Ancient history is bloody

Constantinople, in the 4th to 13th centuries CE, as reconstructed by an artist. You can see the Hippodrome in the middle, the Great Palace just to the right of it, and at the left, the Forum of Constantine. In the background is the famous Golden Horn. Image source:


Fantasy lovers, despair not. I’m making good progress with the sequel to my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth.

As regular readers will know, it’s titled The Triumph of the Sky. It continues the story of Javor, the young Sklavenic man who was pulled into a strange war he could not have imagined. In the first book, he travelled from the southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains to Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and then on a strange quest northwest, where he encountered the King of the Mountain, the widow of Attila the Hun, a hidden nation with a fantastic underground civilization, and many other strange and wonderful creatures.

The Triumph of the Sky also brings back a number of readers’ favourite characters from Bones: Mother Tiana, who Javor now refers to as his aunt; Malleus, the Hammer of Rome; and Danisa, the barbarian princess from the north.

It also introduces some new characters that I hope you’ll like, and some I hope you will detest. I won’t tell you which category they fit into, but they include:

  • Javor’s father-in-law, Mauritius
  • The Empress Constantina
  • Petrus, a Legionnaire
  • Andrina, a young woman close to Javor.

That’s all I’ll tell you about the characters for now.

The story begins in Constantinople, about five years after the action of Bones. This brings us to about the year 602 CE, which was a tumultuous one in the history of Rome, which most people today call Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire. However, the people of the time called it “Rome” or, interestingly, “Romania.”

The Emperor Phocas was not described in flattering terms by Roman or Byzantine historians, who mentioned his heavy brows, “hellish” hair, vicious temper and the wicked scar. Painting by Amelianvs on DeviantArt.

In 602, a historical figure stepped up who seems more like the villain of a Quentin Tarantino movie (if Tarantino were to make historical pictures) than a real character: the Emperor Phocas.

Phocas was a centurion in the army in a Balkans regiment, who was sent to Constantinople in about 599 or 600, as a representative to bring to Emperor Maurice’s attention the plight of the army that had not been paid for some time.

His deputation failed, and as a result, the Avars, steppe warriors who had invaded Europe and captured 12,000 Roman prisoners.

Two years later, the army in the west acclaimed Phocas Emperor. They marched on Constantinople, and the Patriarch crowned Phocas seven miles from the Great Palace. His forces then captured Maurice and his family.

Phocas showed his nature once his forces captured Emperor Maurice after he had sought sanctuary in a church. Sparing the Empress and her daughters, Phocas commanded  as he killed Maurice’s five sons in front of their father, then beheaded the former Emperor. He had his men throw the bodies into the Sea of Marmara and displayed their heads for the population to see.

Gruesome, but true. Truth is often bloodier than fantasy.

A fifth-century bust of Emperor Phocas, now in the British Museum.

Progress report

I have written a few chapters that feature Phocas. As you might guess, a number of conspiracies worked to remove the usurper from the throne. Those were fun to write.

I have also come up with some more fantastic creatures for Javor to fight, an encounter with what may be a goddess, and some descriptions of great churches of the ancient world.

In other words, this book is a lot of fun to write.

As I get closer to completion, I plan to publish some samples or teasers of the upcoming work. And if you pay attention, you’ll also get some outtakes from The Bones of the Earth.

Keep reading!

Source: Wikipedia.

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