By Rowena Kinread
Publication Date: 28th April 2021
Publisher: Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers
Page Length: 357 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Patricius, a young man of Britannia, is taken from his home and family when Gaelic pirates attack his village. On his arrival in Ireland, he is sold as a slave to the cruel underking of the Dalriada tribe in the north. Six years later, Patricius manages to escape. His journey takes him through France to Ravenna in Italy. His subsequent plans to return to Britannia are side-tracked when he finds himself accompanying several monks to the island monastery on Lerinus. His devotion to his faith, honed during his captivity, grows as he studies with the monks.Haunted by visions of the Gaels begging him to return to Ireland and share the word of God with them, Patricius gains support from Rome and his friends to return to the land of his captivity. His arrival is bitterly opposed by the druids, who have held power over the Irish kings for many years, and he and his companions must combat the druids to succeed in their God-given mission.
The prisoners were herded together like animals in a cage. More and more captives kept being pushed into the enclosure. Antia was laid down and the women fussed around her. She had a fever and was delirious. Her face was covered in sweat and she was tossing her head back and forth and moaning. Patricius watched the older men examine the wooden posts knocked into the ground. They were solid and firm. Willow brush was weaved between the posts. They were about five feet high but there was no roof. Theoretically, one could scramble over the fencing, but there were hundreds of barbarians present against maybe sixty captives. Anyway, where could they go? They had sailed in a north-westerly direction all the time. They must truly be in Hibernia, and Hibernia was an island. Without a ship, they couldn’t escape.
At that moment Patricius recognised a head of floppy red hair being pushed through the entrance. “Pliny!” He jumped up and down waving his hands in the air. “Pliny, PLINY…”
Finally Pliny saw him and pushed his way through to him. Pliny was always smiling. He was invariably in good humour, good-natured, with never a nasty comment about anyone. His aptitude for getting into mischief and enjoying fun made him popular with the boys. The girls loved him for his cheeky, lop-sided grin and his blue eyes, long eyelashes and smooth skin. But for the moment all fun had left him.
“Patricius, you too!” They hugged briefly and eyed each other’s wounds.
“What happened to you?” Patricius looked at Pliny’s bruised body with deep gashes on his arms.
“We were asleep when the raiders came bursting into our house. We were taken completely by surprise and had no time to defend ourselves.” Tears started streaming down his face and his body shook. Patricius gave him time to compose himself. “They’re all dead, Patricius. They murdered my whole family, even my little brothers and sisters.” He sobbed again. “They were so small.” Patricius put his hand gently on Pliny’s shoulders. No words could ever be adequate.
“Patricius,” Pliny continued. “I’m sorry. I saw your father murdered, and Cato. Cato was killed too.”
Patricius couldn’t speak. He tried to blink back the tears welling up in his eyes. Finally he said, “Antia is here. She was with child and it came early. She lost it. She’s very ill. Don’t tell her about Cato, not yet. What about my mother and sister? Did they manage to escape?”
“I don’t know. But Magnus is all right, I think. His father was on our boat and told me he’d sent him up to the garrison with his mother and younger siblings. He had wanted to fight, his father said, but his mother needed help.”
Both lads sat on the ground silently, lost in their own sadness. Outside their prison, the Gaels were setting up camp. A huge fire was lit and several sucklings were put on the spit to roast. The Gaels were getting drunk and raucous. At one stage a Gael came over and motioned to Sextus. They discussed something together. Sextus looked over to the boys and called out, “Patricius, come here! The cows need milking.” Patricius stood up and went over to Sextus. The pirate let them out of the enclosure and accompanied them to the animal corral. There were at least twenty cows but also bullocks, sheep and goats grazing on the grass. Hens, geese and ducks were in wicker cages, stacked on top of one another. The pirate gave them some rope to fasten the cows to the fencing and terracotta pots for the milk. Then he stood outside the corral and watched them.
Sextus knelt beside a cow with his back to Patricius, who started milking. “The Gael will get bored soon,” Sextus whispered. “Wait till he looks away, then drink some milk yourself. When you’ve finished, trip in the cow muck and cover yourself in it.”
“Sssh. Do as I tell you. Trust me.”
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Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire. After leaving school she started working for Lufthansa in Stuttgart. There she met her future husband whom she married in Ripon. After raising 3 children, she began working as a secretary in a private physiotherapy practice. At the same time, she started writing non-fiction books and magazine articles. Retirement finally brought the financial security to start writing full length fiction. A keen interest in history and her own family ancestry inspired her debut novel “The Missionary”, the dramatic story about the life of St.Patrick. A second book “The Scots of Dalriada” will be published this year. Ms. Kinread says that she welcomed retirement and all its wonderful opportunities to launch a third career.
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