Think It Can’t Get Worse? Chapter 8 of Domna

So, I hit Sofia pretty hard in the gut (and heart) in last week’s installment of Domna, Part One: The Sun God’s Daughter. And let’s just say, I don’t go much easier on her this week as she puts up with the cold shoulder from her father, deals with the departure of her true love, and suffers some further heavy losses.

For those of you who are new to this game, each week I’m sharing a chapter from the first part my upcoming novel. With a few random weeks off here and there for updates, we’ll actually be past the official release date (9 January) before we get through this first installment of the six-part series.

But Before We Get to This Week’s Chapter….

Domna is Now Available for Pre-order!!!!

That’s right. You can now snag your copy of Domna for the special pre-order price of 99c (US$, UK£, EU€) from most major retailers.

And not just Part One, but all six parts of this highly-anticipated serialized historical fantasy novel. That 99c price will go up soon after each part’s release, so you might want to get your copy today!

Simply follow these Universal Book Links to treat yourself to a little something special at a fabulous bargain.

*These titles are not yet available for pre-order on Amazon

Now, kick back, put your feet up, and enjoy a bit of reading. Oh, and if you need to, you can catch up with Chapters ONE, TWO THREEFOUR, FIVESIX, and SEVEN. There’s also a description below if you’re curious about the book and this series.

Chapter 8 – The Waiting

The following days were a blur of misery. I wanted away from my father, but I also didn’t want to leave the house because any sympathetic gesture or word of consolation would have sent me crying all over again and I knew that was something I needed to stop or I would lose myself in a pool of tears and never emerge.

Bassio and I spoke little during this time. It seemed I was invisible to him. Even the lowliest household slave garnered more attention from him over the next weeks than I did. But outside our household it was Bassio who was being shunned. In most cases, few would mourn a disobedient girl, but the people of Dekos had seen Papinias and I together since we were children. None of them doubted our devotion to each other just as no one had ever doubted I’d take up the role of high priestess when I turned eighteen. 

With what he’d done, Bassio lost a great deal trust and respect in Dekos. People started turning to the Mithran temples of the bull and even the cult of Helios rather than worship with my father. If my love and I truly were destined to ruin the high priest, he’d done a good job at setting a spark to turning that prophecy into reality.  

*  *  * 

One afternoon, Bassio arrived home early. I normally wouldn’t have noticed his return, but he came in as loud as a thunderstorm and as violent as a hurricane. In the midst of his shouting at Kolos, something heavy crashed to the ground. I hurried from the courtyard to see if everyone was alright. The only injury was to a statue of a pair of wood nymphs, but Bassio turned his anger on me. “You. You’re the cause of this.”

“Cause of what?” I asked, thinking I’d left something for him to trip over and he’d toppled the statue as he tried to right himself.

“You’ve disgraced me with your promiscuity and with that hideous show when Papinias left. The embarrassment you’ve–” 

My throat had ached from my anguished screams for days after Papi left, but it had fully healed by now. I cut off my father in mid-rant. After having never given this man even the smallest dose of back talk, I was going to drown him in it now.

“You’re right. My parentage and some vague prophecy you’ve commissioned from three witches clearly means I deserve your abuse. I alone am to blame for the people’s dislike of you. I am the worst daughter you could have ever educated and trained. There was no possible happiness for me with Papinias, nor any joy in being a priestess in your temple. I am glad you have saved me from the life I thought I wanted and have guided me toward my future husband. I look forward to the day Sirius and I wed and I am finally free of you.”

Before I could even recognize the raising of his hand as an act of aggression, my father slapped me across the face so hard that my teeth were loose for a week. It brought me pure pain and a bruise that took weeks to fully disappear, but my sarcastic speech did stop Bassio’s insults. 

In fact, he stopped talking to me altogether. 

After a couple weeks of enduring the fragile tension, I packed my belongings and went to live with my grandfather to avoid being in Bassio’s presence. Even though she wasn’t my property yet, I took Saltia with me as well. My father could have objected, even accused me of theft, but I think he wanted so little to do with me that he never raised the issue.

I longed to flee Dekos. I suppose if I was one of the fearless, warrior women of Amazonia, I might have, but striking out on my own would put me at risk of robbery and rape during my travels.  

Even if I did reach my destination unharmed, as a woman, even a patrine woman, without a father’s blessing or a husband’s backing I would have no position. I could obtain no work except that of cleaning or whoring, and my every move would be questioned. There were Osterian women who had attained great power, but they had only done so as wives to already powerful men, or at least to men who were supposed to be powerful. I did not look forward to a marriage to Sirius, but since I couldn’t run away, a loveless and unwanted marriage was my only hope for escape.

*  *  * 

Having grown up with Papinias as my best friend, I had no other close companions. I had acquaintances and I was familiar with everyone who had ever come to the temple to seek my blessing or advice, but these weren’t true friends. Saltia and I were closer than sisters, but she was still a slave and had household duties to tend to during the day. And my grandfather spent his days doling out the gods’ wisdom as vaguely as any oracle.

For companionship and for the longing to be amongst Papi’s things, I volunteered to help Rius organize Papi’s library. The work went slowly since I ended up leafing through each book to see if Papi had jotted any notes or made any doodles in the margins. Pain stabbed at my heart each time I found one, but I adored each sample of his careful handwriting. As I perused these works, I also grew curious about what was written on the pages, not just at their edges.

Although I understood the sciences of the skies and seasons, I had never been wise about the effects of medicines, the source of diseases, or the strange workings of the body. It was something Papi teased me about to no end since I was smarter than him in most other subjects. I began reading, first out of curiosity, then with the thought of how proud Papinias would be that I was learning more about his favorite subject. It somehow made me feel closer to him and I couldn’t help but dream that one day we might be together, we would set up our own medic’s clinic, and I, with my new knowledge, would assist Papinias.

Besides fodder for daydreams, these studies also earned me a new occupation to fill my lonely hours. A few months after Papi was ripped from my life, his former tutor, Alerio, returned to Bendria for the winter. He’d been traveling across Osteria and the Califf Lands collecting theories of the body, techniques for healing, and recipes for medicaments with plans to compile all this acquired knowledge into an extensive body of work on medicine. It was an amazing goal, and organizing and transcribing his notes was the perfect distraction for a heart weary girl who imagined her love referring to the book one day. 

“Don’t you have better things to do than read about poxes and feces?” Alerio asked one day.

“Believe me, poxes and feces are better than dwelling on Sirius.”

“But you can’t enjoy spending your day with a decrepit old man.”

Alerio was old, at least two decades older than Sirius, but hardly decrepit. He took daily exercise as if training to be a soldier. People laughed when they saw him marching up and down the street in front of his rooms, lifting half-full amphorae as he raised his arms to the side and overhead, and twisting his body to and fro, but he insisted exercise kept people young. He was certainly fit and lithe, but I still liked to tease him about his age.

“Perhaps I’m getting myself used to the company of geriatric men.”

“Is your betrothed so old?”

“He’s nearly forty.”

“Zeus in the sky! I hope this Sirius keeps a funeral pyre at hand. He might drop dead at any second.” I rolled my eyes at his sarcasm. “Forty is old for some, Sofia, but not all. If Sirius is fit and in good health he could live another forty years.”

“Please Alerio, I’m depressed enough.”

Sadly, old men don’t make the longest-lasting companions. At the start of winter, Alerio and I thought Rius was finally putting weight on his scrawny frame when his belly turned into a paunch. By midwinter, after much pressing and prodding, Alerio gave him the sorry news that it was a cancer. I assisted Alerio when, as a last resort, he tried to remove the tumor using a skill he learned in Francisca. I didn’t flinch at the blood of the surgery; in all honesty, it didn’t seem much different than the occasional animal sacrifices I’d assisted with at the temple. But Rius wasn’t strong enough and, a few weeks after the removal, another of the gods’ lumps of clay crumbled to dust.

Barely two months later, my world shattered once again when Grandfather died in his sleep. As I watched his body burn on the funeral pyre, I swore that the gods had run out of happiness and there was none left to dole out. 

With my grandfather gone, I should have returned to Bassio’s house, but I made the excuse that I needed to tend to Grandfather’s final wishes, organize his belongings, and find a new oracle for Dekos. I made sure to draw out these tasks, not only to avoid going home, but to delay the reality of having to say goodbye to another man I loved.

***

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!!! If you enjoyed it, please feel free to share and I’d love to hear your thoughts (oh, and if you caught any typos, do let me know).

Chapter 9 will be rolling around next Wednesday and Finn McSpool will be making an appearance later this week to show off his tour of a special Osterian locale (or at least the building that inspired it). See you then!

***

Domna – Part One, The Sun God’s Daughter

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. Each part will be released in four-week intervals. The titles include:

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