Publication date: October 11th 2022
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, New Adult
“…a stirring combination of real-world Greece and supernatural overtones…the perfect amount of magic and monsters.” – Verified Reviewer
“…an exciting adventure of magic, loss, and healing.” – Verified Reviewer
For as long as she can remember, Chrysa Markou has longed for Pyrga, her native village in the mountains of Greece. But she never thought she would return like this—an orphan, crushed by grief and wracked with guilt over her parents’ deaths. Even surrounded by family, she feels like a xeni—a foreigner. A stranger.
All she wants is to belong, but Chrysa instead finds herself beset by vicious gossip, family secrets, and a magical heritage that could derail the future her parents wanted for her. To make matters worse, the one responsible for orphaning Chrysa has returned to unleash a reign of supernatural terror over her new home.
With the help of a handsome but moody Seer and a pair of burly guard dogs, Chrysa scrambles to protect her village from an onslaught of dark creatures commanded by her parents’ murderer. As the noose of the killer’s malice draws tighter, Chrysa grapples with festering doubts: Is she the victim, the hero…or the true cause of her people’s suffering?
Triumph over evil seems worth any cost, until it threatens to unravel everything Chrysa believed she was fighting for.
I left Kalochori by the main road, my hands deep in my pockets and my shouldershunched against the evening’s sudden chill. Even in August, it could get pretty cold up here, especially at night. I had a feeling, though, that the cold was in my mind and heart more than my body. Now that I was alone on a deserted road in the no-man’s land between Kalochori and Pyrga, doubts started creeping and crowding around me.
Had I overreacted? Maybe I’d been too sensitive—maybe Toula was trying to be funny. Maybe he doesn’t want to share…The joke could have been intended to be at Alexi’s expense rather than mine. But it was still mean, and so was Toula. I kicked a rock and watched it skitter off the road and over the edge of the cliff. The sound of it clattering away into the gorge seemed absurdly loud in the stillness.
I walked until I came to the crossroads. My path would take me up and up, whilethe other led to Milia, another village farther down the mountain. But I took neither. I left the road and stepped over the rickety guard rail so that I was standing right on the cliff’s edge. The gorge spread below me, full of deep shadows and crags. Every leaf was washed in silver, and the Mati river glowed far below like a white satin ribbon under the full moon. The vastness of the gorge was staggering, rivaled only by the immensity of the star-strewn sky above. It made me feel small and lonely but comforted, somehow. Had my parents ever stood here on a night like this one and felt the way I felt now? Probably not. More likely they sat on the cliff’s edge, holding hands and finding fantastical shapes in the stars.
The thought warmed something deep inside me, something that I didn’t know hadfrozen until it started to thaw. I closed my eyes and imagined my parents sitting before me, dangling their legs over the cliff and giggling together. I could almost feel their presence, almost hear their voices.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
I whipped around and nearly fell over. For one, insane moment I thought—well. Itdidn’t matter what I thought. My waking dream disappeared like a scrap of mist, leaving only a woman in a draped white dress. She stood at the edge of the road with a small, amused smile on her face.
“Forgive me,” she said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
My brow wrinkled. Where had she come from? Kalochori was a good three miles away, and I didn’t think she’d been doing much walking—not in that getup.
I took a deep breath and tried to calm my pounding heart.
“I’m fine,” I said stiffly
The woman smiled and tossed back a mane of hair that shone silver and white in the moonlight. I waited for her to say something more, but she only looked at me, the smile still curving her lips.
“I’m Chrysa,” I offered, not knowing what else to say.
Her smile widened. “I know.”
“And, um, you are?”
“I have been called by many names,” she said, a spark in her eye. “But among mykin I am known as Kalothia tou Pefkou.”
I frowned. Kalothia of the Pines. I’d never heard of a last name like that. Maybe it was some sort of regional quirk?
“Harika,” I said, still trying to be polite. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Indeed,” she said. “I have waited a long time for this meeting.”
My brows rose. “Right.”
“It is fitting that I should find you here,” she said. “For crossroads are ever places of magic and mystery. Do you believe in such things, Maiden?”
Maiden. My neck prickled. I’d heard the name before—from a voice on the wind.
I shrugged, edging sideways. “Not really.”
But something, some warmth or energy buzzing beneath my skin, called me a liar.
“Would you—could you—believe it if I told you the Moon’s Touch could help you atone for your parents’ deaths?”
I froze. “What are you talking about?”
“They died by fire,” Kalothia said, her eyes glittering. “But the flames were notborn of chance, nor negligence. They died because of you.”
Ice washed over me. I knew gossip traveled quickly in a small village, but this wasridiculous. I’d never seen or spoken to this woman in my life. How did she even know about the fire? Did everyone know? How many people had Theia Anna told? It must have been her. Yiayia and Theio Giorgo had agreed that our business was our business and no one else’s. But, even if news of the fire had spread beyond my family, how could she know what I only suspected and feared—what I hadn’t dared speak aloud to a single soul?
“I don’t know what you’ve heard,” I said, backing away. “Or who you heard it from, but—”
Kalothia grinned, her teeth sharp and white. “No one you know.” She tipped her head back, lifting her face to the moon, then faced me again. “Go carefully, Maiden.Strange things happen when the moon is full.”
She stepped backward into the shadow of the cliff face above and turned away.
I scrambled back over the guard rail and darted around the bend in the road,searching. But Kalothia was gone. Vanished, as if into thin air.
I stood there for a long time, my chest heaving, the little hairs on my arms and the back of my neck standing on end. The moon and stars glittered silently above me, no doubt full of answers—but none for me.
In retrospect, I probably should have realized a lot earlier that I was meant to be a writer. Even as early as kindergarten, I struggled to pay attention in class because the outside world was just not as interesting as what was going on in my head. By that time, I had already made my storytelling debut (“Squirm the Worm,” delivered at age three) and had spent countless hours playing make-believe with my 284 stuffed animals, every one of whom had a name and detailed backstory.
Though I quickly learned to pay attention (or at least look like I was paying attention) during school hours, I retained a tendency to daydream and a love of stories. When I left high school to attend the Sunderman Conservatory at Gettysburg College, I learned to translate both emotional and programatic content into music. Now, as an exam prep and college essay tutor, I have the time and flexibility to really dig into fiction again. My work has appeared online and in print in such venues as Timeless Tales Magazine and Quantum Fairy Tales.