965 BCE Upon the death of his father, Solomon has been appointed king of the united monarchy of Israel and Judah and charged with building the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. He travels to Egypt to negotiate with Pharaoh … Continue reading
The summer of 1887 pressed a blanket of damp heat down the Ohio valley, smothering the life out of the towns along the river. Sweat rolled down Jared Perkins’ back, soaking his shirt and pitching him into a foul temper. Jared had agreed to meet Emma’s daddy out by the old schoolhouse on the outskirts of town. He arrived and kicked the burned-out building, not sure why the ruins soured his gut. After all, he’d spent no time here. His own pa wouldn’t stand for such foolishness, not so long as there was real work on the farm for his boy. Across the road the muddy river rumbled by, drowning out all other noise. Jared scraped up dirt with the toe of his boot. Under the water’s rush a steady beat grew, and he turned to squint against the bright, colorless sky. A dust cloud puffed over the rise, and the silhouette of a fancy buggy climbed into view. Jared knew why Applebury wanted to talk to him. Emma and Jared kept company, and her high-and-mighty daddy looked down his nose every time he saw them together. Continue reading
Tumbling Creek Ranch Texas, 1872 It was amazing how fast hell descended on a man. At first, the black puff in the sky didn’t seem much of a threat. Surely, nothing to worry over, especially for a man used to living in the harsh conditions of the West. The next few days went by, and Jack thought the smudge looked to be a damned sight closer. As the week wore on, black and gray spread, growing to a cloud of threatening proportions. Jack’s father, Jack “Buck” Buchanan Sr. ordered his people to dig trenches, haul water from the creek, soak buildings, and cut back brush. He convinced almost everyone at Tumbling Creek Ranch the fire heading their way was nothing more than a nuisance. They’d lived through brush fires before. “Only fools and cowards run, and they’ll get what they deserve.” His gravelly voice thundered with his usual Buck-style certainty. The residents of the ranch looked up to Jack’s father as if he were a god. Most chose to stay. So did Jack. For him there was no other possibility. Protecting the ranch and his family was his duty as a Buchanan. On Saturday morning, Jack woke, rolled over, and blinked. He’d overslept, he could feel it. Continue reading
September 18, 1900 The Spirit of the River, Premier Riverboat on the Ohio River Jared’s eyes locked on his sinning, betraying wife. She stood on the deck of the riverboat, hands fisted around the handle of a skillet, knuckles white. She didn’t have the grit to swing it. Emma Perkins was not a woman of courage. She didn’t even possess the backbone to be a decent kind of wife, never mind raise his children. He’d been forced to take them from her. He had no choice. She coddled them, made their lives easy, filled their heads with foolishness from books. Taught them to read and draw and sing. Why, his son was growing up to be a nancy boy. He’d have none of that. Emma froze before him, like a timid, hunted animal. He grinned. She’d never escape him—he knew it sure as day. Now she knew it too. No matter where she ran, who she met, what she did, there was no place to hide. She was his. To do with as he saw fit. And he saw fit to finish this lesson. Oh, he was gonna teach her good, all right. Her whore of an assistant, Lilly, wriggled under his foot. He leaned more weight on her chest to stop her from squirming. Damn puny slut, he’d crush the life out of her right here. Read more
The summons delivered to Ariston that damp winter morning was written on the finest vellum, in an elegant hand that suggested a discriminating intellect tempered with the manners only good breeding could engender. Certainly not the handwriting of a mercenary captain or a middling merchant, his two most recent patrons. Nor was the note suggestive of a Hellene; though brief, it had nothing of the brusque tenor so fashionable among the arrogant Macedonians who ruled Ephesus. Ariston read it again:
To Ariston of Lindos, son of Th rasyllus, greetings. May the gods bless you, your household, and your endeavors. My mistress begs an audience with you. Come at your earliest convenience to the estate called Th e Oaks, on the slopes of Mount Coressus.
In the blue predawn twilight, a mist rose from the Nile’s surface, flowing up the reed-choked banks and into the ruined streets of Leontopolis. Remnants of monumental architecture floated like islands of stone on a calm morning sea. Streamers of moisture swirled around statues of long-dead pharaohs, flowed past stumps of columns broken off like rotted teeth, and coursed down sandstone steps worn paper-thin by the passage of years. As the sky above grew translucent, streaked with amber and gold, a funerary shroud settled over the City of Lions, a mantle that disguised the approach of armed men. From the desert came two score and ten dark shapes, clad Greek-fashion in leather cuirasses and studded kilts, Corinthian helmets perched atop their foreheads. Bowl-shaped shields hung from their shoulders by gripcords of plaited hemp, freeing each man to wield a short, recurved bow. They moved in earnest, silent, a company of phantoms drifting through the fog. The Medjay had come to Leontopolis. Medjay. The soldiers bearing this appellation were the most savage of Pharaoh’s mercenaries. They were a cadre of outcasts, criminals in their own lands, who banded together under Egypt’s banner to dedicate their lives to the gods of violence. The emblem painted on their shield faces, the uadjet, the all-seeing Eye of Horus, symbolized their task as guardians of the eastern frontier. Pharaoh paid them to be vigilant, to crush any intruders before they could reach even an abandoned ruin such as Leontopolis, and he paid them well. This time, though, the Medjay had failed their royal paymaster.