“The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters. [The] plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.” —Historical Novel Review
When the last of members of a secretive Druid cult are forced to abandon their hidden sanc-tuary, they send the youngest of their remaining priests in search of Annwr, their chief priest-ess’s sister, who was abducted by a Saxon war band fifteen years ago. With only a rudimen-tary grasp of English and the ambiguous guidance of an oracle’s prophecy, Caelym manages to find Annwr living in a hut on the grounds of a Christian convent.
Annwr has spent her years of captivity caring for the timid Aleswina, an orphaned Saxon princess who was consigned to the cloistered convent by her cousin, King Gilberth, after he assumed her father’s throne. Just as Caelym and Annwr are about leave together, Aleswina learns that Gilberth, a tyrant known for his cruelty and vicious temper, means to take her out of the convent and marry her. Terrified, she flees with the two Druids—beginning a heart-pounding adventure that unfolds in ways none of them could have anticipated.
Enjoy an Excerpt from
From Chapter 2: The Message
Going into the cottage was like entering another garden, only one that was upside down and dead. Bundles of dried flowers and herbs hung from the ceiling, well above the woman’s head but low enough to hit Caelym full in the face. He ducked down, made his way past shelves lined with neat rows of jugs and pots and wooden boxes, and passed through a second door that opened into the main room of the cottage.
It was a square room with a cupboard and counter against one wall, a bed and small square table against another. The bed was covered by a plaid blanket that was laid out so that its lines were perfectly straight, both up and down and side to side. The only other furniture was another, slightly larger, square table with two matching chairs. The chairs were exactly opposite each other and exactly aligned. There was a round stone hearth in the center of the room. A polished black kettle hung over the center of the hearth, and Caelym did not need to look inside it to know that the simmering water would be bubbling with well-disciplined bubbles, each one waiting its turn and rising to the surface in orderly succession—not in the confused, churning disarray with which most kettles boil.
The woman, who had gone to the counter and started unpacking her basket, looked over her shoulder and nodded at the table.
Caelym took this as an invitation to sit down, so he did—carefully, and at an angle, to keep the arrow from hitting the back of the chair. Resting his arms on the table to steady himself, he did his best to convey no more than polite attentiveness while the woman cleaned the last specks of dust off the food, took a knife out of the cupboard, checked its edge for sharpness, and cut meticulously measured slices of the bread, cheese, and sausage, grumbling all the while about uninvited guests who expected to be waited on hand and foot. She spread butter on the bread and put the bread in the center of a round wooden platter, arranged alternating slices of cheese and sausage around the bread, and added a sprig of parsley for garnish. With the plate prepared, she took a jug out of the cupboard and poured what he guessed from the color was elderberry wine into a cup. Then, finally, she brought the plate and cup to the table and put them down directly in front of him.
Exercising a restraint acquired through years of intense training, Caelym waited for her to take her hand away before he started to eat. Even so, it took him less time to clean the plate and drain the cup than it had taken her to fill them. Sincerely grateful for the first substantial meal he’d had in weeks, he rose from his chair to praise the woman’s generosity to a stranger, only to be stopped by a dismissive wave of her hand. It was a gesture he would know anywhere—the exact same gesture that Feywn made when he came into her bedchamber uninvited. He opened his mouth, closed it, and sat back down. It was a full moment before he found his voice again.
“You are Annwr?”
“And if I am?”
“I’ve come with a message for Annwr from her sister and need to know that it is Annwr I am giving it to.”
“Fifteen years is a long time to wait to bring this message.”
Spoken in an imperious voice—as if Feywn’s voice were coming from the old woman’s lips—her words settled the last of Caelym’s doubts. Still, it was not fair that he should have to answer for Ossiam’s failure to have his vision sooner, and he recovered himself enough to say so.
“I began searching from one end of the land to the other, climbing snow-covered mountains and descending into desolate valleys, swimming across raging rivers, and wading through perilous swamps, with little food and no rest, the very moment it was revealed that Ossiam, Grand Oracle and Master of Divination, had seen in his dreams that . . . that . . .”
Caelym faltered. The vision that Ossiam had seen was of a beautiful girl held captive in a king’s palace, not a bad-tempered old woman living comfortably in a common cottage that was too clean but otherwise quite pleasant. He finished awkwardly, “That you were still alive.”
The realization of just how far off the mark their Grand Oracle and Master of Divination had been shook Caelym to his core, leaving him speechless.
Annwr broke the silence. “Ossiam couldn’t divine his way to the latrine in broad daylight and downwind of it!” She fixed Caelym in a direct glare. “So now you are finally here, suppose you say what it is you have come to say.
End of Excerpt.
The Oath ©2021 A.M. Linden. Shared with permission.
“Linden uses a fairy tale-like style almost as though this story has been passed down orally over the centuries.” —Booklist Review
Ann Margaret Linden was born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up on the east coast of the United States before returning to the Pacific Northwest as a young adult. She has undergrad-uate degrees in anthropology and in nursing and a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner. After working in a variety of acute care and community health settings, she took a position in a program for children with special health care needs where her responsibilities included writing clinical reports, parent educational materials, provider newsletters, grant submissions and other program related materials. The Druid Chronicles began as a somewhat whimsical decision to write something for fun and ended up becoming a lengthy journey that involved Linden taking adult education creative writing courses, researching early British history, and traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales. Retired from nursing, she lives with her husband and their cat and dog in the northwest corner of Washington State.
Book Title: The Oath
Series: The Druid Chronicles, Book One
Author: A. M. Linden
Publication Date: 15th June 2021
Publisher: She Writes Press
Page Length: 319 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, child abuse
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