It’s Friday. Time for another sneak peek at Paladina a WIP (work-in-progress). Paladina is a back-burner story that I work on a little here and there while I finish the Fellowship Dystopia series. Read the first scene of the story. It’s a story I really like and can’t wait to dive into more deeply. Perhaps you’ll feel that way too.
The Story Sentence
A protection specialist, sworn to defend a tiny Greek village, discovers they are pawns of treasure-hunting alien knights whose game pits her against her long-lost brother to save all of humanity.
A Story Within the Story
The story, Paladina, takes place in contemporary Greece. But Greece is a land of myth and mystery. This except is the tale told to our protagonist. Will she believe it?
by Lynette M Burrows
In the ancient world, in the city of Githeon, there lived a man named Theolytas. All Greece knew him as a soldier with strength bested only by Achilles and with cunning to equal the great Odysseus. And so when Agamemnon needed warriors to defend Menelaus’s honor, he came to Theolytas of Githeon.
But Theolytas did not raise his shield without Apollo’s approval. And so he consulted the soothsayer, Vasileios. Vasileios foretold Agamemnon would raise a glorious army, the largest in history. And prophesied that Theolytas would find glory in battle and treasure during the sacking of Ilios.
So Theolytas made love to his wife and kissed his children goodbye. He strapped on his armor, loaded provisions and his men-at-arms onto ships, and sailed to the port of Aulis where he joined Agamemnon’s fleet of a thousand ships. Never had Theolytas, nor anyone, seen such a fleet before. And they sailed for battle.
But at Aulis, no breath of wind filled their sails for weeks. And when the winds blew again, they fell victim to Apollo’s plague-carrying arrows. Ill winds blew them off-course to Mysia. After many months they sailed into Ilios.
The Battle for Ilios
Theolytas distinguished himself as a courageous and formidable warrior against the sons of Priam. But the sons of Priam retreated to within the impregnable walls of Ilios. And Agamemnon lay siege to the city. And the siege lasted nine long years.
Theolytas’s men grew weary of the wait, and his treasury and armory thinned. Finally, Odysseus and Theolytas devised a plan.
And the Princes of Ilios welcomed the great wooden horse into the city. And so lay open the city to Agamemnon, Theolytas, and the soldiers.
In the last hours of that battle, Theolytas followed a glint of gold and found Paris, lying dead on Mount Ida. He clutched a plain metal box to his chest. Theolytas wrested the box from the dead man’s hand and opened it. The sight of the golden apple, the sculpted quince, that lay within took his breath away. An inscription on the apple blazed with the words ‘To the Fairest.’ He beheld the apple long after the sounds of battle had ceased. And deep inside Theoloytas a desire, nay a need, grew. He had given ten years of his life and all the wealth of Gytheon for the war. He deserved this one small trinket. It would be his forever.
On the journey home through the cities of Greece, Theolytas could not resist the urge to open the box. The apple’s glow drew men to his quarters. But each man who saw the apple fell ill, or crossed blades with Theolytas, or had a misstep. And each met untimely deaths.
And word of the apple’s beauty passed amongst his men. To protect the apple, he drew his sword against his soldiers, the ship’s slaves, and even the men of villages they passed through.
Now, Theolytas was a soldier and a little blood on his sword in the time of war did not disturb him, but the blood on his blade as he journeyed home weighed upon him. Still, he could not let go of the apple.
He returned to Gytheon and hid the box with the apple in his home. He vowed to leave the box unopened. But his heart ached, so in the night Theolytas crept to its hiding spot, and opened the box. His wife came to see what disturbed her husband’s sleep and glimpsed the apple. By sunrise, the madness consumed her.
Theolytas prostrated himself with grief. So great was his grief that he took no notice when his men elected another commander. Nor did he hear his children when they wailed in hunger. Finally, Athena took pity on him and sent him a dream.
To Break the Curse
Theolytas sought the soothsayer to interpret his dream. Vasileios told Theolytas that Hera cursed the apple of Eris. The curse of discord fell upon all but the one who held the apple. To break the curse, he must take the apple to the five-fingered mountain and find the giant white toad turned to stone. Behind the toad stood the opening of a cave. He must enter the cave with nothing but a lamp, a flask of water, an offering of the finest wine and roasted lamb, and the apple. Theolytas must partake of only the water and follow the cave to its end where he would find a rift in the wall. He must place the apple in its box deep in that crevice, make the offerings and pray to Zeus for five days. Only then would Zeus lift the curse from Theolytas and his seed.
But when Theolytas retrieved the apple from its hiding place, he opened the box and its beauty overcame him. He could not bear to never see it again.
One night as he gazed at the apple, his eldest son entered. The madness struck down his son, and Theolytas rent his clothes in remorse. In mortal fear for his daughter and his youngest son, he prepared for the journey.
He bound his eyes with a cloth and retrieved the box, wrapped it in an oilskin, and tucked it in the bottom of his pack. And so he departed for the five-fingered mountains.
The White Toad
After a year of wandering, Theolytas begged Apollo for guidance and he found the white rock shaped like a giant toad and behind it, the cave. For three days he walked deep into the side of the mountain. His heart yearned to see the apple one more time, but he dared not fail. And stumbling, he found the end of the cave. And with the apple still in its box and wrapped in the oilskin cloth, he thrust it deep into the crevice there. He gave the offerings and prayed.
After five days of prayer, weak with hunger he fell unable to rise. He cried out to Zeus that he had done all he, a mere mortal, could do. And Zeus saw what Theolytas had done and withdrew the curse from him. And Theolytas heard a river gurgle and fish leaped into his hands. He regained his strength, left the cave and returned to his home.
Free of the curse, Theolytas and his kin prospered. His daughter married a governor who led Gytheon in peace for 30 years. His son became a potter, famous for his kylix painted with the presentation of the apple at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. He painted one, just one, with the story of his father and the apple. He gave that one to his father. When Theolytas would yearn to see the apple, he would gaze at the kylix and the story painted there and the feeling would pass. And so, Theolytas lived a long and peaceful life. And the apple and its curse remained deep beneath the five-fingered mountains within the cave of the toad-shaped rock.
Obviously, the inspiration is Greek mythology. I’ve been enamored of all things Greek since childhood. In this story I get to mix Greek gods and aliens and heroic female protagonists. What could be more fun?
And the Story will Continue
Readers of My Soul to Keep may have noticed that I love telling a story within a story. If you’re unaware of the Greek mythology behind the golden apple, or need a refresher, you might want to check out MythMan. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Paladina a WIP. Did you remember the myth of the golden apple? Are there other myths you enjoy?