SPOILERIFIC SNEAK PEAK from Beat the Drums of War

Ok so the immediate precursor to this scene has been swimming around in my head since this character’s arrival in Chains of Blood and Steel (Book 2) I have been itching to get to this part in this book since that day and I am still about 3 chapters off it at present. I have tried to curb the craving to drop all and write it by writing an excerpt of a later stage in the scene and I would like to share it with you. If you haven’t read my books then enjoy the scene, however, if you have read Battle of the Bannockburn (Book 3) SPOILERS AHOY. If you have also read The Highland Queen (Book 4) Then this little gem is TRULY SPOILERIFIC, so proceed at your own risk 😉

As always, I invite comments and questions 😁

Enjoy!

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Even before the initial stages of the ritual were complete, Rhona felt the euphoria beginning to sweep through her veins with every beat of her own heart. [SPOILER]’s heart she still held in her hands, though it no longer pulsed with life. The essence over the body had begun to glow, and soon the soul would rise with Rhona’s will for her to do with as she pleased. Only the soul that rose from the body was not the soul she had expected. It’s essence pulsed with unfathomable power and when her image formed from the ether Rhona dropped to the ground, losing her grip on the heart which fell from her grasp with a wet but dull thud.

Silence stretched with Rhona on her knees, her head bowed, [SPOILER]’s blood still dripping from her chin. When she risked a glance upward, the goddess before her was studying [SPOILER]’s face. Rhona closed her eyes as a wave of bliss engulfed her, causing her to pant a few breaths as she fought to collect herself.

You wish to trap me within another’s body again.’ Her gentle cast held a melodic quality, ‘Am I to remain chained for eternity?’

Rhona met Mana’s sharp gaze. ‘Nay, mistress. Even if I could control ye, I wouldna.’

‘I don’t believe that for a second. Your kind are all the same. A sip of power and you are compelled to saturate yourselves. I don’t know what I did wrong to have you all become so… so… greedy.’ Her cast held a bitter tone and the aura of her distrust was palpable.

‘The vessel is empty, mistress.’

Mana glanced to her left where the twins lay together. The little boy clung to his sister’s empty body. His body was failing, he would last hours at most before passing on.

Mana’s brow pinched in a moment of what Rhona could only describe as maternal concern. She crossed the space and laid her semi-transparent hands on both children.

‘If ye wish tae return tae the heavens then I’ll no stop ye. But if ye wish tae live among us… as ye once did… then I bid ye fill this child and bless her brother. Far without at least yer touch, he too will soon pass.’

I was so sure you intended to fuse me with this ailing boy, or within your own body. I did not feel a third presence. Strange. Usually when souls pass, they leave behind a residue.’

‘The vessel was born empty, mistress. I believe that the father’s soul was no strong enough tae give of himself tae the children, just enough tae compel them tae grow. One is empty, and the other is half-filled with his mother’s soul and lacks anything mair than a sliver of his father’s essence. No enough far him tae remain living.’

Surprise touched the goddess’s features.

Rhona rose and moved to Mana’s side. Waves of bliss hit her at odd moments, and she shuddered, suddenly worried over how she would cope when she completed this ritual and the floodgates were flung open.

Then, the part of me that has been lost, the part I called Memos… it… it exists on its own?’

‘Aye, mistress. Artemis’s granddaughter commanded it remain within the vessel it inhabited.’

‘If I agree to this, I will be hunted. He will discover I am no longer caged and track me down.’

‘Him, mistress?’

Bucephalus. I will be defenceless against him. There will be an overflow when you channel my essence. The child — I will be smothered by my own power until the body can mature enough to learn to handle it. I may lose myself completely.’

‘Then I swear to you, I will make it my duty tae find ye again, mistress. And do my best tae hide and protect ye until that day. Ye have my word.’

Yes… I believe you will try… Thank you,’ Mana cast, placing her hands on Rhona’s shoulders, ‘For giving me your honesty.’ The depth of the power within Mana’s touch buzzed against Rhona’s own soul, it was so intense it almost burned. And she wondered how she would be able to keep her promise when even the goddess before her, with her unfathomable strength and power considered herself no match for her hunter. Mana withdrew her hands. ‘You may place me within this vessel. Take part of me and give the boy a blessing in my name, make him strong. And as for Memos… you may bless him too. Perhaps that will prevent this from happening again,’ she gestured to the twins, ‘I would wish this on no mother.’

‘As ye wish it, mistress, all shall be done.’

Mana nodded. ‘And you.’

‘Me, Mistress?’ Unease swirled within Rhona’s belly.

I bid you accept my gift to you once all other tasks are completed. I did not believe you at first, but I failed to seek out your heart to determine your intentions. You are a good soul — one of my gentlest children. I feel it deep within my being. You deserve to be free of the corruption that this ritual will draw from you. The addiction would be all consuming, but I will prevent that. I gift you my remaining power, to fill you where this ritual would have convinced you you had an empty void, to steady you when you need it most, and to strengthen you, so that you may stand a chance of fulfilling your sworn word.’

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