TOUCHED BY MAEN LLIA By Tracy Cooper-Posey
Once and Future Hearts. Book 8.1
Ancient Historical Fantasy Romance
Caught between magic and truth…
Catrin is a handmaiden to the old Queen of Dyfed, whose husband and king, Geraint, has died without an heir, leaving the kingdom ripe for plucking. Yet Dyfed is the birthplace of King Arthur’s enchanter and adviser, Prince Merlin, who travels to the troubled kingdom to settle the question of who should be king.
Marcus Jorath is a newcomer to Camelot and wants only to serve King Arthur, whose peace has brought such a difference to the life and prospects of his family. Yet he is assigned to travel with Merlin to the out-of-the-way kingdom of Dyfed instead.
When the Dyfed mage, Ianto, declares it is mid-summer’s day, the maids of the kingdom visit the Maen Llia to make a wish. Catrin disputes it is the solstice, for she can read and is learned in the ways of tracking seasons and more, but no one listens to her, and she is forced to visit Maen Llia with the other women.
Merlin’s company of armed men come across the women, and Marcus finds himself drawn to the fiery redheaded Catrin and her blunt, direct way of speaking and thinking about the world. Their attraction puts them in the path of Ianto, who is more than the kingsdom’s inadquate mage, and has plans of his own he will not let a mere slip of a girl interefere with…
This story is part of the historical fantasy romance series, Once and Future Hearts, set in Britain during the time of King Arthur.
1.0 Born of No Man
2.0 Dragon Kin
3.0 Pendragon Rises
3.5 Once and Future Hearts Box One
4.0 War Duke of Britain
5.0 High King of Britain
6.0 Battle of Mount Badon
6.5 Once and Future Hearts Box Two
7.0 Abduction of Guenivere
8.0 Downfall of Cornwall
8.1 Touch by Maen Llia
9.0 Vengeance of Arthur
10.0 Grace of Lancelot
11.0 The Grail and Glory
BARNES & NOBLE
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EXCERPT FROM TOUCHED BY MAEN LLIA
COPYRIGHT © TRACY COOPER-POSEY 2022
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Catrin had followed the Queen’s instructions for the rest of the day, even though she resented every moment of merry-making and the unquestioning ignorance of everyone in the palace. All morning she had carried wool, fetched skeins, re-threaded looms and untangled snarls on spindles with silent doggedness while she listened to the court women gossip about the festivities to come. Later, she had moved over to the big chair which Eira used, taken the book Eira had held out to her, and read to the Queen in a soft voice.
After the noon meal, everyone slept through the heat of the afternoon, for sunset in mid-summer was very late, and the feast could not begin until after the setting of the sun.
A very small meal upon waking—a bannock and some fruit—then the women prepared for the walk to Afon Llia. All of them donned their lightest tunics and sandals, let down their hair and inserted flowers—what flowers there were to be had. Most of the women in the large group were unmarried maidens, although there were several matrons among them, who also wanted to drink the blessings of the river.
No guards accompanied them, for it was a large group and the times were peaceful, thanks to King Arthur. The mood among the women was light and carefree as they walked across the hills to Maen Llia, trading laughter and teasing. Most of the teasing was to do with what type of man a maid intended to wish for, when she bathed in the river, and what her chances were that the man would find her.
They passed by the tall standing stone, Maen Llia, falling silent as they each brushed their hand across the flat face of the stone. The ancient carvings on the face were meaningless to Catrin, even though some of the characters were similar to those in the oldest books at the bottom of her chest.
They moved in a single file along the straight shadow cast by Maen Llia, down the gradual slope to the Afon Llia, where the stone’s shadow halted. Everyone paused on the bank of the narrow river to remove their sandals and hoist their tunics up in their arms and step into the water.
There were cries of shock at the coldness of the water. More exclamations about how low the water was, this year. Soon the river was crowded, for it was only three or four paces across, and shallow.
The women scooped handfuls of water and sipped it, while making their wish for health, happiness, a child born healthy, a man to love and protect her, and more.
Catrin stood upon the bank. She did not remove her sandals and kept her arms crossed. She was not at all tempted to step into the water, even though the day was still very warm.
Betrys, Eira’s other hand maid, shooshed water at Catrin. “Come in and make a wish! The water is lovely on your ankles.”
“There is no point in making a wish,” Catrin replied. “It isn’t midsummer. Your wish won’t work.”
Betrys screwed up her face in a comic way. “Oh, you and your books! Of course it is mid-summer! Ianto said so! And look! The Maen Llia has walked down to the river—see, right there? The shadow is touching the river!”
“It is nearly touching,” Catrin replied. “But it is not touching.”
“It is close enough,” Betrys declared, both hands on her hips. She had big hips. And a big smile. She liked to be happy, even if that meant not being right. “Look, there is barely the width of my fingers between the two.”
“That width makes all the difference,” Catrin replied. “Besides,” she added, for Betrys was beginning to sulk, “I’ve wished every single year since Eira said I might come here, and it has never worked.”
“What has never worked?” came a voice from behind her.
A male voice.
Catrin spun, her heart leaping in her chest and her breath instantly whooshing out of her.
The women in the river all squealed and scrambled for the bank and dry land where they could drop their tunics and hide their legs. They moved away from the newcomers, which put them on the other side of the river from Catrin, leaving her alone with the two heavily armed men facing her.
Catrin backed away from them. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” She still wore her sandals. She could pick up her hem and leap through the water to the other side. Or turn and run.
She fumbled for her worn eating knife as the shorter of the two men curled his hand around his sword hilt. It was an inadequate knife even for eating, but she kept it sharpened. “You’re Brycheiniog scum!” she declared. Brycheiniog, the kingdom which ran along Dyfed’s northwest border, began less than a mile from here.
At her declaration, the other women gave small screams and clutched each other.