Tomorrow We Will Know
Sign up for Sandra Worth's newsletter to get 3 Chapters from the featured book,
Tomorrow We Will Know.
A Novel of Imperial Constantinople 1453
Tomorrow We Will Know:
A Novel of Imperial Constantinople 1453
From the Back Cover
In this suspenseful and passionate portrayal of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 - a moment in history that mirrors our own - Emperor Constantine XI of Eastern Rome, deserted by the West, battles to defend his civilization against the onslaught of mighty Ottoman invaders. But when war comes, a heartrending love triangle enmeshes Constantine, his valiant military commander Justiniani, and the woman they both love. With life, death, and the fate of the empire hanging in the balance—just as he is on the verge of victory—Emperor Constantine is confronted with an impossible choice that threatens everything he holds dear. The mystery why Constantinople fell when victory was almost attained has baffled historians for centuries. Here is what they missed.
From award-winning author and “gifted literary talent” Sandra Worth comes a heart-wrenching wartime epic of love, suspense, passion, and survival that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and illuminates a little-known part of history with powerful insights into our own moment in time.
"... Very few historical novels have the effect that Tomorrow We Will Know had on me. It is rich with diverse characters, has incredible details, and provides a magical experience that we expect from a well-written novel. The story delivers a vivid depiction of the fall of Constantinople and the conflict, while also doing justice to Zoe, Constantine, and Justiniani, whom you will discover as you get into the story. I love how Sandra Worth explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the clash of civilizations between the East and the West and does justice to them all. I also love that there is romance, suspense, and constant action that creates an immersive experience unlike any other. No historical fiction novel has been successful in holding my attention as this story did. It is a history lesson and entertainment all rolled into one."
--Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite
“One of the best historicals that I have ever read… a truly moving story. Beginning with Anya Seton’s Katherine years ago, I have preferred to get my history that way first and then go back and read the academic sources. Worth brings the characters to life. In some instances her description is sheer poetry. Months after reading Tomorrow We Will Know, thinking about the story still evokes a strong emotional response.”
—Professor Tamara Kaupp, San Jacinto College (ret.)
“Tomorrow We Will Know reveals a richly detailed but little-known history of Christian Constantinople in 1453 as its few defenders battle the mighty Ottoman invaders for their right to exist. Sandra Worth’s best work yet will have the reader tearing through the pages to see what happens next—to Constantinople, to Emperor Constantine, to his valiant military commander, and to Zoe, the woman who is their inspiration and they both love.”
—Cheryl Bolen, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of My Lord Protector
“From her heartfelt historical characters embroiled in a moving love triangle, to the escalating suspense of the final battle that will determine the fate of the Eastern Roman Empire, the author — with impeccable research and inspired storytelling — captivated this reader, bringing new excitement to the historical fiction genre.”
—Robin Maxwell, Los Angeles Times and Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Jane and The Woman Who Loved Tarzan
“Tomorrow We Will Know is an utterly compelling novel, rich in detail, meticulously researched, and beautifully crafted. Sandra Worth’s skill as historian and storyteller is evident on every page. Not to be missed.”
—Tasha Alexander, New York Times Bestselling author of Secrets of the Nile
“In Tomorrow We Will Know Sandra Worth gives us a sweeping saga of empire and love. Worth deftly portrays the battles that will eventually bring down Constantinople—but more importantly she makes us care about the fall of that city through her vivid, flawed, and deeply human characters. By the time a blood-red eclipse of the moon brings fear to both rulers—Christian and Ottoman—leaving each to wonder whether it portends loss or victory for his side of the battle, readers will be biting their nails and holding their breaths.
—Sophie Perinot, author of Médicis Daughter and The Sister Queens
From a New York editor to Sandra’s agent
“Once we’re in Constantinople and Zoe is coming into her own, helping the
poor and making the emperor fall in love with her, things really get going.
And it never falters from there. The suspense over what will happen to the city,
the developing love triangle, the battle that wages for the fate of the empire –
it’s full of suspense, emotion, and heartbreak. I found myself welling up during
more than one scene as I raced through the last section of the book.
As expected, I learned so much form the book – and was captivated by the story.”
To read 3 chapters, sign up for Sandra's newsletter and receive the Download.
Tomorrow We Will Know
The eleven-year-old girl tore down the hillside, ignoring her nurse’s cries. The January wind blew strong, but it was warm and bore the scent of winter flowers.
“Zoe! You need to braid your hair!” her nurse pleaded. “It isn’t seemly—” Her voice faded into the wind.
Zoe paid her no heed. Her mind, her heart, and her feet were focused on one thing and one thing only: Prince Constantine was back from Thrace!
She caught sight of his tall figure at the gate, illuminated by sunlight so sharp and bright that he seemed encased in shards of glass. “Constans, Constans!” she cried, calling him by his nickname. Prince Constantine of Mistra might be much older and the heir apparent to the throne of Eastern Rome, but there was no ceremony between them.
Amid the movement of men and the neighing of horses, Prince Constantine turned. A wide smile brightened his handsome face as he watched Zoe fly down the steep slope, sure-footed as a mountain goat, her auburn hair flowing behind her like a banner. It was a familiar sight upon his homecomings and one dear to his heart, for he had no children of his own and little chance of them. His first wife had died young of the plague, and his second in childbirth. He had never married again.
He opened his arms wide to her. A gangly child and scrawny as a waif, Zoe was not beautiful in the classical sense, but there was a magic about her. She was spirited, but sweet; her face was angular, but interesting; and her features, though irregular, held the eye. An artist might have preferred her nose a trifle shorter, but it was thin and well-shaped. Along with a generous mouth and disarming smile, she had the most beautiful eyes: huge, honey-brown, and thickly lashed, they sparkled like jewels in her little face. Such an arresting contrast did they make with her auburn hair that one could be forgiven for staring.
The first time Constantine had seen Zoe, she was a bewildered six-year-old child standing alone on the stone pier, watching her parents sail away to Constantinople without her. The Grand Duke and Duchess Lucas and Daphne Notaras had taken her two sisters with them but left Zoe behind. Bathed in the glow of sunrise, the poignant little figure, so forlorn and vulnerable, had tugged at his heart. At the same time, he was swept with admiration. While tears stood in her eyes and panic was written on her face, she held her head high and didn’t vent her anguish. He recalled the thought that came to him: I must protect her. As he came to know the child, he realized she also had a fine mind, for many times she surprised him with observations strangely worldly in one so young.
At this moment there was no sadness about Zoe, and no out-of-place wisdom, only a child’s bubbling joy that made him forget his troubles. She ran into his open arms, giggling with delight. “Constans, what took you so long? I thought you’d never come!” She looked up at him accusingly.
“I tried, Zoe, believe me, I did try—” he said, scooping her up into his powerful arms.
“Put me down!” she cried, kicking. “I’m not a child anymore. I’m a lady!”
Laughing, Constantine let her go. “You do not behave much like one, do you?”
“Indeed, she does not, my prince!” panted her old nurse, closing in on her charge, picking her steps carefully on the steep, stony path. Beads of perspiration glistened on her brow. “She is a naughty child, a handful! She ran off before I could braid her hair. You look like a milkmaid, Zoe,” she scolded.
“A charming milkmaid,” Prince Constantine laughed.
Zoe gave her nurse a triumphant smile. Turning to Prince Constantine, she extended her hand to the new hero of Eastern Rome who had recently driven out the Latin occupiers of Greece and rebuilt the crumbling Hexamilion Wall that protected the Peloponnese from their enemy, the mighty Ottomans. No one was as brave as Prince Constantine or as noble.
“Who says you are not a lady?” Prince Constantine grinned, obliging the child by kissing her hand. “You are the proudest lady in all Christendom, my little Zoe.”
Zoe had no chance to savor Constantine’s compliment, for a sudden scattering of dust and crunching of boots on the gravel path announced the arrival of Constantine’s councilor, George Phrantzes, and his entourage. Tall, with intense brown eyes and a taciturn demeanor, he strode up to Constantine.
As always Zoe registered a vague sense of confusion in his presence. With his curly beard and high forehead, Phrantzes bore a startling resemblance to the broken bust of a stern Roman emperor in the palace hall that had always intimidated her. Nor did she know how to feel about him. He was one of Constantine’s closest friends and her father’s dedicated enemy.
“How go matters at Mistra in my absence?” Prince Constantine inquired, embracing his councilor warmly.
A hesitation. “Well enough, I suppose, my prince,” Phrantzes said, “though the Duke of Athens has appealed to his former lord and master, Sultan Murad, for help to recover the duchy that you seized from him, and the Venetians have demanded the return of their colony of Vitrinitza.” He stole a glance at the Prince of Mistra from beneath his grizzled eyebrows.
Constantine gave a hearty chuckle. “I know you do not approve of my campaign to evict our foreign invaders and take back our lands, Phrantzes, but behold, I return victorious yet again!” As his men cheered, Constantine rested a gentle hand on Phrantzes’s shoulder. “Have no fear, my friend, all is—” He broke off, his attention diverted by a commotion at the city gates.
A rider galloped up the hill, horse’s hooves clattering, helmet glinting, a hawk circling him as he rode. He dropped from his saddle, his scarlet cloak whipping around him, the two-headed Roman eagle on his breastplates flashing in the sun, one head looking East, the other West, even though western Rome was long gone.
A messenger. Shielding his eyes from the sun, Constantine watched him approach untroubled, for the day was sunny and unburdened by a sense of threat. But when he drew close enough for Constantine to take in his grim expression, realization came. His royal brother, Emperor John, had sent him, and when had good news ever come from Constantinople?
The messenger made his salutation in the Roman manner, with a sharp click of the heels and a fist thump to the breast. “My Prince,” he said. “I bear tidings of great import from your gracious brother, His Serene Majesty Emperor John VIII, concerning events at the Ottoman court.”
Urgently he related the shocking news. Constantine listened intently, unsure what to make of it. All at once shrieks filled the air, and the circling hawk swooped down so close over the man that the shadow of its serrated wingtips darkened his face. Constantine followed his fearful gaze to the city gates where the hawk had settled, gripping in its claws the emblem of the Roman eagle.
He was less inclined to superstition than other men, yet a frown touched his brow, for he was keenly aware of the hand of fortune in human affairs. Recovering, he turned his attention to the messenger awaiting his response. The tidings were momentous, but what did they bode for Rome?
Maybe everything. Maybe nothing. Only time would tell.
The touch of a soft warm hand on his own scattered his gloomy thoughts. He looked down.
Young Zoe was gazing up at him with her doe eyes. “Have no fear, Constans,” the child said. “God is on our side.”
The Eastern Roman Empire
“Zoe, stop twisting your neck!”
“Why do you think she has come, Eirene?” Zoe said, straining to see out the palace window where a litter with the imperial emblem of the black and gold double-headed eagle of Eastern Rome wound up the steep green slope of Mount Taygetos. “Something must have happened!”
As a gray hound watched in a corner, Eirene piled Zoe’s rich red hair on top of her head. She pinned it out of the way and followed Zoe’s gaze to the window where the picturesque town of Mistra nestled on the hillside. Orange tile roofs, olive groves, and cypresses sparkled in the August sun. “Perhaps the Empress Helena comes to visit her son. She hasn’t seen him in a while. Now, be still.”
Starting below Zoe’s bosom, Eirene wound a golden cord around her midriff and smoothed the folds of the silk tunica that was styled in the fashion of ancient Rome. The only concession to modernity lay in the sleeves, which were long and sewn with jewels at the cuffs. She stepped back to assess her handiwork and smiled.
Tall, auburn-haired, and delicate as a woodland sprite, Zoe dazzled in coral. She herself was pretty enough with her chestnut hair and high cheekbones, but Zoe had a special allure. Eirene might have been resentful if she didn’t love her like a sister. Wrong analogy, she amended inwardly, thinking of Zoe’s sister, Maria, who resented her. Turning to the jewel casket, she withdrew a massive necklace worked in gold and set with turquoise pendants.
“The maniakis is heavy. Hold it while I secure the clasp.”
With her eyes riveted on the litter, Zoe absently balanced the wide gold collar over the cowl neckline of her gown. “Constantinople is too far for the Empress Helena to come just to see her son,” she said anxiously.
“Patience, Zoe. If she brings news, I daresay we’ll know soon enough,” Eirene replied. She unpinned Zoe’s hair and fire shot down her back.
Zoe took a seat at her dressing table and examined her face in the mirror. Depending on the hour of day, her auburn hair took on highlights of flame or dark copper, but today it was lifeless, and she was pale. She reached for a vial of pomegranate dye and smoothed the ointment along her cheekbones. Leaning into the mirror, she darkened the brows that arched over her sparkling honey-brown eyes with a dab of charred apricot pit mixed with linseed oil. She laid down the brush. It was hopeless—and she had so wanted to look her best for the empress’s welcome feast, and the dancing, sensuous music, and merriment. She sat listlessly as Eirene brushed her hair with a double set of boar brushes, but when she moved to sweep it up into curls, Zoe stayed her hand. “Leave it down.”
Eirene met her eyes in the mirror. “I’m no fool, Zoe. That he admires your hair is no reason to flaunt yourself to him. He’s going to be emperor one day. He needs to marry for an alliance against the Ottomans. Rich as you are, you can’t give him ships and men.” Eirene’s position as kinswoman, friend, and lady-in-waiting gave her leave to speak freely, for she was a Notaras herself, albeit a poor Notaras, only distantly related to Zoe’s illustrious branch.
“If he fell in love with me, it wouldn’t matter. Emperor Justinian married Theodora, and she was a circus whore and brought him nothing,” Zoe bristled. More gently, she said, “I won’t give up, Eirene. Neither should you.”
Zoe didn’t miss the sudden hesitation in Eirene’s nimble fingers as she braided her thick locks with silk ribbons. Her cousin was a widow at nineteen. Her father had died fighting the Ottomans at the Battle of the Hexamilion Wall, and his death had left her family penniless. At fifteen she had wed a man willing to take her without a dowry, but he was a drunkard who beat her mercilessly. If he hadn’t lost his footing and fallen into the sea weaving his drunken way home one dark night, he would have killed her someday.
“One marriage is enough for me. All I need is a dog, Zoe,” Eirene said. “I have neither the desire nor the dowry to—”
“Oh, a dowry is no problem!” Zoe broke in, ignoring her protest. “My father has enough money for both of us— When I’m empress, I’ll see to it that you wed the man of your choice, whether he wants to, or not!”
Despite herself, Eirene laughed. She loved this irrepressible, generous-hearted girl who was so aptly named after a sprite in the Garden of Hesperides. Drawing Zoe’s braid to the side, she pinned a jeweled cap of golden mesh on her head and arranged its dangling pearls over her brow, but as she looked up, her gaze fell on Prince Constantine’s tall glittering figure awaiting his mother on the palace steps. Gravely, she said, “Be wary what you wish for, Zoe.”
Zoe followed her gaze. Her prayers for Prince Constantine’s love were always followed by a wish for his happiness. But tragedy shadowed him, and he seemed to Zoe a lonely figure. Maybe it was loneliness that had made him reach out to her when she was little. But whatever its source, she had responded by taking him into her heart with a love that grew deeper with every passing year.
Eirene spoke again. “There is only grief down this road.”
“I know,” Zoe sighed, moving to the window. “But he can’t marry someone else, Eirene. I love him too much.”
Eirene came to her side. “Then we should pray he is never emperor.”
Zoe knew she meant the prophecy. Instinctively she opened her mouth to protest that prophecy was a useless art—that sometimes they came true, and sometimes they didn’t—that only fools put their trust in them. But no words came, for this was no ordinary prophecy. This troubled even her. It had been around for centuries, as if waiting for Prince Constantine to be born.
As Prince Constantine stood before the palace steps watching his mother’s gilded palanquin weave its way up the steep green slopes of Mount Taygetos, he was filled with unease. Even from the distance, her drooping black figure spoke of ill tidings. What had prompted her to undertake the dangerous journey across the sea from Constantinople to the Vale of Sparta? Was she ill? Had she come to bid him farewell? It had to happen one day, of course. She was old; almost seventy. It was natural that a mother die before her son, but he had always dreaded the day. She was his friend, his most cherished advisor, his wisest counselor, the one he could pour his heart to without shame or reprimand. How would he make his way without her?
The litter-bearers came to a halt. Forcing a smile, he approached.
His mother, a Slavic princess by birth, had taken vows after his father’s death, but she was not clad in the nun’s garb this day. She wore widow’s weeds: a flowing black veil, a black silk tunica styled in the Roman fashion, and a black velvet cloak clasped at the throat by a diamond brooch. The black attire accentuated the white of her hair, the vivid blue of her eyes, and the marble paleness of her complexion. He kissed her hand and lifted his gaze to the lined face that still held vestiges of the beauty she had been in her youth.
“Welcome, Mana mou,” Constantine said, as the litter bearers lowered her palanquin.
Helena gazed at her son, relieved to find him looking better than when she last saw him. It was a year after the Battle of the Hexamilion Wall, and the toll that his defeat had exacted was still evident then. “My beloved son, Mistra suits you well.”
Her voice held an unsteady note. Ever attuned to his mother, he was instantly alert. “What is it, Mana mou? What has happened?”
“I’ll tell you when we are alone.” She took the hand he offered and climbed out with effort.
In his privy chamber, Constantine helped his mother into a one-armed reclining couch that still had some of its mosaic inlay. She relaxed into it and dabbed at her eyes. “Your brother Theodore is dead.”
Constantine let himself down heavily into a chair. “How?”
“Canker.” She made the sign of the cross.
“He was confused and troublesome most of his life, but I blame myself,” Empress Helena murmured. “There is much I shouldn’t have said… And much I left unsaid.”
“Loss and regret always go hand in hand,” Constantine replied quietly. Both his brides, Theodora and Caterina, had died within two years of marriage. The double strokes of death following so close on one another had left him too scarred to wed again. His single life was mostly free from fear of loss, pain, and regret, and in the main he was content.
Helena watched him. Of the seven sons she had birthed for her husband Emperor Emmanuel, she had buried three. Constantine was her fourth-born in a brood that had proved ambitious and meddlesome. But he had been a joy to her from birth. He was not only the most loving and princely of her boys, but the most charming, with twinkling hazel eyes and a ready smile quick to show his dimples. Her gaze went to his sandy hair, now lightly dusted with silver at the temples. “How old are you, Constans? I forget.”
He smiled. “Forty-three. I wish I could forget.”
“You look younger.”
A servant brought wine and sweetmeats. As they sipped the wine and nibbled the apotki, Helena’s thoughts returned to her brood. Only with John and Constantine was she close, and it grieved her to know that destiny had not been kind to either one. Loss, failure, and disappointment had been their portion. Of the two, John had suffered most. Ever since he’d mounted the throne, he’d known naught but care, and it had left him a wounded man. His adored empress, Maria of Trebizond, had died of the plague, and he had no children. Except for Constantine, his brothers had spent their time quarrelling with one another in the Peloponnese or intriguing against him in Thrace. The people, too, grumbled against him. Now he was ailing. She saw him in her mind’s eye as he had been in Constantinople: bed-ridden, exasperated, weary, mulling the news of his brother’s death. “Theodore dreamed of the throne, but he died too soon. Before me,” John had rasped. Struggling up in bed, he’d thrown aside the faded silken covers. “It was ambition that killed him, not canker. If he hadn’t been so obsessed with schemes to be emperor, he would still live.”
“All brothers fight when the prize is a throne,” Empress Helena had sighed.
“I suppose I should be grateful Theodore didn’t ally with Sultan Murad and march on Constantinople, like Demetri,” he said in a wounded tone, referring to his youngest brother.
Empress Helena had handed John his cane and watched as he dragged himself to the window, wincing with every step. Servants ran to assist him, but he waved them away. Once he had been a golden-haired youth who’d dazzled all who beheld his handsome face. Now he was just another whitehaired, frail, crochety old man.
For a long while, John had stood silently, looking out. Helena knew what held his gaze. The scene outside the palace of Blachernae was always the same. Men always repaired the land walls, moved stones, dug the ground and mixed mortar. Their donkeys always waited patiently.
“It is eight years since I returned from Italy, Mother,” John said, making his way back to bed. “Eight long, thankless years.”
His words swept Helena like a bleak wind. John had gone to Florence seeking Western help against the Ottoman Turks for the invasion all knew was coming. But the papacy had refused to support him unless the Orthodox church acknowledged full obedience to Rome. Desperate for the aid, John had signed the agreement. Two years later he’d returned to Constantinople with nothing but empty promises and an accord that had split his people into those who were pro- and against-union with Rome. Now the Latin church of the west kept attaching more conditions, and all John could do was repair the walls.
“At least you have one brother you can rely on. Constans has always supported you,” she said.
“Constans is the one I would have succeed me as emperor. He is pragmatic. And a warrior if it comes to that. He will do the right thing… God knows, Mother, I have tried to keep the peace by forbearance and tact. I have tried to prepare for the future—” A sudden spasm of coughing knocked the breath from his body. Helena rushed to his side and held a cup of water to his lips.
“We are getting old, Mother,” John had sputtered, spilling more than he swallowed.
She propped him up against the pillows and made him comfortable. Laboring for breath, he turned his gaze back toward the window. Helena sat down on the edge of the bed and took his hand with a troubled heart. His skin was wrinkled, almost as wrinkled as her own, and illness had enfeebled his grip, as age had done hers. She let her eyes follow the direction of his gaze. Aye, he had prudently spent every bezant he could spare on repairing the great walls of the city, that they might be ready for the inevitable onslaught. He had done what he could. But would it be enough?
Helena returned to the present with a jolt and blinked the memories gone. She put a hand out to Constantine, and he came and joined her on the couch. But when he slipped his arm around his mother’s shoulders, he winced; it was as if he held a fragile little bird. “I know not how hard it is to bury a child, Mana mou, but I dread losing you.” He took her hand to his lips and imparted a kiss.
“You always were my favorite son,” she smiled.
“And you, my favorite mother.”
Helena laughed. She rested her head on his shoulder and they sat quietly together for a time before she pulled away. “There is something I must tell you before it’s too late, Constans. Something that weighs on me… about the news you received in Mistra after you rebuilt the Hexamilion Wall.”
Constantine tensed. “The murders of Sultan Murad’s son, Aladdin, and his babes that changed the Ottoman succession.”
“Only one person stood to benefit from the crime,” she said, her eyes meeting his.
“But Mana mou, Mehmet couldn’t have done it. He was only eleven at the time.”
Helena had wrestled with that question herself. But the royal sons of Ottoman sultans were half-brothers, born of different mothers. They viewed one another more as rivals for the Ottoman throne than family. Both Mehmet’s father and grandfather had gained their throne by civil war, though Mehmet’s father had always chosen peace over war, if given a choice. Helena thought of Mehmet’s oldest brother, Ahmed, who had died suddenly under mysterious circumstances at nineteen. There had been talk of murder then, too. This, however, was different. Aladdin and his babes had died a bloody death as they’d slept in their beds. If it was Sultan Murad’s youngest son, Mehmet, clearing his way to the throne, it showed a frightening ruthlessness. Helena felt a moment’s grief for his poor father. Murad was a good man. He had been a friend to her husband.
“Mehmet has a prodigious intellect and is far older than his years …” she said thoughtfully. “Someone could have committed the murders at his behest. No doubt someone who would ascend with him…. We will never know the truth. What we do know is Mehmet has immense ambition and counted for nothing while his two brothers lived. Now he will be sultan.”
She reached out and laid a gentle hand on his. “You would do well not to underestimate him, my son.”
Constantine’s celebratory banquet for his mother that evening was subdued. Black pennants were hoisted on the walls, and the palace windows were draped with mourning cloth. Two weeks later, on a rainy day in August after the three Feasts of the Savior, the Dowager Empress Helena bid him farewell at the city gate.
“I cannot bear to let you go, Mana mou. It seems to me that you have only just arrived,” Constantine said anxiously.
“John is very ill, Constans. I must not leave him alone long.”
Blue eyes met hazel. If Constantine knew why she really had to hurry back to Constantinople, he gave no indication. His brother Demetrios stood ready in Thrace with an army at his back, waiting for John to die so he could seize the throne. And only she could stop him.
"If you are looking for excellent historical fiction novels on The War of the Roses, then check out Sandra Worth."
"One of the best historicals that I have ever read...
a truly moving story."