First Chapters Rough Working Outline:
The year is 511 BC. Saphina Ramuth lives with her father Pharon in the city of Cisra, or Caere. It is an Etruscan city, very near to Rome. At this time Caere is ruled by Tefarie Velianias, and Rome is ruled by King Tarquinius Superbus.
Saphina is betrothed, by arrangement, to a wealthy aristocrat of Caere named Aule Venthi. The betrothal was agreed upon by Aule’s family, the ruler of Caere, and her father Pharon. Saphina believes Aule cares for her and believes the attaction she feels toward him is mutual. She is aware however of a certain tension between her father and her betrothed which confuses her. After all, her father had always seemed pleased with, even encouraged, the betrothal.
The tension is exacerbated by Pharon’s increasing tendency toward fits of madness. Occasionally in those fits, Pharon speaks and acts as if he is somewhere else, with other people, including some man he names Drubal. As the madness grows, Saphina begins to believe that her father and Drubal had become enemies, at least in Pharon’s mind.
One evening when Aule is dining at their home, Pharon is struck by a madness fit. He raves about broken bodies, dying men, and calls on revenge. Saphina attempts to calm her father, but he breaks out of her embrace, grabs Aule, and holding a dagger to his throat, demands to know how he can be there, since he died many years ago.
End of Chapter 1.
Aule visits Saphina the next morning (they had managed to calm Pharon out of his fit) and assures Saphina he is not angry and that their betrothal is still strong. Aule does suggest that she may no longer be able to care for Pharon on her own. Saphina is unwilling to do that, as her father is all she has. Aule is displeased by that and they argue for a while. Aule manages to allay her distress somewhat, and they part affectionately. The next day, Pharon is busy carving. Saphina visits with a neighbor, Aris, and she and Saphina discuss Pharon and his past. Aris agrees with Pharon spending time at the healing sanctuary and reminds Saphina she will soon be married and Pharon would be on his own. Saphina returns home to find her father singing happily and they share a lovely mid-day meal. Pharon teases her to go buy herself a new tunic-something lovely-to wear. In the market Saphina learns of upheavals in nearby Rome which may have impact on Caere and neighboring cities. She also learns that the city of Carthage has been sending ambassadors to many coastal cities to arrange trade agreements. Not all these embassies have been successful. When a tumult occurs in the market, as some merchants from the northwestern island of Sardu engage in a brawl with Italian merchants, Saphina speaks up to resolve the confrontation. Later that evening she has a visit from Velianas, the ruler of Caere and, she has always believed, a good friend to her father. Velianas discloses something about her father’s past that she refuses to believe, but when she remembers something Aule had also said, Saphina senses that Velianias is in fact hiding something from her father’s past more terrible than he has said. Saphina finds it difficult to sleep that on, her mind churning.
End of Chapter 2.
The wife of Velianas has arranged a dinner to celebrate the coming wedding between Saphina and Aule. While visiting the healing sanctuary near the port to discuss her father’s illness, Saphina meets an old soldier who tells her a story of war captives stoned in vengeance and anger, and a curse from the gods. Saphina learns that her father had been part of the army in that war, something of which he had never told her. Now believing simply that Pharon’s old nightmares and his recent madness may have been caused simply by memories of that time, Saphina feels confident that his peace of mind can be quickly returned to him. Seeing one of Aule’s servants, Saphina asks if he is nearby so she can speak with him. She learns Aule has gone to her home to speak with Pharon. She is delighted, hoping the two men will have a good chance to get to know each other better, she hurries home. Unfortunately, tragedy has struck. An accident caused a neighbor to be buried under rocks. Seeing the man’s broken body has driven Pharon so deeply into madness that he stabs Aule, killing him, then turns the knife on himself and he dies just as Saphina reaches him.
End of Chapter 3.