Sneak Peek at Paladina

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.

Sneak Peek at Paladina, a work-in-progress by Lynette M. Burrows
Image by R. Burrows ©2004

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?


Paladina

by Lynette M Burrows

©2020

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.

Sneak peek at Paladina includes this illustration of a Greek sailing vessel on ancient Greek pottery.

      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. 

The Treasure

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.

The Curse

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.


Inspiration

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?

Take Another Peek at Paladina

It’s Friday and time for a Sneak Peek at Paladina, a work-in-progress. This story has been sitting on the shelf for a while. Inspired by UFOs and Greek mythology, I hope you enjoy this bit.

The Story Sentence

Paladina is a working title and probably won’t stick to this project. Its story sentence gives me direction and you a hint at what’s going on. (I discuss what a story sentence is in this article.

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. 

Location

The story takes place in Greece. The time period is current–or fairly current. This portion of the story takes place in a fictional mountain town in the Taygetos mountains. This mountain range contains the highest mountains in the Peloponnese peninsula.

Peak at Paladina

An apple of gold wrapped in barbed wire, sitting on a black cloth--could it be the apple referred to in the sneak peek at Paladina?

Rena took the blindfold off, as instructed. She had to squint against the light of the battery-operated lantern the boy carried and shone in her face. She shielded her eyes with a hand and the boy pointed the light into the black depths. They stood inside a large silent cavern. The cone of yellow light barely pierced the cave’s darkness. Black stone surrounded them. She couldn’t see the ceiling though she felt certain that she could touch the ceiling if she raised her arms.  But she didn’t test her senses. The boy had agreed to bring her to the apple only because she’d sworn he could keep the location secret by blindfolding her. Even so, he had taken a circuitous route. Good thing he didn’t know she could retrace every step they’d made.  

“Now we go through here,” the boy said, shining his lantern on a narrow opening in one wall.  

Rena inhaled sharply. She wasn’t claustrophobic, she just didn’t like tight spaces—no place to fight, no exit except the way you’d come. But she couldn’t back out now. She owed it to the team; they needed to know the Apple existed, that the risks they were taking were worth it. She nodded to the boy, lead on.

He disappeared into the fissure. Immediately, the light level dropped. Rena’s eyes tried to compensate, couldn’t. She hurried forward. The walls of the fissure had rows of smooth, narrow ribbons with sharp raised edges. The ceiling continued high above her head but several times she had to turn her head, else scrape her face or scalp. Ahkim would never have fit into this space. 

Want to Read More?

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Paladina. Want to know more? You can read a little more here. Care to guess what comes next? Perhaps your guess will inspire me to write more for you to read.

Inspiration Behind the Scenes with a Female Sniper

She was seventeen years old in June of 1943. Klavdiia Efremovna Kalugina (also spelled Klavdiya Yefremovna Kalugina) a Russian, born in 1926 came from a “not rich” family. She became the youngest sniper-in-training at a school for Komsomol (Communist Union of Youth). All the other pupils were eighteen. She could stay in the school as long as she didn’t “fall behind.”

Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Sniper School

They divided the young women into pairs. Marusia Chikhvintseva, Klavdiia’s first partner, became her best friend. 

Accustomed to hard work, Klavdiia helped build the firing range for the school. But when it came time to shoot, she could only hit “milk” (jargon for a complete miss). Her squad commander took her aside and gave her private lessons. 

She learned tactics and camouflage and ballistics. And she qualified as a sniper. 

After graduation, they grouped pairs into squads and sent them all around the front. On March 1, 1944, six pairs of snipers, including Klavdiia and Marusia, were sent to the Belorussian front. 

On the Front

They rode in cattle cars with heaters as close to the front as they could get. The truck sent to take them to the fighting couldn’t get through the snow. Klavdiia said they carried the truck on their backs. 

The first day at the front, German soldiers who cleared snow from their trenches and equipment were easy targets. But neither Klavdiia nor Marusia could make themselves to shoot. They berated themselves that night. Why come to the front if they weren’t going to shoot? So, the next day they shot their first Germans. 

As a sniper, Klavdiia’s job was defensive. When her mission was to clear a machine gun nest or a sniper, she would find a position during the day. At night, she’d camouflage herself and take up the position and sit as still as possible. Her partner always sat within an arm’s reach. When her eyes grew too tired to watch, her partner would take over. 

When the time came, Klavdiia moved to a firing position. She took her shot. Once she fired, she returned to her watch position and waited for Marusia to take her shot. Then, Marusia returned to the watch position where they would wait without moving a muscle until after dark. 

After lying all day in the swamp or the snow, she’d return to her base camp and tear off her foot wrappings. Her feet always hurt. Everyone’s feet hurt. 

When she wasn’t being a sniper, Klavdiia stood in for the soldiers. She kept watch during the daylight while the Russian soldiers slept. The soldiers kept watch at night. One day when she grew tired, Marusia shifted her position to take over watch. A single shot killed her instantly. Klavdiia screamed so loud the soldiers begged her to stop for fear they’d get targeted. She cried all day. 

Klavdiia recounts that the snipers carried the wounded to safety. Sometimes the wounds were mortal. One time she recalls that there were more wounded than the sniper team could carry in a retreat. Germans moved in and bayonetted the wounded who remained in the trenches. How did Klavdiia know? Because of their screams.

Eventually, Klavdiia got assigned another partner. She and her partner fought in several different locations on the front.

Klavdiia has been credited with 28 kills. Kills were any German who fell when she shot him. The commander of the trench she stayed in would write her kills down on a slip of paper that she then carried until she could turn them in. Only her sniper shots were counted. The Germans she shot during an attack didn’t count toward her total killed. 

***

A total of 2,484 Soviet female snipers fought at the front, of whom only about 500 survived. An interview with Klavdiia is available at histomil. As far as I can determine, Klavdiia is still alive today.

I’m sharing this information with you for several reasons. It’s women’s history month and these women should be remembered as much as any male sniper. 

I learned of the female Soviet snipers during my research before writing My Soul to Keep. Reading about these women helped me create the character of Beryl. 

“Inspiration Behind the Scenes with a Female Sniper” is also part of my celebration. The hardcover version of My Soul to Keep is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Your local bookstore should be able to order it as well. Watch for special celebratory ebook pricing beginning March 10th.