In Chapter 3 of The Deadliest Hate, having just written and re-written a letter to Judah, Miriam feels as though she’s just finished a day’s work in the mines. But Miriam is certainly exaggerating. Mining was among the most grueling jobs in Roman times. Pliny the Elder, Miriam’s contemporary, described in his Naturalis Historia the technique of hydraulic mining at Las Médulas:
What happens is far beyond the work of giants. The mountains are bored with corridors and galleries made by lamplight with a duration that is used to measure the shifts. For months, the miners cannot see the sunlight and many of them die inside the tunnels…. The cracks made in the entrails of the stone are so dangerous that it would be easier to find … pearls at the bottom of the sea than make scars in the rock. How dangerous we have made the Earth!
The sad truth is that Miriam’s day will get harder still. Much. With the letter written, she’ll have to find a courier to deliver it to Judah in Caesarea. The bad news is that task will bring her through the twisting, cobbled lanes of the waterfront district, its lumberyards, stables, slaughterhouses, and storage bins, all pressed together shoulder-to-shoulder.
But the good news is that she will meet Nathaniel ben Ruben, an itinerant potbellied dwarf, who will not only deliver the letter but help her later to crack the locked-room murder case in The Deadliest Sport.
I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask you to accompany her in the mines, but could you at least peek in on her once in a while in the waterfront district? Just click here: