|Roman coins used in England,|
courtesy of the Museum of London.
What if you could live forever? Would you want everyone else to know that you were immortal? And how would it be to watch society change, and everyone you know die, as the years pass into centuries?
These questions swirl around Olivia Clemens, a noblewoman in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's novel A Flame in Byzantium. When she was young, her Emperor Nero was both beloved and feared. Like those before and after him, he built Rome into an architectural marvel, a city that spread its civilizing influence throughout the territories it had conquered. People of different lands embraced a shared currency, read the same literature, and exchanged goods and ideas through trade. Her relationship with the vampire St. Germaine greatly extended her life, and throughout the centuries, she has clung to the culture, traditions, and standards she values. But now she finds the Roman Empire crumbling around her, and she must flee her beloved homeland or risk slavery or death to the relentless Ostrogoth invaders. For she may be a vampire, but she can still die.
Thankfully, Olivia has somewhere to escape to: Constantinople, that other center of Christianity and culture, in a world where barbarians seem intent on destroying everything of value. Better yet, she has someone to orchestrate her safe passage there: Belisarius, one of Byzantine Emperor Justinian's most valued generals. As an unexpected bonus, she meets Drosos, one of Belisarius' men, who seems kind and attentive to her. Amid so much change, she finds herself inordinately attracted to this young army officer. So as she frees her slaves, packs up her possessions, and sets sail for her new home, she looks forward to enjoying the comforts of another fine city and the new friendships she will forge. It will serve as a refuge until Belisarius and his army can drive away the Ostrogoths, and secure Rome for the Byzantine Empire.
It's just as well that she's learned to save her money, and invest it wisely. But then, it makes sense to prepare for every contingency. Especially if you're a vampire.