EXCERPT: A Sword Among Ravens
Today, as I prepare this blog, I can't help but reminisce to two years ago. I launched Antonius: Son of Rome and became an author. Since that day, it's been such a joy hearing from readers, moving forward as a writer, and seeing the fruits of my labor increase month by month. I can honestly say that being an author has been a dream come true.
This week, I'm most pleased to welcome yet another author to my site who has written on the ancient world, which is near and dear to my heart. Cynthia Ripley Miller's A Sword Among Ravens takes place in the 5th century AD and below is an excerpt that she has generously provided. Enjoy!
Excerpt from A Sword Among Ravens (The Long-Hair Saga) by Cynthia Ripley Miller
EASTERN ROMAN EMPIRE: Constantinople—AD 455
The Imperial Palace, The 25th day of Aprilis
Emperor Marcian sighed but continued, his face grim. “It may sound incredulous, but the sword belonged to King David of Israel. My most educated priests and Jewish leaders in Constantinople have validated the weapon’s period, and lineage by its style and the language engraved on its blade. The inscription reads, A curse on the one who wields David’s Sword and not be chosen.”
Marcian stopped and glanced away. His face fought for composure, but after a moment, he returned his attention to them. “These holy men claim the legend behind this ancient weapon is based on an act of betrayal and hypocrisy.” The emperor reached for his goblet and drank the wine down. A servant promptly refilled his cup and came to them. Arria waved him away, but Garic raised his goblet, drank, and in unison, the men rested their cups on the table.
“Are you familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba?” Emperor Marcian asked, placing his hands on his knees.
Arria replied, “I am. King David lusted over the married woman Bathsheba, and he caused her husband’s death. As you know, Garic is a new Christian and unfamiliar with the stories from the bible.”
The emperor’s eyebrow raised. “Ah, yes. A pagan convert. Then your husband may find this story most interesting.” With a pensive tone, he began, “One day, David saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing, and he was filled with desire for her. But she had a husband, Uriah, a soldier who was away fighting. David summoned Bathsheba to him and seduced her, and she became pregnant. David despaired. To save her from death for adultery, he decided to bring Uriah home to lie with his wife.”
The emperor reached for his cup and drank. Handing it to his servant, he raised a palm but pointed to them. They both shook their heads. As the young man backed away, he continued, “Uriah being a loyal soldier, and true to the code of warriors still fighting, refused to return to the comfort of his wife and stayed with the palace soldiers. This was when David plotted to make Bathsheba a widow. He ordered his general to place Uriah in the front of his army and sent him to battle where he died. Later, David married Uriah’s widow, but Israel’s prophet, Nathan, came and reprimanded him for his deception and murder. Out of guilt for his sin and loss of honor, it’s thought that David had his favorite sword inscribed with this warning and buried, along with Uriah’s body, in a land where it might never be found.” The emperor became quiet. “Those who know the legend of the sword believe this inscription foretells that, if discovered, the sword will choose a mighty and righteous owner. One who is strong and virtuous of heart. Only he can wield it in combat and not be cursed. Anyone else must suffer a tragic or untimely death.”
Emperor Marcian bowed his head and gripped his chair’s gilded armrests. He looked up. His eyes brimmed with conviction, and his voice grew solemn, “I do not know why, but I believe that Lucius fell victim to this curse. Right now, very few know of the sword’s existence, but in time, more men—some who are mercenary—may become aware.”
The emperor raised his hand and commanded all but one slave, a slight man with thin grey hair and round eyes, to leave the room. Then, he ordered the servant, “Erasmus, bring me the artifact.”
Erasmus shuffled over to a large wooden trunk set in an alcove, undid the lock, and pulled out a metal box about three feet in length and six inches high. He brought it to the emperor. Emperor Marcian rose from his chair and placed it on a nearby table. Arria and Garic followed and stood over it.
“When Severus brought me the sword, it was in the bronze sheath Lucius had made for it, but my son told me that he found it encased in a silver box, which I think he might have left at your villa in Tuscia.”
Arria frowned. “I have never seen this box,” she replied grimly. Why had Lucius chosen to be secretive? Had he felt he was protecting her? These questions filled and confused her.
The emperor unhooked the latch and lifted the lid. Arria looked inside. She was struck by an odd luminescence that emanated from the weapon, even in the sunlit room. She glanced at Garic, who appeared transfixed. Arria reached out and touched the smooth, cold metal. “How strangely beautiful. The stones in the pommel still shine a brilliant red.”
“Ja.” Garic agreed. He looked at the emperor. “May I hold it?”
Emperor Marcian nodded his consent.
Garic lifted it from the blue linen folds lining the box, drew it from its sheath and held it vertically tip to the ceiling. Admiration filled his eyes.
“The weapon is priceless,” the emperor said. “King David lived more than a thousand years ago, and from him, Christus was descended. The artistry, silver, and rubies also add to its value.” The emperor shook his head and continued, “I could try and protect it here in Constantinople, but when I look at it, I feel only a bitter hatred. Besides, my holy men believe that if the sword carries a curse, it must be returned to its source and home, to break the spell.”
Garic slipped the sword into its sheath and placed it in the box. He wrapped his arm around Arria’s shoulder. She knew Garic understood the emperor was about to reveal the destination of this mission.
Blurb for A Sword Among Ravens (The Long-Hair Saga)
By Cynthia Ripley Miller
In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen.
AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory.
As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.
Cynthia Ripley Miller
Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com, and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, www.cynthiaripleymiller.com
Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.
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