Roman Dusk: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain

Roman Dusk: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain

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by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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In the unsettled time when Imperial Rome totters on the brink of collapse, the vampire Ragoczy Germainus Sanct' Franciscus—the Count Saint-Germain—finds himself targeted by a corrupt Roman official and accused of bribery, tax evasion, and treason.

The storm that hovers over the vampire grows darker when he is accused of corrupting Ignatia, a young

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In the unsettled time when Imperial Rome totters on the brink of collapse, the vampire Ragoczy Germainus Sanct' Franciscus—the Count Saint-Germain—finds himself targeted by a corrupt Roman official and accused of bribery, tax evasion, and treason.

The storm that hovers over the vampire grows darker when he is accused of corrupting Ignatia, a young virgin. Her brother, a zealous covert to the new religion of Christianity, threatens to purify Saint-Germain with fire. And fire can destroy even the undead.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in decadent third-century C.E. Rome, Yarbro's 19th volume in her majestic fantasy series (after 2005's Dark of the Sun) is one of her finest yet to feature heroic vampire Saint-Germain, here known as Ragoczy Germainus Sanct-Franciscus. Despite his wealth, discretion and careful observance of the social niceties, Sanct-Franciscus must be careful as a foreigner. All his precautions, however, can't prevent an official from placing a spy in his household and targeting him for tax evasion and worse. Even as Sanct-Franciscus shelters and aids an abused courtesan, doctors a dying noblewoman and befriends her virginal daughter, he must contend with a fanatical young follower of one of the many religions of the day, Christianity. Sensuous scenes are lush with language ("her sumptuous body still quivering in apolaustic abandon") rather than the explicitly erotic. Meticulous attention to historic detail and vivid writing bring an ancient era to life. Unlike most generic vampiric novels that can be quaffed in a quick if entertaining gulp, this book should be savored like a fine wine. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Ranks among the best vampire tales around. Fans of historical fiction and vampire tales alike should be enthralled."

Romantic Times BOOKreviews Top Pick, 4 ½ stars, on States of Grace

"The most remarkable and orignial vampire since Bram Stoker's Dracula."

The Bookwatch (Midwest Book Review)

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Tom Doherty Associates
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St. Germain , #19
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Roman Dusk

A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain

By Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2006 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9672-3


Clouds clotted the morning sky over Roma, their shadows bruising the buildings in their passing. In the Forum Romanum, such things were ignored; the Forum was alive with farmers driving their animals to the market-stalls just beyond the impressive buildings, their hogs, calves, sheep, goats, and stacked cages of chickens ready for sale. All manner of customers, from well-born women in sedan chairs accompanied by slaves to young men of rank in bigae, their horses on show as much as they themselves, to shopkeepers' wives selecting the meat for prandium, as well as Praetorian Guards, minor politicians, idlers from the baths, the curious, entertainers, speakers of all kinds, a handful of foreigners in outlandish clothing, a sprinkling of criminals and petty gamblers, slaves, and those with business to do added to the noisy confusion. The babble was loud, enhanced by the marble walls of the buildings surrounding the Forum.

Ragoczy Germainus Sanct-Franciscus strolled the edge of the Forum, his double-woven black trabea and high Persian boots in red leather marking him as a foreigner as much as the winged pectoral device he wore on a collar of heavy silver links. His dark, wavy hair was cut fashionably, and his beard was short and meticulously trimmed; he squinted in the occasional bursts of light, all the while trying to keep clear of the milling crowd. "The Swine Market is always —"

"Chaotic? Overflowing?" asked his companion, Septimus Desiderius Vulpius. "I could not agree more." He was in a good mood, enjoying himself and anticipating better to come; his toga virilis was a fashionable terra-cotta color, complementing his red-blond hair and short beard. Around his neck on a braided leather thong he wore a small silver sandal with wings, evoking the help of Mercury in todays endeavors. At twenty-nine, he was the head of his own household, well-married to Filomena Dionesia Crassens, Domina Vulpius, the father of three healthy children, and finally coming into the fortune of his uncle, which had been left to him as his uncle's only heir. In spite of everything, he thought, life was good.

"Dynamic," Sanct-Franciscus amended. "And filled to capacity. Still, it is exciting, and apparently removed from all the other problems that have weighed so heavily upon the city."

"And the Empire; our borders are beleaguered, you mustn't forget," added Vulpius, not willing to let these misfortunes mar his day.

"Yes. The Empire has not had an easy time of it," agreed Sanct-Franciscus, stepping around a group of youngsters engaged in an improvised cockfight; the two combatants were ruffling their feathers and making their first sallies at each other, to the noisy approval of their audience.

Vulpius looked around uneasily. "Caracalla did much damage."

"Yes, he did," said Sanct-Franciscus, thinking that Macrinus might not prove much better at ruling the Roman Empire than Caracalla had been.

"The Senate is divided and has done nothing to help the people," Vulpius declared.

"That is hardly surprising, given the tenor of the times." Sanct-Franciscus glanced around him at the impressive public buildings. "What would you expect the Senate to do?"

"I don't know," Vulpius admitted. "But for most Romans, the choice of Caesar is out of their hands, as it is out of so many."

Glancing at the marketplace again, Vulpius added, "And no matter who is Caesar, people need to eat."

"That they do; and judging by the crowds at the market, they will," said Sanct-Franciscus, and started up the stairs to the massive building where the law courts of the city were currently held, the Basilica Julia, distinguished by its triple colonnade and slightly old-fashioned facade.

"This should not take long; the decuriae have to earn their keep, I suppose," Vulpius said, a touch of nervousness pinching his voice.

"I have the commoda," said Sanct-Franciscus, indicating the wallet that hung from his broad belt of black leather.

Vulpius forced a laugh. "It is the merest formality, you know, for his Will was recorded four years ago without qualifications, while my uncle was still alive to endorse all the terms in it. My father-in-law vouched for it before his death."

"As you say, it is a formality," Sanct-Franciscus said calmly, nodding to the footman who stood by the door of the building to remind all those arriving to cross the threshold with their right feet. The interior was impressive, the lobby rising three stories above them at the back of the long, triple row of columns, galleries on each floor joined by wide staircases. It was as busy a place as the Forum outside, but without the livestock, and it roared like the sea from the echoes of conversations.

Vulpius went inside right foot first, and smiled. "Our success is assured."

"I had never any doubt," said Sanct-Franciscus, looking along the long lobby to the first corridor, noticing that although the people within the Basilica Julia were busy, there were fewer of them than he had expected. "It is the third door on the left, I believe?"

"So I was told," said Vulpius.

"Then 'the sooner begun, the sooner ended,'" Sanct-Franciscus reminded him. "Do you agree?"

"That old aphorism has haunted me most of my life," Vulpius admitted as he tagged after Sanct-Franciscus.

They reached the door and looked for the slave to admit them, but no one was in place to tend to that courtesy. Sanct-Franciscus made a quick scrutiny of the corridor, then shrugged. "Shall we knock?"

"I suppose we'd better," said Vulpius, and reluctantly tapped on the door. He paused and repeated the summons.

The door opened a bit, revealing a dark, wrinkled face and a slave's collar. "Your pardon, Citizen of Roma. I forsook my post." He lowered his head as if for a blow.

"If you will admit us, there is no harm done," said Sanct-Franciscus before Vulpius could speak.

"Certainly, certainly," said the slave, his accent identifying him as a native of Carthago on the north coast of Africa as much as the color of his skin. "Mind your step."

Again Sanct-Franciscus and Vulpius crossed into the room on their right feet, and Vulpius looked around, noticing the low rail that bisected the chamber, with the three writing tables on the far side of the rail. Just at present, no one occupied the tables, and that struck Sanct-Franciscus as odd, and he was about to mention this to Vulpius, when he spoke. "I am expected. Septimus Desiderius Vulpius, heir of Secundus Terentius Vulpius."

"You are expected?" the slave repeated, sounding puzzled; before Vulpius could answer, "You received a notice from this office?" the slave pursued.

"Yes. I have it with me, if you need to see it, along with my copies of the Will and letter of disposition," said Vulpius, his increasing tension making him haughty.

"No, that is hardly necessary. I shall inform Telemachus Batsho that you are here," said the slave. "If you will remain in this room?"

"Certainly," said Vulpius. "I am more than willing to wait."

"No need to be nervous," said Sanct-Franciscus in a lowered voice as the slave left them, going through a small door near the far wall. "This is only a matter of form. The Senate upheld the Will and there is just the matter of recording the transfer of titles. This man Batsho is simply a clerk with an elegant title, and an expectation of commoda for his service."

"I know; I know," said Vulpius, snapping his fingers.

"So you need not fret." Sanct-Franciscus held up his hand.

"Truly," said Vulpius with a transparent lack of conviction.

"You, yourself, Desiderius, have said that all is settled," Sanct-Franciscus reminded him; he decided not to mention the absence of clerks, assuming that the afternoon recess began early in these offices, an increasing practice in the law courts of Roma.

"No doubt," said Vulpius, and shook his head. "Pay no notice to me. I am in a state of anxiety, as you say. I am often thus when dealing with officials, even petty ones like this decuria." He cleared his throat and touched the silver winged sandal talisman. "It will pass as soon as our waiting is ended."

"Very good," said Sanct-Franciscus, and went to the nearest bench where he sat down patiently.

Vulpius began to pace, whistling softly and tunelessly between his teeth. "It was generous of my uncle to provide so well for me."

"You are his heir. It is fitting," said Sanct-Franciscus.

"My father would agree; he was the elder brother, which is why his wealth was seized by Caracalla. Fortunately, my uncle was left the vineyards, and flourished when my father was removed from office and exi — Never mind. I'm babbling, and you've heard this before." Vulpius sighed. "I will have to assume responsibility for my two cousins, of course."

"You knew you would have to," said Sanct-Franciscus, thinking of the many discussions he and Vulpius had had on this point since January, when the Will was upheld.

"I should do my best to find husbands for them, and dower them as my uncle would have wished. I know what my responsibilities are toward them." Vulpius was talking as much to himself as to Sanct-Franciscus. "They will want to marry, don't you think?"

Sanct-Franciscus thought back almost two centuries to the time when women owned property in their own right, requiring no husband, father, brother, or son to control their money and lands. When the first change had come, Sanct-Franciscus had received a flurry of outraged letters from Atta Olivia Clemens, upbraiding the Senate for depriving the women of Roma of their autonomy, and predicting that this would not be the last erosion of women's position in Roman law. "I would suppose your cousins would want to have access to their legacies however it may be accomplished."

Vulpius laughed, the edgy echoes lingering in the room. "Husbands protect their wives and daughters. That is expected. Juliana and Caia deserve the care marriage will make possible." He paced another dozen steps. "A pity my uncle chose to keep them with him for so long."

"How old are they?" Sanct-Franciscus asked.

"Juliana is twenty-three and Caia is twenty; they're pretty enough and not overly clever. Not too old, either, but far from as young as many men prefer their wives to be. They like to live in the country, so I do not have to house them with my family; that might be difficult, given the plans Dionesia has for our children." Vulpius rocked back on his heels, the thongs of his sandals groaning with the strain. "Fortunately, my daughter is still too young for such arrangements, although Fulvius Eugenius Cnaens has spoken to me of the possible union of Linia to his son Gladius."

"How old is Linia?" Sanct-Franciscus pictured the child in her tunica and palla, hair tangled, running through the Vulpius' house.

"Nine; I have permitted her until eleven to decide for herself," said Vulpius. "The contract cannot be settled for another two years, of course, but —" He broke off as the slave returned.

"Telemachus Batsho will be with you in a moment, and bids me tell you that he will not delay you very long. He is looking for the documents you will need to sign and seal." The slave was apparently impressed with Batsho's importance, for he lowered his head respectfully as he spoke Batsho's name.

Almost without thought, Vulpius fingered the cylinder ring on his index finger. "I am ready."

"Very good," said the slave. "And your companion will serve as witness?"

"I will," said Sanct-Franciscus.

"You are a resident foreigner owning property in Roma?" The slave rattled off the question in a manner that suggested he had asked such things many times before.

"Not within the walls, but three thousand paces beyond them," said Sanct-Franciscus. "I, and those of my blood, have held the land since the days of Divus Julius. Many generations."

"Hardly a god, was Gaius Julius," muttered the slave; then, more loudly, "A goodly time. Two centuries, at least."

"So I have reckoned," said Sanct-Franciscus.

"The new law will not allow you to reside at your estate if it is outside the walls of the city. By the end of summer, you must have a residence within the walls or your lands beyond them will be subject to partial confiscation," said Batsho smugly as he came into the room. He made his gesture of respect in an off-handed way, with no attempt to hide his sizing up of the two men before him.

"A little more than a year ago the Roman state almost took my land because I was living in Egypt and ordered that I reside on my Roman lands for three years out of five in order to keep them," Sanct-Franciscus told the decuria. "I have complied with that order, have I not?"

"This is a honing of that provision," Batsho said in a manner that closed the subject.

Vulpius stepped closer to the slave. "Is there a problem? I was informed he is a satisfactory witness."

"That he is, so long as there is record of his property and his family's claim to it." The slave moved back from Vulpius.

Telemachus Batsho had been one of the decuriae for nearly a decade and was growing comfortably rich on the commodae he received for doing his job. He was a very ordinary man, in a very ordinary sage-green pallium, with a soft belt of braided, multi-colored wool, and two leather wallets attached to it, one for food and money, one for the badge of his office. His hair was a bit longer than fashion, of a medium-brown color that almost matched his eyes, and he was clean-shaven. He nodded to Vulpius and Sanct-Franciscus, saying as he did, "I believe you have had notification of these signings? I recall that a notice was dispatched to you? Do you have it with you?"

"That I do," said Vulpius, his chin angled upward. "It is regarding my uncle's Will. I have my copy with me."

"Oh, yes; I remember now. The official transference, without reservation, so long as the taxes are paid, and his daughters provided for," said Telemachus Batsho as if he had a long line of petitioners waiting, all of them unknown to him, all desperate for his services, and all having his four percent commoda to pay for them. "I have the Will among my pigeonholes, if you will permit me to fetch it?" He turned as if to leave, then swung back to look at Sanct-Franciscus with sudden suspicion. "And you are? I need your full name to find the proper records, since it is obvious you are not a relative of Vulpius'."

"Ragoczy Germainus Sanct-Franciscus," he answered promptly. "I have a villa beyond the city, on the northeast, some distance from the Praetorian Camp. My title to the land is of long standing, my taxes are paid, and so is my Foreigner's Fee."

The decuria studied him carefully, his hands resting on the low rail. "You fully own the villa, or have you some other arrangement for your tenancy?"

"I own it and the land around it," said Sanct-Franciscus promptly. "It has been held by those of my blood for several generations, as I have said."

"There are no monies owing on the land, either to the state or private parties?" Batsho asked.

"I own it outright, as did my predecessors."

Batsho nodded. "I see," he said flatly. "Very well. I shall ascertain your status and return with the Will and any other documents requiring signing and sealing. It is not a lengthy process, but it has to be done properly. Tuccu, go bring the sealing wax so we can attend to this."

The slave ducked his head. "At once," he said, and scurried off.

"If you will give me a moment, I will return with the Will and the Writ of Transfer, and your entitlement document." Batsho ducked out of the room, a meaningless smile smeared on his lips.

"Officious," said Vulpius quietly as soon as Batsho was gone.

"He has a high regard for his position," Sanct-Franciscus agreed. "A small man who enjoys using the power he has. He knows full well why we are here, but it pleases him to make us wait." He had encountered the type before, and had grown wary of them.

"I'll be glad when we're done." Vulpius fumbled with the buckle on his belt in order to keep his hands busy. "This is a most aggravating procedure."

"But it is in accord with Roman law," Sanct-Franciscus reminded him.

"I know, and I know it is necessary. Still, I don't like it," said Vulpius.

"It will not last long," Sanct-Franciscus soothed. "Think of the festivities this evening, when you celebrate this moment."

Vulpius opened his mouth, but said nothing as Telemachus Batsho returned, three large scrolls of papyrus tucked under his arm. "Here we are. If you would step around the rail, we will go to the second table. I think the light is best there."

"I will do so," said Vulpius promptly, relieved to have something to do at last. "What shall I sign with?"

"If you will use that ink-cake?" Batsho pointed to the lipped tray on which it was laid. "We have styluses for you to choose." He indicated a container of tarnished brass writing implements. "And Tuccu will prepare the wax for your seal." He nodded toward the slave. "Prepare a lamp, Tuccu, and have the wax ready. The honoratus is not to be kept waiting."

"My father was honoratus," Vulpius pointed out. "I am honestiorus."

"Your pardon, Patronus," said Batsho. "I had assumed the title was also yours for courtesy if not service."


Excerpted from Roman Dusk by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Copyright © 2006 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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From the Publisher
"Ranks among the best vampire tales around. Fans of historical fiction and vampire tales alike should be enthralled."—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Top Pick, 4 ½ stars, on States of Grace "The most remarkable and orignial vampire since Bram Stoker's Dracula."—The Bookwatch (Midwest Book Review)

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Roman Dusk 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book,a compelling story,from the whisper of silk to the burning fire. The city of Rome and Heliogabalus' decadent lifestyle are coming to life in this novel.The emperor is there, in the background, but alot of people are following his example. And Sanct-Franciscus is living among them, following his own compassionate, exacting way of life.He does care of the failing health of the Roman widow who is so recognisable in her pain and her fear. Because of that she became a selfish,intolerant woman,jealous of her daughter. Ignatia has my sympathy. She is a very lonely woman,her hunger for intimacy as great as Sanct-Franciscus'. Melidulci,the abused courtesan,wants to be an independant woman. Sanct-Franciscus is providing her shelter,and she returns that to him when he needs it. Roger is on a mission,and he returns after some rather deceptive letters,just in time to go to the rescue. He only serves his master for two centuries,and is still a bit uncertain about his,and his masters,way of 'life'. In those days the Christians were just one of the many religious groups in Rome. But there were then,as there are now,extremists in every group. As a result of their actions,Sanct-Franciscus is almost killed and has to leave the city. And it is one of the rare occasions in the novels he is taking his revenge. But there is always hope,and he does not look back,but to the future: 'his dark eyes became distant again,fixed no longer on what lay behind him,but what might lie ahead'. That is what I am doing too,looking forward to the next novel to come,I am sure of that!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is the beginning of the end for the once mighty Roman Empire. Barbarians are at the gates with the outposts falling to the enemies. Legions are not getting paid while ethics no longer go as far they once did leading to widespread hardship and fear. Officials are corrupt using their positions of power for personal gain with extortion being the norm. --- Vampire Ragoczy Germainus Sanct¿ Fransicus (AKA Count St. Germain) has bad luck when he crosses path with Batsho the decuriae, who collects tax money. Initially, the vampire remains ignorant to Batsho¿s animosity towards him as he is preoccupied with healing a suffering widow suffering with his special medicines. He gets his nourishment from a call girl that lacks the emotional intensity he craves when he dines. Inquiries about the vampire¿s goods that need to be taxed call his attention to Batsho¿s corruption and animosity to him personally because he is a rich foreigner. When Ragoczy learns that one of his servants spies for Batsho, he starts to arrange his departure from Rome, but the Christians have other plans for him. --- Every time one reads a St. Germain thriller, one obtains an astute history lesson that is cleverly wrapped inside a delightful vampire tale. The story line in ROMAN DUSK occurs around 160 AD, which focuses on the corruption of the Rome¿s powerful at the cost of long term security. Thus the beginning cracks that ultimately lead to the fall of the City-State are occurring as the affluent get wealthier and everyone poorer. This time the vampire is caught in the middle of a power struggle between the current dishonest leaders and the intolerant Christians pushing to eradicate all the sinners and demon offspring by dispatching them to hell. --- Harriet Klausner
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Sniffs round a hawkthorn bush. She waits silently and then pounces lightly. Hepads out of the bush with a vole in her jaws.