Well, even though last week’s post didn’t rocket off the WordPress charts, I’ve already committed to this plan to share the first part of my upcoming serialized historical fantasy novel, Domna, so I’m back with Chapter Two.
I also have some exciting book release news to share with you this week (which you can read HERE), but since this will already be a long post, I’ve decided to make this Double Post Wednesday (that’s a thing, right?) to avoid bogging you down with too many of my words in one go.
As mentioned last week, the plan is to share with you the entirety of Domna, Part One: The Sun God’s Daughter by posting one chapter each week, with a few random weeks off here and there for updates, which means we’ll be well into January before we’re all the way through Part One.
If you’re on my mailing list, you will be getting ALL of Part One as a free ebook in early November (yes, that was a cheap lure to get you to sign up, if it worked, you can do so HERE).
Keep in mind that the chapters I’m sharing with you on the blog are nearly done. There’s one more proofread to work through, so there may be some lingering booboos. If you catch any errors don’t freak out (but I would appreciate it if you let me know about them).
We left off CHAPTER ONE with Sofia receiving a rather strange prophecy from the local oracle (her grandfather) that doesn’t quite mesh with her plans for her future. In this chapter we get a glimpse into the culture of Osteria and a little peek at the relationship between Sofia and the man she hopes to marry.
Alright, so a quick description for anyone who missed it last week and then on with the slightly sexy Chapter Two!!!
Domna – Part One, The Sun God’s Daughter (Release Date 9 Jan 2019)
As a realm teeters on the verge of rebellion anything is possible, except one woman’s freedom to choose her fate.
Sofia Domna has her future planned. She will follow in her father’s footsteps and lead the Temple of Apollo. She’ll marry her childhood love, Papinias. She’ll have respect, status, and power.
So when her father bitterly forces her betrothal to a stranger and orders her from the life she’s always known, Sofia is thrown into a new world where any wrong move could mean her demise.
Refusing to give up her home, her future, and her love, Sofia immediately plans her escape, but she soon learns exactly how cruel destiny and the people surrounding her new husband can be.
Set in a world brimming with political turmoil and violent ambition, Domna is a six-part serialized novel that tells the tale of Sofia Domna, a woman whose destiny is abruptly changed when she reprimands the wrong man.
As Sofia’s life moves through the trials of a forced marriage, motherhood, and yearning temptation, she learns that destiny isn’t given; it’s made by cunning, endurance, and, at times, bloodshed.
If you like the political intrigue, adventure, and love triangles of historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Bernard Cornwell, and the mythological world-building of fantasy fiction by Madeline Miller and Simon Scarrow, you’ll love Domna.
Domna is a six-part serialized novel. The titles include:
- Part One: The Sun God’s Daughter
- Part Two: The Solon’s Son
- Part Three: The Centaur’s Gamble
- Part Four: The Regent’s Edict
- Part Five: The Forgotten Heir
- Part Six: The Solon’s Wife
Chapter 2 – The Grove
Although I normally would have spent a few hours helping him tidy his home and organize his appointments for the week, my grandfather’s morose tone and curious prediction had me yearning to get out and into the sun and breezy summer air to shake off the gloom that clung to me. Trying not to make my impatience obvious, I rushed through my goodbyes and hurried out of the dark room and into the bustle of the street.
I squinted against the sun glaring off the marble temple situated across from my grandfather’s house. Blinking away my blindness, some of the disquieting mood dispelled as my vision cleared and I strolled toward the shaded side of the structure. This wasn’t the grand temple to Apollo I’d grown up exploring, but a smaller one to Mithras, the cult of the bull that was gaining popularity in Dekos.
As usual on a summer afternoon, several people lingered playing card games and sipping beer in the cool shade the temple’s portico cast over the steps. I smiled at the sight of them enjoying the perfect day, until a group of Helians rounded the corner.
This sect had sprung up recently and centered on the worship of one deity, the titan Helios. The sternest believers claimed theirs was the true religion by using the logic that as all the poli of Osteria were ruled by the Solon, so the people of Osteria should be ruled by one god. Although some preached a message of peace and unity, other Helians were aggressively vocal in their complaints about Osterians honoring the twelve gods of Olympus or any being that wasn’t Helios, including the bull god whose temple they swarmed now.
“You’ll be damned,” one yelled as he shook a knobby finger at a man who I knew wasn’t a Mithran, but had simply been enjoying the shade of the portico. He glared at the Helian as he began strapping on his sandals.
“Helios is the only god,” a woman screeched to no one in particular.
I wouldn’t have minded the cult of the Helians except for sects like this with their unending belittlement of other religions. Personally, I thought it chancy to only have one god. It struck me as akin to placing all your drachars on one chariot at the races. How could a single deity possibly watch over everything at once? What if Helios tended to a landslide in the Low Mountains to our west and forgot to oversee the grain planting of Demos in the east? It didn’t seem logical that one god could ensure the proper working of the world.
The people relaxing at the temple dispersed rather than put up with insults. The Helians cheered their departure and congratulated themselves on their victory over the “bull lovers.” When the temple guards ushered them away, the noisy devotees to Helios complained and decried their poor treatment. I continued on my way, shaking my head at their folly. Helians, with their inflexible attitude and harsh criticism often brought trouble down on themselves then liked to act as if they were martyrs. It would be like me insulting our cook after he spent hours making a superb meal then acting shocked when he spat in my soup the next day.
Still, when I rounded the corner, all thoughts of philosophy fell away. Papinias was there leaning against the shaded side of the Mithran temple and I couldn’t help but take a moment to admire his lean frame accented by the belt of his knee-length tunic that showed off the long curve of his calves. Possibly sensing my stare, he turned before I came any closer. His face brightened with a broad smile.
“My priestess.” He stood straight then bowed in mock ceremony.
“My servant.” I tapped him on the head as if in blessing.
He glanced around and, seeing no one who might take offense, kissed me quickly on the lips. Then, to make it appear proper, he kissed me on either cheek in greeting.
We strolled away and neither had to ask the other where we were heading. At the edge of Dekos stood a sacred grove of olive trees. These were the pride of Bendria and one family a year was tasked by the Temple of Apollo to oversee their care, from olive collection to covering the limbs in the winter to protect them from frost. New Osterian-built canals – the Athenian polis had some clever engineers who were always coming up with new wonders – supplied water for a few flower gardens and fountains through Bendria, but this grove of olives had matured long before we were Osterian and needed no help from Athenian engineering.
Bendrians viewed the grove as a symbol of our independence and strength, but in truth, few complained about being taken under the Osterian wing. Yes, Portaceae taxed us and conscripted our men for the Solon’s service, but the order established in Bendria, the protection from invaders, and luxuries like well-maintained roads and running water overshadowed the negatives. And they let each polis worship as it pleased. The Seatticans mainly honored Zeus, the Cedonians primarily sought protection from Artemis; and Bendria would always love Apollo, this preference didn’t matter as long as we revered the Solon above all.
“Papinias, will you ever take another woman when we’re married?”
“I thought you told me the gods like it when men and women are together. As the husband of a priestess, I would have to honor the gods, wouldn’t I?”
“Yes, but—” I was too distracted to notice his joking tone. How was I supposed to say, without seeming petty or sniping, that I would not accept my husband having other lovers? But I didn’t have to frame my words. As our arms swung alongside one another, he lightly brushed his index finger along the palm of my hand.
“I’m teasing you, Sofia. You know I can’t even make my eyes focus on other women because of you. What makes you question me?”
“Oh, just being a jealous wife.”
“So long as you’re my wife, you can be as jealous as you like. Did your Seeing not go well?”
I can’t say why, but I didn’t want to tell him about the true Seeing. I needed time to think about the words my grandfather spoke before I revealed them to or discussed them with anyone, even the person closest to my heart.
“No, it couldn’t have been better. Apparently I’m going to marry Candus.”
Papinias let out his hearty laugh that always brought a smile to my own face. Even as children, his laughter – high and lilting back then – could always make me grin no matter how desperately I wanted to sulk.
“Then I should call you my Solonia, not my priestess. So why Candus? Should I be jealous?”
“Don’t bother. Father bribed Grandfather to give a reading that said I was to marry a king. Since kings are just puppets these days that must mean I have to marry the Solon.”
“That’s far better than being stuck with a mere medic.” He gave my hand a light squeeze. “You’re just lucky Candus’s father died a few months ago. Antonius would have been far too old for you. Candus is what? Nineteen? Not a bad age match for you,” he teased, having just turned nineteen himself that spring.
I rolled my eyes at him.
“I’m just saying it would be better than being wed to some old man. Antonius may have been a great leader, but he was older than Zeus. Do you remember when Candus and his father came through Bendria on tour?”
“How could I not? That’s the day I fell in love with my future husband.” I nudged Papinias who feigned sulking as we approached the grove. Of course, I meant Papi, not the overly boisterous Candus whose cackling laughter and gang of rowdy friends overshadowed Antonius’s calm demeanor as they rode through Dekos.
This had been a few years before Bendria was part of the Osterian realm. Candus was so raucous I thought Dekos had been invaded. With his spirited horse barely under his control, his reaching down to grope women, and his thuggish comrades shoving people aside, I had no idea what was happening to my city. My ten-year-old brain was certain this had to be the Areans come to raid us. As Candus neared, my fear took hold so strongly one would have thought I was an uneducated slave. My feet took over and I dashed away from my father and into the main thoroughfare. I jerked to a stop right in front of Candus. His wild horse reared up. I could still picture the beast’s hoof hovering only an arm’s length from my skull.
Papi and his family had been close behind my father and me watching the procession. Without a pause, he charged out after me, pulling me out of the way of the hooves of Candus’s horse in the nick of time. Seeing how frightened I was, he took my hand and guided me away from the noise of the procession and crowd of people to the quiet of the olive grove where he stroked my back until I stopped crying.
“You know I really had been looking forward to seeing the glory of Portaceae that day.” Papi said. “I didn’t even get a drachar stamped with Candus’s face.”
“I’ll be sure he gives you a sackful when I marry him.”
“Too bad you’re bound to me,” Papi said, referring to the promise we had made to each other a year ago. Calling upon the gods as our witnesses, we had sworn ourselves to one another. A promise was as binding as a contract in Bendria, so in the gods’ eyes – and in my heart – we were already married. “You know, I’d swear that day of the parade was the start of your father’s disapproval of me. Patrine men don’t tend to like it when equine boys become heroes in their daughters’ eyes.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s why he has to marry me off to an upper patrine like Candus,” I joked. “It’s the only way he could get back at you for winning my favor.”
We reached the grove and immediately headed to the largest tree where we had carved our initials on our first visit nearly six years ago – only later did we add a heart around the letters. Papi truly was a hero in my eyes and, as soon as my heart stopped racing with fear, I tumbled into a girlish love with him that had flourished ever since. I traced my fingers along the smooth letters. Papinias stepped up behind me. His breath danced along my neck.
“We’ve made good use of this place since that first day.”
I turned to face him. His lips on mine pulled me away from the outside world until it was only us in our little paradise as we moved aside our clothes and he pressed me up against our initials. With agility we’d honed over the past year of our finding this new way to love one other, we took our joy in the privacy the trees granted us.
“Prediction or not, I’m going to tell my father I want to marry you.” My cheeks still burned with the rush of passion as we straightened our clothes.
“When?” He asked excitedly, but he chewed nervously at his lip just as he did before he entered the room where he took each of the many exams required to transition between his studies and his practice of the healing arts.
“I’ve done my own star chart and the most auspicious day is in two days.”
Before I could finish pinning my hair back in place, Papinias grabbed me by the waist, lifting my small frame off the ground. He twirled and kissed me until I couldn’t breathe. Rather than join fully in his enthusiasm, my mind kept recalling my grandfather’s fatalistic tone when he told me to enjoy my time with Papinias today. What had he not been telling me?
When Papi set me down, I staggered a bit from the spinning and placed a hand to the tree trunk to steady myself.
“You’ll walk with me?” I asked. Despite my distracted mood I was in no rush to be apart from Papi.
He kissed me again and took my hand.
“As you wish my priestess— I mean, my Solonia. Can you come here tomorrow?”
I nodded and thought to myself that even when we were married with luxurious rooms of our own, we would still come to this grove for our bedsport.
It’s hard to think I was ever so naïve.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!!! If you enjoyed it, please feel free to share.
I’d love to hear your thoughts (and if you caught any typos, do let me know). Chapter 3 will be rolling around next Wednesday, and on Saturday Finn McSpool will be touching buttons he probably shouldn’t. See you then!
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