around smouldering coals
What are you most interested in? The book I'm writing now, or the deal that's popping up on Amazon in a few weeks? I'll get back to that enticing offer later, but right now you are going to be sucked into the dangerous city of Rome-- at night!
Were you fond of the Janette Oake books? Around Smouldering Coals, and the already published book: Mary's Diary might remind you of her and David Bunn's work. On the other hand, if you are fascinated with Brock and Brodie Thoene's incredible books about Roman times, this could seem similar.
Enough! This is no children's book, even though it starts out with youngsters in danger.
Damaris ducked lower and inched her way to the balustrade bordering the flat roof. Every so often, she flattened herself against the rough surface.
"We have to be awfully careful about what we say, Stephanos." The fourteen-year-old glanced furtively about and lowered her voice, "If someone thinks we might be -you-know-what- we will be in deep trouble."
Damaris' six-year-old brother dark eyes looked sober. No one had to tell him what 'you-know-what' meant. He shivered at the thought of being thrown to the lions. Some of Abba's (Daddy's) friends had died because of loving Jesus! He clutched the loaf of bread closer to his thin chest.
Damaris' eyes roved this way and that. If someone looked up, we could be spotted. She saw some ragged beggars scavenging and the sentries on duty. Wheeled transportation was allowed to take over after the eleventh hour, but at that moment they were rumbling along in the busier sections. Her knuckles gleamed white as her hands groped for the top of the wall. She eased herself upwards to peer over the edge.
Far in the distance, hobnailed Roman sandals on cobblestone streets sounded loud in the stillness. Soon the eerie flickering of the patrolman's smouldering torch briefly revealed some ragged beggar boys who were darting back into the shadows. Damaris sensed that the boys knew they were in danger of being clouted with a brawny fist if they were caught slinking around. Scavenging in the garbage-strewn corners could wait for a safer time.
Damaris slunk down until she was eye-level with the top row of bricks, and saw the boys conceal themselves in the deeper shadows. She wondered how children could survive as beggars, but her own concerns flicked out the thought.
Just then, the sentries' flame flashed high against the black night sky, and she shrank back. Damaris hardly dared to breathe as she listened to the receding footfalls until they were indecipherable then leaned over to get the attention of the beggars.
"Yeled," She beckoned then watched the boys stiffen and peered around then up before spotting her. The whites of their eyes looked strange in the shadowy darkness.
"Come here!" she called in a loud whisper. They shrank back and appeared to be talking to each other.
"Come here!" she pleaded.
"What did you call us?" the taller boy, who looked to be about eleven, demanded.
Damaris' cheeks paled.
"Yeled," she confessed. That was the Jewish word for 'boy.' I need to be more careful to speak Latin. Can't give anyone any reason to suspect we're followers of the Messiah.
"Well, what ya want?"
"Show us a secret way through the city." I'm sure they know their way around everywhere.
"Why should we?" The young lad never relaxed his stance for an instant. He was ever on the alert, his eyes darting this way and that and in every direction.
Damaris took the loaf of bread from Stephanos and showed it to them. "We'll pay you!"
The younger vagrant leaped to his feet, agile as one of the bony alley cats and gazed up at them. Damaris wondered if his mouth was drooling at the sight of so much food. She watched as he turned his head to say something into his brother's ear.
Out of the corner of her eye, Damaris saw an orange glow in the distance. The torchbearer had turned and was coming back! The older boy caught the movement of her head, and in an instant, both vanished. Damaris and her small brother once again flattened themselves against the roof of the two-story building.
"I'm cold," Stephanos' words were less audible than a sigh, but then his teeth started chattering. Damaris pulled him close against her body for warmth and tucked her knitted palla around them both. They listened, breathing as shallowly as possible as the heavy footfalls below them became more distinct.
"Where are those thieving rascals?" the guard growled. "They're usually right around this here courtyard making a nuisance of themselves." Damaris felt herself tighten up. The harsh sound of his sword striking against stone made her cringe. At last the light moved away and the sound of feet pounding along the cobblestone street diminished.
Damaris slid into a sitting position and then froze. What is that scratching sound? Was it a nasty old rat? She hoped it was the boys.
Damaris studied her surroundings. In the pale moonlight, the head and shoulders of two shaggy-haired boys looked as if they were cut off at the chest. She could see nothing lower. Damaris stifled a gasp before realizing they were peering through a trap door to the roof.
"Come with me," the older boy beckoned. "We'll git you outta this court-yard, an' where ya wanna be."
Damaris bit her lip. As much as I want to trust them, how can I be sure they'll take us where we want to go? They had disappeared into the denser darkness of the 'hole,' but the older one poked his head back up once more.
"Well?" He demanded. "Ain't ya coming? If you are, we must skedaddle. We have a long ways to go before first light."
"How do you know where to take us," Damaris whispered as she followed her younger brother down the fraying rope ladder.
"Ain't you one of them Christianus?" he asked.
Damaris's grip weakened. "What makes you ask that?"
Tell, me, would you read a book that starts like that? Why or why not? Marilyn's Historical Novels
I'll let you in on a little secret; they flee deep into the Italian Alps, a little known fact in history.