I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t posted anything in a long time, and for once I have no excuses. I’ve been reading plenty of books lately, and honestly I’ve had quite a bit of free time. So, as my way of an apology, and to selfishly garner some potential interest, I am going to share with you friends the first chapter of the latest book I’ve been writing. I don’t want to share too much about it, but I am quite excited to share more of it with you all some day. Just know that it takes place in Ancient Greece, and it is an intoxicating blend of realism and the greek myths that we all grew up hearing. Please let me know what you think!
Chapter One – The Birth
I was born amidst storm and destruction. I was a bad omen even before I entered this world.
As the winds howled and raged against our little home, my mother’s cries matched their fervor pitch by pitch, and as the waves below the cliffs grew higher and higher, as did the pain I caused my mother. She grabbed the rough sheets below her with shaking hands, teeth clenched as the wind rattled the roof and rain found its way through every little orifice.
I wasn’t meant to be born, my father would mutter every minute. I was wrong. I would be hideous. I would spell disaster for the people of Greece. Suffice to say, my father was both melodramatic and correct in so many ways.
An oracle had come to the house, my brothers later told me, just before the first pains of labor came upon my mother, and she had led the storm to our door. The oracle had whispered words into the ears of my father as my mother’s water broke all over the dirt floor of our poor home. My brother Alkaios had immediately run from the cottage for the midwife. He was always the most rational and level-headed of the two. My other brother, Pyrrhus, had of course squealed in disgust.
And then, at the apex of my birth, my mother gave one last scream of defeat, her cry echoing through the storm and into the depths of the sea. He would be listening of course, he who was the cause of so much pain in my life. But that’s a tale for another day.
And as I forced my way into this world, as I had a habit of doing in so many other things, my mother gave one last sigh of relief and finally released her vice-like grip on the sheets. My father completely disregarded both oracle and daughter as he rushed to his wife, wiping a shaking hand on her swiftly cooling forehead.
I squealed indignantly of course, craving the warmth of the mother I would never again get to enjoy. Pyrrhus collected me from the midwife, ignoring the gooey waste that covered my shriveled body as he held me close. I would always be closer to Pyrrhus, my sweet Pyr, than Alkaios and my father. That didn’t mean that Alkaios didn’t love me though, in his own way at least. And seeing Pyr hold me close like that, our father rejected us both in that instance.
“Leave,” he hissed, spittle flying from his mouth as his rage was barely contained. Dropping the now lifeless hand of his wife, he leapt to his feet, pointing at me in Pyr’s arms, “And take that creature far away from here!”
The Oracle stepped close, wrapping a protective arm around Pyr, “Speak gently. The Gods hear every word.”
“Damn the gods,” my father raged, “for they have nothing left to spite me with. They have taken my wife and given me the spawn of Hades as a daughter. They can curse me all they want, for nothing can hurt me anymore.” He pointed a long finger at me, “Especially not her.”
That night the oracle led my brothers and I away, they never got to say goodbye to our mother, just like I never got to say hello. And as the oracle brought us far away from the sea, to the rough hills of Sparta, a fierceness grew inside my brothers and I, even in our tender young ages. For nothing speeds the growth of maturity quite like losing a parent, and nothing can harden the soul like being rejected by the other.
Despite the rocky start to my childhood, it became oddly ideal from there. At least for me, if not always for my brothers. Sparta is a city built by people as rough and strong as its land. Among the Spartans, my brothers and I were Mothakes, outsiders raised as Spartans under the tutorship of the politician Diodorus and his wife, having never had children of their own. They had readily taken us in when the oracle brought us to their door. My brothers were immediately thrown into the Spartan army at the tender ages of four and six. In truth, this was a bit old among Spartan standards, but both brothers rose to the challenge as only those hardened souls could.
And I trained with them, as all Spartan women did. At first, my chubby little legs stood no chance of keeping up with the Spartan girls. They were Spartan, and had been born strong, and would continue to be strong. I instead had to build my strength from the ground up. And so I did. By my tenth year, I was soaring past the other girls, and even most of the boys, my long legs pushing me higher and higher. I had the wings of Hermes beneath my feet.
By my seventeenth year, my body had long since matured. I was tall and strong, yet still womanly as I would run across the rough and unforgiving Spartan countryside. My hair, with bright yellow curls, could never be tamed and flew behind me like a banner of sunshine. Though I was flattered by the attentions of many young Spartans, undeterred by the omen of my colorless eyes, I was also never particularly interested in their fleeting fancies. Maybe it was because some part of my soul had already been bargained off, sold to the love of another I hadn’t met yet. I would find out why I had never loved by my eighteenth year. I was merely a pawn in the games of the Gods.
Far away from Sparta, her giggle was music to his ears, so innocent and carefree, even though a servant could walk out and discover them at any moment.
She moved languidly, reluctantly pulling away from his warm embrace. She couldn’t see his face in the darkness of the night, but she had carefully memorized it under her exploring fingers, and she knew that a look of regret would be waiting there for her. She had carefully imagined what he would look like. A head of thick copper hair, cropped ear-length in loose ringlets. He would have grey eyes, dark like the clouds of a storm. He was tall, as she could well feel for herself, taller than any other man she had known, and broad, his shoulders wide enough to encompass her frame three times.
Theodora moved back into his embrace, his skin almost unbearably hot beneath her touch. Zeus wrapped his thick arms around her tiny frame, cradling her gently against his body.
“You are so beautiful,” he groaned into her thick hair, it’s dark strands splayed like ink in the dark night against her copper colored skin. She pulled her wool gown up, pressing it firmly between their bodies before clasping it into place.
“I must go back,” Theodora whispered, her voice smooth and deep like dark chocolate, “The servants will be checking in on me in my room soon.”
Zeus let out another exaggerated groan, his arms tightening around her tiny frame reflexively, “let them find your empty bed,” his voice was a sharp whisper against her ear, “and let them be angry. That will send all those suitors that crowd your father’s floor packing.”
“Don’t talk like that,” Theodora hissed. She roughly extricated herself from Zeus’s arms, shoving away from him, “I need a wealthy marriage. My brothers can’t hold Aetolia aloft on olive trade and our meager army.”
Zeus rumbled unhappily, but he didn’t argue. They both knew nothing with any longevity could ever come out of their relationship. Though that didn’t stop either of them from enjoying the fruits of the now.
Theodora allowed herself a smug smile as she sauntered home, knowing full well that the eyes of Zeus carefully watched the sway of her hips. He had disappeared by the time she reached the open terrace to her room. She turned to shoot one last glance at the moonlit fields, but all that remained of him was an eagle soaring into the sky.
Theodora turned into her room, smile still gracing her full lips, she undid the clasp of her gown, letting it fall in a dirty heap on the floor. As Theodora reached to pull the sheets of her bed back, a rough breeze against the back of her legs, sent her body convulsing in shivers.
“I thought I told you,” Theodora whispered, “The servants will know if I have a man in here.”
She turned around, and all further words disappeared as shock and fear overtook her.
A woman stood there, not a foot away from Theodora. She was of medium height, with light chocolate colored hair and tan skin. Her face was heart shaped, and her features narrow. Dark eyes pierced Theodora, holding her still as the woman began to circle the Grecian princess. She was thin, with only a slight swell where her hips would be under her silken, cherry colored gown.
The woman reached out with sharp nails, dragging one along the tender skin of Theodora’s back. Theodora cried out gently as she felt a liquid – her own blood – swell and drip down her back. The woman spun Theodora around with a rough, clawed hand, placing a carefully sharpened nail on Theodora’s startled lips.
“Shh, shh, shh,” the woman cooed, “Mustn’t let the mortals hear.” Her voice was high pitched, and almost of a sour quality, and her teeth that flashed when she bared an incensed smile, were a startling white.
“So you’re the latest of dear Zeus’s paramours,” the woman continued, looking Theodora up and down disdainfully, “Well obviously he can’t account for taste.”
Theodora was too terrified to be properly offended, and held her breath as the woman ran a jagged claw down Theodora’s collarbone.
“But he does know how to pick the ones that will make the largest statements,” the woman’s nail dug painfully above Theodora’s left breast, just above her rapidly beating heart, “I’ll have to thank him for that later.”
“Please, Hera,” Theodora could only guess that this was Zeus’s notoriously vengeful wife, “Don’t hurt me or my family.” She had nothing to offer the goddess who held control of the entire world, and so her words felt small and useless standing next to a woman of such enormous power.
At the name Hera, the woman smiled coldly, “Oh you vapid little fool.” Her nail dug deep into Theodora’s skin, and the princess could do nothing but writhe and cry out. “I’m not doing this to hurt you. I’m doing this to hurt Zeus.” Her fingers dug deeper with each word, and as Theodora’s cries drifted to distant rattles of breath, the woman smiled to herself. Stepping over Theodora’s body and out onto the balcony, the woman laughed quietly as she moved into the night, disappearing in it’s dark embrace.
As the last of Theodora’s cries echoed down the palace, the guards surged into her room, weapons raised and shields ready. They stopped immediately upon entry, mouths agape and defeat hunching them over. Her brothers followed shortly, and their screams of rage and grief could be heard throughout the town. Theodora’s father was the last to enter that room, and as his vows for vengeance out-pitched her brother’s, the peacock feathers surrounding his daughter’s body silently mocked him, glistening in the moonlight, as they would for all eternity.