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Britannia:'The Druid's Daughter'

Britannia:'The Druid's Daughter'

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Britannia:'The Druid's Daughter'

Longitud:
324 página
4 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
Jun 25, 2015
ISBN:
9781310695162
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

It’s 44 BC and Julius Caesar’s invading legions have just arrived at a wave-tossed island at the end of the world. Beautiful, red headed Britannia watches as Caesar’s legions come splashing ashore. She and her fellow warriors attack the red cloaked ‘metal men’ and she soon comes face to face with Centurion Quintus Vello --- the man she immediately tries to kill and will eventually, against all odds, come to love.

Editorial:
Publicado:
Jun 25, 2015
ISBN:
9781310695162
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Wayne William Mee is a retired English teacher who enjoys hiking, sailing and walking his Beagle hound. He is also a 'living historian' or 'reenactor'. You can see Wayne's historical group on Facebook's 'McCaw's Privateers' 18th Century Naval Camp' page. Building & sailing wooden sailboats also takes up a chunk of Wayne's time, but along with his wife Maggie,son Jason and granddaughter Zoe, writing is his true love, the one he returns to let his imagination soar.Wayne would like you to 'look him up' on FACEBOOK and click the 'Friend' button or even zap him an e-mail.If you enjoyed any of his books, kindly leave a REVIEW here at Smashwords and/or say so on Facebook, Twitter, Tweeter or whatever other 'social network' you use.Thanks for stopping by ---and keep reading!!Drop him a line either there or at waynewmee@videotron.caHe'll be glad to hear from you!'Rest ye gentle --- sleep ye sound'

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Britannia:'The Druid's Daughter' - W.Wm. Mee

BRITANNIA

‘The Druid’s Daughter’

by

W.Wm.Mee

Dedicated to my wife Maggie,

who has put up with my foolishness

from the very beginning.

Cover art by Sharon Aur

Copyright 2015 W.Wm.Mee

Smashwords Edition

INTRODUCTION

Historians tell us that Julius Caesar first attempted to conquer Britain in 55 BC; that he came with ten thousand foot soldiers and no horses and that he was not very successful.

Being, among other things, a persistent man, he tried again a year later in 54 BC with twenty-five thousand men, two thousand horses, siege machines and engineers and, as might be expected, he had much better luck.

However back then, Alba, or ‘Britannia’ as the Roman’s called it, was considered the arse-end of the civilized world and Julius wanted to control the empire’s head, not it’s ass, so he soon returned to Rome and left Britannia to the Britains.

But what if he hadn’t?

What if he had stayed and decided to make himself Emperor not of corrupt, decadent Rome, but of wild, savage Britannia ? What if he hadn’t gone back to eventually be stabbed to death by his friends on the steps of the Roman senate, but had made his home in the place that Shakespeare so often wrote about and that Winston Churchill so often quoted in his speeches?

This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, this happy breed of men, this little world, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm --- this England!

HOW might things have changed THEN?

***

PROLOGUE: 44 B.C.

(10 years after Caesar came to stay)

‘Optio’ Marcus Orella’

His heart pounding, he anxiously peered through the branches for some sign of her --- but she wasn’t there! His frantic gaze moved across the newly made Roman road to the mist shrouded river, hoping against hope to see her waiting for him on the other side --- but the evening mist and the rising steam from the river was too thick, the forest too dense.

She could be anywhere!

As his eyes flicked up and down the near bank and along the cobblestone road, he conjured up a vision of her in his mind. Eyes as blue as the summer sky, hair the colour of ripe corn; a slender waist, soft breasts and even softer lips --- lips that tasted like honey and promised paradise!

Fighting down the urge to panic, he half whispered, half shouted her name, but all he heard was the gurgling of the river, the calling of the night creatures --- and the sudden sound of hoof beats on the road!

‘A Roman patrol!’ his mind screamed. ‘They’ll see me for sure in this bloody moonlight! We should have waited for the thrice-cursed thing to set! Hide, fool! Hide!’

He was panicking now; not just for himself, but for her as well! Run! But where?! Back in the forest? No! The patrols always have dogs with them to sniff out deserters! The trees may slow the horses but not the bloody dogs!’

His hand automatically went to the short sword at his side, but Maxus Orella was tired of all the killing. He’d been at it now for over a dozen, long, bloody years, and each year there seemed to be more of it! He’d followed Caesar through Gaul, Spain and Germany and now, for the last ten years, here in Britannia --- fighting and killing the stiff necked Celts every step of the way --- but he had finally had enough!

His mother had been a Celtic woman from occupied Gaul, his father a Roman soldier. When the soldier had left his pregnant wife and gotten himself killed in some distant war, the wife had gone back to her people in Gaul to have the baby. Maxus had grown up a bastard; fatherless, poor and hungry --- and dreaming about the time when he could follow in his father’s footsteps --- to join the mighty Roman army and see the world!

In the spring of 58 BC, at the tender age of sixteen, Maxus joined Caesar’s infamous 2nd Legion. Driving both his mind and his body, over the next decade he had worked his way up through the ranks from a lowly private or ‘munifex’ to an ‘optio’ or master sergeant, second in command of a Century! However during those bloody years the bodies had piled up, and Maxus began to grow sick of the taste of war, especially here in Britannia where it seemed like he was killing his mother’s people!

It had been different fighting in Spain and Germany. There the enemy hadn’t looked like his uncles or spoken his mother’s tongue, but here on the Isle of Alba --- Britannia to the Romans --- the native people he was fighting were all Celts just like his mother’s tribe back in Gaul!

Also, he’d met a native girl --- Fiona of the Golden Hair.

Maxus told himself that it was all the killing that was making him run, turn deserter and give up the only real life he had ever known --- but in his heart of hearts he knew that it was because of her. Killing the Celts was part of it, but mostly he wasn’t running away from the army as much as he was running towards her.

Fiona of the blue eyes and soft lips.

Come away to my village, Maxus, she had pleaded over and over, her hand moving up beneath his short, red tunic. My father is an elder in our village and will welcome you as a son! The hand went higher --- And I will give you many strong, male children!

He wasn’t overly interested in having children, but the ‘making’ of them had certainly gotten his attention! Also, he was closing in on middle age and sons to follow after him would be a fine thing. ‘At least I’ll be there for them so they won’t have to wonder who their father is --- not like that bastard that sired me!’ A vision of bouncing a baby girl on his knee flitted across his mind, the child’s face and laughter reminding him of Fiona.

Also, these island Celts were far more warlike than his mother’s tribe back in Gaul, and with Fiona’s father being an elder and her brother the tribe’s war leader, he should be able to trade his military skills for a position of some importance!

And so it had been decided. The next night he’d slip over the walls and meet Fiona down by the river, they’d cross over and she’d take him to her village up in the hills. Only she wasn’t waiting by the river as planned and now a bloody Roman patrol was coming!

The sound of the horses was suddenly louder. He glanced at the distant bend in the road and then at the dark river rushing by just beyond it. Voices were shouting and the horses were baring down on him, their iron shod hooves clattering over the dew slick cobblestones. Suddenly he was running towards the fast flowing water, tossing aside his helmet, pack, and swordbelt. Glancing back, he quickly pulled off his breastplate and chainmail shirt. They were fine for turning a blade, but not for swimming in! Near naked he entered the freezing water just as the horses rounded the bend.

Was he quick enough?!

Had they seen him?!

Will he make it across the river, or will an arrow find his back?!

More importantly, will he ever see Fiona again or will he die in the next few minutes?!

The answer came quickly in the form of a shouted call and a blown horn --- and, as several arrows whizzed by him, a great, wolf-like dog ran straight into the water and began swimming directly towards him!

AAARROOOOOO went the horn, followed by shouts and curses from the horsemen, but Maxus was more worried about the bloody dog! It was a better swimmer than he was and a hell of a lot meaner! As the swirling water rolled him along like a stick tossed into a gutter after a heavy rain, he saw the reddish-brown eyes of the wolf-dog getting closer and closer.

Like a hound from hell it came! Straight as an arrow and twice as deadly, for a shaft may be blocked by a shield or even, if the gods are kind, batted aside with a blade --- but a wolf-hound hungry for blood was something else altogether!

He had tossed away his helmet and sword, his armour and all his worldly possessions, but not the old iron dagger still belted around his waist!

It had been given to him long ago by his mother the day he left to follow Caesar. It had been his father’s and the only thing she had left of him.

‘May it protect you in your travels,’ she had said, trying unsuccessfully to hold back the tears. ‘And perhaps even one day lead you to him.’

Right now however Maxus was more interested in using the dagger to kill this fast approaching hell hound than finding his long lost bastard of a father!

Then the river quickened and drew both man and beast down a series of short, steep falls. Battered and bruised, he thought he’d lost the knife, but it was just the frigid water that had numbed his fingers. Surfacing and gulping air, he saw that the pitted blade, kept razor sharp, was still clutched in his blue-fingered hand.

Another swift drop, a banging against an underwater boulder, a gulping of blessed air as he wallowed in the shallows on the far bank --- and then the beast was upon him! Snapping and snarling, it sank its fangs deep into his left wrist. As pain shot up his arm, he managed to drag both himself and the snarling beast further into the shallows. Weak now from the icy water and loss of blood, the much coveted knife know felt like an anvil in his hand. He could hold the dog off but didn’t have the strength to kill it! He felt lightheaded, his limbs heavy, awkward, his vision failing.

And then the hell hound loosened its hold on his wrist and went for his throat! Only half aware, he made a feeble attempt to raise the knife --- and felt the creature’s massive, dripping body stiffen, its jaws stop mere inches from his face, its rank breath wash over him as it suddenly whined in pain.

Unsure of what had happened or why, he looked up into the swirling mist and saw an angel ---- in the form of Fiona of the golden hair. In a painful but jubilant haze, he watched as the love of his life thrust her spear for the second time into the great hound that all but covered her man’s bleeding body.

You came! he gasped.

‘Of course I did, Fiona said, pulling the dead dog off him and using the butt of her spear to shove it back out into the current. I was waiting when the patrol went by. I saw you dive in and followed along the bank. Come now, my love, let’s away before the Romans find a place to ford!"

You came, he repeated, her smile all the response he needed. Together they hobbled off into the distant hills, Maxus Orella leaving his old life behind for a brand new one.

***

Chapter 1: ‘The Metal Men’

40 B.C. Four years

after Marcus deserted.

Britannia, Fiona’s younger sister, watched the ‘metal men’ coming out of the mist; strange, stiff and glistening from the morning dew. She could hear the ‘tramp, tramp tramp’ of their hob-nailed boots as they marched up the ‘Roman Road’ their kind had been making for as far back as she could remember! Britannia’s anger seethed as she thought of what these ‘sassenach’ or foreigners had done to her homeland and her people.

‘The bastards have been building their god cursed roads and forts ever since they first landed by the White Cliffs well over a decade ago! Straight as an arrow they go! Over hill and trough bog and their bloody ‘legions’ march over them like the wind! But we’ll put an end to them one day! One day soon!’

For fourteen years one tribe after another had been forced to either bend the knee to the red cloaked ‘metal men’ or flee northward, fighting as they withdrew into the rougher, wilder lands. But still the ‘metal men’ advanced! Using the spear and sword to kill and enslave and the spade and axe to build their accursed forts and roads, they had criss-crossed the Land of Albion, always pushing further and further northwards; leaving death, destruction --- and their accursed roads behind them!

Then suddenly, after all those years of fighting, killing, burning and enslaving, the Romans finally stopped pushing their god-cursed roads northward and set about building a great stone wall!

It stretched like a giant grey snake from one side of the country to the other, from the rising to the setting sun, with every few miles a stone fort or ‘keep’ attached to the wall itself, complete with watchtowers, great iron bound doors and a garrison of red cloaked ‘metal men’ to guard them! When at last the high, thick, twisting thing was finished, calm, quiet and conquered Albion lay to the south, while stretching away to the cold, stony, mist shrouded north lay wild and still free Caledonia --- the last stronghold of Britannia’s people!

For two days now the fierce eyed young woman, with the rest of her tribe’s ‘fryd’ about her, had watched one of the many stone forts built along the wall. On the morning of the third day she and the others had finally seen what they had all been waiting for --- a large group of metal men, what they called a ‘century’, marched out of the fort’s large doors to patrol the northern countryside, collect slaves and tribute --- and kill anyone or anything that showed them even the slightest opposition.

Britannia smiled as she saw that the overconfident fools were marching directly into the trap that her brother, Vincentrex and Maxus, her sister’s husband, had planned! Vincentrex was the tribe’s war-chief and Maxus was the half-Roman, half Celt soldier that had left the ‘metal men’ four years earlier to come and live with her elder sister, Fiona. In those four years Maxus had taught the tribe much about the ways of the metal men; their strengths and their weaknesses and above all, how they could be defeated!

But not in a head on, all out battle! Maxus had said over and over; For the Roman’s fight like a well oiled machine, with each soldier but one of thousands of cogs in a great wheel that slowly pushes forward, chewing up anyone and anything in its way! But if we hit the bastards as they march down their bloody roads; hit them hard and fast, then vanish back into the hills and forests and bogs where they can’t follow, we will hurt them. Do it enough times in enough places and eventually they will leave us alone.

When Vincentrex and some of the other younger warriors complained that ‘Celts do not strike a quick blow and then run away --- especially not the Orseeni!’, Maxus had just laughed and said that all the southern tribes that the Romans had already defeated had felt the same way. Too proud to strike like the cougar and then melt away like the morning mist, he’d told them. They too would rather charge in like the great forest bear, roaring and showing its fangs --- but in the end they were cut to pieces by the unstoppable Roman machine! No, my brothers, the only way is to strike like a wolf pack and then fade away.

But now Maxus and her brother had come up with a new twist. As the metal men marched down their cobblestone roads, the ‘fryd’ or warriors of Britannia’s tribe waited in the forest on either side. This in itself was nothing new, for often her people had attacked the marching Romans, blooded them where they could, then vanished just as quickly as they came --- but this time Vincentrex and Maxus had come up with something new.

Crews had been preparing the ‘trap’ for days, just waiting till a large enough patrol came along. The idea was both simple and ingenious. At two places, about a fifty yards apart, several large trees would be felled across the road from both sides, dividing the long, strung out line of soldiers into isolated segments, especially those ‘trapped’ in the middle.

Bowmen would then fire from cover into the massed Romans now standing on the open road. What made this attack different from all the others was that it wouldn’t be the brave young men and women of the ‘fryd’ that followed the arrows in with their spears, knives and swords, but yet more trees!

The ‘trunks’ of trees to be more specific; ten to twenty feet long, sharpened limbs left protruding, would then be ‘released’ from their holding places back from the road and on thick vines and stolen ropes, would ‘swing’ like deadly pendulums down, across and into the wide-eyed Romans!

The arrows, spears and sling stones would still rain down on them, and any metal men that attempted to move off the road would be met by the sharp blades of the green, black and brown painted ‘fryd’. Like wolves, the warriors fought in small ‘pacts’ --- three or four against one metal clad Roman, their long, slender blades finding the cracks and gaps in the armour and moulded breastplates!

From her hiding place among the trees Britannia heard the ‘tramp, tramp tramp’ as the hated ‘legion’ as it came steadily on like an approaching thunderstorm. She saw flashes of silver and red through the grey morning mist, the points of their spears catching the slanting rays of the newly risen sun.

Tramp!

Tramp!

TRAMP!

On they came; every unison step bringing them closer to the ambush that her people had set for these ‘metal men’ from the far off place called Rome, a city that they spoke of the way a man speaks of a woman --- with a longing in his heart, a hunger in his voice and a burning in his loins!

ROME!

That far off, mystical place they worshipped and loved, yet hated and despised at the same time --- like some beautiful whore that had stolen both their money and their souls, but one that they could not give up --- no matter what the cost!

Even her brother-in-law, Maxus Orella, born in Gaul to a Celtic mother and a long dead Roman soldier, spoke of Rome as though it was a sacred place ---a ‘golden city shining in the sun’ --- though he had never been there and never would, part of him still longed to see the birthplace of the mighty Roman Empire.

‘Well,’ Britannia thought as she clutched her spear and waited to spring up with the others. ‘Soon we will free their ‘Roman’s souls’ so that their ‘feka’ can flee back to their whore of a city!’

Suddenly a horn blew clear and crisp, someone shrieked out an ancient war cry and two hundred others joined in! Along with the noise there was movement; tall, thick, nearly cut pines were felled across the road in two places, cutting the long line of Romans into three isolated sections. The group trapped in the middle was the main target. At a second horn blast the People rose up all around her, from behind tree and bush, root and hollow, to slay the hated enemy! Half a hundred archers stepped out, drew, and, in a new move that Maxus had taught them, waited for the ‘archer captain’ to give the command to fire.

‘Volley fire is what’s needed,’ Maxus had explained; ‘not scattered, individual shots, but a massed flight of arrows blocking out the sky! One after another, the second flight away before the first has even struck! That will knock the bastards on their Roman asses,’ he had grinned wolfishly; ‘armour or no bloody armour!’

The command to ‘loose’ came and half a hundred short, Celtic bows released a cloud of arrows that flew like a swarm of deadly hornets at the disorganized Romans scrambling about on the road. Half as many slingers, young boys mainly but peppered here and there with old greybeards and young women that wanted to fight the hated ‘metal men’, also rose up and whirled their childlike but lethal little rock casters!

Blood had flowed ever since the ‘metal men’ first came to Albion’s sacred shores over a dozen years ago and blood continued to flow as tribe after tribe had fallen to the ever advancing Roman ‘war-machine’.

‘And blood will flow again this day!’ Britannia thought. ‘A sea of blood to wash away an ocean of sorrow!’ Gripping her long spear and her curved knife, Britannia of the Orseeni joined in the screaming and went forth to help with the killing!

***

Nemed the ‘Hawk-Man’ looked over at Britannia, the girl that he had loved for as far back as he could remember. They had grown up together, moving from rough camp to camp, with the hated ‘metal men’ always close behind, hunting them, driving them always further northward. Fierce and brave she was, like the wild hawks Nemed trained and sold to traders for flour, salt and weapons for the tribe.

And she was beautiful like his hawks as well, with her mane of fiery red hair, proud stance and penetrating gaze. Sadly, however, it was a gaze that saw him only as a childhood friend and brother in arms; a trusted companion to confide in --- when he longed to be so much more.

Bri, wait! Nemed called to her over all the screaming and shouting. Let the archers finish before rushing in!

And miss all the best booty?! Britannia grinned back, her fierce, green eyes already searching for an officer, as their swords and armour always brought the most coin from the miserly traders. "Come, Nemed, we

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