Trouble’s Brewing in Chapter Three of Domna

Oooh, it’s time for another installment of Part One of Domna, my upcoming serialized historical fantasy novel (phew, that’s a mouthful).

After Sofia received a strange prophecy from the oracle on her birthday in Chapter ONE then made light of the prophecy with her lover in Chapter TWO, Sofia’s sharp tongue gets her in trouble with the wrong man in Chapter Three.

That pivotal chapter is just below, but for those of you new to this experiment, here’s the scoop…

My plan is to share 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 into January before we’re all the way through this first part of my six-part series.

Now, 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).

A little warning: The chapters I’m sharing with you on this blog are nearly done. I’m currently working through one more proofreading session, 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).

Alright, so a quick description for anyone who hasn’t put up with me droning on and on about this book for what feels like forever, then onto Chapter Three!!!

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:

Chapter 3 – The Figurine

After having made a beeline to the grove, Papinias and I strolled back to the heart of town through the dusty and meandering side lanes of Dekos. This was our ritual after visiting the grove and we’d developed a game of alternating who chose the return route. 

This day it was my choice and, after only a couple turns, Papi already knew where we were headed. I’d discovered a route on which each street even the most ramshackle hovel had a pot, an old amphorae, or even a discarded wooden bowl spilling over with flowers. I called it my Flower Walk, but Papinias named it my Illamos Valley Stroll because of the lush gardens that wealthy polis is rumored to have.

“Do you know why there aren’t any purple flowers?” he asked, pointing up at a boot filled with pink blossoms.

“Because my people know I like the red ones best,” I replied with mocking haughtiness.

“No, it’s because the Solon won’t allow anyone to wear purple besides himself.”

I rolled my eyes at the old joke that referred to the color of cloak the Solon, and only the Solon, was allowed to wear. Had anyone known what our young ruler would become it might not have seemed such a ridiculous jest.

“Let’s go to the agora,” I said. “I want oranges for my birthday and Father can’t stand the smell of them. I have to sneak the things into the house as if they were rattlesnakes.”

“I thought he’d let you have anything.”

I knew his grave comment didn’t refer to the oranges and I wanted to kick myself for what I’d said. While I was hopeful Father would let me marry Papinias, I couldn’t be fully confident in his approval of my wishes. Father had been so distant with me these past twelve months that I could no longer read him as I once did. There were no guarantees with him anymore. 

Despite this and despite the odd Seeing he had commissioned, I couldn’t think of any barrier to my father letting me marry Papi. First, I was a day shy of sixteen, the same age my sister and most other Bendrian girls wed. Second, my father had never hinted at arranging a marriage for me. There weren’t men lingering around the temple or house eyeing me like a piece of livestock to haggle over, nor pathetically attempting to win my heart. And my father had never hinted I take special notice of an old friend’s son like I’d heard other girls’ parents did. 

Yes, we had male guests. Yes, I’m attractive and draw men’s eyes, but our visitors consisted of my father’s acquaintances, magistrates he would assist, or priests from other temples he might consult with. Men from good families to be sure and I’m certain some were single, but beyond an appraising glance none made any special effort to single me out or to flirt with me, and my father made no obvious signs of having brought them to the house to play matchmaker. Other than being in the high equine class, one small step below my middle patrine status on the ridiculous Osterian class system, my father could offer up no objection to my marrying Papinias. 

“Oranges are not husbands,” I replied to Papi’s concerned tone as we reached the edge of the agora.

In this central marketplace, stalls leaned into each other in such a ramshackle way that I swore, if one pole were removed, a whole line of vendors would become buried under the striped awnings. But I could never linger on the stalls’ shanty-like appearance when my senses were overwhelmed by the vendors and their wares. Barrels of spices from blood-red chili powder to earthy coriander to golden ginger created a mosaic of warmth. Lemons and oranges, grown in glass houses year round, stood in decadently scented pyramids that I swore had to be held together by pins, otherwise, how did they not collapse with all the people jostling by? The fish vendors called out daily specials and water slapped as the still-living creatures battled one another in metal tanks. The scent of everything, spices, produce, people, and seafood mingled together in a way that was nauseating and tempting at once.

I haggled for five oranges and we squeezed our way over to the quieter side of the market where cloth, housewares, and cosmetics were sold. At one stall stood a man with dark skin, not the warm tan of most Bendrians, but a color more like rich, brown wood. As was the custom with Osterians, his clothing indicated his position. On his feet were the hob-nailed sandals of a vigile, but he also wore the cream-colored tunic of the equine class with a double red stripe along the border to announce his position of magistrate – a middleman of sorts between the poli’s governors and the Solon regarding matters of taxes, crop reports, grievances, and many other aspects of the business of governing the realm. 

At one time, this combination may have been an odd sight as magisterial positions were once held only by those in the patrine class, but the equines had been gaining position in Portacean politics for years. Under Antonius, a solon known for his equal treatment of all people, equines had come to occupy many high offices previously reserved for patrines. I couldn’t be certain of this man’s exact rank in the magistrate system – he could be anything from a collector of taxes to a collector of news – but the beak-nosed man following him like a clerk indicated he was no mere errand boy.

I noted all this not because it’s my habit to stare at people, but because what this magistrate was doing was too unbelievable not to draw and hold my attention. The man had been examining a figurine carved from what appeared to be soapstone. He then simply handed a couple drachars over to the vendor. No haggling, no pretending the quality wasn’t up to snuff, nothing. The vendor glared at him with a face pulled tight in disgust. This magistrate must be an idiot. He turned from the stall and backed into me nearly causing me to drop my oranges.

“You should bargain with the vendors,” I snapped when he didn’t bother to apologize. He stared down at me as if deciding whether to respond. The corners of his lips twitched up into a smile and his mahogany eyes glinted with amusement. 

“I had the money and the price was fair.”

“That’s not the point. Have you never been to Bendria before? The vendors here want you to haggle. They enjoy it as part of their business. It’s considered rude not to.”

He made a scoffing exhale through his nostrils. “That’s too much hassle. Why bother if I don’t care about the price?”

Believe me, I would never dare say what I said next if I hadn’t been born into a class above this man’s and raised with the assurance of my own rightness. Had anyone of a lower class or a woman of his own class spoken to him as I did, charges would be filed. And if he held a high enough position with the Solon, talk such as mine would be considered a crime against Portaceae itself and I could be charged with treason. I should have minded my business. He was a large man and I’ve always been small. Had I kept my mouth shut, he might never have taken notice of me.

“What do you mean, ‘Why bother?’ Because it’s to your advantage. It shows a striking lack of self worth that you don’t want to do what’s in your own best interest. What kind of fool doesn’t take the time to steer matters to his favor?”

Papinias stepped forward. He placed his hand on my upper arm and gently pulled me back from the dark man and his hawk-nosed companion.

“Excuse her, magistrate, she’s just learned she’s destined to marry a solon, so she’s a bit overwhelmed with her own power at the moment. Silly oracles filling girls’ heads with nonsense.”

The magistrate’s expression, which had grown harsh at my sharp words, changed as quickly as if a gust of wind had blown his anger away. What replaced it however, forced me to glance away. It struck me too much as the same look Papinias got on his face when he discovered a new book to add to his ever-growing collection.

“I’m quite reliant on predictions myself. I just had one this morning,” he whispered as if speaking the words just to me. He then shook his head, squared his shoulders and barked, “Who are you girl?”

“Sofia Domna. Daughter of Bassio, the High Priest of Apollo. Middle patrine class,” I added with clear emphasis.

“And does your father know how you speak to one of Portaceae’s magistrates?” He didn’t pause long enough for me to even shake my head. “Boy, get this girl back home before she causes any more trouble. And you, girl, the price for insulting me are those oranges.”

I balked. I hadn’t brought enough drachars to buy anything else. I knew as the daughter of the high priest I could insist the vendor give me five more, but that was one aspect of my status I refused to take advantage of. Before I could protest giving up my birthday gift to myself, Papi pulled the oranges from my grasp and handed them over. The magistrate took them with a grin and nodded to me in gratitude. As he strode away, his sandals clacked on the agora’s paving stones.

I sulked as if I would never have oranges again while Papi and I threaded our way out of the agora.

“Perhaps you should control your tongue until you become Solonia,” Papi jested.

“Stupid old windbag. He’s no magistrate. He’s nothing more than a centaur’s fart.”

“And a fool, don’t forget he’s a fool.”

“And rude,” I added.

We walked in silence until we reached the back side of the Temple of Apollo. My home overlooked the front portico of the structure, but we would part ways here as we always did.

“You should have lied to him about who you are,” Papi said after a lingering farewell kiss. “What if he complains to your father just at the time you need him in a good mood?”

Thinking of the look in the magistrate’s eyes when Papinias told him of my Seeing, I too wished I’d kept my mouth shut. But I couldn’t unwind time, so I pushed aside my worry with false bravado. 

“A man who doesn’t trouble himself to bargain in the agora, won’t bother to come poking around here.”

***

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 4 will be rolling around next Wednesday, and on Saturday Finn McSpool will be heading back to Dublin. See you then!

***

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6 thoughts on “Trouble’s Brewing in Chapter Three of Domna

  1. Oh, Papi! You’re such a good guy, and yet I fear Tammie might be setting you up for some seriously bad times ahead! Feelings of impending doom (for all parties) aside, I’m so enjoying this new venture! I could practically smell the spices of the market. Oh, and I didn’t spot any typos either, so job’s a good ‘un! 😀

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    1. Ooh, does that mean I’m three for three on being typo free!? That might be a record. Maybe the dozen or so read throughs I’ve done on this thing have paid off. And I’m glad to hear the impending doom was enjoyable for you. More doom coming right up!

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