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Love, Macedonians, and Dinosaurs


kirispupis
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Hello everyone. I hope this is allowed here, but I'm writing a book titled Love, Macedonians, and Dinosaurs and am looking for a few people to provide feedback as it's written. I'm looking for high-level problems, not grammar and spelling mistakes which will be addressed during editing. Normally my family helps here, but my wife has a tough time with this genre, my oldest son doesn't like reading anymore, and my youngest is in college and is too busy. I would be extremely grateful for any assistance.

For those interested, every few days I'll update a link with a chapter. When you have time, provide me feedback. Again, I'm looking for high-level stuff such as what you liked most or reasons why you hated it. Everything will go through private chats, as I don't want anything past the first chapter going public.

Note: being familiar with the history is not a prerequisite for enjoying the book. In fact, the early feedback I've received, and have already made attempts to fix, is that I need to simplify things for those not acquainted with it. Therefore, I'd love to find people both familiar and not familiar with the era of the Diadochi.

The following is a blurb about the book:

Seventeen-year-old Adea is on the run for her life. Alexander the Great's empire is disintegrating into alliances, betrayals, and wars, and all that anyone can seem to agree on is that, as an heir of Alexander himself, she must be eliminated. Only a desperate plan from her mother may now save her.

Two thousand three hundred years later, Jack works at a sports card store and otherwise achieves his life's goal, which is nothing. But when strangers with accents start appearing in his yard and oversized reptiles help themselves into his house, Jack is drawn into a difficult fact. His world is ending.

Suddenly jettisoned together, the two will need to navigate ancient obstacles to survive. Enemy armies, rivers full of man-eating crocodiles, and political intrigues are manageable. When dinosaurs start devouring phalanxes, however, the game is changed.

Indeed, the battle will soon no longer be about the fate of Alexander's empire. The very nature of humanity is at risk, and unless Adea and Jack can find a solution, everything everyone has ever known will vanish.

The following is the first chapter, so you can get an idea what type of book it is. Keep in mind this is an early draft.

 

Chapter I 

Roughly twenty-three-hundred years from now, bagels would exist. Demophon didn’t want to wait that long. He wanted one now. That was his primary longing from his recent sojourn. Everything else, including the iron horses, dogs that didn’t bite strangers, and the intense hurry of everyday life he could do without. He’d had a bagel that morning, if there even was such a thing. He knew then it was the last he would ever taste. 

Demophon breathed in the chilly but fresh air of his native Macedonia. It had been too long. As the Vardaris wind blew his long hair, he opened his arms wide and screamed a welcome across the hills. He sighed upon remembering that somewhere, thousands of miles away, Alexander the Great was probably charging through a column in India or Persia. In Delphi, the Oracle still spoke, while in Athens the Lyceum still operated under Aristotle. This was home. This was where he was supposed to be. 

A towering man of six feet, with a grizzly brown beard that earned him the epithet “lumberjack” in that land, Demophon had an overpowering physique and demeanor that was used to being heard. Here he was back somewhere he could still push others around. This was the country he knew, where a sword dictated how much he would be charged and where a waitress would provide extra services upstairs for a few extra drachms. 

Below him, winding its way through the gorge, were the black waters of the Axios. The last time he was here, he’d been in a Macedonian phalanx on its way up to Paeonia. They’d won that war and enlarged their country, though their deeds were but a peep amongst the exploits of Alexander now. A fortress now guarded them against further incursions from the north. Its tremendous walls and slits for archers were an emblem of what everyone knew: time changes things. Today’s subjugated territory could become tomorrow’s rebellion. The rules here were simple. The difference between a friend and an enemy was whether you held your sword up high, ready to strike, or at your side, ready to unsheathe at any moment. 

In the midst of this guardian castle smoke rose. It had to be her. Appearing here, far from the lake shore and bustle of the capital city of Pella, was no mistake. Demophon felt the dry leather against his feet of the boots he hadn’t worn in a year. They felt so rough and torn compared to that other world. With time, they’d mold under use. Everything would go back as it should. Soon he would be back in the familiar phalanx. That was where he belonged, and not learning obscure languages in strange wooden houses, or watching endless weaklings in that tiresome search for the perfect one. 

As he followed a pathway down to the riverbank, Demophon remarked that this place was too quiet. Macedon was known for its mountain pastures, full of shepherds, sheep, and horses. There wasn’t even a hint of a whinny or bleat within earshot. Other than the archers who now eyed him from the castle walls, there wasn’t another soul in sight. That concerned him more than a little. Clearly, no one was welcome here. What had she been up to while he was gone? 

Demophon wasn’t sure whether he worked for a transcendent visionary or the craziest bitch of all time. He’d thought about it, but it didn’t matter. She’d once strangled a baby in her mother’s arms, then incinerated both on an oven. Those were two princesses of Macedonia. His death would be far less civil were he to cross her. He glanced at the steep hills around him that hid this place. He was in her kingdom, where she concocted whatever crazy plan she had next. 

Back in what seemed like eons ago, he hadn’t believed the story she wove. Certainly, such things weren’t possible. Only they were, and so much more. His was but one small piece of her design. He shuddered at what she meant with all this. 

He was close enough now to see that two archers had drawn their bows. In the center of the structure, from a slightly raised turret, the gleam of a black machine manned by two peltasts caught his gaze. Was that a polybolos? Alexander’s father Philip had brought one on the campaign in Paeonia and whistled as waves of those unsuspecting northerners had been torn to shreds under its volleys of arrows. Visitors were most definitely not desired here. 

Demophos was still a stade away from the gate when a voice from up top ordered him to halt, then two horsemen stormed from the castle. He stopped, then held up his hands. He’d lost his sword during that monotonous mission, though he still wore the scabbard. He nearly cried upon recognizing their iron-colored kausias adorning their heads. Warm in winter but wide enough to shield against the sun, they were as inviting as the bearers were fierce. One carried a javelin and the other a bow. They stopped thirty feet away, aimed, then barked his name. 

“I am at her service,” proclaimed Demophos. It felt wonderful to speak Greek again. 

The horseman with the javelin burst forward and circled him. Demophon remained still. Other than a dagger in his chlamys, which he’d nearly forgotten how to wrap around himself, he was unarmed. 

“She said you’d be able to prove where you were,” said the horseman, who was now behind him. He spoke in Demophon’s own accent in Greek. He could have kissed him. 

Demophos wondered whether either man knew where that truly was. He hadn’t been aware of this requirement, but she knew him too well. It had been irresistible to bring something back. Slowly, he reached into a pocket and pulled out a small metal object. It’s silvery body, which fit easily into his palm, reflected brightly the gleaming sun. The other horseman aimed his bow. 

With a smile, Demophos flipped open the top, then flicked his finger over its back. He prayed silently while doing this, for it didn’t always work. He felt the horse’s breath over his back and knew the accompanying javelin was raised. 

From atop of the capsule rose a small flame, not even an inch high. The bowman’s eyes bulged, and he lowered his aim. The other horseman moved to his side and admired the device until the flame disappeared. With another flick, it returned. Their eyes didn’t leave the object as he moved it back to his pocket, then they remained staring at the spot until, breaking out of the trance, they formed at either side to accompany him in. 

The inside of the fortress was unspectacular. After the gateway, a small courtyard housed several more peltasts who all gaped at him. A tall man with a beard indicated a door and Demophon bowed his head in understanding. He was to enter alone. She had no need to fear him, or any other man alive. He opened the door. 

Torches lit a dreary stone passageway, at the end of which was a sunlit room. Demophon trudged forward and heard only the squishing of his still-rough boots. He grasped hold of the barren wall in places to prevent himself from slipping on the stones. A year ago he was used to floors like these. This morning, he’d waltzed barefoot over a shag area rug. 

Near the end of the corridor, he saw her at last. Her head and body were covered in a gleaming purple himation, embroidered with scenes of Achilles from Homer. Until Alexander had headed East, purple was unheard of in Macedonia. Now perhaps the most exquisite fabric in Persia draped the mother of Alexander the Great. Her soft, though gently aging face and tawny blond hair that reached in slight curls belied the fiercest woman in Macedonia. Her gaze pierced Demophon’s soul, causing him to nearly trip over a paver. 

A small sofa lay a few feet from her desk. He quickly sat, then leaned forward, erect, and waiting for her command. From underneath the couch slithered a snake. Above, a cloud released the sun and the entire room momentarily lightened to reveal a dozen more across the floor. Demophon’s stance tightened. These were adders. A few bites were all that stood between him and a meeting with Hades. 

“Asklepios learned the secrets of healing from a snake,” said his superior. “They are symbols of life and healing and won’t harm you, so long as you wish no ill on them.” 

Demophon nodded, but otherwise remained still. 

“Is your task completed?” she said as a snake moved over his right boot. He was glad he left the sneakers. 

“Yes, your grace.” 

She gave half a frown and leaned forward until her gleaming blue eyes met the light. 

“Do tell,” she said. 

Demophon sighed. “It was a very strange place. Very strange. They’ve constructed huge mechanical horses that take them places and gigantic metal birds. In one day, they can travel from Hellas to places I think even our great Alexander doesn’t know. But the majority remain barbarians. Hardly any know Greek, nor can they recite Homer. Of Achilles, they know how he died, but not the great deeds he did. They’re uncivilized, but they’ve tamed science.” 

Olympias shook her head and Demophon paused. 

“I meant your task. I sent you to choose someone. Tell me who.” 

He cleared his throat. “My apologies, your...,” but her darting eyes indicated he should get on with it. “Once I learned their language, I searched for some time until I found him. He lives alone now. Maybe twenty years old. His parents were killed by a bear.” 

Olympias laughed. “I like him already.” 

“He hasn’t accomplished much,” continued Demophon. “It could be a motivation thing, but he makes money selling pieces of papyrus with heroes on them, from their version of our Olympic and Pythian games.” 

Her head moved backward. “Pieces of paper?” 

“Yeah. People pay money for them. Some can fetch a talent.” 

She shrugged. “I guess that doesn’t really matter. Why do you believe he’s the one?” 

“He’s the type. I followed him for some time. Paid attention to his habits. He can’t pass a beggar without giving him a drachm. He owns an electric carriage called a Civic. During the day, he wanders the streets, maybe in search of women. But when he sees one he likes, he makes no propositions. He just puts his head down and moves on. He’s a dreamer without a dream. When the time comes, he’ll play.” 

Olympias leaned back in her seat while never removing her eyes from him. Her intense stare seemed to search him, while he lowered his eyes. She must be over fifty now, and though she was well preserved, the wrinkles across her neck and hands revealed someone who had lived through much. At last, she spoke. 

“My son has returned from India. Half the world now bows to him.” 

“Returned?” gasped Demophon. “Here? To Pella?” 

Olympias covered her eyes from the stupidity. “No. To Babylon. He has returned to Babylon, the new capital of the world.” 

After a pause, Demophon responded. “My congratulations. All of Macedonia is proud of him, but his mother above all deserves praise for the upbringing of the greatest man in history.” 

“History...Yes,” she said. “Alexander’s achievements haven’t just been for Macedonia. They’re gifts for all of humanity. Regions before uncivilized and illiterate will now know letters. Their culture will flourish under our direction. History...Yes, history has been changed, this time for the better.” 

With that, tears formed, and they weren’t of joy. Demophon remained transfixed as the most powerful woman in the world began to cry. When he looked toward the floor, still writhing in serpents, she regained herself, then brushed her face with a light cloth. 

“The problem is,” she said in the softest of whispers, “I know what happens.”  

For the last year, Demophon had been focused on one task. He was to search for one individual with the vaguest of criteria. Everything depended on how this person would react to events, about which he had no clue. So engrossed had he been in this task, that he’d paid attention to nothing else. 

“I don’t understand,” he said at last. 

“Nor should you,” she immediately replied. “But everything has been happening as foretold. I must admit I didn’t believe it at first, but...I believe it now.” 

Demophon shook his head, unsure how he should answer. 

“There are powerful forces at play,” she continued. “Forces far above us. Those fools out there – my husband Philip, who dines with Hades. That old man Antipater down in Pella. Antigonos. Even my son. They’ve all overlooked far too much. This is no simple game of kingdoms. Not anymore.” 

She brushed off a blank stare from Demophon and leaned toward him. “Only I am prepared to do what’s necessary.” 

Olympias was staring at him again and Demophon knew she needed some form of answer. He hesitated, aware that between the snakes and the guards outside, she possessed many creative ways of ridding herself of him. 

“You...intend...to take over the empire?” he said with an uncertain half-smile. 

She laughed out loud and he breathed again. He’d survive at least a few more minutes. 

“Demophon, neither of us will outlive the empire by much,” she replied with an ease that made him nervous. 

He half-nodded, hopeful that Alexander’s age of thirty-two meant that the empire had a healthy life before it. 

“That will be all,” she said briskly. “I thank you for your service. It seems you have done precisely what I asked. My purse-bearer in the courtyard will ensure you’re adequately rewarded. I’m sure you’ll find the sum more than satisfactory.” 

Demophon stood and turned toward the passageway that led to the door. 

“Two more things,” she said while not looking at him. “Your presence in that place requires an ablution.” She pointed to a silver bowl that rested on a pedestal in the corner of the room. “Wash your face there, and pray to Zeus that our plan does not fail.” 

Although he had no clue what that plan was, he did as she was asked. The water smelled musky and moved through his hands with an uneven viscosity. As he poured it across his face, the putrid odor clogged his nose and some of the water unusually lingered. In the last year he’d forgotten the muddy brown liquid that passed for water here. 

He looked at Olympias and he nodded her approval. 

“The second is just a question. What would you like to do, with whatever time you have remaining?” 

Demophon studied her, in the hope of gleaning how long that may be. Yet her features were impenetrable. Her hands remained still and her gaze seemed uncaring. 

“Well...” he said as he recalled his thoughts from the last two days, as precisely this subject had been near the top of his mind. “I know this may sound a bit silly, but I was thinking to head to Persia.” 

“To Persia?” she said in surprise. 

“Yes. Well, I was thinking about Alexander’s goal of bridging East and West, so I wouldn’t mind going East. Maybe I could take advantage of one of those Persian wives he’s been giving out. I’d have my farm and she’d manage the house and the kids. It’s not Macedonia, but it would be a nice arrangement.” 

Olympias was no longer looking at him, but was instead focused on a parchment she had pulled out. Demophon turned and headed down the hallway. When he reached a small vestibule where another passage joined, she spoke. 

“That’s a noble pursuit,” she said. “Sadly, it will never happen.” 

Demophon turned suddenly to a tremendous creature, a foot taller with twice his girth and fur-like white feathers across its body. Its shape and snout resembled a lizard of an unfathomable size. The creature lunged. He instinctively reached for the empty scabbard that held his sword, but it didn’t matter. The last image in his life was of the animal’s wide-open mouth, full of razors for teeth. 

 

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