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Roman Britain

Druid’s Portal is set around Hadrian’s Wall, in the second century AD. The fighting after the invasion (44BC) was so fierce, that the Emperor Hadrian decided to build a wall to contain the northern tribes. This wall still stands today, running across the highlands of Northumberland. Many of the forts such as Vindolanda are being actively excavated, and any new finds are incorporated into the story.

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Hadrian’s wall

Roman soldiers started building Hadrian’s Wall in 122AD, and it was completed in six years. It runs for 80 Roman miles or 117.5 km (73.0 mi) across a variety of terrain, and uses stone and turf in it’s construction. Mile castles are spaced along its length, with larger forts at Vindolanda, Broccolita and Pons Aelius. It also varies in dimensions, reaching a top of 3 m (10 ft) wide and 5 to 6 m (16 to 20 ft) high. The purpose of the Wall is not as clear as you would think. There was intense fighting with local Brigantes tribes in 120AD, which was prompted the Emperor Hadrian to visit. Policing the Wall as an impenetrable barrier particularly as it cut through tribal boundaries – would have been a difficult task. Using the Wall as a way to control and monitor trade and people travelling is one of the more likely explanations. What is certain is that the Wall changed the face of the area forever, and was a permanent reminder of the might of Rome. The forts could have up to 1500 soldiers each, all needing food, clothing, accommodation, weapons and when they retired – often a wife. After 25 years of service, a soldier became a citizen and could retire, and many settled locally on a farm or in business. By the time of the Wall, local Britons could also enlist, learning a trade and Becoming part of the empire.

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Living near Hadrian’s wall

The Wall was not just a wall in isolation in the landscape. The area was a focal point for travel and trade into the northern highlands, as well as the port of Newcastle. Along the Wall, at the forts rose up small villages that acted as the economic support for the forts. Many of the people that worked in the fort would not have been soldiers, but were slaves, or family that worked in the fort. There are a few sacred areas along the Wall as well. The Romans tended to absorb local religious beliefs and deities, and so any sacred Celtic place may well end up with a new name and become popular with Romans. The well of Coventina was one. Springs are often a sacred place, and various objects such as ceramics, weapons, jewellery and coins were thrown in, perhaps as offerings to the goddess. She is often depicted as a mermaid type figure. Nearby, and later on, a Roman temple to the soldier’s god Mithras was also constructed at Carrawburgh, near Brocolitia.

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Food in roman Britain Working out what people ate some 2,000 years ago is a jigsaw puzzle of scientific analysis, reading works by ancient writers, and patient archaeological excavation. The impact of the Roman invasion and settlement of Britain was enormous. Food, language, agriculture, housing – an entire way of life would be affected. Along Hadrian’s Wall was a heavy concentration of soldiers, in forts and the smaller market towns that sprang up to take advantage of trade. At the Vindolanda fort, environmental conditions preserved wooden letters, and many of these involve grocery lists for slaves to purchase, or complaints home from soldiers. “... bruised beans, two modii, twenty chickens, a hundred apples, if you can find nice ones, a hundred or two hundred eggs, if they are for sale there at a fair price. ... 8 sextarii of fish-sauce ... a modius of olives ... To ... slave of Verecundus.” Tablet 302 from Vindolanda. (from http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/ ) The menu for Britain changed considerably, with the bulk importation of wine, olive oil, garum, dates, nuts and spices. Other imports established, including walnuts, plums, mulberries and herbs such as sage and fennel. Roman soldiers carried their own food and cooking equipment. Their menu was a calorie dense mix of bread, bacon, porridge, and bean and lentil and vegetable stews.

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A recipe from rome Just because they travelled to a different land didn’t mean their tastes changed. But it wasn’t just the Romans who wanted to eat like they used to at home. The Britons also wanted to eat like a Roman. Adopting the ways of the invaders was a way of showing status, wealth and one’s position in the developing society. The cookbook of Apicius is the first known cookbook, written around the first century AD, and ascribed to a chef or slave of Apicius, a renowned gourmet. Libum - Serves 2 (A type of cheesecake) 10 oz ricotta cheese. 1 egg. 2½ oz plain flour. Runny honey. Beat the cheese with the egg and add the sieved flour very slowly and gently. Flour your hands and pat mixture into a ball and place it on a bay leaf on a baking tray. Place in moderate oven (180C/400ºF) until set and slightly risen. Place cake on serving plate and score the top with a cross. Pour plenty of warmed runny honey over the cross and serve immediately. This is similar to a Greek cheesecake, which uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta. (Source: Sally Grainger The Classical Cookbook, published by British Museum Press.)

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The first journey: Book trailer

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The First Journey A portal closed for 2,000 years. An ancient religion twisted by modern greed. A love that crosses the centuries.

An ancient druid pendant shows archaeologist Janet visions of Roman soldier Trajan. The visions are of danger, death, and love – but are they a promise or a curse? Her fiancé Daman hurts and abandons her before the wedding, her beloved museum is ransacked, and a robed man vanishes before her eyes. Haunted by visions of a time she knows long gone, Janet teeters on the edge of a breakdown. In the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall and 2,000 years back in time, Janet’s past and present collide. Daman has vowed to drive the invaders from the shores of Britain, and march his barbarian hordes to Rome. Trajan swears vengeance against the man who threatens both his loves - Janet and the Empire. Time is running out - for everyone. If you missed reading, you can read a preview here.

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Interview with trajan Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there? I lived on the family farm, in the foothills above Rome. Our family have farmed there since before the time of Caesar. Olive trees larger than any I have since seen, and fruits and grains that were in demand at the table of Apicius. So my Grandmother told me. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories? Toys? I was my Fathers only son, and expected to follow in his footsteps. My toys were weapons, a wooden sword I splintered with usage, a shield I scrawled the wolf of Rome on, and pretended to be a soldier repelling Hannibal. And yet I well remember those long days of Summer when I ran hunting wild goats with the sons of slaves, the smell of crushed herbs underfoot. The heat of the sun is a welcome memory, for the sun in Britannia is never so warm as that of Rome. What do you do now? Aye, that is a tale long in the telling. For once I was a soldier of Rome, fighting the blue painted barbarians in this chill island of Britannia. The excesses of the emperor Commodus sickened me, and with my family gone, I left Rome. I served the Empire in the forts along Hadrian’s Wall, training men to fight, and bringing Roman civilization to a land of barbarians. I expected little else, and my life was filled with the sounds of fighting, and drinking to forget the faces of the men that I met in battle. Yet that all changed, for on the verge of being killed by the Celts, I was rescued by a flame haired Goddess. Yes, after Janet appeared in my life, nothing was ever the same. I soon realized that protecting her was worth more to me than even my duty to Rome. She had enemies that wished her dead, and a bold spirit that leaps into adventure. I had my hands full – in many ways- keeping her safe. Roman Britain and the borderlands of Hadrian’s Wall was not a safe time or place for anyone.

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Interview with trajan What can you tell us about your latest adventure? Many may doubt the truth of the tale told in Druid’s Portal. I would think it a story told by someone addled by druid herbs if I had not lived it myself. Janet is – and I doubted it at first – a person from the far distant future, a time when Rome is but a tale told in schools, and Latin is a language of the long dead. It is a tale not yet finished, for the machinations of the Gods continue to tangle time itself. Ancient Goddesses use mortals for their own goals, and Janet and I had to fight to stop Roman Britain becoming a bloodbath. I fear the consequences will continue to affect my family. What did you first think when Janet arrived from the future? I had very little time for thinking – we were running from a band of Celtic barbarians who had prepared me for sacrifice. My injuries would have been enough to kill me, if Janet had not been there at my side. But travelling in time? I thought she was mad, nay even lack witted, an opinion I should have kept to myself. What was the scariest thing in your adventures? For many years after the death of my family I sought death on the fields of battle – facing foes across the empire. Yet nothing scared me more than when I feared Janet would die at the hands of a madman. A man finds out what he is during times of danger, when his own death is not the thing he fears most. What is the worst thing about Roman Britain? Jupiter’s beard, it is a cold place. Doing wall patrol in the winter, peering through the snow at night and listening for the sounds of Celts trying to sneak up on you and your friends. The supply of garum is also delayed – it is a long trip from Rome by boat, and you need a lot of garum to bring savor to the bland food.

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Interview with trajan What was the scariest thing in your adventures? For many years after the death of my family I sought death on the fields of battle – facing foes across the empire. Yet nothing scared me more than when I feared Janet would die at the hands of a madman. A man finds out what he is during times of danger, when his own death is not the thing he fears most. What is the worst thing about Roman Britain? Jupiter’s beard, it is a cold place. Doing wall patrol in the winter, peering through the snow at night and listening for the sounds of Celts trying to sneak up on you and your friends. The supply of garum is also delayed – it is a long trip from Rome by boat, and you need a lot of garum to bring savor to the bland food. What is the best thing about it? I trained boys into men, teaching them to fight, and making them into the soldiers needed by the Empire. But not all men are fighters – some are best suited as scribes or engineers – the Roman army needs all types. To bring a boy into the army, and give him a career that leads to citizenship – that was something I was proud to do. Tell us a little about your friends. I live and work alongside many natives of Britannia, and best amongst these are Branwen and her sons – Brack and Quintus. Good lads, and both joined the army. I heard they had another brother, Phelan, the third of one birthing. Yet despite their appearance – for they are as peas in a pod – they are all different. Brack is a fighter, a leader of men, while Quintus is a learned scribe. Phelan entered service as a druid, one of the group that Rome has vowed to destroy for their power and influence. Any romantic involvement? After the death of my family, I never sought another woman. But, it seemed destiny had other plans for me – and who can refuse when a Goddess appears in your life?

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Interview with trajan Whom (or what) do you really hate? Men who hurt women are not worthy of life – and Daman is one. I grant that he has been affected by evil, yet I would be failing in my duty to Rome if I did not seek to destroy him. When I first saw my beloved Janet flinch when he raised a hand to her, I vowed I would take his head from his shoulders. What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime? Branwen has a local bath house, and it is a favourite with the men of the fort – to wash, get a massage from some of her lovely girls, and find out the latest gossip. From there I can visit a tavern and get a plate of snails in garlic, garum and wine. That makes me think of home, and I can stretch out near the fireplace with a cup of wine, and swap stories with men from many different parts of the Empire. Favourite colour? It is not a subject that arises often in a soldiers mind. I will say now, that the sweep of flame coloured hair is enough to set my heart racing. What does the future hold for you? The future? I had thought it planned out, yet it twisted in ways I could never have imagined. I hear tell there is a new book out soon on our family – for the tale that started with Janet and I is not yet finished. I will say that I have had to be very adaptable in my life – and learn things that still seem to me to be magic. Yet there Is still opportunity to train with weapons, and pass on dirty tricks from ancient times. Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else? It was no mere chance that I ended up involved in the magic of the Druid’s Portal. A family secret I wished to remain untold has been the cause, and now we are all enmeshed in the tangle of the desires and ambitions of ancient Goddesses. Our family will not have peace until the curse is lifted, and the desires of Goddesses are sated. This was an interview with Assaph Mehr, the talented author of mysteries set in a magical Rome. Check out his books at https://egretia.com/

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Branwen meets mark twain Samuel Clemens visits Roman Britain. “I did have such an odd Summer visitor,” remarked Branwen, as she rolled out pastry. She picked up a small container of dried lovage and sprinkled a small pinch on the plums in the pie dish, then drizzled honey over them. “What happened, mother?” Quintus sneaked a plum meant for the pie, and sat back with a mug of watered wine. Gossip from the bath house at Pons Aelius was always worth a listen. He wasn’t due for guard duty on Hadrian’s Wall for a little while yet, so he relaxed, savouring the plum and his wine. “Well, I was at the market, and took a shortcut up the alley, chatting to all the working girls. Then a dark tunnel opened in the sky, and right at my feet this man fell out. Dressed very strangely, and with an abundance of white hair. He seemed a bit lost, so I took him back to the bath house, and dressed him in some spare trousers and shirt, he didn’t want a toga.” “Who was he?” Quintus raised an eyebrow. “A druid maybe? That sounds like druid magic to me.” “Nay son. a scholar, he said, so a bit like Janet with her teaching ways. But curious! I’ve never seen a man poke his nose into so many things – and the questions!” Branwen put the pie in the oven part of the stone cooking area and poked the coals. “And eat, by Jupiter that man could eat – bigger appetite for the unusual than Trajan, and he can eat snails faster than any man I’ve met.”

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Branwen meets mark twain Quintus nodded, looking a bit green. “Snails, the Romans are fond of some vile things. That fishy garum sauce they put on everything.” “The Romans brought many good things too – dates, wine, oil, herbs and spices. Not to mention an army with money.” She glanced at her son, admiring how he looked in his Roman uniform. It had been a good choice, he and his brother joining the Roman legions. “Yes, I had better be getting back to the fort. Where is your man now?” he frowned. “You’re not getting ideas?” Branwen blushed. “Now son, I am an old woman of forty, and he tells me Mrs Clemens is a fine woman. I’ve seen him pat a few of the bath girls on the behind, but nothing more.” She shook the flour off her hands and wiped the wooden table. “No, after a month he returned, to wherever that was. He did leave some drawings behind, I’ll get them.” She returned with a scroll, and they cleared the table and unrolled it. The scroll was covered with drawings of ships with wheels on the side, quite a few sketches of cats, and a detailed drawing of a raft, with two boys and a dark skinned man on it, poling down a wide river. Quintus shook his head. “I guess we will never know the meaning of these, or who he really was.” “A dreamer, son.” Branwen smiled and rolled up the scroll, placing it carefully away in a cupboard. “And a fine man.” This was a short bit of fun made up for the blog Teatime Tattler, which hosts historical fiction authors at https://bluestockingbelles.net/category/teatime-tattler/

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The second Journey A love that can never be. Ethan - latest guardian of the Arwen pendant – finds his heritage of time travel a burden he can scarcely endure. Rowena - last of the line of Daman - is a soldier in the Celtic army, forced to perform deeds that haunt her. Both tormented by visions of the other, separated by barriers of time. A time that should not exist. Rowena flees the catastrophic end of her time, but is trapped by an ancient family pact with an evil goddess. Desperate to save her, Ethan crosses over into her timeline, where his parents never met, and Daman - their greatest enemy - rules. The past is ruled by a man who knows the future. Thirty days to stop a goddess taking over her body. Thirty days to save his timeline. Together they will fight their way through an altered history to the dark past of Stonehenge. But time is running out - for everyone.

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The second Journey: book trailer

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stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the most iconic stone circles in the world, so what better place to visit when in the past? There is evidence of the area being a sacred site as early as 10,000BC. It has a chequered history, with many phases of redesign and building, starting around 3,000BC and continuing for 70 generations, with the last building phase around 2,200BC. It’s purpose? Bearing in mind the dates above, there may have been a number of reasons since many generations separated building phases. There are also extensive earth works in the region, some of which probably also relate to Stonehenge. Interpretation can vary, given that excavations and research continue. A seasonal calendar and ritual remain the most likely explanations.

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druids

The popularity of British / Celtic druids in literature and the media bears little relation to any actual facts known about them. As history is written by the victorious, much of the knowledge of druids come from a few lines in Caesar's Commentaries – and he was not a big fan, implicating them in human sacrifice. The real story is that Druids were a powerful group in ancient Britain, involved in the political, judicial and spiritual matters of the people. As such, it is obvious the Romans saw them as a target group to be destroyed, as they did on Mona, in the Druids of Anglesey massacre. The sacred values of oak – tree, root and branch and the symbolism of three is something that developed over time, and comes out in Irish and Welsh literature some centuries later. However, many of these old myths and tales were recorded from a centuries long oral tradition, and may in some respects, reflect the practices of the Druids at the time of the invasion. The scared three spiral – the triskelion – is used in art since Neolithic times, and was the inspiration for Rowena’s facial tattoo.

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A scene from druid’s portal: the second journey Ethan could not find the words to speak. Silver and translucent, she was beautiful, beyond any human ideas of beauty. “I am Arwen, Goddess of the time portals. Your mother before you travelled in time, guarding the past from Daman’s ambitions. You are the current Guardian of my pendant. At your conception, you were chosen to guard and protect your world from the threat of Bridgette and her dark creatures.” Loathing flashed and distorted her beauty. “You follow in the footsteps of my Druids, they who have passed from the Earth.” “Guardian?” Ethan managed to stammer. “Yes, you have a destiny that none can yet foretell, not even I can know your future. It is for you to choose when -or if - the time comes. The pendant lay hidden for two thousand years, it may not be needed again in your lifetime. For the moment, learn all your parents can teach you. Use your gift wisely. I will come again, if the need arises.” “And the woman?” Ethan asked. “Forget her, my chosen, she is of a cursed ancestry.”

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A scene from druid’s portal: the second journey The grey mist swirled, and the silver face of Arwen vanished, leaving him in a featureless void. It was as if everything had ceased to exist. There was no time, space, or even himself. Ethan tried to turn around, but he had no body to move, he was part of the mist, a single leaf swirling in a river of memories, dark secrets of the past tangled with threads of gold and silver. From an impossibly long distance echoed the faint rhythmic marching of legions, the cries of men dying in battle, and horns blasting in triumph. He tried to take a deep calming breath, but could not inhale, no lungs answered his command. Smoke billowed around him, thick and choking, wisps of flame and ash tainted his vision. The seductive, golden voice of Bridgette whispered, “I know the shadows that lie in the hearts of men…”

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A scene from druid’s portal: the second journey The darkness sent tendrils into his mind, taunting him with the names of his fears. You will forever be alone… never find a love as deep and true as the one your parents share… you are not the man your father is… you are Guardian of a portal that may never open… your life is not your own… Panic seized him, shredding his self-control into rags. He was trapped out of time… would never see his family again… in a coma… dead… Then a sound… soft laughter… and he gazed at the woman with hair the colour of moonlight and eyes as dark as the night. Coloured mist wrapped around her, tight woven as destiny. Dark threads of death and red banners of danger - all centred around and surrounding the woman. His love. She filled a hole in his heart he had always known was there, but had never known the shape of it was her. The sense of completeness hit him like a blow. “I will find you... ” he shouted as she faded. “I will protect you, always… ” But she was gone, leaving nothing but a ghostly fragrance of flowers, and he was alone once more.

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Author note I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of Druid’s Portal. At the moment, I am researching and writing the Third Journey, which will end up being a three volume set. There was just too much action, adventure and romance to fit in one book! Please feel free to catch up with me on social media, or read some more short stories on my website. Or sign up for my newsletter. Newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/AdventureNews Website: http://www.cindytomamichel.com/ Amazon : https://amazon.com/author/cindytomamichel Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CindyTomamichelAuthor/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/CindyTomamichel Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16194822.Cindy_Toma michel Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cindytomamichel/ Youtube: https://tinyurl.com/EscapeTheEveryday

I wish you many happy hours of reading,

Cindy Tomamichel

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