Not me of course, but my blog. This is particularly pertinent because I’ve just had my busiest month ever on this blog, far outstripping the previous two months over just over 3,000. Thanks to everyone who likes, shares and comments on my blog. Your help and support is always invaluable.
You should all know by now that Dead Heat just had a new cover and Dead Lock is due an imminent release. Here to celebrate 7 years in the blogging game, here is a snippet from the project I expect to return to this autumn/winter period: Children of Phobetor. This is the first indication that this is not a conventional period story.
‘Have any of you been outside the empire? You must have done, Livia?’ Methodius enquired.
‘No, I haven’t. There’s too much to occupy my restless spirit within our borders,’ she replied bluntly, ‘and I’ve not seen much of that either.’
All except Seneca turned to look at him in surprise.
‘What were you doing there?’ asked Livia Saturnia, genuinely impressed. ‘I’ve never been so far!’
His frank response at having been in the legion elicited more surprise from the group. ‘A legionary who became a gladiator? What did you do to get kicked out?’ asked Joseph.
‘His record of service is unimportant to our mission,’ Seneca snapped, noticing Nero’s discomfort. ‘I’m not sure military discharge is a matter for such candid discussion. If Nero wants to discuss it, that’s his choice.’
‘No,’ Nero replied weakly. ‘I don’t want to talk about it. I am where I am now. That’s all that matters.’
For a few minutes there was only silence as they took in the great unknown. Valens broke the encroachment of the sounds of nature about them. ‘Who is that woman?’ he pointed to the top of the hill before them.
Five other faces turned to look. ‘There’s nobody there, Valens,’ said Methodius. The others muttered in agreement.
‘There was somebody there, on the hill. A woman or a young girl in a white garment. She was there but a moment.’
‘Perhaps the gods are watching over us?’ offered Methodius.
Joseph had another suggestion. ‘How long has it been since you had sex? Your mind is addled already. Can a man be addicted to sex like he can be addicted to wine? To the gods, I believe he is going through withdrawal!’ Joseph said with a snort, a comment that resulted in a few chuckles from the group.
‘I’m not lying and I’m not imagining things,’ he insisted, exasperated at their mockery. ‘There was a young woman there, just for a moment, and then she vanished.’
‘She’s not there now,’ replied Seneca, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Come! The sooner we can complete our mission the sooner we can return to the comforts of Rome. We’ve been walking more than 20 days, we should arrive in five or six more.’
The thing squatted on a branch high up in the tree, watching the six figures slowly make their way up the hill.
Its yellow eyes followed their trail as they talked and laughed together across the invisible border separating Rome from the barbarian lands to the north – a border that it neither noticed nor cared about. But it did care about the five men and one woman nearby. It took in every detail of their figures, listening to their conversation and noticing the individual inflections of their words and accents.
The thing was hungry again, hungry for information, and these six – all with darkness attached to their beings – would be next.
It kept deathly still as they passed beneath the tree in which it perched, holding its breath and its movement while leaning against the branch. It watched them pass under the tree and out of sight, waiting until even their voices had faded to nothing. The chirping of the birds began again.
The thing took off under the morning cloud, silently gliding high above the forest. It briefly cast an unearthly shadow along the ground, heading north between two rivers and into the dense forest of the wild lands beyond.
The six gladiators saw and heard nothing.