Thursday, September 9, 2010


I'm breaking my own rules. Here's a passage from Libertas, a tale of bravery, love and hope set in Spain and the Mediterranean in the closing stages of Julius Caesar's civil war. The sort of book that ought to be romping up the historical fiction charts but has just about got a toe-hold thus far. Written by me, Alistair Forrest. Nuff said. First, read this excerpt and answer the simple question below. Then, buy the book (UK and European readers scroll down to 'featured books' below left, US readers see the panel in this post). Sitting comfortably..?

A pair of eagles flew south, not circling on the hunt, but fleeing. Behind them a vast flock of smaller birds blackened the sky, ten thousand tiny wings rending the heavy air. Dogs barked everywhere, while above the clamour the terrified screams of stabled horses announced the dread demons of hell.

Alone in the garden, I sank to my knees, nauseous and sweating as if gripped by sudden fever. The tremor silenced the world, if only for the briefest moment that lasted for an eternity, the blacksmith god stirring from his slumber.

[*****] growled and spat a plume of black and yellow smoke high into the air, and the ground shook as Vulcan fanned his fires. I lay flat on the tilled ground that boiled and heaved, a deafening roar filling my ears, my head, my whole body, pulsating through me with crushing blows as the world convulsed in hideous agony.

As suddenly as it came, all was still.

I lay prone, my mouth filled with gritty soil, my fingers curling into the soft ground. Slowly, I lifted my head against the leaden weight that crushed down upon me, focusing on trembling leaves then further from my worthless world of terror to where dust settled on a pile of rubble that had been a corner of Corban’s house, shrouded as if by an untimely nightfall. Beyond, a pall of hideous smoke lay over Aetna.

But Vulcan was not finished. With a great crack of his hammer, he thrashed his forge and fiery tongues surged upwards; again and again he hammered while frenzied Titans hurled their rocks in confusion and anger and the great Cyclops bellowed its anguish. Huge fissures streaked the yielding slopes of the mountain, pouring forth effusive, crimson torrents as the mountain surrendered to the remorseless spite of the gods.

I tried to call out to Nahalia, but I could only croak pitifully. Hauling my reluctant body to my knees, I fought off another wave of nausea and crawled towards the violated house. A door was swinging timorously from twisted hinges, behind it a swirling blackness and the sound of protesting beams. I pulled myself inside and my eyes adjusted to the gloom. Eventually I found my voice and called for Nahalia; a gentle sob told me she was alive. I found her hiding under our bed, unhurt apart from the same sickness that had overcome me. I held her close, whispering irrelevancies that meant the world to her, then helped her from the house.

We found Corban, or at least a protruding arm, crushed beneath the awful weight of collapsed masonry, still clutching a dead mouse that he had been removing from the house when Vulcan awoke. We tried in vain to recover his broken body, the stones too heavy for us in our weakened condition.

We knelt beside his untidy tomb and Nahalia prayed in a tongue I did not understand, but we shared a common grief for the old man and there, in our fear and his peace, we wept.

QUESTION: Which Mediterranean island are we on? Click comments below and give your answer plus heaps of praise, you know the form!


Lynda A said...

If its the Med it must be one of the islands like Santorini or Sicily.

Carla said...


Jen Black said...

Heh heh - its Sicily. You left the name Aetna in your excerpt!

Nan Hawthorne said...

EASY!!!!! Sicily and the eription of Aetna!!!

i already bought your freakin' book, OK? And it was terrific.

Nan Hawthorne
That's All She Read