The Dawn Before Darkness

Book Summary

by William Prather

The Dawn Before DarknessFor centuries, the Roman Empire served as the backbone of European society. The dominance of Roman power structure and culture ensured a peaceful and well-regulated social order. Expansive roads connected disparate nations, building travel and trade. Technologically advanced infrastructure improved lives and grand projects inspired a sense of eternal dominance. Nothing could disturb the foundations of an empire that ruled the entire known world. Such an accomplishment would never topple.

But the Roman Empire did not topple; it stagnated. Entrenched in its past, holding to its brutal values of unsustainable expansion, it was condemned to a slow erosion as ambitious “barbarian” warlords wore at its edges and cut their way inward. The Roman systems of stability and control were undone.

In many ways, these systems of control had begun to hold the frontiers of the empire back, and the slow undoing of the Roman Empire became an opportunity for the people of Sixth Century France to re-form a new society with new values, new structures, and a new way of co-existing with our fellow man. …

This is not so much a historical novel as it is a novelized biographical account of certain prominent historical figures in the West of Europe during a dimly lit period spanning the end of the Sixth Century A.D. King Chilperic I and Queen Fredegonde, whose lives followed the curve of France’s coming-of-age as a post-Roman center of power, lead a nation attempting to re-define itself culturally and religiously.

Invading Franks, Visigoths, and assorted barbarians had blended in with the civilized Romans to form an even more robust new civilized society of their own. Wrapped in the tattered remnants of Justinian’s “New Rome,” this civilization flourished for over a hundred years, a prosperous, golden era largely skipped over in the history books. The idealistic culture of its kings, queens, and nobility at this time bore remarkable similarity to that of the Founding Fathers of America a millennium later.

Like the New Roman Empire itself, “France” was to fall victim to a religious evangelical movement which was to usher in a potpourri of gods and an era of ethnic, religious, and social pluralism – known as the Dark Ages.

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The Author: William Prather

At the age of 6, William Prather was told by his parents that he was going to be an attorney, and there was no question or doubt about him doing so. The 1938 Casey (Ill.) Flame high school newspaper notes that Bill Prather “likes to talk and argue; majoring in speech and music, he should have a future in both.” This was another prediction that came true. While completing military training at Clark University, after being drafted in 1943, Prather learned German and French, and visited France himself days after the D-Day Normandy invasion. Following the war, he practiced law, was licensed by the United States Supreme Court, and began the Civility Foundation, headquartered in Toledo, Ill., with the purpose of promoting harmonious social practices and civil society supported by thoughtful, informed individuals observing the Golden Rule. Prather is the author of multiple nonfiction books on the banking industry; and The Dawn Before Darkness is his singular historical fiction novel.

Read an Excerpt

The whole of the Sixth Century was filled with the quarrels and wars of rival kings for hegemony over Roman Gaul. …

The royal replacement cycle had started to convolute again when Chilperic, having elevated his new wife, Fredegonde, to a co-executive position with himself, accompanied her on a field trip to Tournai to inspect a public works project. The marriage was only in its second year when on a fall day the two of them, together with a mounted platoon of guards and a handful of servants, had cantered the full distance from Soissons to the country seat of Tournai. Their objective was two-fold: to inspect and test the newly rebuilt drawbridge to the castle, and to replenish the fisc of Neustria with casks of the newly harvested local wine, falnerian. …

The sun was low on the horizon when the bridge was retracted for the final time and fastened securely with chains. Greatly pleased with the flawless execution of their plans, the king, queen and mounted platoon decided to delay their return to Soissons for a last banquet and an extra night in the wine country.

Unwisely, as it turned out. King Sigebert, who with his marching army was returning from Burgundy after an inconclusive foray with brother Gubtram against the Vandals, was secretly informed of the unprotected Neustrian visit and chose to implement the determination of his wife, Brunehilde, to eliminate both Chilperic and his allegedly murderous queen to avenge the death of her sister, Galswinthe. It was nearly sundown as Sigebert silently deployed his infantry around the castle, effectively captivating the sovereign couple and their cavalry platoon inside. “We’ll just pitch our tents and wait,” he told his two decurions cheerfully. “Just don’t make a sound.”