The Strix is a vampire tale of enchantment gone terribly wrong but it’s also a story of redemption and connecting with our better angels. I loved that this story allowed me to write one woman’s two very different experiences, in two very different time periods with the same man.
This excerpt (rated R) takes place on a densely wooded sacred island on the Rhine. Arcona has just taken a vow of chastity and completed a lonely vigil and initiation to the Goddess Nerthus, when she is discovered by Roman soldiers and taken captive.
Arcona crouched on the gravel beach. The wet river stones left her soaked and shivering. She carefully concealed her empty hands in the folds of her tunic and tried to stare the Roman soldiers down, knowing it was only a matter of moments before they realized she wasn’t armed and rushed in on her.
Why did she leave her knife by the campfire? It was foolish. At least with a weapon in her hand she could die fighting.
The soldiers stealthily fanned in a half circle around her. Their intense gazes never broke. She had the feeling she was an exotic animal trapped in a snare. The icy river and Hedron’s dead body were at her back. She refused to glance behind her and look at them. Her heart couldn’t bear it.
Several of the Romans appeared to be her age or younger. She guessed these men were scouts and not seasoned centurions. They had a light dusting of black whiskers on the sides of their jaws and muscular, compact bodies. Their breath came quickly, and despite the cold morning, perspiration glistened on their sun-browned skin. The youngest men possessed a feral, undisciplined look in their dark eyes. Those men scared her the most.
The legate wore a deep crimson cloak and an ornate sword belt and appeared to be the most mature man in the group. “Come here.” He coaxed her forward with the wave of his hand. “I want to look at you.”
“By Jupiter, their women are dirty,” one of the soldiers said in disgust. “Look at the filthy rags wrapped around her arms.”
“She’s been injured.” The legate hissed a warning at the man to be silent.
The man sheepishly shut his mouth.
Another soldier darted forward, threw his arms around Arcona, and knocked her to the ground.
Arcona hit the gravel beach with a thud. The soldier landed hard on top of her and pinned her. His weight pushed down on her until it was difficult to draw breath.
The soldier snarled in her face. “The legate wants to look at you; don’t ignore him!”
“There’s no need to shout in her face. She can’t understand you.” The legate strode toward Arcona. His cool gazed poured over her. A slight smile lit his lips. “She certainly is dirty, but a simple bath will solve that problem.” He leaned closer. “Her eyes are a stunning shade of green, very earthy. They look a bit crazed, but that’s probably because she’s scared.” He knelt and rubbed his fingers against a few strands of her hair. “I can’t tell beneath the layers of sooty ash, but I think her hair has a touch of scarlet in it. Lift her tunic,” he demanded. “Let’s see if the other thatch of hair matches.”
The soldier lying on top of her pushed her tunic higher. “I’m hard as stone,” he muttered. “Can we take turns with her?”
“No,” the legate said coldly. “We don’t know what we have yet.”
Arcona spit in the soldier’s face and wildly kicked him.
“She’s hurting me!” the soldier complained. He wrestled Arcona into submission. “Get over here and help me!” he barked to his younger companion.
A mean-looking young man approached.
“Draw your knife,” the legate ordered. “Cut these rags off so we can look at her.”
The young man drew a dagger from his hip belt, took hold of the hem of Arcona’s tunic, and sawed the blade against the cloth. The threads popped and tore as the fabric ripped higher.
The young man parted the frayed cloth and gasped. “Look at her; she’s beautiful. Wide hips, big tits, milky skin.” His gaze locked on her. “I’m certain a woman like this has had a man. What fools would let something this tempting walk around and not put their cocks in it?”
The soldier pinning her to the ground looked up at the legate with pleading eyes. “Can I just rub my cock between her thighs?”
Fear swept over her. Arcona fought like a she-bear. She remembered a horrible insult the old scout had dared to teach her. She opened her mouth and screamed, “Vestri Deus Jupiter combibo spurcus gallo of sulum pauper in vicus!”
The legate reeled in shock. “What did you say?”
“You heard me!” Arcona sneered at the Romans. “Your god Jupiter sucks the filthy cocks of every beggar on the street.” She didn’t really know what a street was, but the scout had assured her such a thing was the wrong place for sex.
“Who taught you that?” The legate looked scandalized.
“Ego narro vestri lingua. Volo veneration.” She spoke slowly with as much authority as she could muster. “I speak your tongue. I want respect. Who is your leader?”
The legate looked flummoxed, as if a bird in the treetops had just spoken to him. “Gaius Julius Civilis is our commander.”
“I have a message for Gaius. Unless you want me to scratch your eyes out with my dirty fingernails, take me to him!”
“All right.” The legate appeared stunned. “I will.”
…Poor Arcona. Her journey is only beginning. She’s nobody fool but some terrible things happen to her that leave her bitter. She’s traded between Romans and sold in the slave market of Pompeii to Dominus Marius a complex character who owns the gladiatorial school where Tyr is held captive. Marius falls in love with Arcona in his own twisted way but you’ll have to read the book and find out what shocking things happen between them. (Hint Marius is kinky…)
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Book 2 in The Bag Of Tricks book series "Claimed By Dragons" will be released Tuesday September 25th from Loose Id Publishing!