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John, the Lord Chamberlain

series of historical mystery novels by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

John, the Lord Chamberlain (named for its titular main character) is a series of 10 novels written by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, set during the reign of Justinian and Theodora in Byzantium.

One for SorrowEdit

  • Since our enemies don’t have chains, our best defense is to learn which way they are going to jump.
    • Ch 2
  • The more plausible the rogue, the tighter you need to hold on to the silver.
    • ibid
  • [I]s it enough for a man to control his actions, or are you pleased only with those who can control their thoughts as well?
    • Ch 4
  • Every day some of those who lived in [the] city fell prey to its predators. Anonymous murderers were about as likely to be brought to justice as a deadly plague or fire.
    • ibid
  • A man makes his own fortunes.
    • Ch 7
  • It takes back-breaking labor to build a church, but at the end it is filled with song.
    • Ch 8
  • Sometimes knowing your past is to know your future.
    • ibid
  • You’ll be disappointed when you see how bare that bone is. Well, life is full of disappointments.
    • ibid
  • The gold is worth nothing, the craftsman is the treasure.
    • Ch 11
  • Remember that while your body is not your own, your mind and soul remain your possessions. Control your anger, and in due course I shall not be ashamed to say I gave you your opportunity to become something more than one of my assistants.
    • ibid
  • "Only the gods know our futures.”
    “That may be...On the other hand the gods may communicate with us in whatever way they choose. Even through garrulous old wanderers.”
    • Ch 12
  • What does love have to do with principles?
    • Ch 14
  • A man is more perishable than a silver chalice or a pair of golden earrings.
    • Ch 22
  • Oh, but you are wrong, my dear. The future is all around us. It’s in the shape of the clouds we see through that door. In the wine stains on this table. In the sound of the wind in the fig tree by the fountain. The future can be foretold by anyone who has the knowledge to interpret the signs and the wit to use their eyes and ears.
    • Ch 27
  • “It is a measure of our Lord’s power, is it not, that man must spend a fortune in silver and gold to achieve merely the palest imitation of the glory found in the poorest part of His creation?
    • Ch 39
  • Surely a man passing by a lamp will cast a shadow?
    • ibid
  • Reasonable men make the mistake of thinking everyone else is reasonable.
    • Ch 40
  • The world has seen many religions and many miracles. What one person might attribute to one god, another might credit to some different deity. It is all a mystery to us mortals. But if the edge of my sword draws blood when the need arises, does it matter what forge it came from?
    • Ch 48

Two for JoyEdit

  • Life seems to more often resemble a game of knucklebones, where nothing can be predicted!
    • Ch 3
  • While one cannot repay a kindness, one can at least pass it along by helping someone else.
    • ibid
  • Well, my friend, numbers have their own beauty ... They balance, like lines in well-constructed verse.
    • ibid
  • We can’t always choose what we must endure. Indignity, at least, can be survived.
    • Ch 4
  • All men disappoint their fathers, or at least suppose that they do.
    • Ch 7
  • Senator! As if that title means anything these days. A senator’s worth as much as the land he holds and nothing more.
    • ibid
  • You did not wield the blade. It was not your fault. Nor, for that matter, was it mine, either for taking your advice or losing my way in a foreign land. The fault lies solely in the hearts of those who would take from a man everything he is for the sake of getting a few more coins for him when they sell him into slavery.
    • ibid
  • It is far better to reconcile our philosophies than to shed blood. The pen can defeat the sword if wielded with sufficient skill.
    • Ch 8
  • Time is a thing that the emperor may easily take from a man but something that, alas, even the emperor cannot have newly minted.
    • Ch 11
  • If wine can talk, doubtless it can also wield a weapon, and while some men find Lethe in their cups, others find the Furies.
    • Ch 14
  • But there are always scum ready to take advantage, skulking about the back ways and waiting in the shadows. Too cowardly to fight but brave enough to rob and steal the weak while others are engaged upon matters of war.
    • Ch 19
  • Do you think that, once uttered, our words vanish, never to return to our detriment, no matter how ill considered those words might be?
    • Ch 21
  • “There’s no justice, John! There is no reason at all for me to be kept here!”
    Justice is the first casualty of war and that’s the point we’re rapidly approaching."
    • ibid
  • He wondered how long Anatolius’ stoicism would endure. Soldiers who had silently borne the most grievous battlefield wounds could be reduced to whimpering madness by extended periods of enforced hopelessness.
    • Ch 23
  • “Will the mob follow one who is dead?” John countered.
    “More readily than one who is alive.”
    • ibid
  • Such disloyalty pains me, but in due course it will pain them much more, I assure you [...] At times, my subjects are like children, appeased with golden toys, a delightful entertainment, unaccustomed delicacies to eat, a handful of coins. Failing that, there are always sterner measures of persuasion, such as the removal of their ringleader’s head. After all, if their leader cannot keep his, what chance have his miserable followers?
    • Ch 24
  • “No more so than Constantinople, Peter [...] We just become inured to what surrounds us. Why do you suppose that we scarcely notice the beggars crowding around the Milion? Sometimes it takes a stranger’s eyes to see what is clearly before us yet to which we are blind.
    • Ch 25
  • “Who does not distrust a eunuch, Peter? They’ve always had bad reputations, and in many cases with good reason if you care to study history. So it may be that Theodora, because of my condition, mistakes me for one of those treacherous creatures. But I believe there may well be a more specific reason [...] It was a eunuch’s failed plotting that brought Justinian’s family to power. Who is to say whether another eunuch’s more successful plot might not topple him from the throne?”
    • ibid
  • It’s difficult to overcome affection for a person who has served you faithfully for many years, even when he betrays you.
    • Epilogue

Three for a LetterEdit

  • The wagon maker can’t lament every broken axle.
    • Ch 3
  • Life continually seems to swing back and forth between haste and wait and rarely continues for any space on an even keel.
    • Ch 12
  • Is it so wrong to be reminded that there are beautiful things in the world too?
    • ibid
  • Duty must always come before affairs of the heart.
    • Ch 18
  • “Magick may be nothing but trickery but it has its fascinations to a scholar such as myself.”

    “Magickal tricks are simple once you understand how they work, sir. People are gullible. They’ll see what they want or expect to see. When the jeweler substitutes green glass for emeralds, people accept what appears to be genuine gems and never realize they’re completely worthless.

    • Ch 21
  • But surely, John, what we think about is who we are. In the workings of our bodies we are all the same. It is only in our thoughts and beliefs that we differ.
    • ibid
  • “I may no longer have my looks, sir, but I do have a way with people!”
    • Ch 22

Four for a BoyEdit

  • Are you surprised I should call upon a slave? I was not born to the palace and neither was our emperor. Both of us might have been farmers. I would as soon be served by those of similar humble origins. Adversity is a better teacher than luxury.
    • Ch 2
  • “Alive or dead, my fate has nothing to do with my own efforts. It was Fortuna spared me and nothing more than that.”
    “I should say it was the Lord that spared you,” Dorotheus replied with a quick scowl. “If you want to call Him Fortuna, I doubt He cares. But having Him on your side is better than having all the emperor’s armies at your back.”
    • Ch 3
  • “It’s not the beatings and robberies and assaults that scare people, it’s all the counting and scribbling it down."
    • Ch 4
  • There’s nothing courtiers enjoy more than seeing blood spilled. Until a drop of it gets on their clothing.
    • Ch 5
  • “It is all as nothing. I might have dreamt being emperor. Memories have no more substance than dreams, and in the end all our lives will become only memories. I’ve led men into battle, seen kings kneel before me. I’ve raised great churches to the glory of the Lord, heard the accolades of thousands in the Hippodrome. Yet if I had only an hour of my life to live again, it would be the first time I shared the bed of the girl I married. So much for all our ambitions, my loyal quaestor.”
    • Ch 11
  • I wonder why so many don’t realize there are greater enemies closer to home than at the border?
    • Ch 12
  • When men become powerful, they have as many enemies as a ship has barnacles,” Anna replied. “Then, too often, men have long memories. They nurse grudges for years until their chance for revenge arrives. Or they have one too many burdens to carry, or some other reason, trifling perhaps in itself, but one that causes them to finally strike.”
    • ibid
  • Isn’t it said that the best revenge is one that has been contemplated for some time?
    • ibid
  • It’s her influence on him that’s feared. And rightly so. Women often turn good men into beasts.
    • Ch 13
  • “If you were me, nephew,” Justin broke in impatiently, “you could tell easily the difference between dreams and reality. When I dream I can’t feel this damned gnawing agony in my leg.”
    “Well, this dream was so real I could actually smell the sea,” Justinian pressed on.
    • Ch 15
  • Like land holdings, people do not necessarily remain owned by the same person.
    • ibid
  • It happened that a shipment of marble intended for a job on which I was working for the business owner I mentioned was rejected as unfit for the purpose. Not the shade specified, or some such defect. Seizing my chance, I bought the marble and so began the rise to my present position. However, I was only able to purchase it because I had money earned by hauling those buckets of concrete about the city for years. There’s a lesson in that for us all, as I have often pointed out my son.
    • Ch 16
  • Time is short whenever official business is concerned. Even the candles burn faster.
    • Ch 17
  • There’s bronze coins to be had from boiling pitch, but there’s gold in terror.
    • Ch 18
  • “You’re embarrassed for your emperor. Understandably.” Justin grimaced. “I don’t need a physician, Felix. What I need is a plumber.”
    • Ch 28
  • “It’s all too subtle for a simple man like me,” Felix continued. “Intrigues and plots and poisons and loyalties shifting every time the wind changes. Just think, John, in their own way, half the city wear masks of one sort or another. For most, including lowly folk like us, there are enemies everywhere.
    • ibid

Five for SilverEdit

  • “Gaius says there is no cure for the plague. If that’s so, we can only try to scare it away.”
“You would do better to put your faith in the Lord than in creatures of clay, Hypatia.”
“How can you put your faith in a god who visits such punishment as this pestilence upon his creatures?”

Six for GoldEdit

Aren’t we all superstitious, if we’re honest about it? Even if we don’t agree with those who wear amulets to avert the evil eye, we all believe something.

Nine for the DevilEdit

Ten for DyingEdit

  • Alas, the muse’s whisperings fall upon deaf military ears.
    • Epilogue
  • Debts are more deadly than a Persian sword, especially for a captain of excubitors.
    • ibid

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