We're a little over a month away from the scheduled release date for Poseidon's Wrath! I can't believe how quickly the summer has flown by. And I've got to admit, I'm starting to feel the time crunch.
There's the cover to finalize, the final pass edit, the formatting, the test copy, and getting everything sent where it needs to go...
That said, I'm very excited for the release of this sequel. I'm positive anyone who enjoyed Legend's Legacy will enjoy Poseidon's Wrath. Atalanta and Damien are back for another adventure, and this time they have to face down an angry god.
Here is the first chapter of Poseidon's Wrath:
A fierce sun burned down on an Ionian Sea as smooth and blue as the rarest of sapphires. The cloudless sky over Santa Maria di Leuca looked washed out and pale by comparison. Although the carefully laid cobblestone streets were hot enough Damien could feel the heat through his boots, a breeze blew across the water, a sharp reminder of the turning season.
Santa Maria di Leuca was a simple hamlet with a large church built high above the harbour. It drew droves of pilgrims who clogged the streets. Locals and travelers alike wore a dizzying mix of styles and colours. Even their skin and hair seemed to cover the breadth of the rainbow. So Damien was unremarkable as he strolled through the streets. Not even the black cloak around his shoulders, untouched by the dust and mud of his travels and unmoving in the breeze, drew more than a passing glance.
His steps were light as he made his way toward the harbour and the sprawling inn sitting sentinel over it. Inside, a series of half-walls and archways broke the common room into sections. Several men sat in the area just beyond the door, a barmaid idly wiped down the bar, and another carried a tray laden with food and drink around a corner. No one paid him any mind as he pressed deeper into the inn.
In a back section, tucked beside a wide set of stairs, he found his target.
A woman with long brown hair, half covered by a thick scarf tied around her head, sat alone. Her haversack lay on the table next to the newly served food. Their eyes locked and she froze with her mug halfway to her mouth.
She hesitated for only a moment before lowering the cup to the table. Her eyes flickered ever so briefly to the sword at his hip; his gaze strayed to the arquebus slung over the back of the chair beside her.
Damien forced his hand away from the hilt of his sword and smiled as he approached her table. She kicked a chair out for him. He caught and spun it so he could rest his arms across the back when he sat.
“Well now, this feels familiar,” he said. He pulled his wide brimmed hat off and tossed it on the seat of an empty chair at the table.
Atalanta laughed. “Last time we tried to kill one another—I almost drew my arquebus when you walked in.”
“I’m a little surprised you didn’t.”
Her eyes widened and she pressed a hand to her chest. “You wound me, Damien. After all that we’ve been through, you still don’t trust me?”
“Mm,” he grunted and waved for the barmaid. “Old habits die hard.”
Atalanta’s eyes narrowed for a moment before her face smoothed to a pleasant neutrality. “I suppose that’s true.”
Neither said anything else until after Damien ordered and the barmaid withdrew. In relative privacy once more, Atalanta withdrew a crumpled piece of parchment out of her bag. She smoothed it against the table before pushing it toward Damien. “What do you make of Calista’s letter?” she asked.
Damien briefly glanced at the parchment before pulling his carefully folded copy from a pocket in his cloak. He unfolded it and placed it next to Atalanta’s. “It was certainly cryptic. Though after what happened to the previous Pythia, can you blame her?”
“I dislike being toyed with by priestesses and gods. I would have hoped Calista knew that.”
“Letters can be read by anyone. A lot may have happened, but it has barely been a year since we met her. Do you honestly expect her to risk her life just because you want everything laid out for you?”
Atalanta squirmed in her chair, not meeting his gaze. “Fine,” she grumbled. “I concede the point.”
Damien gave her a small nod. He stood and switched his chair around when the barmaid approached with his food and drink. Atalanta let him eat in silence and he savoured every bite. There were enough chunks of vegetable and meat in the stew that there was very little broth left for the hard piece of bread which had come with it to sop up.
When he was finished, he leaned back in his chair with a satisfied sigh. He waved a lazy hand to call a barmaid over. She was quick to respond and he ordered another round of drinks. Before he could retrieve the coins to cover it, Atalanta pressed a small handful into the woman’s hands.
“We’ll also need two rooms for tonight,” she said.
The barmaid nodded and gave them a bright smile as she tucked the coins into an apron pocket. She waited only a moment longer before leaving to fetch their drinks.
Damien’s brows drew down and he studied his companion. Her clothes were just as dusty and mud-spattered as his own, but they were obviously new. No patches or stitched holes were visible, the leather was dyed a deep brown, and the scarf tied around her hair was a rich red.
“The last time I saw you, you barely had enough coin to make it back to Italy,” he said, his voice soft and questioning.
“That was then.” Atalanta took a noisy sip of the ale remaining in her tankard and then strained to see if the barmaid was returning with their drinks.
“I’m not comfortable receiving any benefit from…illegal means…” Damien’s voice dropped to a whisper as he leaned forward.
Atalanta laughed. “Rest easy, hero. I earn my money fairly these days.”
His eyes narrowed as he studied her. She still wouldn’t meet his gaze. “And what exactly is it that you do?”
“None of your concern.”
Damien’s jaw clenched and he sucked in a sharp breath through his nose. When he opened his mouth to say something, Atalanta laughed and reached forward to pat his hand.
“I’m a personal guard for wealthy ladies in Tudela,” she told him. “It isn’t exciting work, most days. But it pays very well.”
“That doesn’t sound bad.” He settled back in his chair, some of the tension draining from him.
“Then why didn’t you tell me about it when I first asked?”
Atalanta raised an eyebrow at him and he shifted uncomfortably, avoiding her gaze. She chuckled and asked, “We’ve exchanged, what is it now, two letters over the past year?”
“I believe so.” Damien nodded.
“Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we aren’t actually friends. Uneasy allies, of course, but we don’t share everything with one another. Or are you wanting to tell me everything you’ve gotten up to this past year?” Atalanta asked, a smile quirking the corner of her lips up.
He ran a hand through his hair and shrugged a shoulder. “After Christmas in Rome, I had thought we might be more than just ‘uneasy allies’ to one another.”
She tugged a chain out from under her vest, letting the gold and emerald ring on it dangle and spin. “I still think it’s far too expensive. I may get paid well for my work, but not well enough to return the favour.”
“The lock of hair you gave me means more than some trinket you might buy.”
Atalanta snorted. “I can’t believe you asked for that. It was the first time I’d ever taken a blade to my hair.”
“All the more special then.” Damien grinned.
“If I didn’t know better, I would think you were trying to court me.”
A tickle along Damien’s neck made him roll his shoulders. He laughed, but it sounded false even to his own ears. “Can you imagine what our parents would say?”
“I expect they would start pulling me back into the Between again to berate me for my errant ways.”
“Have your dreams been safe, then?” he asked, a breath of relief escaping for the safer topic of discussion.
Atalanta shrugged a shoulder. “If they wander, I have no memory of it. What of yours?”
“I never entered the Between in my dreams as fully as you did.” He shook his head. “Though sometimes I have nightmares of that daemon. Nothing like when it actually stalked us, just normal dreams.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, her voice sharp. “You didn’t believe your dreams were wandering in the first place.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
Damien smiled a little at the snap in her voice. “I asked Calista.”
“You’ve seen Calista since La Canea?” Atalanta asked, a flutter of sorrow crossing her face so quickly he wasn’t sure if he imagined it or not.
“No. We exchange letters every few months though. So when the dreams first started I asked for her advice.”
He chuckled. “You almost seem disappointed. Did you want my dreams to be in danger again?”
“No, no. Nothing like that,” Atalanta protested. “I just…I suppose I’m surprised you didn’t mention it in one of your letters. Or in Rome.”
“They’re just regular dreams. There isn’t actually anything to tell.”
“I suppose…” Atalanta fell silent as the barmaid returned with their drinks.
“Your rooms are upstairs at the end of the hall, one on either side. And just so you know”—she gave them a knowing grin—“the only other guest for tonight is at the other end of the inn.”
Atalanta’s cheeks flushed. The barmaid gave them a wink before walking away and Atalanta buried her face in her hands.
“That was rude.” Damien frowned at the retreating barmaid.
Atalanta’s words were muffled by her hands and he had to ask her to repeat herself. “She thinks we’re lovers trying to be discrete about our tryst.”
Damien snorted. “What business of hers is it?”
Atalanta sighed, the flush draining from her cheeks. “I’m a woman, travelling alone, meeting a man at an inn. If we were a legitimate couple—or relatives—we would have arrived together. What else should she think?”
“I just meant that she should keep any such speculation to herself. I can’t imagine many women dress in men’s clothes to meet their lovers, so it’s not like we’ve done anything to give anyone that impression. And even if we were, I doubt we’d appreciate her knowing smirks and winks.”
“I expect she hopes we’ll slip her a few extra coins to help make our affair easier.”
Damien chuckled. “Then we can happily disappoint her on that front.”
Atalanta shook her head and muttered, “I can’t wait for Calista to get here. People speculate less when she’s with us.”
Red light streaked through the open windows of the common room, bathing the evening crowds in a rosy glow. Laughter nd the hum of people talking washed over Atalanta as she came down the inn’s stairs. She hadn’t intended to fall asleep, but after the hearty meal and a couple of tankards of ale, Damien had suggested they wait in their rooms until the meeting time. She’d barely stretched out on her bed before she’d been asleep.
Three barmaids moved through the crowds like fish through water and for a moment Atalanta’s heart squeezed. None of the women were blonde of any sort, and none had bells sewn into their skirts. Her momentary panic subsided and she smoothed her hands down her tunic before descending the rest of the way down the stairs.
No one glanced up at her, and she craned her neck as she tried to spot Damien or Calista amongst the crowded tables. Even after weaving her way toward the door, she still hadn’t spotted either companion. An annoyed huff escaped her. She forced her way toward the bar where the barmaids took turns filling tankards.
Atalanta gave them what she hoped was a friendly smile. “I’m looking for two people. A tall man with a black cloak, and a small woman with dark curls and a beautiful face.”
The barmaids exchanged glances. One gave a dismissive sniff, gathered up several tankards, and, somehow, kept them all upright as she moved back into the press of people. Another shrugged and disappeared through a swinging door into what looked like a kitchen. The third pursed her lips and studied Atalanta.
“Can’t say as I’ve seen anyone matching those descriptions. Though Dea mentioned a pair of lovers who rented rooms this afternoon. That fellow sounds like one of ‘em, though the woman not so much.”
Atalanta felt like her cheeks were on fire. “I was the woman at lunch, though we’re not lovers.”
The barmaid shrugged. “Ain’t my place to judge nor gossip. But as I said, I haven’t seen either of those people tonight. You ain’t the first to ask, though.”
The barmaid raised an eyebrow and tapped a finger against the bar. Atalanta stared at her, not understanding at first. She sighed and slid a coin over to the woman.
The barmaid snatched up the soldo and smiled. “A woman with dark skin and high cheekbones was asking after you and your friend. Said you might be looking for a pretty woman to be meeting you here tonight.”
“Did she give you a name?”
The barmaid shook her head. “Paid for a private dining room and asked that you and your friend be shown to it when you came down. If you think she’s the one you’re looking for I can have my boy show you to the room.”
“Yes, thank you.”
The barmaid pushed open the door to the kitchen and shouted inside. A scrawny little boy scurried out; he’d barely appeared before the barmaid left to return to her duties. Atalanta gave him a warm smile, but he just stared at her with wide, solemn eyes.
His hands brushed against his pants, smearing grease more than anything, before he gestured for her to follow. He led her through the tables to a narrow door that opened into a hall with four doors along one side. The lanterns on the walls had yet to be lit and the dying light of the sun struggled through a grimy window at the far end of the hall.
The boy didn’t seem bothered by the shadows that clung like spiderwebs to the walls as he led Atalanta to the last door. A quick knock was answered with a faint call to enter from the other side. The boy opened the door, nodded his head in an approximation of respect, and scurried back down the hall and out to the common room.
Atalanta pushed the door open wider and peered inside with a hand resting on the hilt of a dagger at her hip.
The room held a round table with cushion-covered stools tucked beneath its edge. A shelf long the inside wall held an assortment of bread, cheese, fruits, and dried meat. The outside wall had two narrow windows that had been opened to catch the last of the sunlight, as well as any breezes blowing off the harbour.
For a moment, Atalanta couldn’t find whomever had spoken, then the occupant stepped out from behind the door.
A dark-skinned woman with a broad face, thin lips, and a cinched waist carried a small bread trencher with food on it toward the table. She gave Atalanta a tight smile as she passed by, her eyes flicking briefly to the dagger still gripped in Atalanta’s hand.
“Come, enjoy some food.” She nodded toward the things laid out on the shelf as she settled onto a seat at the table.
“I’m surprised to see you here, Hazina,” Atalanta said. She stepped into the room and pushed the door closed behind her. “After Methoni, I thought our paths would never cross again.”
Hazina bowed her head slightly. “Nor did I—but due to some complications, Calista asked that I attend this meeting in her stead.”
Atalanta idly browsed the food, popping a small wedge of cheese into her mouth as she gathered a small collection savoury meats and honeyed fruit on a piece of bread. She settled onto a stool opposite Hazina and asked, “How long has Calista known she wouldn’t be able to attend?”
Hazina made a wavering gesture with her hand. “She told me of this a few months ago.”
Atalanta’s mouth tightened. “So she lied in her letters when she said she would meet us here.”
“Calista is no longer a priestess-in-training,” Hazina said, her voice flat and eyes dark as she met Atalanta’s gaze. “She has responsibilities beyond chaperoning you and your hunter. Responsibilities that keep her busy.”
“Her letter to us said there is an issue of vital importance, to be dealt with as promptly as possible. I would think something like that would merit more than a misleading letter and a proxy,” Atalanta countered.
Hazina’s lips curled in a mockery of a smile. “From what I understand, this is not the sort of task where Calista would be particularly helpful. Which is yet another reason why she asked me to be here instead.”
Before Atalanta could object, the door to the room opened again. The grubby little boy gestured Damien inside. His already large eyes widened further as he stared at the coin Damien pressed into his hand. His gaping mouth worked as the door was closed to shut him out.
Damien smiled warmly and settled onto a stool. “It is good to see you again, Hazina.”
“And you, Damien.”
Atalanta crossed her arms and spread a glare between both of them. “Am I the only one who actually expected Calista to grace us with her presence?”
“I expected our little priestess, but she is the new Pythia. It makes sense for her to send someone in her stead,” Damien said, his eyes roving across the delicacies on the table.
Atalanta muttered to herself, but neither Hazina nor Damien paid her any mind. He rose and piled meat and cheese onto a large piece of bread before asking, “What task has Calista called us all together to take care of?”
“There are many disturbances all across the Mediterranean. Strange storms, incursions of sirens, earthquakes, and other turmoil ravage the area. Few have connected all these together, though individually they are generally said to be the wrath of the Christ god on sinners,” Hazina explained, her hands clasped together on top of the table.
“It sounds more like things Poseidon stirs up,” Damien mused.
“Indeed. Poseidon, or someone wielding powers similar to his, has become very active of late. Calista has spent much time and energy trying to uncover the motivation behind these attacks on humanity by the god, but it is shrouded from her. She only knows that unless these actions are stopped, then before the year is out, hundreds of thousands will be dead. And twice that many every year after until no man can claim residence around the Mediterranean.”
Atalanta blinked, her anger forgotten. “She can’t expect us to kill a god. Even a weakened god on the edge of the eternal sleep would be all but impossible to kill.”
Damien settled back at the table with his food. “She didn’t say to ‘kill’ Poseidon. Simply that he must be stopped.”
“Really? Can you think of another way to stop an angry god from wiping out humanity?” Atalanta snapped at him.
Atalanta turned her anger on Hazina. “I don’t suppose Calista deigned to give us any ideas about how to stop this onslaught?”
For the first time that night, Hazina looked uneasy. “She had one vision she thought might be of use. It meant nothing to me, or her, though she insists it will make sense when it can be of use.”
“Well that’s wonderful,” Atalanta said, the sarcasm dripping like molten lead. “Let’s hear this useless bit of help then.”
Hazina’s mouth pinched, but she didn’t argue. She cleared her throat and recited:
Where black sails fly, a northern son resides;
Though exiled and cursed, do not spurn his hand.
When broken and sore a rest will appear,
Do not linger, or the world’s rest will rise.
On stone fingers, where cormorants fly,
Be wary of the lonely leaf.
Where the old man stalks through ruins,
Do not fear injury in pursuit.
The conquered’s daughter will lead through shadows
Where death awaits should the forefather’s weapon be lost.
And last, in a palace of coral, disaster awaits;
Ignore the lost, else death will they call down.
Silence filled the room, so thick it seemed to trap Hazina’s last words, hovering over their heads like a threat. Even the noise of the common room faded away. Damien finally broke the silence when he asked, “Any theories on the meaning?”
Hazina shook her head. “I’m afraid not. Calista thought black sails might refer to a pirate ship, but she has no idea who—or what—a ‘northern son’ might be. And all further speculation is as incomplete and unhelpful.”
“It almost seems to get more obtuse the further into it you got,” Atalanta said, her fingers drumming lightly on the table.
Hazina let a little sigh escape as she nodded. “Apparently that is common for prophecies that span any length of time. The further away something is, the less certain it is that the event will even occur. Prophetic visions see a possible future, and generally the most likely, but they are no guarantee that something will happen..”
“So how do we even start this?” Damien asked.
“There is a small hamlet up the coast that has lost a several members of the community to suspicious circumstances. Calista was able to see that we will discover something there, though not what. She believes that going there will set us on the right path.”
Atalanta growled softly, the sound vibrating in her chest. “It feels like walking into a trap.”
“You think Calista is attempting to trick you?” Hazina asked, genuine surprise making her eyes wide.
“Not a trap laid by Calista, but one laid by the Fates. Not a verse of the prophecy had anything even remotely good about it. High costs to be paid, swift death and lives lost. It all feels like some cruel joke.”
“I cannot argue with your reasoning,” Hazina said slowly. “But I do know that Calista would not send you into potential danger without a very good reason.”
“What Calista considers a good reason and what I consider one are two very different things,” Atalanta said dryly.
Poseidon's Wrath will be available from Kobo, Amazon, and Prairie Owl Publishing.
Legend's Legacy will be available for free from September 24th to October 31st (on Kobo and Prairie Owl Publishing)