The following is an excerpt from Journey of the Pearl by A. E. Smith. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
The men had stopped their games and grown quiet. One by one, they passed out until only Simon Peter, Adas, and Lucius were awake. One of the torches sputtered. Adas checked the oil pot. Each shift was required to refill it before going off duty, but it was empty. With the distractions, Adas had forgotten to inspect it. He decided to burn one torch at a time to conserve them. Adas reached for a torch when he heard a sword sliding from its scabbard. He spun around to find Lucius standing over Hektor with a sword in his hand.
“Centurion, I will not forfeit my life or my chance to see Valentius executed. Herod is going to kill this prisoner anyway.”
“Lucius, Valentius will be executed when we capture him in the act of treason.”
“Can you guarantee success? We can’t secure the doors against him. Apparently, we’ll also have to fight in the dark. We can’t just capture him because he could say he was only checking on us. If the prisoner is dead, it won’t matter what he does. He’ll be executed.” A thick cough gurgled in his chest. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
“Lucius, think. If you kill me, you’ll still be executed.”
“This isn’t my sword. It belongs to Hektor. In the morning, they will find blood on Hektor’s sword and blood on your sword. You’ll both be dead. Your friend will be dead, too, accidently killed while you two fought. The men will testify you were angry about the wager and threatened him. I will claim that Hektor attacked you and I was unable to help you. If you manage to wound me now, I will say that Hektor did it. When Valentius shows up, I’ll slip out the door and be waiting for him with the watchtower guards. We’ll catch him dragging the body out, trying to make it look like the prisoner escaped. It will be my word against—no one. The end result will be the crucifixion of Valentius for treason. And I will be commended for killing Hektor after he killed you. I’ll be promoted to a principales and a raise in pay.”
Peter’s chains rattled as he tried to move out of the way. “Adas, trust in God,” He struggled to stay conscious, but the sleeping potion was too strong.
Adas drew his sword. He knew nothing would change Lucius’s mind. The legionary swung his sword as Adas blocked the blow. He glanced behind to see if he had room to maneuver. Adas countered, and Lucius blocked it easily. Adas hoped to wear him down. Back and forth they slashed and blocked, trying not to trip over unconscious soldiers. The clattering of metal against metal echoed off the stone walls. Sparks danced along the blades as they clashed. A torch went out, leaving only three burning.
Adas struggled to stay between Lucius and Peter. Lucius tried to force Adas back, but the legionary was beginning to tire. He grew pale as sweat ran down his face. There was a wheezing sound as Lucius panted for air. Adas pressed forward, forcing Lucius to stumble, but he regained his footing. He turned sideways and blocked Adas’s sword. The centurion’s sword slid down the blade of Hektor’s sword, cutting Lucius’s hand. The sword slipped in his bloody hand before he realized he was injured. Adas pushed his advantage, backing Lucius further away from Peter.
Lucius stepped back and lowered his sword. His chest heaved as he struggled for air. “You win, Centurion. I can’t go on. What have I got to lose now? I’m dead, no matter what happens.” He leaned against the wall, but his wary expression belied his words.
“Then drop the sword!”
Lucius tossed it aside. It clattered to the stone floor. He looked at the gash running across his hand. Lucius put his hand behind his back and pressed it against the wall as if to apply pressure to the wound.
“Sit! Shackle one of your wrists,” Adas ordered. Lucius didn’t move. Adas pressed the point of his sword on Lucius’s chest. He pulled Lucius’s dagger from its sheath and threw it across the floor. “Let me see your hands!”
Lucius sagged against the wall as the fire went out of his eyes. He started to drop to the floor. Adas stepped back. Suddenly there was a blur of motion as Lucius lashed out with a dagger but missed. Adas raised his sword. Before Lucius could recover from the downward swing of his arm, Adas was already bringing his sword down to deflect the dagger further. The motion twisted Lucius’s body, pinning him against the wall. He was defenseless. Adas hit him with his fist so hard he felt the energy of the blow reverberate up his arm. Lucius’s head snapped back, he hit the rock wall, and collapsed. A dagger fell from his hand and hit the floor. It was Hektor’s dagger.
Panting from the fight, Adas shook out his left hand. It was then he saw a dark stain spreading down the front of his tunic. He gasped when pain erupted across his chest. Lucius had not missed, after all. A laceration crossed the entire width of his chest, below the collar bones. Adas could pass out. Lucius was sprawled on the floor but could regain consciousness any time. Adas dropped his sword. He clamped shackles around the legionary’s wrists. He slumped to the floor, trying to keep a clear head. He cut through his tunic with his dagger and pulled the garment off. He rolled the cloth up to make a long, wide bandage, and used his belt to secure it. He fastened the belt as tightly as he could as pain surged through his chest. Nausea and vertigo hit him as the room swam around him. He waited until the dizziness passed. Another torch went out, leaving only two burning. He picked up his dagger and stepped over to Peter. He had to be ready. Valentius would be coming.
Praise for Journey of the Pearl:
“From the opening pages, this book is beautifully written. The author has done her research and interweaves stories and characters into real history. If you enjoy a cliff-hanging mystery, you will enjoy this book.”
“Do you ever long to get lost in a well-told story? Do you also enjoy fresh perspectives on well-trodden material? If so, Journey of the Pearl is for you. In these pages, AE Smith explores the long thread of unintended consequences —both unspeakably cruel and breathtakingly fruitful—that come from occupying a small-but-pivotal role in what billions would judge a hinge-point of history: the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. What’s next for a spear-bearing Centurion on the scene? How can he live with himself—and create a life worth living? Historical fiction at its finest, I highly recommend Journey of the Pearl.”
“A.E. Smith re-imagines the crucifixion of Christ from the viewpoint of an eye-witness—the centurion who proclaimed, ‘This was the Son of God!’ Legend has it that the soldier was cursed to wander the earth for eternity, death ever eluding him. Bosh! Smith names him—Longinus—and crafts an entire back-story and subsequent events. How does one reconcile trying to do so much good and yet doing so much bad? Fast-paced yet thoughtful, well-researched yet not a lecture—damnation and redemption, deceit and tenderness, betrayal and hope—it’s all here.”
“The characters are well developed and the action scenes are exciting and riveting. The book is well written and has a compelling storyline which follows close to actual history. The back stories are fully researched developed and drew me into the lives of the characters, as well as the events of the time. Bought a 2nd copy so I can share with others.”
“Journey of the Pearl has a historical story line tied with strings of imagination. Would recommend to anyone who enjoys strong biblical characters and with fictional backgrounds. Fans of the New Testament and history will love this journey.”
About the Author
A. E. Smith has a Bachelor of Science degree from Baylor University and a Master’s degree from Northern Arizona University.
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