My daughter is a teacher, and right now, in France, the department of education has asked her to teach about separation of church and state. She has decided to teach using only the textbook definitions, to avoid any misunderstanding. She is also doing this to limit the spread of disinformation. The closer to stick to the real definition of something, the more potent it can be. This is true also about the free speech amendment in the Constitution. In regards to recent developements in the free world, especially regarding the Internet and social media, I wanted to explore the real meaning of ‘Free Speech‘.
The right to express your opinions publicly is known as freedom of speech.
Opinion: a thought or belief about something or someone; the ideas that a person or a group of people have about something or someone, which are based mainly on their feelings and beliefs, or a single idea of this type.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The Cons of Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to have “all” speech. …In the United States, there are four forms of speech which are not protected under the First Amendment.• You cannot make an authentic threat against another individual.• It is illegal to defame others, including libel and slander.• You cannot plagiarize any copyrighted material.• It is illegal to share some obscene material, such as child pornography. If you say something in the United States which causes illegal actions or solicits others to commit a crime, then your speech is not protected by the First Amendment.
Freedom of speech can spread false information…freedom of speech makes it easier for individuals to spread false information and outright lies, but then still pretend that this data is true.
Freedom of speech can incite violence. …We have seen first hand what inciting violence can do – when you demonize a person or group of people because of race, religion, or socio-economic standing, some people will make the personal choice of committing violence because they were incited by hate speech to do so. Although that was their choice and broke the law, the person who created the outcome because of inflamatory rhetoric is also responsible.
Freedom of speech can equal verbal abuse. Voltaire’s biographer summed up the views of the philosopher like this: “I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” People are free to call other people names and insult them. This can create a climate of insecurity, bullying, and mental anguish for the victims. It is up to us to stop hate speech, all the while defending free speech.
Freedom of speech can create a mob mentality.For example, the anti-vaccine movemnent was created by a lie and perpetrated by free speech which enabled spreading of information which inflamed public opinion, and led to protests against vaccines which resulted in actual deaths of children and vulnerable people by preventable diseases. The same mob mentality is being created around the Covid-19 virus and the wearing of masks, for example.
The Pros for Freedom of speech are the flip side of the coin of each of the cons. Freedom of speech can be used to inspire people. With freedom of speech, journalists can uncover crimes and publish them freely without fear of being sued. Freedom of speech lets us criticise our government and our religion without fear of being arrested or executed. Freedom of speech is a great power, but, as Spiderman learned, with great power comes great responsibility. We have not yet learned to use free speech as responsibly as we should.
About a year ago, I saw a skull on a blog that I hang out on (yeah, I hang out on those kinds of blogs…) that belonged to an extinct animal known as a sabre tooth tiger (or smilodon). I’ve always been a dinosaur geek, but the Paleolithic animals ran a close second – mammoths, giant elk, dire wolves, and sabre tooth tigers, among others. And when I saw the skull it made me wonder how exactly the tiger used his huge, over-sized upper canines – did he use them to stab? That would make the most sense. But how? Wouldn’t they break? What kind of stabbing motion would be the most effective? I went searching for answers, and came up with a lot of different theories. Looking at the skeleton, I was struck at how stocky and massive the animals forearms were. I leaned towards the theory that the animal would leap on his prey from above, grip tightly with its powerful forelegs, stab it in the neck or as close to the skull as it could, using his huge canines like daggers, and probably leap off the animal and wait until its prey bled to death. I even thought it would explain why so many sabre tooth tiger skeletons were recovered from tar pits. Wounded animals head downhill, and downhill is water, and in those days – the water covered the tar pits where the animals bogged down and were trapped.
How could I test my theory? Sabre tooth tigers are extinct, and I don’t have the material to clone one and bring it back to life Jurassic Park style. The next best thing would have to be a voyage back into time to see one for myself, so I sat down and wrote “A Remedy in Time“, about a woman who is sent back to the Paleolithic to find out where a deadly virus has originated from. Her hypothesis is that it came from saber tooth tigers. When I wrote the book, Covid-19 didn’t exist yet, so I can’t claim it was the idea behind the story. In fact, the idea came from an article I read about typhus in American cities. One type, feline typhus, is a parvovirus. Parvoviruses are very resistant to environmental influences and are able to survive for several months (or longer) in the outside world. Coronaviruses are bigger (relitively speaking) and a little more fragile. They are also not very species-specific, so they mutate from infecting animals to infecting humans (as Covid-19 has) fairly easily. Anyhow, back to the parvoviruses – the feline parvo is highly contageous and very deadly. It has never (and most likely never will) mutate to infect humans. But a writer has to do what a writer has to do, and in my book, the virus infects humans, so my heroine, Robin, goes back in time to get some samples from the best-known feline of the time – the saber tooth tiger.
A REMEDY IN TIME by Jennifer Macaire
To save the future, she must turn to the past . . .
San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.
But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .
I’ve had a passion for time travel ever since I found out about dinosaurs. I admit, I’ve watched the Jurassic Park series about a hundred times. The dinosaurs never get boring for me. When I was in kindergarten, I stood at the blackboard and drew huge dinos. A t-rex chased a triceratops, a stegosaurus lumbered across a swamp, while a huge brontosaurus (now known as apatosaurus, which is a pity, given that brontosaurus meant “thunder lizard”) grazed on high tree tops. One of my teachers discovered my obsession, and she would take me from class to class so I could draw and give a talk about dinosaurs.
Then one day I happened on a Reader’s Digest that featured sabretooth tigers. In the illustration, the tigers are attacking a mammoth that has somehow gotten entrapped in a tar-pit. I stared at that illustration for hours, trying to imagine how the sabretooth tigers could hunt and eat their prey with such massive canines.
That was that for the dinosaurs. Suddenly I was fascinated by a time when woolly mammoths, huge cave bears, and even sloths the size of small houses roamed the frigid plains of the ice-age tundra. The sabretooth tiger, with its outsized canines became my spirit animal – I read everything I could about them, and spent my time drawing pictures of extinct mammals.
Years and years later, I stumbled on a blogsite that featured fossils, and it amused me to try and guess the mystery photos the author posted. And then one day, lo and behold, there was a sabretooth tiger! I recognized it right away. In the blog post, the author admitted that scientists still argued about how the animal hunted its prey. I started imagining a trip to the past to film a documentary about sabretooth tigers.
Of course, the trip would start at Tempus U, where my time travel books all start from. And the heroine this time would be a single-minded young woman who not only specialized in paleolithic animals but infectious diseases as well, because when I started writing the book, there had been a breakout of an especially virulent form of typhus in California. And so I wove a story about corporate greed, vaccines, man-made diseases, and a trip to the far, far past.
A Remedy in Time is available for preorder, and will be published January 7th, 2021!
And here is the fabulous cover my publisher, Headline Accent, made for it!
To save the future, she must turn to the past . . . San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time. But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .
So, I’m working full time, my very first full time job – don’t make fun of me. If you ‘ve read my blog you’ll know that after I graduated highschool I started modelling in NYC, then moved to Paris. I worked as a model for five years, but I’m not sure if that counts as a full time job. Some weeks I’d work every single day – (on trips Sunday is just another day) – I’d wake up at 5 am and sometimes not get to bed until after 2 am… and some weeks I wouldn’t work at all. When I met my husband, the polo player, we started travelling all over the world, and so I gave up my job and became a jet-setter. Well, a polo groupie. Well, a sometimes groom, an exercise rider, a laundry maid, a (dismal) cook, a travel agent, and a baggage handler. Then the twins were born, and I was a mom, a sometimes groom, an exercise rider, etc., etc… and then my daughter was born, we settled in France, I became a housewife and raised three kids, several dogs, hamsters, goldfish, cats, and some horses. In the meantime, to everyone’s surprise, I learned to cook. When the kids were school age, I started teaching English at home and tutoring. To help out with the bills, I found a job with a neighbor doing translation and office work part time. The kids went to collage, and I got another part time job at an orthodontist’s office. And now the office has grown, and there are two doctors, and suddenly I’m working full time. And my husband told me I did everything backwards. Most people, he said, first started working full time. He was laughing about it though, so I guess it was a joke.
Tom asked me what I wanted him to write about for my blog, and I said “something stupid that you did, so we can laugh about it after.” Well, he sent me this, and I thought it was pretty funny, and when I got to this part, “I had a map from 1809 and maps (and satellite images) from today, but I couldn’t marry the two together”, I was nodding sagely – yes, here is a tale most any author can relate to – research gone wrong. Enjoy!
The first book I ever wrote was The White Rajah which is set in Borneo. It came about because I’d made a visit to Borneo (my mother-in-law was living in Singapore at the time, so it wasn’t that strange a things to do) and I wanted to write about the history of the place.
The White Rajah was followed by Cawnpore, which is set in India, a country that I have never visited.
The next book I wrote was Burke in the Land of Silver, which, again, grew from my love of a particular country and its history – this time, Argentina. That was duly followed by Burke and the Bedouin, which is set in Egypt. Fortunately I had visited the Middle East before, so I had some sense of the country I was writing about, but I didn’t actually visit Egypt itself until well after the book was published. Similarly (and it’s embarrassing to admit this) I only got to Waterloo some time after the publication of Burke at Waterloo (despite the fact that my wife’s family live about half an hour’s drive from there).
In view of my repeated inability to research the countries that I write about ahead of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), it should come as no surprise to learn that when I wrote Burke in the Peninsula, set in Spain and Portugal, I had never been to either of those countries. Actually, I had visited Barcelona, but as Catalans will all tell you, that’s is hardly Spain at all.
After I had finished the book, but while I still had plenty of time to make changes, I decided that it would be a really good idea to visit the place. I met somebody who makes a living out of organising tours to Napoleonic (and other) battlefields and he set up a trip for us. My main interest was to see the site of the battle of Talavera, which is one of the highlights of the novel.
Unfortunately, our guide was taken seriously ill just ahead of a planned holiday. However, he had booked hotels and worked out an itinerary and suggested that, if we wanted, we could make a trip on our own. We had been meaning to do this for years and we thought that if we put it off one more time, it might end up never happening, so we decided that that’s what we would do.
We arrived in Madrid to discover that the car we had booked had been upgraded to something bigger. This, it turned out, was not necessarily a good thing.
Although I’ve driven a lot in France and I’m used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road, this was the first time I had ever actually driven a left-hand drive car – and one that was significantly wider than my own car at home. The result, I very soon found, was that I had no idea where the near side of my car was. As we made our way out of the airport, this meant a fair amount of kerb banging, but it was, I thought, nothing that I couldn’t cope with. In any case, I would surely soon get a feel for the width of the vehicle.
Our first stop was to be the mediaeval town of Toledo. It doesn’t feature in the Napoleonic Wars, but we been assured that it was worth a visit anyway. We made good time down the motorway, with my wife, in the passenger seat repeatedly squeaking that her side of the car was moving out of lane but the road was quiet and the lanes were wide and it really wasn’t an issue. Then we arrived at Toledo.
Toledo is indeed spectacularly beautiful. If you get a chance I really strongly suggest that you go there. But don’t drive. We shouldn’t have driven into the city ourselves, but the hotel we had been booked into was on a very sharp left turn just ahead of the old town. We overshot it by about 20 yards which took us firmly into the town’s one-way system.
Had I had any idea what was going to happen next, I wouldn’t take my chances and just reversed out. As it was we decided to follow the one-way system. We couldn’t get lost – there really was just the one way – so we reckoned we would go round and find the turn on our next attempt.
Here’s a photo of a street in Toledo. This is not a pedestrian street. No, it’s a regular street.
I’m driving a ridiculously wide car that I’m totally not used to through twisting narrow streets that I have never seen before. Let’s just say that my key priority was not hit any of the pedestrians. The scaffolding that surrounded buildings under repair and some of the big stone corners that have been fending off vehicular attacks for about 500 years were not my priority. I think I can safely say that we did no measurable damage to the mediaeval fabric of the town. That’s a lot less than can be said for the car.
The charming lady who had rented it to me had strongly recommended that we take out the extra insurance on offer. My wife really wasn’t sure, but I went for it and never have we made a more sensible decision. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was shaking. Did we want to drive down the road to another car park or would we like to pay extra for the one on their site? It wasn’t a question that I had to spend any time thinking about. The hotel car park was underground with a ramp down to it the design of which seem to have been copied from the staircases inside turrets designed to enable the city’s defenders to prevent anybody from climbing up. It was only the all-too-visible signs that dozens (maybe hundreds) of previous motorists had had no more success of avoiding walls on the ramp than I had had in Toledo itself that made me feel rather better about myself.
We decided to put that experience firmly behind us and explore the town. Again, I can only say that you really, really should visit. I thought I’d been in a mediaeval towns before (like the Shambles in York) but this is a whole town that seems to have been preserved pretty much as it was in its heyday. It is just utterly, ridiculously beautiful.
The next day we left Toledo by a relatively wide road that was less exciting, but rather safer, than the roads we explored the day before and set off towards Talavera.
Talavera is a town celebrated for its ceramic tiles. People in Talavera are proud of their tiles and show it.
We weren’t there to see the town, though. We were there to see the battlefield. That was, after all, the whole reason for the trip.
I had rather expected road signs and maybe a museum, but I got the distinct impression that Spain was in no hurry to celebrate Talavera. There is a street named after General Cuesta who, nominally at least, won the battle for Spain, but it’s a small, short one and easily missed.
I had a map from 1809 and maps (and satellite images) from today, but I couldn’t marry the two together. We drove vaguely round the countryside for a while and we did find a ridge that looked to be in about the right position, but I’m not at all sure that we ever did visit the battlefield of Talavera.
It wasn’t a wasted trip. We saw so many beautiful things and our visit to the famous lines of Torres Vedras in Portugal may well be the inspiration for another book in the Burke series. Even our failure to find the Talavera battlefield was far from disastrous. The battlefield has been mucked about with a lot with a road built through the middle of it, so I was more interested to get a feel of the place. What was amazing was how the miles of Spanish plain suddenly turned into really quite steep lines of hills. The idea of trying to attack up slopes like that was quite terrifying. The time we spent driving to and from Talavera also gave the notion of the scale of these campaigns and the days that must have been spent marching across dusty, unshaded plain.
So there we are: my attempt to properly research a battlefield before publishing one of my books. And it was, let’s face it, a more-or-less total failure.
Never mind, judging from what has happened with all the others, it is only a matter of time before I go back and visit Talavera again.
Burke in the Peninsula
Burke in the Peninsula will be published in paperback and on Kindle at the end of September. For more information, please take a look at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/.
When my sons were born, prematurely, the doctors said they would most likely not survive, and if they did survive, they could be severely handicapped. Knowing this, every day was a victory for us and as they grew – and throve – even the things most people take for granted were celebrated like huge accomplishments. Sebi finally walks! (at nearly 20 months). Alex gives us a real smile! (at 7 months of age) – each act consigned to history in my journal – photos of Sebi’s first wobbly steps on his little spaghetti legs – Alex’s first real smile when he finally figured out no one was going to stick needles in him every day.
I watched the twins grow with trepidation but immense pride and thankfulness that they had survived and turned out just fine. I was so very thankful for their health, I never really thought about anything else. Asking my children for achievements like being first in the class or the best at sports never occured to me – I was just happy to have them in school and running around. Alex was diligent, loved to please, and a hard worker. Sebi was probably the best at getting into trouble and making us laugh – but Alex managed to be head of his class, and Sebi was definitely the teacher’s pet. However, I had been so utterly traumatized by their birth and struggles to survive their first year of life, that it never occured to me to make a fuss over this. What counted for me was that they were happy and healthy – the rest was just window-dressing. What I was prepared for were their failures. Failing a grade in highschool and having to redo the year. Not getting into the program they wished for. Not being able to play certain sports or do certain things because of asthma – and the inevitable break-ups and fights, the car crashes, the broken bones… Each of these were technically failures, but I wanted them to be, in their way, seen as part of the steps to success.
Some people might say I simply set the bar low. But my children were never short-sighted. They had goals in life, and I simply made them see that each of their failures was important too. When Sebi failed his first entrance exam to the police academy and took a job as an online callsperson for Peogeot, he would get up early to put on a suit and tie – even if he was just going into a cubicle where he called people all day to talk about their cars. When he quit his lawschool studies in the middle of the year he became a volonteer fireman and ended up working as a fireman for seven years while he changed his major to psychology, finished his studies, and became a policeman – his dream job. His love life & break-ups were epic – but he finally found the woman of his dreams as well (also in the police!) Alex was more complicated – he wanted to live in the US, but it was too expensive to study there, so he went to community college, lived with my sister and brother-in-law, learned how to work in a restaurant, was accepted into a SUNY college in Potsdam, spent too much time partying and failed his first semester. He got a full time job, intending to pay his own way – after a year he gave up and came back to France. But he’d learned valuable lessons. How to manage money, how to get a job and a car – how to navigate insurance, banks – and he learned the real cost of studies in the US vs studies in France. He came back to Europe and got his Masters degree in microbiology and chemistry, then a degree in bio-technology and now works in a hospital His failures were never really failures – they were stepping stones to his future – without them, he never would have met his wonderful girlfriend, had the opporunities he’s had, and even though he struggled for a few years – he is where he wants to be now.
So what have I learned of all this? Failures are part of ife – what really counts is brushing them off, taking what can be learned from them, and ploughing on. My daughter (who is severely dyslexic and had huge problems in grade school learning to read) once told me that what she remembers most about her childhood was the one time she got a failing grade on her work – a huge red F on her paper. She was in tears as she showed it to me. I looked at it, and said, “It’s not what you think. It’s not for Fail – it means Forward – because from here, you can move ahead. I’ll always be proud of you, because you try so hard.” I don’t remember saying that to her – I honestly don’t. But she says it was the best thing I could have ever told her, and it made her realize that there was always a next time, and that she wouldn’t give up.
Two weeks ago, we woke up to find Auguste in a coma. He was unresponsive, didn’t raise his head or wag his tail when we called him, pet him, rattled a bowl of dog food under his nose. We took him to the vet’s office in a panic. He is, after all, a very old dog. The vets saved him – he spent ten days in the vet clinic – he had a massive infection and his gall bladder nearly burst – it was a close call. Now he’s home, and trotting around, bossing me around as usual. This morning he barked at me when I didn’t feed him fast enough – he’s definetely feeling better.
The vet bill was pretty high, but worth it, as he’s doing well, back to being his confident, silly self. I don’t regret the money spent, and for once, we were actually able to pay without it making too huge a hole in our budget.
After all, my twins cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems that, (for me anyway) life, health, and money and very closely related. I am lucky to live in a country (France) where healthcare is affordable. We can even afford to pay for private health insurance plus what the government offers (basic primary healthcare for all, which covers everything, really) – the private insurance costs about 20€ a month & is required by law now, but for years I never had it and never needed it. Auguste was a reminder that healthcare is essential. It was so scary when he was sick, and we were so relieved when he got better, that I can’t Imagine what it must be like for the parents of a child – or any loved one – when that child gets sick and they can’t pay for medical expenses. How unbearable. This is a true story – close friends of our lost their first son because they couldn’t afford healthcare when they lived in Texas. This was back in the 1950’s. I like to think that today, something like that would never happen again.
Anyway – back to more cheerful things – Auguste, the mighty dog, is a true survivor. He survived cancer, and now he survived a coma and massive infection. He even survived me having to give him a shot every day for a week (I’d never given a shot and got a crash course from my husband who Hates giving shots so he showed Me how to do it, figuring the sadist part of me would probably like it. I got so good at it, I’d give the shot to Auguste when he was eating, and he Never even noticed when I did it!!
Swear words – most of the time they pop out without thought – you drop a can of beans on your foot, and it’s magical. Kids learn them faster than they learn aything else. Say “shit” just once in front of your toddler, and he’ll repeat it perfectly first time, unlike the words you’d been trying desperately to teach him: “Grandma is nice. Repeat after me, Junior. Grandma is nice! Ow, shit, that can of beans hurt!” (You know what junior is going to say, right?)
What’s more – you can tell where people are from by their swear words. For example:
If it sounds like part of a kid’s nursery rhyme, it’s English: The English swear words are adorable. Someone yells at you, “You utter wally wanker blighter numpty plonker!” You beam and say “So Cute!!”
If it sounds like something you’d order in a restaurant, it’s Italian: “Yes, I’d like a Leccare il culo, with a side order of Andare a puttane, followed by a mi rompete i coglioni. And for dessert, some Vaffanculo.”
If it’s kind of sexy and has the word merde in it, then it’s French: “Merde, c’est de la merde, putain de con de merde, je n’ai ras le cul de ce merdier!”
If you want to put it in a song and sing it, it’s Spanish: Tonto del culo,hijo de puta! Qué Cabrón! Qué Cabrón!
If it sounds like the person had a few too many beers, it’s German: Arschloch! Du blöde Kuh!Verpiss dich!Fick dich!
If it sounds Chinese… it’s Chinese: Ta ma de, shǎ bi, bèn dàn, wang ba, wo cao!
If it sounds like the person can’t decide what word to choose so they just mash them all together, it’s American: You stupidassmuthafucker, fuckinmotherfucking, goddamnasshole!
So, why this post about swearing? Because people swear all the time, Expletives are creative & descriptive. Shakespeare invented many of them, they spice up films and songs, and kids love them (much to our embarrassement when they cheerfully call out “Hey motherfucker!” from their stroller). And in my next book, “A Remedy in Time“, my heroine, Robin, swears fluently. In the future, Chinese and French swear words are used liberally, so brush up on your wo cao merde, you plonkers! Language is fun!
A Remedy in Time – coming January 2021 from Hachette Headline (cover reveal coming soon!)
Religion: Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you. Do not kill. Do not steal. And that’s about it for all the world’s religions.
Politics: No abortion, no gay marriage, no women’s rights, non believers should be eliminated.
Why? Because rulers use religion to control women’s bodies, for example, or to control people. Non believers are harder to control, so they are the first to go. Women are weaker than men, but easier to control through religion – just make them believe that it’s all about love and children. Men are easy to control through religion – just make them believe they are the ‘chosen’ ones. Children are easily brainwashed into believing anything, just use stories and make sure they feel like they’re part of an exclusive group.
If people would just separate religion and politics completely, I’d have nothing against religion. As it is, it’s just ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL.
In the fifth book in the Time For Alexander series, the Oracle of Amon tells Alexander he must go to the Land of Ice and Snow, so they leave their home in Alexandria and head north, to Gaul.But the Thief of Souls not only captured Alexander’s soul. He also wants Paul, and the druids have raised an army to capture him. In the heart of winter, in ancient Gaul, a terrible sacrifice is made to Persephone, goddess of the Underworld – and Ashley finds herself taking part in a deadly ceremony.
The snow was nearly all trampled away by the night’s festivities. Most people had left, but a few remained. They were now packing their belongings and getting ready to leave. Spirals of smoke from campfires looked like blue tissue-paper streamers reaching for the sky. The snow had been turned to muddy slush on the paths. I walked down to the river’s edge and stripped off my dirty cloak. I looked at the blood caked on it, then I tossed it into the river and watched as the swift water took it away. I shivered.
‘That was a strange thing to do.’ Alexander looked at me from across the river, where he’d been standing beneath the trees.
‘I don’t want it any more. It was covered in blood.’
‘So was Paul, but I washed it off.’
I didn’t smile. There was nothing to smile about. I was tired and unhappy. My stomach hurt, my head ached, and I didn’t know what I felt any more. Alexander walked over the bridge and took my hand.
‘I’ll help you bathe,’ he said softly. I just nodded.
There was a crude bathhouse near the stream. In it stood a tub of hot water. Alexander had anticipated my every move. I climbed in. When I’d washed my skin and hair, I took a small birch twig and brushed my teeth. Then I dressed in the clean clothes he’d brought for me.
Alexander had been silent, sitting in the corner, but now he spoke in an odd voice. ‘What did you do last night in the cave?’
My hands, I saw, were steady now. I held them out in front of me and frowned. Then I let them fall to my sides, and said, ‘what do you think happened?’
‘I would prefer you to tell me.’ He spoke evenly. There was nothing in his voice to hint at what he felt.
I started to laugh. It was a low laugh that shook me. An embarrassed laugh, because I was not proud of myself. ‘I’ll tell you what happened,’ I said, wiping tears out of my eyes. The laughter had turned sour suddenly. ‘I got drunk on the ceremonial wine, and I made love with the Roman’s wife. I didn’t want anyone to die, and a man was killed in front of me while looking straight at me with a smile on his face. And then they ate him.’
‘What?’ Alexander sounded shocked. I didn’t know what he was ‘what-ing’ about. The fact I made love to a woman, the fact Anoramix smiled at me, or that he’d been eaten.