Daughters of the Fire, I
An historical novel
ePublishing by BooksForABuck.com
Copyright 2006 by Kristina O’Donnelly, aka Kristin V. Donnelly all rights reserved.
Dedicated to the Memory of
Louise Halley Forshaw
This sample contains the opening scenes to KORINNA only. You can purchase the entire novel, in multiple electronic formats, directly from BooksForABuck.com. Please visit www.booksforabuck.com/rompages/rom_2006/korinna.html for more information.
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Korinna, Daughters of the Fire, I, First edition, November 2006
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information or storage retrieval system, without the express consent of the copyright holder.
This map has been (or is hereby) released into the public domain by its author, Vardion, at the English Wikipedia project. This applies worldwide.
FOR A THOUSAND YEARS, the Greek conquerors of Troy held colonies in the land named Anatolia (present-day Turkey) known in Roman times as Asia Minor. The Greek-speaking western coast and the surrounding Aegean islands were called IONIA, and the northeastern land track of Anatolia bordering on the Euxine (Black Sea), was called PONTOS (the main).
As time marched on, the tracts claimed by the next conqueror, Rome, included this Western coast and most of the Aegean islands. Administration was by a Roman proconsul, with three legates under him. Ephesus was the chief seat of the provincial government, with Pergamum a close second. Rome reigned by military force and commercial enterprises so that taxation was soon levied by Rome, instead of Athens.
The Romans’ political corruption and usurious taxes bled the Greek colonists until, by the time the kings of Pontos/Pontus – originally an ally of Rome – took advantage of the internecine war on the Italian peninsula, and began seizing portions of the province, the people were willing to accept anyone who liberated them from the Roman yoke.
The brilliant king of Pontus, Mithridates VI, called Eupator Dionysius, a.k.a. Mithridates the Great, grew to fame as one of Rome's most formidable enemies. The Kingdom of Pontus had been founded after the death of Alexander the Great, around 302 B.C., by Mithridates I Ktistes, son of Mithridates II of Kios (Mysia). Pontus was thenceforth ruled by a succession of kings, mostly bearing the same name, until 64 B.C.
Mithridates VI Eupator was ambitious, courageous, of great physical strength, and able to speak the languages of all the twenty-two nations he governed at his zenith. Among the territories he added to his kingdom was Crimea, and the northern shore of the Black Sea became Mithridates' protectorate. Then Colchis (modern Georgia) was swallowed up and soon after, western Armenia as well.
Mithridates’ army juggernauted, expelling the Roman forces and taking over the Anatolians kingdoms of Bithynia, Cappadocia, the Bosporus and the Black Sea. In 89 B.C., he spread his rule to Rhodes and Greece. After Athens, much of southern Greece was brought under Pontic control, with the local populations initially happy to be free of Roman influence.
In 88 B.C., Mithridates decided to ensure the loyalty of his newly won regional allies. In Ephesus, he issued a proclamation ordering the massacre of all resident Romans in Asia Minor and surroundings. As a result, 88,000 (by some accounts, 100,000) Roman/Italian citizens, men, women, and children, also 70,000 of their slaves and freedmen, including any person who spoke with an Italian accent, were slaughtered ………….
THE REMAINS OF EPHESUS, today, are an important archaeological site, located south of the modern Turkish coastal city, Izmir. The extensive ruins have been under excavation for many years, and are a lively tourist site. Portions of the marble city have been reconstructed on location. The great temple dedicated to Artemis/Diana, was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. It is believed that the Virgin Mary, accompanied by St. Paul, came to Ephesus at the end of her life, ca. 37-45 A.D. In 1967, Pope Paul VI visited the site, where a chapel now stands welcoming visitors, and confirmed the authenticity of the legend. In addition, the Basilica of St. John is located near Ephesus. St. John lived the last years of his life here, and after his death, a shrine was built over his grave. Among other historical places to visit are the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Hadrian.
The golden city of SARDIS is rooted in history, as well. The semi-mythical, semi-historical King Croesus ruled from the throne of Lydian Sardis in the mid 6th century B.C.
PERGAMUM was already in existence around 1200 B.C. and claimed to have been founded by refugees from the Trojan War. In historical times a statue of its reputed Foundress, Andromache widow of Hector, stood on the acropolis. (See: “Andromakhe, An Epic Novel of Troy and a Woman’s Triumphant Valor.”) Parchment, in its refined form, was first developed in Pergamum. The word parchment is a form of the name Pergamum. Pliny the historian called Pergamum the most illustrious city of Asia. It was the educational center of the region; the poet Homer and "the father of history," Herodotus, studied and wrote in Pergamum. The ruins have been incorporated into modern Bergama, and are located a few miles inland from the port of Dikili.
Law of Antipeponthos
Antipeponthos is the ancient Greek term for Karma.
As every seed brings its equivalent fruit into the light, so every action bares its equivalent reaction and results. The choices that we make should be as conscious as possible and should be emanated from our Higher Self.
PANIC SLAMMED AT KORINNA the instant she burst out of her gray-walled cell. The passage into the vast temple curved before her like a giant necklace strung with cells of the other girls. At its end, like a pendant, stood the many-breasted statue of Artemis, the Virgin Goddess, symbol of the temple but also of abundance, hunting and wild life. Making a quick curtsy as she ran by, she streaked through the sanctuary and out into the street.
Forced to pause, she had to blink several times to clear her sight. The deserted Sacred Way stretched far into the distance, sunlit, its whiteness shimmering with heat, blinding her after the dark temple. The columns bordering it stood like forbidding priestesses. She threw back a worried glance, first at the marble Goddess with her crown and a garland of flowers on her breasts, then at the temple, and smiled with relief: Good, no one was following her! Not even Nefru, the starving, gray calico kitten she had adopted last year and who proved himself invaluable by decimating the mice that plagued the premises. Just as importantly, Nefru intimidated and silenced the many garden spirits – those invisible, mischievous beings that played havoc among the trees, shrubs, stones and fountains of these ancient grounds.
Drawing a deep breath for much needed courage, Korinna set out at a fast jog. Her knee-length green chiton had ample folds, allowing her freedom of movement without getting entangled. She had walked this way only yesterday with other temple servitors in honor of the new governor’s arrival in Ephesus, so she had no fear of getting lost. The sense of suffocating within the musty walls of her cell was still prevalent. Nevertheless, venturing out into the big city terrified her. But her need was worse; it had grown steadily from the time she realized she was kept away from the other girls — for what reason? Thankfully, today her mentor had left her alone for these few hours.
Her mind raced. Driven by terror though she was, she had to know the truth about herself. It was nothing new that she had neither parents nor other family. However, yesterday, Livia had insinuated terrible things about her origin.
Korinna had never been out without a chaperone, yet she knew that in the city footprints carved into the paving would lead her to Melitta’s house, the one person who might enlighten her.
The Sacred Way, a marble-paved road, snaked onward from the Artemiseion to Ephesus, a major coastal city hearkening to the Trojan-era Carians and Lydians, today embracing 250,000 freedmen and slaves ruled by Rome. The Artemiseion, first started by King Croesus, had taken 120 years to complete. Through Ephesus, hailed goods from exotic China and the eastern provinces bound for Italy. Wide, paved avenues, huge public buildings, squares, and terraced mansions impressed visitors from the four corners of the world. Thus, the Romans referred to Ephesus as “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia.” She had been along the Sacred Way with other novices on festival days — always guarded by mentors.
The Way into the city was long, dotted with small shrines, statues and foliage along the sides, and when she arrived there at last, she was perspiring and winded. The marble city and the smooth street were far larger and broader than she remembered from her last foray, disturbing her. The raised walkway was terrifyingly close to the houses that bordered it. Windows, some of glass and others covered with translucent rice paper framed in wooden latticework, stared blankly at her. Everyone was sleeping away the blistering noon hours. Korinna scarcely recognized herself as she glimpsed her flustered image in an occasional glassed window, her face pinched with worry behind her flying veil. Her heart fluttered beneath her throat, a terrified bird desperate to break free from its cage.
No, no, it could not be true that she belonged to that other place, the Grove! The Grove of Venus-Aphrodite.
The girls had whispered, looking at her as pale-eyed Livia snickered knowingly. When stern-faced, gray-haired High Priestess Thenis came into the courtyard, they had scattered, but giggling behind hands covering their sly mouths. In all the fifteen years of her life, Korinna had not wondered about her parentage. There had been no need to. The other girls too were either waifs like her, or unwanted daughters brought to the shrine by their parents, as offering to the Goddess. That other place, the Grove, was where girls considered surpluses were sent upon reaching womanhood. But in the Temple, she had had the good fortune of an extensive training to read and write in several languages as well as cipher, and now reminded herself that Melitta might help her find such work to support herself. Laconic Thenis, though never one to easily hand out compliments, did brag that Korinna was one of the best students in the Temple’s long history, fluent in several languages, even able to translate many of the ancient cuneiform and hieroglyphic texts. Thenis had told her that she was named after Korinna, the ancient Greek poetess from Boeotia, renowned as the instructress and rival of the Theban poet Pindar, whom she had beaten without trouble in a poetry contest. Unlike Pindar, Korinna’s poems had focused on local myths, drawing parallels between the world of mythology and ordinary human behavior. In honor of her win, a monument had been erected to her, unleashing malicious gossip. A sore loser, Pindar had claimed that she’d won due to her beauty and not talent, and had called her a sow. But even though hundreds of years had passed since her death, her poems were still being read, and recently Antipater of Thessalonica had listed Korinna the Poetess in his catalogue of Nine Mortal Muses.
Uplifted by the thought of her namesake’s victory over colicky Pindar, Korinna smiled to herself. She had always looked up to this poetess, a self-assured, strong, independent-minded woman, and strived to be worthy of being given her name.
Walking along at a more normal pace, her mind switched to other things that Thenis had hinted about Melitta. Yet, strangely, Thenis had taken her there often enough, on visits imbued with secrecy. She had listened to them discussing the invasions of Greek colonies by Roman and Pontine armies. Silently she had wondered what these two women had to do with military concerns. Ephesus was securely ruled by Rome, under a Roman governor. However, these visits gave her the sense that Melitta cared about her, and would help when asked. Indeed, Melitta, wealthy and influential, must know of someone who would hire her away from the Artemiseion….
Everything was eerily quiet when Korinna reached the agora – marketplace. Built as a square, the agora was surrounded by columns. It had three gates, one from the front of the theatre on the northeast, the other one opening to the harbor on the west, and the third one from the library. The north side of the agora was left open, and a portico, filled with rows of shops, surrounded the other three sides. At the center of it were a sundial and a water clock. The stalls were shuttered, of course, for it was the time of afternoon rest. They would open again in the cool of the early evening. By then she would be back, enriched by the knowledge of her origin and with the hope of independence as well.
Korinna looked for the footprints carved into the street leading from the harbor to the Street of Joy. Often had she overheard Melitta tell Thenis that anyone could find her by following the scarred ones – “Scarred from so much use,” she had laughed meaningfully.
“If the child ever gets bored with that drab life she has with you, Thenis, look out!” Melitta had added, “There’s fire in her. She will be at the end of those backwards footprints yet! They lead to the same freedom that I enjoy.” She had laughed again, looking pleased by the older woman’s shocked denial.
As her memory tripped, Korinna made a connection with Livia’s taunt. The urgency gnawing at her insides, increased manifold. Aghh, she had to find Melitta! Besides, she admitted, Melitta was the only person she knew outside the sequestered Temple.
Now she saw the marks. They were cut deeply into the white marble street, and crossed the vast market area. There were several sets passing through and multiplying off into different streets. Then she remembered that Melitta had said the Scarred Ones. Indeed, this would lead her to the house of Melitta!
Korinna reached where the prints met, and then found the scarred ones. Melitta had said backwards, hadn’t she? She began running along them, eyes to the pavement.
As she noticed the sail-furled masts, she realized she was near the harbor. Sudden fear leapt up at her from the road. She shuddered, freezing mid-step. A strong sense of approaching menace floated in the air. Eyes widening, her panicked gaze swept her surroundings. Ah, she was in an area of warehouses. The footprints went toward the ships – no, they came away from there….
Sounds of drunken laughter made her swallow her breath, and she glanced around again, unsure for what. The sounds came closer; it would be prudent to find some shelter. Alas, there was no space where she could hide quickly. She turned to retrace her steps, but it was too late. Three young men staggered jauntily around the corner of a blank-fronted warehouse, one of them recognizable as a Roman legionary, wearing no helmet but light leather armor over a short red tunic, and greaves, metal shin guards strapped on behind the knees and ankles. She knew that greaves were not worn by Romans of any rank, save for centurion, as a badge of office. They came toward her, bumping into each other amid laughter. Their raucous voices grated on her ears. At times, they dipped off the walkway into the street. Drunken louts! Signaling trouble for her.
“Keep your feet on the footsteps, Tiberius!” one of the men roared at the centurion, and bent down to touch the carved markings.
The others laughed and hallooed, one flapping his arms as he leaned forward to look, while another danced off into the street and back as he tried to stand still.
“The city of Ephesus knows what woman-starved men like us need!” He broke out in peals of laughter, “The name Ephesus means Maiden of Choice, or Desirable, and she sure lives up to her name! I’m so desirous of her that I’ve just reached the end of my rope!”
They howled with appreciative laughter, grabbing at each other playfully below the belly while the first one declared, “But no limp ropes here, lads!”
Korinna turned and ran as if a bat let loose from Vulcan’s workshop. She had seen no one carrying a rope, limp or otherwise, but something about their shifty-eyed amusement terrified her.
“Look at that!” cried one from behind her in delighted surprise, and she knew herself to be “that.”
She pumped faster, looking for any kind of space between the solid line of buildings. No, there was no escape! The clatter of unsteady metal-soled sandals cut space between her and her pursuers.
If only she could get to a place where someone might see her and help. “Merciful Goddess, divine Virgin, help me!”
Labored breath seared her throat, heat from stones shimmered up into her gasping mouth. How long could she hold out at this pace?
Korinna continued running as in a bad dream, her pursuers’ breath panting ever closer. Self-incrimination for daring to be out on the city streets, whipped her. Simultaneously anger raised its head, pointing out that while everyone knew venturing out in a storm might cause being struck by lightning, those who had to go out never let this possibility stand in their way.
Suddenly a hand seized her veil and she turned and ran from under it, gold-streaked dark red hair streaming behind her. Her lungs were about to burst! She could no longer see, she only moved, her feet pounding, hands plunging forward, every muscle wrenched with pain.
Sounds of a heavy fall at her heels, and a hand seized her ankle.
Korinna dropped in a heap at the edge of the square, tangled with the three men.
“Got her! Stay away Septimus, she is mine,” the dark-haired tall one they called Tiberius, boasted. Pulling her ankle, he dragged her to himself and struggled to his knees.
“No! She looks Greek, and you’re Roman, so she’s for me,” Glaucus yelled, grabbing her other foot.
Wanting to scream and to cry, she held back, struggling stoically. What were they trying to do to her? Tear her apart limb by limb?
“Who says she’s Greek or Roman?” the third one roared, staggering to his feet. “I, Septimus, declare: With that hair she’s likely from Celtia. Free for all, anyway, out of her house. I mean: Slave to all!” He roared at his own humor as he bent unsteadily above them.
Korinna could not hold back the screams now, and struggled, managing to sit up and beat against the hands that held her. Her robe was around her hips in tight wrinkles, revealing her thighs and to them she feared a glimpse of something more tantalizing. She tugged to free her feet and flailed against the two men.
They held on, staring greedily until Tiberius pulled her skirt down to her knees. “Shame on you, fellows,” he chuckled, “in public, too!”
He dragged her up to her feet and dizzy with gratitude, she clung to him. She could no longer hold back the sobs, “Oh, please, please, help me!”
“By all means, little one,” and he patted her buttocks. “Where is your house?”
“I’m from the Temple!” she gasped, “I have no house.”
“Oh, so we’ve snared a real prize,” the man declared. “Hear that, fellows? Venus be praised! Only I have not a fit offering with me now, to pay. We can manage that afterward.”
The other two scrambled to their feet, sobering somewhat. One took a lock of her hair and pulled as he tried groping her breasts.
“No you don’t, Septimus,” Glaucus said.
“She’s certainly not yours alone, Glaucus!” muttered Septimus.
“Surely you’ve heard of the Grove of Aphrodite,” Glaucus cut in. “The sacred priestesses there prostitute themselves as Holy Women in honor of the Goddess.”
Tiberius grinned, “After I see what this Grove is like, I have business there with its esteemed high priestess, Chrysanthé. I’ll see that this little one returns home in good time.”
His hands cupped one breast and Korinna shrank away in terror.
“Aphrodite owned that Grove before you uncouth Romans ever called her Venus,” Glaucus grunted.
Tiberius gave Korinna a quick hug. “You’ll not deny any of us, will you, pretty pigeon?”
Tiberius partly carried her as they moved along. Korinna could scarcely move her legs. She no longer wanted to see Melitta; she had to regain strength to escape these drunken men!
Down an alley between laurel hedges dividing two estates, they stopped. One of the men grunted and pulled her from Tiberius’ support to the ground. Muttering, “I can’t hold it,” Glaucus tried to force his knees between hers. Some horrible warmth ran over her thighs and he cursed while she screamed.
Tiberius roared with laughter and kicked the man away.
“Limp rope – away, eunuch!” Tiberius pushed Glaucus against Septimus. Both men sprang up laughing goodnaturedly and grabbed his arms, wrestling him back among the laurels.
Korinna surged to her feet and ran, fresh energy powering her legs. Tiberius thrust the others into the bushes and strode after her. He grabbed a handful of hair and flung her to the ground.
“Here, my little pigeon, look, a real man for you at last!”
She twisted her head from side to side, screaming, but his fingers caught strands of her hair at the temples, stilling her. He kissed her, his teeth grinding against her lips. Wrapping the strands about her throat, he almost choked her. The glowing mass of hair spread in tangled swatches upon the earth. Her heart nearly burst as she felt herself go weak all over with terror.
He smoothed her hair back from her throat, muttering in her ear, “That’s it, little pigeon, relax. I’ll pay the Goddess, don’t you worry; I’ll send great gifts for your service to her.”
His hands found her tender breasts, shoving away the torn chiton, sending sparks of gut-wrenching pain through her. Stunned, she was dimly aware of his leg forcing her thighs apart.
All of a sudden, the furious high-pitched growl and hiss of a cat rent the air. She twisted her head aside in its direction just as he thrust against her. Blind agony shot through her making her scream from the top of her lungs; then he gasped, stopped, and cursed.
He gasped again as the slender cat leapt out from the bushes and landed on his back, sharp claws sinking into his flesh above the armor.
Without trying to shake or pull the cat off, Tiberius freed her, sat back on his haunches, crashing her knees, and stared down at her.
The cat, Nefru, dug and trailed his claws downward from Tiberius’ neck, but then released him and came to her, nuzzling her.
Tiberius’ oblong face, topped by forward-combed, thick and curly black hair, loomed in Korinna’s vision. The features were blurred through her tears and yet her eyes focused on his broad forehead crossed by a long, old scar, and then the blood she saw rivuleting from his neck down to his heaving chest.
Something deep in her screamed that this drunken man, who was doing something terrible to her, had been wounded and felt pain, and she was glad. Ceasing her struggle, she watched as the centurion loosened his iron grip on her stiff form.
“Please stop hurting me!” she moaned into his now puzzled eyes. Her own were dried in the heat of her terror.
“For the love of Apollo! She’s a virgin,” Tiberius muttered to himself, incredulous, “and from the Grove….”
He rolled off her but she was unable to move. The residue of pain in her scalp numbed while it lingered between her legs. “Temple!” she managed to scream, “I am not from the Grove, you uncouth idiot, but the Temple! Artemiseion!”
This concludes the
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TRAVELERS, including this author, have called Anatolia “The Largest Open Air Museum in the World,” and one day, dear Reader, you too might travel there, immerse yourself in layer upon layer of your own, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial human history, and judge it for yourself.
Kristina O'Donnelly was born in Rome, Italy, from an Austrian mother and Italian/Albanian father, and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, until the threesome relocated to the United States.
Married to her soulmate, Michael John O’Donnelly, native of Co. Armagh, in Northern Ireland, Kristina feels at home in Turkey, Ireland, as well as the United States of America. O'Donnelly is known for offering novels described as “imbibing exotic cocktails on the Orient Express.”
Her multi-cultural plots do include sizzling love affairs, but also controversial socio/political issues that are current, as well as ancient philosophies, no-holds barred human emotions, and far-flung, beguiling locales.
O’Donnelly is a firm believer in the can do, will do, spirit, and that one should never give up the good fight as every person’s effort, counts.
Her diversified rucksack of professional experiences span 25 + years and include acting, writing (journalist, columnist, editor, publisher), and advertising (12 years with the New York Daily News), union activism (The Newspaper Guild of America), even real estate sales.
Her novels have received several awards and been published in the USA as well as Canada, Spain, England, New Zealand and Turkey.
She is a Founder of Florida Writers Association, Inc.
Kristina’s novels are available at: