Myrddin, whose head was covered with a fox-headed pelt, poured a dark liquid into a wide-rimmed goblet and offered it to Marcellus. Inhaling the sweet aroma, he was repulsed with the bitter taste of the ale but forced a couple of sips down. He gave the drinking vessel back to the wild Druid.
Raising the goblet, Myrddin announced, “King Amren will now bless the marriage between Marcellus and his daughter, Catrin. As such, she will be empowered to confer her father’s kingship to the Roman Apollo.”
The circle of Druids and priestesses surrounding Marcellus opened at one end to allow King Amren and Catrin into the inner circle, where she stood beside Marcellus. The king gestured for them to kneel before him. As instructed, they both fell to their knees.
Catrin stretched out the palm of her left hand. In the king’s hand was the jewel-encrusted dagger with Rhan’s curse inscribed on its blade. Amren carefully sliced a thin line below her thumb with its sharp edge. He gestured for Marcellus to stretch out his right hand.
Until that moment, Marcellus had ignored the pain from his swollen hand that had been cut earlier, at the time he had prevented Catrin from taking her own life with the dagger. He winced as the king clenched his wrist and cut a deep crimson line through his newly-scabbed palm. The stabbing pain almost brought Marcellus to tears, but he stoically bit his lower lip with the determination not to show his agony.
The king’s eyes appeared to dance with delight as he pressed the blade deeper and blood oozed over its metal surface.
Alarmed, Marcellus flinched with the prospect that the razor-sharp edge could slice his tissue to the bone. The king finally finished his torturous cut and handed the dagger to Ferrex, whose feral eyes bore into Marcellus. Averting the Lion’s glare, Marcellus grimaced from the throbbing pain as the king placed his bleeding hand on top of Catrin’s and bound them together with plaid blue-and-gold cloth.
The king raised his hand over the couple. “I recognize the marriage of my daughter, Catrin, and the foreign husband she has chosen. I bind their hands, blood on blood, bone on bone, his family bloodline mixed with mine.”
For several awkward moments, Catrin gazed at her father as if expecting him to say something more. The king fixed his eyes on Marcellus as he said something incomprehensible in Celtic. Catrin’s wistful smile turned downward into a disappointed frown. Marcellus tried to commune with her to find out what the king had said.
Thunderous beating drums broke their connection.
Myrddin untied the cloth from the couple’s hands and gave Catrin a goblet filled with wine-colored liquid. She lifted the vessel to Marcellus’s lips and proclaimed, “With this sacred cup, I confer kingship of the Cantiaci to you. Drink this to acknowledge your marriage as a mortal king to the sacred goddess of these lands. The goddess will legitimize your rule and break the curse that looms over our kingdom.”
Anticipating another bitter drink, Marcellus moaned with pleasure as the honey-flavored wine tantalized his palate and warmed his throat. He eagerly drank the liquid as Catrin held the vessel steady for him.
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