Solomon's Grave - Preview (Prologue)

Solomon's Grave's release date is set for March, that's next month! Now that we're on the doorstep of its English-language debut, I thought you might like to read a couple of the opening chapters, over the next week or so. Feel free to share, spread the word, but keep in mind, this work in English is (c) 2009 by me, Daniel G. Keohane, and though you may reproduce / forward it in order to spread the word, no language/wording may be changed in any way, and all must be attributed to me (by always including the "by Daniel G. Keohane" line). If you like what you read, spread the word!
That said, let's try this baby:

Solomon's Grave

Part One: Homecoming

Constantinople, 1204 A.D.

Bishop Georgios Palaiologos stumbled on a raised stone as he ran the length of the torch-lit corridor. The top strap of his sandal broke loose. There was no time for mending it. He curled the toes of his right foot to hold the sandal in place and continued on. Even in this little-known passage he could hear the sounds of Latin crusaders crashing through rooms and halls on the main floor. The Church of the Twelve Apostles, God’s most holy and majestic Byzantine cathedral, was overrun by those who claimed their animal violence in His name.

The courier, a young boy of barely seven years, had given him the warning with terror etched on his small face. The message was from Georgios’ fellow bishop at Hagia Sophia. They are coming; the Latins are coming and you must leave with as many of the relics as you can carry. No one is being spared. No one.

Then the boy’s face crumpled. Before Georgios could reach out to comfort him he’d escaped out a side door, desperate to return home. The bishop now offered another prayer for the boy’s safety as he opened a door hidden behind a tapestry at the end of the passage. He did so slowly, wary that perhaps he’d underestimated the preparedness of the knights storming up the church’s steps only fifteen minutes after the courier departed. It would take time to find their way down here, but Georgios maintained stealth as he ran down the winding flight of steps and entered the large, cross-shaped tomb below the church. It was empty. For now.

No time to consider his plan. Still, when he saw the twelve caskets laid out in the chamber, relegated centuries before by Constantius to hold the most sacred relics of Christ’s original twelve apostles, the large man sagged to his knees.

“Dear God,” he whispered, hands clasped together against his chest. “Please protect your church. Do not let these murderers destroy your temple. Guide my steps.” He wanted to remain there, fall prostrate to the cold floor and beseech the Lord to lay his hand over the perfect and irreplaceable objects which lay within the sarcophagi. The sounds above him became suddenly louder. They had found the entrance to this basilica. He had to go now, since what he sought made even these precious objects insignificant.

Georgios was the caretaker, chosen by God. He mustn’t hesitate. There were some, perhaps many, among the invading hordes, dark-minded men no more faithful to Pope Innocent III’s holy Crusades than were the neighboring Turks. These hidden marauders, servants of the Dark One himself, were his true adversaries. He rose to his feet, curled the toes of his right foot into the broken sandal, and ran to the far corner of the chamber. He passed the Column of Flagellation, the very pillar to which the Lord Jesus was bound and whipped. He closed one eye, trying to pretend it was nothing more than a support column.

Nothing more.

Dear God, why does this have to happen?

The door was flush with the wall, save three indented holes into which he clumsily put the fingers of his right hand. He pulled. The door gave, though it tried to resist his efforts. The bishop leaned back, adding his own weight to the action, and the door swung wide. As soon as he released his handhold, the heavy stone began sliding back into place. He reached out and liberated the closest of the torches lining the room. They were lighted always, maintained by the nuns of his own order. Those poor women... no, he must think of nothing else but his mission. The door buffeted him as he passed inside, knocking him against the wall. Sparks from the torch dusted across his face. His right sandal, at last, broke free. He did not stop to reclaim it, but kicked off the other within the inner hall and walked barefoot along the passage. He held the torch’s flame high to keep the heat and smoke out of his eyes.

Before he turned the corner into the chamber, the bishop felt its power. No matter how often, how constantly drawn he was to this secret room, the barely restrained power of God—both glorious and deadly—filled him with awe. But he did not slow; he could not. His bare feet slapped against stones regularly cleaned and washed by his own hand.

The relic before him seemed to suck the very light from his torch’s flame, filling itself and shining back a hundred fold. Georgios was certain it was not mere reflection across the ornate gold that caused this. He had many theories on why this relic, as holy and historical as it obviously was, was so coveted by both God and Satan. Why he and thousands before him had devoted their lives to its secrecy and protection. Some day he would need to write his theories down. He cursed his procrastination. He may not live out the day to write any more in his journals.

After inserting the torch into the nearest sconce, the large man climbed onto the platform. Voices now, behind him. How had the cursed knights found the apostles’ chamber so quickly? Sounds of breaking stone. Georgios stumbled, closed his eyes and wanted to weep at the thoughts of what might be happening beyond the sealed door.

The sound of looting and destruction faded suddenly under an obscure hum. Music, surrounding him. Chanting. No, not chanting, singing, a million voices collapsing into one, then back again to millions. He dropped to one knee, knowing in his heart the sound was of angels, just beyond the very doorway into Heaven.

No, he would consider such musings another time.

He looked up. The vessel was too large to be moved by one man, especially himself. After the boy left him, Georgios understood he’d been caught sleeping. He prayed that God would send a force to help him move it, but there was simply not enough time for help to arrive. Only one option left to him, which he must do alone.

Something crashed against stone at the end of the corridor. He heard voices, louder now, the grinding of the hidden stone door. It crashed closed. Even this most secret of places they had found with ease. It would not take long for them to realize how to handle the door and charge inside.

Georgios opened the vessel’s lid, slid it sideways no more than a foot, and reached in with steady hands. He closed his fingers around them, the most sacred objects in existence. He lifted the bundle and held it close to his chest, feeling its power surge through him. This was the key. Without it, the door to Heaven would be locked against this violent, pathetic world.

Perhaps forever.

* * *
The more pre-orders it gets, the better we look to the booksellers.
Let's make this one Big!

Solomon's Grave
copyright 2009 by Daniel G. Keohane
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Dragon Moon Press (March 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 189694499X
ISBN-13: 978-1896944999


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