thought he knew and loved. He may have traveled the veil of ages, but time is now his enemy.
Margaret MacKay lives a life in the future without the memories of her past—her death. When Adam arrives at her door confessing he knows her, she is confused and wary. With each passing day, she yearns to learn more from this stranger. Yet, when a truth is revealed, can she trust the man to unlock the chains from her mind and heart?
Will love free the bonds to unite the two lovers who were doomed centuries ago? Or will evil finally claim victory over the Dragon Knights?
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