- Gabriela Sbarcea, author of "Message to My Butterfly" on the Hollis Chapman Show!
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- For Gods and For Men at the World Fantasy Conference
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- Delizon Publishers at the World Fantasy Conference, Toronto
- Message to My Butterfly now launched in the US
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- What if Osama Bin Laden was not killed on the 7th of May 2011?
- Delizon Publishers
- 2010 National Book Award Finalists Announced
Gabriela Sbarcea, author of Message to My Butterfly
Isabelle Esling, author of Under the Sky of Paris
James R. Johnson, author of For Gods and For Men
Jacques Warryn, author of Narrow Escape/L'Echapper belle
Nola Reine, author of In the Silence of My Twin Soul/Dans le silence de mon âme jumelle
Philippe Rouply, author of The Pact with the Grasshoppers/Le Pacte des Sauterelle
Guylaine Sarif, author of Poetic Verses
Christobald Andrades, author of They Called Me El Christo
Robert L. Owen, author of Pointman, in 1970
A. Tandreau, author of The Last Global Warming
Marie-Agnes Ledard, author of The Exchange
HS Derkin, author of Proper preparation
Jim Swenson, author of Suicide or Not
Lucy Bacon, author of Why Gretel finally gave up on rescuing Hansel
Cheryl L Reed, author of Stalagmites
Deborah Price, author of Coffee Caste
Lori Martinez, author of Indescribable
Carolyn Kirshner, author of Fear
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- Understanding & Surmounting Your Challenges
Facing challenges of different kinds and magnitudes is one of the most indispensable experiences common to all men. Most challenges have become synonymous to suffering - unwelcome condition, which results in a consequential negative situation or emotion. They are those parts of life no one would wish to experience; not only are they unpleasant, they can also be devastating. Hence, understanding the essence of our daily challenges make us see them in different light.
- For Gods and For Men
Chapter 1 The black-clad figure slipped between trees and bushes under the darkness of night. The moon was hidden behind a sky filled with menacing clouds. Rabbits and field mice scattered from the hurrying figure, but not until he was close upon them. His stealth and speed were the attributes that won him this mission; not to mention the history he had with his contact. He floated over the fields and woods of the Italian countryside on his trek to Rome. He followed the Via Flaminia, the main road north out of Rome, at a distance to further hide his tracks. He crouched behind a large tree as he heard distant sounds he could not identify. Holding his breath as the wisps of his last breath dissolved into the cold night air, his eyes darted for any sign of movement. The night, an enemy itself, stabbed at his face and eyes. Searching for anyone following him, friendly or not, he tried to remain as still as the tree protecting him. This was a dangerous mission and he could not afford to be caught. He needed to pass on his information. They have found him, he thought again to himself. It doesn’t make sense. Why now? He watched closely as the greenery waved to him in the wind. In the moonlight he saw the mausoleums lining the Via Flaminia, blue and cold, immovable in the wind. Rome was a city that believed the dead should not be buried within its walls. So, every main street out of the city was lined with mausoleums housing those who were respected. His path to life was shrouded in death. Seeing nothing to alarm him and hearing only the biting wind of the night, he ventured on toward the great city looming on the horizon. He tightened his cloak against the cold, spring air and continued at a brisk pace. The sooner he could deliver his message the sooner he could return home. How do we know this information is even correct, he raged to himself. Senefann is taking too great a risk. And where is this information coming from? A spy, perhaps? Certainly a traitor of some kind. Traitors, by definition, cannot be trusted. He remembered telling Senefann, his tribal superior, “It is foolish to get involved in the plans and practices of the Gershenah.” For centuries he and his people had hidden themselves from the Gershenah’s intent to dominate mankind. What makes this one man special enough to risk interference, he wondered. “It has always been our charge to aid mankind”, Senefann had said plainly. “Whether we help them survive against the Gershenah or themselves, the task remains.” “We have been isolated for so long, why do we need to get involved now? Why do I need to get involved? Let him resist the Gershenah on his own as fate dictates.” He was very animated in his pleas to stay out of the fight. Had they learned nothing from the last fight, the Great Civil War? After all, we helped create those that call themselves Gershenah, he remembered soberly. It is my fault as much as anyone’s. Rome began to loom larger and fiercer, nestled on its seven hills. In the early morning hours before dawn, drovers were herding their livestock toward the city for the market day. Dodging prying eyes became more difficult and time consuming. Once inside the city gates, it would become easier to move around unnoticed. The task would then become harder. Where was his contact hiding these days? He paused as a wagon carrying vegetables passed close by. Remaining unseen, he headed for the gate. His strategy for stealth changed as he mingled with merchants waiting to enter the city to sell their wares. He only hoped there were no Gershenah agents hiding among the merchants. Normal and casual, he reminded himself as he tried to blend in. It serves nothing to be captured now. The sun broke the night and the light brought increased activity around the city. He slowed his pace and improvised a limp for good measure. As long as he could make it to the gate without speaking or being spoken to, he greatly increased his chances of success. Who knows how many Gershenah are watching for this kind of interference? Are they even still watching? We have been silent for centuries. Do they still see us as a threat to their new way of life? Thinking about the Gershenah was something he had not done for several hundred years, and for the last six days he had thought of little else. Those renegade immortals that spurned the teachings and commands of their creator ventured into human society to conquer and control. The end of the Great Civil War that forever split the immortal world replayed in his mind over and again. The Gershenah left behind the crumbled and broken Fenkheti, the immortals that lost the war. They were an immortal community ripped in two. Brothers, fathers, mothers and sisters torn apart as ideologies differed concerning their controversial creator. I should have been banished along with the rest of the fighters, he thought. The Fenkheti that were military leaders in the war against their brothers were banished. They were condemned to fight the Gershenah alone without the assistance or acknowledgement of those they represented, those they protected. The gate drew near and the market day bustle was heavy. Good, he thought. His limp ensured that passersby would give him a wide berth and keep to themselves. A limp was a non-specific symptom that sent a simple message: steer clear. As the guards looking over the wagons and herds entering the city spotted him, he could feel their penetrating eyes on him. They stood several meters in front of the gate, the Porta Fontinalis, which was the closest gate to the Forum in the Servian Wall. Armed guards were forbidden to enter the pomerium, the sacred area around the city of Rome that was protected by the divine spirit Roma. There must be real upheaval in the city for this demonstration of might. Are these real guards or hidden Gershenah? He wrapped his hand tightly on the hilt of the sword he had stashed under his cloak. “Hold!” the larger of the soldiers said. He stopped immediately, head lowered, not raising his alert gaze higher than the armored legs of the soldier who approached him. He could hear the creaking of the cheek pieces in the hinge on the monteforino helmet. Only legionaries wore helmets like these. “Out of the way, old man”, the legionary grunted and shoved the messenger aside, heading for another man behind him. Letting his held breath escape slowly, he moved on slowly towards the city, limp still in place. He stumbled as he walked past the younger guard, who reflexively took a small step backwards. He smiled to himself and shuffled through the gate and into the city. Now, where can I find that old fool? The sunlight pulled the shadows back from their lengthy trail as the day progressed. He carefully made his way through the busy Forum. This was the market day, which happened every nine days. It seemed as if every Roman needed to purchase something that day. With the sun higher in the sky, the grime and detritus of the city streets were much more evident. The islands of weeds that sprang up in the cobbled cracks of the streets brought some refreshing color to the monotonous hues of the dirt and straw littering the ground. The glorious days of the city, the triumph of engineering, lay forgotten and lost on the people who lived here. He moved outside the Forum and searched through the streets looking for any sign of his contact. His route took him through several temples, government buildings and apartment courtyards in the heart of the city. This is going to take longer than I thought, he said to himself in resignation. The shadows stretched to the other side of the city. Twilight was coming and he was no closer to finding his man than when he started. The flow of people; slaves and freedmen, nobles and plebs, had not diminished. At this time of the day, most of that traffic was heading towards the brothels and taverns. It would be difficult to search the brothels for his man, if he even indulged such trivialities. It was better to look in the wine establishments first. He searched one tavern after another and found little in the way of evidence. He received several glances of appraisal, presumably from thieves, and quickly fled the scene. No wonder these backward people need our help, he thought as he remembered the instructions to all the immortals before the Great Civil War; help the humans, be an aid to them, save them from themselves. Oh yes, how they needed it. It was hard to believe these people had the power to destroy the harmony of his peaceful village. Thousands of immortals were born and raised, living contentedly, away from the world of men and their problems. The creator taught them to be wise and thoughtful, always offering to assist mankind in their time of need. It was these teachings that eventually destroyed the fabric of their community. The Gershenah felt that with the superior power and knowledge the immortals possessed, a life of quiet assistance to a weaker race was ludicrous. This was why the war started - between those who wanted to follow the teachings of the creator and those who did not. After the Gershenah claimed victory, they set out on their own. The beaten Fenkheti banished those warriors who lost them the war, and became a nomadic tribe. The Fenkheti leadership council did not care that they were essentially disobeying the creator in the same way as the Gershenah. Fenkheti desired peace and to be left alone, Gershenah wanted to dominate and rule mankind. Only mankind was watching out for its own interests. He entered the last tavern in the Subura, the slum area of the city. It was no different from the many he had already explored. The light was dim, the women were scandalously dressed and the tables served as gambling centers. The wine flowed and the men were collectively drunk and merry. Their moods made his seem graver. The bar was filled to capacity with filthy bodies and loud clamorous carousing. Prostitutes wandered the mob looking for work. Servers moved tirelessly through the throng selling wine and stealing sips where they could. As he stood in the doorway looking in, he saw his contact. The man he assumed was his goal was face-down on a table, hand clenching a wine cup. He was sharing the table with a rowdy dice game. Several men were around him, laughing and pointing. “Go on, he won’t feel a thing”, one of the men slurred as he pushed another toward the unconscious drunkard. The man he pushed was thin and gangly, hardly worth the clothes he wore. He stank of stale and fresh wine mixed with the odor of the unwashed. The gangly man stumbled through the crowd. From the doorway, the messenger watched as he slowly slid his hand into the pouch of the unconscious man on the table. The thief retrieved a few coins and raised them up in triumph, to the great delight of his cheering audience. The messenger took a step toward the thief who again plunged his hand into the pouch of his mark. This time however, the thin arm jerked violently as the unconscious man became quickly animated and took hold of the robber with both hands. In one swift motion, he bent the thief over, arm wrapped around his back, and threw him into the group of bystanders to their utmost entertainment. Many fell but a few remained standing on shaken legs. This was not very amusing, but at least the messenger had identified his man. And he was recognized as well. He stepped over to the table and stood facing the now awake and lively looking thug. The two men faced each other, ignored by everyone in the room. The look of importance on his face was evident to the drunk. The malice the look returned was penetrating and he was momentarily speechless. The rabble in the room increased their din and clamor as the two men surveyed each other. The drunkard was young and well built. His muscles could be seen stacked beneath his dirty tunic. He was bronze in color and his short, tight, curly hair was matted, standing up in unnatural places, presumably from passing out on the table. His eyes were a piercing grey, reminiscent of the goddess Minerva. Romans thought anyone with grey eyes was bestowed with wisdom from the great goddess. The messenger knew this to be absolutely true. “Salve, General”, he began before his jaw was violently knocked to his right as the drunkard swung and hit true. The impact sent him to the soiled floor. Picking himself up to the fascinated silence of the room, he locked gazes with his attacker, his contact. Without breaking his stare, he wiped the blood from his split lip. The crowd roared suddenly as one organism in its bloodlust, encouraging the fighters to continue dueling. “Good to see you again, too”, he whispered before he threw a punch back at the general. The drunkard stumbled back, barely escaping the thrust of the punch. As he continued forward after failing to land his attack, the drunkard again swung his stone fist. He staggered, dazed after the second strike. With one hand on his shoulder, the other on the right side of his head, the drunkard used the continued forward motion to swing him into the back wall, sending him to the floor in a crumpled mess. The drunkard lost his balance and collapsed onto a table of burly drinkers. They jumped to their feet and threw punches back toward the violator. The messenger shook his head to regain composure and focus, and looked back to see that the general had started another fight. He saw his opportunity to tackle the man and talk some sense into him before either of them hurt anyone. He leaped towards his target. The general stepped to the side and he landed squarely in the middle of a table occupied by much larger men. In the ensuing melée benches were thrown and cups of wine bounced off the walls. Oil lamps were broken on the floor, with little fires springing up here and there. It was then that the proprietor began throwing people out of the tavern. The fight spilled into the dark streets of the city. The general grabbed the messenger and dragged him away from the fracas. He stumbled and the general propped him up and half-carried him down the street and into an even darker alley. “Come on, old friend”, the general said and heaved him against the wall. Once he was able to stand on his own, the general slapped him to bring him around. “Ka’Tewet. Wake up”. He slowly opened his eyes again and focused on the general once more. “I think you could have found a better way of getting some privacy, Friend.” “And miss the chance to bloody an old warrior, even one as treacherous as you?” the drunkard stated without the slightest hint of intoxication. “General”, he began. “Don’t call me that. Those days are long gone.” Ka’Tewet nodded, understanding that the days were indeed long gone, centuries gone. “What are you calling yourself these days?” “Priscus. Nestor Priscus.” “What does it mean?” “It means you had better tell me what you’re doing here”, Priscus said. Licking his swollen lip again, he breathed in a rhythmic, controlled fashion to alleviate his rising anger. “The Gershenah have found him”, he said. “Found him”, Priscus began and stopped. He stepped away from his old friend and stared at the street’s opposite wall for several moments. Ka’Tewet thought he knew what his general of old was thinking. If they’ve found the heir, then they have found her, the general’s reason for living… “As far as I know, they have only located him, the heir, and no one else. And they haven’t taken possession”, he ventured. “How they hunted him down, we don’t know, but they still seem intent on having the prophecy in their fold.” “It never was a prophecy, just a supposition from an old man. Sedjet wasn’t always the best at reading deeper than the surface”, Priscus stated. “Still calling himself that is he?” “Neser Sedjet, the scourge of the human world, self-appointed god of the Gershenah. Surprised?” Priscus asked with a smile. Neser Sedjet had given himself this name after he claimed victory in the Great Civil War that forever changed the isolated village of immortals many centuries before. The name itself, in the language of the early immortals, translates The Burning Flame. The arrogance of Sedjet was only matched by his skill in keeping his men in line, by whatever means necessary, usually violent. “I assume the Shebikem will pursue the heir and deliver him to Senefann for protection”, he said. The Shebikem were those war leaders banished by the Fenkheti, the elite few the Fenkheti tapped to defend them against Sedjet and his Gershenah army. When those Shebikem warriors lost the war, the Fenkheti leadership council banished them as punishment for their loss. Meanwhile, the thousands of surviving immortals left behind after the departure of the Gershenah coined the title Fenkheti for themselves. “If the Fenkheti want the heir, then you apprehend him. If the Shebikem find him, we’ll use him to bring that wicked Lifeblood down. Who is the heir and where do I find him?” From the very beginning of their existence, the immortals had called themselves Lifebloods. They weren’t men or women. They were a creation that was greater and capable of so much more than mere mortals. No one remembered where the term came from or who started it, but all eventually accepted the label and made it their own. Every immortal, Fenkheti and Gershenah alike, proudly wore the badge of Lifeblood. “Priscus, we need to know what this is all about. There must be more to this than just having the heir in his possession. We need to know what is so special about him.” “Special? If Sedjet wants him, he has something that Sedjet needs. That makes him bait”, Priscus said smiling. “When Sedjet finds the heir, he’ll find me with him.” “Good. Then you can ask him what this is all about”, he said. Priscus looked at him and clapped him on the shoulder. Reassured, he told Priscus where to find the heir, the last born immortal, in the city of Rome. “So it begins again”, Priscus breathed. Chapter 2 “What is it today?” the senator asked as he turned to see who was tapping him on the shoulder. “You said to come by today”, Marcus Tegerius Castimus said with excitement. He hoped the day had finally arrived, the day he would be appointed to public office to serve the people of Rome. “Yes, right. I need you to talk with Aurelia and smooth out your marriage.” The senator was tall and imposing. His authority as a shaper of society dripped from every movement. Even his gray hair sat with pomp. “What?” he asked. “I thought that –“ “You thought I would give you a job?” the senator responded. “You can barely keep your house in order and you still want to manage Rome?” “Senator”, he began. “Please, you promised.” The desperation couldn’t be removed from his voice. “I promised nothing. Make my daughter behave as a virtuous woman should, then we’ll talk.” The old man walked away to converse with another senator wearing the latus clavus, the white toga with an impressive purple stripe running vertically throughout. Castimus watched as his father-in-law stepped away from him, along with his dream of a glittering political career. With each step the old man took, he felt the dream slipping further from his grasp. Embarrassed, he retreated back into the Forum. Marcus Tegerius Castimus came from noble heritage, but just barely. Early in the history of Rome, his family, Tegeria, enjoyed great importance and political influence. As the burden of public life became too great, the great, great grandfather of Castimus chose to marry outside of his class, to a sweet, young plebian woman. Unfortunately, that choice had its consequences. The family name was tarnished, becoming duller with each generation to the point that young Marcus Tegerius was left with all the money and none of the influence. Castimus’ father and grandfather sought careers in politics and failed miserably. Luckily for them, there wasn’t passion for the life of a politician in them. They lived in the comfort of their home and enjoyed the trappings of their wealth. This was not so for young Marcus Tegerius. He wanted to be important, make a difference, hold office and be admired. Once he became a man and ceremoniously removed his bulla, a bag of trinkets and charms around his neck, he kept the wax seal of a long departed consul. He had secretly dreamed that an appointment to consul was possible. He knew deep in his heart that he could hold public office and thereby start repairing the damaged family name of Tegerius. He wanted nothing more than to return the glory of old to his family. Part of his plan, though impulsive at the time, was to offer assistance to a senator he had come to know. The senator had a private problem, gambling. He would gamble through one of his trusted slaves and had lost most of the family gold. Castimus had plenty of money and nothing to do with it. He offered, without much forethought or deliberation, to bail out the senator in exchange for arranging a quaestor appointment for him. No political career that went anywhere started without a quaestor appointment. The senator merely laughed, offered his daughter in marriage, and promised a position. Again without careful consideration, Castimus accepted. He was unaware of the chaos he had created with such a bargain. Surely, if he was married to the daughter of a senator, the doors of political intrigue would be opened to him at long last, as her father had said. However, this turned out to be more problematic than he initially assumed. His new bride, Aurelia, was not unattractive, but she had a mind of her own and a temper to match the worst blooded legionary soldier. He was a green, naïve little boy in a world of vipers. # # # The portly slave walked with purpose as he moved through the halls of the house. He was round in the middle and his hairline was decidedly receded, but he was still an attractive man. His sharp features and expressive brown eyes gave him the look of a man blessed by Apollo, very alluring to women with his sensitive and warm eyes. Of course, that was merely the outward appearance of Phoebus and not reflective of the man within. While he was beautiful and a natural draw for women, he was a hard man when it came to running the affairs of his master. Everything needed to be perfect and accurate; his master would accept nothing less. Phoebus was getting the kitchen slaves ready for the evening meal when the main entrance door slammed loudly. All slaves stopped what they were doing and turned to Phoebus with fear in their eyes. They had heard the door slam like that before and knew what it meant; not from the master, but from his chief slave, Phoebus. Phoebus hurried down the hall and found his master slumped on one of the benches in the main room. Castimus had knocked over a vase on the small table next to the bench. He was average height, weight, and build. He didn’t stand out at all, but blended expertly into any crowd. He even blended into the background when completely alone. There wasn’t any real outstanding feature about him. Even his straight brown hair and green eyes marked him as typical. Perhaps the only thing that singled him out of a crowd was the fact that he was paler in complexion. No scars, no deformed appendages, no visible birth marks. Castimus was a plain man. He heaved a deep sigh as Phoebus entered the room and brought him a cup of lemon water. “How did the meeting go, Dominus?” Phoebus asked, already knowing the answer but playing his part to subdue the emotional tide of his master. “About as good as I’ve ever had”, he reluctantly replied. “All I want to do is make a difference.” “Political life comes with great pressure and responsibility. Surely some minor compromises can be beneficial to the people. Are they asking for leaders of integrity?” “And what would a slave know of political responsibility?” he shot back. “Of course, Dominus”, Phoebus said while bowing low. “Phoebus, if the people can’t trust their authoritative figures, how can there be any real prosperity and peace? If I lie to the people or take advantage of them, how can I ever earn their trust? How can I help them? If I give them a loaf of bread in one hand and take three times the cost of it in the other, how am I helping?” Castimus wanted to rest easy knowing he was making progress in changing the landscape of his family for the better. Whatever he would have to do, he had to feel good about his choices. And being the emotional creature he was, he could not consciously get that job done. No, Castimus would not survive in public life. He did not have the strength for it. “That is an excellent point”, Phoebus chimed in. The chief household slave knew that he was calmed by his own understanding of the governmental system. Castimus took off his belt and tossed it on the floor in front of Phoebus. “My father couldn’t get a position in office. His father wanted to be a successful lawyer and he did nothing of any importance. Who am I trying to fool? They were conspiring against him and they are conspiring against me. I should just open a shop like everyone else”, he sighed again. “Dominus”, Phoebus began. “It would not do well for any of your own children to have your family name further diminished by becoming a merchant in the Forum with the commoners. You would never forgive yourself as a laborer.” Castimus knew most patrician class Romans thought it vulgar to earn a living through labor. Plebeians and freedmen could work, but patricians and those of the equestrian order were called to a higher cause, without manual labor. The equestrian order evolved to the aristocratic class from cavalry during the Roman Kingdom years. “If only I had any children to curse in such a way”, he added dejectedly. He looked at the death masks along the wall. The masks of his ancestors, a constant reminder of his family’s spiraling social status, were illuminated by candles behind them. Would there ever be a glowing mask for anyone beyond himself? Phoebus moved in such a way that would capture the attention of his master. The pouty movements and resigned gestures always pulled Castimus’s focus away from himself so that he could help others. “What?” he demanded. “Who am I to question the thoughts of my master? But since you asked, Dominus, your situation is greater than any pleb or slave I can think of. You are well. You have a loving wife. You should take comfort in that.” “Perhaps”, he mused. A woman’s voice bellowed for a slave from the depths of the house. Phoebus snapped his fingers and two slaves tending to the plants in the atrium jumped out of the room in the direction of the woman. “I don’t understand, Phoebus”, Castimus whispers. “Why does she hate this place so much? Is it really that bad here?” “I do not know her opinion”, Phoebus said while slinging Castimus’s belt over his shoulder. “Perhaps she has always been in this mood.” “What is his game?” he said after a few moments. “Whose game?” “Senator Aurelius. I should have a station somewhere by now. I married his only daughter. He owns her till death. He should have me in some responsible position for the sake of her status. What is he doing?” he said, pulling his fingers up to his lips. Phoebus did not answer, but left to check on the slaves in the kitchen. He shortly returned. “I’ve got it”, Castimus said as he stood and removed his toga to reveal his under tunic. Before Phoebus could ask exactly what his master meant, an ear-splitting scream issued from deep within the house, intense and full of venom. The woman could be heard cursing the slaves and demanding they let her be. “What is it that you have, Dominus?” Phoebus had one ear to Castimus and the other to the woman of the house. “I know why the senators think I am foolish and undeserving”, he said while continuing to remove his clothing and walking out of the atrium. As he did so, Phoebus followed behind him picking up his clothes. “I don’t yet understand the proper way in which to align myself on political matters. I still don’t have the cleverness to maneuver people, with integrity.” “Excellent, Dominus.” “I’ll go to the Curia to do some studying. I’ll do what is proper in protocol.” He left the central, open air atrium and entered one of the many halls in his villa. The Curia was the heart of the Roman government. It was the location of the senate, near the Temple of Saturn where the treasury and archives were housed. “Shall I send for more escorts, Dominus?” “No, I’ll go by myself, after I bathe.” Castimus had a habit of traveling out in the city without a slave escort. While this was efficient for the young nobleman, it defied class etiquette. It was a sign of status. Phoebus smiled. “I believe the bath is free now, Dominus.” “This is my bath as well!” bellowed the woman. Castimus walked into the room and immediately entered the bath. His wife, Aurelia, watched with piercing anger. He sat uneasy, knowing that he needed to calm his wife down; appease her in some way. He wanted her father to give him a public job. “I hate you and your silent arrogance.” Aurelia stomped out of the room followed by her attending slaves. Castimus’ tension followed her. He calmed quickly. The room was white with marble walls and reflected the light coming in through a high window. The lush plants that decorated the bath seemed greener because of the white walls. The fact that he had a bath in his home was evidence of the wealth upon which he sat. Perhaps one in a hundred homes in Rome contained a private bath. Most Romans ventured to the public baths where they could find cool and hot baths, steam rooms, and saunas. “I shall have everything ready for your trip to the Curia”, Phoebus said as he moved out of the bath area. Castimus sighed into the warm water, relaxed and motivated. # # # Aurelia calmly entered the study where Castimus was barricaded by scrolls. Rolls and rolls sat before him at a desk while he read. The study of sorts was sparsely furnished; only the table he occupied and a series of shelves that contained additional rolls of parchment. “Marcus”, Aurelia barely whispered. Castimus didn’t register hearing her and she tried again, speaking louder. Finally he saw her and recognized that something wasn’t quite right. “What is it”, he queried carefully, not wanting to set off the beast he knew was just below the surface. Aurelia had objected to the marriage from the beginning and made no secret about her desire to resist him at every turn. Her beautiful reddish locks hung low around her shoulders. Castimus admired her, more so than he let on considering her attitude. He often wished she felt the same way for him. There was silence for several moments. Castimus sat up and gave her his full attention. As he watched her, waiting for a response, he saw that she was standing with her shoulders slightly slumped. Odd, he thought when he noticed, usually so proud and rigid in the shoulders. He looked for further clues and he saw that there were slight streaks down both sides of her white face. She has been crying. “I am going to visit my aunt for a few days”, Aurelia said. “For what purpose?” “Why do I need to have a purpose to visit my family? It has been ages since I saw her last.” Malice was creeping into her voice. His wife was under a great deal of strain. There, she did it again. She narrowed her eyes. There is something she isn’t telling me. But why so calm, so resigned to her fate? Maybe she realizes she isn’t getting a divorce. That must be it. He stood and walked around the table to stand before his wife. Aurelia uncharacteristically lowered her head and gaze. “Aurelia, please.” He lifted her head with a finger under her chin. “Let me be your husband. I’m more than capable.” “You will always be in the employ of my father, physically or figuratively. I can’t share myself with a man that is an extension of him.” “You would be saying this to any other nobleman that married the daughter of a senator.” “Perhaps”, Aurelia said quietly, and he realized the message behind the word. “Love comes eventually. You will be happy here”, he offered. After a pause, she said, “If you put as much effort into this marriage as you do into looking for a handout from my father, that may be true. I need to leave.” “If you feel you must”, Castimus said. He wanted to know what was really going on, yet willing to let her leave so she could find peace. Aurelia, just as quietly, dismissed herself. After she left the room, Phoebus entered bearing more scrolls. Castimus walked back to the desk with resignation. Phoebus set them on the desk while watching the retreating Aurelia. The prolonged glances told him that the chief slave saw something out of the ordinary as well. “Do you know what is going on with her?” he asked after her uncharacteristic exit. “No, I do not, Dominus. Please forgive me. But I can find out if you desire it.” “I do.” Phoebus set the scrolls down on the already cramped table, trying not to topple over the entire collection of scrolls and wax planks. As an alternative to scrolls, documents could be written in wax and bound by wood. As he turned to leave and speak with the other slaves about the situation with his master’s wife, Castimus spoke again. “Maybe I should give her a divorce.” “So that she can go on to the next arranged marriage by her father? A senator’s daughter is quite a prize for any man. The dowry alone is enticing enough, not to mention the potential for favors.” “Then why am I not in office”, he said slamming down a scroll. He realized his frustration and checked the scroll for any damage. Seeing that the scroll survived, he sighed and tossed it aside, sending the stack on his desk cascading down to the floor. Phoebus rushed over to pick them up and reorganize them. “Perhaps you should take a mistress”, Phoebus volunteered with an armload of scrolls. “Not that again. It isn’t right.” He thought for a moment, “Do you think Aurelia has a lover?” “Her slaves assure me that she does not, she would never shame herself with adultery. Anyway, who would have her? No one wants to upset her father and a lover publicly exposed would have ill effects on the senator. Not good for the lover, in any case”, Phoebus said. “But all powerful leaders of the city have mistresses outside of their marriage. Surely you can accommodate one and be more… political.” “I will not defile my marriage or go against my conscience for a shortcut in politics.” Castimus stood thinking that the thoughts he entertained would leave him by such a move. It isn’t the virtuous thing to do, taking a mistress. Am I too virtuous for a political career? “Phoebus”, Castimus began. He paused to formulate his thoughts before continuing. He knew that Aurelia had resigned herself to some fate that she viewed as inescapable. Her whole demeanor and change of attitude betrayed that much. And if she was tied to him, didn’t that make this fate his as well, at least in some small way? If he only knew what that fate was, maybe he would be able to deflect it or see where their lives were headed and try to forestall or circumvent that destiny. “Are we in control of our lives or are we at the mercy of the gods?” “Dominus”, Phoebus spoke, setting the scrolls back on the table. “The gods control our fate. How can a slave know the thoughts of the gods?” “The gods”, he said, “the gods have punished me from my first breath. I should have seen the course of my life; one series of incidents that is leading me to ruin. I am the Furies’ play toy.” After a pause he stated, “No, my life will not be decided for me by the Furies. I will offer a sacrifice to Janus. That’s what we need, a new beginning.” Castimus sat back down before the scrolls and randomly pulled one out of the pile that Phoebus had finished reorganizing. I will get my political career started, even if I have to sacrifice to every god in the city. # # # The slaves in the kitchen were preparing for the evening meal. All the house slaves seemed to be in the kitchen at the same time as Phoebus entered. All the conversation came to an end as each slave looked upon his duties as if that was all there was in the world. The commotion slowly increased again, though instead of voices and laughter it was the banging of pots and the hurried shuffles of feet on their way to the next task. Sabina was preparing fresh laundry for her mistress’ return. Phoebus approached her from behind and placed his lips close to her ear. “You did not leave with your mistress”, he whispered. Sabina jumped at the hot breath on her cheek and neck. She spun and saw Phoebus smiling slightly at her. She flushed and continued folding. Her plump frame hid Phoebus’ hand from the other slaves in the room as he caressed the small of her back. Again she flushed. “I prepare for her return”, Sabina whispered. She knew when Phoebus rubbed the small of her back that he wanted something the other slaves were ill-equipped to provide. “But I have some time. She says she’ll be gone for several days.” “Follow me”, he whispered once again. He dropped his hand and stalked out of the kitchen. Sabina glanced around at the other slaves. They were hard at work on their specific chores, seemingly too focused to notice the exchange and her red face. She set her fabric down and shifted out of the kitchen following Phoebus. As she left the kitchen, many of the slaves made eye contact and snickered to themselves. They knew what was going on. Phoebus was waiting when Sabina arrived at Castimus’s dressing closets. It was tight but there was room enough to lie down on the tiled floor. Sabina entered the small room and pulled the curtain closed. He grasped her by both arms and gently kissed her. He then laid face down on the floor. Sabina smiled while she positioned herself standing just over his lower back. Bracing herself against the close walls of the closet, she stepped on his back with one foot, then the other. Balanced on his body, she began to slowly sway, rolling her feet around his back. “Have you noticed any difference in the behavior of your mistress”, he asked in caught breaths. “Nothing of any marked difference. As always, she strongly dislikes your master. She has been quiet, to herself for some days, but she does that sometimes.” “Did she say why she was leaving”, he queried. “She never explains herself to any of us. Maybe to Fausta, but not to me.” Fausta was Aurelia’s body slave and came with her, as Sabina did, from her father’s household at the time of the wedding. She went everywhere with Aurelia and never left her side, even for a moment. She was the slave that cared for Aurelia while she was still an infant. Once she was weaned from the breast, Aurelia was given to Fausta. There was nothing that Fausta did not know about the inner workings of her mistress’ life and desires. It seemed fitting for her to supervise the other attendants to Aurelia, but that was one role in which she was not skilled. So she focused on Aurelia personally and let Sabina supervise the other attending girls to Aurelia. After several pops and cracks, Phoebus let out a deeply satisfied sigh. Taking this as her cue, Sabina stepped off. He rose and grabbed both sides of Sabina’s face and kissed her gently but deeply. “I am sorry, my love, but I must return to my duties”, he said. He kissed her again quickly and left the closet. Sabina stood feeling foolish for once again satisfying Phoebus, but left with her own needs unmet. Phoebus returned to the kitchen to prepare a snack for Castimus. As he passed by the slave entrance, he stopped when he saw a face he did not recognize. The young man was slender and rather handsome in the rags he wore. “We have no handouts here. Be gone.” “My name is Linus”, the stranger stated. “I care not what your name is”, Phoebus snapped. “I bring an invitation to Marcus Tegerius Castimus.” Phoebus snatched the outstretched letter and immediately opened it, breaking the seal. Linus stood patiently, waiting for a response. Phoebus read the parchment and looked again at the messenger. He was not wearing a slave plate around his neck. Nor could Phoebus see any slave branding marks on him. “Whom do you serve?” “My master wishes to introduce himself only to Castimus. Until then he requests anonymity”, Linus stated. “Anonymity? Why have you come to the service entrance? Why not come through the main door?” Linus did not answer. Phoebus watched him intently and sensed a broodiness about this slave, if indeed he was one. Phoebus began to feel slightly alarmed. “I will deliver the invitation”, he said finally. “Very well. My master will be awaiting his visit at the appointed time”, Linus said as he stepped backwards and out of the door. Phoebus glanced down again at the invitation and then at the door. Who was this man? He felt that the invitation would bring nothing but trouble to his disillusioned master. But his duty was to deliver the invitation to Castimus and hope he would ask for his slave’s opinion. # # # Castimus was still engrossed in reading the scrolls as Phoebus entered. The more he read, the less he understood. The rules, the forms, the discipline, it all seemed so extravagant that he could never in one lifetime fully understand what it meant to be in a leadership position. With resignation, knowing that the end of his political aspirations was mere moments away from his realization, he set the scroll down and stared at his feet. All I wanted was to return my family name to the height it deserves, he confessed to himself. The name that drove his parents away from the city in disgrace, the name that hampered the fruitful life of his father’s parents, was wasting away with each generation and Castimus wanted that erosion to end with him. They all fled from the city, trying to hide from the shame that their name had brought them. But not I. I alone have stood up to the task of retrieving the noble name of Tegerius. And I have failed, Castimus thought to himself as his head sank lower toward his feet. The family name would not be saved in this generation. Or any other. Castimus thought about his wife again. She was beautiful and he saw her as the hope for his family, for himself. His marriage should have propelled him to the offices that his ancestors had only dreamed. Aurelia represented life abundant. She is beautiful, he admitted to himself for the countless time. Is it love that binds him to her? Yes, definitely love, but the kind of love a man should have for a wife? Maybe. Who can know? Certainly not me. He cherished her and sought only the best for her. Was that enough? To hold a marriage together long enough to save a family name? It seemed not. Aurelia did not see Castimus in the same way. She obeyed, though reluctantly and with a poisonous attitude. She did her wifely duties when prompted, but with disdain. It was widely said that women should to think of the glory of Rome during coitus and not their own personal pleasures. But, her extreme displeasure could never be construed as meditating on the glory of their great city. No, there would not be any resurgence of the Tegerius family name through Castimus. As the only child, it fell to him to carry on the name. And with a marriage arrangement such as this, the damaged name ended with him. Probably better that way, he thought. Better to let a sick dog die than nurse it day in and day out until it finally succumbs to the eventuality of death. “Dominus”, Phoebus started. He knew the despair that dripped from every limb of his master. He hoped that this new interruption would not send him spiraling down even further. “What is it”, he said without looking up. “You have received an invitation.” Phoebus entered and set the invitation on the desk in front of Castimus. He did not look up to see it. “Invitation from whom?” “It does not say. Nor would the messenger disclose.” “Decline”, he breathed as he pushed away from the table and finally looked up at his slave. “Did you find out anything about Aurelia?” “No, Dominus, she has been quiet for some days and has not spoken to any of the slaves about it. And there is no way to decline the invitation.” Castimus sat staring at Phoebus for a moment before he spied the invitation on his desk. He took the wood planks and opened it. As he read the wax, his expression changed. The look of sorrow was replaced by curiosity. He reread the invitation and glanced again at Phoebus. “What did the messenger say?” he asked with hope in his voice. “Nothing of consequence”, Phoebus replied, more than a little confused. “Do you know where this is? This place I am to meet this ‘benefactor’? This is near where Senator Aurelius lives. This is an invitation from someone of importance. I must know what this is all about.” “Dominus”, Phoebus began, but couldn’t finish. He knew his place and a warning from a slave that had no real evidence to back it up was worthless, at least not to Castimus. “Could this be it? Finally my chance to impress Rome and begin a real political career. It must be.” Castimus leaped from the chair and began changing his clothes. “I must remember to keep it simple and not do as is expected of me. If I am to impress I have to do the unexpected.” “Such as arriving a day early”, Phoebus said. He must not get too excited about this opportunity, if it was indeed that. “Early, yes, of course.” Castimus sat back down, but remained fidgety. “I will be prepared to dazzle whomever it is I am to meet.” Maybe the name of Tegerius isn’t dead after all, Castimus beamed to himself. Neither Castimus nor Phoebus had any way of knowing that this meeting would end their lives as they knew it. Castimus’ tribulations were only just beginning.
Getting published by Delizon Publishers
Are you an author and do you want to get published by Delizon Publishers? First go to the About Us page to see what we publish and what we don’t. We like to publish novels, to promote academic works and to sponsor those works associated with educational products such as games, workshops or conferences. Tell us about how you think your work can be promoted - talks, workshops, book signings. This is some of information we and other members of the Delizon authors’ community will want to see in your profile in the author’s page, which you will create as you register.
There are 2 ways to get published by Delizon Publishers
- You find a literary agent and let the agent submit your manuscript to us for consideration. When we receive works from literary agents, the author represented does not need to go through the online submission process described below. The agent or author can follow up editorial progress of every submission by logging on to our project status board.
- Direct online submission by authors: To overcome the obstacle of having to deal with a vast number of unsolicited manuscripts, which end up not being considered or evaluated properly due to time and manpower, we have introduced an online submission process for authors to submit and have their works voted by other registered members.
Registering as aspiring author with Delizon allows you certain benefits, including but not limited to:
- Automatically becoming a member of the Delizon Publishers community
- Uploading your manuscript to the online database of newly submitted manuscripts
- Peer reviews from other Delizon members
- Review of books at pre-press and post-press stages
- Possibility of reduced reservation rates for accommodation during conferences organized by Delizon
- Participation in events organized by Delizon and networking with other publishing outlets
What to expect from Delizon Publishers
- Online manuscript submissions and tracking
- Appraisals, reviews and useful comments/feedback
- Responsive and flexible editorial support
- Targeted international marketing
- Global sales, readership and promotion
- High standard of printed works
- Quick and widespread distribution
Do you have a manuscript that you would like us to consider?
The first thing to do is send an email query to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know that you have a manuscript for publication. Someone in our team will contact you. If you have a literary agent, then you need to send your manuscript to them, and they will get in touch with us.
Do you require an agent to get published?
No. However using an agent can potentially make the process of selling your book easier and hopefully more lucrative.
Can you act as your own agent?
Delizon Publishers prefer to work with literary agents. However authors who do not have literary agents must register in our online community and work directly with our regional sales directors to organise book promotions and handle every other business related to the work. We will need them to be a fully committed and integral part of the process, both pre- and post-publication. This is no problem for authors who have strong passion and willing to put in some time in marketing their work.
What is direct online submission and how does it work?
Our direct online submission, involving users voting, is one of the ways to control the quality and number of manuscripts we consider for publication. When you submit your manuscript, it passes through a voting system. The manuscript will be published as soon as it attracts enough votes - that is five votes. Only registered members of Delizon Publishers community are eligible to participate in the online submission process.
So your book is published. What’s next?
You will be contacted regularly by Delizon Publishers’ promotion and marketing team, to participate in book signing, writing conferences and to network with other authors and readers. This is usually the beginning of a long lasting relationship with the Publisher and with the literary world.
Are there any restrictions to the amount of editing you can do to your manuscript after it has been accepted?
Ensure you do not add passages and increase the length while editing - the word count has to remain relatively fixed. The accepted flow of the storyline and the production plan is based on that.
Do Delizon Publishers have offices anywhere other than in France?
We currently have representatives in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Visit the Contact us page for local contact details.
Do you waive any rights if Delizon publishes your work?
Delizon Publishers will propose an international contract to you, meaning that the international rights of your book will be handled by the Publisher. Copyright registration, whether done before by the author or after publication of a book, does not limit the Publisher’s right to handle the subsidiary markets.
Does Delizon Publishers publish children’s books?
Yes. However this is a harder genre to get right and we like to ensure it meets the level of detail and language required for such books.
How do we decide which manuscripts are acceptable for publication?
We look at both content and appeal. If the book is coherent, structured and addresses a subject matter that is of interest to society, we will accept it for publication.
How long does it take for a book to be published?
As soon as a manuscript is accepted for publication, the average length of time until it hits the shelves is three to six months. The exact length of time depends on how much additional work needs to be done on the initial manuscript before it is ready for publishing.
How long does it take to receive feedback on your submitted manuscript?
We aim to provide feedback on all manuscripts within three to four weeks.
How many sample copies should an author expect to receive after their book is published?
The author is usually offered two sample copies of their book after publication
How much would it cost to have your book published?
Once accepted, Delizon Publishers bear every cost relating to publishing your work (print- and e-book), including editing.
How long does a book need to be in order to be considered for publication.
A book needs to be more than 60 pages long.
If your manuscript is accepted by Delizon Publishers, in which countries does it actually get published?
First in the countries or continents in which Delizon publishers has a presence, including Europe, Africa and North America, then in other countries through a subsidiary representation.
What formats do Delizon Publishers accept for manuscript submission?
Delizon Publishers will accept manuscripts in either PDF or preferably Microsoft Word (.doc) formats (note that large data submitted via email may be filtered out automatically. Contact us by a simple query so we can let you know how to send in your large files).
Which is easier to publish, fiction or non-fiction?
Each book is published on its own merit, based on its content and appeal. In our experience, non-fiction tends to be easier to publish than fiction.
Why is it a good idea to publish your other books through Delizon publishers?
From experience, we recommend that a new author should focus on getting their book to print, creating some popularity, writing more books to be published and marketed by the same publisher through the same channel, building on the same network which then produces synergy with time. This is how many best sellers are made.
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