Hi. I’m known by my friends as Silé, but my full name is Silvanus, after the god of the woods. In 571 A.D., when this story starts, I was just 14 years old. I grew up on the south-west coast of Elba in a tiny village, dominated by Mount Aquila with its eagle-shaped outcrop.

You’d think I had a happy, rather carefree life. I enjoyed the freedom of the hills together with my little sister, Eli, and my friends, Rufus, Pontus and Lucilla. I also spent hours alone, observing snakes, or – from my secret lair high up on a cliff – watching a family of eagles. From there I would sometimes see a trade ship sailing past and that made me yearn to discover the big, wide world when I grew up.

But there was another side to my life.  My father had a bad accident that spring and his leg never got better. Since then he has become very bitter and, for some reason, especially harsh with me. And his sister, Aunt Ceres, also can’t stand me. She is our teacher and a priestess of Jupiter. Her strange rituals in the temple give me the creeps. She once gave me this eagle pendant, which I’m supposed to wear all the time, to protect me from evil spirits and the anger of Jupiter – or Aquila – who, she says, is always watching my every move.

When I was ten, my father took me with him for the first time to Fabricia to sell our fruit and oil and other goods, so that we could buy some things like shoes that we can’t find here. We’ve gone every year since then and, I must say, each time it’s a tough couple of weeks’ trip. But, as long as I could go with my father, I rather enjoyed the adventure.

Now things are different…


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