Fortune's Favorites (Masters of Rome Series #3)by Colleen McCullough
They were blessed by the gods at birth with wealth and privilege. In a time of cataclysmic upheaval, a bold new generation of Romans vied for greatness amid the disintegrating remnants of their beloved Republic. But there was one who towered above them all a brilliant and beautiful boy whose ambition was unequaled, whose love was legend and whose glory was… See more details below
They were blessed by the gods at birth with wealth and privilege. In a time of cataclysmic upheaval, a bold new generation of Romans vied for greatness amid the disintegrating remnants of their beloved Republic. But there was one who towered above them all a brilliant and beautiful boy whose ambition was unequaled, whose love was legend and whose glory was Rome's. A boy they would one day call "Caesar."
Colleen McCullough's name is synonymouswith bestselling fiction. She is the author of nineextraordinary novels: TIM, AN INDECENT OBSESSION,A CREED FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM,THE LADIES OF MISSALONGHI, THE FIRST MAN IN ROME,THE GRASS CROWN, FORTUNE'S FAVORITES,CAESAR'S WOMEN, and the acclaimed Internationalphenomenon, THE THORN BIRDS.
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From April 83 B.C. until December 82 B.C.
Though the steward held his five-flamed lamp high enough to illuminate the two recumbent figures in the bed, he knew its light had not the power to waken Pompey. For this, he would need Pompey's wife. She stirred, frowned, turned her head away in an effort to remain asleep, but the vast house was murmuring beyond the open door, and the steward was calling her.
Even in confusion modest—servants did not make a habit of invading Pompey's bedchamber—Antistia made sure she was decently covered before she sat up.
"What is it? What's the matter?"
"An urgent message for the master. Wake him and tell him to come to the atrium," barked the steward rudely. The lamp flames dipped and smoked as he swung on his heel and left; the door closed, plunging her into darkness.
Oh, that vile man! He had done it deliberately! But she knew where her shift lay across the foot of the bed, drew it on, and shouted for a light.
Nothing woke Pompey. Provided with a lamp and a warm wrap, Antistia finally turned back to the bed to discover him slumbering still. Nor did he seem to feel the cold, lying on his back uncovered to the waist.
She had tried on other occasions—and for other reasons—to kiss him awake, but never could. Shakes and pummels it would have to be.
"What?" he asked, sitting up and running his hands through his thick yellow thatch; the quiff above his peaked hairline stood up alertly. So too were the blue eyes surveying her alert.That was Pompey: apparently dead one moment, wide awake the next. Both soldiers' habits. "What?" he asked again.
"There's an urgent message for you in the atrium."
But she hadn't managed to finish the sentence before he was on his feet and his feet were shoved into backless slippers and a tunic was falling carelessly off one freckled shoulder. Then he was gone, the door gaping behind him.
For a moment Antistia stood where she was, undecided. Her husband hadn't taken the lamp—he could see in the dark as well as any cat—so there was nothing to stop her following save her own knowledge that probably he wouldn't like it. Well, bother that! Wives were surely entitled to share news important enough to invade the master's sleep! So off she went with her little lamp barely showing her the way down that huge corridor flagged and walled with bare stone blocks. A turn here—a flight of steps there—and suddenly she was out of the forbidding Gallic fortress and into the civilized Roman villa, all pretty paint and plaster.
Lights blazed everywhere; the servants had busied themselves to some effect. And there was Pompey clad in no more than a tunic yet looking like the personification of Mars—oh, he was wonderful!
He might even have confided in her, for his eyes did take her presence in. But at the same moment Varro arrived in startled haste, and Antistia's chance to share personally in whatever was causing the excitement vanished.
"Varro, Varro!" Pompey shouted. Then he whooped, a shrill and eldritch sound with nothing Roman in it; just so had long-dead Gauls whooped as they spilled over the Alps and took whole chunks of Italy for their own, including Pompey's Picenum.
Antistia jumped, shivered. So, she noticed, did Varro.
"What is it?"
"Sulla has landed in Brundisium!"
"Brundisium! How do you know?"
"What does that matter?" demanded Pompey, crossing the mosaic floor to seize little Varro by both shoulders and shake him. "It's here, Varro! The adventure has begun!"
"Adventure?" Varro gaped. "Oh, Magnus, grow up! It's not an adventure, it's a civil war—and on Italian soil yet again!"
"I don't care!" cried Pompey. "To me, it's an adventure. If you only knew how much I've longed for this news, Varro! Since Sulla left, Italy has been as tame as a Vestal Virgin's lapdog!"
"What about the Siege of Rome?" asked Varro through a yawn.
The happy excitement fled from Pompey's face, his hands fell; he stepped back and looked at Varro darkly. "I would prefer to forget the Siege of Rome!" he snapped. "They dragged my father's naked body tied to an ass through their wretched streets!"
Poor Varro flushed so deeply the color flooded into his balding pate. "Oh, Magnus, I do beg your pardon! I did not—I would not— I am your guest—please forgive me!"
But the mood was gone. Pompey laughed, clapped Varro on the back. "Oh, it wasn't your doing, I know that!"
The huge room was piercingly cold; Varro clasped his arms about his body. "I had better start for Rome at once."
Pompey stared. "Rome? You're not going to Rome, you're coming with me! What do you think will happen in Rome? A lot of sheep running around bleating, the old women in the Senate arguing for days—come with me, it will be much more fun!"
"And where do you think you're going?"
"To join Sulla, of course."
"You don't need me for that, Magnus. Climb on your horse and ride off. Sulla will be glad to find you a place among his junior military tribunes, I'm sure. You've seen a lot of action."
"Oh, Varro!" Flapping hands betrayed Pompey's exasperation. "I'm not going to join Sulla as a junior military tribune! I'm going to bring him three more legions! I, Sulla's lackey? Never! I intend to be his full partner in this enterprise."
This astounding announcement broke upon Pompey's wife as upon Pompey's friend and houseguest; aware that she had gasped, almost voiced her shock aloud, Antistia moved quickly to a place where Pompey's eyes would not encounter her. He had quite forgotten her presence and she wanted to hear. Needed to hear.Fortune's Favorites. Copyright © by Colleen McCullough. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Excellent third installment in the Masters of Rome series. Even as a young man Caesar is already showing signs of the great man he will become.....