THE CENTURION’S DAUGHTER

Please read the following excerpt from an upcoming novel in manuscript form. I think you will like it.

No one saw Phaedra come in the gate as she made her way through the large garden. She had been afraid to enter the villa from the stable. The whole villa seemed sound asleep. Even the stable boy did not wake up when she unsaddled her horse. The watchman was out in the vineyards, having heard some noise that aroused his curiosity.

The night sounds of the insects and the frogs around the pool in the center of the garden were loud. As the young Phaedra walked through the garden, trying not to make too much noise on the fine gravel path, the noise of the insects temporarily ceased until she had passed.

Up above a full moon shone, its silvery beams disturbed only by fluffy, floating clouds as they slowly passed overhead beneath its spell binding light. There was a warm spring breeze wafting over the garden, bringing the delicate fragrance of the blooming purple iris to Phaedra’s nostrils. She breathed in the fragrance of the flowers and looked carefully around her. Perhaps the goddess Iris was letting her know that her mission would end successfully. So far so good! Phaedra sighed and smiled in spite of her nervousness. She had yet to navigate the villa successfully. She prayed no one would be up at this late hour.

Phaedra was a Greek slave, a petite brunette just a little over five feet tall. She was probably about 18 years old. Her mother had been a slave belonging to the Mistress Melusine, and Phaedra was born while her mother was in Melusine’s service. She did not know who her father was. She was a beautiful girl, well proportioned, with lovely olive skin and dancing dark eyes. Her lips were full and red. She wore a white chiton which shone in the moonlight.

There was one flaw in her appearance: a jagged two inch scar ran from her right cheek bone down to the right side of her chin. She had been recently beaten by her Roman master, who was fast becoming a notorious drunkard. His drunken assault upon his daughter’s maidservant had caused a family crisis, which was still not resolved, although the initial tears and stress had at least subsided.

The master of the estate was a Roman military officer, who had retired to the outskirts of Smyrna, a major city on the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea. The city set mostly on a hill at the southeastern edge of the Gulf of Smyrna, spreading out below the hill on to the coastal plain. With the help of the Emperor Trajan, the officer had purchased land a few hours distant from Smyrna.

The villa and the surrounding estate, well over 500 ugura [300 acres], was situated not too far from the coast and the Hermus River. The estate was very productive, thanks to a dedicated steward, and the increasing level-headed influence of the officer’s daughter Sabina. It was not that the centurion had completely lost his acute sense of business. He had his moments of clarity and soberness, but he had recently become increasingly disabled by his alcoholism. The trouble was everyone except Sabina was afraid to tell him.

Phaedra looked anxiously around her as she walked across the bright moonlit patio of the villa and made her way into the entrance of the large atrium. She stopped and stood between the huge stone columns at the front, peering into the dimly lit atrium. Several large braziers were still burning inside, eating down the large quantity of oil placed in them. Satisfied that no one was there Phaedra slowly entered the atrium through the vestibulum or entrance hall.

She avoided a large section of moonlit mosaic floor and crossed the atrium along the darkened side. She had to pass by the master’s bedroom on the right. She did this fearfully, glancing repeatedly at his door, knowing that he was in there. Lately, he was often up late at night, cursing and screaming at times in a drunken rage. She unconsciously ran her right forefinger along the two inch scar on her face, remembering the night he had suddenly and unexpectedly grabbed her and assaulted her.

For the most part, except for the steward and some old stalwart servants, who had been with the master during the time of his military service, the staff remained in fear of the master’s drunken tantrums.

Some Informal Historical Notes on Queen Zenobia

Zenobia’s family name was Zenobia bat-Zabbai. She was the daughter of Zabaii ben Selim, or Julius Aurelius Zenobius, an important chieftain or ruler in Syria. His Greek name was Antiochus. He had received Roman citizenship. Zenobia’s mother was possibly an Egyptian. Zenobia spoke Egyptian, and she always favored the Egyptian culture. She claimed descent from Queen Cleopatra and from Queen Dido of Carthage. She claimed her descent from Dido through Drusilla of Mauretania, the daughter of King Ptolemy of Mauretania and Queen Julia Urania of Mauretania. Drusilla’s mother was probably from the royal family of Emesa, and Drusilla married into that family. Drusilla’s paternal grandmother was Selene Cleopatra II of Mauretania, a daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.

Drusilla’s paternal grandfather was the African King Juba II of Mauretania, who claimed to be a descendant of the sister of General Hannibal. Hannibal’s family, the Barcids, claimed to be descended from Queen Dido’s younger brother.

Zenobia’s father was descended from the royal family of Emesa. He was related to Gaius Julius Bassianus, the high priest of Emesa, and the father of the Roman Empress Julia Domna (AD 170-217), the wife of the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus.

Zenobia herself was beautiful and intelligent. She had a dark complexion, pearly white teeth, bright eyes that sparkled, and a beautiful face. She possessed a strong and melodious voice, with many other charms. She was very well educated. She spoke Greek, Aramaic, Egyptian, and Latin. She was versed in Homer, Plato, and other Greek writers. She enjoyed hunting, and was not above drinking with the men.

Zenobia came to be known as a Palmyrene after she married Odenathus, the ruler of Palmyra. Palmyra, sometimes called Tadmor, was located near the edge of the Syrian desert between Syria and Persian Babylonia. The city was at the center of caravan routes, and was located at an oasis, watered by the Efqa Spring. The Palmyrenes were Semitic, but the culture was Graeco-Roman, Parthian and Persian.

The Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (AD 193-211) raised Palmyra to the status of a Roman colony and gave them citizenship.

Odenathus became a powerful military leader, and was quite important to the Romans in their defense of the East. He was an accomplished warrior and loved to hunt lions, panthers, bears, and other beasts. He spent much time in the forests, mountains, enduring hardships. His wife Zenobia also became inured to hardship, and in the opinion of many, was braver than Odenathus.

Both Odenathus and Zenobia had earlier marriages. Zenobia was married as a young teenager, but the marriage was dissolved. Odenathus’ first wife apparently died, but left him with a son Herodes. Cornelius Capitolinus said of this son, “(he was) the most beautiful and the most effeminate of men, wholly Oriental and given over to Greek luxury, (and in) the manner of the Persians he dwelt in embroidered tents and pavilions made of gold cloth.” When his father, Odenathus, conquered the Persian capital, he gave Herodes all the Persian concubines so that Herodes could go in unto them and prove he was a man, but the young man disdained them.

Zenobia was never close to Herodes, which caused his father to favor the boy even more vigorously.

After her husband was assassinated by a jealous family member named Maeonius, Zenobia took the reigns of the Palmyran kingdom. She became very powerful, ruling over a large area including the great city of Antioch about a 100 miles away. She would later conquer Syria, the area of Palestine including Judea, and Egypt. She became a threat to the Roman empire.

It was in Antioch that she unexplainably befriended the Christian Bishop Paul of Samosata. The relationship between the two has never been fully explained. Their friendship was interrupted by the great war which took place between Rome and Palmyra.

The Emperor Aurelian, after he had defeated Queen Zenobia, admired her, stating she was “wise in counsels, steadfast in plans, and stern in discipline. It was her doing that Odenathus defeated the Persians, and after putting Sapor (the Persian leader) to flight, they advanced all the way to Ctesiphon.”

Aurelian went on to say: “The fear that this woman inspired in the peoples of the East, and also in the Egyptians, caused that neither Arabs nor Saracens nor Armenians ever moved against her. Nor would I have spared her life, had I not known that she did a great service to the Roman state when she preserved the imperial power in the East for herself, or for her children…she kept guard over the eastern frontier of the empire.”

The war between the Emperor Aurelian and Zenobia resulted in her defeat and capture. She was taken prisoner and brought to Rome to grace Aurelian’s magnificent triumph in Rome. She remained there and was given a beautiful villa outside Rome where she married a prominent Roman and became a celebrity figure.

Her military staff, including General Zabdas, her advisors, Cassius Longinus, the renowned rhetorician; Callinicus Dutorius, the historian; Nichomachus, were put to death. It is possible that the Christian Bishop Paul of Samosata also died, although the details are not known.

Livius said of Zenobia: “Her face was dark and of a swarthy character, her eyes were black and powerful, her spirit divinely great, and her beauty incredible. So white were her teeth that many thought she had pearls in place of teeth. Her voice was clear and like that of a man.

The Origin of Heathendom

I found an American edition of a little book entitled The Origin of Heathendom. The author’s name, “Ben Adam”, is obviously a pseudonym.  The Foreward to the American edition (published  by Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis MN in 1963 and reprinted in 1964) is written by Arthur E. Bloomfield, who praised the work. There is a previous Foreword apparently by this “Ben Adam” written in 1937 at Exeter in England. In the Foreword it is stated that the primary reason for the book was to demonstrate the “origin” of the “heathen” or the Gentiles.

However, there is much more examined in this most interesting book. The writer is both a Hebrew and a Greek scholar.  He opines that the “dispersion” of the Gentiles began in the plain of Sumer [Shinar]. The writer believes that all the land was initially gathered together into one “super” continent, but following the flood “in the days of Peleg” the earth was “divided” and the  present day continents were formed when sections of the “super” continent drifted apart. These actions seemingly require a great deal of time.

With the creation of man (homo sapiens), God gave him dominion over the earth. This human dominion was frustrated when Satan deceived man and he fell into sin and death. Ultimately, dominion will be restored by the “seed of the woman”, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The writer seems to embrace the “gap theory” and believes that the creation story represents “re-creation” after “some Satanic outburst” caused the destruction of the planet.

Animal sacrifice was instituted as a remedial forgiveness for Adam and Eve’s sin. An animal was slain by God and its skin was given to the naked couple to cover them. Cain and Abel were twins born of Adam and Eve after their ejection from the Garden. Eve mistakenly thought at first that Cain the firstborn of the twins was the “promised seed” of Jehovah God. Satan, when he saw the life of Cain, knew better. He thought that perhaps Abel was the “seed” and so he provoked Cain to slay him.

The writer (“Ben Adam” or “Son of Adam”) developes the theory of the “fallen angels” in chapter six of Genesis. His theory is very convincing. Although he knows that this theory causes “considerable opposition” from religious leaders, he feels that it is the truth and demonstrates very ably that this is the import of the scriptures.

Needless to say, an elaborate theory of the consequences of the fall of man, the damage done by the group of “fallen angels” (“the sons of God”) in Genesis 6 is meticulously built up by the author. It makes for interesting reading and answers more questions than it raises.

I tried to search everywhere in vain to find another copy of this marvelous book. Needless to say, I was able to locate one copy throughout all my searching was quite expensive. I have held on to the small paperback copy which I have, although the pages are falling out.

Why Historical Fiction Is Important To Christian Literature

It is possible to resurrect the past in a vibrant, exciting way by means of historical fiction. In many cases, little remains of great men and women who lived in the distant past. Particularly the lives of common people are often hidden in the mists of times long gone by. Historical fiction can bring these people to life once again. It can show their passions, their dilemmas, and their daily lives. Moreover, historical fiction can create an interest in readers about the people and the times in which they lived. Readers can appreciate the worth of those who lived in the past. Historical fiction requires a lot of research in order to portray the culture and historical settings as accurately as possible. For the sake of lucid and understandable communications it is not always necessary to make the conversation of characters match the phraseology of those in the past. One need not use “thee’s” and “thou’s” to bring about a sense of reality. In the novels I have written I have tried to portray accurately the culture and the environment of the times of which I have written, but I have not attempted to necessarily use a style of language which impedes and alienates the reader. Instead, I have even used modern phrases and idioms of speech which I believe would facilitate the understanding of the reader.

Historical fiction is filled with adventure, romance, inspiration, drama, from bygone days. It is an opportunity to live vicariously in another world that is gone forever, but in one which is resurrected in the mind and imagination of the reader.

Historical Fiction Opens Up Whole New Vistas

My Philosophy Concerning Historical Novels

I have written one historical novel set in the days of Noah because I was very interested in the probable difficulties that Noah and his family may have faced in the building of the Ark, and in living during a time period that the biblical history portrays as extremely wicked. I adopted the interpretation of Genesis chapter six concerning the angelic sons of God (the Nephilim or “fallen ones”) and the daughters of Adam, which accepts the cohabitation of these “sons of God” in cloned human bodies with the women of that age. It appears to me that this was the epitome of wickedness, which caused God to nearly exterminate the human race. I have not in any of my novels permitted any of the characters to be perfect and without fault. They are human beings. So many novels which deal with biblical subjects seem to be written with childlike readers in mind. I want realism to be an element in my stories. I do not use unseemly language, but I do make it plain that passion exists even among good people. I do not use explicit language, but I do imply things. I think people want realism in my novels. In the novel LOST MEMORIES OF EDEN, Noah has to contend with supernatural enemies who would destroy the work of the Ark. His family was attacked even before he was born when his teenage mother was seduced by a very powerful fallen angel in a human body. Noah was born right after this and subjected to suspicion concerning the legitimacy of his birth most of his life. His mother fell in love with the fallen angel and caused great grief to Noah’s father, who mistreated her even though he loved her.

Noah fell in love with a girl in a Cainite family, who was descended from Cain and Seth. In this ironic situation I attempted to treat the idea that the descendants of Cain were not all evil, and the descendants of Seth were not all good. Naamah is a beautiful girl, the daughter of Lamech-Cain. Her loyalties are torn, but she tries to remain faithful to her husband Noah even though she is swayed by the charms of the same fallen angel who seduced her mother. These are real people who have real struggles even though they love God. That is one of my continuing themes in all my historical novels which have biblical themes. Christian people are not perfect. Sometimes they are unfaithful and sometimes they do not live up to the standards that have been set for them. They are human.

In the other four novels the setting has generally been in the third century in the Roman Empire. The three Sabelius novels center around Rome and Cyrene, but encompass other parts of northern Africa, including Alexandria and even certain islands in the Mediterranean.

I have an unpublished fourth manuscript SABELLIUS GOES EAST which carries the characters all the way to Antioch, and eastward to Byzantium (present day Istanbul). All of these scenes, however, are in in the third century since Sabellius lived c. AD 180-260.

In the fourth Sabellius unpublished novel, Sabellius, his wife Hecate, and a married couple who are friends take a trip to Byzantium to find his friend’s wife’s family. In Antioch, Sabellius’ wife Hecate is kidnapped by a priest of Apollo, sold as a slave, and put on board a ship headed up the western coast of the Mediterranean and Aegean sea. The ship is wrecked in a violent storm and the captain saves her life, only to die in the effort. Hecate is claimed as a slave by an evil sailor and his two companions. She is taken to the famous city of Aphrodisia and sold to the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. There she is forced to train as a temple prostitute. She finds a friend in a petite Ethiopian girl and in a big German eunuch who help her. In the meantime her husband, Sabellius, and his friends are searching for her. She fears to reveal her true status as a Christian because she is afraid she will be sold n the local slave market or placed in a brothel. There is a race against time to save Hecate from actually being forced to become a temple priestess against her will. The high priestess of Aphrodite has her eyes on Hecate and this complicates the situation. Hecate is desperate. Moreover, after her husband and his friends trace her to Aphrodisia, Sabellius spots Hecate being carried through the city as one of the favorites of the high priestess and he thinks Hecate has been unfaithful to him and has betrayed her Christian faith. Hecate’s friend, however, undertakes to rescue the girl. After a harrowing escape from the temple and from the city, all five people in the group make their way finally to Byzantium only to find themselves in trouble there. Sabellius manages to preach in the church at Byzantium before the authorities discover where the escaped “slaves” are.

In THE QUEEN AND THE HERETIC I was again drawn to the scene of Antioch where a great deal of the novel’s action occurs. However, the time element is in the latter half of the third century rather than in the first half as in the case of Sabellius. This novel involves two very powerful characters. One is the bold and beautiful Queen of Palmyra, Zenobia. The other is the enigmatic and popular bishop of Antioch, Paul of Samosata. I was so impressed with Zenobia as I studied her history. I knew she protected and befriended Paul of Samosata against his enemies when she was the Queen of the powerful empire of ancient Palmyra, but when I read a historical tidbit (which can neither be proven or unproven) that she was involved in a brief teenage marriage to an unknown person, a plot began to evolve. Accusations against Paul by his enemies that he was involved in finance also intrigued me. Gradually, a plot evolved in which this young girl who would one day be a powerful queen and this young man who would one day be a popular bishop of the third largest city in the Roman Empire (actually for a time in the Palmyran Empire) and the novel came to fruition. Their teenage elopement and brief marriage in the city of Tarsus was thwarted by the girl’s powerful family. Zenobia was forced to divorce Paul and to marry a young, powerful prince who became the ruler of Palmyra, a nearby desert kingdom. The two young people never stopped loving one another, even though life went on, and Paul went on to become the very popular bishop of Antioch. Paul, before he became a Christian, despaired of ever having his wife Zenobia again, and could not stay away from her. After he became a Christian and a powerful bishop, he agonized over his love for her and his love for the church.  She could not understand why the church meant so much to him. The tale ends up in tragedy with Zenobia defeated by the great Roman general and emperor Aurelian, and Paul losing his life in defending her, thus proving to her that he still loved her and making her proud of him. There are many subplots in this novel, and someone has called it a “Romeo and Juliet” novel. In some ways it is. It is a struggle between destiny and love. I do not believe that destiny conquered love.

I find that life itself is exciting and it is most interesting in settings that are not always familiar to us.

SABELLIUS GOES EAST Series IV

About two hours later after every one had turned in, someone pounded on Sabellius’ door. Both he and Hecate were in bed and already asleep.

“Open up!” A male voice demanded angrily. Sabellius sat up, wondering what this was all about. He reached over and clumsily lit the lamp beside the bed. Hecate sat up in bed, looking at him.

“Just a moment” Sabellius said, as he made his way to the door. He opened it up. Several men forced their way into the room, pushing Sabellius back. He was caught off guard.

“What do you men want?” Sabellius asked. He was surprised at the intrusion.

“Where is Apollodorus? I want my brother!” It was Abaris, and three other young men. One of them held a torch in his hands. Sabellius wondered how he got that up the stairs without the innkeeper protesting.

“Apollodorus isn’t here” Sabellius said. He looked Abaris in the eye.

“He was here. I know that. Where is he?”

“We don’t know where he is. He and his friend left earlier. What are you doing coming in here like this?”

“I have come for my brother. You Christians have kidnapped him.”

“We did no such thing!” Hecate interjected. Abaris looked at her.

“Seize her, men! She was the one they used to entice my brother! We’ll just hold on to her until these Christians return my brother.” The three men quickly moved over to the bed where Hecate was sitting. She saw what they were trying to do. She screamed, and tried to get out of bed. Strong arms took ahold of her. One large hand was quickly clapped over her mouth, muffling her screams.

Sabellius lunged toward the three men. Abaris suddenly swung a club, which he had been holding at his side. Sabellius slumped to the ground unconscious.

“Gag her quickly, and bring her downstairs!” Abaris ordered. The men struggled with Hecate as she tried to kick them, and wrench free from their grip. One of them held his hand over her mouth as the other tied a gag around it. They quickly bound her.

Hecate looked down at her unconscious husband. Her eyes rolled wildly back. She struggled in vain to free herself. Abaris looked down at the young man lying on the floor.

“We’ll teach you to take away my brother! Apollo showed me something was wrong!” he said. He kicked the unconscious Sabellius. “Take her downstairs and put her in the cart. Hurry up!” He ordered. The young men picked up the girl, who was still trying to struggle even in her bonds.

“I should kill him” Abaris sneered, as he looked down upon the unconscious Sabellius. Hecate struggled even more, and tried to speak through her gag. Abaris turned to her.

“I have even better things planned for you, my dear!” He spoke in a low voice. Then he turned to the men with him.

“Take her downstairs. Hold on to her tightly, now! Make sure that gag stays on her!”

In their room next door, Andromache stirred and sat up. She shook her husband.

“Euporus! What was that awful noise? Did you hear it? It sounded like a scream coming through the wall.” Euporus opened his eyes. He had been sleeping soundly.

“What are you talking about?” He propped himself up on one elbow, looking at his wife.

“Didn’t you hear that? It sounded like a scream to me.”

“Come on, Andromache! Don’t you know there are people in this inn who like to party at night? It was probably someone who was drunk. Go back to sleep!”

“Don’t you think one of us should get up and check on it?”

“Go ahead, dear. I’m tired.” Euporus yawned sleepily. He layed back down and puffed up his pillow. Andromache didn’t want to get out of bed and go out into the dark hallway by herself. She shook her head, and turned over.

Hecate lay in the back of the pitching cart as it rolled across the city of Antioch. One of the men was kneeling by her in the back of the cart. He looked at her menacingly every time she tried to raise her head and look around. She tried to look up over the sideboards to see if she could ascertain some landmark, but she was unfamiliar with Antioch, and it was too dark to really see where she was. She felt that they were probably taking her to either the Daphne Park or to Abaris’ villa. She didn’t really know where his villa was. She was worried about Sabellius. Maybe Andromache or Euporus had heard her scream. She hoped so. She wondered why Apollodorus had not returned home. Perhaps he was there by now, and Abaris would relent when he found that out. Surely, Apollodorus would help her. He liked her.

In less than an hour, the cart pulled up to the back of the Temple of Apollo among the trees in the park of Daphne. The three men jumped off the cart, and pulled Hecate out. They carried her like a sack of vegetables into the rear entrance of the Temple.

Carrying the torch, Abaris followed the men down a large side hall to a room in the rear of the Temple. Abaris unlocked the door, and motioned for them to carry Hecate into the room.

“Untie her!” Abaris said gruffly. “Take off her gag! I want to hear her plead with me.” The men untied the ropes which had bound Hecate. One of them undid the tight gag. Abaris pushed her into a chair.

“Sit down, wench!” He ordered. Hecate looked up at him in the dim torchlight. She had gotten over some of her initial shock and fear. Abaris went over to a large brazier with the torch. He lit the brazier, which brightened up the huge room. Hecate could see that it was probably a storage room. The walls were stone. She knew they were thick.

“I want to see your pretty face better. You can scream all you want back here. You can even call on your god” Abaris said. “These walls are so thick no one will ever hear you. One of the men will bring you some food in the morning. There are private facililties over there in that corner. There is running water.”

Hecate layed back in the chair and watched the tall, thin priest as he talked to her. She did not reply. Finally, she looked at him with a slight smile. Her smile startled him.

“Do you think you can get away with this, Abaris? I am a Roman citizen of Roman blood. I was born in Rome. My husband is also a Roman citizen…and, in case you don’t know it, he is related to Lucius Septimius Severus, the Emperor of Rome. You are treading on dangerous ground by kidnapping a Roman like me.”

“You’re a cute little liar, aren’t you? Do you think I believe such deceptive talk? You’re nothing but a filthy Christian trying to destroy the old ways of the gods. Related to the emperor indeed! Hah! You are no more related to the emperor than I am!” Abaris grinned. He looked her up and down, in a way that made her momentarily cringe. But her eyes flashed as she replied.

“You will find out the hard way, Abaris. When my husband…” Abaris reached down and smacked Hecate with the flat of his hand. She winced, but looked up at him defiantly with a slight smile.
“That will teach you to smart off to a priest of Apollo. I will kill your husband if he dares to set foot in the sacred Temple of the Lord Apollo! I could have killed him tonight.”

“Even if he existed, I don’t believe your Apollo would treat women like you are doing” Hecate said. Her eyes were still defiant. A smile played upon her lips tremulously.

“Shut up. I didn’t ask you what your opinion was! Apollo has killed women before, although he usually leaves that to Artemis.” Abaris slapped her again. Her cheek even shone red in the light of the brazier and the torch. It stung. Hecate flinched, but she never dropped her gaze. She continued to smile.

“Keep up your defiance, Christian wench. I was thinking about merely selling you privately in the slave market, but…I may change my mind and do something even worse. Just keep talking!”

This time Hecate did not reply. She just looked up at Abaris. She became conscious that she was still in her yellow night tunic. It was rather short. She almost unconsciously tried to pull the hem down over her mid thighs. The other three men were watching her, but they said nothing. Hecate suddenly felt a little sick. Abaris turned to the men with him.

“Leave us” he said abruptly. The men bowed, and left the room. Abaris continued standing there, quietly regarding Hecate. She began to feel a little more uncomfortable after the men left. She sensed that they did not entirely approve of what Abaris was doing. She felt evil emanating from the man. He turned slightly to make sure that the men had shut the door. Hecate watched him almost like an animal would watch a predator.

Abaris turned back to Hecate. He looked her up and down. His eyes rested upon the rather short tunic. Hecate’s cheeks burned. She shifted uncomfortably on the chair.

“You know” he said, smiling at her, “You are rather pretty. I thought most Christians were rather dowdy looking. You seem to be an exception. That is why you are so deceptive…and beguiling.” Hecate did not answer.
“Oh? Now you do not speak? Don’t you know that I have complete power over you? I can turn you into a slave. I can even sacrifice you to Apollo…I can do anything I want to. You are my property now.”

“The emperor does not approve of human sacrifices” Hecate said quietly.

“The emperor? Who cares what the Roman emperor likes or dislikes! What can he do? You are on the Lord Apollo’s territory now. Whatever Apollo says is law here. And whatever I say on his behalf is law. You’d better be nice to me.”

“You said that whatever you say is law?” Hecate replied. “What about Antigonus? Is he just a figurehead…or is he the high priest of Apollo?” She clearly said the words to taunt him. She couldn’t help it.

“Antigonus doesn’t care what I do! He’s my brother! If I tell him that you are a slave, I can do whatever I want to do…especially if I tell him you are a pretty Christian wench. He feels the same way I do about you stinking Christians!” Abaris continued looking at her. His eyes were boring through her.

“But I am not a slave. My husband will come with the authorities and you will find yourself in hot water. You will go to prison” Hecate said quietly.

“Do you want me to kill your husband? I just told you that I could have done it this evening, but I had mercy on him…and on you. You are insignificant visitors. The authorities do not even know you are in the city. Even the Roman authorities do not bother the Temple of Apollo. They know better. There would be a popular uprising if they invaded the Lord Apollo’s sacred grounds.” Abaris looked at Hecate. A sardonic smile played upon his lips.

Abaris suddenly pulled up a chair. He sat in front of her. He looked into her eyes.

“Look, Hecate. Let’s be reasonable. It is in my power to kill you. No one will ever know that it was done here in the Temple. They would never suspect the respected priests of Apollo of doing such a thing. We have ways of…disposing of those that we sacrifice to Apollo. Oh, we don’t do it very often…but when Apollo desires a human sacrifice, we give him one. He would especially enjoy a pretty victim like you. Your hair is lovely. Your eyes are so…expressive. Your lips are so red…your…” Abaris placed his hand on her leg. Fear gripped Hecate. She tried to disguise it. She looked at him almost entranced, like a small animal watching a hooded cobra weaving before it. She was trying not very successfully to hide her fear. He took her hand to pull her towards him. She let out a little cry, and tried to squirm away from him.

Suddenly Abaris let go of her hand, and stood up. “But I cannot be contaminated by a pretty Christian. Apollo would be displeased.” He seemed to be agitated. He shoved her down, and he sat back down again in front of her. He looked her up and down again. His face was flushed. He was breathing heavily. He smiled. He seemed to be unable to decide what to do.

Hecate was breathing heavily from fear. She lay back on the seat where Abaris had caused her to fall. “You would be wise to release me, Abaris” she said, breathing heavily. “I have told you that my husband is a relative of the emperor. He will not…” Suddenly Abaris viciously slapped her again. This time he grabbed her violently by the shoulders and tried to kiss her. Hecate wrenched her mouth away. She screamed, and shoved him away. He lost his balance and tumbled sideways, landing with a thump on the stone floor. He began to curse. He struggled to his feet.

“You will regret that! You should have cooperated with me! I am a priest! I was showing you favor! To be with me is like being with Apollo in person! I represent him! You ungrateful wench!” It almost looked like a sudden fear had overcome him. He turned abruptly and walked out the room, locking the door. Hecate’s cheek still burned from the slap she had received. But she quickly jumped up and looked around the room, trying to see if there were any way out. Actually, there were no windows. There were only two doors: the one that Abaris had used, and another door on the west. Hecate tried both doors, but they were soundly locked. She began to pray. She went into the little adjacent room, and splashed some water on her face. She felt dirty and she was afraid.

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL LOST MEMORIES OF EDEN

Noah and Naamah

Zillah hung her head, as the tears trickled down her cheek. She had heard the story of Noah’s birth many times. She even knew the gossip about it. In fact, she was tired of hearing about it. She didn’t think it was that important, to tell the truth.

Bathenosh held her daughter close. Her mind traveled back to the events surrounding the birth of her oldest son.

Bathenosh was a daughter of Methuselah’s sister, Barahel. Bathenosh was born out of wedlock, and her mother never married. She had moved in with her Uncle Enosh. And her pretty little daughter had been a childhood favorite of a great uncle, the patriarch named Enosh. Because of her great uncle’s tutelage and closeness to her, she was given the loving nickname of “Bathenosh” (“daughter of Enosh”), when she was just a little girl. It was not Bathenosh’s real name, but it stuck. Her given name was Bilanos.

The old patriarch watched her much of the time when she was a child. He was the only real father she ever knew. Her mother was gone a lot. Enosh taught her many secrets about herbs and healing. Some suspected her of being a sorceress, but indeed she was not. However, the events surrounding the birth of her son Noah forever changed Bathenosh’s life. Even her great uncle, the patriarch Enosh, could not protect her from the shadow that fell across her life when Noah was born.

What happened was that, coincidentally, around the time that Noah was conceived, Bathenosh, Lamech’s young, new teenager bride, was visited by a stranger on a horse, while Lamech was out in the field with some of the neighboring farmers. She was only about sixteen years old, and in the bloom of youth and beauty.

As Bathenosh stood in the kitchen, holding the sobbing Zillah close, her mind went back to that day. Even now, she could still clearly picture the tall, handsome stranger that rode up to the house that day, while the men were gone. She would never forget him. Indeed, she would soon have good reason not to do so.

Bathenosh was one of the prettiest girls in the entire area. This was acknowledged by almost everyone. Many of the other women were jealous of her beauty. Other men besides Lamech-seth had courted her, but her mother, Barahel, and her uncle Methuselah, another important patriarch in her life, had favored her cousin Lamech, the Sethite. Lamech was Methuselah’s handsome son. And so she had been given to Lamech, who seemed to dearly love her. He had been one of her most ardent suitors.

Bathenosh would never forget that fateful day, when she first met the tall stranger. Lamech and the other farmers had been out in the fields, trying desperately to get in the barley harvest before the crop was damaged. It was a struggle against time. The young Bathenosh had been left alone at the house, with only an old servant, who was crippled up. He lived in the barn, which was used to house several milk cows, and a few horses. The old servant slept most of the time, but Lamech found him useful.

Bathenosh was left alone in the house to care for the geese and the goats that wandered loose near the house. She was young and fairly new at her duties, but did her best to keep the house clean, and to take care of the small animals, as best she could. The old servant was supposed to milk the cows, and to feed them and the horses. He could not keep up with the goats or the geese. The men would stay in the fields, working even into the moonlight if necessary, to get the barley harvest in. It was critical. They usually did not have enough moonlight, and so they would plow up a circle of land, and build a large bonfire…if there was no wind.

The tall stranger rode up to the house around dusk. He was at least seven feet tall, with a powerful, muscular build. He was dark-haired, with piercing gray eyes. His complexion was medium. His countenance frightened Bathenosh at first…but he soon put her at ease.

“Young maiden” the tall rider said, as he dismounted. “Have you any refreshments for a stranger? Do you have any provender for my steed?” Although, he wore no body armor, it was clear that he was a warrior. He carried a bow and a sword. A quiver of arrows was strapped to his back. Bathenosh wanted to run at first. She felt fear shoot through her like an arrow. But the kindness of the tall warrior disarmed her. He intrigued her.

“Please, young maiden with the beautiful countenance” Samhazi spoke courteously. Do you not have a little hospitality for a tired warrior? I have fought with the enemies of your people. I am weary and thirsty.” He smiled, as he dismounted. He stood head and shoulders over Bathenosh. She was intimidated.

“My lord, my husband and the men…ah, there is no one here but myself and an old servant…” Bathenosh bowed her head, being somewhat bashful in the man’s commanding presence.

“Surely, young maiden…one who is so beautiful and charming must likewise be hospitable and gracious to a tired warrior.” The warrior smiled. Bathenosh noticed that his teeth were white like pearls. His gray eyes sparkled, as he smiled, and looked expectantly at her. His melodic, almost rhythmic, speech soothed her.

Bathenosh took courage. “My lord, I will draw you some cool water, and I will bring you some bread and cheese out here.” She bowed her head, and started to back away from the tall man, who looked at her with humor in his eyes.

“You are not only fair to look upon, but you are very courteous. You have been taught well. I am sure your husband would be pleased with your hospitable manner.”

Pleased at his compliment, Bathenosh smiled, and turned to go. The stranger reached out and gently took her arm. She sucked in her breath in surprise, and fear gripped her again.
“Do not be afraid, pretty maiden. I will not harm you. I am a warrior.” He released her arm. “I just wanted to ask you if you perhaps had some wine, which might warm my soul?” Bathenosh quickly looked into his gray eyes. She boldly held his gaze for a moment. Their eyes held one another.

“Yes, my lord” she finally replied. “I will bring you some wine.” She quickly went into the house. A fear came over her that perhaps he might try to follow her. What would she do? She hurried to find some bread and cheese. Then she found the jar of wine, which belonged to her husband, Lamech. She gathered up the food, and almost ran back outside with the meal.

The stranger had sat down upon a plank bench, which Lamech had placed outside the house under the shade of a large pine tree. A soft breeze stirred the branches of the tree. He wore a thin wool tunic, with a beautiful leather belt. The tunic came down below his knees. His dark hair was rather long, and combed back behind his ears. It did not cover much of his neck, however, since it was trimmed. A sword hung from his leather belt. He removed the quiver and bow, as well as the sword, laying them on the bench beside him.

He stretched his long legs out in front of him. Bathenosh remembered remarking on how long his legs were. His horse was tethered to a nearby tree. He turned and smiled, when he saw Bathenosh approaching politely with his food and drink.

“Ah, the beautiful maiden returns with gracious hospitality! How long have you been married, fair maiden? Are you happy?” The stranger smiled, again revealing his perfect teeth.

Bathenosh did not answer. “Here is your food and drink, my lord. I hope you find it to your satisfaction.” She politely lowered her eyes, while holding out the tray, carrying the bread, the cheese, and the goblet of wine.

“Ah, it looks delicious. A meal fit for a prince…for men or…even for angels.” The stranger looked up at the young girl, and smiled, as he accepted the tray of food.

Bathenosh was not sure why, but his mention of the word “angel” frightened her. She looked up, startled. Bathenosh looked at the young man intently. He smiled, holding her eyes. Bathenosh could not help herself. A smile played upon her lips as she looked into his eyes.

“Please do not leave me, young maiden. I am very lonely. Sit here near me, while I eat and drink. I will not harm you.” The warrior looked at her earnestly, almost pleading.

Bathenosh hesitated. She did not know what to do. She was afraid to stay, and afraid to leave.
“Please” the young warrior said. He reached over and laid his hand gently on her arm. His tremendous height, even while sitting, and something about his commanding presence, paralyzed her. She felt weak in her knees. She wished that Lamech were there. Finally, she meekly sat down on the long bench beside him. “As my lord wishes” she said, quietly. Then she added, “I am a married woman.” She looked up at him with her large, brown eyes. “It is not proper for me to sit here with a stranger.”

The warrior regarded her quietly for a moment. Then he spoke. “Do not be afraid. I will not hurt you. Your husband’s name is Lamech. I know all about him.”

Bathenosh looked up with surprise. “My lord, how do you know my husband, Lamech? Have you ever met him?”

“I have seen him before…but no, we have never formally met.” The tall warrior began to hungrily devour the bread and the cheese. He lifted up the large goblet of wine, and drained half of it down.

“Where did you see my husband, my lord? He rarely leaves this plateau north of the Lake Van region.” Bathenosh asked. She looked somewhat doubtful. But she was intrigued.

The warrior smiled. “You are such a pretty little thing! Why are you looking so doubtful? I will explain to you.” The teenage girl looked down demurely.

Bathenosh was uncomfortable. “I should not be sitting here talking with you, my lord. It is unseemly.” She started to get up. The warrior immediately reached out, and touched his hand upon her forearm. “Please, stay just a little longer. I haven’t even told you my name. You wanted to know where I saw your husband, didn’t you? You haven’t been married to him very long.”

Bathenosh blushed. “How did you know that, my lord? I did not tell you that.” She sat back down, and looked at the tall man. She noticed the muscles on his arms. They rippled with power. He wore no beard, but was clean shaven. He wore no jewelry. He exuded strength and power. She felt it, mixed in with a certain fear of the unknown. Yet she knew that she was interested in what he had to say. She looked at him, hesitating.

“That is better, pretty maiden. Now you tell me your name, and I will tell you mine.”

“You probably already know my name, my lord. You said you knew my husband’s name.” The man had put Bathenosh somewhat at ease. She smiled.

“Indeed, how could I not know your name? The name of one who is so lovely, and whose beauty is well known in this region. Your name is…” The man smiled, hesitating, so as to tease. “Your name is…Bathenosh, but your real, given name was Bilanos.” He smiled.

Bathenosh gasped. Her brown eyes widened, and she put her hand to her mouth in surprise. “How did you know that? Not very many people know my real name.”

“Well, I have admired your beauty for a long time…from a distance. I know a lot of things about you.” The young warrior took the last bite of cheese. He looked at her and grinned. He lifted up the goblet, “Here’s to the prettiest maiden in this region…nay, in the whole earth!” He laughed, and lifted his goblet to drain the last of the wine. Bathenosh blushed. “I must be going, my lord. It is not good for me to stay here. My…”

The young man took her arm for a moment. “Please, once more I beg you. I am not finished speaking with you. I am your guest. Please do not leave just yet. I will not harm you. I have told you that.” He looked into her eyes. She returned his gaze. His gray eyes were like cloudy pools of mist. She felt lost in them. She suddenly felt like she was being entranced. She could not take her eyes away from his. Slowly, he moved closer to her. She could not move.

“My lord…” Bathenosh drew in her breath sharply. He drew near, and bent down to kiss her lips. His kiss was like a searing flame. It was like a fire shooting through her being. She wanted to cry out, but she could not. At the same time, she felt almost like swooning.

Only a few moments went by, but to Bathenosh they seemed like an eternity. She breathed out with a sigh. She felt like going limp in his arms, but something inside of her seemed to strengthen her. She let out a muffled cry, “Dear God, Lord Jehovah, please help me!” Her words hit the stranger like a lightning bolt. He suddenly sat up straight in alarm.

“What did you say?” His brow furrowed in alarm. He frowned. He stood up quickly. He quickly composed himself. He smiled pleasantly, “Well, I thank you, Bathenosh, for your hospitality. I must be going.”

He seemed suddenly nervous. His nerves seemed jarred. He looked slightly agitated.
Bathenosh was also startled. “You should not have done that, my lord. I am a married woman.” She also stood up. She was breathing heavily from the power of his embrace, and from his kiss.

“Ah, yes. So you are. I apologize, dear maiden. I was carried away by your beauty. I could not help myself. Indeed, what man could…in your presence? But I am indebted to you. I beg your forgiveness.” He reached for his weapons, and put them on. He looked over at his horse. Then he looked back at Bathenosh.

Bathenosh stood there, almost in a daze. She had put the back of her hand on her lips, which were still burning. She had never been kissed like that. Several young men had stolen kisses from her…but never one like that. Who was this stranger? Her mind raced. He was so tall that he towered over her.

Bathenosh summoned up her strength. “You must leave me, sir. You have violated my husband’s hospitality.”

The stranger looked at her for a moment. He nodded. “I was overcome by your beauty, Bathenosh. I have asked your forgiveness. Again, please forgive me. I would never harm you. I am your servant. If you ever need me, just call out for me, and I will come to you. Wherever I am, I will hear your call…I will come to help you.”

“W-Who are you?” Fear again flooded Bathenosh’s mind, but it was mixed with intrigue, and a flush of emotion. “You never told me your name.”

The tall stranger had walked over to his stallion, which had been quietly grazing, while tethered to the tree. Bathenosh almost unconsciously followed the man over to his horse. She stood before him, as he prepared to mount. He turned to her.

“My name is Samhazi” he said, looking down pleasantly at her. He smiled. His smile was dazzling.

Excerpt Upcoming New Novel The Governor’s Daughter

Philon won out, and the next day Belos made his way back over to the villa. Altes, the sentry, remembered him. He wasn’t too sure about Belos’ request to see the daughter of the governor. The governor was away on business, and he had given no instructions about his daughter practicing with the sword. Finally, Belos convinced him to take him to someone in authority at the villa.

The chamberlain, whose name was Decimus, was just as doubtful as the sentry. He was a short, rotund man with beady eyes. He perspired easily. He looked at the young blacksmith’s son standing politely before him.

“You say that the Lady Quinta asked you to practice sword with her? I’ve never heard about this. The master said nothing to us about it.” He looked up at the tall eighteen year old boy rather disdainfully.

Belos was about to turn around and leave when Quinta entered the atrium.

“Oh, there you are! I was wondering whether you would come today! Come on, we haven’t time to waste!” Quinta walked quickly over to Decimus and Belos, who stood there with Altes the sentry. Belos smiled at the young girl as she approached. The tall brunette had a radiant smile. She was trim and positively beautiful. She was wearing a light orange-colored chiton, with dark orange sandals. She wore a black belt around her slender waist.

“Come along!” Quinta said cheerfully. “Decimus, I shall be in the courtyard for about a half hour at least, practicing with the sword with this young man.” The chamberlain looked pained.

“But, my lady Quinta!”

“Yes?” Quinta replied a little sharply, looking at the pudgy chamberlain.

“Oh, nothing!” Decimus called for one of the female servants, a petite, dark-haired Greek girl named Melitta, who came running.

“Go with the lady Quinta! Be at her service! You are her maidservant, aren’t you? Why weren’t you with her anyhow?” Decimus was exasperated. Melitta bowed and followed Quinta, as she quickly led Belos into the courtyard. They walked for some distance down to the armory, which was next to the horse stable. The chief stable boy procured two swords for Quinta. They were practice swords with dull blades. Melitta stood behind her mistress, watching excitedly as Quinta explained to Belos what she wanted to do. Suddenly, she turned to Melitta.

“Don’t just stand there, Melitta! Run and get us some wine and water. We’ll be thirsty! Hurry!” Melitta bowed hastily and ran back across the courtyard towards the kitchen.

Quinta disappeared into a small room. She returned dressed in a soft leather outfit. Belos was surprised to see that she was wearing leather trousers like the barbarians.

“Father says it is not seemly for me to wear my tunic during swordplay. It is so warm in Arabia that I hate wearing my stola and especially my palla anyhow. This leather outfit is also very warm.”

“You…ah…look nice in what you are wearing.” Belos did not know what to say.

Quinta blushed. She did not reply. Melitta came rushing back with water and wine.

“Set it over there” Quinta said curtly. Belos noticed that she suddenly seemed somewhat nervous. She turned to Belos and smiled. “Are you ready? I apologize. I have forgotten your name.”

“It is Belos, my lady.” Belos smiled. “It means ‘lord’ or ‘master’.” Belos blushed. He lifted his sword. Quinta had raised her sword to a slightly angled position. She began to slowly advance towards Belos.

Belos looked her in the eye. She was not smiling now, but rather she was serious and determined. The two held each other’s eyes as they began to circle. Suddenly Quinta thrust at him. Belos parried her thrust quickly. Belos realized after Quinta made a painful jab with the dull sword that he had an opponent who knew what she was doing. He was reluctant to really thrust hard. He was afraid he would hurt her. After all, she was the governor’s daughter. He held back. It made Quinta angry.

“Don’t hold back on me! She thrust at him swiftly, making contact with the dull blade. It hurt. Belos became a little angry. He parried her thrust with a powerful move and made contact, causing the girl to cry out. Finally, after about ten minutes or more of heated engagement, the girl cried “Enough”! She backed away and stood there panting and perspiring. She turned to Melitta.

She laughed. “Give Belos and me something to drink! We need a rest!” She reached out her hand and took his. “Good swordplay! Good swordplay!” Belos laughed, mostly out of relief. He grasped her hand.

“Come over here and set down, Belos! I am exhausted!” Quinta pointed to a bench nearby. She moved over to it and sat down. She motioned for Belos to sit down beside her. Melitta hastened over with jars of wine for the two “combatants”.

“Bring us some water, Melitta! This wine is good, but it will make us even thirstier.” Melitta hastened to obey. Melitta was probably about 16 years old. She was very short and very petite, with black hair and dark eyes. She was a pretty girl. She obviously admired Belos, smiling at him and looking into his eyes covertly as she handed him his jar of water. She felt like there was some kind of a special bond between him and her, since they were both serving Quinta, the governor’s daughter.

“Thank you” Belos smiled at the slave girl. Quinta noticed. It amused her. She looked at Belos out of the corner of her eye. She noticed his handsome features and his muscular build. She complimented herself on having picked a good “gladiatorial” opponent.

“So, Belos…how many are there in your family? I know about your father, Philon. My father speaks of him sometimes.”

“There is my mother, Agathe. I have an older brother named Theron and an older sister named Sophronia. Both Theron and Sophronia are married. They live in Bostra. I have one younger sister still at home. Her name is Tryphosa. She is a pest.” Belos looked at Quinta and smiled. “And what about you, my lady? I mean…your family.”

Quinta paused a moment. “My father is Lucius Caecilius Nepos, and he is the governor of Arabia. He serves at the pleasure of the emperor. My mother is Aula Claudia Aquila. She comes from an old equestrian family. My father is of noble birth, but he is not from an equestrian family. I have two brothers, who are deceased. Both of them were tribunes and fought with the Third Cyrenaica. I am the only daughter at home. My other two sisters are married and gone. I am the youngest. That is why they named me ‘Quinta’. I am their fifth child.”

Belos nodded. He smiled. “You come from a distinguished family. I have heard that your father was a war hero.” Quinta smiled, appreciating his compliment. She loved her father. She jumped up. She was her father’s pet, and she knew it.

“We’ve got to get back at it, Belos. I only have you here for half an hour! Let’s make the most of it. She picked up her sword and made ready to face him again. Belos stood ready to receive her “attack”. Melitta watched nervously as the two young people circled again, ready to begin. She got so excited watching them that she picked up Belos’ jar of wine and drank from it. It was special to her to do that.

Suddenly, Belos with a great circling riposte tore the sword out of Quinta’s hand. He placed the dull end of his blade at the girl’s throat, and stood there smiling. Quinta looked at her sword, which had fallen to the ground. She looked at Belos and smiled. She lifted her head up proudly.

“Well done, Belos! Well done! That is a good ending to today’s practice!” Belos smiled. He pointed his sword to the ground and bowed. “You are very skilled, my lady!”

“You’re good, Belos!” Quinta smiled, as she led the way back to the villa. Belos followed behind her. Melitta hurried along beside Belos, looking up at him and smiling. Belos smiled back. Obviously, she admired him.

They entered the atrium, and the chamberlain Decimus hurried up. “My lady, I guess you are finished with your sword practice?” He looked at her questioningly.

“Pay this young man, Decimus!” Quinta ordered. Decimus looked puzzled. “Pay him?”

“That’s what I said, Decimus. Pay him!” Quinta looked at the chamberlain. Decimus bowed, and made his way out of the room.
“He’ll be back, Belos” Quinta said. “Sit down over there. Decimus will be back with some money for you.”

“I enjoyed myself, my lady. I don’t need any money. You are a worthy and a beautiful opponent.” Belos looked at Quinta. The girl blushed. She did not answer. Decimus hurried back with a small bag of coins. He thrust them into Belos’ hands without smiling.

“Please take them, Belos” Quinta said sweetly. Belos looked at her. Her attitude seemed different. He stood. He smiled and bowed. He turned to go.

Quinta caught his arm. She looked into his eyes. “The day after tomorrow? Same time?” Belos looked at her. Finally, he smiled. “Yes, my lady. As you please.” Quinta smiled. She became conscious of holding on to his arm. She quickly dropped her hand to her side, slightly red in the face. Melitta smiled at Belos covertly as he turned to leave. It was just the trace of a smile. He nodded, looking into her eyes briefly.

Philon was pleased when his son handed him the bag of coins. “This is far more than you are worth, my boy.” Belos did not reply. “She wants me back the day after tomorrow, Father.” Philon looked at him. “Are you sure this just involves sword practice?” Belos turned red.

“Yes sir! She is the governor’s daughter! She is far above my station.” Philon suddenly slapped his son, stunning the boy.

“Never say that again in my presence! We are free! Don’t forget we are Romans, too. Especially since the edict of Caracalla! We are just as good as they are! I fought for Rome alongside your governor friend! I was a field commissioned officer!” Belos looked up surprised at his angry father. His first reaction was to be angry, but then he smiled.”

“I am just being respectful, sir” he said. His father looked at him, amazed at the boy’s calmness. He turned and walked out of the room with the money.

Two days later, Belos made his way over to the villa. This time the sentry was expecting him. Altes smiled. “Come with me” he said gruffly. Quinta was waiting for Belos in the courtyard next to the armory. She was dressed in a beautiful white tunic, which came to her ankles, with sleeves down to her elbows. Her hair was done up in a Greek bun, revealing her slender, white neck. She wore gold colored sandals. Her beauty took Belos’ breath away. It was Quinta’s intention. She smiled when the tall, lithe and muscular boy approached. He bowed and smiled, a little nervous. She could tell he was taken by her.

“You are not dressed for swordplay, my lady?”

Quinta smiled. “Ah, no…I am not today! My father is home and he says that your father is an excellent archer, and so you must also be skilled in archery. He wants to meet you later. He wants to…check you out.” Belos noticed that Melitta was standing behind Quinta, holding two bows and two quivers of arrows.

“Can you handle a bow, Belos?” Belos was mildly surprised.

“My father has taught me the art of archery. I am by no means as good as he is.”

“If he taught you, you will be good enough. I want you to teach me how to shoot with a bow.”

“Yes, my lady”. Belos nodded his head in deference. Quinta noticed him watching her.

“You are not pleased with my dress? Is there something wrong with it? What do you think of it?” Quinta said coyly, looking at him out of the corner of her dark eyes. Melitta looked up quickly at her mistress. She looked over at Belos.

“Uh…no, there is nothing wrong. I assure you I am very pleased with it. You look very pretty, my lady. Extremely…charming.” Belos was slightly red in the face. He had not expected this. But then again, she was a girl. What should he expect?

Quinta studied him boldly for a moment. Then she smiled. “Come! Let us go to the archery range over there. You shall show me how to hold the bow and how to shoot arrows.” Quinta turned to Melitta. “Follow us, Melitta. I shall need you.” The petite, dark-haired girl bowed and shouldered the two quivers of arrows, which were fairly heavy for her. She picked up the two bows which had not yet been strung. Belos saw that they were too heavy for her. He reached over and quietly took one quiver and one bow. Melita smiled gratefully. Belos winked at her.

When they got to the archery range, Quinta took a bow and the remaining quiver of arrows. She noticed that Belos had already taken his from Melitta. She said nothing, but she looked at Melitta. She turned to the girl.

“Now go out by the target and retrieve the arrows we shoot.”

“Me?” Melitta was caught off guard. “Mistress, I…”

“Melitta! I can’t get any of the men servants today. Father is home. Now go out there!”

“Yes, my lady!” Melitta practically ran out to the targets. She was obviously nervous. She looked back at her mistress a little fearfully.

“Melitta!” Quinta called. “Don’t stand so close to the target, silly! Do you want to become the target!” Melitta jumped away from the target, edging farther to the side. Belos looked at the slave girl compassionately.

Quinta looked at Belos. Her eyes twinkled. She laughed. It was infectious. Belos felt sorry for the small slave girl, but he could not help laughing, too.

“Now, please show me how to string the bow, and how to launch an arrow.” Quinta looked at Belos, with a twinkle in her eye. She had the bow in her hand. The string hung down. The quiver of arrows lay on the ground beside her. Belos swallowed. He noticed how trim her figure was and how smooth her slender arms were. She knew that he was looking at her again. It did not displease her. She threw her head back and looked at him, waiting on him expectantly.

“Here, my lady” Belos replied, moving closer to the young girl. He took the bow from her hands. He was clearly momentarily nervous.

“You string the bow like this.” He turned the bow towards himself and began to bend the bow, getting the proper tension so that he could hook the thick string in the notch on the other end. When he was satisfied that the bow was properly strung, he took the string off the end and handed it to Quinta.

“Now you try it, my lady.” Quinta looked at him and smiled. “It takes a little strength to bend that bow, doesn’t it? You don’t think I can do it, do you?”

“I did not say that, my lady” Belos smiled.

“Dispense with the ‘my lady’ speech while we are out here together” Quinta said. “Only use that when others are around. My name is Quinta.” She looked at Belos and smiled slightly. Belos was actually charmed by her impertinent speech. He thought it masked her nervousness. He considered it to be “cute” coming from such a pretty girl. Melitta, on the other hand, was getting a little upset with her mistress, although she would not openly betray it. She knew Quinta was flirting with Belos. She liked the boy herself…and didn’t think that a blacksmith’s son was suited for a governor’s daughter.

“Yes, my…” Quinta and Belos both laughed. “You say, ‘Yes, Quinta’.” Quinta smiled.

“Yes…Quinta” Belos said a little awkwardly, although he smiled. Quinta winked at him. It felt good saying her name like that.

“Let me show you that I am not a weakling as you think of me.” Quinta picked up the bow. Imitating Belos, she quickly strung the bow. She held it up triumphantly.

“I am impressed…Quinta” Belos said, smiling. Her charm was “disarming” him. He was not quite as nervous as he was before.

“Now” he said, moving closer. “I must show you how to notch an arrow and aim the bow.” He took the bow from her hands and getting quite near to her, he placed the bow in her left hand. “I assume you are right handed” he said.

“I am” Quinta said, gripping the bow in the center with her left hand and looking up at him. Her big, almond-shaped eyes, which were like pools of liquid brown topaz, held him captive. She realized that. Blushing, she shifted her eyes away and asked “now what?”

“Take one of these arrows” Belos continued. “Examine it for the trueness of the shaft, and lightly examine the guidance feathers. Don’t hold the shaft by the feathers. Don’t touch them. Grasp the arrow with your right hand, and pull it out of the quiver.” Belos stood close to her, helping her to hold the bow and to fix the arrow on the string. He took her right hand, leaning over her shoulder, and putting his arm around her. Both of them became very conscious of their closeness to each other.

“Now draw back on the bow, holding the notich-end of the arrow between your thumb and your index finger…like so. Make sure it is properly notched on the string.” Belos felt the nearness of Quinta’s body. He felt rather strange. His face was next to hers. She turned to look at him, because he had hesitated.

“And what next?” Quinta asked. Her face was so close to his that he could feel her warm breath. Their eyes met. Belos felt strangely warm.

“You…you pull back with all your might until you have reached the maximum tension…”

“Like this?” Quinta drew back on the bow.

“Yes…that’s it! Good! Now look down along the arrow…and aim.” The two were almost cheek to cheek. Melitta was watching them in amazement from her position out by the target.

“Like this?” Quinta turned her head to the left. Her lips were almost so close that Belos could have easily kissed her. He hastily moved slightly away. She noticed it.

“Yes, that’s it. Make sure you have the target sighted down along your arrow. That’s why the arrow must be examined for its trueness.”

Quinta turned closer to the boy. “And then?” This was unnerving to Belos. He was breathing a little rapidly. Maybe from nervousness, he thought.

“You…you shoot by releasing the arrow smoothly and quickly from your fingers. Quinta let the arrow fly. It pierced the target close to the bullseye.

“Great shot!” Belos exclaimed. Breathing a sigh of relief that he could back away from the girl a little. He smiled at her. Quinta turned to him in glee. “I did it!” She lifted her bow in triumph.

“Bring me the arrow, Melitta!” She called to her maidservant.

“No! Tell her to leave it there. Let’s see how much closer you can get this time!” Belos was getting excited. Melitta stood still, wondering what Quinta would say. Quinta said nothing. She looked at Belos and smiled.

“That was great…Quinta! Are you sure you have never shot an arrow before?”

“I have not! That was my first time!” Quinta laughed. She was thrilled.

“And she is a chip off the old block!” Governor Lucius Caecilius Nepos and the chamberlain Decimus had come up unobserved behind the two. Melitta had seen them, but was petrified with fear. She thought there might be trouble because Belos had been practically holding the Lady Quinta in his arms as they approached.

Quinta whirled around. “Father!” She cried out and ran to him, embracing him. The governor laughed, lifting up his favorite off her feet and kissing her.

“You are an excellent shot, my dear. I saw that! I am amazed!” Quinta laughed with glee. “Belos is an excellent instructor, Father! That was my first shot!”

Belos bowed low before the governor.

Excerpt From Novel Sabellius in Africa

Aristaeus agreed. Portia said nothing. Her mind went back to her last meeting with Plautianus. She quickly dismissed that.

“Have you heard from Sabellius, dear?” Aristaeus turned to his wife.

“No, I’m expecting something from him one of these days soon” Portia answered.

In fact, Sabellius had written his mother. The letter reached Portia several days later. The circumstances of her picking up the letter were somewhat tumultuous.

Aristaeus took Portia with him to check on the mail. They rode together down to Apollonia, making their way to the office of Demetrius the harbor master, who received all the mail from the ships or the couriers coming into Apollonia.

When the two arrived at the harbor master’s office, Hector the old servant who assisted Demetrius informed them that he did not know where the mail was, since Demetrius kept it on his desk. Demetrius was over at the inn taking his morning break.

“Let’s go over to the inn” Aristaeus said. Portia wasn’t too happy about going to the inn, since she had experienced difficulties there in the past. She did not say anything. She dutifully accompanied her husband.

The two dismounted and made their way into the inn. Demetrius was in the back drinking and playing some kind of a game with about four or five other Greek locals. From the raucous noise, Portia judged that they were drunk.

Ariston the innkeeper and Circe his waitress were up front at the bar located on the left, as Aristaeus and Portia entered.

Ariston was drunk. “Hail, Aristaeus, the Greek sea captain, and his beautiful wife!” Ariston said loudly. Demetrius and the Greeks with him looked up.

Aristaeus turned to him, and nodded curtly, not replying. He hadn’t expected such a bold, thinly veiled insult from the innkeeper. He took note that he was drunk, and said nothing.

Not to be discouraged, Ariston tried another remark. “She’s looking good today, Master Aristaeus. Still got a great figure!”

“He’s drunk dear” Portia whispered to Aristaeus. “I know” he replied quietly. “Just keep going.” As they neared Demetrius and his Greek friends, it became evident that they were in on this.

“Well, if it isn’t Master Aristaeus back from his sea travels! I see you’ve got that pretty little Roman wife of yours with you! She hasn’t found another Roman officer yet, has she?” One of the Greeks said, laughing. The others joined in. It was fairly dim back in that part of the inn, and Aristaeus couldn’t make out which one of the five Greeks had made the remark. They spoke in Greek. They had been drinking.

Portia blushed. She smiled rather bitterly, and looked down. Aristaeus got red in the face, and the color came into his neck. He clenched his fists, but said nothing.

“Demetrius, I’m looking for some mail. Your servant Hector says he does not know where it is. He thought perhaps it was back on your desk.”

Demetrius was a short, pudgy, balding Greek. He looked at Aristaeus for a moment, but said nothing.

It was amazing to Aristaeus. He could not believe the open insults that were coming his way. At one time he was a respected citizen, and he had been always courteously addressed. He realized the source of it: it was Portia’s indiscretion and Ariston’s dirty gossip. But why was it being directed at him? Probably because he was a Greek, and had not put away his Roman wife as they thought he should have done. Some of the Greeks hated the Romans. But the insults were difficult to swallow.

Biting his lip, Aristaeus spoke again. “Demetrius, we would like to pick up our mail. Hector says we have some at the office.”

Demetrius was obviously a little soused. Finally he answered. “Sure, Aristaeus. Go back and tell Hector that there are two scrolls on my desk. They are on the right hand side. I think they came in from Rome yesterday. He can get them for you.”

“She’s sure looking good today!” A voice came from the table. Aristaeus spun around.

“Are you speaking about my wife?” He spoke quietly, but firmly. It got quiet at his challenge.

A big Greek, sitting on the far side of the table spoke up. “Yes. I said she is looking good today. That’s a compliment. A Greek like you getting one of those proud Roman beauties ought to appreciate what I said.”

“Look, man. My wife’s beauty is for me to openly appreciate. She belongs to me. I don’t appreciate your big mouth.” Aristaeus was getting angry.

Portia took his arm. She said quietly, “Let’s go, Aristaeus. They’ve been drinking.”

Aristaeus continued to look at the big man across the table. The other men were silent. There was tension in the air.

The big Greek stood up. He was a little over six feet, and probably weighed about 250 pounds. He glared back at Aristaeus.

“Look, Aristaeus” he said, “I was trying to pay a compliment to your good looking wife. I could have said some other things about her. You don’t need to be upset. Now why don’t you just run along?”

“What other things?” Aristaeus said, continuing to stare back at him.

The big Greek shrugged his shoulders. He spat on the floor. “A lot of other things…like…it’s well known that your high and mighty Roman wife is a whore!” He spat the words out. You could have heard a pin drop. Aristaeus’ fists clenched. He prayed silently. Lord, please help me!

“You either take that statement back, and or I’m coming around that table to teach you a lesson.” Aristaeus was losing it. Portia took his arm again.

“Please, Aristaeus! Let it go! I probably deserve the statement. It’s not worth getting upset about. Let’s put it in the Lord’s hands!”

Another one of the Greeks, who was a short, stocky man, couldn’t resist getting involved. He had heard Portia.

“Now she wants to put things into her Christian god’s hands. I thought her god didn’t approve of running around with Roman officers while her husband is at sea!” Several of the Greeks, including Demetrius, laughed.

“Leave my Christian God out of this!” Portia couldn’t help responding. She knew better, but the excitement of the moment got the best of her common sense. Portia had invited their attention.

Now it was out of hand. “How’s your Roman lover, honey? Guess he’s out now that hubbie’s home!” One of the men jeered. Several others laughed. It was too much for Aristaeus. He stepped around the table, and took the big Greek by his clothes, twisting them and pulling him forward with his powerful arm.

“Either apologize or I’m going to make you do it. You can’t insult my wife and get away with it.”

“Aristaeus, please!” Portia cried out.

“I like how she gets excited! She has that hot Roman blood!” One of the Greeks called out, laughing. The big Greek knocked Aristaeus’ hand loose.

“Look, friend!” the big Greek cried out, “If you want to be married to a Roman harlot, then that’s your business. But leave me out of it. We’re Greeks! We’re not that fond of the Roman conquerors!” The big Greek pulled his fist back, and threw a punch at Aristaeus, missing his jaw but landing on his left shoulder. Aristaeus stood his ground and quickly shoved him backwards, causing the man to crash into several chairs, knocking them over.

Ariston ran around the bar, and quickly joined the dispute. “What’s going on here? I don’t allow any fighting…” He grabbed Aristaeus from behind, and spun him around. “Get out of my inn! You’re a troublemaker, and your wife’s a tramp! Get out!” Aristaeus pushed him back on to the table. The men sitting at the table had scrambled out of way. Ariston crashed backwards on the table, collapsing it, and scattering the chairs with ceramic mugs of beer flying and shattering.

Two of the men grabbed Aristaeus and held him. The big Greek had gotten back on his feet. He landed a punch on Aristaeus, who grunted and fell back on the two men. He wrenched himself loose from them, and lunged at the big Greek, shoving him into one of the men, who staggered backwards and fell, scattering chairs.

Portia screamed. “Aristaeus! Let’s leave, please!” Aristaeus ignored her. He had lost it. He was on “automatic pilot” now. He turned, and landed a punch on one of the Greeks. Both that man and Demetrius, who was right behind him, fell backwards on to the floor, destroying a couple of chairs.

Just then the military patrol, which had been passing by on foot out in front heard the noise, and burst in the door. The centurion in charge cried out, “Break it up! Break it up! In the name of Caesar!”

Aristaeus had one of the men in his grip, and his fist was drawn back. He turned, and looked at the centurion. He disgustedly pushed the man back, who back pedaled into another table, loudly scooting the table back, scattering chairs.

“What’s going on here?” The centurion cried out. He was a short, slender but muscular Roman. He was accompanied by two large Roman soldiers, who had their hands on their swords. The centurion looked around him. His recognized Aristaeus, and he smiled.

“Well, Captain Aristaeus! You old sea dog!” He came forward, and reached his hand out in greeting. Aristaeus was breathing somewhat heavily, but he smiled and took the centurion’s hand.

The Excitement of History

Zenobia_on_banks_of_Ajax_PoussinOne of the things that motivated me to write historical romance novels was the fact that I find history to be aflame with excitement, romance, dramatic moments, and great themes and struggles. I have written a number of histories concerning the apostolic movement during mostly the first three centuries following the time of Christ. Almost without exception the men who stood for the truth of monotheism and the full deity of Jesus Christ have been castigated as “heretics” and maligned, while others have been glorified (e.g. Calvin who murdered Michael Servetus with no mercy; Constantine who put members of his own family to death, and Martin Luther, who ordered the German princes to smite and slay peasants.

I felt that men like the ancient champions of the Oneness of God deserved to be portrayed in a good light. I am sure they were men and women of passion and love, who stood for truth. That was the kernel of thought that led me to write the novels concerning Sabellius (c. AD 180-260), a man who has stirred up his opponents for centuries by the stand he took for truth. I have used my imagination combined with a tremendous amount of historical research to bring these men and women back to life. In the novel Lost Memories of Eden I attempted to portray the tremendous battle Noah must have faced in building the ark. I do not think that Noah built the ark without demonic opposition, and so I used the ancient theories of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 as a theme in the novel. I hope it brings about a greater appreciation of Noah’s courage and indomitable will in building the ark. Finally, I wrote a novel concerning the life of the third century Monarchian Christian Paul of Samosata and the beautiful Queen Zenobia. Paul, in later life, became the duly elected bishop of Antioch. He held the older doctrine concerning the Oneness of God and Christ, and he was challenged (with no eccleisiastical authority) by other bishops who had adopted a newer form of teaching concerning Christ. His strange friendship has never really been explained, and so I set out to use my imagination.

I would welcome any comments on my novels. I have several novels  yet to be published: a fourth novel on Sabellius, concerning his alleged visit to Byzantium (tentative title Sabellius in Byzantium); a novel concerning a young Roman girl and a blacksmith’s son  tentatively called The Governor’s Daughter; and, finally, and a novel concerning Polycarp, a great Oneness Christian bishop in the time of Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius (second century) entitled The Centurion’s Daughter. I hope to be able to get these published in the future when I am able. Here is a picture of an artist’s conception of Zenobia as some might imagine her in my novel The Queen and the Heretic on the banks of the Euphrates before she is captured by the forces of Aurelian.