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The Guest Star, Facts vs Fiction

As usual, at the very end and above all, I truly hope you enjoyed Hero and Lucia's adventure as well as the background story itself, which was perhaps a bit different from the stereotype that we first think of, when it comes to the history of the Roman Empire. The idea for this novel did not come in an instant, so to speak. Instead, the story unfolded along the way, and in the end it turned out to be one of those books where the research and writing were not separate, but intertwined with each other over the course of months of writing. To say that I enjoyed creating the story from the start would be an understatement. In fact, the basic idea that was in front of my eyes from the very beginning was to combine fields and sciences that have always fascinated me such as astronomy, archeology, anthropology and ancient history we know little about, all wrapped in a classic adventure with a hint of romance and unavoidable violence. I am obliged to say that this is entirely a work of fic

The Guest Star, Epilogue

The large water wheel that Titus had built under the waterfall, just a few dozen feet from the west wall of their mansion, rotated quite rapidly, considering that a lot of water was falling from the cliff in the latter part of November. A system of wooden gears and shafts transmitted the rotational energy to the millstone, which had a hole in the middle through which the wheat was fed. As the upper stone rotated, it crushed the grains against the stationary stone below, grinding them into flour. Water milling wheat has been a fairly simple process for centuries, but these particular millstones were not intended for grinding wheat. The gap between these stones and the patterns carved were specially designed to be wide enough and instead of wheat, Pia kept adding frozen grapes to the basket, which were inserted into the hole through a wooden channel.

The Guest Star (10), Stardust

Tomorrow afternoon Kai was the guest of honor at their mansion. Septimius was, to say the least, amazed by what they had seen last night on Kai's roof, so he invited him to a feast with fresh fish specialties from the sea of Propontis. Before they left, he showed them Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest wanderers in the Byzantine sky, and both of them turned out to be completely different from how everyone saw them with the naked eye. Jupiter seemed to be in the company of several stars that could only be seen through Kai's stargazer, while Venus, for some reason, like Luna once in a month, showed only three quarters of herself. Although everything they saw, thanks to the smaragdus had a greenish tint, it was obvious that the life of wanderers and stars was far beyond the comprehension of even the smartest people in the Empire and in this case, literally beyond.

The Guest Star (9), Byzantium

Returning to Philippopolis, after only a few hours of sleep, was less risky than if they had continued in the same direction that Pescennius Niger and his legionaries had taken, which led east towards Byzantium. Vitus and Caelius had lost seven legionaries and with two veterans from Praetorian Guards who were also killed in the first wave of the attack, they had no choice but to return to regroup and reconsider the smartest way to proceed. Last night it took them three hours to bury the dead, and after a short rest, they started back before dawn with two badly wounded soldiers who had to ride in the empress's carriage. It was already night when they arrived at the imperial villa.

The Guest Star (8), Via Militaris

Parting with Valerius' family was difficult and emotional for Lucia. Developing a warm friendship with all of them, in such a short time, neither she nor Hero could have imagined. Yes, the hostage situation with the Goths sped everything up, but somehow everything was more than that. She couldn't put her finger on exactly what it was, and she knew it could just be a fascination with the life she didn't have in Rome with her own family, but tomorrow morning when they set off on their horses towards the road and Vitus waiting there, she wasn't sure that, when everything was over, returning to Rome was her only option. Leaving Alexandria was difficult, but for the first time she felt unsure of where the road would take her next.

The Guest Star (7), Timacum Maius

Lucia was worried sick all night after they heard a shrieking sound in the middle of the night, followed by another that seemed to come from a greater distance away. Both sounded distant and muffled, but she understood what Pia meant when she said it wasn't a bird. There's no bird that sounds like that, and even falcons and night owls weren't that creepy. She had a bad feeling about all of this. Livia tried to calm her down, telling her that Titus was a military veteran of over five years and would still be in service if he hadn't been wounded in the battle against the Quadi tribe in the Marcomanni Wars and if anyone could do this, it was him. Alerting the legionaries at the station was not an option. If they had gone to Timacum Maius first, it might have been too late and the kidnappers would probably have disappeared.

The Guest Star (6), Cassius

Tomorrow morning Bruttia asked her Praetorian guard and Pilus prior of the Naissus defense cohort to join them for breakfast. Lucia and Hero insisted on continuing their journey alone and she wanted a security report on the route north. When it came to security, Rome had recently become aware that the existence of an imperial workshop of that size with precious metal mines in the vicinity was not something that could be kept secret for so long. One cohort in the city, one in Timacum stations, and one in Remesiana, both less than twenty miles apart, might not be enough to meet all the dangers in the coming years. In the atrium, she hosted them at a long stone table behind the fountain.

The Guest Star (5), Naissus

To say that all the events of yesterday were intense would be an understatement. But now that it was all over Hero felt a little excited. He was by nature withdrawn and devoted to school and education and never had the opportunity to participate in any military action, let alone be at the center of it. He never expected to witness firsthand the cold-blooded killing and efficiency of Roman legionaries. Something he had only read about in books, he had the opportunity to see with his own eyes. Lucia was couple of digits away from death and the mere thought of it terrified him all over again. Seeing her sleeping peacefully just a few feet away gave him comfort and peace. Vitus gave them last night a tent where they would take a rest after the exhausting day. They should have all day to prepare for the six days journey to Naissus.

The Guest Star (4), Lissus

Hero felt they were no closer to the answers after they left Ioannis a week ago. Before Cnoso, he was sure that maybe if he could find the original text from the Tiberius' note, it could shed some more light on the meaning of the guest stars, but if it meant that the old record would be written in ancient pictographs in its entirety, it would be more than challenging, to say the least. He would need somebody who would know how to translate the ancient text to the newer Serican language and then to Latin or Greek. Ioannis said that he heard from the silk merchants in Phaestus about dozens of Serens who sailed with them along the new route in previous years, but they mostly left the ships in Egypt, and they did not know where they went. They were also merchants who did not trade in silk, but in something else, something of a technological nature.

The Guest Star (3), Insula Cretica

Corbitas were truly built for any weather. The one Hero and Lucia boarded was medium in size with a single large square sail on a mast amidships and a small square sail on an artemon mast over the bows. It was steered with two deep steering oars, one on each quarter, which in strong winds and high seas required as many as four men on each oar to control the vessel. The stern was high enough to withstand large waves during storms. Their journey was about four hundred miles and sailing in this wind should ideally take them to their destination in less than three days, assuming that with the wind changes their course would not be a straight line.

The Guest Star (2), Departure

Lucia took the scroll excerpt from the floor, one of many surrounding Hero and read it aloud: "Times of crisis are always predicted by divine omens. Sometimes the star remains visible during the entire day and night, encapsulated in rainbow colors, or another one cоmes extended to an enormous length, seemed to be hanging in the middle of the sky." She gave him a puzzled look and took another one. "Before the war of the deserters the heavens were ablaze." She deftly jumped over a pile of papyri excerpts, several opened scrolls and something that looked like old and reddish clay tablets and kneeled to face Hero. He seemed oblivious to her presence as he stared deeply at the piece of papyrus in his hands. She took it from him and revealed a text that looked very old. Text was in Greek, Latin and big portion of it written in pictographs.

The Guest Star, Prologue

It was early December of a remarkably warm autumn in Alexandria. The year of 938 * of the renewed Roman calendar was going to expire soon and Hero felt that the next one would be the most challenging in his entire life. Today was his birthday and next year was the final year of his first master's course at the Great Library. Hero was fluent in several languages even before his teenage years and he knew that Alexandria had to be his next stop a day after he read Ptolemaîos' Almagest, the scroll he was lucky enough to stumble across in the Antioch's atheneum. Today, after five years on campus, he knew he was at a crossroads. Earlier this morning, Hero realized that the passion he had for the Imperial history, and the stories of the past were taking their toll every day, and it was time to take the next step. Here, lying on a small carpet in front of the southern city walls and gazing up at the starry sky, he made his final decision. As soon as his course was completed, he wo

Saronic Islands with Rackpeople

I have no sailor material in me. At all. I don't mean qualified skills that are fascinating and easily acquired through study and experience. I mean literally and physically, my body is simply not built for the navy. I realized that when I entered those 4D/5D theaters for the first (and the last) time, about dozens of years ago. I remember anxiously waiting for that sophisticated motion ride system built into movie theater seats to come to my city, and when it finally arrived, I was among the first in the tickets line... And I was first to get out of the small theater with a terrible motion sickness thundering throughout my entire body. I should have guessed what was going to happen after seeing the title of the short film had the word "rollercoaster" in it. I fully recovered more than 24 hours later. After that, I never stepped into any movie theater with more than 3D label on its front gate. Sometimes even in those I check if the chair is fixed solid. To be honest, I kn

The War No One Wants

Before the start of the Great War, the prevailing sentiment in most, if not all, European countries was that victory in any major military conflict was guaranteed only if it was fought with a large, durable, well trained and modern army. The dawn of the 20th century established the environment in which countries entered the race to mobilize the largest part of the qualified population, to create faster motorized transport for troops and logistics, to use state of the art communications and the greatest range of artillery as well as to use various new drugs in medical treatments like morphine and even a cocaine to boost the troops and fuel their fighting mood. Comparing to 19th century wars, new warfare was revolutionized and upped to the next level. By June 1914, the stage was set and only a spark was needed to fire off the conflict. But was it really inevitable? Was the military race alone enough to cause the conflict in which 20 million died and many more wounded? Or did it need a pl

Neanderthal Burgers

It was commonly believed that ancient hunter-gatherers, both Humans and Neanderthals, had a simple lifestyle in which most or all of their food was obtained by gathering from local sources or by hunting animals from their environment. We simply assumed that beside the meat they hunted, their diet consisted of only raw foods such as wild plants, edible insects, mushrooms, honey, or pretty much anything that was safe to eat. Well, according to the recent study performed by Ceren Kabukcu* and her team from the archaeobotanical department of the University of Liverpool, we couldn't be more wrong. Researchers analyzed charred food remains at two locations - the Shanidar Cave in Iraq and the Franchthi Cave in Greece. The food remains from the first cave, originated from both Neanderthal hearths, 70,000 years old and those from ancient Humans thirty millenniums later and also those from Greece consumed some 12,000 years ago by our modern ancestors under microscopic examination reveal

Norse Valkyrie vs Slavic Vila

It is hard to pinpoint the exact period in human history when religiosity we are all familiar today emerged and started to form itself with all of the colorful myths, supernatural stories, vivid deities and numerous super powered entities. It happened probably at some point around 10.000 BC in the same period of time when humans slowly progressed from being pure hunters and gatherers into next stage of civilization and started to build modern settlements with domesticated animals and cultivated plants. No doubt, religiosity, superstition and spiritualism existed all the way from the beginning in the history when our ancestors started to paint cave walls but only Neolithic revolution and invention of agriculture gave us enough free time to start daydreaming and to think outside pure survival. If we compare all previous beliefs with vignettes, we can safely say that the evolution of religiosity after Neolithic revolution began to fill volumes of graphic novels. According to the theor

Corfu Between Tales and Reality

Among all religious beliefs, the Greek pantheon of colorful gods is perhaps the best described in the history of all human religiosity. There is literally no piece of Greek land or portion of the sea or the tiniest island that has no origin in radiant old mythology. The island of Corfu is no exception as well. Apparently in the mythological history, it was one of those unnamed islands in the region of Scheria where the mighty Poseidon spent a portion of his eternity with fresh water nymph Korkyra. Their descendants, the Phaeacians as described by Homer in Odysseus' adventures inherited the island and named it to the Poseidon's lover. The final shape of the island owns the appearance to Poseidon as well when he separated Paxos from Corfu with his trident in order to create a love nest for him and his wife Amphitrite (sea nymph this time). I don't blame him, both Korkyra and Paxos are beautiful and colorful islands and he obviously knew his craft well. I understand his affect

Three Caves

Part of Serbia lands below Danube river is pretty mountainous, with complex geology especially in eastern parts where Carpathian and Balkan mountains collided and over eons formed Serbian Carpathians with total of 14 independent mountain ranges in existence today. These rocks date back to the Proterozoic Eon (2.5 billion - 541 million years ago) with limestones and dolomites mainly formed from late Jurassic to early Cretaceous, around 100 million years ago. There are dozens of large caves within these mountains and many with tourist paths built to visit and admire their beauty and history. Two of them we visited last week and they both gave us extraordinary experience and impressions. However, the first cave in this blog story belongs to the one formed in the foothill of an ancient volcano of the nowadays mountain of Bukulja in western Serbia, although the recent paper posted a theory that the mountain is much younger (15 million year ago) and instead formed in tectonic processes.

Historical Fiction of the World War Two

The start of the second world war in the Balkans was known as the "April War" that lasted no more than 10 days in the operation called "Führer Directive No. 25". The swift conflict ended on April 14th in armistice based on unconditional surrender of Yugoslav military forces. My grandfather was a 22 years old corporal in the former Yugoslav army when he was transferred to a war camp in Germany in mid-April 1941, along with other 30,000 surrendered soldiers. He spent next four years in Nazi military camp leaving behind his young wife and 2-year-old son. I am sure it was not easy for him to cope the entire time of imprisonment and captivity, especially in the beginning, but considering all the horrors of the most cruel encampments of Nazi Germany, unconditional surrender of the entire Yugoslav Army came with negotiated terms and agreement of fair treatment of all the prisoners during captivity in various labor camps in the following years. Perhaps the main trauma for a

Serbian Vampires

It was a foggy day that April 6, back in the year 1725 when angry villagers of rural hamlet of Kisiljevo, Serbia opened the grave of their neighbor Petar Blagojević who died eight days before. His death was followed by a spate of nine other sudden deaths and numerous claims by the victims being throttled by Petar at night. When they cracked the casket open, features associated with vampires, just like they anticipated, were indeed present, the body was undecomposed, the hair and beard were grown, there were mixture of new skin and nails along with old ones peeled away, and there was blood flowing out of his mouth. The villagers were accompanied with an official of the Austrian administration (Austrian empire governed the area in early 18th century) and local priest. The entire case was documented and reported to the officials and covered by Die Wiener Zeitung, a Viennese newspaper on July 21st. At the time, the vampirism was fully embedded into Serbian folklore with numerous Slavic leg