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Authors: Gary Parker

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The Constantine Conspiracy

BOOK: The Constantine Conspiracy
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A Novel

Gary E. Parker

© 2010 by Gary E. Parker

Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

E-book edition created 2010

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-1195-8

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920.

This story is dedicated to the legion of witnesses both past
and present
who have sacrificed, sometimes to the utmost,
to assure that all of us, religious and irreligious,
have the right to publicly proclaim what we believe.


Rome, AD 313
















































Rome, AD 313

he sword stood half the length of a normal man’s body, its point piercing the center of a finely-carved oblong table. Blood-red rubies shaped in the form of a cross adorned the sword’s handle on both sides. Thirteen men, each dressed in crimson silk robes that covered them from ankle to hooded head, surrounded the table. Shadows from oil lanterns flickered across the marble walls of the vaulted room in which the men stood. A light chill edged the room, not enough to cause a shiver but enough for each of the men to feel a prickle up his spine.

The eldest of the men, a towering figure with shoulders the width of a wine barrel and a black beard flecked with gray, reached for the sword with both hands, pried it from its resting place, and held it aloft, his legs spread to brace against its heft. All blood seemed to have drained from his face and his eyes failed to blink.

“With this sword the Emperor Constantine conquered Maxentius and his army at the Tiber River,” he shouted.

“Curse Constantine to the world of darkness,” intoned the other twelve.

“With this sword he vanquished the leaders we once served,” said the tall man.

“Curse his wives and children,” agreed the others.

“With this sword he declared Christ as his God.”

“Christ is no God,” said the followers, their voices rising.

“With this sword he decreed no worship other than a worship of his Jesus.”

“He decreed blasphemy.”

“With this sword he declared anyone who didn’t follow the Nazarene a heretic.”

“He is the heretic.” The men shouted now, the sounds of their anger banging against the walls of their master’s villa.

“With this sword he labeled all of us who reject Christ’s divinity as traitors to Rome.”

“He is the traitor, the one turning away from all that made Rome great!”

The room echoed with the strength of their bile and the lanterns seemed to blink at the power of their malice.

Their master lowered the sword and held it now at waist height, its point aimed at the center of the group surrounding him. His jeweled fingers gripped the sword as if to squeeze a life from it.

“We wish it were otherwise,” he said, softer now. “But the pull of the stars brings us to this destiny and I see no path to take but this one.”

“He murdered my wife and sons,” said the man to the leader’s left.

“And my father and mother,” said the one next to him.

“He took my properties,” spat a third man.

“And my seat in the royal Senate,” said a fourth.

“We all have our list of grievances,” said the leader. “And they cut us to our bones. But our cause must go deeper than our anger at Constantine, because that will fade as the years peel away. Our cause must know no end and our struggle must find its foe in the one who Constantine now trumpets as the God of us all. That one is the real enemy, the false God who trapped Constantine’s soul in his icy fingers.”

The eyes of the twelve around the leader glowed red in the semi-dark.

“This Jesus is not my god,” said the Master. “Is he yours?” He faced the men to his left, then the ones to his right. “Is Jesus the God of any man in this room?”

“We have no god!” shouted the one to the Master’s left.

“No god but the power of our own minds, the strength of our own hands, the courage of our own spirits!” The other men shouted their agreements, their heads bobbing in frenzied acceptance of what they had heard.

“We are our own gods,” the man continued. “The shapers of our own destinies. We count on no force from outside us, no eternity to follow when we pass from this life.”

The group again grunted their concurrence.

“Then we are agreed,” said the Master, his voice dropping as he brought the room’s emotions to a lower throttle.

The twelve nodded.

“We shall each pledge it then. Pledge our fortunes which, although reduced by the thievery of Constantine, remain far greater than he dares to believe. Commit our influence which is hidden now but will resurface as a mighty force in the future. Dedicate our power of reason, which nothing and no one can steal from us.”

The twelve tipped their heads in silent acceptance.

“It will be a long struggle,” said the Master. “Longer perhaps than any of us can imagine.”

“It took three hundred years for Jesus to conquer Rome,” said the man to his left. “It may require a thousand to take Rome back.”

“Then a thousand it will be,” said the Master. “Or two.”

Each man nodded.

The Master shifted the sword to his right hand, held it into the air again, and poised his left palm above its gleaming tip. The onlookers tensed in anticipation. The Master lowered his palm onto the sword and sliced it open with the blade. Blood gushed onto the blade and ran toward the sword’s handle.

For a moment the twelve remained still as their master’s blood seeped onto the marble floor. Then the Master held up his bloody palm for all to see the deep gash that ran from his index finger to the heel of his hand. The blood plopped like raindrops to his feet. The Master nodded and his followers moved to form a single line before the sword, their left hands outstretched. One by one they stepped to the sword and the Master slashed their palms with the sword’s bloody point. Warm crimson liquid slid down the blade as each man stepped away. The sound of blood dripping grew louder, faster. The last of the men poised his hand over the sword, but the Master held up his bloody palm to stop him.

“You are the one who stole this sword and brought it to us?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” said the man, a thin fellow with a wispy beard.

“You serve on the staff of the Emperor Constantine?”

“Yes, as chief winemaker. I serve him drink at table each evening. Two nights ago, I cleaned up the empty wine flasks in his chamber as he slept. The sword lay beside him; I took it and fled.”

“So you betrayed your master?”

The man’s narrow eyes squinted in the shadows, suddenly uncertain about the direction of this inquisition. “For a greater purpose, my Lord,” he said. “I betrayed Caesar to follow you.”

The Master touched his finger to the tip of Constantine’s sword. “So you betrayed your master.”


The sword slashed through the air, and the winemaker collapsed at his master’s feet, his life’s blood spurting from a gaping neck wound.

“He who will betray one master will betray another,” the Master thundered to the others, his breath quick. “And we will brook no betrayal! Are we agreed?”

The remaining men hurriedly nodded their assent, and the Master motioned for them to re-form around the table. Once they were in place, he extended his left hand and the others mimicked him, their palms outstretched toward the sword that the master held aloft once more, its bloody tip pointed at the ceiling. The blood of the dead man mingled with the blood of the living, and all of it slid toward the sword’s handle, toward the ruby crosses edged in its grip.

“By the blood we now shed,” shouted the Master, “and the blood of those who will come after us. We make this declaration this day. What Constantine has declared of Christ will not stand!”

The eleven others leaned to the sword, each one taking hold of the grip with their bloody palms, the flesh of one mingling with the flesh of all the rest.

“By our blood and the blood of those who will come after us!” they bellowed. “What Constantine has declared will not stand!”



Monday, mid-July

s the only heir of a family worth billions, Rick Carson expected many things. He expected cameras to flash every time he stepped into the public eye. He expected limousine rides, red carpet runways, and magazine covers with his face on them. He expected designer clothes to drape his angular frame and gourmet food and drink to satisfy his palate. He expected A-list celebrities to invite him to their yachts, villas, and penthouses for late-night parties where behavior jumped all boundaries. For the most part, life met his expectations and he did whatever he wanted to do and whenever he wanted to do it. That’s what made the predawn death of his father just three weeks before Rick’s thirtieth birthday so shocking—it shattered every expectation he’d ever had and never put any of them together again.

The death occurred on Solitude, the family ranch of a thousand acres in southern Montana, during the two-week retreat that Rick and his dad shared each July. It happened in the dark, just as the bear and buffalo started stirring in the vast wilderness that bordered the ranch. It took place almost simultaneously as Rick awoke, rubbed his clear brown eyes, and rolled over in his king-sized bed. No woman lay beside him—an oddity for the recently named Sexiest Man Alive. Feeling anything but sexy, he brushed his hands through his blond hair, rubbed the fuzz of his twelve-day-old beard, and placed his size 11 feet on the mahogany floor of the expansive log house.

“Lights,” he said. The room immediately brightened. “Breakfast,” he said. “Toast, one scrambled egg, grapefruit, coffee, and a big glass of water.”

Downstairs, a handheld screen blinked and Carson’s personal cook, a matronly Latino woman of Mexican origins who had been with the family as long as Rick could remember, read the instructions in her native Spanish and immediately stepped to the kitchen to start the order.

“Shower,” Rick said.

The water in the bathroom shower splashed on, immediately warm, as he hopped off the bed and moved to the sink to brush his straight white teeth, blithely unaware of the dark power about to invade his life.

BOOK: The Constantine Conspiracy
10.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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