Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lionslayer’s Woman by Nhys Glover



15 September 81 CE, Island of RHODOS

Cyra lay back on the straw-filled pallet of her new bedchamber. It was late afternoon and the heat was oppressive, but she didn’t have the strength or the will to drag herself from the bed and go out into the fresh air of the peristylium. Her body was too weak from malnutrition and abuse, and her spirit was beaten down. Even though her lot had improved immeasurably since the morning before when she had stood naked on the slave block, her brain foggy, her reflexes slow, watching with only half her attention the disgusted expressions on the slave buyer’s faces, she now felt defeated in a way that was totally alien to her. Life no longer seemed worth the monumental struggle it required to maintain it.

She kept remembering those disgusted expressions. Yes, she was a gruesome sight now. It was amazing she still lived after her master had sliced off her breasts, telling her that if she wanted to behave like an Amazon then she would need to look like one. It was only due to the fast work of the cook, who was also their healer, that the blood flow had been staunched, the skin stitched together and ointment applied to ward of putrefaction. In a way, she wished the woman hadn’t taken such good care of her. Death would have been better than the life she now lived.

The very proper young woman who had saved her the day before had promised her a better life. She’d reassured her she would never be hurt again. But Cyra had seen the look of horror and disgust on her face when she had seen her scars, still angry and raw. The woman would sell her off as soon as she was well. Nice, upright citizens of Rome didn’t fill their environment with disgusting objects like her. People like Cyra reminded people like Galeria that the world was not the rosy place they thought it was. Beneath the thin veneer of civilization, the Roman Empire was no better than any barbarian territory. Worse than some even.

But to a sheltered, gently reared women like Galeria the Empire was a place of wonder, order and safety. How wrong she was.

At that moment, a shadow appeared in the open doorway and Cyra looked up. Her thoughts must have manifested her new mistress, because there she was – every tall, lean and scrupulously tidy inch of her. Today, the expression on her almost plain face was gentle but determined. Only the large grey eyes and the wide mouth with its fleshy bottom lip gave the long, angular face any semblance of beauty. It didn’t help her appearance that Galeria kept her brown hair pulled tightly back in an unappealing knob at the top of her head. That only succeeded in emphasising a nose that was a little too big and a chin that was somewhat too firm for a woman’s features.

‘How are you feeling today?’ Galeria asked, coming into the tiny room and crouching down at her side.

‘Well enough, Mistress.’

‘Mater said you didn’t eat your lunch. You’re half starved. If you’re to regain your strength you must eat.’

‘And if I don’t? You will lose your two sesterces. Is that it?’ Cyra couldn’t keep the weak snarl out of her voice.

‘The money I paid for you doesn’t concern me. I’m worried about you. I want you to get well for your own sake.’

‘Why? What am I to you but a lame bitch you rescued from a midden heap?’

The other woman jerked back as if she’d been slapped and for a moment, Cyra felt ashamed. She’d never been a cruel, angry person. Even when she was betrayed, she hadn’t harboured any intense animosity toward the woman whose role it had been to protect and guide her but had instead lined her pockets by selling her. Back then she’d felt only an odd sense of incomprehension. It had been beyond her to understand how one of her people, who valued freedom above all else, would do such a thing to another of their tribe.

In many ways, being sold to the school of dancers in Amaseia had been a step up in life. She’d lived in luxurious surroundings, trained to sing, dance and play a variety of instruments and had her active mind educated in languages, philosophy and the arts for five years. Her body had been dressed in silks and other fine fabrics, her skin soothed by unguents from the Far East. All of it done to make her a more entertaining slave-concubine.

For a little Parthian dancer whose sole aim in life had been to raise enough money from dancing and prostitution to go home and support a family of her own, it should have been the most wonderful time of her life. But to Cyra’s people, who lived in the remote mountains to the north of Parthia, a gilded cage was still a cage. Even if she had sold her body on the dusty streets of Rhagae, as was expected, she would have been the one to choose who took their pleasure with her. And she would have been paid for her services, and that payment would have made her respected and honoured as a provider back home.

Instead, she no longer owned even her body – what was left of it – and becoming a possession had obviously made her mindlessly cruel it would seem. Otherwise, why else would she be verbally striking out at a girl who had saved her from the worst kind of hell?

‘I don’t see you as a dog, I see you as a person. One who has been most horribly abused. I know you must feel like life is no longer worth living, but I assure you it is. We’re different from most of the Romans you’ve probably met. My father is a Stoic and we follow his philosophies in this household. They’re more than a way of thinking to us; they’re a way of living. And slaves are people, not animals, to us. I know that means nothing to you at this moment, but it will.’

‘I know of the teachings of Diogenes of Babylon and his student Apollodorus of Seleucia. I’ve read the latter’s works on physics.’ Cyra tried to keep her voice matter-of-fact when all she wanted to do was yell at this woman that she was not the illiterate whore she thought she was.

Galeria’s eyes opened wide and she grinned in surprised delight. For the first time, the girl looked beautiful. ‘You do? Oh, how wonderful! Pater will look forward to hearing your opinions on that work. I myself haven’t read it. I struggle with written Greek I have to say. Languages don’t come naturally to me.’

‘I write and speak several languages, including Greek and Latin.’

‘Get well…’ Galeria paused as she sought Cyra’s name in her memory and didn’t find it. ‘Oh, I still don’t even know your name. I told you mine yesterday but you weren’t in a fit state to tell me yours…’

A mother and child kidnapped at Imperial command!

Only they can save them…

An Imperial Purge leaves a stoic philosopher dead and his wife and youngest child kidnapped. Galeria, the teacher’s elder daughter and Cyra , her Parthian slave girl, are the only ones who can save them. But their task seems impossible until two men arrive to aid their search.

Nexus once saved his mistress from Vesuvius. But since the death of his lover, he is only half the man he was. Sent to save the family from the emperor’s wrath, he never expected to find love and a reason to live again. But, from the first moment he meets Galeria and agrees to help her, his life has meaning again. And he will do anything to find her mother and keep his new love safe from the fiend who wants her for himself.

Decaneus the Dacian warrior, renamed Leonis after he slew a lion in the Colosseum, has no goal but regaining his freedom. That is, until he meets Cyra. Then her goals become his, as they set out to rescue the child that she loves most in all the world.

Across the Aegean, from Rhodes to Ephesus and Antioch, the couples pit themselves against the might of an emperor, a devious fiend and treacherous slavers, as they race to rescue a mother and daughter from their terrible fate.

What readers say about Nhys Glover’s Roman Historical Romances:

“This is a very good romantic adventure with well-developed characters that held my interest until early into the morning” Lorijay

“I LOVED this book (note the shouty caps). This is a beautifully written novel with strong engaging lead and secondary characters and a gripping story line that kept me in suspense right until the end.” Ereviewer

“Interesting story line full of adventure and romance. Can’t wait for more books by this author. I never thought that the Roman empire was so depraved.” Eda

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Genre – Historical Romance

Rating – PG

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