This a chapter of my completed novel, Summoning Persephone. I've posted several chapters before, which I've significantly revised and rewritten. My goal is to make this manuscript as publishable as possible. I'm hoping to start querying agents within a few months.
Brief recap of the previous chapters: Persephone, who goes under the alias 'Lena,' left her home in Greece to kill the legendary winter stag in the Slavic Lands. She did this in order to present the stag's head as an offering to the Goddess of War at the Summoning Ceremony in a few months. In the previous chapter, she was confronted by Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt, to whom the winter stag is held sacred. She was rescued by Hades, the God of the Underworld, who intervened on her behalf. At the Summoning Ceremony, Athena rejected Persephone because of her ignoble intentions, and because she gloated about surviving Artemis's wrath. Artemis showed up and tried to kill Persephone, but Hades swooped in and Summoned her at the last second.
I appreciate any feedback I can get on this, and just want to say thank you in advance for taking time out of your day to read this. I'm hoping to get your impressions on the readability and the voice. I'd love to get line edits, nits on typos, SPaG, syntax, and rewrite suggestions are all welcome and desired. Sensitivity reading is also wanted—this story features an extremely diverse cast of characters and I want to make sure I'm treating each one with respect.
I hope you enjoy.
We flash into existence on Mount Olympus, at the foot of Zeus’s palace.
Before I get a chance to gain my bearings, Kyros starts dragging me up the causeway, gripping my arm with careless force. I stumble over my feet trying to keep up with him.
“Would you mind slowing down?” I hiss at him.
He glances down at me, his black eyes flaring with surprise. I glare at him.
“I’m human, I can’t keep up with you, you titan!”
His hand tightens around my arm like a iron shackle. I wince.
“You’re oddly bold for a human. Especially for one who is completely at my mercy,” he reminds me. And then, with a cool mask, he strikes me across the face.
A stinging blush flashes across my cheek. He yanks me up before I fall, bringing me face to face with him.
“There’s more where that came from if you don’t keep your mouth shut,” he promises.
Red-faced, I glower at him.
“You’re the one who killed my youngest sister,” I whisper, holding his gaze.
His eyes narrow. He doesn’t flinch away.
“You used your sword,” I go on, my voice cracking. “You stabbed her in the heart. Why did you do that? Why did you have to let her suffer?”
He doesn’t answer me. Standing on my toes, I get right in his face.
“You should be thankful I didn’t go after you first,” I snarl in a low voice.
He shoves me forward with a hard thrust, unperturbed. “Walk.”
Grim, I march up the steps to the castle gates. The guards move aside, and the doors roll open for us. Kyros keeps a firm hand on my shoulder, pushing me inside. The doors slide closed behind us, and Kyros grabs me by the waist. The castle walls stream past as he whizzes us up several flights of stairs.
I’m breathless by the time we stop, tripping over my feet as he brings me to an empty room. Throwing open the door, he flings me inside. I land face-first on the ground, my cheek slamming against the cold tile floor.
“Keep an eye on her,” Kyros barks at the guard standing outside. The door slams shut, and I’m alone.
A sharp gale of freezing wind blows in through the arrow slit on one of the walls. The room has no furnishings and no windows. It’s just an empty chamber of white.
Pushing myself up, I rub my arms, shivering. There’s no sound but the echo of the wind, humming like a distant ghost.Feeling as hollow as a strawman, I slide back against a wall, hugging my knees to my chest.
This is it for me. I’m not long from death now.
It takes a few moments for this reality to fully settle in. My mind flies back to Aphor, at the choas I left behind. Fear grips through my chest at the thought of my father starting a fight with one of Zeus’s soldiers. In these precious minutes I have before I die, all I want is to ensure that my family is safe.
I hit my head against the wall, shutting my eyes. Even if my family survives the violence of Zeus’s disciples, they’ll never move on from this.
I’ve ruined their lives. I’ve ruined everything.
I wish I could see them. Tell them that I love them, and that I’m sorry.
As I sit here, and the minutes pass, I wonder what will happen when I cross the threshold of death.
Where will I end up? More than death itself, this is what I fear. My need for revenge has consumed my entire identity. I have no idea who I am.
I wonder if I’ve ever known. I wonder, sadly, if I even have one redeeming quality that can save my soul from an excruciating place.
The uncertainty seizes me like a cold block of ice.
I let out a long, tensed breath, and rest my head against my knees.
I think I know my fate. All that’s left now, is waiting for it.
A short time later, the door swings open, snapping me out of my thoughts. I swing my head up, my heart lurching.
Kyros barges in and yanks me up by the arm.
“It’s time,” he says.
My fear is a noose that wraps around my esophagus. I can’t form words. My feet drag forward, and Kyros pushes me faster.
We walk up a few sets of stairs and down a long corridor. The sounds of our footsteps sound like war drums to my ears. We go through a set of doors, emerging into a grand hall.
It’s a throne room. Zeus’s disciples are stationed close to the walls. A gold and white carpet stretches from where we stand all the way across the room, stopping at the edge of a dais.
Zeus is seated on a marble throne. With his hands calmly resting on either side, he looks straight ahead at me, his blue eyes blank.
For a moment, I’m surprised at the absence of anger when I look at him. All the rage and the hate I’ve held for him for all of my life…is gone.
Kyros shoves me into the room, forcing to walk forward. Zeus’s eyes never leave mine as we approach. My heart thuds hard with each step I take.
We stop in front of the throne. Kyros bows.
“The fugitive, my lord,” he says.
Zeus nods curtly towards him. “You may take your leave.”
A dark gleam flashes in Kyros’s eye. “Permission to remain, my lord.”
Bile rises in my throat. He wants to watch my execution.
Zeus gives a slight nod. A smirking Kyros rises and steps aside, watching me from beneath lowered brows.
I stand alone at the center of the hall. Raising my head, I meet Zeus’s eyes. He gazes back at me, unspeaking.
He’s dressed in full armor. The suit looks like it could take several blows from a warhammer and still remain intact. His golden cuirass is engraved with the outretched wings of an eagle, spanning from his neck to his waist. Metal gauntlets cover his forearms, and plated greaves protect his shins. Sitting next to him is a full-faced, red-feathered helmet.
“Persephone,” he says at last, cocking his head to the side. His blue eyes scour me from head to toe, narrowing. “You’re much punier than I remember.”
I take the jab with blank-faced stoicism.
“Your lord is speaking to you,” Kyros barks from the side of the room.
Zeus raises a hand to quiet him, still watching me.
“My brother says that you deceived him in your plot to kill me,” he states. “Is this true?”
“Yes,” I whisper. “Hades is innocent. I was acting of my own will.”
“And now, you have come to pay for your transgressions?”
I stop short at the word “transgressions.” I’ve committed many, haven’t I? I dip my head, staring grimly at my feet.
“Let’s not waste another second, then,” Zeus says dourly.
Trembling, I look up, watching his face. He doesn’t seem relieved or contented by my imminent death. His cruelly beautiful features are arranged into a stern, impenetrable mask.
With my heart thrumming against my chest, I hold my breath and close my eyes. Waiting for him to summon a bolt of lightning. That’s all it would take to kill me, wouldn’t it?
A few seconds pass. But Zeus doesn’t do anything. I open my eyes, my body stiff. Why is he taking so long? Does he want to draw this out? Make it painful for me?
Zeus’s eyes flit away from mine. He nods towards Kyros. I watch with confusion as Kyros flashes to the doors at the end of the hall.
“Aren’t you going to kill me?” I ask, fearing the answer.
I don’t miss the defensive twitch in his eye.
“Nothing would give me greater joy,” he says without batting an eye. “But there is someone else who insisted on the task.”
A flush of dread rushes up my body. With my insides roiling like a pit of snakes, I turn to face the doors.
As they slide open, my heart plunges when I see who is standing on the other side.
The red-haired huntress gazes across the room at me. Her pale green eyes gleam with smug anticipation.
She saunters into the grand hall, dressed in dark leathers, a fur cowl resting on her shoulders. Her bow is strapped across her back. As she prowls into the room, she smirks at me, her hair a nest of orange-red curls.
I can feel Zeus’s eyes on my back, and on the other side of the room, Kyros leans against the wall, entertained.
Artemis stops in front of me.
“Here we are, at last,” she says, her voice soft and treacherous. “Too bad Hades isn’t here to save you now.”
I swallow a hard lump in my throat. She strides slowly around me, a jungle cat stalking its prey. Her eyes roam up and down my body, assessing.
“Let’s see,” she drawls, cocking her head. She draws her bow, aiming an arrow at me.
My eyes fly open. “Wait—”
She lets the arrow loose, piercing through my right shoulder.
My scream fills the throne hall. Blood streams out from the wound, drenching my chiton.
Artemis stops, unphased. She tilts her head, narrowing her eyes.
“How many arrows did it take you to kill my stag? Three? Four? I think it was four, wasn’t it?”
Dread shrouds me from head to toe. Looking into her green eyes, I find no compassion there.
She draws another arrow, aiming at my other shoulder. Before I have a second to comprehend, she lets go, and the arrow fires into my flesh.
I cry out in agony as pain spears through my shoulder, stumbling backwards. Artemis laughs savagely, watching the blood flow from either side of me.
Stopping next to me, she scours my body with her eyes. Her gaze dips to my torso. The next thing I know, she’s aiming her bow at me. One strenuous heartbeat passes, and she lets the bolt loose.
My ribcage explodes. I drop to my knees, clutching my side. M eyes roll into the back of my head at the blinding pain. With my teeth clenched together, I groan, watching my blood pools around my knees against the pristine white floor.
“That was three,” Artemis sings with delight.
“Please,” I beg.
“Artemis?” Zeus interjects, impatient.
Artemis grins at me, her bright teeth gleaming in the white light. She draws another arrow and points it at my chest.
“Don’t worry,” she assures me as I stare at the arrowhead. “You’ll be dead soon. Because unlike you, I don’t miss.”
She releases the last arrow, piercing my heart.