My guest today is Fiona Tarr. Hello! Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you here again.
So, what do you have planned next? Or is that a secret?
Writers never have secrets, Marie. We are destined to share our most inner thoughts, through fiction, of course. I will be working on the promotion of Seed of Hope for a few months, but then I will start on my next book. I don’t stop writing for long and my beta readers are already begging me to start on the third in the series. I can’t say too much, spoilers and all, but although I finished this story, I have left little bread crumbs for the next one.
Great! Is there anything you'd like to add? Any advice for new writers?
For me writing is escapism, relaxation and learning all in one. If you are a new writer and feel the same way, then start writing and don’t stop. You might not sell millions of copies or maybe you will, but you will never know what it feels like to have others enjoy your work until you share it. Don’t be afraid to put your work out there.
Jezebel shivered at the memory as she recalled the night her father had joined her to assassinate David. The plans had been set. King Saul was away at war, unlikely to return and even if he did, the priests had lost all faith in him. David was in their favor and he was all that stood in the way of her plans to bring down the Israeli nation and return them to slavery. Her father was the most powerful magician she knew. Yet David had struck him down with the glowing sword, like reaping hay. She had felt her father’s spirit leave her, their melding creating one consciousness between them. He had left her with memories of betrayal. Her own father had manipulated her; trained her to do his bidding. He had claimed she was doing the work of the Pharaoh, her King and God. She was still in that foreboding place now, the place he had left her, lost in the darkness with nothing except her training to cling to.
The Pharaoh, her uncle, had disowned her, casting her aside after the ritual of her father’s burial. All the correct rites had been performed, this she knew. Her father’s insides had been taken out of his body, placed in jars to be buried with his flesh. What remained was wrapped in cloth and placed in an airtight sarcophagus for its final rest. It had taken all her powers of persuasion to arrange for her father’s body, together with the jars of his organs to be brought to her instead of being buried forever in the pyramid of Amun. She would see her father returned to her. He would answer her questions. This time, he would be doing her bidding. Revenge would be hers.
‘You are a pretty little thing.’ She smiled at the girl as she slowly eased her blade into her heart.
‘What are you doing? Leave her! She served you, pleasured you. Let her alone!’ The man was screaming now, his shackles jingling musically in the still night air.
He had been too easy to convince. A man beyond his prime; her body had been too much to resist, so much so that he had offered his daughter into the bargain. She could not have planned it better herself. She was provided with a sacrifice and a host all in one. She traced the words from the black, leather-bound book with her finger. The Book of the Dead had been in her father’s personal belongings. It must have been fated by the god Amun himself. She lined up the canopic jars containing her father’s organs. The man began to weep. His weeping turned to chanting as Jezebel began the ritual. The man was not unlike her father in stature, not a perfect vessel, but she had little time to be choosy. She had revenge to serve; to David, to the harlot Francesca and she thought for a moment. No, not for Martinez, not death, no, her revenge for him would be something entirely different.
Martinez mounted his proud and defiant warhorse, the very same one he had ridden for more years than he could remember. He had neglected his old friend since his retirement. This beautiful, but cantankerous beast had saved his life more than once and seen many battles in many lands. The horse had lived through the final battle that took Jonathan’s life and left his half brother and life-long friend the King inconsolable to the point of taking his own life. Martinez’s heart was heavy at the thought. He looked back to Francesca and smiled, the light in the darkness, he thought to himself as he nudged his mount into a gentle trot.
Francesca watched as Martinez began moving forward through the gates of his estate, lands given to him by the King as a retirement gift. He had smiled briefly at her, yet the pain in his eyes overshadowed his smile. She knew this journey would be hard, hard for them both. She pressed calves to her horse’s flanks and set off to follow. She trotted up alongside, leaning in to gently squeeze Martinez on the arm. He smiled again and more of the pain dropped away from his face, the smile finally reaching his eyes.
As they rode, they left each other to their thoughts. The comfortable silence was something they were accustomed to; having spent over a year together, sharing company, sharing life.
Martinez allowed his thoughts to shift to the work ahead and the return to his position as General. David was a good King, a good man, he ruled fairly on matters of the law. Yet there was something that was troubling in his plan to find the Ark, the Covenant of God. It was even more concerning as to why a new General was needed at all. David had his bodyguard Katzu to look after his unborn child. If Bartholomew had not been killed in such unusual circumstances, a new general would not have been required. A general needed to be above the battle, able to view it from a distance in order to make good decisions. Bartholomew should never have been in the front line. He would know the truth once he saw David again. He knew he was the King, yet he could not help thinking of him as the shepherd boy still. He had been wise beyond his years, endearing to the people and loved by those close to him.
As they rode, Francesca looked around her. They were not yet away from Martinez’s lands. The area was lush, the field full of heavy black soils and green crops. The King’s gift had been generous. Martinez owned what was some of the most fertile land in the Kingdom of Israel. He had workers who tended the land for him, yet it was not uncommon to see him out in the fields, side by side with the men, toiling with tools and getting his hands caked in dirt. He would come in at the end of the day smiling, as if life could not get any better.
The narrow dirt track was lined with small huts where all the workers and their families lived. Modest dwellings, yet no one was hungry and all were cared for.
Francesca thought again of her first meeting with Martinez, how cold she had been towards him. It had been a new emotion for her, looking into his deep brown eyes and being overwhelmed. She had resisted the feelings for a very long time, instead focusing on her work as a Priestess, her role as aide to the Prophet Samuel. Yet it was Samuel himself who had sent her after the General. At first she thought it was to aid in the battles—to train David—to see his destiny fulfilled. Yet deep down she now knew that God did not need her help. Her battle with the Egyptian Princess Jezebel had taught her as much. Although the temptation to control still remained, she was learning to let it go. There was still one emotion she had not managed to overcome. After being violated and beaten as a young woman at the hands of brigands, she had never been with a man. Her role as a Priestess had occupied her life fully and completely, yet now she was more than fond of Martinez. He had been patient and kind, loving and supportive. He knew she was still not ready for more than their friendship and bond, yet she longed to be.
‘What are you thinking?’ Francesca looked at Martinez, as if seeking to read his thoughts.
‘I was thinking how beautiful you are.’ He hedged with a smile.
‘I know you, Martinez! You are brooding, share your thoughts or they may consume you.’ She returned his smile.
‘We must not let anyone know of our relationship while back in the Capital,’ he said, changing the subject. ‘You are still a Priestess of the One and we might need to leverage that with the politicians and priests at some point. If they start believing there is more to our friendship, they will try to discredit you.’
‘It is not unheard of for a Priestess to take a lover,’ she blushed as the words came from her lips, and then giggled nervously.
‘Not an unpleasant thought, but uncommon nonetheless. He smiled. ‘I was hoping the rumors were not true, that I would return to find the boy I once knew.’ His defenses had fallen away, the true nature of his brooding coming out of nowhere.
‘He is still that boy inside, Martinez. We can help him find his true nature again. He trusts you. He respects you. He knows you. Have faith that what we do is all part of God’s plan.’
Martinez was amazed again at how Francesca had grown in her faith over the time he had known her. She was strong, yet fragile, compassionate and still hardened. Her walls were coming down. He prayed they would continue to do so.
‘You sound like the old seer Samuel,’ he said as he playfully pushed his mount into hers, then set off at a gallop before she could retaliate, laughing for the first time since receiving the King’s letter.
David stroked Bathsheba’s face. Her golden red hair lay limp around her shoulders as she slipped in and out of consciousness. The beads of sweat ran down her cheeks into her hair, making dark, wet streaks on the embroidered cushions. She had been unwell for days with a raging fever that could not be broken.
‘Lord, my sins are great, please forgive me. Do not hold Bathsheba or our child responsible for my weakness.’ David was on his knees, praying, begging for forgiveness. The presence of God eluded him, bringing nothing but darkness to his soul, a darkness which evoked loneliness, a feeling he did not enjoy and struggled to endure.
‘Where is Martinez, why is he not here yet? I sent for him so long ago.’ David was staring accusingly at Katzu, who merely shrugged his shoulders, palms facing the sky. ‘I must retrieve the Ark, the presence of God resides within. If I have the Ark of the Covenant, God will have to be with me.’
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