Thursday, April 28, 2016

Author Extra: Before the New Moon Rises by Cathy Hird

When Poseidon's ambition is thwarted (as told in  Moon of the Goddess), Princess Thalassai expects to enjoy the luxury of peace in the valley of Ephyra. Instead, the Earthshaker's revenge strikes like forked lightning. He recruits Aphoron, disgraced prince of Ephyra, to set off an attack on her home city. The god then releases a monster shark to shut down trade and lays a sleeping spell on the four kings who hold sway in the lands claimed by the ancient goddess Eurynome.
With the king under Poseidon's spell, Thalassai struggles to maintain order in the city. Her fiancé Brizo sets sail to defeat the monster shark, but in the first encounter, the shark destroys the ship's rudder and oars. Her brother Melanion chases after Aphoron and uncovers the prince's plan to attack their city. As other Olympian gods who are angry with Poseidon are drawn into the fray, conflict threatens to engulf the lands of Greece. Will it spread to the mountain of the gods? Will the young leaders find a way to defeat the Earthshaker's plans and restore peace?

The ancient city of Mycenae stood as a giant among the mythical places in Greece. While stories of the city endured, Mycenae itself disappeared into the mists of time. Other places that Homer described kept a prominent place. Athens is the airport a visitor flies into, and the ancient acropolis still towers over the city. Modern Corinth provides a gateway to the ancient city. But Mycenae had to be uncovered by the persistence of the archeologist Schliemann. Thanks to his work, we can visit the lion gates of the fabled city and admire the golden death mask of King Agamemnon.

King Agamemnon was, by all the poets' accounts, the one who led the mission against Troy to rescue captured Helen. He was one of the few to return to the homeland. His return had tragic consequences but that is another story.

It is Agamemnon's father Atreus who enters the tale I tell. According to the stories, young Atreus followed the goddess Artemis. The wit and strength of the warrior goddess embodied the skills he sought. He promised her that if a sheep with a golden fleece appeared in his flock, he would offer it at her temple. When such a ewe appeared, however, the golden beauty seduced him. He kept the animal and its fleece for himself.

Family competition flared, leading him and his brother Thyestes to murder their stepbrother. The two were banished for this breach of family loyalty. Taken in by the king of Mycenae, they became his regents when he went to lead a battle against the sons of Herakles.

When that king died in battle, both the brothers desired his throne. Thyestes suggested that the one who presented a golden fleece should rule. Atreus readily agreed, given that he held such a fleece. Alas, because his wife knew he had betrayed Artemis, she had already stolen the fleece and given it to Thyestes, her lover. Though Thyestes took the throne, Atreus believed that the king of gods wanted him to rule this important city. He asked Zeus to make the sun rise in the west and set in the east. On the day this happened, Atreus was crowned king in Mycenae. 

Thyestes sought the advice of the oracle at Delphi to retrieve the place he thought he earned. There by the light of fire he saw a beautiful girl bathing in a stream. He took her by force, but left his sword with her to show the identity of the father of her child. He did not know that this was his daughter, Pelopia. 

Searching for Thyestes, either to welcome him back or take his revenge--different poets tell the tale differently--Atreus came upon Pelopia and took her for his wife. He had already put aside the woman who was unfaithful to him by stealing the golden fleece. He believed the son Pelopia bore was his and named the boy Aegistus.

Anger at his brother's betrayal grew in Atreus. He sent his sent his adult sons Agamemnon and Menelaus to Delphi to ask the oracle for help. They found Thyestes at Delphi, bound him and carried him back to Mycenae. Atreus ordered his youngest son Aegistus to behead Thyestes, but when he drew his sword, Thyestes recognized the weapon and claimed that the boy was his son.

Atreus demanded that his wife Pelopia come and explain. She acknowledged to him that she was already pregnant when they married.  Thyestes cried out in sadness and named his misdeed. Horrified that she bore her father's son, Pelopia took her own life with the sword that identified her son's father.

Thyestes demanded that Aegistus kill Atreus, which he did, again with the same sword. Agamemnon and Menelaus escaped, taking refuge in Sparta, where they met the king's two daughters, Helen and Clytemnestra. Another story began.

Before the New Moon Rises takes place once Atreus has established a firm rule in Mycenae before he begins seeking his brother again.

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