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About the author:
Chantel Seabrook currently resides in London, Ontario, with her husband and two daughters. She is passionate about writing and enjoys reading fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction. Chantel has a four-year Anthropology degree from Western University
What inspired you to write your book?
I write what I enjoy reading.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Cara couldn’t breathe as she waited in the shadows for the High Priestess to call her forward. The ceremony had commenced some time before, and yet there was no sign of Maeve. She couldn’t imagine what kept her, but she had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. Maeve wouldn’t have abandoned her without reason.
Cara’s blood pounded in her ears, and she could barely make out the High Priestess’ words.
Damn it, Maeve, where are you?
Two young girls, both dressed in the white cloak of a novice, stood on opposite sides of Cara. Like the older priestess, their hair had been shaved, and thick black coal outlined their eyes. Both girls held an object tented in a white shroud, and waited patiently for their cue.
The older priestess in red stood in front of her and placed her hands on either side of Cara’s shoulders. She spoke in hushed tones, “May your path honor Annul, and your life magnify her grace. Be filled this day, as the spirit of the holy mother claims your kinship.”
Cara nodded solemnly. Annul was so much more than myth and legend to these people. Maeve had shown her that for those who followed her doctrines, she was the very breath of life. Still, Cara couldn’t allow herself to believe, but she also wouldn’t deny them their faith, and that meant participating fully in the ceremony without the appearance of skepticism.
The woman handed her a small cup filled with an amber liquid. Cara drank it quickly and cringed at the bitter aftertaste.
Cara heard the dreaded words of the High Priestess that summoned her to the marble dais, the raised platform where the statue of Annul stood and the sacrificial flames burned. Taking a deep breath, she straightened her spine, and followed the two novices. As she turned the corner, she heard the audible gasps and murmurs that filled the room. The entire temple was dark, except for the hundreds of candles that lit the altar and the sanctifying fire in the brass podium in the center of the platform.
The High Priestess waited for her at the foot of the juncture. Cara glanced quickly at the bowed heads of the men who formed a semicircle around the raised platform of the altar. From Maeve’s accounts, Cara recognized Helfrich of Drumlish with his shaggy orange fringe, and Hauk of Northlew whose dark shoulder-length hair was braided with brightly colored beads and feathers. She suppressed a smile as her gaze found Reyn, who like the others, knelt with his head bent in reverence.
The High Priestess was dressed in ceremonial black robes, her face hidden behind a veil. She was the shadow of Annul, cloaked in her mysteries, and hidden from mortal eyes.
Cara shuddered inwardly.
“Caralynne of Elbia, daughter of Annul, the great goddess has found favor with you,” came the voice of the High Priestess.
“Praise to the goddess,” Cara replied, as Maeve had instructed her. “May Annul consecrate my union with her chosen Twelve, and unify Elbia under her righteous hand.”
The two novices came forward and Cara saw the now unconcealed objects they carried. One held a bright red pomegranate, the symbol of life and fertility. The second held a bronze dagger, the symbol of power and death.
The High Priestess began to chant, her voice echoing unnaturally throughout the temple. Taking the dagger, she sliced through the fruit’s flesh and handed a half to Cara. “In the name of blessed Annul, may your womb be opened, and the bloodlines of the goddess endure.”
Cara bit into the fruit as was expected, and handed it back to the novice. Both halves were placed on the sacrificial fire, which hissed and smoked as the wet fruit was quickly charred.
The priestess took Cara’s left hand and placed it palm up in her own. “She who sees and knows all has called your name Caralynne of Elbia. How do you respond?”
“I am the goddess’ daughter. I hear my mother’s voice,” Cara affirmed.
The priestess took the bronze dagger and sliced horizontally across Cara’s palm. Her breath hitched in her throat at the pain, but she didn’t cry out. A crimson pool formed quickly in the center. She walked towards the sacrificial fires and placed her wounded hand above the flames.
Cara hesitated briefly as she remembered the words Maeve had taught her. “By the blood of Annul that runs through my veins, I consecrate my life and the lives of my unborn daughters to the goddess, so her bloodlines will never perish. Where I walk, she walks, what I speak, she speaks. By the goddess’ desire let it be so.”
Fisting her hand, she watched as her blood dripped slowly into the flames.
The high priestess continued to chant, while one of the novices wrapped Cara’s hand in a thin gauze.
Cara turned from the fire. All twelve men were now standing and watching her with mixed expressions. The priestess handed Cara the bronze blade, which was still stained with her blood. Her stomach churned at the thought of what she had to do next.
They would be presented in the order in which she would visit each province.
“Cuch of Lydd,” the priestess acknowledged as the youngest of the Twelve stepped forward.
From the second wealthiest province, Cuch was the oldest son of the Viceroy of Lydd, but he had just barely reached the age of majority. Maeve had described him as an over-energetic puppy. It was an accurate description and Cara laughed inwardly as the boy kneeled before her, his disheveled brown curls falling clumsily into large turquoise eyes.
Cara found him charming in his youthful awkwardness.
She smiled at his eagerness, and in return he gave her a lopsided grin that showed deep dimples on both cheeks.
Placing his right hand over his heart, and his left palm outreached towards her, he recited the ceremonial vows that would bind him to her, “Upon the altar of Annul I pledge my loyalty to you, Caralynne of Elbia, daughter of the great goddess. My life is sealed to yours. Where you go, I will follow, and my sword will slay your enemies. By the shedding of my blood upon the sacrificial flames, I swear in her holy name that I will be loyal to you above all others. May the goddess in her wisdom strike me down, and the province of Lydd, if I should ever be proven unfaithful.”
Cara’s breath hitched in her throat at the enormity of his words. “In the name of Annul, I acknowledge you, Cuch of Lydd, and find you acceptable in my sight.” They were such simple words in comparison, and Cara scoffed at the coldness of the statement.
With a deep breath, Cara brought the blade across his palm. He winced slightly, but his eyes never faltered from hers, and his smile never left his face.
He stood and bowed his head in acknowledgment, and then walked to the sacrificial fire. He fisted his hand above the flames and sealed his life to hers. As his blood dripped slowly into the fire, he spoke, “I consecrate my life to Caralynne of Elbia, the daughter of Annul.”
Reyn was the next to step forward. His brown eyes appeared amber as they reflected the firelight, and when he knelt before her, his expression was one of brotherly pride and love. Cara wanted to throw her arms around him. Instead, she smiled and mouthed the words, “I’ve missed you.”
He gave her a half-hearted smile, and recited the vows.
One by one, the men knelt before her and dedicated their lives to her.
The slightly built and awkward Batch of Loewik. The winsome and mischievous Efnisien of Meall. The suave and well-dressed Wesley of Colechester. They were everything Maeve had described, and Cara couldn’t help but feel as if she already knew them. She was at an unfair advantage, since they knew very little, if anything about her.
“Finn of Crantock,” the High Priestess announced, as a towering form emerged from the shadows.
Cara’s breath caught in her throat, as the warrior approached and stopped a few feet away, gazing down at her with hard blue eyes.
Cara felt dwarfed as she stared up at him.
His dark blond hair was pulled back in a leather tie. One piece had fallen loose and framed his perfectly sculpted jaw.
He knelt before her in the ceremonial pose, and even kneeling, his eyes were almost level with hers.
As he spoke his vows, his voice was dark and heavy with the weight of each word.
His presence was disconcerting.
Her knees weakened, and she cursed herself for allowing him to affect her in such a way. She tried to calm her nerves, but her heart was racing in her chest as she placed one hand under his large hardened palm, and quickly dragged the blade across.
She felt a mixture of relief and disappointment as he made his way back to his place in the shadows.
Arwel of Bere Alstern and Theo of Ashwater came next. Both were similar in height and build, with matching dark eyes and plain features. Their mannerisms were arrogant and Cara immediately took a dislike to both of them.
Cara smiled as Helfrich of Drumlish, with his unruly orange hair and intelligent green eyes, came forward. Maeve had told her that he was a scholar and prided himself in his studies of philosophy and physics.
The entire experience was exhausting, but there were still three men left.
Hauk of Northlew was the oldest of the twelve men, and as he kneeled before her, Cara could see strands of silver that ran through his dark braided hair. Maeve had heard rumors that he had once been the Viceroy of his province, but he had resigned position when his wife and children had been brutally murdered by raiders.
There was despondency in his demeanor that made Cara wonder if the rumors weren’t true.
“Tahdaon of Dalgliesh,” the High Priestess repeated for the third time.
The man didn’t move. Perhaps he’s asleep. Cara smiled at the thought. She wouldn’t blame him; the entire ceremony was tedious and she could doze off herself.
People began to murmur, and Cara could feel the tension rising within the room.
“The Dog’s either deaf or dumb,” someone jeered.
Cara cringed at the vulgar nickname given to the Dalglieshans. Her own people had been bestowed with a similar label, and she detested it.
“Tahdaon of Dalgliesh,” the High Priestess repeated. “Take your place now, or your actions will be seen as a declaration of war!”
Cara drew her breath in sharply and the room erupted in outrage. She had heard talk that the Northern Province sought independence, but to do so would be mutiny. To declare war in the temple of Annul would be his death.
Tahdaon stood slowly, raked a hand through his short black hair and walked defiantly up the marble steps, to the front of the platform. Cara tried not to react in fear as he approached. He rivaled Finn of Crantock in height and brawn
Tahdaon’s grey eyes were murderous as he stood before her, and he gave her a look that Cara could only interpret as disgust. He scowled as he assumed the submissive posture, and placed his right hand over his heart.
She wanted to shrink into herself as he spat the words that had sounded noble on the lips of the others, but now sounded more like a curse. “Upon the altar of Annul I pledge my loyalty to you, Caralynne of Elbia, daughter of the great goddess. My life is sealed to yours. Where you go, I will follow, and my sword will slay your enemies. By the shedding of my blood upon the sacrificial flames, I swear in her holy name that I will be loyal to you above all others. May the goddess in her wisdom strike me down if I should ever be proven unfaithful.”
He breathed out sharply as he finished, and closed his eyes as if the words had caused him physical pain.
He had left out the last part of the vow, which cursed his province if he should ever betray her.
An aura of grief surrounded him and made her at once both anxious and protective. It was evident from his pained expression that he had not come here willingly. She knew the feeling all too well, and her heart broke for him despite the hatred he directed at her.
She remembered the words Callion had said to her the last day on the cliff. It would do no good to hate. She wouldn’t let cynicism be her measuring rod, or let fear turn her heart cold. She would not repay his hostility with animosity of her own.
Cara smiled and touched his rough, unshaven cheek. She heard the murmurs throughout the room, but she ignored them. He was obviously wounded, and it was kindness that he needed.
Cara looked past his unkempt appearance. His eyes were rimmed with thick dark lashes. They weren’t grey as she had originally thought, but the palest blue with a single brown spot on the far corner of his left iris. There was something about him that reminded her of Callion when he was in one of his moods.
“In the name of Annul I acknowledge you, Tahdaon of Dalgliesh, and find you acceptable in my sight.”
She saw the apprehension and vulnerability cross his eyes before he closed and carefully composed his face.
Cara sighed in relief as she watched him take the final steps to the sacrificial fire and seal his vow with blood.
The tension in the temple was still high, and Cara was sure Tahdaon would face repercussions for his actions through taunts and verbal accusations, but the crisis had been avoided. His life was now sealed to hers, and no one could take any rightful action against him without Cara’s permission.
Edmund of Hellstrom was the last of the twelve men to approach the altar. He was Maeve’s cousin, but Cara didn’t see any family resemblance. If anything, he looked more like Tahdaon than Maeve, with his dark hair, pale skin, and light blue eyes. He was slighter in build and not nearly as tall, but there was a similarity in the cut of his jaw and straight-edged nose.
Maeve had warned her of Edmund’s lecherous pursuits, and looking at him, she wasn’t surprised. He had a dark charm that Cara found both hypnotizing and disturbing. She drew the blade across his palm and he gave her a crooked grin that was more lascivious than boyish.