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by Chrystalla Thoma
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Editor: Nancy Bell
Line Editor: Penny Ehrenkranz
Cover Designer: Marion Sipe
You can’t outrun your divine lineage. When Asterion, Poseidon’s son, travels to Athens to join the battle against the newly awakened ancient gods, he doesn't expect Poseidon to ask for the sacrifice of fourteen youths, or to demand that Asterion don the mask of the bull, become his vessel, and kill them. Outraged, Asterion refuses, but when his half-sister Ariadne is selected for the sacrifice, he takes the mask and becomes the Minotaur in a bid to fight Poseidon and save her.
Theseus, another son of Poseidon, is also in Athens. In love with Ariadne, he cannot let her be sacrificed to Poseidon. Unaware of Asterion’s dilemma, he changes another’s lot with his own name to enter the labyrinth, fight the Minotaur, and return everyone home.
With brother pitted against brother and the labyrinth closing around them, the outcome can only be death–unless Ariadne finds a way to return them to the world of the living.
Asterion paced the length of the sanctum, back and forth, fists clenched at his sides. The bull mask grinned at him from its perch on the altar, the golden horns sparkling in the candlelight, the gem eyes glittering.
“You must do it,” said a gravelly male voice.
“Or what? The world ends? Chaos will fall on us?”
“And if I said yes?”
Asterion halted. Bitterness welled in his mouth. “I can’t do it. I can’t be the vessel for his gruesome sacrifice. I won’t kill them. I don’t owe Poseidon anything.”
What was he doing here? He had to return to the tunnels in the Acropolis Rock, the lair of the resistance. Since the Greek metropolis had turned into a battlefield between the mortals and the immortals, he’d taken the ship from Crete and joined in the war. He just never thought Poseidon would raise the stakes and demand more from him here.
Yet Athens belonged to Poseidon, too. Asterion should’ve known. Should’ve feared.
The short, goat-legged silene shook his shaggy head, long animal ears drooping. “Poseidon is your father.”
“Right.” Asterion shrugged. “And he was never there. He left my mother all alone to raise me. She worked three jobs! If that accident hadn’t taken her, she’d still be working her butt off to feed me.”
“Don’t look at me, boy. I’m not wise, only an old drunk.” The silene tugged at his dirty long beard. “Besides, this wasn’t even my idea.”
Asterion snarled and started again to pace. “Then whose was it?”
“Just don’t kill the messenger.” The silene produced a small flask from behind his back—Asterion really didn’t want to know where the creature kept it—and took a swig. He smacked his lips. “Care for some tsipouro?”
Asterion ignored him. Being the son of mighty Poseidon sucked big time. Water came to him, spurted from the ground as he walked in the street. Worse still, cracks widened as he approached them, and small quakes shook the ground.
Poseidon, the bull-headed—earth-shaker, water king, horse-father. Asterion leaned against the door frame and sighed. He pushed back his hair and touched the star etched on his forehead, the symbol which had given him his name. A godly mark, hated in a world ravaged by the war with the ancient gods, reawakened and angry to find their world taken over by mortal kind. That’s what you get when you sleep till late. You wake up, and some vermin has taken control of your realm.
Being the son of a god had never been such a curse.
“I don’t understand this. You say Poseidon wants a tribute of mortals if he isn’t to flatten Athens and kill everyone. Why the heck would he do that?”
“Not me saying.” The silene took another swig. “Iris said so. Special delivery from up above. Poseidon is angry because the mortals ambushed and killed a nephew of his, Androgeus.”
“Why would they?” Not that mortals needed many excuses to kill each other.
“He caused a minor earthquake, killed some mortals. By mistake, says Poseidon. Because he was cruel, say the mortals. But now he is dead, and Poseidon wants revenge. Listen, boy. If you accepted the job, if you put on the mask and took the axe, you could protect the mortals perhaps. Do something to help them.”
“No.” Asterion rubbed a hand over his face. “Not my problem, silene. I don’t owe Poseidon anything. Nor the mortals. They’ve taunted me and picked on me since I was little. Why should I care? As for Poseidon, I’m not doing his work. Let him find another vessel.”
The silene giggled. “True, true. Go your way. Leave the mask and the Labrys, the double axe; leave the mortals to their fate. You’re not one of us, not one of them. Yet another man caught in the middle of the gods’ love and war making.”
Absolved by the silene, Asterion looked away. Yet somehow, the weight on his chest grew heavier, his conscience an angry muttering in his head. “How am I supposed to make this work? Protect the mortals, how? How can I find a way to save them from Poseidon’s wrath?”
The creature raised rheumy eyes and toasted him. “Maybe you weren’t supposed to. To fight a god and die in the process, like so many others. For an ideal, for your brothers and sisters. Bah. Stupid idea.”
Asterion hung his head. He swallowed hard. “I’m not a hero of old.”
“Never said you were!” The silene grinned. He gestured at the mask. “Though you need not die so easily. Your father left you the mask and axe. He left a star on your forehead.”
“I’m not taking that mask, or the axe. I’m not going to become what he wants me to be. And I won’t sacrifice myself for some mortals I don’t even know.”
“You aren’t just a mortal, boy. Remember that.”
Asterion did, long after he left the temple and hurried through the sunny streets of Athens, heading to the Acropolis and the lair of the Resistance. He wanted to see Ariadne, talk to her. Maybe she could help ease his conscience, so that he could finally believe he was making the right choice.
About the Author:
Greek Cypriot with a penchant for dark myths, good food, and a tendency to settle down anywhere but at home, Chrystalla likes to write about fantastical creatures, crazy adventures, and family bonds. After having lived in France, England, Germany and Costa Rica, she now lives in Cyprus with her husband and enjoys wandering the countryside sampling local food and wine. She writes mainly fantasy and science fiction, primarily for a young adult public and her stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies.
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