A Second Chance
The Chronicles of St. Mary's series
History happens all around you. And, occasionally, to you.
‘I could have been a bomb-disposal expert, or a volunteer for the Mars mission, or a firefighter, something safe and sensible. But, no, I had to be an historian.’
It began well. A successful assignment to 17th century Cambridge to meet Isaac Newton, and another to witness the historic events at The Gates of Grief. So far so good.
But then came the long-awaited jump to the Trojan War that changed everything. And for Max, nothing will ever be the same again.
With the bloody Battle of Agincourt playing out around her, Max risks everything on one last desperate gamble to save a life – and learns the true meaning of a second chance.
That’s what it says in every record from Homer onwards. Just two words. Short and impersonal. Troy fell. Words which completely fail to convey, even slightly, the carnage, the brutality, the suffering, the horror, everything that must inevitably accompany the end of a ten-year war and the fall of a great civilisation.
Because I was there, on the blood-soaked sand, amongst the Trojan women lined up on the beach for export, all empty-eyed with shock and grief.
I was there.
I saw infants torn from mothers already grieving for dead husbands, sons, and brothers. Some were tossed carelessly aside as useless. Some were spitted there and then. Some were flung into the surf where they bobbed, wailing, for a few seconds. Now and then, a woman would find the strength to fight back and a frantic struggle would break out. All along the beach, men strode, cursing, shoving, and punching. Urgent to restore order, divide the spoils, and get away.
I crouched on the sand, head down, watching from under my brows. I saw Andromache led past, silent in her grief, to be handed to Neoptolemus and begin her days serving the people who had hurled her tiny son from the city walls.
Somewhere, my people were safe – I hoped. I was the only one outside. I was the only one stupid enough to be caught. Any minute now, rough hands would drag me forward, pull down my tunic, assess what they saw, and allocate me to some grinning Greek. I would be loaded on to a ship with the others. If I was lucky. If I wasn’t good slave material – and believe me, I wasn’t – I’d be pushed onto the ground and raped repeatedly and violently until I bled to death in the sand. I was under no illusions. It was happening all around me.
This is where a passion for History gets you. Right in the front line. Up close and personal, while History happens all around you. And, occasionally, to you. I could have been a bomb-disposal expert, or a volunteer for the Mars mission, or a firefighter, something safe and sensible. But, no, I had to be an historian. I had to join the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. Over the years I’d been chased by a T-rex, had the Great Library fall on me, grappled with Jack the Ripper, and been blown up by an exploding manure heap[BC1] . All about par for the course.
More women were fighting now, clawing and shrieking. They were cut down without a second thought. There were so many of us that the Greeks could afford to be wasteful. The city had been emptied. Every Greek would go home laden with the spoils of war – weapons, temple goods, gold … and slaves.
Long lines shuffled towards the boats. I don’t know why they were in such a hurry. It would take them days to clear the city. Maybe they feared the aftershocks.
Footsteps approached. I crouched lower and pulled my stole around my head. The two women in front of me were yanked away. I saw dirty feet in scabby leather sandals. Someone grabbed my hair and hauled me roughly to my feet.
The city burned behind us. Black smoke billowed towards the heavens, sending out an unmistakeable message to gods and men.
Troy had fallen.
When was that?
At the end of JODTAA. Prof R & Dr D blew them all up with a home-made flame thrower.