Roma Mater

Roma Mater

by Poul Anderson, Karen Anderson

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Overview

Roma Mater by Poul Anderson, Karen Anderson

Book one of the King of Ys series: Blending fantasy, history, and adventure, the epic story of Ys begins as the Roman Gratillonius finds himself thrust into the highest seat of power

In the waning days of the Roman Empire, Magnus Maximus sends his prefect Gratillonius to western Gaul and the faraway land of Ys, a place shrouded in legend and ruled by a cruel and tyrannical king. When the sovereign challenges Gratillonius to a duel, the envoy from Rome emerges victorious and claims the throne as the new king of Ys, inheriting a land whose religion, culture, and history are entirely foreign. He also gains the former king’s nine wives, the Gallicenae, a powerful group of women to whom he must appear equally devoted despite his growing feelings for one in particular. As he adjusts to his new role as ruler of Ys, Gratillonius must fight to keep his strange new country on its feet while the rest of the Roman Empire begins to crumble around him.
 
Roma Mater is the first book in Poul and Karen Anderson’s King of Ys series, which continues with Gallicenae.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497694330
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 12/30/2014
Series: King of Ys , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 402
Sales rank: 176,195
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
 
In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.
 
Karen Anderson (1932–2018) is both a science fiction fan and a founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. She graduated from high school in Maryland and worked as a military cartographer to pay for both her attendance at the 1952 World Science Fiction Convention and the academic year 1952–53, which she spent as a drama major. Correspondence with Poul Anderson convinced her that the life she wanted was in science fiction, not on the stage, and she and Anderson later married.
 
Karen Anderson’s solo work comprises verse and short fiction. She brought many skills to assist Poul Anderson in writing his novels: proofreading, research, languages, mapping, story planning, and collecting material for future works. Discussions led to early shared bylines; after visiting Hadrian’s Wall, Anderson put a year’s research and plotting—plus verses of her own—into his hands for The King of Ys.
Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.

Karen Anderson (1932–2018) is both a science fiction fan and a founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. She graduated from high school in Maryland and worked as a military cartographer to pay for both her attendance at the 1952 World Science Fiction Convention and the academic year 1952–53, which she spent as a drama major. Correspondence with Poul Anderson convinced her that the life she wanted was in science fiction, not on the stage, and she and Anderson later married.
 
Karen Anderson’s solo work comprises verse and short fiction. She brought many skills to assist Poul Anderson in writing his novels: proofreading, research, languages, mapping, story planning, and collecting material for future works. Discussions led to early shared bylines; after visiting Hadrian’s Wall, Karen put a year’s research and plotting—plus verses of her own—into his hands for The King of Ys.

Read an Excerpt

Roma Mater

The King of Ys


By Poul Anderson, Karen Anderson

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1986 Trigonier Trust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-9433-0


CHAPTER 1

1


At noon upon that Birthday of Mithras, the sun blazed low in an ice-clear heaven. As Gratillonius looked south, he saw its brilliance splinter into rainbow shards amidst his eyelashes. Hills afar, ditch and earthworks nearby, terraced fields below, lay whitened and still. Smoke rose from Borcovicium fort and the settlement huddled against its ramparts, but so straight that it scarcely marred the purity. When he turned his gaze north, there was nothing of man save the shadow of the Wall, huge and blue, down a cliff whose own shadow filled the hollow underneath. Heights beyond were dark with forest in winter sleep. Light flashed starlike off icicles. A few crows aflight set their blackness against his breath, their distant cawing against his heartbeat, and that was all that stirred.

For a moment he felt wholly alone. The summer's warfare was not only past, it was unreal, a dream he had had or a story told him in his childhood, fading out of memory – but what, then, was real?

A glance right and left brought him back. Four-square, the murky bulk of a tower blocked off most westward view; but eastward, vision ran along the walkway past the two intermediate observation turrets to the next mile-castle, and the next, until the Wall swung under the horizon: fifteen feet from base to battlements, seventy-seven miles from sea to sea across Britannia. Metal made small fierce gleams where men stood watch down that length. Cloaks and drooping standards splashed their colours athwart its grey. Below them, some two hundred Roman paces from him, the legionary base rose in a gridiron of streets and lanes which seemed doubly severe next to the paths twisting between houses in the vicus. Everything he saw belonged here.

And so did he. His body rested easy under helmet, mail, greaves. Beneath them, his tunic hung lower than the skirt of studded leather straps; a scarf protected his neck from chafing by armour; woollen half-breeches, stockings inside the hobnailed sandals, fended off the season; all was familiar. Sword at hip, stick cut from the mainstem of a grapevine, were as much limbs of his as were arms and legs. Because the day was holy, he had not yet taken food, nor would he until the Mystery at eventide, and hunger somehow spurred awareness of his own strength. The chill in the air made it feel liquid, it bathed him within and without. And now trumpets sounded, echoes rang, high noon had come.

To most in the army, that signalled no more than a change of guard. It called Gratillonius to prayer. He faced the sun again, removed his helmet and set it on the parapet. A scarlet horsehair crest, attached for the round of inspection which he was on, scratched his wrist and scritted. He raised his arms and began the office – soft-voiced, because such was seemly and it would be his heart that the God heard –'Hail, Mithras Unconquered, Saviour, Warrior, Lord, born unto us anew and forever.'

'Centurion.'

At first he barely noticed, and did not imagine it meant him. ' – hear us, You Who did slay the Bull that Its blood might make fruitful the world. You Who stand before the Lion and the Serpent – '

'Centurion!' yelled in his ear.

Rage flared. Had the contumely of the Christians swollen to this?

An instant before snatching his vinestaff and giving the intruder a slash across the mouth, Gratillonius checked himself. It behoved an officer both of the Halidom and of Rome to curb a temper he knew was too quick, not profane his devotions with violence. He shot a glare which made the fellow step back alarmed, and continued.

The words were soon finished. It was as well, he thought, when anger seethed in him. He turned to confront the stranger, and beheld insignia of the Sixth Victrix. His mind sprang. Although that legion was based at Eboracum, closer than either of the other two in the island, it had not joined them against Picti and Scoti raging down from the north, but stayed behind. Supposedly that was to stand off any Saxon raiders. However, some few of its men had accompanied Maximus as bodyguards, couriers, confidants.

No matter yet. Gratillonius picked up the stick that marked his rank, tucked it under an elbow, and rapped forth: 'Attention! Have you no better manners than to interrupt a man at his worship, soldier? You disgrace your eagle.'

The other stiffened, gulped, abruptly recovered and answered, 'I beg the centurion's pardon. No bishop ever told me this is a time for services. I had my orders, and only supposed the centurion was deep in thought.'

Insolent knave indeed, Gratillonius knew. He sagged a little, inwardly. Of course he was dealing with a Christian. Most legionaries were, these days, or pretended to be. This very year the rescript had arrived that banned the old faiths, along with tales of how the authorities were despoiling Mithraic temples first. Men at war on the uttermost frontier paid scant heed, and Maximus knew better than to enforce such a decree ... until today, when the immediate danger was past?

Within Gratillonius, his father drawled anew, 'Son, you're too rash, you always court trouble. No sense in that. She'll come on her own, never fear. Better just court girls.' A curious tenderness followed. Gratillonius must even quell a smile as he said:

'I should take your name and remand you to your unit for punishment drill, if not a flogging. But since you admit ignorance, I'll be merciful. What do you want?'

An awakened caution replied. 'Mine is ... the honour of addressing Gaius Valerius Gratillonius, centurion of the Second ... is it not? I asked the squad where you were.'

'Which is here. Speak on.'

The messenger donned importance. 'The Duke of the Britains sent me. You are relieved of your regular duty and will report to him at once in the praetorium.'

'The Duke? What, not at Vindolanda?' Gratillonius was surprised. The old fort and settlement, close by but somewhat behind the Wall, was where the grand commander had generally stayed when in this area.

'He is making a progress of inspection and ... other business, it seems. He summoned you by name.'

What could that mean? A mission? The blood thrilled in Gratillonius.


2

The close-packed buildings of the strongpoint shaded streets and turned the lanes between into tunnels of cold and gloom. Nonetheless several men were passing time off watch with a dice game on the verandah of their barrack. But they were Tungri, auxiliaries such as formed the permanent garrisons of the Wall; regulars only arrived in emergencies like this year's. Well wrapped in furs, the barbarians doubtless found the dry air a blessed change from their native marshlands. Their speech went croaking and hawking through a quiet otherwise broken by little more than footfalls, although those rang loud enough on frozen earth.

Entering on the west, Gratillonius must pass the headquarters block standing sheer around three sides of its courtyard. He halted to salute the basilica, for it held the legionary shrine and standards: not his legion, true, but equally Rome's. The sentries saluted him in their turn. The smartness of it pleased, now when the Tungri had reminded him of the slovenly ways he found when his vexillation first came here. Maximus had done marvels in restoring discipline. To be sure, Gratillonius thought, the long campaign helped; poor soldiers were apt to become dead ones.

Memory ranged across the months that were past: the march up country through springtime rains to a stone wonder he had never seen before; settling in, getting to know the hills and heaths, exploring what often sleazy pleasures the civilian villages had to offer; shamefaced purification before he sought the Mithraeum, but then, for no good reason that he could see to this day, his elevation in grade – well, they said he had fought valiantly, but that hardly sufficed, and most likely it was that pious Parnesius had recommended him to the Father, and after all, the congregation had grown so pitifully small –

The warring itself was somehow less vivid. It had been an endlessness of expeditions from this base to seek whatever band of painted Picti or gaudy Scoti had been reported, of weather wet or hot, of troubles with supply trains and troubles among the men such as a centurionmust handle, of having them shovel trenches and ramparts for encampments they would demolish the next dawn, of finally – most times – coming upon the enemy and going to work, of the dead afterwards and the wounded., the wounded ... You did what you and the surgeons could for your own, and tried to keep your men from being needlessly cruel when they cut the throats of tall dark highlanders and fair-skinned warriors from over the water. There was no safe way of bringing prisoners to a slave market, and you could not risk that any would recover from his injuries. You had seen too many homesteads plundered and burnt, slain men, ravished women who wept for children carried off because the Scoti did do a brisk trade in slaves; and this was not only north of the Wall, among tribes friendly to Rome, but south of it, in territories thinly peopled but still subject to Caesar. The foe came around every defence in their leather coracles. So as leaves withered and fell. Gratillonius killed his last opponent (hail rattled on helmets; its pallor across the ground made blood spurt doubly red) and Britannia lay at peace. But thus it had been again and again in the past, and surely would in the future.

He curbed his mind, squared his shoulders, and strode onward. Forebodings were foolishness. The truth was that Maximus had prevailed, had reaped so widely among the wild men that they would not soon come back, and had something to tell an infantryman who was chafing at the sameness of garrison life. What better omen than getting that word on the holiest day of the year?

The praetorium was almost as large as the principia. When Gratillonius identified himself, the guard called a man to guide him. Inside, the warmth of a hypocaust radiated from tiled floors; frescos on the walls glowed with flowers, fruits, beasts. Homeric Gods and heroes; more servants than soldiers passed by. But such was usual, Gratillonius knew. His own commandant's house in the base at Isca Silurum made this one on the far frontier look impoverished. Maximus had the reputation of living austerely wherever he was.

Another legionary of the Sixth stood at a certain door. Upon learning who had appeared, he opened it and waited at attention until bidden to speak. 'Gaius Valerius Gratillonius, centurion of the seventh cohort, Second Legion Augusta,' he then announced, and gestured the newcomer in. The door closed. Gratillonius saluted.

Light, straggling bleak through a glazed window, got help from lamps. It showed lavishness neglected. Two men sat at a table whereon were beakers, bescribbled notebooks of thin-scraped wood, a map drawn on parchment, an inkwell and quill, a waxed tablet and stylus. One man, big, young, freckle-faced, was clearly a native. He had donned Roman garb for this occasion, but a moustache flared, his ruddy hair was bound in a knot, a golden torque gleamed around his neck. His companion, whom Gratillonius knew by sight, was the Duke of the Britains.

Magnus Clemens Maximus hailed from the uplands of Hispania Tarraconensis. It showed in his height and leanness, hatchet features, olive skin, hair stiff and black and slightly grizzled. It also softened his Latin as he said, 'At ease, centurion. Take off your cloak and helmet.' The steel of him was in his voice, though, and his eyes were always probing.

To the tribesman he added: 'This is the officer whom I have in mind to lead your escort.' To Gratillonius: 'You have the honour of meeting Cunedag, a prince among the Votadini and Rome's loyal ally. Your assignment will be to accompany him and his following to the Ordovices, on your way back with your century.' Smiling: 'Look well, you two. I trust you both like what you see.'

Gratillonius sped through memory. Dwelling north of the Wall, the Votadini had formerly been subjects and, after the tide of empire ebbed southward, had stayed on reasonably good terms. Indeed, their leading families claimed Roman descent and often bestowed Roman names. He had not met Cunedag before, but had heard of him as a useful warlord throughout the year's campaigning.

The chieftain's gaze searched over the centurion. It found a man of twenty-five, medium tall for a Briton – which made him overtop most Italians – and robustly built. The visage of Gratillonius was broad and square, clean-shaven, with craggy nose and wideset grey eyes. His complexion was fair, his close-cropped hair auburn. He moved like a cat. When he spoke, the tone was deep and rather harsh.

'You have won a high name,' said Cunedag in his own language. 'I think we shall travel well together.'

'Thank you, lord. I will do my best,' replied Gratillonius. He used the tongue of the Dumnonii, which was not too alien for the Northerner to understand and chuckle at.

'Good,' said Maximus, sensing the accord. 'Prince, we have talked a long while and you must be weary. The centurion and I have matters to discuss which can scarcely interest you. Why do you not seek your guestroom, or whatever else you like, and rest until we meet at the evening meal?'

Cunedag, an intelligent barbarian, took the hint and uttered a stately goodbye. A gong summoned an attendant to lead him out and a second man to bring Gratillonius a goblet of wine and water. The officer took the vacated stool at his commander's word and peered across the clutter on the table. His pulse drummed anew.

Maximus stroked fingers across his prow of a chin. 'Well, soldier,' he said, 'you must be wondering how I even knew who you are, let alone found a rather special task for you.'

The Duke surely has many ears,' Gratillonius ventured.

Maximus shrugged. 'Fewer than he could use. In this case, you've become a friend of Parnesius, and it happens that I am acquainted with his father and have kept my eye on the son. Parnesius praised you to me: less your valour, which any dolt could show, but skill and coolness overriding a temperament hot by nature, a talent for improvising, a gift of leadership.' He sighed. 'That is a gift, you know, a mystery. God's hand touches a man, and that man turns into one whom others will follow though it be past the gates of hell. Would I had more like that to follow me!'

A chill tingle passed through Gratillonius. The provinces of the Empire bred men who claimed the purple by right of the sword, and Britannia was among them. Here the legions had first hailed great Constantinus, almost a hundred years ago. More recently there had been Magnentius, rising in Gallia but born in Britannia and supported by Britons; his failure and its terrible aftermath need not discourage later dreams. As warfare ended and winter closed in, legionaries had time to think, wonder, mutter ... fifteen years was a long time to keep as able a leader as Maximus off on the frontiers ... he declared that he held the Sixth in reserve at Eboracum against Saxon attack, and maybe this was true, but it was likewise true that the Sixth had come to be his adoring own ... the real rulers of the West were not the co-Emperors but a barbarian, a woman, and a churchman ... the hour might be overpast for putting a man of proven metal on the throne ...

Maximus's voice levelled. 'I've kept your detachment, together with that from the Twentieth and all the sundry oddments, on the Wall to make sure our pacification was nailed down. The Picti wouldn't worry me by themselves. Their little quarrelsome packs will never do more alone than snap up some loot, take a drubbing, and scatter back to lick their wounds. But lately the Scoti have been leagued with them, and – the Scoti are a different breed of wolf.' He scowled. 'Somebody in Hivernia has been behind the last onslaught, somebody powerful and shrewd. I would not have put it past him to deliver a surprise blow just when we thought we were safely finished.'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Roma Mater by Poul Anderson, Karen Anderson. Copyright © 1986 Trigonier Trust. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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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