Monthly Archives: March 2016

Anthea of Greece

Anthea Manikos was born in October 1174 in Sounion, on a rocky sterile plain on the southern most tip of the Attica peninsula in Greece.  The only thing the land there is really good for is mining.  Anthea’s father, Nikitas, owns several mines in the region chiefly Laurion, producing iron ore and silver.  Nikitas is miserly and they live a very Spartan lifestyle.

Penelope, Anthea’s mother died when she was a child and Nikitas brought in the best nannies and teachers he could find to educate her and prepare her to be wed to a nobleman someday.  This is the arrangement that brought Anthea to Italy, to Parthenope.

Pero de Alava first meets Anthea in a small chapel the night before her marriage to another.  Anthea turns his head from the get.  Despite his intoxication and her inexplicable grief shedding involving both tears and hair, Pero is drawn to her, proposing to wed her then and there.

Anthea is very religious, the orthodoxy of the eastern Byzantine Empire.  Francis Whitehall, the Estate Steward of Capua, so swears that Anthea is the kindest human being he has ever met.  He couldn’t imagine her ever thinking evil of others.  She is nearly always smiling and helping others, her heightened awareness seemingly tapping into the quintessence of her surroundings.

Twenty-three, Anthea has been living in her own apartment at Capua for a year now.  She was devastated by the miscarriage of the arranged marriage her father prepared for her.  The city of Parthenope so disappointed her, she has sworn to never return to that city.  She is just beginning to recover from the trauma of that event.

After announcing their engagement in August 1197, Pero swept Anthea off on a whirlwind tour of Spain and his holdings there.  Anthea enjoyed most of the holiday, everything that is except the time she spent with Maria Alava, Pero’s saintly mother.  It seemed the woman was testing her at every turn.  Anthea is still not confident, even to this day, that Maria approves of her.

Despite that misgiving, Anthea continues to prepare for their wedding in a fortnight.  She plans to make her own dress, several prototypes already fashioned in a backroom.  She is involved in every detail of the event.  It is to be her magnum opus.

The chief reluctance still haunting her, however, is Pero himself.  Every since the caballero was expelled from a banquet thrown in his honor in Parthenope after an unexpected dust up with the powerful Fabbro family, Pero has been distant.  His mind wanders and he seems all alone.

‘She started to think her affection for him was not inspiring enough to rouse him from his stupor and fully awake him from his worries.’ (Excerpt)

Anthea didn’t want to believe Pero was having a change of heart but his constant mindless wanderings into dark foreboding shadows worried her.

When Pero shows up at her door wearing his armor, Miriam sheathed at his side, she knows things are truly amiss and their world is about change.  She is frightened and clings to him, rosary beads in hand.  She tries her best to dissuade him from taking this reckless course he seems determined to walk.

For those who have not read the book, be sure to pick up your copy of THE CRYSTAL CRUX – BETRAYAL on Amazon, available in both Paperback and Kindle (soon in audio-book as well).  When you get done reading this book, the first in the series, you will have only gone one days journey on a ten day hike.  It promises to be a long and eventful ride.  I hope you come along.

AMAZON – The Crystal Crux paperback and kindle

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PROTAGONIST PERO

While I’m trying to build and reveal the personalities of many characters in my series, THE CRYSTAL CRUX, the character who drives the story and would be considered the protagonist is Pero de Alava.

Pero de Alava was born in Spain in 1164, the bastard son of Blassilo Velez and Maria Alava.

Blassilo is a wealthy caballero with many holdings in Spain including Cielo Diamantes, his favorite horse ranch, located several miles southeast of his military posting at Penafiel Castle.

Maria Alava is a well-to-do socialite of Mozarabic descent.  She prefers the culture and refinement of the big city, especially her birthplace, Valladolid.  She is infatuated by the uncouth cabellero of House Velez but refuses to marry a man who is always warring and cannot control his libido.  She also has no desire to live on a horse ranch in the middle of nowhere.

When Pero is born, they decide to split his time between them.  Pero winters with his mother in Valladolid, receiving a proper education and religious training.  In summer, he is with his father learning about the ways of the knight.

Blassilo and Maria maintain a correspondence by letters.  Although Blassilo cannot read or write, he has scribes who can translate and assist him with this endeavor.  Twice a year, when exchanging parental guardianship, Blassilo and Maria meet at Cielo Diamantes and spend time together as man and woman, husband and wife.  This is enough to satisfy Maria as she spends the rest of the year fending off handsome, willing paramours.  Blassilo, meanwhile, is openly lascivious.  On his deathbed, he expresses his shame in this regard.  He tells his seventeen-year-old son, at that time, how he wishes he had been wiser and more willing to stay by Maria’s side the only woman he had truly loved.  This is why he invested so much into raising Pero and not the other ‘mongrels’ as he calls them.

When Blassilo passes, he orders that Pero be taken to Emperor Barbarossa to be knighted and named heir of everything belonging to House Velez including Cielo Diamantes.  The Roman Catholic Church is already at odds with Barbarossa and the Hohenstaufen line of emperors and sees anyone allied with them as an enemy.

When Richard de Couer, the Lionheart King of England is taken prisoner by the new emperor, Barbarossa’s son, Emperor Henry VI, in 1193, the Church is rendered impotent.  The Hohenstaufens of Germany had long plagued the peoples of Italy, driving troops into their country, forcing compliance with the Empire.  Wielding power and influence, Emperor Henry VI commands that Pero de Alava accept an Imperial appointment to the castle in Capua governing and taxing activity around the Volturno River.

Pero, along with his best friend, Francis Whitehall, an Englishman who once saved his life from would-be assassins at a melee, takes command of Capua in November 1193.  Pero’s administration is just and admired.  He meets a Grecian beauty named Anthea Manikos to whom he proposes almost immediately.

Then, while touring Spain with his bride-to-be, Pero initiates a trade pact with the Almohads bringing unique and exotic goods, as well as more coin to Italy.

The Fabbro family who rule the Campania region where Capua is located, call for a banquet in Pero’s honor at Parthenope.  Things get heated as political allegiances begin to arise.  Pero’s benefactor, Emperor Henry VI has died and there is civil unrest in Europe over his replacement.  Pero, of course, favors the next Hohenstaufen, Philip of Swabia.  The people of Parthenope, including the Fabbro family are friendly with the Church of Rome and despise the tyranny of the Hohenstaufen.  They support of Otto of Brunswick.  Tempers flare.  Pero does the unthinkable and defends himself against the kingdom’s native son, Rugerius Fabbro.

It is war and Pero believes he is alone in this.  He fears his actions will have lasting repercussions on his loved ones.  In a desperate attempt at rediscovering peace, Pero breaks off his engagement, rebukes his best friend’s advice and bolts for Eagles Pass thinking that serving as a scapegoat, the wrath of the Fabbro family will be satisfied.  Sadly, he has miscalculated and failed to see how evil and determined they are.  His friends stand to pay a heavy price even in his absence.

When you get done reading THE CRYSTAL CRUX – BETRAYAL, you will be one day in on a journey that will last ten days.  I hope you all come along for the ride.

OPHIS DRACONEM

“Surprised, Ophis snarled at the nimble warrior, trying to bite him.  He flexed the lozenge scales of his extended neck and revealed beneath his chin an iridescent blue dewlap.  Mere seconds passed before the dewlap was wholly inflated and guttural clicking sounds emerged from inside the dragon’s demonic belly.  Ophis sent forth fire from his mouth and nostrils.”
– Except from THE CRYSTAL CRUX – BETRAYAL

AMAZON – The Crystal Crux paperback and kindle

When I originally began writing THE CRYSTAL CRUX, I had several dragon names I toyed around with.  During my exhaustive research of mythological tales, I came upon several usages of the term ‘Ophis’.  It seems several stories and games have used the term for a variety of “evil” things.

My decision to use the name Ophis for my black dragon came after I learned that Gnostic teachings believed that the serpent in the Garden of Eden was Ophis.  He actually meant to elicit the aid of the WORD’s in convincing humanity to disobey the Creator in order to gain knowledge of good and evil – or gnosis.

There are also ancient Greek accounts of another ancient people living near the River Tagus which is now part of Portugal.  These people, the Oestrinmi, had been chased out of their former realm by a plague of snakes.  There was a convergence of terms for these ‘western most people”, everything from Saefs, Ophis and Dragani.  The Oestrinmi or Ophi were said to worship serpents, which many historians now consider could have been as diverse as Wyvern, Griffins and Dragons.

Although many accounts give Ophis wings and the ability to fly, others saw him as chthonic, earth dwelling, subterranean.  He was then associated, especially with the ancient Greeks, as dealing with the underworld.

The Egyptians and Indian mythology had an ouroboros ophis, tail eater, creating an infinite circle.  While in Norse mythology, the ophis that encircles the earth, or Midgard, one of the nine worlds, separating it from the heavens, is Jormungand, an offspring of Loki.

In the stars themselves, we can see Ophiotaurus or Taurus Ophis, serpent-bull.  It is a combination constellation of Taurus and Cetus.  This black-skinned creature was said to have been destroyed by a sea Titan.

For my series, THE CRYSTAL CRUX, Ophis a black dragon startled awake by a Norse blacksmith named Taf.  Ophis learns of the Bellerophon Crystals and their power and covets them.  He will stop it nothing to collect them and use them and rule the earth.

BETRAYAL

FRIDAY NIGHT FUN

Having some quiet time alone in the basement with my laptop, I worked on The Crystal Crux – Book Two, and my head is exploding.  I managed to write a little but most of what I have is research.  Research can be fun but time consuming.  Sometimes the things you want to find and learn are elusive but the rewarding part is the unexpected knowledge you gain.  Your head starts formulating ways to work this new material in without making the story weighty or sound like a text book.  You look for ways to apply these tidbits to a characters history or personality.

Tonight I was researching everything from the Byzantine Empire and its influences on Medieval Greece to bullfighting in Spain.  Yes, all of these are applicable for Book Two.  And no, I can’t concentrate on one subject very long, that’s why I have to wander and research multiple projects at the same time.

In Book Two, for those who have read Book One and are familiar with my characters, I need to add more depth to Anthea Manikos who hails from Hellas (Greece) which was part of the Byzantine Empire in 1198.

For Pero de Alava, my protagonist, I must recreate a bullfight he had at a young age.  And since I know next to nothing about bullfighting, this has been challenging.  I was even thinking to myself at one point during the night, “Going in, I know more about the Byzantine Empire than I do about bullfighting.”  It just seemed odd to me that this was true.

Anyway – if anyone knows of any links or books that could aid me on this journey of discovery concerning Medieval Greece during the Byzantine Empire or Spanish bullfighting during the Middle Ages, I would be much appreciated if you could direct those my way.

In the meantime, enjoy The Crystal Crux – Betrayal.  I’ll have Book Two of the series hopefully completed by October 2016.  That is my goal.  Peace.