Olwen the Barbarian is a ruthless warrior who offers her sword to only the highest bidder. When the Prince of Darthia is kidnapped by the sorceress Callista, his father begs Olwen to retrieve him. Little does he know, Olwen is intimately familiar with the Sorceress of Sappho. Once upon a time, the two were the dearest of lovers. Now the fiercest of enemies, their reunion promises a legendary battle...or perhaps a rekindling of their sapphic romance?
~~~ Excerpt ~~~
For what felt like the hundredth time in as many days, Olwen's strength failed her. The girl's hair slipped from her fingers and she fell back against the bundled wool that served as her pillow.
"Oh," the sorceress murmured. "Are you in pain?"
"Why couldn't you kill me?" Olwen rasped. "I...I cannot live with this shame."
Callista's thumb skated beneath Olwen's blue eyes, wiping her tears away. "Is it really so hard as that? I've lived in shame most of my life. And look, I've managed to beat a barbarian into submission."
"You did not beat me," Olwen said.
"Shhh," the girl chided.
"Do not silence me!"
"I'm sorry," the girl laughed.
"Kill me now," Olwen growled. "Kill me or I swear I shall have vengeance, not only for Viatrix but for this humiliation!"
"Oh, trust me, a little humiliation works wonders. It's very motivating. I'm sure even a big mean barbarian can stand to be humbled now and again--especially when she faces a superior foe." Olwen struggled to rise from her bed but the sorceress easily pinned her to the straw. "Do not mistake me. There is a great beauty in your fearsomeness. I have never seen a woman such as you. But I believe few, if any, have seen you as I do now."
Olwen thrust her head back against the wool, helpless and defeated. "I wasn't strong enough," she said. The words cut their way through the iron lump in her throat. "I...failed. I have never failed."
Callista drew the barbarian's eyes to her bare thigh, and the poultice she'd applied to her jagged bite. "Is not life itself a victory?" she asked quietly. "I owe you mine."
"Our debt is settled."
"Not quite. I have nursed you, yes, but you still suffer."
Olwen could not answer. Her rage burned into her sorrow until the emotions were inseparable. It gnawed at her insides like the fangs of a pig rat. She heard her father's words atop the Skuggi mountains. "If you should fall..." There was victory or nothing, that was the barbarian way. She fought desperately to block the next tears that bled from her eyes, and fought too the sob that wrenched from her throat. Despite the fire and the wool blanket, she shivered. Was the sorceress right? Did she suffer? Yes, she did. The defeat hurt worse than any wound.
When she felt the girl's lips touch her own, the relief was too welcome to deny. Olwen closed her eyes into the kiss, and it was soft and warm, tentative but eager. Callista's thin fingers slid from Olwen's jaw to the space behind her ear, parting her lips in a reflexive moan and caressing her cautious tongue. Callista's tongue... When she withdrew, Olwen whimpered.
"I have tended to you in this darkness for days," Callista whispered, "frightened that I was not skilled enough to save you. And now your eyes are open and I only want to soothe your pain." She bowed her head to kiss the cord of muscle in Olwen's throat. "And I have tended to this body of yours...and yearned."
As Callista's fingers slipped down her wriggling stomach, Olwen seized her by the wrist. "What magic is this?" she breathed.
"No magic," Callista said. "Why, do you feel better?"
"A kiss cannot make me better."
"Then I'm not doing it right." Callista's teeth bit into the barbarian's lip.
Olwen's nerves were in such a state of chaos that even the brush of Callista's hair gave her a tingle. Her heart slammed fitfully against the bars of her ribcage. "But you are my enemy," she whispered.
"Not now," Callista promised. Her hand disappeared beneath the blanket. "Not here."