Monday 20 September 2021

Read an #excerpt from Nick Macklin's fabulous novel, Bloody Dominions @NMacklinAuthor

Bloody Dominions
(The Conquest Trilogy, Book 1)
By Nick Macklin

Publication Date: 28th June 2021
Publisher: Troubador Publishing
Page Length: 368 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Journey with those at the heart of the conflict as Caesar embarks on the tumultuous conquest of Gaul 58-51 BC. Book One 58-56 BC.

As Caesar’s campaign begins, tests of courage and belief will confront the three protagonists, shaping them as individuals and challenging their views of the world and each other:

Atticus – an impetuous but naturally gifted soldier, whose grandfather served with distinction in the legions;

Allerix – a Chieftain of the Aduatuci, who finds himself fighting both for and against Caesar; and

Epona – a fierce warrior and Allerixs’ adopted sister.

Experiencing the brutalities of conflict and the repercussions of both victory and defeat, Atticus, Allerix and Epona will cross paths repeatedly, their destinies bound together across time, the vast and hostile territories of Gaul and the barriers of fate that have defined them as enemies. In a twist of fate, Atticus and Allerix discover that they share a bond, a secret that nobody could ever foresee…

Free of his armour, Atticus set off up the slope after Garmanos. Surprisingly nimble for one so large, he was already approaching the top of the climb. Determined to close the gap, Atticus gritted his teeth and pushed on. It was hard going and he was dripping with sweat and breathing heavily as he reached Garmanos, who was by now laying prostate on the forest floor. He signalled for Atticus to do likewise and together they inched forward until they were able to peer cautiously over the ridge. Screwing up his eyes against the glare of the sun, Atticus could see that the ridge was topped with a grass-covered hollow. It was quite narrow but extended for some distance along the ridge. Garmanos nudged Atticus and gestured toward the remains of a fire in the centre of the open space. It didn’t look like it had long been extinguished. He could see the signs of several more at either end of the hollow. By the looks of it, a sizeable group had camped here and very recently too. He felt decidedly uneasy. Garmanos took one last look around and jumped to his feet. Atticus followed him down the bank and watched as he quickly surveyed the ground. He wasn’t sure how Garmanos had determined which of the paths to follow but he seemed confident enough.

“This way. But quietly. There are men and horses on this side of the hill.”

Leaving that thought hanging he set off down the path. If anything, the hill was steeper on this side but the path wound its way down the slope in a series of wide arcs sweeping between the trees and they were able to make good progress. As they rounded one of the bends, Atticus could see that the path dropped abruptly into a ditch running parallel to a wider track cutting across their own. He followed Garmanos into the ditch and was about to climb out when he felt a tug to his sleeve. Garmanos signalled for him to be quiet and pointed to a moss-covered tree trunk that had long since fallen into the ditch. Atticus wasn’t sure what was happening but he followed Garmanos as he hurriedly edged towards the tree and squeezed into the space between the upturned roots and the wall of the ditch. Garmanos pointed towards the right of the track.

“Riders. Two of them.”

Atticus hadn’t seen or heard anything but he wrapped his arms tightly around his legs and tried to make himself as small as possible. He pulled some of the larger ferns across the gap and tried to control his breathing. For a while, Atticus wondered if Garmanos had been mistaken. Then he heard the sound of hooves on the road. He swallowed nervously; they were tucked well into the bank but he still felt horribly exposed. And he would have walked right into their path if it hadn’t been for Garmanos. Perhaps he had misjudged his prowess as a guide after all. Hardly daring to move, he peered towards the path from the corner of his eye. The two riders trotted slowly into view. Warriors. They were talking animatedly as they rode but gave no indication that they had seen anything untoward. Relieved, Atticus let out a deep breath. As the riders reached the intersection of the two paths, they paused. After what seemed like a heated discussion, they set off again, continuing along the wider track, passing directly above them as they did. Atticus could hear them laughing. Garmanos waited for a few moments and quietly crawled back into the ditch. Atticus followed him out from under the roots, keeping a careful watch on the track.

“What was that all about?”

“They are looking for you and your friends. The scout must have alerted them to our presence in the forest.”

“What were they arguing about?”

“Whether they should explore the smaller path.”

“Why didn’t they?”

“The wider track was easier and…”

Garmanos paused. Atticus felt a pang of concern.

“And what?”

“They said it wouldn’t matter since you would all be dead soon enough anyway.”

Atticus’ blood ran cold. He had to warn Plautius but what about? He didn’t know how many warriors there were. He needed to know more. Fighting the impulse to head back immediately, he gestured in the direction from which the warriors had approached. 

“Can we follow the track a little further?”

Garmanos seemed a little surprised at this but he shrugged and nodded his head. Remaining in the ditch for safety, they carefully moved forward. They hadn’t gone far when the path started to dip and the treeline began to thin, revealing what looked like a narrow valley nestling between the hills. It might have been a pleasant sight if the lush green fields hadn’t been filled by a huge camp. Stretching as far as the eye could see, the valley was filled with tents, wagons, horses and a growing number of enemy warriors. Those already on the plain were being jostled slowly forward as more and more spilled out from the woods on either side. Atticus was filled with a sudden sense of dread. The first of the legions would surely be arriving soon. 

They were walking into a trap. 

He had to get back. He nodded to Garmanos and they hurriedly set about retracing their steps. Atticus desperately wanted to break cover and use the track but he knew it increased the risk of them being spotted. He was growing ever more anxious however as they finally arrived back at the path they had originally followed. Inching up the bank, he craned his neck to see if he could detect any sign of the warriors behind them. Nothing. Yet. They might still have time. Garmanos dragged himself up the bank and with one final look he set off back up the hill. Atticus followed suit. Running for his life and those of his unsuspecting comrades on the opposite side of the hill. 

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A history graduate, Nick enjoyed developing the skills that would stand him in good stead during the extensive research he conducted prior to writing his novel. Whilst the ancient world unfortunately didn’t feature to any extent in his history degree, (the result of failing miserably to secure the A level grades that would have permitted greater choice) he maintained a lifelong and profound interest in ancient history and especially the Roman Empire, continuing to read avidly as he embarked on a career in HR. Over the next 30 years or so Nick occupied a variety of Senior/Director roles, most recently in the NHS. Unsurprisingly, writing in these roles was largely confined to the prosaic demands of Board papers but Nick never lost the long-harboured belief, motivated by the works of writers such as Robert Fabbri, Robyn Young, Anthony Riches, Simon Scarrow, Matthew Harffy and Giles Kristian, that he too had a story to tell. When he was presented with a window of opportunity c3 years ago he took the decision to place his career on hold and see if he could convert that belief into reality. 

Nick always knew that he wanted to set the novel against the backdrop of a significant event/period in Roman history. Looking to narrow that down to something offering the potential for meaningful character and plot development, but that hadn’t already received exhaustive coverage, he settled on Caesars tumultuous occupation of Gaul. Spanning 8 years, the prolonged clash of cultures offered ample opportunity for the kind of dual perspective from which he was hoping to tell the story, whilst the violent conflict provided a wealth of exciting material to explore the changing fortunes of war and its impact at a personal level. The switching of allegiances, nations fighting for and against Rome also provided the potential for some intriguing plot lines. As his research unfolded, he was also struck by just how heavily the Roman psyche during this period was influenced by the scare they had received 50 years earlier when Germanic tribes invaded their territories and defeated their legions. Seeing references to the veterans of that war watching their sons and grandsons enlist for a similar campaign, he started to think about developing that link on both sides of the conflict. And so, the idea for the Conquest Trilogy was born.

In Bloody Dominions Nick has sought to produce a novel in which unfolding events are experienced and described from the perspective of protagonists on both sides of Caesar’s incursion into Gaul. Conscious that the role of women in Roman fiction, Boudica aside, is largely confined to spouse, prostitute or slave, Nick wanted to ensure that one of his lead characters was female and a prominent member of the warrior clan of her tribe. The novel is driven by these characters but the framework against which their stories unfold is historically accurate, featuring actual participants in Caesar’s campaign and drawing on real events as they occurred. As such Nick is genuinely excited about his characters and the story they have to tell.

Nick lives in Exeter with his two daughters and is currently juggling work as an Independent HR Consultant with writing the second novel in the Conquest Trilogy, Battle Scars. 

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