Authors: Dianne Greenlay
Copyright © 2011 Dianne Greenlay
All rights reserved.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61915-669-2
To my children,
because you are loved.
No book is the result solely of an author’s efforts and therefore I wish to offer my gratitude to the many people who assisted me upon this journey:
To the wonderful Shaunavon Library staff who fulfilled my numerous requests for reference materials, without which this book would not have been written;
To my many teachers over the years, whose lofty standards ensured that I became fluent in at least my mother tongue;
To Diana Gabaldon, historical author extraordinaire, for her encouragement and excellent advice to me during a blue pencil session at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference;
To the very knowledgeable and engaging staffs of the many marine exhibitions and nautical museums of Nova Scotia, Canada. The information that they had at their fingertips was amazing, immeasurable, and full of unexpected bits of historical entertainment;
To the crew of the tall ship
in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for allowing me to hoist sail aboard their ship, or should I say,
to hoist sail–it was the hardest physical thing that I’ve ever done;
To my husband, Mike, who tirelessly edited page after page of manuscript, and whose input kept me grounded when I tended to float with my head in the clouds;
To Kim Laidlaw, a good friend who gave me something to prove;
To Hazel Lavoy, whose attention to detail, meticulous eye, and critiquing abilities were phenomenal;
To Norman Lavoy, Shirley Nordlund, and Cathy Smith, for getting caught up in the story and never flagging in their enthusiasm for it;
To Catherine Millard and Deb Widmer, who were there for me from the beginning, sharing their belief in the value of this story at crucial times when my own faltered;
And to my children, Michael, Tobishan, Sheridan, Byron, Clayton, and Brianne, whose teenage escapades provided plenty of fuel to fire up my already overactive imagination, and who taught me that there’s always somethin’ what comes from somethin’ ….
I would also like to note that all errors contained within are my own and, although I spent a good deal of time researching particulars, the characters and events are products of my imagination and are entirely fictional (except, of course, for those that are entirely true). Enjoy.
He would have retched, had his mouth not already been open in a strangled scream. He hoped the thickness of the stone walls would prevent the others from hearing him. It would not do for a man of his ranking to be caught in such a compromising position. Performing such a compromising act. It was revolting to him yet had to be done.
Sitting erect on a chair in front of the fireplace’s bed of embers, he swiped at a bead of sweat that ran down his cheek and into his carefully groomed beard. His legs, powerfully built from past years of required training, nonetheless shook uncontrollably. Exhaling a long steadying breath, he began. It was time.
The tip of the iron rod glowed crimson and sizzled as it seared into his flesh, melting skin then muscle. He pressed it deeper into his own upper chest. Hot tendrils of smoke curled up into his nostrils.
The brand would make the difference. He was certain of that.
He was alone in the bed chamber and had secured its great wooden door shut against any intrusion. This was not a procedure for the uninitiated to witness. He had had to do it on his own. He had considered taking a stiff drink beforehand to help numb the anticipated pain but had wisely decided against it. There could be no room for error.
It had to be perfect in its placement.
Perfect in its outline.
Was it any wonder he’d had no results with the ring before this? The bejeweled circle sat just above the middle knuckle on his little finger and could be pushed down no further. It was too small for him to wear it properly.
And he’d not been born with the mark.
Without one, it was said, the power of the ring’s verdurous emerald stones would be minimal. Ineffectual. Obtainable, to be sure, but not without months, maybe years of practice. But now ….
He could hardly wait for his burnt flesh to heal.
Deeper in the bowels of London, tucked down a narrow cobbled alleyway, the sharp bouquet of smoldering herbs permeated a shuttered room. Its lone occupant sat at a table, inhaling the vapors as they rose from her infusion dish. As she peered at the flame of the lone candle burning in a holder beside her clay dish, its tip flickered and danced, probing the darkness of the room.