Skull’s Vengeance: The Coffee Pot Book Blog Tour

Today on the blog, I am delighted to share an excerpt from Linnea Tanner’s Skull’s Vengeance, book four in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings Series.

You can find out more about the blog tour here:

Skull’s Vengeance By Linnea Tanner

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?

[Trigger warnings: Sex, Slave trafficking and abuse, Violence, Childbirth]

Buy Links Skull’s Vengeance:

Chapter 24 Escape

Brutius’s Villa, Rome, 22 March, 28 AD

The plan was set into motion. Falco was at the entrance of Brutius’s villa, waiting to deliver the false message to Brutius. Marcellus had ridden off to his father’s home with the hope that Brutius would take the bait and ride there with Adonis. Cynwrig and Falco were next to Catrin, on the hilltop overlooking the villa, as she scanned the area for a small animal that could easily enter undetected as soon as Brutius opened the door to take the summons.

Since Catrin’s last gladiatorial contest in Lugdunum, at which time she had summoned lightning from the sky to destroy Decimus in the stands, she had hesitated to use her druidic powers. The ramifications of using these forces were unpredictable. She had decided it was too risky to shape-shift into an animal’s form. Previously, she had lost consciousness during the transition from one form to another and often felt drained afterward, both physically and mentally. Seeing through the eyes of a small animal might be easier, though she had only previously done so with a raven.

She had difficulty concentrating, a sudden sadness weighing her heart down as she worried that Marcellus’s farewell kiss could be their last. Struggling to rein in the shroud of gloom, she spotted a yellow-necked mouse scampering nearby. She focused her eyes on the rodent. Her thoughts floated in and out of the creature’s mind until, finally, a flash of light blinded her—a signal she had entered its mind. Seeing through the mouse’s eyes disoriented her at first. She had anticipated that a mouse would have sharp visual acuity, but everything was a blur around her. The wooded landscape appeared as black shadows with hues of blue and purple. Even so, her other senses were heightened. Various odors of moss, pine needles, and urine assaulted her nostrils. Any light touch on her whiskers and fur, she discovered, helped orient her to her immediate surroundings. She directed the mouse to jump on its hind legs and squeak to alert Falco and Cynwrig that she had successfully entered the rodent’s mind. She saw her human form leaning against a tree, motionless as a corpse. As long as she was in the mouse’s mind, she knew her human form would be vulnerable. There was no time to practice the mouse’s movements. She had to scurry now!

Catrin leapt from rock to rock until she felt the cobblestone beneath her paws. Seeing only the shadow of the villa straight ahead, she scurried on the open road, despite her instincts to hide. Finally, she saw a bleary human figure and surmised it was Falco. Her heart jumped into her throat when she saw the door closing. With a burst of speed, she slid through the narrow opening before the door slammed.

She heard a man shout, “What just came in?” Then, she ran close to the vestibule’s wall, the touch on her whiskers helping her to maneuver down the hallway to the main quarters. Though her vision was blurry, she could look in different directions for a housecat that might pounce on her.

Scrambling from chamber to chamber on the side of the atrium, she searched for Selena. Most of the rooms were empty except for a handful of slaves scrubbing the floors. Near the back of the atrium, she heard footsteps and a man yelling, “Get my horse ready.”

Catrin’s heart raced with anticipation that Brutius had taken the bait. Staying in the shadows along the wall, she sniffed at the man’s slight urine odor and followed him outside into the colonnaded peristyle. Gut-wrenching screams from the far end of the central garden blasted into her ears. She felt the mouse’s rapid heartbeats roll like a drum as she scurried behind the man’s sandaled feet through the garden. Her paws hurt from pounding on the sharp, pebbled pathway as she tried to keep up. The man halted in front of what looked like an enclosed stall. In the adjacent corral were two skittish horses prancing back and forth, snorting. To her right, she glimpsed a shadowy man’s figure coming out of a back room onto the portico. A blurry stableman pulling the reins of a horse came into her right eye’s view.

“Is Adonis going with you?” the man standing under the peristyle’s roof called out.

“No. You can be my escort,” the sandaled man, whom Catrin surmised to be Brutius, replied. “Adonis is busy punishing a slave.”

“Who will transport the slaves tomorrow?”

“Gaius will transport them by wagon to Capri. I may need to stay the night at my father’s house.”

The sound of the stall unlatching drew Catrin’s attention. She turned and saw the shadowy figure of a woman against the wall through a door-way. Liquid was flowing down her legs. Unable to discern the red color, she nonetheless smelled the metallic odor of blood. The pit of her stomach dropped like an executioner’s axe. She closely watched the two fuzzy men, astride their horses, riding through an open gateway. After they left, the stableman latched it shut.

With the urgency to save Selena, Catrin forced herself out of the mouse’s mind. A flash later, she found herself in her human body, but she felt woozy from the quick transition.

Trying to clear her head, Catrin said, “Selena is in there.”

“Where, exactly?” Falco asked in Celtic.

“At the back of the villa. In an enclosed stall,” Catrin answered.

“Is there a way we can get in?” Cynwrig asked.

“A gate at the back. But it’s latched,” Catrin said, picturing what she had seen through the mouse’s eye.

“Any guards?” Falco asked.

“One guard, for sure. A handful of house slaves.” Catrin closed her eyes, trying to recall what the guard had said about other slaves. “There may be others I didn’t see that are to be transported tomorrow.”

“I’ll boost you over the wall,” Cynwrig told Catrin, “so you can let Falco and me in. Everyone ready?”

A Little Bit About Linnea…

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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