Noble and Blessed by Laura Strickland

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  • Hearts of Caledonia 3

    Captured by Gaels in a vicious raid, Caledonian shaman Tally is taken by force to the western kingdom of Dal Riada, where he falls into the hands of the Celtic chief's daughter, Alanna. Having lost every freedom, and fearing he may also lose his faith, he makes the goddess a sacred promise. If she sustains him, he will live for her and one day make it back home.

    Alanna, daughter of one of the three most powerful men in the area, has refused every influential match her father has proposed. She lives an independent life training ponies for war chariots and makes her own choices. But when she sees the young Caledonian slave with magic in his eyes, she knows herself lost.

    Alanna will do anything to keep Tally with her, but Tally is willing to die rather than remain a slave. Can the love growing between them survive?

    Rating: Spicy
    Page Count: 294
    Word Count: 71579
    978-1-5092-2478-4 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2479-1 Digital


    The region west of Pitlochry, Scotland

    Summer 765 AD


    A bird flew up from the sodden grass at Taloc map Radoc’s feet, dragging his attention from the deep well of his own misery. A hawk it was, brown and richly speckled, with broad, graceful wings. Startled, he stumbled and lifted his head to follow its flight. Spreading its pinions, it beat up and over the green land, light riding on its feathers, and for the first time in days hope touched Tally’s heart. If that bird could fly up, strong and free, then perhaps somehow his spirit might escape its bonds.

    “Move,” one of the Gaels ordered from behind, and pushed his shoulder so hard he nearly fell. He tried to remember how many days they had been walking. Five? Eight, ten? His mind, usually so sharp and agile, seemed to have shut down on him. His existence, once one of joy, had narrowed to the hard, cold path of sheer endurance, to putting one foot in front of the other and answering the demands of those who so constantly rode him and his companions. He, son of one Caledonian chief and brother to another, had become a slave. For the life of him, he could not quite understand how his world could change so swiftly, and so completely.

    He did know he numbered but one in a group of ten Epidii captives, because he had counted them again and again. Four men besides himself, and five women, all known, all dear to him, and all being herded steadily westward by the murderous band of Gaels that had attacked their settlement.

    Away from all he knew. Away from all he loved.

    Ah, but he could not allow himself to think on that; as he had swiftly learned, endurance permitted no room for the grief that threatened to overwhelm him. The smallest crack in his armor might admit despair so terrible he would not survive it.

    And survival, it seemed, had become all.

    Better, far better, to worry for his companions, whose welfare mattered more than his own. All frightened, most injured in the fierce battle that had preceded their capture, they wept and prayed and called out to one another, and endured.

    Tally could feel them like points of light in his darkness. Since being dragged away in the midst of death and fire, he’d felt each of those bright lights begin to fade. The worst of it was, he could also feel himself fading.

    But the bird—the bird flew free.

    He could only guess where they might be bound—west, and probably to the realm of Dal Riada, which sprawled like a dark wound on Caledonia’s western coast. He feared they might not all make it, driven as they were, like animals. And he could only wonder if they would ever see home again.

    Would he be one of those to die? He bore three wounds, all taken in that last battle—one to his left shoulder that had bled steadily for the first day or two of their trek, one to his head that caused bright pain, and one to his side—far less serious—from a sword thrust. The five women captured, all youthful, bore only scrapes and bruises received during their capture. All had been caught while trying to flee the fire when the settlement burned.

    The settlement burned.


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Noble and Blessed

Noble and Blessed

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