Abridged Excerpt from ASHES OF BRITANNIA

Suetonius removed his helmet and tucked it in the curve of his left arm. He moved across the room, never taking his eyes off the Queen. A golden crown studded with jewels rested on her head, but her hair far outshone the crown. Auburn, it hung in heavy waves to her waist like a river of silk.It was her eyes that made him catch his breath. They were green like emerald stones, and she gazed at him as one might an interesting salamander.

The Queen wore a gold torc about her neck that on an ordinary woman would have been too heavy, but she seemed not to notice its weight. The wide band of gold tubes sparkled in the light. Suetonius saw that it was implanted with gems of turquoise and red. From elbow to wrist were bracelets of gold. Boadicea sat very still, and the bangles did not ring. Her tunic was as colorful with slashes of red, blue, brown, and yellow in horizontal and vertical stripes.As he neared the thrones, he glanced at the King. His tunic was saffron silk with a broad band of embroidery. He wore an identical crown and torc, and Suetonius noticed that both thrones were the same height. The Kings stature was as elegant as his Queens and brown eyes regarded his visitor with interest.

To Queen Boadiceas right were seated Sydelle and Neila. Neither, he thought, were as beautiful as their mother. Between the girls sat the large she-wolf, golden eyes glaring, lips pulled back and teeth bared. Suetonius suppressed a shudder, as much astonished by the wolfs presence again as he was when Sydelle placed her hand on the wolfs head. The growling stopped at her touch.

We welcome you once more, Governor Paulinius, General Lucian, and General Cerialis, Boadicea said.

Suetonius bowed. He hoped that it would hide his surprise at her flawless Latin, spoken elegantly with the proper intonations. I am honored to be standing before Queen Boadicea and King Prasutagus and their lovely daughters. It is an an honor to be with you a second day. Suetonius struggled to keep his intonations proper. He had spoken formal Latin so little in the past months, the finer points of the language eluded him. He was shocked to find himself disadvantaged a second time in so many daysthis time by his own tongue.

For the first time, Suetonius noticed the wolves carved into the arms and legs of both thrones. It was an apt symbol, for Queen Boadicea appeared to be both cunning and powerful.


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