Now I’m in the process of seeking an agent or publishers for my Cornish supernatural crime comedy caper Salmonweird, I return to my other unfinished work Children of Phobetor. Until quite recently, this was known as simply Romans Vs Aliens but that was never going to be its actual title. It’s been slow moving because I want to get it largely factually correct. Having an archaeology degree tends to make one anal about these sorts of things.
The concept is simple: six retired gladiators during the reign of Vespasian are sent on a secret mission by the royal household to investigate the destruction of three forts beyond the limes (border) in Germania. They will encounter an alien invasion of a sort, but don’t expect a swords and lasers battle. This is largely character driven and visceral in nature where the real enemy is the dark past of each of these six protagonists:
Introducing Methodius the Greek
Gladiator name: Plato
Considered “The Thinking Man’s Gladiator”, he was known in the arena for outwitting his opponents. He didn’t have much of a choice with his his slender frame and lack of muscle mass. He became a moneylender after his retirement and as the eldest, his sense of calm and thoughtfulness means they all look to him in times of crisis even though he is not actually the leader.
Introducing Livia Saturnia
Gladiator name: Diana’s Revenge
The gladiator group’s only woman, (but started life as a male character) she has two reasons for joining the games. The first was tragedy. The second was boredom. As a spirited young Patrician woman, she wanted more than to be a senator’s wife getting fat on the riches of her business investment. On her retirement, she opened a ludus (gladiator school) which is now losing money. She hopes the mission will revive the business.
Introducing Joseph Ben Solomon
Gladiator name: Noxii
This Jew had one job in the arena – to die and to entertain the masses in death. Things didn’t go according to plan. He won fight after fight and soon earned enough to buy his freedom, accepting the “Noxii” moniker as an irony. He is now employed as Livia Saturnia’s chief trainer. The two are joined by a common bond about which neither is willing to talk. They are, however, fiercely loyal to one another.
Introducing Quintus Lucius “Valens”
Gladiator name: Vulpes (The Fox)
The youngest of the group, Valens was a favourite of senators wives due to his pretty boy appearance, cheeky nature and ability to play the crowd. In the arena, his cunning led to victory after victory and eventual riches. He has been a man of leisure since his recent retirement and is still enjoying the riches he earnt. Now “entertains” senators wives in other ways, much to the annoyance of their husbands.
Introducing Tertius Severus “Nero”
Gladiator name: Ferrum Nero (Sword of Nero)
The foul-tempered Nero is a potential liability on the mission. His ferocity in the games did not temper his hot-headedness and he regularly finds himself in trouble with the authorities. Only Seneca knows his true story at the beginning and is willing to work with Nero despite his serious reservations about the young man’s temperament. But does the bad temper hide something?
Introducing Marcus Horatius “Seneca”
Gladiator name: UNKNOWN
Born to a former patrician family who fell from grace when they chose to support Marius over Sulla, the gods gave Seneca a chance to turn around their fortunes. He was in the right place at the right time and put his life on the line to save an emperor. His reward was to join the Praetorian Guards as Titus’ eyes and ears, a mission he gladly accepted. He wants nothing more than restoring the family name.