As I developed the story in Moon of the Goddess, I knew where the princess came from but I needed a home for her kidnappers. Flipping through a guidebook to Greece, I came upon Parga, a jewel of a town on the ocean. The book said it was near a river canyon called the Gate of Hades and an ancient shrine. Perfect place for a holiday, and possibly the setting I needed for my novel.
It was and is a wondrous place. The canyon cuts deep into the tall mountains that form a barrier between the ocean coves and the plains of Thessaly. Gnarled oak trees reach for light, and water trickles from crevices in the canyon walls to form pools and streams. Icons have been placed on narrow ledges, and coins pushed into the crevices: people still find this to be a sacred place. The river bounces over rocks and its singing fills the narrow ravine. Where the river fills the space from rock wall to rock wall, you have to step into the water, and it is ice-cold. Eventually you come to a wide bowl in the mountains where the river flows from the base of a long crack.
Follow the river out into the valley and you come to the twin hills where once the city of Ephyra stood and where the ruins of the shrine can still be found. Homer says this is where Odysseus spoke with the shade of Tiresias, and in the underground room, there is a crack in the wall just like the crack in the cliff where the river is born. We met a Greek woman there who showed us the coins pushed into the crack and said people still pray here.
Silt has now pushed the ocean shore a mile away from the two hills, but we have to expect some changes in 2500 years. But the river canyon is still magical, and the sense of mystery in the shrine is palpable. I hope that the novel effectively portrays the power of this wondrous place.
Thalassai, pampered princess of ancient Tiryns, wakes from a dream and discovers she has been kidnapped. Her fear grows to terror when she realizes her kidnappers intend to use her as a pawn to gain Poseidon’s aid for their valley. The mother goddess, who in the past sustained the valley, calls a bloodred harvest moon into the spring sky. She will challenge Poseidon for the allegiance of her people and assist the princess.
Thalassai’s brother Melanion rides north to rescue her, and finds allies among the servants of the goddess. Slowed by bandits, Melanion is forced to take a tunnel under the mountains even though earthquakes have rendered it hazardous. He skirts the edge of Hades’ kingdom as he races to reach his sister in time. Caught between the mother goddess and the rising power of Olympus, will Thalassai break under the strain or find the strength she needs to stand up to her captors?
Set in the days of Helen of Troy and the great heroes of Greece, this story takes the reader on a fast paced journey across the sun-drenched landscape of Homer and deep into darkness.
Here is a piece of the story where we see the goddess herself:
From the peak of the mountain that gave birth to the Acheron River, Eurynome watched dusk fall on her beloved valley. The pale greens and rich browns showed the contours of the spring fields, and clusters of olive and apple trees shone silver-green in the last light of the setting sun. Farmers moved across the newly planted land, some heading home to huts at the base of the mountain, many to houses in the city of Ephyra. Eurynome could sense their worry. Through the days of winter, they had watched the river level fall. Day by day, they saw less and less water. They waited in vain for the normal spring flood. Though planting went ahead, they were afraid their grains and, their vegetables would be starved of the water needed for a bountiful harvest.
Eurynome traced the snaking path of the river. Water sparkled in the last light of the setting sun, yet she knew how far the level had fallen. Poseidon’s earthshakings had shifted the rock she stood on, siphoning away water that should nurture this fertile valley. Anger knifed her chest. The Olympian caused the fear she sensed in the valley, but somehow had convinced the king he was the one who could rescue the river. She suspected Poseidon had sent the new steward who drew the king’s allegiance away from her.
Cold descended upon the goddess like a shroud. The steward had convinced the king that to buy Poseidon’s help they simply needed to present him with a beautiful young woman as a bride. The king had known better than to take a woman of the valley; that step she could have stopped. Instead, he sent his son Aphoron to find a king’s daughter beautiful enough to tempt the god. In distant Tiryns, the prince had found Thalassai and taken her captive. The goddess shuddered. Poseidon loved women, but it was said that none had held his attention for more than a season. The girl would be cast aside, and Poseidon’s attention would wander from the care of this valley, her valley.
Eurynome looked across to where the river entered the ocean and twin hills stood guard, one on each bank. The houses of Ephyra filled the northern hill with the palace at its crown. A thick column of smoke rose from the palace kitchen, speaking of the opulence of the royal household. Narrower plumes rose all around the hill as the inhabitants of too many homes prepared their evening meals. She frowned at the way houses had sprouted like mushrooms around the base of the hill, taking up land that should be farmed. The king seemed to forget that his wealth came from the produce of the land, and the new steward fed that forgetfulness.
At least the palace was not the only power here. A smile softened Eurynome’s face as her eyes rested on the other hill. The oldest of her shrines graced that rounded peak. In that refuge lived a community of people dedicated to her service, and under the stone building was a sacred room set aside for her worship. In that deep and hallowed space, her priestess could connect with her and could link minds with her servants in the other three of her shrines.
Eurynome’s smile twisted with regret. The priestess who would go to that room on this night was the young Asira, new to the robes of office. The old priestess who had served her for years upon years had grown too weak to endure the pain of her crippling illness. Just before the winter solstice, she had let go of life. Her wisdom and steadiness were missed in this uncertain season.
With her fingertips, Eurynome smoothed the creases on her forehead. Young as she was, the newly anointed Asira had learned from her mentor. She was strong enough, perhaps wise and balanced enough. Through Asira and those who served this shrine, Eurynome would find a way to protect this beloved valley and to rescue the poor girl who had been taken by the prince to buy Poseidon’s attention.
Eurynome sensed a rumbling deep beneath her feet and whispered to the rock to be still. Why Poseidon pushed his storms into the mountain she would never understand. He caused enough damage when he played with the malleable ocean. Tonight, she would give him fair warning that she would not give up this valley.
Night had spread across the fields. It was time. She turned to the east and called to the moon. “Kokkino to aima anastas. Anastas kai mou legete. Rise red as blood. Rise, and speak for me.”
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