Tag Archives: Eagle’s Honor

The Centurion’s Choice & Roman Board Games

a teaser image for The Centurion's ChoiceIf you’ve read any of my Roman novels, you know that at some point or another, my characters play latrunculi, an extremely Roman board game for two. It was a strategy game, where the aim was to capture the other player’s counters. In EAGLE’S HONOR: BANISHED, Marcus teaches Lia the game, and I imagined they would give the love for this game to future generations of their family. Indeed, I was reminded of my own grandmother, who was a keen player of board games and particularly loved Malefiz, which we often played together.

And so it wasn’t hard to imagine Lia playing latrunculi with her grandchildren. One of them you’ll meet in THE CENTURION’S CHOICE, which will come out next month (I hope). Actually, you might already met him, namely, if you’ve read EAGLE’S HONOR: RAVISHED. THE CENTURION’S CHOICE is the story of Caius Florius Corvus and his partner, Lucius Satrius (yes, this is going to be my very first m/m story) and is set during the Marcomannic Wars ten years before the events in EAGLE’S HONOR: RAVISHED.

Caius is the new centurion in one of the auxiliary cohorts stationed along the border formed by the river Danube. Lucius is his optio, his second-in-command – and they don’t really trust each other at the beginning. It takes a few false turns until their mistrust turns to friendships (and eventually to more). And latrunculi plays a special role for their growing friendship.

In the following snippet, they play for the very first time. I hope you’ll enjoy it! (It’s raw & still unedited.)


One evening in early summer after Lucius had delivered his daily report in the centurion’s tent and was just about to turn to go, Florius looked up and said casually, “Say, optio, do you play latrunculi?”

Lucius halted. “Certainly.” His mouth stretched into a grin. “Who doesn’t?”

The centurion’s brows went up. “Then let me rephrase that: Do you play it well?”

With a shrug, Lucius crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Well enough, I guess.”

His nonchalance earned him a scowl. “Quite sure of yourself, aren’t you?” Florius growled. “Do you fancy a game?”

And before he could change his mind, Lucius said, “Why not? Shall I fetch my counters?”

“And bring your cup. No use playing with a dry throat. I have some mulsum left that wants drinking.”

And so Lucius went and fetched his cup and his game counters and soon found himself sitting in the centurion’s tent, facing Florius over a battered leather gaming board on the stool between them.

“I hope you’re a good player, optio,” Florius said, filling Lucius’ cup.

“Do you mean to tell me I ought to be afraid?” Lucius inquired mildly, and didn’t quite manage to suppress a grin.

For a moment the centurion’s gaze appeared to rest on Lucius’ twitching lips, but then Florius’ eyes flicked up, and he raised his brows. “Very.” He gave Lucius the cup. “It’s only fair that I warn you.”

“Is it?” It was a bit of an effort to keep his voice steady and ignore the tingle at the base of his spine. Surely he had only imagined that look. And if he hadn’t…

Well, it didn’t mean anything.

And he would not dwell on how he had thought the Roman centurion quite fuckable at his first glance of him.

And—Gods!—that time in the baths…

Lucius quickly ducked his head and busied himself with sorting his gaming pieces. He had spotted them at a shop in the vicus of Cuccium several years ago and had not been able to resist the beauty of those sea-green glass pieces. The ordinari were slightly larger than the vagi, which had deep blue swirls run through them. The same kind of swirls ran through the body of the bellator, which rose proudly above all the other pieces.

“Of course, it’s only fair,” Florius said. “Everybody in my family is a fierce player.” And after a small pause, “My grandmother Lia taught me the game while I was a little lad.” The centurion spread his own pieces, all made of smooth polished black stone, with the ordinari bearing red markings. “She was an extraordinary woman,” Florius murmured, then gave himself a little shake before he looked up to meet Lucius’ gaze. “Shall we begin?”

“By all means.” It took a little effort to keep his voice light. What a strange man Florius was! Such a grumpy sod on the one hand, but on the other, a man who thought with obvious fondness of his grandmother.

The centurion raised his cup with wine. “Bene te—and may the better man win.”

Bene te.”

They both drank and then threw a coin to determine who would be given the first move. Soon, they were deeply engrossed in their game, plotting and scheming to catch each other’s pieces. They were both well-matched, moving their pieces with similar skill and expertise.

“You think this is a wise move, optio? You’re leading your bellator into danger here.”

“Ahhh, you think it might be risky?” Lucius hid his grin behind his cup.

“It’s a damn foolish move, if you ask me.”

Lucius’ grin widened. “Och, don’t worry about me, centurion. I’m a big lad.”

The other man snorted.

And a few heartbeats later, “What…? Oh, damn you, optio, you sneaky bastard. You are good.”

Lucius just grinned and sipped his wine and continued to catch Florius’ pieces.

All of them.

Writer’s Desk, 24 May

a picture of Sandra Schwab's deskAt the end of the month, the WIP (Eagle’s Honor: Ravished) is due at my editor’s — and as always, I still have oodles of scenes to write, so I’m expect to go into full panic at some point next week….

It doesn’t help that I wrote the biggest part of this book by hand.

Which I still have to type up.

Wheee!

More Romans…

cover picture for Eagle's Honor: Ravished, by Sandra SchwabToday it’s all about these two: Adelar & Livia, the hero & heroine from my second Roman romance. Eagle’s Honor: Ravished is due at my editor’s at the end of this month, so I better knuckle down & get on with the story.

Eagle’s Honor: Ravished is set about 70 years after Eagle’s Honor: Banished, and the heroine is the great-granddaughter of Marcus & Lia (and yes, there are references to the first book in this one). After the death of her parents and her siblings, Livia comes to Rome to live with her aunt and uncle. She has been raised in a fort at the border of the empire and thus finds it very difficult to adapt to life in Rome. Here’s a snippet from her first meeting with Adelar (raw & unedited):

One morning, when she had spent almost a month in Rome, Livia was shaken out of her reveries by her aunt’s excited shouts. A moment later, Aunt Floria burst into her room. “Oh, my dear! It is the most exciting thing ever!” She beamed at Livia. “You must come and see. I insist upon it!” She held out her hand. “Come, come.”

Livia let herself be dragged from her room to the gallery that surrounded one of the house’s inner courtyards.

“It is the best surprise,” Aunt Floria said. “Truly, I have the best of husbands! Look, look!” She pointed.

There in the courtyard stood a man surrounded by two of the male household slaves, his hands bound. He wore a rough, sleeveless tunic that clung to his muscular frame and left the brand on his left shoulder in clear display.

At the women’s approach, he raised his head, and Livia found herself staring into the coldest blue eyes she had ever seen. They were, she thought numbly, such a curious contrast to his hair, which shimmered in the sunlight like burnished gold.

Despite the warmth of the day, a curious little shiver raced down her spine.

“Isn’t he glorious?” her aunt whispered. “I saw him in the arena when we last attended the games, and I knew from the first that I simply must have him. — Yoohooo!” She waved to the man and didn’t seem to notice the hostile expression that flickered over his lean, narrow face nor the subtle tightening of his lips.

A Snippet from the Roman Romance (with some digital art)

Lia from "Eagle's Honor: Banished" by Sandra SchwabI’ve tried my hand at digital art this weekend (see above) and worked on my Roman romance (see below). Enjoy some Lia & Marcus!

He looked at their intertwined fingers – his hand large and blunt and burnished by the sun, hers dark and slender, a fine tremor running through it.

He glanced up. There was a vulnerability in her expression that cut into his heart. “May I kiss you?” he asked softy.

The question seemed to steady her, for her mouth twisted into a taunting smile. “You didn’t ask the last time.”

He tugged a little at her hand. “I’m asking you now.”

The smile vanished. She stared at him, while he rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand.

After several moments that seemed like a small eternity, she swallowed hard and licked her lips. “Please,” she whispered. “Marcus…”

 

Writer’s Desk, 2 November

A picture of Sandra's desk
I had to finish doing my taxes today, but I did manage to squeeze in some novel-planning: I leafed through all the notebooks that contain the WIP and made a plan to see which scenes are still missing (= red).

Of course, I then started to worry that my Roman romance might be utter crap.

In other words: The same procedure as every year. *sigh*

Writer’s Desk, 14 October

A picture of Sandra Schwab's desk (with lots of notebooks!)Today’s writing desk includes centurions, all the Roman legions, a Roman cookbook, and notebooks. LOTS of notebooks. At the moment I’m digging the slim, black Moleskines (you can buy them three a package). Blank, no lines. They fill up quickly, and each filled notebook gives you a nice sense of achievement. I’ve now reached notebook #7, and at least three of the books are filled with scenes of my characters having … um … fun.

Clearly, three sweet romance novellas with nothing more than kissing make for one very hot romance novel with rather lusty main characters. 🙂

(But never fear: I will tear their happiness apart in the course of the novel and make them suffer quite dreadfully before they can have their happy ending!!) (says the evil author)

With this new story (and if you look at the picture above you can probably make out its title) I’m reminded more than ever that in a good romance novel love scenes aren’t there for the sake of the sex, but are part of the exploration of the hero & heroine’s relationship. They are meant to push the relationship forward and to reveal to the reader (and perhaps even to the characters themselves) something new about this relationship. Ideally, they are also part of the character arcs, and as such play an important role in the characters’ journey / development.

In this novel the love scenes are particularly tricky because of the extreme imbalance of power between my main characters: Marcus, the hero, is a centurion and a free man while Lia, the heroine, is a slave.* But how do you navigate the realms of desire, affection, and love, when one of the characters, thanks to her social status, doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter?

As I said: tricky.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the further you go back in history, they higher the stakes are stacked against your characters and against their relationship. Of course, that also means that you can make the happy ending so much sweeter! 🙂

__________

* I don’t particularly like slave romances, so imagine my surprise when this story turned out to be one! (I blame Spartacus & @holundergeist!) (Especially @holundergeist: she tweeted me a link to a Nagron video – and that was that….)

Writer’s Desk, 12 October

A picture of Sandra Schwab's deskSometimes, writing is a bit like archaeology: you dig around and find the most amazing and unexpected things. Yesterday I thought I ought to have a scene in which Marcus, my centurion, says goodbye to his mother. And lo and behold, not only did that scene become rather long, it also produced an unexpected piece of jewellery and, with it, an unexpected link between different stories:

It was an old piece, Marcus saw, the shape somewhat rougher than was fashionable now. A golden snake which would wind around the wearer’s arm. It must have been modified at some point because something had been inserted between the two rounds in the middle.

Marcus’s mother slipped her hand through the circlet and eyed it with a soft smile. “It is said that your grandfather many times removed gave this to the Cheruscian girl he took to wife as a token of his love. See?” She held out her hand. “He had his own signet ring set into it.”

Now that Marcus knew what it was, he could indeed see that the set-in piece was part of a rather battered man’s ring.

“The engraving on the stone?” he asked.

“Some kind of large fish. I’ve always thought of it as a dolphin – a harbinger of luck.” She took the armring off. “Ever since your forbear took home his Germanic wife, it has been a tradition in my family that the eldest son would give this piece to the woman he married. As the Gods did not bless my parents with sons, my mother gave it to me to give to my son.” She held out the armring to him. “And so I do.”

Marcus frowned a little. “But I’m not the oldest. Shouldn’t this go to Primus by rights?”

His mother gave a short laugh – and not a pleasant one. “My dear, can you imagine your brother’s wife wearing an old piece such as this? Besides, this has always been a token of affection, if not love. The only affection there is between your brother and Cordelia is for her family’s old name on his side and for our wealth on hers. I don’t think the dolphin and the snake would be happy with them. But perhaps your wife will find joy in wearing it?” She gave him a soft smile. “From the sounds of it, the armring would once again be a token of affection, wouldn’t it?”

Marcus indrawn breath seemed rather loud in the small room, and for a moment he could not speak. “Of love,” he finally said rawly. “It would be a token of love.” He felt the same desperate helplessness that had gripped him earlier in his father’s study rise inside him once more. He spread his hands. “In all honor, I cannot accept the armring, mother. I don’t know whether I will ever win her. I…” His throat worked.

His mother eyed him shrewdly. “Does she not love you then?”

He gave a bitter laugh. If only it was as easy as that!

Writer’s Desk ~ 9 October

A picture of Sandra Schwab's deskThe past few weeks were rather ghastly as I scrambled to catch up with work, but since the weekend I’ve finally had time to return to my Roman novel. As you can see I’ve taken to write by hand – at the moment the story seems to flow easier this way. I just need to make sure to keep track of all the scenes because – as always – I’m writing the story out of order.

I can already that much: three and a half sweet Victorian novellas make for one very hot Roman novel. 😀

Rather dark & angsty, too. But to make up for all the angst, the ending will be very sweet. I promise!

Here’s a snippet from today’s session (raw & unedited, straight from the notebook #5):

She shuddered a little – from the way he was looking at her, from the urgency with which her body clamored for release, but most of all because she had exposed herself to him like this.

All at once, she felt vulnerable and inexplicably close to tears.

She raised her chin. “You may call me Lia,” she informed him haughtily as if she were the Queen of Egypt rather than a slave, his to do with as he wished.