EXCERPT: THE KING'S DAUGHTER, medieval fantasy/ Samhain

Title: The King's Daughter
Author: MC Halliday
ISBN: 1-59998-673-6
Length: Novel
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Samhain Publishing
Price: 5.50
Publication Date: February 05, 2008
Warning: Contains some explict sex.

997 AD

Magaith is resigned to fulfilling her father's command that she marry the King of Connacht. It is her duty as daughter of the King of Munster, even though she harbors a secret love for her knight protector, Sygtryg.

Sygtryg's honor will not allow him to betray his king, not even for the love of Magaith. His painful duty is to see her safely to the kingdom of Connacht, then neither see nor speak any more of her,
forever. But as a web of black spells closes in around Magaith, she and Sygtryg join together to thwart the dark forces that would claim her life and gain dominion over all of Eire.

Ahead of her lies a destiny she could never have imagined, a journey in which she must follow ancient Druid pathways, encounter a sleeping dragon, and learn the ritual spells and potions that are hers by right of blood.

As the journey grows ever more fraught with mortal pride, desire, jealousy, revenge and even her own terrible blunders, Magaith must risk everything, even Sygtryg's love, to fulfill her destiny and save Eire.

For if the evil wizard who covets her cannot have her, he will see her dead.

Excerpt from The King's Daughter...

The tent flap tossed to one side and Sygtryg entered, sword drawn. "My lady!"

"Forgive me." She shook her head to feign waking further. "I am yet in sleep."

"There is much danger on this journey." His voice was harsh. "Do not fail to speak when I call you."

"You be fearful for me, I ask for pardon."

The sword dropped to his side. "I over guessed your condition." He ran a broad hand through his thick hair. "And be wrought with worry."

"My knight, I shall be safe with you as my protector."

His hand fell slowly to his side. "I ask it be so."

"I had a vision dream." A need to speak her truth before it be too late, made the words pour forth. "And in that dream, you changed the stars to have me for your own."

The knight stared at her, stock-still with sword in hand and hair tousled in dark richness around his head.

She clasped her hands over her heart.

With all her being, she sought he would speak of his affection for her.

That he choose her over his king and clan. Take her away and keep her forever with him. That he offer his life to her. And seek to hold her above all else.

When he spoke, his voice was rough. "Speak no more of this."

She gave a single nod to him as he stepped from the tent.

The knight protector would not choose her over his king. She would betray her king, her own father, to have Sygtryg as her beloved. But he would not do it. Even for her, he could not betray his king. He did not return the great affection she possessed for him. Her heart closed into a small tight lump.

She completed her dressing, fingers fumbling at her veil clasp as she vowed, "I shall be wife to a king and content with it." Then she lifted her chin and made her way from the tent, resolving to keep her vow.

For the remainder of the day, the procession went slowly and it was twilight before they stopped to set up a camp. A hilltop was selected, that knights could watch the countryside as the royal party slept. Once the order was made, servants hurried about the set up of tents while others lifted heavy tables and benches from the caravan to forge a supping place. Kitchen serfs made fires to roast meats and carried barrels of mead and beer from the caravan to make ready for
the evening meal. Magaith retired to her tent and called for mead to be brought to her; she would not sup at a table near Sygtryg.

The darkening of night did not bring sleep, her knight protector stood outside her tent and the tight lump in her chest grew into simmering bitterness. She would do what was asked of her and marry the warrior king. But she would not open her heart to him. And she could not forgive Sygtryg for turning away from her.

When she was called to wake at dawn, Magaith had slept without dreams and she was glad of it, no more visions to have her touch the tether of hope and then lose the hold. No longer would she cling to faith in those she loved and trusted.

She washed and dressed, mounted her horse without aid of Sygtryg and took a place in the procession near her father. The king offered her a smile with lips pressed flat. Lifting her head to him in response, the king signaled the party to ride.

It was not long before they reached the clan border, where they were greeted by a band of knights bearing the Connacht crest on their shields. Magaith eyed them carefully. They were much like her Munster clan: tall, dark-haired men wearing cloaks with brooches pinned at
the shoulder, helmets of leather and bearing shields made of stretched skins. Connacht knights took lead of the procession and as they moved once again, the King of Munster turned to his daughter and smiled.

There be an ease about him now they be on Connacht land but also a brightness she had not seen in a long while. The betrothal was valuable to her father, it made peace with Borda and united the clans of Munster and Connacht against King Olaf of Dublin.

She lowered her head to her father, bowing to their twofold royal destinies.

For the remainder of the journey to Castlestrange, she still could not bear to look at Sygtryg, keeping her interest on the bogs they circled and the forested commons land through which they rode. This was land not fit for tenants and she was pleased when the trees opened into the rolling hills of tribe land with cattle grazing and men working in fields of tall grasses. These men of the Connacht clan stood tall and quiet, watching as the royal procession filed along the seldom-used road. These were solemn workers, non-freemen standing alongside the tenants of this land. Coarse people of hard labor and long hours, scratching their means from plots given and taken at the will of clan noblemen. Shrewd eyes narrowed in their swarthy brown faces, their dusty, tattered tunics hitched up with rope, exposing brown sturdy legs. All with spears at their side.

Word would soon spread of their king's betrothed making way this day to Castlestrange, accompanied by her father, the King of Munster.

"My lady." It was Sygtryg, come alongside her.

Keeping her gaze ahead, Magaith answered, "Speak."

"We are soon to reach Castlestrange. It is the king's wish we not be parted. No matter the arrangements, I am to be camped at your door."

"As the king wishes."

The knight dropped back. She felt him stay behind her but did not look to see his position. It did not matter, for soon Sygtryg would return to Cashel fortress with her father and she would be alone. She would be wife to Borda, the warrior king and have his knights at her
side. Forever more, her days would be spent in sacrifice for her clan. Simmering anger rose up again and she struggled against it, lest it show itself in harsh words and looks. She would present
herself always as the daughter to a king.

In the distance, smoke rose in thin drifts toward the heavens and Magaith knew they were close to arrival at Castlestrange. Her new home. Her new clan.

Her new husband.

It was then she gave thought to his appearance and manner. What if he was ugly and ill-mannered? Or worse, cruel and taken to beatings. Another swell of fear rose up and Magaith allowed a brief spark of anger to quell it. She would make her way in the clan of Connacht, bear sons for the king and be a worthy wife to him.

The procession continued on through the village, an assemblage of wooden shelters with thatched roofs. Women attended their looms and beside them, swaddled babes lay in baskets. As Magaith looked upon these people of another clan, they stared in return with empty faces. No songs to greet her, no joy at her arrival. Barren lives of a clan she was chosen to dwell among, to the end of her days.

They came to a knoll, atop was a stone fortress. The Connacht knights circled back and spoke in low voices to the King of Munster. He then signaled his lead knight to take the main party to the fortress. The servants and lower rank knights would take shelter in the village.

The royal group was led up the hillside by the Connacht knights, through the courtyard to a transept door. They dismounted their horses and servants led the beasts to nearby stables as the royal party was shown into the transept. The knights escorted them further to the great hall, adorned by many gold-threaded tapestries and shields, trophies won in battle. Much like Cashel fortress, a stone fireplace was centre of the room with large tables set around it and long benches lining the walls. At one end of the great room were plush draperies and behind them, likely the king's sleeping chamber.

A shudder took the length of her body.

"Are you in need of a cloak?" Her father stood next to her.

"It is not cold I feel." She looked at him and whispered, "I be fearful, Father."

"I will be with you, yet. And Sygtryg be at your door."

She opened her mouth to speak further, when deafening trumpet instruments heralded the great hall with the King of Connacht's entrance.

Magaith held her breath, she was to see her husband and know his nature.

(end Chapter One)

http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/the-kings-daughter

MC Halliday
Deep, sometimes dark, always delicious tales of women through the ages
http://members.shaw.ca/mchalliday/

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