A writer's mind is filled with the voices of his characters. For some writers, only a voice or two wants to speak. For others . . . hundreds of voices and not enough time (nor intellect) to endure all. So I confess, I was not surprised in the least when one voice between my ears elbowed his way to the front of the queue and offered up a challenge.
(character); A Greek warrior by the name of Heraclitus of Sparta.
: Finish a novel started years earlier called Cold the Stars.
And have the novel completed by the 1st of June. (why the 1st of June you say, cousin. A goal to have it done and hand it to a lit agent who will be attending a certain conference in the second week of June in Missouri. An agent who likes this kind of story telling)
The novel's plot:
An alternate-universe creation of the conflict between Carthage and Rome. The Carthaginian Wars. But this one with witches and warlocks and dark magic and power-made rulers and noble families, on both sides of the conflict, who vie for the honor of becoming the Supreme Ruler of all.
And each facing an upstart Greek mercenary who threatens to undue all their cherished plans.
But more, pilgrim! More!
The tome is not just another fantasy novel found everyday in the paperback racks of your favorite bookstore. No, no . . . not so pedestrian in nature this time, bubba. This one has the cadence and flow of words and sentence structures which suggests the style and flow of Homer's The Iliad or The Odyssey. Poetic prose, in other words. (and I'm here to tell you its a bitch to write, sister). But, when it works, it's hypnotic when you read it.
Let me give you a taste so you can decide for yourself if I've hit the mark or not. This is chapter one of the novel.
the stars rule sitting on their thrones high.
Cold the night when skies clear and winds, like poisonous wraiths
sneaking from mountain peaks distant, come down to haunt souls damned.
And colder still, my brother, when in
darkness sit and wait for the bloody victors of battle lost to find you
shivering in bushes thorned.
bright orb in sky shone the battle raged.
Men screamed in
agony and in triumph.
and the hooves of steel-clad steeds thundered back and for across the plains
wide and bloody.
The clash of shields
bronze between opposing factions was like a sea of glistening metal.
Sunlight shot its bright arrows down upon the
masses, each arrow reflecting heavenward with outrageous horror.
The din of battle rings yet in ears of those
The horrors of war fill
the eyes of the silently huddling few who survived the slaughter.
survivor of war terrible he was.
Squatting in the darkness, back against cold stone of mountain wall, shield
leaning over shoulder bloody and scarred, he sat in the frigid cold shivering
Hunger gnawed at his stomach
with the fangs of famished wolves.
a dozen places on his arms and thighs minor wounds bloody and terrible had
dried and caked in dirt stirred from the field of doom.
At his heels lay the bronze helm with its
bright red horsehair plume dented and bloody—a trophy of a day filled with
death and valor.
for the fool who loses, is a terrible dream to endure. For those who survived the day the night
comes with its own unspeakable horrors.
Below him in the distant pass he heard the screams of dying men and the
laughter of victorious horsemen rendering such deadly deeds. Ride they did, these horsemen Roman from far
across the seas, through the night with their spears sharp and bloody hunting
for the woeful few who had fled for their lives. Roman arms had won the day. Roman death the prize for those who could not
find a way to disappear into the night.
A Roman with the stentorian name of Gracchus came to these desert sands
to impose Roman will and Roman power on once ancestors of mighty Greek
heroes. This day was theirs. This battle won. Their steel bloody and victorious.
he---Heraclitus of Sparta—sat in the night and shivered in cold far from the
ones who fled the field defeated and lost.
Neither lost nor defeated this peasant sat.
In dark eyes burned fires of rage.
In his stout heart was a thirst for
With shield covering his front
and the wall of a mountain his back this bearded veteran of a hundred
campaigns—this hammerer of metal and hot forge—this phalanx spear men of
Alexander’s kin—sat in the darkness and dreamed of revenge sweet.
Dreamed of returning to terrible plains below
and giving back the bloody favor the Romans so recently given him.
this night he must endure; must survive in order to victory plan on the
But in the night the stirring of sandals
The rattle of armor
against cold rock.
The groans of men
wounded and defeated stumbling in the night.
Rise this bearded warrior did.
Rise to stand with shield in hand and sword at the ready.
Donning helm red plumed he stood in the
middle of narrow path and waited for those who might intrude on his loneliness.
Twenty ragged, discarded minions
of battle lost.
Greek one and all. From
distant Syracuse—from Athens high—from the rugged peaks of the Ionian shores.
Dragging wounds bloody and grim.
A huddled mass of wounded men defeated and shamed.
Exhausted and condemned to death knowing. Yet
desperate to live the sweet moments of an hour more.
one in the lead of ragged flotsam lifts his eyes and sees the dark form of
warrior standing before them.
the ready—sword resting in hand against thigh powerful.
A specter black of martial splendor!
himself has come to rescue us.”
come to claim his own,” someone
in mass deep yelping.
water cold smashing against mountain firm—like ocean surf smashing against
rocky beach—this harem of defeated souls recoiled from the blackened figure in
front of them.
Some—those with wounds of
lesser pain—gathered their arms and shields and stepped forward to shield their
Shield to shield they stood
and faced the specter in the night.
for their reward heard the deep rumble of amused laughter.
me no fool of a god, Greek.
you—bleed and breathe as a mortal.
I am Spartan.
Son of a Spartan.
Once of the Fifth Regiment of Hericles
Comrades mine—like yours—lie
strewn across battle field below like the shafts of broken spears.”
we must hurry," cried one of the wounded men before him. "Behind us
comes Roman horse bent upon our destruction.
We tarry here in this confining space and die we all soon shall be.”
in the night the rumble of deep voiced laughter.
But black specter lowers his shield and as
closer he approaches wounded warriors grim.
Behind them the voices of horses approaching—of Roman voices yelling
gleefully in the hunt.
Soon they would
come thundering into this narrow path.
Horses lathered from a hard
me true, brethren.
Wish you to survive
this night or to die like slaves chained?
Decide sure in the next
moment for time we do not have to waiver!”
live!” three of the men with shields at the ready answered quickly and firmly.
Live you shall if you do as I say.
Those of you still live with a flame for revenge
burning in your souls will stand with me.
The rest of you pass.
Leave . .
.follow narrow path up into the high country and may the gods go with you.”
The voice a rolling rumble
of confidence supreme.
An ointment of medicine sorely needed by
those who stood in mass staring at creature dark and menacing.
To this lone creature’s surprise none
detached themselves and left their comrades behind.
Instead they gathered themselves—gathered
arms—gathered shields—straighten their lines.
Again, becoming fighting men waiting for commands.
Waiting for victory.
specter black grunted nodding plumed helm.
“I and three others will stand here at the ready.
We will face approaching horsemen.
We will lure them into the trap the rest of
you will spring upon Roman arrogance. Hide in the darkness on either side of
Wait for all the horsemen to
pack themselves tightly. When the last horsemen rides in—attack!
Fall upon their flanks with spear and sword and
cut them down.
Let no one escape.
Hear my words, warriors.
Do as I say and yet we may live to see
Now, who will stand
of the shields at the ready in front of the group stepped forward. Helms
Shields at their sides.
Spears held in hands firm.
Marched they did toward black specter and
took up positions on either side of creature dark.
The rest disappeared into the night.
Like ghosts murderous the warriors became a
part of the darkness and began the wait of a trap certain spring.
grim smile of pleasure stretched narrowly on lips dark of Heraclitus of
Let Romans come.
Let them in their arrogance grand ride to
bloody—was soon to ravage those who so recently ravaged him.