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Roman Magistrate And Slave On The Run

The Litterae
your daily source of news in Rome – the Eternal City
Dateline: the first year in the reign of Maximinus Thrax
(that’s 235 AD for you pesky Christian types)

Roman Forum. The reconstruction of the 19th century. Painter Becchetti. Watercolour.

The Senate today has announced a warrant for the arrest of Marcus Cornelius Drusus, one of Rome’s senior magistrates.

The praetor is wanted for questioning in relation to providing material aid to Senator Cato Claudius Germanicus, who was executed last month following a summary trail at which he was accused of treason against His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Maximinus Thrax.

The Magistrate is described as aged in his early 30s. He is tall, muscularly built with black hair and silver-blue eyes. He is known to be an accomplished swimmer and may be found in upmarket Baths in major cities.

Baiae on the Coast of Naples. The acclaimed Seneca calls it a ‘resort of vice’

Reports from the provinces suggest that Marcus Cornelius is headed south towards the coastal resort city of Baiae where news has just reached us of the suspicious death of Agrippina Messalina Plinia, the magistrate’s ex-wife. It is not known whether there is a connection.

Sources close to the Magistrate say his absence from Rome may be related to his investigation into the mysterious Cult of Elagabalus.

The Litterae has learned that before his arrest, Senator Cato had been prepared to publicly name senior Roman officials involved in the group believed responsible for the murders of six boys as well as the death of a Greek doctor, Philomen Erasmus, in the past three months.

Ettore Forti (1850-1940)

Marcus Cornelius is thought to be traveling in the company of a medicae, a female doctor by the name of Kyna who was a protege of Philomen Erasmus and has herself been questioned over her former master’s death.

Kyna (last name not known) is originally from Britannia. She described as aged late 20s, short stature, slim build with long red hair.

We will be updating this story as news comes to hand. The next update will be on Aprilis XXVIII (April 28). Look for Dark Heart by Elizabeth Ellen Carter.


About The Book

Can love survive a dark heart?

Rome, 235 A.D.

A series of ritual murders of young boys recalls memories of Rome’s most wicked emperor. Magistrate Marcus Cornelius Drusus has discovered the cult extends to the very heart of Roman society.

Despite his personal wealth and authority, Marcus is a slave to his past – conflicted by his status as an adopted son, bitterly betrayed by his wife and forced to give up his child.

Kyna knows all about betrayal. Sold into slavery by her husband to pay a gambling debt, she found herself in Rome, far from her home in Britannia. Bought by a doctor, she is taught his trade and is about to gain her freedom when her mentor is murdered by the cult.

When the same group makes an attempt on her life, Kyna is forced to give up her freedom and accept Marcus’ protection. With no one to trust but each other, mutual attraction ignites into passion. But how far will Marcus go for vengeance when he learns the cult’s next victim is his son?

Can the woman who is free in her heart save the man who is a slave in his?

Dark Heart will be released on April 28 through Dragonblade Publishing.

Excerpt

“This is the place,” she said, more to herself than to Marcus who now stood behind her.

He leaned around her. She felt the heat of his body, exercised by the ride, as he pushed on the door.

It remained held fast.

“Open it,” he said brusquely to the unhappy Hadrianus who lingered at the top of the stairs.

“I… I don’t have the key,” the man stuttered.

“Find one!”

The volume of the yell amplified in the stone stairwell. Kyna jumped at its suddenness and volume, and noted with satisfaction that Hadrianus did as well. The man ran down the stairs with more alacrity than she would have credited him.

“You’re sure?” Marcus asked, his voice now soft by her ear.

“Certain,” she said, her voice matching his. “Behind this door is a dormitory of some sort with a fireplace set into the wall. High windows let in plenty of light. There is a courtyard with raised gardens.”

Hadrianus returned with an iron key.

“This is one of our disused wings, Magistrate. I can’t imagine what interest it has for you,” he said, fussing at the lock.

The door swung open, the squeaking of the hinges reverberating around the room. Dust motes danced in the air lit by the angled shaft of light through the high windows.

The room was deserted. Worse still, it was empty. Only a small table by the fireplace showed there had ever been any habitation.

Kyna walked into the room stiffly, a somnambulist in a horrible waking nightmare as fiendishly real as the ones that plagued her in the villa.

The pallets were gone; so were the boys. She moved to the large shutters at one end of the room and pulled open a panel. There was the courtyard, its blood red geraniums in bloom.

“They were here,” she breathed, softly at first and then again, louder. “They were here!”

She swung around and pointed a finger at Hadrianus. “They were here! Where are they?”

A flash of fear crossed the old doctor’s face as Kyna took another step toward him.

“I… I have no idea what you’re talking about. There’s no one here.”

Hadrianus turned to appeal to the magistrate.

“My lord, the woman is quite clearly disturbed. You can see for yourself no one is here – this room hasn’t been used in a long time – months, in fact.”

The Housekeeper’s Fears

From the diary of Beatrice Mellor, housekeeper at Blackheath Manor:

I worry about him, my boy.

He’s changed and I’m afraid I know the reason why.

ladyThomas James Worsley is the son of my late employer. So he’s not really my son — my husband and I were never so blessed, but nonetheless I nursed him.

I nursed him when he was as helpless as a babe returned to Blackheath after the war with Napoleon.

He was near death; the pneumonia had a strong hold on him. Each breath rattled through his lungs and I feared it would be his last.

I nursed him. I fed him when he was too weak to feed himself. I stayed with him night after night even when the doctor all but pronounced him dead.

I encouraged him when it seemed there was no hope. But I knew him. He was a fighter. Even when he got into scraps with his brothers, he would always been the last to yield. That fighting spirit helped him to live to another Christmas and then another.

I hadn’t realised he was blind at first, not when he was so ill and he spend more time in fever than not. And his leg! So many breaks in those bones and so many scars that he cannot straighten it for any length of time without pain…

My dear boy…

The way his brother treated him was shameful, but it’s not my place to question the Earl’s decision, mine is to do my duty and care for the people under my charge. And that is what brings me to this dilemma.

There’s a new addition to the household, a governess for the little misses.

Her name is Ella Montgomery and she knows.

She has seen Thomas and he seemed enraptured by her. I haven’t seen him this happy since the spring of 1815 – six years ago.

This can only end badly. I fear for him. His body has been broken, but what of his heart?

Nocturne-Cover-2400x1600ResizeAbout the Book

In her first posting as governess, Ella Montgomery discovers beautiful Blackheath Manor hides family secrets and suppressed passions. Mysterious piano music in the darkness of night draws Ella to the talented Thomas Worsley, the brother of her employer, the Earl of Renthorpe. Grievously wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, Thomas is held prisoner at Blackheath by more than his blindness and scars. Driven by bitter jealousy, the Earl has ensured Thomas is only a memory, his name etched on a marble memorial in the Bedfordshire village graveyard. Drawn together by their love of music, Ella and Thomas begin a clandestine affair, but how far will the Earl go to keep his family’s secret?

~Excerpt~

Ella crossed to the small window and looked out over the dales where she caught a glimpse of the village through the grove of trees and farmlands beyond, all wearing a blanket of snow.

Turning back to the room, Ella unpacked her precious few belongings. Before hanging them in the wardrobe, she laid her dresses on the bed to smooth them out – a winter Sunday dress of felt, the color of ripe raspberries, a forest green walking dress, and a Sunday dress for summer in soft buttery yellow linen, along with her slate grey day dress. The first three were all gifts from the Bishop’s wife. They were hand-me-downs, but still of the finest quality and not too out of fashion.

As she hung the dresses up, she reflected that Mrs. Stanton’s generosity had more than doubled her wardrobe. Before that she had owned only the grey day dress in addition to the black one she wore now.

Ella placed her most valued possession on the bed – her father’s Bible. She stroked the black leather cover, rubbed soft with age, and opened it. Inside were her father’s commentaries. Seeing his handwriting made her feel as though he were alive once more. Ella closed her eyes. The sharpness of his loss had barely lessened over the year.

She had never felt more miserable in her life.

The chimes from the grandfather clock echoed up the stairwell, registering the fourth hour of the afternoon. No one had yet brought the promised meal to her room – not that she was hungry, anyway.

She straightened her back, suddenly struck with the resolve to at least do something.

Although Mrs. Mellor had set a timetable, Ella was the girls’ governess, and therefore they were her responsibility. She would see them now and introduce herself before they were to be presented to their parents at bedtime.

Ella took a tentative step or two toward the staircase and looked up to the top floor. She could hear no sounds there. If she listened hard, she could hear maids downstairs preparing the dining table. Then she looked to the left and the right. If the school room was on this floor, perhaps the nursery was as well.

She knocked on several closed doors and received no response. The house was a jumble of passages and Ella soon found herself at the last door before a narrow stone spiral staircase. The sounds of kitchen activity below confirmed her belief these were the servants’ stairs.

She heard movement from behind the door – the scrape of a chair and a softly grunted curse. A moment’s indecision, then her hand was raised to knock on the door when Mrs. Mellor startled her for the second time today.

“Are you looking for something, Miss Montgomery?” she asked sharply.

Ella turned and found the woman’s expression as cold as the day outside.

“I’m seeking the nursery, Mrs. Mellor.”

“You won’t find it here.”

“Then if you would kindly direct me–”

“On the second floor. It is the room above yours. Use the main staircase, not the servants’. You do not want to give the wrong impression when you are new here.”

Mrs. Mellor extended her arms, drawing attention to a tray of food which Ella, so focused on Mrs. Mellor’s stern expression, had not noticed. The tray bore an elaborate silver savory dish warmed underneath by two small votive candles. Beside it was a platter of fresh fruit, a wedge of cheese and a sweetmeat dish filled with nuts.

“Oh,” said Ella, “I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble on my account.”

The woman frowned a moment, then saw Ella’s gaze upon the tray and her look became glacial.

“This is not for you. I have more important duties than to be scullery maid to a governess. Get out of my way.”

Mrs. Mellor set the tray on a side table opposite the door on which Ella had been about to knock. With cheeks flushed red, Ella turned and hurried back down the passageway. Behind her as she fled, she heard a male voice answer Mrs. Mellor’s authoritative knock on the door.

Ella found the main stairs and started climbing, mentally berating herself. She had been here a scant two hours and gotten off on the wrong foot with one of the most important people in the house.

Her first post had not started well – and she had a horrible feeling it was not going to get any better.

Available from  Amazon  and   iBooks

Nocturne is a novella from Elizabeth Ellen Carter whose full-length titles include Warrior’s Surrender, Moonstone Obsession, and Moonstone Conspiracy.

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